Open Thread 156.25 + Signal Boost For Steve Hsu

[UPDATE: As of 6/19, Professor Hsu resigned as VP of Research. He still encourages interested people to sign the petition as a general gesture of support.]

Normally this would be a hidden thread, but I wanted to signal boost this request for help by Professor Steve Hsu, vice president of research at Michigan State University. Hsu is a friend of the blog and was a guest speaker at one of our recent online meetups – some of you might also have gotten a chance to meet him at a Berkeley meetup last year. He and his blog Information Processing have also been instrumental in helping me and thousands of other people better understand genetics and neuroscience. If you’ve met him, you know he is incredibly kind, patient, and willing to go to great lengths to help improve people’s scientific understanding.

Along with all the support he’s given me personally, he’s had an amazing career. He started as a theoretical physicist publishing work on black holes and quantum information. Then he transitioned into genetics, spent a while as scientific advisor to the Beijing Genomics Institute, and helped discover genetic prediction algorithms for gallstones, melanoma, heart attacks, and other conditions. Along with his academic work, he also sounded the alarm about the coronavirus early and has been helping shape the response.

This week, some students at Michigan State are trying to cancel him. They point an interview he did on an alt-right podcast (he says he didn’t know it was alt-right), to his allowing MSU to conduct research on police shootings (which concluded, like most such research, that they are generally not racially motivated), and to his occasional discussion of the genetics of race (basically just repeating the same “variance between vs. within clusters” distinction everyone else does, see eg here). You can read the case being made against him here, although keep in mind a lot of it is distorted and taken out of context, and you can read his response here.

Professor Hsu will probably land on his feet whatever happens, but it would be a great loss for Michigan and its scientific community if he could no longer work with them; it would also have a chilling effect on other scientists who want to discuss controversial topics or engage with the public. If you support him, you can sign the petition to keep him on here. If you are a professor or other notable person, your voice could be especially helpful, but anyone is welcome to sign regardless of credentials or academic status. See here for more information. He says that time is of the essence since activists are pressuring the college to make a decision right away while everyone is still angry.

This was supposed to be a culture-war free open thread, but I guess the ship has sailed on that one, so, uh, just do your best, and I’ll delete anything that needs deleting.

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2,996 Responses to Open Thread 156.25 + Signal Boost For Steve Hsu

  1. Lambert says:

    Did Molyneux not used to be a crank? Or was he just a Rothbardian rather than all trite one?

    • Matt M says:

      He was always “weird”, even among fellow libertarians. But his primary weirdness used to be his obsession with “peaceful parenting” and his somewhat unorthodox views on children and child abuse, rather than anything particularly right-wing.

      ETA: So if that’s the podcast we’re talking about, and if it was long enough ago, I find the answer of “It wasn’t alt right when I went on it” completely and entirely plausible. Personally, I sympathize with this, because I was a big fan (to the point of having donated to, met in person, and took a photo with) Christopher Cantwell prior to his… uh… conversion… and that’s probably the #1 piece of ammunition someone could use if they were ever sufficiently motivated to get me cancelled…

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        You know, I don’t think I ever saw that side of him. Granted I was busy at the time being converted to a virtue ethicist by Roderick T. Long (that part stuck) and was more interested in mutualism a la Kevin Carson.

        My impression of Molyneux (EDIT: or probably Kinsella; see my other comment) at the time was that he was kind of a dick and espoused his political views in part as a justification of his being dick — an impression I’m even more convinced of these days.

      • Evan Þ says:

        From a quick web search, it looks like “peaceful parenting” is, basically, not spanking? Am I missing some other ramifications of the view?

        • Matt M says:

          Yes, but to the extreme. No physical force allowed on your kids at any time, for any reason, ever. I’m pretty sure that even something like “picking them up and carrying them out of the room when they’re throwing a fit” would be considered unacceptable. I think it’s also generally based on the premise that even when they are very young, you need to reason with them rather than just saying “go to your room” or whatever. But I never looked into it too much, so please don’t take my words as the absolute facts of the matter.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          I’ve watched a few videos where Molyneux plays a sort of off-label therapist where people call him and he diagnoses the problem with their life and gives them advice. Invariably, the problem is always that the person has been abused or neglected by their parents. And if they insist that they haven’t Molyneux gets mad at them.

          This conviced me that he’s a nutjob. But when he discusses politics he’s not particularly insane, although he’s a weird mix of libertarianism and ethno-nationalism.

          • No One In Particular says:

            Invariably, the problem is always that the person has been abused or neglected by their parents. And if they insist that they haven’t Molyneux gets mad at them.

            Reminds me of Drew Pinsky. Although without the “getting angry” part.

    • Randy M says:

      What in particular now? I listen to him time to time, but usually just the call in shows lately. I find discussions on podcasts more interesting that the single person monologuing format.

      I don’t always agree with his advice, but it is a useful perspective as a parent.

      edit: Oh, I missed the connection to Hsu. There has been a right-ward shift (edit: or maybe just in focus) since ’16, but not so much that he should be radioactive by association.

      Molyneux was not a controversial figure in 2017, although he has since become one

      Note that this can be true without saying anything about Molyneux.

      • Lambert says:

        I was drawn in till he said along the lines of ‘bitcoin will be great. It’s deflationary. Look at ccomputers, which are getting cheaper. Everything will be like computers once we all use bitcoin.’

        • Matthias says:

          Though funny enough, deflation isn’t actually a problem.

          Economically, you want a stable nominal gdp. Because nominal spending is what wages etc are paid out of.

          If productivity goes up enough to cause deflation while keeping ngdp stable, that’s even better.

          The bad reputation of deflation comes from often being encountered at the same time as a collapsing nominal GDP in the wild.

          George Selgin’s book Less Than Zero (freely available online and recently released with an introduction by Scott Sumner) lays out the case in more detail.

          Though in some sort of cosmic irony, the mechanisms to stabilise nominal GDP on bitcoin or even just a gold standard requires lots and lots of fractional reserve banking. (More details in George Selgin’s book.)

          Good luck finding a bitcoin fanatic in favour of fractional reserve banking.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      Molyneux was always a crank, and while he was a straight-up Rothbardian in the 00s, he was definitely well into the alt-right by 2017. I don’t think appearing on a podcast is necessarily grounds for summary cancellation but if that’s what Hsu is selling I’m not buying.

      • albatross11 says:

        “You allowed yourself to be interviewed by a bad person therefore you’re bad” is not a standard anyone on Earth consistently applies to their friends, only to their enemies. Nor the even dumber version, “You allowed yourself to be interviewed by a person who has interviewed bad people, therefore you’re bad.”

        • gleamingecho says:

          “You allowed yourself to be interviewed by a bad person therefore you’re bad” is not a standard anyone on Earth consistently applies to their friends, only to their enemies. Nor the even dumber version, “You allowed yourself to be interviewed by a person who has interviewed bad people, therefore you’re bad.”

          Well said. Like I’ve been saying for a while now, instead of “actions speak louder than words,” the cancel culture’s mantra is “the words of people with whom we want to associate you speak louder (about you) than your own words, which in turn speak louder (about you) than your own actions.”

          • gleamingecho says:

            @ Anonymous Bosch’s “awfully silly of me…” comment and those following:

            My “well said” comment was not aimed at you but at the general sense among many participants in the cancel culture that interacting with people with yucky ideas makes one yucky by association.

            I would echo the sentiments expressed in Albatross’s “First, I was trying to summarize a line of argument I’ve seen, not your comment in particular” comment.

            Cheers.

            June 17, 2020 at 7:18 am ~new~

          • noyann says:

            June 17, 2020 at 7:18 am {tilde}new{tilde}

            Does the server hiccup and include a {start time of writing this comment or something} line into random posts now and then recently?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            No, it was a poster making a mistake when cut-and-pasting someone else’s comment to respond to. We all make mistakes.

            Maybe the software should disallow people from posting “~ n e w ~”, but people don’t make this mistake often.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          “You allowed yourself to be interviewed by a bad person therefore you’re bad” is not a standard anyone on Earth consistently applies to their friends, only to their enemies. Nor the even dumber version, “You allowed yourself to be interviewed by a person who has interviewed bad people, therefore you’re bad.”

          Awfully silly of me for thinking that explicitly saying this isn’t my logic would be enough to stop people from trying to dunk on it.

          My point is simply that it’s not credible to say that Molyneux didn’t become an alt-righty until after 2017. If you’re reading subtext behind this point based on its apperance and context, well, congratulations, you’ve successfully illustrated why it’s a bad idea* for Hsu to be casually commenting about racial differences on Molyneux’s podcast.

          *also a narrower claim than some Manichaean idea of “badness” as intrinsic character

          • AliceToBob says:

            @Anonymous Bosch

            I don’t think appearing on a podcast is necessarily grounds for summary cancellation but…

            Awfully silly of me for thinking that explicitly saying this isn’t my logic would be enough to stop people from trying to dunk on it.

            In my opinion, you’re inviting misunderstanding with that phrasing.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            In my opinion, you’re inviting misunderstanding with that phrasing.

            To the extent I’m “inviting misunderstanding” by people willing to truncate mid-sentence, I think I’ll live with it.

          • Spookykou says:

            I don’t think they truncated your sentence to try and misrepresent you, the ‘not necessarily’ reads like ‘not always but sometimes this is okay’ which is in contrast to your second quote ‘I explicitly said this is not okay’.

            My reading was that in this instance you did not think that being interviewed by someone was grounds for calling that person a bad person, but that you are open to that idea, and in this instance you don’t buy the “I didn’t know he was bad” defense from Hsu specifically.

            I think the large seabird is objecting to the idea that it is ever okay to call someone bad for being interviewed by someone bad, which is the same misunderstanding I got from reading your post, and apparently a few others.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            Just about done entertaining Isolated Concerns About How My Comments Might Be Received By Readers Despite Their Literal Content Being Quite Modest from readers of the Slate Star Codex blog. If no one else has anything I think I’m gonna call it a thread.

          • 10240 says:

            @Anonymous Bosch Just a note: while I noticed the ‘not necessarily‘ part of your comment myself, I think the commenters who pounced and assumed that you’d implied that it’d been definitely wrong for Hsu to appear on the interview were off the mark.

          • ManyCookies says:

            Fwiw I thought Bosch’s post was clear, in that he narrowly objects to the “2017 Moly wasn’t alt-righty” claim while punting on the broader question. “Was 2017 Moly alt-righty” is a much quicker post than “Was appearing on 2017 Moly bad form”.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            To be as explicit as possible:

            I don’t think it’s automatically bad (as in a bad idea) for people to appear on alt-right platforms as long as those platforms are used to explicitly challenge those beliefs in proportion to (1) how shitty the alt-right guy is (2) the topic covering an area of genuine disagreement.

            I think this appearance was a bad idea. The 50 seconds of throat-clearing and asterisking Hsu posted in his defense fails to qualify proportionally to how shitty Molyneux is (and was, I couldn’t stand the guy after 2015 or so) on typical alt-right grossly-weak-man-tier hereditarianism in general. The charitable interpretation at this point is that Hsu wasn’t aware of this. And while I didn’t watch the full podcast, I caught way more than 50 seconds worth of jocular common ground, which would be the primary takeaway of his listeners. “This prestigious scientist mostly agrees with us!”

            That this was a bad idea doesn’t mean I buy into some dumbass theory of whether Hsu is “a bad person” nor am I applying some hypothetical hypocrisy that depends on me divining “good people” from “bad people.” Even someone as odious as Molyneux is right on some issues; by all means go on his show to have a bash at intellectual property!

            I don’t think Hsu pretending that Molyneux only broke bad (in terms of having bad opinions, smart guys) after 2018 speaks well of him, although it’s still consistent with the charitable “ignorant” interpretation.

            On balance I am hesitant (read: genuinely conflicted but biased against) to cancel him solely on this. Most of the rest of the complaints are marginal and overstated. I’d feel as strongly as Scott does if he was admitting partial error instead of fully doubling down. Remember, it’s about degree. The majority of dumb points made by the Twitter thread don’t negate the good ones. (Insert Stannis GIF here.)

          • No One In Particular says:

            Awfully silly of me for thinking that explicitly saying this isn’t my logic would be enough to stop people from trying to dunk on it.

            “One particular person has disavowed this argument, so no criticism of the argument should be presented”. Yes, that is quite silly.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @No One In Particular
            I would be quite surprised if “you allowed yourself to be interviewed by a bad person therefore you’re bad” is a belief held by any readers of the SSC comments section. Do you disagree? If you don’t, what exactly is the point of criticising it?

          • albatross11 says:

            Anonymous Bosch:

            First, I was trying to summarize a line of argument I’ve seen, not your comment in particular.

            Second, to clarify *my* position: I think having public discussions with people with whom you have profound disagreements is valuable, and I don’t think it should be punished, even if Molynoux is a complete tool[1]. I think it would be okay if Hsu had public conversations with a repesentative from the Nation of Islam or the government of Saudi Arabia or an overt white-nationalist (I’m not sure if Molynoux qualifies or not) or with a genuine modern-day Maoist or Stalinist, or with an antinatalist. It’s not just that I think it’s a forgivable misstep not to have done a background check on the guy whose podcast you’re appearing on, I don’t think there’s something wicked about having conversations with people I think are bad people with bad ideas.

            This seems like some radical statement right now, and yet, mainstream politicians and media personalities have had pleasant and amiable conversations with folks like Henry Kissinger and John Yoo. When the “crime” that besmirches all who speak with you is having yucky ideas, it seems like people somehow take it a lot more seriously than when the “crime” is actual crimes against humanity. This seems nuts to me. But I don’t want to penalize people for talking to those guys, either, I just want to be clear that you’re not tainted for having actual discussions with people with bad ideas.

            [1] I’m not too familiar with Molynoux–what little I’ve seen hasn’t impressed me. But for reasons which should be obvious, this isn’t actually a big deal to me.

          • Lambert says:

            +1 on being allowed to appear alongside bad people.

            If the threat of cancellation means that no moderates can interview with the far right, who’s there to advocate for a moderate viewpoint?

          • zero says:

            If you think no one can be convinced, then all the moderates are doing is making it seem like the extremists are actually within the Overton Window.

            Of course, if you think no one can be convinced, I have no idea what your endgame is. Probably nothing good, no matter what your intentions are.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @Spookykou

            I don’t think they truncated your sentence to try and misrepresent you, the ‘not necessarily’ reads like ‘not always but sometimes this is okay’ which is in contrast to your second quote ‘I explicitly said this is not okay’.

            Yes, that’s what I intended (not attempting to misrepresent).

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          It’s cooties.

      • baconbits9 says:

        I I listened to Molyneux sometime in the 2006-2008 range and at first I was really drawn in, and after a dozen or so of his podcasts (iirc he was recording them daily in his car during a commute) he suddenly seemed like a crank/hack to me. I can’t quite recall what it was but I want to say he kept resting a bunch of his (really strongly held) opinions on anecdotes.

    • Iago the Yerfdog says:

      EDIT: NOPE SORRY THIS WAS STEFAN KINSELLA. MY BAD.

      Most of adecade ago, Molyneux was (EDIT: as far as I could tell at the time) a fairly standard anarcho-capitalist known (by a fairly small group of people) for his passionate anti-intellectual-property views. Around the time Trump got elected he recanted much or all of that and dedicated himself to the culture war.

      • Matt M says:

        for his passionate anti-intellectual-property views

        Are you sure you aren’t confusing him with Stefan Kinsella? It’s a common mistake as they’re both bald and named Stefan… but Kinsella is the main “anti-IP guy” to the extent of having written the book on it, AFAIK…

        • Iago the Yerfdog says:

          You know, I think I am. Dang.

          I still think Molyneux popped by the circles I was in back then from time to time, and I think they left the same impression on me vis being a dick, so I’m sure that didn’t help my confusion.

          EDIT: Remind me: which one ran the C4SS (Center for a Stateless Society)?

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            C4SS is Carson and the mutualist left-libertarians, but they hate IP just as much as the Mises right-libertarians

          • Iago the Yerfdog says:

            @Anonymous Bosch

            Man, my memory sucks.

          • Matt M says:

            For what it’s worth, I travel in a lot of the same circles as both of them, and do find them both to be “kind of a dick.” (Moly has more objectionable views, but Kinsella is more nasty towards people who disagree with his)

          • Martin says:

            @Iago the Yerfdog

            which one ran the C4SS (Center for a Stateless Society)?

            Stephan Kinsella was on the advisory board of the C4SS.

          • Martin says:

            @Anonymous Bosch

            C4SS is Carson and the mutualist left-libertarians, but they hate IP just as much as the Mises right-libertarians

            Not justs mutalists. E.g. Roderick Long and Sheldon Richman are not mutualists, more like ancaps although they don’t like to call themselves that.

        • LadyJane says:

          Molyneux is a laughing stock in modern libertarian circles. Maybe back in 2008 he was still considered a libertarian activist first and foremost, but by 2017, most other libertarians had definitely started distancing themselves from him already due to his support for Trump and his socially conservative/ethno-nationalist views. I don’t know if he ever formally renounced libertarianism like Cantwell did, and he might even still support anarcho-capitalist economic views (or he might have completely changed his stance on that, I have no idea), but very few libertarians would still consider him to be one of them. The only time I even see him mentioned in libertarian groups anymore is when people post egg memes making fun of his bizarre and creepy obsession with women’s fertility.

          Stephan Kinsella is a fairly controversial figure within the liberty movement too, but far less so. A lot of libertarians dislike or disagree with him, but they don’t consider him anathema or claim that he’s not a real libertarian at all like they do with Molyneux. I honestly don’t know enough about him or his views to have a strong opinion on them myself, beyond the fact that 1. he’s associated with the Mises Institute (which I have a generally negative opinion of) and 2. the whole concept of “argumentation ethics” (the bizarre and convoluted meta-ethical system he espouses) seems absolutely nonsensical to me.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Stephan Kinsella is a fairly controversial figure within the liberty movement too, but far less so. A lot of libertarians dislike or disagree with him, but they don’t consider him anathema or claim that he’s not a real libertarian at all like they do with Molyneux.

            Wait, now I’m confused. Is the state of being a libertarian defined by belief in minimal government/any government at all is incompatible with the terminal value liberty, or by who loves ya?

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            It seemed a fairly straightforward confirmation of Matt M’s post above that Kinsella is “controversial” due to being a kind of a dick, not because people believe he’s no longer libertarian like Molyneux.

          • teageegeepea says:

            Kinsella’s take on argumentation ethics seems to be inspired by Hans Herman Hoppe, who studied under Habermas and used that “continental philosophy” approach as a justification for both libertarianism and things in the vein of ethnonationalism (which is quite a contrast to the cosmopolitan analytic philosophy of Mises). I don’t know of Kinsella actually endorsing the same things as Hoppe though.

          • Martin says:

            @teageegeepea

            Hans Herman Hoppe, who studied under Habermas and used that “continental philosophy” approach as a justification for both libertarianism and things in the vein of ethnonationalism

            Hoppe uses argumentation ethics as a justification of libertarianism, but not, AFAIK, for his “things in the vein of ethnonationalism”, for which he has other arguments.

  2. JohnBuridan says:

    I recommend his podcast with Corey Washington called Manifold. (Are podcasts supposed to be italicized?)

    • Well... says:

      The names of TV shows are supposed to be put in quotes but not italics. I’m not sure how you format the titles of individual episodes. But if I were going to guess I’d say whatever format they use for TV is what you’re supposed to use for podcasts.

  3. samboy says:

    You know, this is the second time this week I am seeing the cancel culture mob (which I refuse to call “leftist”, being left-of-center myself) trying to cancel someone for pointing out legitimate peer-reviewed scientific research. They were able to get David Shor cancelled for linking to peer-reviewed research on Twitter just last week: https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/06/case-for-liberalism-tom-cotton-new-york-times-james-bennet.html

    • Aftagley says:

      I think we all already had this fight in the last fractional thread, but that one was more understandable.

    • ChelOfTheSea says:

      Cancel culture aside, he seems to be just wrong, because Biden is absolutely trouncing Trump at the moment, and approval of BLM is up somewhere between five and ten points in recent weeks depending on the poll. Note that I say that as someone whose prior was that violence would probably damage the movement after George Floyd’s death and who has been very surprised by the overwhelming success of the protests/riots.

      • samboy says:

        I think the people who were able to get David Shor fired would had made a much more compelling argument if they argued what you just argued.

        David Shor did not advocate for anything that Martin Luther King would not had supported under the same circumstances. Indeed, he made the same point MLK’s daughter made in response to the George Floyd riots: “The only way to get constructive change Is through nonviolent means”

        The protesters agreed with Shor, because they calmed down pretty quickly after the initial looting and riots (e.g. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/us/george-floyd-video-autopsy-protests.html )

        • Simon_Jester says:

          Hypothesis: Much of the looting was done by unrelated opportunists taking advantage of the confusion.

          Consider. If I were a thief, I know I’d be interested in doing my break-ins of local stores at a time when just about every cop in a thirty mile radius was eyeball-to-eyeball with big distracting crowds holding “FUCK THE POLICE” signs.

          On the other hand, once my immediate needs for cash and luxury goods were satisfied, I’d probably STOP looting stores, because the heat has been turned up on the protestors and nobody likes the smell of tear gas.

          If a small population of opportunistic criminals took the first days of the protests as a chance to loot local stores, but then relaxed after having enriched themselves and not wanting to take further risk, it would help to explain the pattern we’ve seen with respect to the looting correlated with the protests.

          • albatross11 says:

            This is my model of things, too. I’m sure there’s *some* overlap, but realistically, most of the people looting were thinking “Say, the whole police department is engaged in facing off with the protesters downtown. So who’s watching this store full of TVs over here?”

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I’m highly confident that the protestors are nearly completely distinct from the looters and violent rioters.

            But lots of people get angry with that, and want to defend the violent rioters, and say that wanting anything done with the violent people means you want the peaceful protestors beaten by cops.

            I still think they are separate groups, but a lot of liberal institutions are trying to shake my confidence in that, and I can’t think of any charitable reasons.

          • Matt M says:

            So, in this model, the answer to the question “Why is there never any looting or arson at right-wing protests?” would be “Because right-wing protests have simply never been large/popular to reach a critical mass required to sufficiently distract the police to enable looting and arson to take place without fear of consequence?”

            Like, if right-wingers could turn out a large enough crowd, the same element of presumably non-partisan looters and arsonists would then turn out and behave similarly as to how they are behaving in these protests?

          • Aftagley says:

            @Matt M

            That seems entirely correct to me.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m not sure I agree, but the logic is sound and the explanation is at least plausible, which is more than I can say for a lot of other arguments I’ve been hearing lately…

          • Jaskologist says:

            I don’t have numbers, but the Tea Party protests and the yearly March for Life are plenty big. For that matter, so was the Million Man March. DC gets lots of large gatherings.

          • ana53294 says:

            Wouldn’t the guys with guns who don’t want to be associated with looters stop looters from using them as cover?

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            In many cases the looting took place in a different part of town from the bulk of the protests, which probably has just as much to do with the shift in police presence.

          • gbdub says:

            Looters and protesters do seem to be distinct. Protesters and rioters are much harder to distinguish, and there are a lot more who might be one today and the other tomorrow.

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M:

            I suspect this is partly correct. But I also think rioting and looting are largely a co-ordination game (in the game theory sense). You want to loot and burn, I want to loot and burn, so does Conrad and Simon. But each of us knows that if we just go out and loot and burn things alone, the police will surely catch us and put us in jail. So we want to wait until some social signal that tells us that lots of people are going out to do some looting and burning. Once each of us knows that lots of others are doing that, we’re pretty safe from the police.

            Locusts use prime-number-of-years gestation periods to accomplish this goal, but looters can use TV coverage of protests/riots/looting and even of events that often precipitate such things.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            There are a considerable number of people using “I disapprove of the rioters and looters” as a convenient code phrase for “and this is why I oppose the protests, even though I would look really stupid coming out in favor of police brutality.”

            This is a recurring pattern: because these protests are always accompanied by at least SOME looters, every protest can then be dismissed using the argument “but there were looters,” regardless of the actual beliefs of the supermajority of protestors who are not looters.

            The perception arises that the attempt to shift the discussion to being primarily about the looters is in some ways a deliberate attempt to draw attention away from the subject of police brutality- that it is, in short, a kind of rhetorical trap.

            And one way out of the trap is to say “I don’t specifically approve of the looters but I refuse to condemn them anymore, because this has become a weird ritual I perform as part of you delegitimizing my last several protests.

            More generally, democratic institutions exist to make revolution superfluous by permitting the general public to change institutions they don’t like. The ability of democracy to restrain police abuses has been unreliable and shaky in recent years. As a result, you start seeing a more revolutionary sort of protestor.

            In general, when there exists a problem that hurts the masses more than the elite, if the elite doesn’t want riots or other destruction, they have to at least throw the masses a bone here and there. American policing has neglected to do this, and now we’re seeing the predictable results.

            @Jaskologist

            National protests converging on Washington D.C. tend not to lead to rioting and looting, regardless of whether they are left-wing or right-wing. This is because they tend to be more carefully planned events and the security is handled in a practiced, orderly manner.

            Furthermore, the various local and federal police in D.C. usually don’t try to brutally crack down on the protest march because then they literally piss off the entire nation at the same time- see for reference what happened to Hoover’s reputation after the crushing of the Bonus Army.

            Most of the recent protests were at least semi-local: those who lived in New York and wished to protest police brutality did so in New York, and those in Seattle did so in Seattle. But there was no mass organized movement of protestors descending on any one city in America, and indeed there was no prior event planning of any kind for obvious reasons.

            You get a lot more looting opportunists in an unregistered, unorganized, spontaneous upwelling of protest sentiment than you do in a carefully policed, heavily organized, tightly synchronized demonstration planned months in advance.

          • Matt M says:

            This is a recurring pattern: because these protests are always accompanied by at least SOME looters

            To my point above… these protests are always accompanied by looters, but not all protests are.

            Specifically, I’m not aware of any right-wing protest within the last 20 years that was accompanied by looting. Not one. Not the tea party. Not the anti-lockdown protests. Not even Charlottesville (and that’s hard to even count, because I’m quite sure that in terms of boots on the ground, the left ended up significantly outnumbering the right there).

          • J Mann says:

            @Simon

            There are a considerable number of people using “I disapprove of the rioters and looters” as a convenient code phrase for “and this is why I oppose the protests, even though I would look really stupid coming out in favor of police brutality.”

            That’s pretty uncharitable, although I guess it depends on what you understand a “considerable number” to be.

            My reading of the protests and violence is that the first few nights, there was considerable violence – cars and buildings set on fire, mobbed, bricks and molotov cocktails thrown at cops, etc.

            My guess on why the violence occurred was a combination of (a) some people were really mad about police brutality and (b) some people thought that in a lawless environment, they could get away with it. (With some overlap, of course.)

            There were certainly people on the left affirmatively defending violent protest in those first few days, as well as some denying the protests were violent.

            Then after a few days, the protests got more organized, and (IMHO) the perception that violence was discrediting the movement encouraged protestors to self-police when someone started throwing bricks or smashing windows. IMHO, that was a good result, and now I support the protests much more than I did when there was more violence.

          • rumham says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            I’m highly confident that the protestors are nearly completely distinct from the looters and violent rioters.

            Not so sure about the rioters. I’ve seen too many videos of people shouting “Get him” and directing assaults seconds after chanting. I’ll give you looters, as those often occur away from the protests.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            “Not to pile on,” he says, piling on, but:

            This is a recurring pattern: because these protests are always accompanied by at least SOME looters, every protest can then be dismissed using the argument “but there were looters,” regardless of the actual beliefs of the supermajority of protestors who are not looters.

            If there were looters around a right-wing protest, the right-wingers would not only not make excuses for the looters, but would stop and ask the cops, “y’all need any help with this?”

            ETA: I have seen videos of peaceful BLM protestors attempting to stop looters, though, and I commend them.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Matt M:

            To my point above… these protests are always accompanied by looters, but not all protests are.

            Specifically, I’m not aware of any right-wing protest within the last 20 years that was accompanied by looting. Not one. Not the tea party. Not the anti-lockdown protests. Not even Charlottesville (and that’s hard to even count, because I’m quite sure that in terms of boots on the ground, the left ended up significantly outnumbering the right there).

            Are you looking to understand looting on an individual level, as a phenomenon that accompanies mass actions like protests or riots, or are you looking to dunk on the outgroup?

            It’s trivial to find individual looters that are right-wing on a personal level. Likewise for looting at movements that might be considered right-wing outside the US. Likewise for events more than 20 years ago.

            Don’t be coy – what question are you really asking?

          • SamChevre says:

            I would agree that most of the looting was done by people only vaguely if at all connected to the protests.

            But I don’t think that’s true for the “violent protestors” AKA rioters – the people who set a city bus on fire, vandalized the statues on Monument Avenue, and set the UDC building on fire were so far as I can see part of the protest group, not opportunistic unrelated criminals.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            And one way out of the trap is to say “I don’t specifically approve of the looters but I refuse to condemn them anymore, because this has become a weird ritual I perform as part of you delegitimizing my last several protests.

            See, this is where your shell game totally breaks down.

            We’re not talking about people who merely declined to condemn looters.

            We are talking about people who (a) actively approved of the looters (nearly always white liberals who aren’t living in the areas being looted) and (b) decided that anyone talking bad about the looters was doing bad things.

            This isn’t merely deciding the game is unfair and sitting it out.

          • Aftagley says:

            We are talking about people who (a) actively approved of the looters (nearly always white liberals who aren’t living in the areas being looted) and (b) decided that anyone talking bad about the looters was doing bad things.

            Being charitable, I think your biases are blinding you here. Basically no one is pro-looting. What people were against was the right-wing push to completely define the protests as being orgies of rioting and looting.

            I’m sure you can find some examples of weirdos saying unfortunately positive things about it, but they’re an irrelevantly small minority and don’t really have any bearing on the larger conversational picture.

            Yes, they’ll stand out as being particularly egregious… but they just don’t matter.

          • AG says:

            The police don’t show up in nearly as much force for right wing protests, which means more of them are available to the usual patrols deterring looters.

          • INH5 says:

            So, in this model, the answer to the question “Why is there never any looting or arson at right-wing protests?” would be “Because right-wing protests have simply never been large/popular to reach a critical mass required to sufficiently distract the police to enable looting and arson to take place without fear of consequence?”

            I would expand on this that the reason why this tends to be the case is because right-wingers disproportionately live in places with a low population density. Short-notice protests usually can’t draw large crowds because there just aren’t enough activist types concentrated in any one place, and if they want to bring a lot of people to protest in a particular area they have to plan it in advance, which gives the police time to prepare.

          • Dan L says:

            @ INH5:

            Addressing the causes of looting, I’d borrow from D’Arcy’s terminology and describe this kind of mass looting as an acquisitive riot, as opposed to a populist riot or an authoritarian riot. Riots of all kind essentially require both population density and a coordinated awareness of the breakdown of law and order, and once the basic prerequisites are met the riot can take on and shift between forms.

          • SamChevre says:

            @Aftagley
            What people were against was the right-wing push to completely define the protests as being orgies of rioting and looting.

            I’m sure you can find some examples of weirdos saying unfortunately positive things about it…

            That’s not what I’m seeing on my social media (which is admittedly a bubble)–I’m seeing this kind of picture all over the place, with no condemnation. I’m seeing lots of governments granting the demands of the rioting vandals.

          • Matt M says:

            Short-notice protests usually can’t draw large crowds because there just aren’t enough activist types concentrated in any one place, and if they want to bring a lot of people to protest in a particular area they have to plan it in advance, which gives the police time to prepare.

            Indeed. And this is what happened in Charlottesville. It was organized so far in advance that there was sufficient time for:

            Very far right groups to announce they were attending.
            Not as far right groups to announce that they disavowed and weren’t attending (to avoid being associated with the very far right groups)
            Far left protest types to organize an (even larger) counter demonstration
            Not as far left government types to attempt to have the whole thing declared unlawful and shut down (this was not initially successful, but they just waited until the day of and then did it anyway)

            Ironically enough, some of the most culturally memorable stuff to occur in Charlottesville actually happened the night before the protest was scheduled… at a time when there was in fact a critical mass of right-wingers present such that they could pull off an impromptu demonstration and their opponents (both the police and counter-demonstrators) were unprepared to immediately respond. This is what produced the tiki torch march, the “you will not replace us” chant, and the infamous photo of Chris Cantwell pepper spraying some dude in the face.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Being charitable, I think your biases are blinding you here. Basically no one is pro-looting. What people were against was the right-wing push to completely define the protests as being orgies of rioting and looting.

            Then they should have done that. If you want to fight against the conservatives muddling the two groups, fight against that by making sure the two groups are distinct.

            And I saw lots of people — including me — pointing out the distinction. I’m pretty sure I linked videos here of protestors turning on (often white) people grabbing shit and defacing property. Because whatever else is going on, black people, like everyone else, don’t want to destroy their home towns. That’s been my hypothesis from the start and it’s worked out pretty well.

            But lots of the liberal defense was “no, no, looting is okay.”

            https://www.thenation.com/article/activism/blm-looting-protest-vandalism/

            https://time.com/5851111/protests-looting/

            https://www.currentaffairs.org/2020/06/why-property-destruction-isnt-violence

            https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/05/9842857/minneapolis-riots-protests-looting-media-reaction

            https://slate.com/human-interest/2020/06/looting-protest-punishment-care-and-feeding.html

            Can you at least notice the motte-and-bailey SJ is doing? The motte is “we are just done answering for the looters,” which is of course acceptable to me: you aren’t responsible for others’ behavior. But his bailey is “it’s okay to burn the people who are accurately reporting scholarly research that violent protest doesn’t work.” That’s the bullshit.

          • Aftagley says:

            @Matt M

            I agree with you. It’s totally possible to prepare for a large protest if given enough time and warning, it’s more difficult to do so on the fly. That being said,

            “you will not replace us”

            I remember that chant slightly differently.

            @Edward Scizorhands

            Of the five articles you linked, only one is an affirmative defense of looting (Come on The Nation, that’s a bad take). The rest are primarily analysis and commentaries of the meta narrative and the left’s frustration with having the entire movement framed the worst actions of a small minority that stopped happening pretty quickly. That last one from Slate seemed somewhat unrelated: I don’t think anyone should support trying to get their kids arrested.

            But his bailey is “it’s okay to burn the people who are accurately reporting scholarly research that violent protest doesn’t work.” That’s the bullshit.

            I honestly don’t see the motte/bailey. I see that people who support the protests don’t want the surrounding narrative of them to focus on an uncontrollable minority but of the overwhelmingly peaceful majority. I see them expressing their anger when people on the right make this claim and I see them expressing their anger when people on the left make this claim.

            @Sam Chevre

            That’s not what I’m seeing on my social media (which is admittedly a bubble)–I’m seeing this kind of picture all over the place, with no condemnation.

            I’m really conflicted about this. I don’t see that kind of grafitti as violence or anything deserving of condemnation; my personal opinion is that if people are imposing that statue on the populace, the populace can impose their opinions on the statue.

            That being said, I can model your point of view and understand why it would upset someone. I don’t really know of a good way forward here. If those kinds of images upset you, I’m legitimately sorry.

          • SamChevre says:

            @Aftagley

            It’s not (primarily) that the images upset me–it’s that I perceive a huge double standard.

            If several thousand people marched to the historic synagogue near me, graffitied it with swastikas, and set it on fire, I cannot imagine that the news coverage would describe this as a peaceful protest. I’d like the same tone in the reporting on these protests to the extent that they are doing similar things. (I don’t expect it–I perceive the media to be extraordinarily partisan–but I’d like it.)

            And if there was a picture of identifiable people in front of the destruction the next day, wearing brown armbands and posing for pictures, I would expect that they’d be charged with a crime of some sort.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Aftagley,

            My bad: I got the subthreads confused. Over in another thread I brought up Current Affairs Nathan Robinson has been saying that academically rigorous research was bad because Republicans might misuse it, and that got compared to a geocentrist professor.

          • Aftagley says:

            Hmm, I might be tired of being asked to condemn the protests, but I don’t think I’ll ever run out of energy to condemn Nathan Robinson.

          • B_Epstein says:

            Ummm so, like, the current peaceful protests totally vandalized synagogues. This is not a hypothetical.

            I still wait for all the right-minded folk to explain how no decent person would seriously talk about this as connected to the protests – and how bringing it up has to be disingenuous. Also, these are of course right-wing extremists trying to stir up provocations.

          • albatross11 says:

            B Epstein:

            Well, since I’ve spent the whole rest of the thread arguing against guilt by association, I’ll just say: no guilt by association. Catch the idiots who vandalized/burned the synogogue and put them into jail if you can, but don’t blame the grandma out there singing hymns with her “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt for the actions of those idiots.

          • samboy says:

            “I’m sure you can find some examples of weirdos saying unfortunately positive things about [the riots]”

            Ironically, or maybe not, the guy who appears to be leading the cancel culture mob to demote/fire Stephen Hsu has said positive things about the riots and fires. He tweeted “Seeing banks and monuments to white supremacy burn is the proudest I’ve been of America in a long time” over at https://twitter.com/itsbirdemic/status/1266972132401205250

            I read a lot of his tweets to dig that whopper up, and it’s a lot of low on the horseshoe stuff like Biden’s far too moderate, we should completely abolish the police, etc.

          • J Mann says:

            @Aftagley

            FWIW, I am not at all confident in how violent the protests are, with the exception of your reports, and the caveat that you aren’t everywhere.

            Once it became a firing offence to suggest that the protests are violent, the value of any additional information drops significantly, IMHO.

            CHAZ/CHOP is an example – Fox and a few of the local media are reporting that local businesses and residents are being hit by protection shakedowns but are afraid to complaint publicly for fear of cancellation or violence, and Vox and the national media are reporting that that’s absurd and its mostly drum circles, community gardens, and humorous tales of good natured folks happily trying to organize a just society. Who’s right? I honestly have no idea, but in a world where a twitter mob will come after any person who (a) lives or works near Broadway and (b) suggests CHAZ is maybe not great, I tend to suspect that the news is slanted in the direction the mob wants, and that people aren’t getting accurate information.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I initially bought into “the businesses are being extorted” line, but found out there was nobody willing to say so, either on-the-record or off-the-record.

            Now, it’s perfectly conceivable that those businesses remain afraid to speak, and don’t trust the media (for very good reasons) to keep off-the-record things off-the-record. And it might take until this whole thing is over to get that and get an affirmative report. But, until we get someone saying so, I’m going to remain a skeptic, having already been fooled once.

          • J Mann says:

            I’m not sure they’re being extorted, but I am pretty sure they’d be boycotted and called out for saying they’re being extorted, so that’s why I’m stuck.

            Agreed that if they won’t say they’re being extorted off the record to a trustworthy reporter, that’s evidence that they’re not, but as a consumer of news, I’d be happier in a world where it would be safe for people to say so.

  4. DS says:

    Hsu doesn’t acknowledge why “biology of race and sex difference” research makes people nervous? That’s evidence he shouldn’t be in charge of reviewing discrimination complaints. But it’s not evidence against his being a research director!

    “If bad guys might abuse it, we shouldn’t study it” – I hate that argument.

    I hate it when it’s an argument from the right wing against STD vaccines or gun violence research. I hate it when it’s from the left against precision weapons or sex biology research.

    It’s selfish and self-defeating and destructive, all three.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      Hsu doesn’t acknowledge why “biology of race and sex difference” research makes people nervous? That’s evidence he shouldn’t be in charge of reviewing discrimination complaints. But it’s not evidence against his being a research director!

      Yeah, perusing the bill of particulars and taking some random skims from his blog, this is probably my take too. There’s a few things that make me raise my eyebrow and a lot of things that make me roll my eyes, and I think he’s definitely laying it on a little thick with the “I’m just a scientist laying down uncontroversial science y u mad tho” (which probably explains his popularity around these parts).

      But the complaint is larded with way more dumb shit like “believes in biological differences between populations” or confusing his description of something with advocacy of it in multiple links. Directing research money to a guy who reached an unpopular conclusion isn’t evidence of anything! So unless there’s something further here, like testimony that he casually drops hot racial takes in class and asks his black students if they’re triggered (which was the case with that Chicago econ prof), I’m gonna go ahead and register a “nah bro” on this cancellation.

      EDIT: I didn’t notice until after this post that Hsu is a professor of *theoretical physics*. That, uh, definitely makes me look more askance at his blog’s focus and his willingness to opine on population genetics to Molymeme.

      • albatross11 says:

        He’s also done research in genetics.

      • scienceofdoom says:

        Maybe you’d like to critique his paper, “Determination of Nonlinear Genetic Architecture
        using Compressed Sensing”.
        What are the main weaknesses there do you think?

        How about, “Applying compressed sensing to genome-wide association studies”

        Or where the predictions were then applied successfully, “Accurate Genomic Prediction Of Human Height”

        Seeing as you understand what subjects people can and can’t understand I’m fascinated to hear your opinions.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Please don’t direct sarcasm at fellow commenters.

          Based on the limited selection of papers you cited I’m curious as to Hsu’s knowledgebase on population evolution (a part of population genetics), especially with regard to embryonic selection for particular polygenetic traits (which is what his company purports to do). As a non-geneticist in the biological sciences my concern here is with loss of allele diversity, especially of alleles which have phenotypic expression in non-selected traits, but may genetically correlate with (i.e. be chromosomally near) alleles involved with the selected poly-genetic trait.

          I’m concerned not only with this loss of allelic diversity, but with the second-order effects such a loss of diversity would have on inbreeding coefficients. If there is less allelic diversity, then genetically speaking marrying your 7th cousin a century from now might be equivalent to marrying your 5th cousin today.

          Has Hsu considered these questions? If so, what are his answers to them?

          • Murphy says:

            but may genetically correlate with (i.e. be chromosomally near) alleles involved with the selected poly-genetic trait.

            From a quick scan of the height paper they talk about running the data through the Haplotype Reference Consortium so I’d guess that it was taking that into account.

            In “Determination of Nonlinear Genetic Architecture using Compressed Sensing” they explicitly talk about this and blocks of loci.

            Linkage disequilibrium is something you’d routinely need to take into account in an analysis like that.

            I strongly suspect that you’d need a very large fraction of the population selecting embryos before it would be too much of an issue and there’s already plenty of small towns where marrying your 7th cousin is arelady equivalent to marrying your 5th cousin… actually I think I came across a paper quantifying that in various populations a while back so we could probably quantify it while it’s happening if it was a problem.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Thanks Murphy.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          Seeing as you understand what subjects people can and can’t understand

          This has been a banner night for folks reading things that aren’t there.

          • scienceofdoom says:

            Ok, let’s say it plainly. Bosch states:

            EDIT: I didn’t notice until after this post that Hsu is a professor of *theoretical physics*. That, uh, definitely makes me look more askance at his blog’s focus and his willingness to opine on population genetics to Molymeme.

            What is the relevance given he has a track record of published papers in genetics?

            I guessed Bosch didn’t bother to find that out. But of course I won’t assume seeing as “This has been a banner night for folks reading things that aren’t there.

            So explain why being a professor of physics precludes people from being an expert in genetics?

            Or you could say, “oh, I realize now that he has a solid record of research in this field, my earlier comment was in error.” That’s an approach. I’m not trying to be prescriptive.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            So explain why being a professor of physics precludes people from being an expert in genetics?

            I assume that people who transition fields at a high-level (post-PhD), without taking the classes necessary to get a degree in the new field, do not become familiar with some of the basic concepts in the new field. Exactly which concepts they are not familiar with I cannot know.

            I assume that in their new field they are the equivalent of savant syndrome- unless I see them demonstrate their breadth of understanding.

          • B_Epstein says:

            “unless I see them demonstrate their breadth of understanding.” – ummm and you don’t even bother addressing the obvious reply of “does publishing a number of important papers, participating in major technological breakthroughs in the field and running a company which you criticize on moral rather than professional grounds count as such a demonstration”?

            Also, the list of people branching out at a late stage includes many a noble name. Turing, Alvarez, von Neumann (already mentioned elsewhere), Bill Phillips – all should be considered suspicious until meeting your (unclear, see above) standards?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @B_Epstein

            “does publishing a number of important papers, participating in major technological breakthroughs in the field and running a company which you criticize on moral rather than professional grounds count as such a demonstration”?

            Sub-field, not field. So no, it doesn’t. All of the papers cited by scienceofdoom are in a very narrow sub-field of population genetics. This is typical for even people with Ph.D.s in something, but at least I have good reason to believe that a person with a degree in a field has been exposed to a broad base of concepts considered core to that field. (see my prior comment in this thread – June 16, 2020 at 8:06 pm)

            Also, the list of people branching out at a late stage includes many a noble name. Turing, Alvarez, von Neumann (already mentioned elsewhere), Bill Phillips – all should be considered suspicious until meeting your (unclear, see above) standards?

            No, but I would consider them savant syndrome (I’m trying to avoid the term “idiot-savant”) in the field until they demonstrate otherwise.

          • B_Epstein says:

            Sub-field, not field. So no, it doesn’t. All of the papers cited by scienceofdoom are in a very narrow sub-field of population genetics. This is typical for even people with Ph.D.s in something, but at least I have good reason to believe that a person with a degree in a field has been exposed to a broad base of concepts considered core to that field.

            It seems you greatly overestimate the inter-connectedness of sub-fields. In a diverse set of sub-fields, the dependence on “external imports” is limited. That is, one can make major contributions without, in fact, being an expert in the entire field. In fact, in mathematics, say, there simply aren’t any global experts. None. But there are many experts in other fields (as distant as linguistics) contributing to some local sub-sub-field.

            Therefore, the default position should be that if someone (particularly an accomplished researcher) has a number of widely acclaimed results, the burden of proof should be on the skeptics. Until proven otherwise, “you’re an expert in something else” shouldn’t be used as a general counter-argument. First prove Hsu to be wrong, then explain how it is because he’s clueless about the basics.

            No, but I would consider them savant syndrome (I’m trying to avoid the term “idiot-savant”) in the field until they demonstrate otherwise

            What implications would this label have? Are they or are they not trustworthy? Just to re-emphasize – I’m talking about the stage after they’ve made high-impact contributions. As an aside, as Scott Aaronson put it, “if Marie Curie sent me something about biology and said I could publish it on Shtetl-Optimized, then even though she’s not a biologist, I would.” – that is, at a certain level, you get to be listened to even before demonstrating domain-specific achievements. No idea whether Hsu qualifies.

          • John Schilling says:

            I assume that people who transition fields at a high-level (post-PhD), without taking the classes necessary to get a degree in the new field, do not become familiar with some of the basic concepts in the new field.

            You seem to assume that “taking classes” is the way people become familiar with the basic concepts of a field. That’s true only of the dull sort of person who will never transition between fields at the post-Ph.D. level, so I think you’re way off base here.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            What is the relevance given he has a track record of published papers in genetics?

            I guessed Bosch didn’t bother to find that out. But of course I won’t assume seeing as “This has been a banner night for folks reading things that aren’t there.”

            So explain why being a professor of physics precludes people from being an expert in genetics?

            Christopher Monckton has published papers on climate modeling. Perhaps you’re more willing to assume this is a proxy for reliability than I am.

            Fortunately, while I’m not much of an atmospheric physicist, I do dabble in molecular biology, so I will check out the papers you cited later, when I’m not procrastinating on patent drafting.

            And if I find them compelling, I’ll update my view, which is really just exactly what it says, “looking askance.” A Bayesian prior, not a deductive rule. Economists are not logically precluded from expertise in epidemiology; yet it still sets off a Yellow Alert in my hindbrain. So it goes.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @B_Epstein

            That is, one can make major contributions without, in fact, being an expert in the entire field.

            No duh.

            First prove Hsu to be wrong, then explain how it is because he’s clueless about the basics.

            Here I have (and I do this as a person with a B.S. Biology and a bit over 10 years as a tech and research associate; i.e. not a PhD): https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/06/16/open-thread-156-25/#comment-916278
            https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/06/16/open-thread-156-25/#comment-916234

            Are they or are they not trustworthy? Just to re-emphasize – I’m talking about the stage after they’ve made high-impact contributions.

            I trust a mathematical savant to perform a calculation correctly, I don’t trust them to know whether the calculation is scientifically (or morally) appropriate to the circumstances, until they demonstrate to me that they can make these determinations. And I certainly do not trust them to know the appropriate “inter-connectedness of sub-fields”.

            that is, at a certain level, you get to be listened to even before demonstrating domain-specific achievements.

            I intellectually understand why other people fetishize social greatness and allow it to transcend categories. I just think this is: 1) Stupid, and 2) Saying a lot about the personality traits of the person so fetishizing.
            (In my own broad field Jennifer Doudna is considered a potential Nobel prize winner. Does she deserve it for her discovery? More and more I’m thinking yes. Is she the best of her kind of scientist in the field? Odds are, no. Great scientists do great science. Sometimes they also get lucky compared to their equivalent peers. They then get allowed by certain others to “get listened to even before demonstrating domain-specific achievements” in other fields. But their equals who weren’t so lucky do not get this social permissiveness [at least not to the same degree].)

            @John Schilling

            You seem to assume that “taking classes” is the way people become familiar with the basic concepts of a field.

            I phrased that wrong. I know that a person with degrees in a field *has* (all but guaranteed) been exposed to a diversity of background and topics broadly pertaining to the field. I don’t know this of those who transition to a field post degree. In fact given the opportunity costs of becoming broadly exposed to the basics of a field I’d assume they’d avoid this, unless they demonstrate otherwise.

            The time has long since passed when people could be masters of all trades, or even masters of multiple trades. Those who transition disciplines these days are heavily incentivized to do so as specialists.

          • B_Epstein says:

            No duh.

            Hey, you’re the one harping about this distinction. My point is that a “field” doesn’t really exist, for the sake of this discussion.

            Here I have (and I do this as a person with a B.S. Biology and a bit over 10 years as a tech and research associate; i.e. not a PhD): https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/06/16/open-thread-156-25/#comment-916278
            https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/06/16/open-thread-156-25/#comment-916234

            First comment raises a question. Second raises a moral issue. That’s your proof of wrongness?

            I trust a mathematical idiot-savant to perform a calculation correctly, I don’t trust them to know whether the calculation is scientifically (or morally) appropriate to the circumstances, until they demonstrate to me that they can make these determinations. And I certainly do not trust them to know the appropriate “inter-connectedness of sub-fields”.

            But in this hypothetical, they already have, and I repeat, “made high-impact contributions”. They have already done more than mere calculations, in your analogy.

            I intellectually understand why other people fetishize social greatness and allow it to transcend categories. I just think this is: 1) Stupid, and 2) Saying a lot about the personality traits of the person so fetishizing.
            (In my own broad field Jennifer Doudna is considered a potential Nobel prize winner. Does she deserve it for her discovery? More and more I’m thinking yes. Is she the best of her kind of scientist in the field? Odds are, no. Great scientists do great science. Sometimes they also get lucky compared to their equivalent peers. They then get allowed by certain others to “get listened to even before demonstrating domain-specific achievements” in other fields. But their equals who weren’t so lucky do not get this social permissiveness [at least not to the same degree].)

            I think you’ve got distracted by the Nobel-priziness of Curie. That’s not the point at all. Substitute Shannon if you wish. Who, as it happens, also made contributions to genetics. And also without formal training in genetics. As TomMustang said, “Smart people gonna smart”. I definitely would hear Shannon out on biological topics – though of course not uncritically.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            My point is that a “field” doesn’t really exist, for the sake of this discussion.

            Yes. It. Does. Population genetics is the field, and if you’re tinkering with a small part of that you’d best be cognizant of your tinkering vis-a-vis the rest of the field.

            First comment raises a question. Second raises a moral issue. That’s your proof of wrongness?

            The fact that I do not see any comment by him on these issues that are evident to a person with a mere B.S. in Biology who doesn’t even specialize in genetics is my tentative proof of his disciplinary tunnel vision.

            But in this hypothetical, they already have, and I repeat, “made high-impact contributions”. They have already done more than mere calculations, in your analogy.

            Yes, he identified parameters of the calculation too. That’s not much more. It’s certainly not what I would expect an expert in population genetics with a knowledge of math to do (though obviously many “experts” don’t think much about the implications of their research agendas toward the broader field).

            You are entitled to your attitude toward socially preeminent smart people intellectuals. I do not agree with it, though based solely on the amplification factor from people such as you and popular culture in general I too am likely to hear what they say more than those of equal or greater merit who aren’t socially preeminent.

          • I assume that people who transition fields at a high-level (post-PhD), without taking the classes necessary to get a degree in the new field, do not become familiar with some of the basic concepts in the new field.

            Should I feel insulted?

            Is teaching a wide range of classes an adequate substitute for taking them?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            You’re writing introductory level texts on the topic David. That’s proof enough for me. 🙂

    • No One In Particular says:

      But it’s not evidence against his being a research director!

      First, my understanding is that it’s quite settled that he’s a research director. You seem to mean “reason for him to not be”. Second, sensitivity to the effects of research should be a job qualification.

      “If bad guys might abuse it, we shouldn’t study it” – I hate that argument.

      You don’t think one should consider the effects of one’s actions?

      • mtl1882 says:

        You don’t think one should consider the effects of one’s actions?

        I’m not the person you asked, but I think this is important to address. I generally am not persuaded by the argument that “If bad guys might abuse it, we shouldn’t study it,” but that’s *because* I consider the effects. I don’t think this sort of suppression of ideas works as intended, and avoiding the issue can make it even harder to deal with them, especially if you cede the field to only bad faith actors. People can obviously disagree with this, but they shouldn’t assume this attitude indicates thoughtlessness.

        However, my assessment of consequences when dealing with things like deadly virus research sometimes leads me to different conclusions. There are some things I’m not sure people should try their hand at mastering–it just seems nearly guaranteed to go wrong eventually. Of course, if we don’t research it, some other country will probably do so, and I’m suspicious of mutual agreements to desist.

      • Deiseach says:

        You don’t think one should consider the effects of one’s actions?

        As a Catholic and so one of the people included in the “how can these crazy science-deniers possibly think they have any say or right to an opinion on embryonic stem-cell research” back when SCIENCE! was demanding the right to SCIENCE! without let or hindrance (and the only capacity of government in this whole debate was to pony up the research grants), I am smiling grimly at this.

        I don’t know what Professor Hsu’s particular opinons are, but I’m willing to guess that he comes out of that tradition of “Science is not moral or immoral, it just is, and it’s the best way to explain reality, so let people Do The Science and stop interjecting irrational emotional objections”.

        I am firmly on the ground of “you do have to consider the consequences, science like every other human endeavour is not done in a vacuum” but I am also enjoying the sharp tart taste of “well well well the phone call is coming from inside the house this time, eh?” where it is science, not religious, people calling for Correct Opinions and Moral Weight about what he clearly considers “a plain matter of science which deals with facts, no matter where those lead, not opinions or feelings or moral qualms or the likes”.

        • Simon_Jester says:

          May I just say that I think you are well entitled to enjoy that taste.

          I may not agree with “embryonic stem cell research is immoral,” but I definitely agree that if you think it is then you have good grounds to complain that someone else is doing it without thinking about the moral implications.

    • rumham says:

      I hate it when it’s an argument from the right wing against STD vaccines or gun violence research.

      I believe that the actual argument was against the CDC doing gun studies because they had shown clear bias with studies of shoddily methodology, in an area far outside of both their expertise and the reasons that they were being funded by taxpayers. Recent failures of the CDC in their core mission would seem to make this complaint all the more reasonable.

      • Matt M says:

        Agreed. I know a lot of people on the right who have made a lot of arguments as to why they don’t like the CDC gun violence research, but “Even if they tell the truth, it’s bad because the truth might justify gun bans” is not one I’ve heard. Not once. Ever.

        The argument is nearly always that their research is either biased, faulty, unnecessary, or outside of their proper jurisdiction, or actually vindicates gun enthusiasts (but is always framed the other way).

  5. JohnBuridan says:

    WANTED: Signs of hope. Any news related to positive trends in American culture or politics wanted.

    • zero says:

      Pollution is down!

    • Freddie deBoer says:

      My book is coming out.

    • SamChevre says:

      Violent crime is WAY down. Homicides per capita (excluding abortions) are lower than they’ve been since 1960.

      • Matthias says:

        Per capita income is also way up since the 1960s. And that includes are big population increase, too. (And the common inflation measures are likely overstated.)

        Smoking is down.

        Obesity might have stopped it’s advance?

      • keaswaran says:

        Do you have statistics on homicides in the last three years? Some people were alleging some kind of “Ferguson effect”, whereby anti-police protests were making homicides go up. In 2016, several major cities did have their first noticeable turnaround in the declines they had all been having for the previous decades, but it was noisy, and I couldn’t find information showing whether the decline had restarted or if the Ferguson effect had been real.

        • SamChevre says:

          I do not have that handy–but the change from the 1990’s is really large. I’m fairly certain that the Ferguson effect is noise around a very different base levle.

          • keaswaran says:

            That’s been my guess as well, but I’d really like to know whether we have more good news in the past three years, or if this source of good news was shut down, the way that traffic fatalities seem to have stopped decreasing around that time as well.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Is it controversial that cops have the power to slow-roll their duties and this can cause murders to go up?

          • keaswaran says:

            It’s not controversial that they *can*. The question is whether there has been any significant effect.

    • No One In Particular says:

      Trump’s approval ratings are in the low forties.

      Cops’ political capital has plummeted.

      The Supreme Court has decided that making decisions that have a person’s sex as factor violate anti-discrimination laws. No news on whether “Is water wet?” has been granted cert.

      • keaswaran says:

        To be fair, “Trump’s approval ratings are in the low forties” has been true for basically his entire presidency (there might have been a moment where it passed 45.0%, and a moment where it dropped below 40.0%, but they were brief).

    • ChelOfTheSea says:

      The Supreme Court ruled this week 6-3 to ban LGBT employment discrimination nationwide.

      • gbdub says:

        The Supreme Court dealt another blow to separation of powers and representative democracy by adopting a convoluted interpretation of plain words in order to deliver a desired result, all because Congress continues to be too damn dysfunctional to do its damn job, and I can’t even complain about it without sounding like a dick because fundamentally I agree with the ultimate outcome? It’s hope, but a bittersweet one.

        EDIT: also they decided not to examine qualified immunity.

        • No One In Particular says:

          There was a dispute about what a law meant. The judicial branch issued a ruling on the dispute. I don’t see how that’s a violation of separation of powers. That’s exactly what the judicial branch is for. And there was already a rather strong precedence for this interpretation. And I’m skeptical that this was the “desired result” for Roberts and Gorsuch.

          The interpretation seems like the plain reading to me, and the opposing view the tortured reading based on “Well, clearly they didn’t intend to say that”. It’s impossible to discriminate (barring an expansive meaning of “discriminate”, such as disparate impact) against trans people without basing your actions on their biological (or perceived biological) sex. I guess you could argue that it still leaves discrimination against nonbinary people uncovered.

          Which of the following would be allowed under what you think the plain reading is?

          -Men can’t wear dresses.
          -Men can’t have hair more than 3 inches long.
          -Men can’t wear make-up
          -Men can’t have “female” names
          -Men can’t talk in a “girly” voice
          -Women can’t wear pants.
          -Women must have hair at least three inches long.
          -Women must wear make-up.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            He could well be talking about the sexual orientation part rather than the trans part. I’ve just started reading the decisions, but so far I think I agree with Brett Kavanaugh. They’re doing a “plain reading,” sure, but there are other more obvious “plain readings,” and choosing the less obvious one over the more obvious one is ideologically motivated.

            In the majority decision the plain reading is, paraphrasing, “if you’d fire a man for being attracted to a man but you wouldn’t fire a woman for being attracted to a man, that’s obvious sexual discrimination.” Plain reading.

            Except nobody’s bothered about people being attracted to men. It’s the homosexuality they’re bothered by. So the obvious retort would be “I’d fire a homosexual woman and I’d fire a homosexual man, so there’s no sexual discrimination.” Plain reading.

            I would say the second plain reading is more obvious, since the crux of the issue is the homosexuality, rather than being attracted to X sex.

            That said, I believe firing someone for their sexual orientation is immoral, with a few special carveouts for certain specialized cases like religious institutions.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Homosexual is just a term to describe a man attracted to men or a woman attracted to women.

            So they would fire people based on both their sex and their attraction to a particular sex.

            You can’t parse “sex” from this discrimination via the intermediary of a word.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I know that. I’m saying the other way “would fire homosexual man just as well as homosexual woman” is also a valid reading. Picking one valid reading over the other is just an expression of one’s own bias.

          • 10240 says:

            This makes sense if we take a very literal reading of the law: discrimination against trans people necessarily involves discriminating between two people who are the same in all respects except their sex. Curiously, however, this reading makes it impossible to rule against certain forms of discrimination that the law probably does intend to ban, except perhaps on disparate impact grounds (which are not part of the literal reading):

            If we take ‘sex’ in anti-discrimination laws to mean biological sex, then it’s legal for a company to allow only people presenting as men (or as women), basically allowing only cis-men and FtM transsexuals and crossdressers.

            If we take ‘sex’ to mean self-presentation (I’m not sure which interpretation the courts take nowadays), it’s legal for a company to only allow biological males (or biological females), however they present, allowing only cis-men and MtF transsexuals.

            In order to not get this weird situation, the word ‘sex’ in the law would have to be in some sort of quantum superposition, meaning both biological sex and presentation until a case goes to court.

          • 10240 says:

            Protection for sexual orientation is also justified by a very literal reading, but it leads to a similar conundrum as transsexuality:

            In the literal reading it’s legal to (say) only employ people who have a female partner (regardless of their own sex), i.e. heterosexual men and lesbians and bisexuals with a female partner. This is sex discrimination, but regarding the employee’s partner rather than the employee, which, I presume, is not covered by the law.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            If we take ‘sex’ in anti-discrimination laws to mean biological sex, then it’s legal for a company to allow only people presenting as men (or as women), basically allowing only cis-men and FtM transsexuals and crossdressers.

            The opinion takes “sex” as biological (as per textualism’s more formal name of “original public meaning”) but this doesn’t take presentation out of bounds. It’s already covered by Price Waterhouse, which I don’t think either dissent argues should be overturned. You could, I suppose, mandate a unisex dress code of pants and short hair. But you’d run afoul of even biological sex discrimination far short of “FtM” levels. I doubt a requirement for AFABs to wear binders would pass muster.

            Also, disparate impact is definitely part of the literal text of the Title VII statute; it’s not a judicial invention. You can find the burden-shifting procedure defined here.

          • gbdub says:

            1) Sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity are entirely distinct concepts, and under basically any other circumstance, LGBTQ+ activists would be the first to tell you this. A trans woman is not just a man that wears dresses and wants you to call her “ma’am”. A gay man is not just a het man who likes to sleep with dudes. “Transphobia” and “homophobia” are distinct from “sexism”. This makes the whole thing seem a bit disingenuous.

            If you’re going to complain about “tortured readings” I don’t think you can just accept “I know you say you’re discriminating against this trans woman based on gender identity, but clearly what you are actually doing is discriminating against a man for wearing a dress”. Likewise anti-gay discrimination is not just “having a sexist policy about who is allowed to sleep with men”.

            2) That the 1964 CRA was not intended to cover sexual orientation and gender identity is hardly a tortured reading. It seems plain as day that if you were to teleport back and ask Congress and the Supremes whether it did they would think you’re nuts. If we want that law changed, it is the job of Congress, not the Court, to pass an updated law.

            It’s the job of the Supreme Court to interpret laws, sure. But this looks much more like “creating a new law out of whole cloth because Congress can’t get their crap together”. When we wanted to ban slavery, we passed a Constitutional Amendment, dammit. We didn’t send the Supremes on a hunt for penumbral mass ejections. This does not seem like a positive development for representative democracy.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Under this interpretation, wouldn’t you conclude that a (cis) man who insists on using the women’s bathroom can’t be denied without discriminating against him on the basis of sex? And as gbdub says, It seems implausible that this reading was the original intention.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            It’s absolutely not the original intent of the statute and Gorsuch’s opinion doesn’t pretend that it is. It’s a textual opinion, not an original intent one. The CRA is far from unique in having text that, when applied literally, dictates conclusions the drafters would not have anticipated.

          • L (Zero) says:

            @10240: I’m just doing a simple reading like you but apparently “Title VII also prohibits discrimination against an individual because of his or her association with another individual of a particular race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, such as by an interracial marriage.”

          • 10240 says:

            @Anonymous Bosch It seems to me that Price Waterhouse covers requiring different presentation based on sex, e.g. requiring male employees to act or dress in a masculine way, and female employees to act or dress in a masculine way. This is similar to the way the court ruled in the recent cases. This doesn’t seem to prohibit an employer from requiring all employees (male or female) to present in a masculine way. Or, from requiring all employees (male or female) to wear binders. It only prohibits requiring biological females, but not biological males, to wear binders.

            Disparate impact may do the trick.

            I still find it weird to interpret a law that only talks about two groups (men, women) to require the equal treatment of four groups (cis-men, MtF, FtM, cis-women).

          • 10240 says:

            @10240: I’m just doing a simple reading like you but apparently “Title VII also prohibits discrimination against an individual because of his or her association with another individual of a particular race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, such as by an interracial marriage.”

            @L (Zero) This is from Wikipedia, not the law. The law doesn’t actually seem to say this explicitly. Wikipedia’s citation is Parr v Woodmen, where (in the circuit court) it was held that Title VII prohibits discrimination because of interracial marriage. In the lower court ruling, it is said that “Courts that have considered the issue have gone both ways.” In the previous cases where discrimination because of interracial marriage was held prohibited, the argument was that such discrimination considers the race of the employee as well as their partner: a white person with a black partner is not hired, where a black person with a black partner would be.

            In Parr, from the circuit court:

            Parr contends that the district court erred because Title VII is to be broadly construed, and a party need not specifically allege that he was discriminated against because of his race, but only show that adverse actions taken against him involved racial considerations.
            […]
            Woodmen argues that if Parr’s allegations are true, had Parr been black, he still would not have been hired. Consequently, in Woodmen’s view, Parr’s race was of no significance in the hiring decision, and thus his claim should not be cognizable. Woodmen’s contentions are not persuasive. Had Parr been black, he would not have been hired, but that is a lawsuit for another day. Parr alleged that he was discriminated against because of his interracial marriage. Title VII proscribes race-conscious discriminatory practices. It would be folly for this court to hold that a plaintiff cannot state a claim under Title VII for discrimination based on an interracial marriage because, had the plaintiff been a member of the spouse’s race, the plaintiff would still not have been hired.

            Several factors make us resolute in our determination that Parr’s complaint stated a claim under Title VII. First, we are obliged to give Title VII a liberal construction.

            This was a broad construction of Title VII. In plain reading, Title VII doesn’t prohibit discrimination purely based on ones’s partner.

            ——

            It looks like courts took a two-step process:
            (1) Based on an ultra-literal reading of the law, they established hat it prohibits discrimination because of interracial marriage.
            (2) Then, from this, based on a liberal, non-literal reading, they ruled that discrimination against someone in an interracial marriage should be prohibited even if they would have been discriminated against even if they had been a member of their spouse’s race.

            This way, they got from a law that prohibits discrimination based on the employee’s race, but says nothing about their spouse, to an interpretation where discrimination based on one’s spouse’s race is prohibited, even if the employee’s race is not considered. IMO either one step or the other is justified; but the combination is definitely unjustified. The courts will probably repeat the same for sex discrimination.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Lessons conservatives are learning this week:

          1. Voting is useless.
          2. On the other hand, mostly peaceful rioting might get you what you want.

      • Controls Freak says:

        The Supreme Court ruled this week 6-3 to ban LGT employment discrimination nationwide.

        FTFY. As usual in legal discussion of LGBT concerns, the Bs get left out in the cold in favor of the LGTs.

        • L (Zero) says:

          Edited this comment to phrase the same basic inquiry in an entirely different more sensitive way.

          Are there any examples of times that after “LGT” protection was already in place, an actual example of discrimination against the “Bs” was written off by a court as acceptable?

        • No One In Particular says:

          I guess technically, if there is an employer who is cool with their employees being exclusively homosexual, and is okay with straight people, but wants to fire someone for having sex with both men and women, they could argue that this case’s logic doesn’t apply to them. But I am highly skeptical that this is a serious issue, and I don’t think that it justify characterizing this as leaving bisexual people in out in the cold.

    • TracingWoodgrains says:

      You might be referring to Gwern’s Improvements list.

    • noyann says:

      This is very recent, but at least you can search for “America”.

  6. Purplehermann says:

    there is an accusation of not being upfront about COI against the professor, but I didn’t understand it. Can anyone explain it?

  7. Scott Alexander says:

    I deleted several of them that seemed unhelpful.

    • Purplehermann says:

      That’s fair, could you leave the ones asking about the COI accusation? [Edit: this one, or if you delete this then the next one i put up]

  8. Aapje says:

    The clinical effectivess of Dutch fixed expressions is almost as high as SSRIs

    ‘Buiten de waard rekenen’ = Calculating without the innkeeper

    Making a wrong prediction, in particular when making assumptions about what other people want. For example, when making a decision that your partner disagrees with and makes you walk back on.

    ‘Buiten kijf’ = without ‘kijf’

    Everyone agrees it is true. ‘Kijven’ is an obsolete word for swearing or fighting, so it literally means that no one is going to fight over it. Related to the obsolescent ‘kiften,’ which means arguing.

    ‘Buiten westen zijn’ = Being outside the west

    Having fainted or being unconscious. A 16th century nautical term. The North sea is largely to the west of The Netherlands, and many ships hugged the coast. However, during bad weather, they would go further west to avoid the shoals. If they went too far out, they could get lost.

    ‘Buiten zijn boekje gaan’ = Going outside their book

    Violating the rules, in particular when someone exceeds their authority.

    ‘Buitenbeentje’ = Outside leg

    Misfit. Comes from people who walk/stand at an angle, their upper body not being above their legs. Originally referred to a bastard, but now has the more logical meaning of misfit.

    ‘Schuinmarcheren’ = Oblique marching

    Someone who commonly breaks the rules, often used specifically for those who cheat on a partner.

    ‘He has a steekje los’ = ‘He has a stitch loose’

    He is a weirdo. This used to be specifically used for women who had sex before marriage, but later became unisex and lost its association with loose morals.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      ‘Buiten westen zijn’ = Being outside the west

      In English, to ”go west” means to die. Some people have suggested that this refers to the westward journey taken by condemned criminals in London from Newgate Prison to the gallows at Tyburn.

      This is unlikely to be true- the last hanging at Tyburn was in 1783, but the term is not attested before the 19th century. It seems to originally have been a Scottish or Irish usage, that became more generally popular during the First World War.

      • John Schilling says:

        It’s a racial memory of the journey to the Halls of Mandos, which has been part of English mythology since long before 1783.

      • gbdub says:

        But in American English, “Go West, young man” means something quite different. (Although it would indeed be funny if it had a double meaning if “fuck off and die”).

      • Simon_Jester says:

        Large numbers of Scots and especially Irish emigrated to America in the early to mid-1800s. They were mostly not dead, but they sure weren’t coming back.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csNlKTRJiS0

        Probably not the connection there, but it’s not out of the question IMO.

  9. Hamiltonicity says:

    Anyone doing scientific work on race has a responsibility to be extremely careful with their media appearances, for much the same reason that anyone working on smallpox samples has a responsibility to be extremely careful with their containment procedures.

    Also, part of the reason that anyone in a senior role in a large organisation gets paid large multiples of everyone else’s salary is that they’re being paid to effectively represent that organisation to would-be partners and donors, and that drastically reduces their freedom to present anything other than an aggressively bland and centrist front to the world. If they piss people off whose goodwill their organisation is depending on, then they have failed at a major part of their job, and it is perfectly appropriate to fire them. (Of course, if they’re taking a stand for something valuable then it could still be morally wrong to fire them, but to make that argument you need to go beyond catch-all counter-arguments like freedom of expression and start digging into the weeds of what was actually being expressed.)

    Against that backdrop, while acting as senior VP of research and graduate studies for the whole of his university, Hsu chose to appear on an alt-right podcast in order to talk about connections between race and intelligence. Even at the start of 2017, Molyneux’s guest list reads like a who’s who of the alt-right – Jared Taylor, Vox Day, Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos and Dinesh D’Souza, to name a few – and Hsu would have known this if he had so much as checked Molyneux’ Wikipedia page at the time.

    Oh, and the people leading the charge appear to be Michigan’s graduate students. You know, the ones he’s in charge of. The ones he’s meant to keep happy, as part of that high-paying job. Knowing graduate students as I do, they probably wouldn’t be doing this if he’d been treating them well for the last few years.

    So all things considered, even ignoring all the other accusations, and even assuming it was all negligence rather than malice, I still can’t muster much in the way of sympathy.

    • albatross11 says:

      Anyone doing scientific work on race has a responsibility to be extremely careful with their media appearances, for much the same reason that anyone working on smallpox samples has a responsibility to be extremely careful with their containment procedures.

      First, I think this is a fairly silly statement. People discussing ideas about genes, race, IQ scores, crime rates, etc., may or may not have some social danger, but it is nowhere in the same universe as working on smallpox samples. This kind of hyperbole sounds convincing until you think about it for a minute.

      Second, people discuss race recklessly and carelessly all the time–in private, online, and in various kinds of media. For most mainstream media, only a specific subset of careless discussions of race are commonly aired–ones that express broadly mainstream acceptable views.

      As an example, how many times have you seen people talking about how every encounter of a black man with the police is a super dangerous life-and-death affair, or that even calling the police on a black man was endangering his life? That’s reckless, careless, inaccurate talk about race, but pretty-much nobody cares, because it’s on-message. By contrast, someone like Charles Murray has been pretty careful to make cautious and defensible statements about race and IQ over the last several decades. He may be right or wrong, but he’s not tossing around made-up numbers or hyperbole. That has not prevented him being called every name in the book and getting mobbed when he has tried to speak in public. So as best I can tell, the issue with Hsu is not actually that he was careless or reckless in his discussion of race, but rather that he expressed the wrong views. It probably wouldn’t matter how carefully he expressed those views.

      There’s a more fundamental issue here, though. Hsu is a very smart guy, exactly the kind of guy we want thinking hard about our biggest social issues. To the extent that there are large areas of the intellectual world that nobody (not even someone with Hsu’s stature and place in the world) is allowed to discuss, those are areas where the public discussion is going to be a lot poorer. A lot of major social problems in the US involve issues of race, education, crime, culture, etc. Making sure that smart people know that discussing those issues (at least if you’re not mouthing exactly the current platitudes on them) is a career-ender is an *excellent* way to ensure that most of those smart people will avoid those issues, and so our chances of actually coming to any useful solutions will go way down.

      If it were 1920 instead of 2020, people would be saying exactly the things you’re saying about Hsu about someone who irresponsibly discussed atheism and Darwinism in public, with all the offense given to good Godfearing Christians and all the risk of undermining the very moral foundations of Western civilization. And indeed, people did get shut down and run out of town for that sort of thing back then. This didn’t make the world a better place. Nor will attempts to silence Hsu.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        People discussing ideas about genes, race, IQ scores, crime rates, etc., may or may not have some social danger, but it is nowhere in the same universe as working on smallpox samples.

        I blame Dawkins.

        • albatross11 says:

          I read a ton of Dawkins’ and Gould’s popularizations of evolution as a kid. I am very grateful that the cancel-culture of my childhood (fundamentalists who were offended by references to evolution) weren’t powerful enough to prevent them writing books that a clever 10-year-old kid could read.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            To be sure. I just wish Dawkins hadn’t gone on to popularize the idea of thinking of (other people’s) ideas as infectious diseases.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Hsu is a very smart guy, exactly the kind of guy we want thinking hard about our biggest social issues.

        I disagree. Not because of his intelligence, but because he’s socially successful.

        Too much “white man’s burden”, when the people with the motivation and insight to both recognize and try to solve our biggest social issues are those who aren’t socially successful.

        People discussing ideas about genes, race, IQ scores, crime rates, etc., may or may not have some social danger, but it is nowhere in the same universe as working on smallpox samples

        I believe Hamiltonicity was pointing out the risk to innocent bystanders should negative implications on race or a smallpox aerosol slip out, not to the researchers themselves.

        • Purplehermann says:

          People who are socially successful probably understand social things netter in general than those who aren’t, no?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            But do they see the actual problems that the socially unsuccessful people encounter, or do they merely think that the socially unsuccessful people terminated on the very same problems that they had but overcame? (Potentially worse: Do they think that the socially unsuccessful’s problems are that the unsuccessful are not like them? And that the solution is thus to make the unsuccessful more like them? https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/06/16/open-thread-156-25/#comment-916126 )

      • ChelOfTheSea says:

        > People discussing ideas about genes, race, IQ scores, crime rates, etc., may or may not have some social danger, but it is nowhere in the same universe as working on smallpox samples. This kind of hyperbole sounds convincing until you think about it for a minute.

        I mean…I actually think it understates the problem.

        Typical death rates from smallpox in the mid-1800s were on the order of 1 per few thousand per year in the West, or ballpark a lifetime risk of death from smallpox of ~1 in 100 or so depending on the exact year you look at. (https://ourworldindata.org/smallpox#all-charts-preview) Smallpox had about a 1-in-3 risk of death even with modern medicine, so setting the effective cost of smallpox to be double its actual deaths is probably aggressive (since there were at most ~3x many infections). So the West was losing something on the order of ~1% of utils even if we assume deaths were evenly distributed by age (which they presumably were not).

        I don’t know what the util-equivalent cost of slavery is, but it’s gotta be really dang high. Let’s say being a chattel slave is half as bad as being dead – this seems pretty conservative, given that many slaves risked their lives for even the vastly reduced status of free blacks. At this time in history, 14% of Americans were black; about 90% of those 14% were slaves. This means that the US was, through slavery alone, losing 6% of its total utils even by a very conservative estimate.

        In other words, even with really favorable assumptions, abolishing slavery was 6x better than eradicating smallpox, at least in the US. Antinatalists should presumably think the case is far worse – if being a free modern person is worse than nonexistence, surely being a horrifically abused slave was!

        But let’s take a modern estimate, shall we? Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the differential in income in America is racist. Black Americans average an income of $33,000 a year, white Americans average $68,000. Most studies show quality of life is roughly proportional to log(income), so let’s assume black Americans suffer from racism to the tune of the log of their income loss. Then a black life-year is about .93-as-good as a white life-year. In other words, we’re losing 7% of black utils today to racism under this assumptions.

        Blacks currently constitute about 13% of the US population. 7% of that 13%’s utils comes out to just shy of 1% of total American utils. Under the very worst assumptions possible, COVID if left totally unchecked would kill something on the order of 2-3% of Americans, skewed heavily towards the already sick and elderly, and thus cost well under 1% of total utils over the lifetimes of everyone involved.

        In other words, unless you think the income differential doesn’t come from racism – which seems difficult to believe, given that it dates to an era no one doubts was hilariously racist – racism in modern America is worse than a completely uncontrolled COVID epidemic. You know, the epidemic we shut down literally the entire country, plunged the nation into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, spent literal trillions to contain, and all sat inside for months being miserable for.

        Or indeed, which this blog has taken months of posts to discuss without a word on race issues.

        I’m really disappointed to see Scott defending this guy.

        > There’s a more fundamental issue here, though. Hsu is a very smart guy, exactly the kind of guy we want thinking hard about our biggest social issues.

        Plenty of smart guys devote their talents to terribly damaging ideologies. Conditional on the belief that these views are not only wrong but dangerous-to-the-point-of-being-worse-than-covid wrong, you want him as far away from promoting those ideologies as humanly possible. Conditional on him being smart + his ideology being bad, he represents a threat on the order of 4-5 logs of the entire population’s utils if he’s successful in promoting that ideology.

        • JayT says:

          Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the differential in income in America is racist. Black Americans average an income of $33,000 a year, white Americans average $68,000.

          This isn’t quite right, because this is household income. There are fairly major differences in the makeup of households between white and black Americans. The difference in median income per worker is much closer, $40K vs $29. So, for your numbers to work, you would need to explain the household makeup differences with racism, which I doubt is the main confounder, unless racism causes people to have more children.

          • ChelOfTheSea says:

            Fair enough, though I’ll point out that household size is somewhat confounded by income (living alone is expensive, as anyone in the Bay Area can attest). Using individual income gets a loss of 3%, or about half the value I quoted. nevertheless, “half as bad as worst-case COVID” is still very very very bad.

        • zero says:

          What is Steve Hsu’s ideology?

          • ChelOfTheSea says:

            In the minds of the people attacking him? Presumably they believe he is in support of the status quo re: racism, either implicitly (by supporting the idea that it’s caused by difference in ability as opposed to discrimination) or explicitly (they think he’s lying about more direct underlying racism).

            Me personally? I certainly think the first is true, and Hsu doesn’t seem to particularly deny it, either. And someone hanging out with Stefan Molyneux (who is absolutely undoubtedly racist in the second sense) in 2017 and promoting the notion that racism either doesn’t exist or isn’t the dominant factor in achievement gaps is under a hell of a lot of suspicion of the latter, too.

          • 10240 says:

            @ChelOfTheSea In his posts I’ve seen, he made it pretty clear that we don’t know whether there are significant “deep” differences between races. He didn’t assert that there are.

        • Gerry Quinn says:

          I must have missed the bit where Hsu promotes slavery.

          • ChelOfTheSea says:

            The comparison in the post to which I replied was to smallpox, which also no longer exists, and that post claimed the two weren’t comparable. So I wanted to address that first. If you want a modern comparison, you could scroll two paragraphs down.

          • Clutzy says:

            The comparison in the post to which I replied was to smallpox, which also no longer exists, and that post claimed the two weren’t comparable. So I wanted to address that first. If you want a modern comparison, you could scroll two paragraphs down.

            I don’t see anywhere people making a claim that smallpox and slavery are not comparable social ills that it is good to have eliminated in the USA. The claim is that comparing smallpox research and IQ research is not a good comparison. Firstly, the emergent risks are totally different. Smallpox had low death rates during early America because people were mostly already infected, or were cowpox infected, or the weak had died from another disease already. Smallpox today would be being released into a population with several generations of unvaccinated, never infected, people with wonky immune systems (see, peanut allergies). Its a possible pandemic that would make Covid-19 look like a blip if it got rolling.

            OTOH, these dangerous IQ ideas are already known to the super racists, they can’t do anything, and they have plenty of studies to cite. Here are some mild policy goals that they have basically 0 chance of implementing even with 100 respected professors on their side:

            Eliminating Affirmative Action
            Reducing 3rd World Immigration
            Increasing Domestic Immigration Enforcement
            Reducing Welfare
            Reducing Foreign Aid

            These things are all several overton windows away from an outbreak of slavery or reformatting the US into a white ethnostate.

        • Cliff says:

          In other words, unless you think the income differential doesn’t come from racism – which seems difficult to believe

          Curious what you think of this post I ran into recently. It asserts that blacks, hispanics and whites all have essentially the same income conditional on IQ.

          • ChelOfTheSea says:

            At a minimum, it needs to explain why the income gap has been relatively stable since a time everyone agrees was racist to the point of grossly denying blacks economic opportunity. Claiming that denial of access to well-connected institutions, investment capital, and the halls of power had literally no effect in the 1960s seems prima facie indefensible.

            But this step, for example:

            > There are reports of income from a number of different sources in the NLSY79. Only two of these — salaries, wages, and tips and net business and farm income — were used in the calculation of my permanent income measure; the rest, such as unemployment compensation and capital gains, were excluded. Both of the variables used are top-coded so that all values above a cutoff — which was $100,000 in 1989-1993 and the top 2% ever since — have been replaced with the average of the values above the cut-off. If a respondent didn’t have reported income from either source for at least five of nine possible years, he or she was excluded from the analysis. Respondents reporting a permanent income of zero were also dropped. This led to a sample size of 4615.

            …seems hard to defend right out the gate. In a discussion in which access to capital is a critically important factor (given that no one contests that blacks certainly did not start with much capital!), he discards capital gains? This methodology sticks Jeff Bezos close to median white household income.

          • albatross11 says:

            ChelOfTheSea:

            I am not sure if his methodology is the right one (this is pretty far from my expertise!), but I think this is an important question to research. And I think this quote is wrong:

            At a minimum, it needs to explain why the income gap has been relatively stable since a time everyone agrees was racist to the point of grossly denying blacks economic opportunity. Claiming that denial of access to well-connected institutions, investment capital, and the halls of power had literally no effect in the 1960s seems prima facie indefensible.

            Let’s suppose we somehow do this study really carefully, and discover that blacks and whites have the same income conditioned on their IQ. I think we all agree that this is an outcome that *could* come from this kind of study, right?

            Now, if we had that finding, I think it would be *surprising* that overt discrimination in living memory hadn’t had more of an impact, but I don’t see that it would contradict the finding.

            The fact that relative income for blacks relative to whites hasn’t changed much over time seems like it’s a separate surprising fact that would be interesting to explore, but I don’t think it tells us much about how much of the income gap at any given time is based on the IQ gap. After all, the IQ gap has probably not changed all that much over that span of time. What has changed is that we eliminated a ton of overt discrimination and probably even more covert discrimination, because I’m pretty sure white Americans are much less prejudiced against blacks now than in 1970, we adopted affirmative action programs, etc. It’s interesting to ask why that didn’t close that gap.

            And by contrast, suppose we ran this kind of study very carefully and found that blacks made a lot less money than whites of the same IQ. That would also be a big result. It would poke some pretty big holes in the argument that the average income difference is just a reflection of the average IQ difference.

            So, I favor seeing many people do this kind of study, using whatever data they can, and publishing the results widely. I favor people discussing those results in public, whichever way they go, without threat of getting fired for doing so. I think making this a radioactive area to study unless you are very careful to ensure that you get politically acceptable results means that we don’t get reliable answers to these questions. This is why I think the attempt to cancel people like Hsu is a big mistake.

        • salvorhardin says:

          This is an apples-to-aircraft-carriers comparison wrt degrees of agency.

          If you run a smallpox research lab, you can plausibly be the sole but-for cause of a hugely deadly smallpox epidemic that would not have happened without your individual actions.

          If you are a researcher commenting on your views on the causes of group outcome disparities, you cannot plausibly be the but-for cause of the persistence of a whole hugely deadly system of social oppression that would not have persisted without your individual actions.

          • Kaitian says:

            Unless you make an effort to personally infect people everywhere you go, other people still have to spread the smallpox released by your “individual actions”. So the real question is whether racist opinions are a mind virus (some people honestly believe this) or a legitimate part of the societal conversation (some people honestly believe that).

          • 10240 says:

            @Kaitian Right now, only very few people have access to smallpox virus. If one of them makes a mistake and releases it, it may cause a deadly epidemic. If none of them makes a mistake, there is no smallpox epidemic.

            It’s unlikely that a single person can come up with such a convincing argument for racism that it will, through being spread by others, make society make massively more racist than if he stays silent. There are quite a few people discussing race and genetics already, a few of them using it to justify racism. One person (who is not arguing for racism, albeit he can presumably be misinterpreted) can’t make as much of a difference as the smallpox analogy suggests. If we want to make an epidemic analogy, it’s more like, say, a COVID superspreader going to a concert: he may be responsible for a few thousand extra infections down the line, but not for the whole epidemic.

        • teageegeepea says:

          In other words, unless you think the income differential doesn’t come from racism – which seems difficult to believe, given that it dates to an era no one doubts was hilariously racist

          That doesn’t follow. Let’s say we all agree that the past was hilariously racist, and there was an income differential then. Does it follow that if there’s an income differential now it must be due to racism? No, because you need to establish that racism is the only thing that can contribute to income differentials. And since Nigerian-Americans have one of the highest incomes, it suggests we should have a more complex explanation for differences in income between groups.

          • gallowstree says:

            So what you’re saying is: “The persistent wealth gap between white and black Americans, which I acknowledge was established due to incredibly racist practices, is now actively maintained at similar levels by something that is not racism. As evidence, I present the fact that new black immigrants arrived in the interim, and their property wasn’t immediately confiscated.”

            To be more charitable, I think the steel-manned version of your argument would be something like “Racist policies in the early and mid-20th century created a wealth gap that passively self-perpetuates without any active racism.” I would dispute that characterization but think it’s a reasonable position.

          • davidoj says:

            You are putting words in teageegeepea’s mouth (“property wasn’t immediately confiscated”, “passively self-perpetuates”) and ignoring key points they made (“Nigerian-Americans have one of the highest incomes”). I think your summary of their argument is highly unsatisfactory.

          • Clutzy says:

            So what you’re saying is: “The persistent wealth gap between white and black Americans, which I acknowledge was established due to incredibly racist practices, is now actively maintained at similar levels by something that is not racism. As evidence, I present the fact that new black immigrants arrived in the interim, and their property wasn’t immediately confiscated.”

            You yourself try to prove too much. There is no evidence the wealth gap was established due to racist practices. It could, and probably did, predate them.

          • B_Epstein says:

            @gallowstree What happened to all values between 0 and 1? Surely we might contemplate an explanation that blamed some of the initial disparity on hilarious racism, some of which is being passively perpetuated but some of which is reinforced by current-day racism. But unless we’re willing to consider alternatives to “all that has happened and is still happening is pure racism”, we’ll never be able to get there.

          • teageegeepea says:

            I attempted to post a reply but the inclusion of links seems to have caught it in the spam filter. In the event that’s recovered, this comment can be deleted.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            But unless we’re willing to consider alternatives to “all that has happened and is still happening is pure racism”, we’ll never be able to get there.

            And if we’re going to insist that it’s been nothing but racism all along, then what is it that we’re supposed to be worrying about, again? That people like Hsu will persuade us to abandon the anti-racist policies which, by this very hypothesis, haven’t made a damned bit of difference?

        • textor says:

          Plenty of smart guys devote their talents to terribly damaging ideologies.

          Surely a claim like this is best not preceded by over a page of making the most contrived argument imaginable for “talking about IQ etc. is [quantifiably] as bad as subjecting the entire African American population to racism, and {handwave handwave} morally no different from enforcing chattel slavery”. This calculus is an attempt at Eulering if I’ve ever seen one.

          But more importantly, your utilitarian standard ought to apply to every side.
          Hsu is very interested in embryo selection for intelligence, but most of actual work his company was doing is about screening for congenital disabilities. Some have already brought up Kevin Bird, who seems to play a major role in this movement (he certainly endorses it, and leads the Grad Union behind it). Kevin Bird, unlike you, is not a utilitarian. So, among other things, he has to say, look it up on Twitter if you wish (I’ll quote at length, despite redundancy, to make it clear there’s no misrepresentation or spur-of-the-moment rthetoric going on):

          No [using violence against the disabled group of people] isn’t what makes [eliminating disabilities] bad, what makes it bad is accepting a hierarchy of value and using it to decide who makes the cut

          Deafness isn’t a disease or a thing that needs to be removed from the population… There’s simply no reason to decide deafness is an undesirable condition that ought not be allowed to exist in the world. That’s an identical position and way of thinking to eugenics… Deafness doesn’t need “correction”. People shouldn’t desire to eliminate disabilities they should desire to make a world that accommodates disabilities. The former is deeply immoral … I don’t think not hearing is inherently worse than hearing, though I imagine some people would decide to hear for their own reasons. Certainly not all deaf people would … It’s a morally charged issue and I won’t stop framing in the proper light …

          That whole judgement is conditional on what kind of society we live in though. You’re acting as if disabilities are inherently and objectively worse off, I think that’s a deeply troubled perspective.

          And so on and so forth. It should be obvious, but this is the mindset leading to this cancellation attempt. In fact, the union acknowledges as much in their list of accusations:

          Eugenics is dangerous and harmful, especially to individuals with disabilities. Their lived experiences are not aberrations to be removed from the population. Hsu advocates for embryo selection specifically to remove embryos with the possibility of developing an illness/disease/disability:

          Note also that Bird, being a geneticist, is aware that embryo selection is a viable solution, while hoping for future “adequate treatment” for congenital conditions is less grounded:

          In a more realistic sense too it’s also not as common a solution. Pretty much everything could be largely (though not completely) eliminated by genetic screening but magic pills will be few and far between

          The core problem isn’t that eugenics forcibly removes people, it’s the imposition of a hierarchy of human value. It’s a bit appalling you don’t understand that… Deciding to screen out embryos that are identified as high risk of being deaf implicitly puts them at lower moral worth.

          I think it’s more moral to treat and care for people than keep them from ever existing. These aren’t exclusively genetic problems, there are social treatments and causes. I have a heart defect I want affordable care, not CRISPRing or screening me out of exist as an embryo

          He has also clearly stated that he’s not just fuming, but thinks all parents ought to be denied a choice in the matter:

          Q. not sure what the nature of your condition is, but you’re telling me… you’d rather undergo potentially invasive surgery or take medicine every day or whatever than simply not have the condition in the first place, because the latter sounds too “eugenics”-y for you?
          A. Yup, and I will need open heart surgery and constant medication and that’s much more preferable and ethical to me
          Q. You’re entitled to that preference. do you think most people with your condition have that preference? do you think it’s fair to force that preference onto other people? because by denying parents the ability to remove it from their children, that’s basically what you’re doing.
          A. Yes, and the goal of society should be that it creates a world where all kinds of people are supported and accommodated and don’t face undue hardship by virtue of failing to fit an ideal

          I see Nature claim that Every year, an estimated 7.9 million infants (6% of worldwide births) are born with serious birth defects. Although some congenital defects can be controlled and treated, an estimated 3.2 million of these children are disabled for life. I would like to implore you to, in the spirit of sportsmanship, calculate the loss of utils which follows from projects like Dr. Hsu’s being successfully canceled in perpetuity, due to the ideology of smart guys like Bird prevailing. You would do well to consider: quality of life with disorders ranging from congenital deafness, schizophrenia and Down’s syndrome (he specifically opposes screening for Down’s) to Harlequin ichthyosis; the length of lives of the affected; monetary expenditure (and money, as we know, is the unit of caring) on lifetimes of palliative care and treatments, which could have been allocated elsewhere; chilling effect on adjacent fields; and some other things. It would also be nice of you to acknowledge that, while Hsu has never said or did anything remotely close to promoting racial discrimination, and the movement which could be at all plausibly described as “racist” is in shambles, as Kevin aptly describes (“Instead of Nobel Laureates and respected tenure track faculty, the new generation of race scientists on the Pioneer Fund dole are untrained post-graduates”), and making racism worse would be to push against the status quo, Kevin and Michigan Graduate Employee Union are very unequivocal in their ideas, represent the chic mainstream of current US politics and promote the continuation of the status quo (no increase in embryo selection); so a priori there’s a much, much, much higher chance of them realizing the vision of no embryo selection ever, compared to Hsu, who by your assessment is “a threat on the order of 4-5 logs of the entire population’s utils”.

          One caveat: I am not sure how you would account for the loss in utils due to hypothetical disabled embryos “being screened out of existence”; in my opinion this is an issue on par with the trolley problem. But not only is Bird a non-utilitarian, he’s very vocally pro-choice and doesn’t care much for embryos in general:

          I’m not pro-life but deciding to have an abortion because you don’t want any child is very different than having an abortion because you don’t want a particular kind of child. The decision made wrt the embryo has implications for how we view human life and human value at large… No, I’m pro-choice but abortion and contraception are not decisions based on value ranking, it’s uniformly applied to any possible embryo. They don’t want any kid, not THAT particular kid. The ranking and selecting of “better” embryos is what is dangerous and morally bankrupt.

          So I reckon you can assume it to be irrelevant.

          I’m honestly curious as to what the figure would be.

          • Purplehermann says:

            What are his views on abortion?

          • textor says:

            @Purplehermann See the last quote block; it’s pretty clear IMO. He’s pro-choice, and abortion is morally okay, UNLESS it’s to prevent a disability, or really impose any other value-laden selection on the outcome of pregnancy. Because that would have “implications for how we view human life and human value at large”, and constitute “accepting a hierarchy of value and using it to decide who makes the cut”.

            He magnanimously allows exceptions, though:

            I think the best line is at fatal or extremely debilitating conditions with no present treatment. Otherwise it’s a conscious choice to choose eliminating a problem over treatment and acceptance

            (So maybe – maybe – if the cancellation of Hsu’s project stays precisely on the straight and narrow course Kevin approves of, Harlequin ichthyosis would still be allowed to screen for. I still urge @ChelOfTheSea to consider the alternative scenario – after all, “no selection against disabilities, eugenics is wrong” is a much more stable state, politically, than “ugh fine, in this case eugenics is okay, but no further”).

            Would be fascinating material for Scott’2014, with a sprinkle of 2018 – Tails coming apart, and all that. But alas.

            In fact I digged most of this by grifting off Reddit doing a Twitter search of the form abortion (from:itsbirdemic) and exploring different subthreads (Twitter is… a suboptimal platform for discussion). You can do the same.

            I also have to say in case he lurks here (and odds are, he does) on the off-chance he considers it inconvenient that I’ve archived it and so erasure will achieve little.

          • Purplehermann says:

            Ah, yup.

            I wonder how he reacted to feminists aborting because they don’t want boys

          • gbdub says:

            I mean, basically all abortion is “choosing to eliminate a problem over treatment and acceptance”. Shouldn’t we keep lots of unwanted children with impoverished mothers around so that we can all benefit from their authentic lived experiences?

            Of course not.

            Fundamentally I find this point of view just as disgusting as the bad version of eugenics. Disabled people are not zoo animals to be kept around so the rest of us can read intriguing books by Temple Grandin, or see plays about Helen Keller, or give Oscars to Daniel Day Lewis. Is it a shame that polio is eradicated since it makes it less likely that we’ll get another president in a wheelchair? Of course not.

            Part of the issue here is that the “anti-eugenic because disabilities are interesting” conversation is almost tautologically dominated by people with interesting disabilities. The autistic people saying they wouldn’t trade their life for a neurotypical one aren’t the severe cases who can’t communicate or who have debilitating or injurious compulsive behaviors. The stories we hear about blind or deaf people are largely the ones who overcame this disability in a notable way and now it’s a positive defining trait for them. They aren’t the average disabled person who is just like anyone else, except life is harder.

            Generally more choice is better than less choice. If we eliminate congenital blindness, or Type 1 diabetes, or what have you, anybody is perfectly welcome to stab their own eyes out or poison themselves such that they require a daily injection to not die, if they feel that that will give them some sort of unique lived experience. The people born with those conditions (and the people who must care for them) don’t have a choice, and I’m guessing most would really prefer to have one.

            From a purely utilitarian perspective, accommodations are expensive. As long as basically any other problem exists, resources we spend accommodating/treating congenital disabilities are resources that can’t be spent on those other problems.

            The only good steel man I can think of is something like “we need a critical mass of disabled people to make sure they are accommodated rather than treated as freaks”. Ignoring the IMHO horrible implications of forcing people unnecessarily into disability to make the unavoidably disabled better off, I think even that falls flat. Whether we accommodate disabilities has as much to do with how rich and compassionate the society is. And besides, a smaller disabled population means we could apply more resources to the remaining individuals – with a million paraplegics, maybe society can only afford ramps and wheelchairs, but with a thousand they all get a pair of kickass bionic legs or whatever.

          • blumenko says:

            gbdub: It basically depends on what the economies of scale are. If bionic legs are individualized and handmade then you are correct. If bionic legs requires many years of intense research to be cheaply produced on an assembly line, then reducing the number of paralyzed people won’t reduce costs, and will probably reduce impetus to develop them.

          • etaphy says:

            The most horrifying thing here is that all manners of disabilities seem to exist for Kevin as scarce goods to signal his compassion at, rather than something detrimental to those unfortunate to have them.
            “Ahhh, what if everybody is perfectly healthy, then there’s no further room for moral competition over treating the disadvantaged the best one could, better that we have diseases than that spine-chilling scenario”.

            But it goes further: valuable traits do exist as is, no matter the societal preferences, they’re simply irrelevant to anybody’s moral worth. Their presence, however, does impact how much an individual can affect the world around them – including the pursuit of such a basic outcome as diminishing overall suffering, whatever it may be caused by – akrasia, a lack of empathy, non-existent know-how or poor modelling or whatever it may be.
            For Kevin with his openly communist outlook, what matters the most appears to be the zero sum, a priori unwinnable game of social status and equal participation in that “perpetual revolution”, even if it takes batting on the side of “natural suffering” rather than basic humanism, as it’s likely that to him the ups and downs of his personal status feel far more real than the experiences of people who had to overcome their crippling inborn health defects without succumbing to a victim mentality and who still arrive at the idea that it’d been better to have been born healthy than having spent a good amount of their already limited lifespan on finding ways and reasons to keep going on.

            As to me, the perfect world for human beings would be one where one could gradually add or subtract traits to oneself so they could face the world on their own terms, effectively a posthuman reality rather than a perpetuation of the biological status quo.

          • Lillian says:

            Q. not sure what the nature of your condition is, but you’re telling me… you’d rather undergo potentially invasive surgery or take medicine every day or whatever than simply not have the condition in the first place, because the latter sounds too “eugenics”-y for you?
            A. Yup, and I will need open heart surgery and constant medication and that’s much more preferable and ethical to me
            Q. You’re entitled to that preference. do you think most people with your condition have that preference? do you think it’s fair to force that preference onto other people? because by denying parents the ability to remove it from their children, that’s basically what you’re doing.
            A. Yes, and the goal of society should be that it creates a world where all kinds of people are supported and accommodated and don’t face undue hardship by virtue of failing to fit an ideal

            Good God, this is some staggeringly absurd nonsense. I want to ask Kevin Bird if he opposes putting safety features on chainsaws on the grounds that preventing chainsaw maimings establishes a value hierarchy that explicitly values the existence of people who haven’t been mutilated by high speed metal teeth over the existence of people who have been. If he is in favour of safety features, I then want to know what’s the bloody difference? In both cases you are choosing to prevent a lived experience from existing in favour of another one because you deem that other one as being higher value. I assume he would have an answer, it is likely I will find it unsatisfactory, but I still wonder what it is.

          • Monkey See says:

            That was a read, to put it mildly.

        • Ketil says:

          Then a black life-year is about .93-as-good as a white life-year. In other words, we’re losing 7% of black utils today to racism under this assumptions.

          I don’t think this is quite correct. If utils ~ log(income), then a doubling of income would add a constant number of utils, and not a percentage. (Otherwise, you would get a smaller percentage loss if you convert the income to cents)

        • albatross11 says:

          Problem #1: What is the net effect of a prominent person discussing racial IQ differences and potential causes in public, vs being prevented from doing so? I find it very difficult to believe that the net effect is in any way comparable to just back-of-the-envelope summing up the impact of all current-day racism. In fact, people discuss racial issues all the time, and people being people, often they’re careless or just wrong about everything. Racial IQ differences are mainstream known things in intelligence research, and more and more of the papers and conference presentations are available online. _The Bell Curve_ sold a lot of copies, Steve Sailer’s blog is probably going to continue operation, and much of the public has a fuzzy and not-always-accurate notion of some kind of racial hierarchy of intelligence that puts blacks at the bottom and Asians and Jews at the top. Also, a huge amount of racism has nothing to do with IQ–plenty of people hate Asians and Jews, for example, and that’s certainly not because of thinking them inferior due to their average IQ scores[1].

          By contrast, if you want to work with a very dangerous pathogen, you have to go to great measures to prevent it escaping because that pathogen widespread isn’t in the world right now, so its introduction to the community could kill a bunch of people.

          Even assuming these ideas are toxic and dangerous, Hsu working on them is a lot more like a virologist working on seasonal flu (if it escapes, it will just be one more strain of flu circulating) than like a virologist working on smallpox or ebola or something.

          Those are just not very similar situations.

          Problem #2:

          Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the differential in income in America is racist.

          This is one of the things that is specifically being questioned in discussions about racial differences in IQ and behavior, right? How much, if any, of the racial IQ difference is due to racism? How about the racial difference in crime rate, or unwed births?

          Those are all relevant to a discussion about differences in income. It’s surely not a shock that women who have children without a man around are poorer than women who avoid that, or that your employment prospects are not improved by a stint in prison. It’s *really* not a surprise that many high-paying jobs like being an engineer or accountant or doctor are intellectually demanding enough that people with a below-average IQ just can’t do them.

          To untangle the question of how much of that income difference can be ascribed to (say) IQ differences, we’d need to dig into exactly the topics that you seem not to want discussed openly. Similarly to untangle whether IQ differences are somehow driven by racism (the normal kind or the structural kind that involves lousy schools or bad role models or maybe chipping lead paint in cheap urban housing), you’d need to dig into those topics that you don’t seem to want discussed.

          I’m not sure how you can address that without allowing those discussions. And if those discussions are going to happen (and they are, assuming we don’t repeal the first amendment, no matter how many media and academic people get canceled for expressing the wrong views about them), then it seems like we have a choice mainly about whether to try to dissuade the smartest, most informed people from taking part in them. I do not think that’s going to improve the quality of those discussions.

          [1] Note that your back-of-the-envelope calculation of the impact of racism on blacks would have a different sign if you did the same calculation for Asians or Jews.

        • No One In Particular says:

          Let’s say being a chattel slave is half as bad as being dead – this seems pretty conservative, given that many slaves risked their lives for even the vastly reduced status of free blacks.

          That just shows that slavery was terrible for some slaves. Life for people in general 200 years ago was really shitty. Furthermore, it’s not like slaves’ lives were being made shitty for the lolz. Their lives were being made shitty so that other people’s lives would be less shitty. You can’t look at the slaves’ loss of utility and treat all of that as net loss.

          Then a black life-year is about .93-as-good as a white life-year. In other words, we’re losing 7% of black utils today to racism under this assumptions.

          Utils don’t work that way. Utility space is an affine space, not a vector space. You can’t take percentages. If you take black people’s income as 33,000 dollars and white income as 68,000 dollars, then log(33,000)/log(68,000) = 93.5%. But if you take black income as 3,300,000 cents and white as 6,800,000 cents, then log(3,300,000)/log(6,800,000) = 95.3%. If the results of your calculation depends on your units, that’s problematic.

          Also, treating these utils as net loss is slightly more justified than in the case of slavery, but it’s still questionable. Does racism cause inequality, or is there a certain amount of inequality, and racism simply alters how that inequality is distributed?

          7% of that 13%’s utils comes out to just shy of 1% of total American utils.

          Taking your income numbers and percentage of population to be correct, and pretending that every American is either black or white, and ignoring the issue of dividing utlits by each other, we can do the following calculation:

          log(13%*33,000+87%*68,000) = 4.802
          13%log(33,000)+87%*log(68,000) = 4.792

          (4.802-4.792)/4.802 = 0.2%

          So that gives a number that is one-fifth yours.

          Under the very worst assumptions possible, COVID if left totally unchecked would kill something on the order of 2-3% of Americans, skewed heavily towards the already sick and elderly, and thus cost well under 1% of total utils over the lifetimes of everyone involved.

          Utility isn’t just about loss of life. There’s also the loss of utility on the part of people who get sick, those who lose people they care about, those who take care of them, etc.

          I’m really disappointed to see Scott defending this guy.

          That’s quite a non sequitur. What proceeds it does not support it, nor does it support your original claim that “it understates the problem”. Sure, you have an argument that racism is worse than smallpox, but you don’t have an argument that talking about racism is worse than smallpox.

          Conditional on him being smart + his ideology being bad, he represents a threat on the order of 4-5 logs of the entire population’s utils

          “order of 4-5 logs” is word salad. That’s not a meaningful phrase.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        First, I think this is a fairly silly statement. People discussing ideas about genes, race, IQ scores, crime rates, etc., may or may not have some social danger, but it is nowhere in the same universe as working on smallpox samples.

        Yes.

        I’m pretty sure that if you mishandle your smallpox samples, you lose your job right the hell now. No second chances, because nobody wants their lab to be the one to blame for the next smallpox epidemic.

        You can mishandle your statements on race and genetics for years before anyone even starts to seriously push for you to get demoted.

        This is no different than any number of other hyperbolic analogies. There is an exaggeration in everything, that’s how the meaning gets in.

    • TracingWoodgrains says:

      My reply got eaten last time, possibly due to the links I included, so I’ll try again without links. Googling should get anyone curious most of the way there. The person leading the charge appears to be leader/founder of the grad student union Kevin Bird (Twitter @itsbirdemic, reddit /u/stairway-to-kevin — I only mention names because he’s open about his identity on both), someone with a long-standing personal animus against this community who also seems to have made it his career mission to oppose any research suggesting any genetic basis for group differences, particularly around intelligence.

      “The student union opposes Hsu”, then, shouldn’t be taken as evidence that he’s treating the grad students poorly, only that he’s gone against the crusade of one particularly influential grad student.

      • Lambert says:

        +1 My SU officially supports/opposes a bunch of things that i’ve never paid much attention to. You just need to convince a majority of the sort of people who bother to vote on SU motions.

        • gbdub says:

          What stinks is how much of a vicious cycle this ends up being. I ignored our student government because their activities mostly consisted of drama between parties that changed every couple years (because the “parties” were really just cliques centered around a couple of particular people) and arguing about resolutions about Palestine and affirmative action.

          Which of course meant that only the sort of people interested in that and willing to devote stupid amounts of time to it ever really participated. Grad student unions have a little bit more actual pull, but largely the same dynamic seems to dominate.

          The transient membership doesn’t help either. No real incentive for long term thinking, and even the leadership is still pretty wet-behind-the-ears.

        • No One In Particular says:

          Actually, all you have to do is convince whoever has the login credentials for the entity’s Twitter account.

      • No One In Particular says:

        someone with a long-standing personal animus against this community

        What is “this community”?

        The person leading the charge appears to be leader/founder of the grad student union Kevin Bird

        Not to be confused with the bird Kevin: https://disney.fandom.com/wiki/Kevin

        BTW, he’s the leader of the Graduate Employee Union, which is a bit different from the student union. My understanding is that it’s a labor union for graduate students employed by the university, not a student body type organiation.

    • Jade North says:

      Oh, and the people leading the charge appear to be Michigan’s graduate students. You know, the ones he’s in charge of. The ones he’s meant to keep happy, as part of that high-paying job. Knowing graduate students as I do, they probably wouldn’t be doing this if he’d been treating them well for the last few years.

      His job his to conduct research. The grad students are upset with the conclusions of his research. The whole reason we have a principle of academic freedom is so researchers are free to discover things that upset important constituents.

      • keaswaran says:

        The job of an ordinary professor or grad student is to conduct research. The job of the VPR is *not* to conduct research, but to do the public relations work and organizational work that enables *others* to conduct research. I don’t know whether his work has in fact been helpful to the research of the graduate students, but his research really shouldn’t enter into this, because the job we are talking about is not a research job. (Though obviously it helps if the person in this job is someone who has done research in the past, and possibly does some now.)

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          would Hsu stepping down as VPR and remaining a full MSU Professor be an acceptable outcome to you? If so, do you think it would be an acceptable outcome to the cancel campaign? I doubt that.

          This is literally what they’re asking for in their tweet and their petition. Maybe they’re lying and would push even further if he gave them this inch? Maybe they aren’t lying but ignoring the likelihood that the extended cancel campaign would push for more, and would be unwilling to then turn on the campaign and say enough is enough?

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I’m not in a position to guess any probability.

        • keaswaran says:

          > What probability would you assign to the event “Hsu retains his professorship at Michigan State” given “Hsu is dismissed from his position at Michigan State”?

          I’ll give something <10% as the probability that Michigan State fires Hsu from the faculty, conditional on Michigan State replaces Hsu as VPR.

          Universities fire provosts and deans all the time, often for severe incompatibilities with some of the other administrators or faculty they oversee. They usually either stick around as senior faculty (I've been in departments with these people) or get a similar administrative position at another university.

          Can you point to any cases where any university has fully terminated someone who is in an administrative position, where the person wasn't accused of a criminal act? Even the USC medical school dean that was found with an ODed 21-year-old in his hotel room seems to have left to be head of a pharma company, and resigned before they could demote him.

    • mitigatedchaos2 says:

      1.) Were any of his statements on race actually any more reckless than statements that Left-wing academics (or, if you like, the institutions between us and left-wing academics) make frequently? Concepts of collective racial moral liability actually strike me as far more reckless – whether populations differ, regardless of whether it’s true, does not bundle an ‘ought’ in the way that ‘silence is violence’ or ‘this land is stolen’ does (to boil down what often uses more complicated jargon about things like ‘being complicit in systems of colonial imperialism’).

      2.) How is opposition to the research necessary for the distribution of genes between not only human individuals but also human populations anything other than ethnonationalist supremacism?

      I can buy that it’s not ethnonationalistic from the #trads who oppose all genetic research, but from people who insist on tearing down traditions on the basis of progress, putting up barriers to allowing people to modify their kid based on genes from outside their race, even if it’s just appearance, is creating collective ethnic intellectual property.

    • Pablo says:

      This comment seems intended to portray Hsu in the worst possible light and doesn’t strike me as a good-faith attempt to analyze the current situation. I will note several problems with it:

      1. To my knowledge, Hsu does not “d[o] scientific work on race”. His work on cognitive genomics isn’t focused on group differences in intelligence or any other behavioral trait.

      2. The comparison between “doing scientific work on race” and “working on smallpox samples” is hyperbolic, as another commenter noted.

      3. Hsu has not “piss[ed] off” “would-be partners and donors”. On the contrary, during his tenure annual research expenditures rose from $500 million to $700 million.

      4. Molyneux had recorded and released over 3,000 podcast episodes, with a correspondingly large number of guests, by the time Hsu agreed to participate in his show. To cherry-pick a very small sample and characterize it as a “who’s who of the alt-right” is intellectually dishonest. Perfectly reasonable people, like James Flynn (from the Flynn Effect, and who was once the chairperson for a civil rights organisation in the US South), had been past guests. And Molyneux himself had participated as a guest in mainstream podcasts, including not one but several times in the Joe Rogan Experience, one of the world’s post popular podcasts.

    • grothor says:

      Knowing graduate students as I do, they probably wouldn’t be doing this if he’d been treating them well for the last few years.

      Nah, my experience with grad students (after spending roughly 8 years being one) is that the one thing that gets them more excited than free food is politics. I’ve never seen a group of people that had such a limited supply of free time and energy and chose to spend so much of it on political fights. The likelihood that some subset (even a large subset) of grad students would initiate something like this has almost no relation to whether he had been working in their best interest over the years.

      • Soy Lecithin says:

        I want to second this.

        It’s hard to picture any of the grad students I know caring who the university-wide VP for research is. The vast majority probably have no idea. On the other hand, many grad students are going to know who Molyneaux is, and those who do probably have strong, negative opinions of him. “Professor So-and-so appeared on Molyneaux’s podcast” is absolutely something you could get politically active ones to care about.

    • Aftagley says:

      Anyone doing scientific work on race has a responsibility to be extremely careful with their media appearances, for much the same reason that anyone working on smallpox samples has a responsibility to be extremely careful with their containment procedures.

      That’s what gets me. I understand this is perhaps the intellectual equivalent of asking a rape victim what they were wearing, but what benefit did Hsu think he would get out of appearing on Molyneux’ show? It probably wasn’t money, it certainly wasn’t increased academic prestige, what possible benefit would he get from it? If he had no clue who Molyneux was at the time… why would he do an interview? If he knew who Molyneux was… why would he do an interview?

      I get that we shouldn’t judge people by dumb stuff they do online, but it would be really helpful if people would stop doing dumb stuff online.

      • SamChevre says:

        In my observation, professors appear on random radio shows all the time–I always assumed that if you thought you understood the world, helping others understand it too was the key attraction of being a professor.

        • gbdub says:

          Plus ego. It’s nice to be recognized as somebody who is worth talking to. Especially if it’s somebody with an audience. Especially if it’s an audience you didn’t even realize you were reaching.

          Digging much beyond that feels like looking a gift horse in the mouth.

      • Clutzy says:

        Isn’t this just a super-duper double standard though? People recklessly talk about race and science all the time. The current riots are the result of people yelling from the rooftops about how their studies have proven systemic racism, etc exist. And all their science is less than 5% as rigorous as the stuff Hsu does.

      • Talexander Urok says:

        Suppose an Orthodox Jew were to say to someone in the process of leaving the Orthodox religion, “I’m not a fan of shunning non-practicing Jews, but why do you got to eat your pork sandwich in public? Why not just hide it, eat it at home, so other people don’t get angry?” You’d probably see that as supremely missing the point. To us, eating pork is not a morally gray issue, it’s black and white, there’s nothing wrong with it.

        We don’t see anything morally wrong with appearing on Molyneux’ show. If you have something issue with Molyneux, you take it up with him.

    • 10240 says:

      Part of your argument seems to be “Even if there is nothing wrong with his views, many people oppose them, so his views make him disreputable, which makes him the wrong person for vice president of research; so people who ask MSU to fire him are right, and people who support him and ask MSU to keep him are wrong”.

      However, he hasn’t been disreputable so far, as far as we can tell from the fact that, as another commenter said, he has had no problem attracting donors. The people currently attacking him might have a chance to tarnish his reputation, but the very people who are trying to tarnish his reputation can’t justify their demand that he be fired by him having a bad reputation. His supporters, at the same time, are not only asking MSU to keep him, but also try to defend his reputation; if they succeed, then MSU won’t need to fire him for reputational reasons. Assuming Hsu hasn’t done something inherently wrong that would justify firing him even outside of reputational concerns, I see no reason to oppose that effort.

      This is a general argument I tend to make against justifying actions of organizations on PR grounds (assuming the actions would otherwise be unjustified): We, the public decide what is good or bad PR. Those who demand an organization to make an action are the people who make it bad PR not to do it. Those who demand the organization not to make the action are trying to reverse the incentives, making it worse PR to do the action and better PR not to do it. Assuming the action is not inherently justified (except possibly on PR grounds), their efforts shouldn’t be opposed on the grounds of “but the organization has to do it for PR reasons”.

    • metacelsus says:

      The grad student union is generally far to the left of the general grad student population. (This is true at Harvard where I am a grad student.)

      So the union wanting to cancel him doesn’t mean he’s been mistreating grad students.

      • Deiseach says:

        All student unions are to the left of the student population; from the things I’ve heard 90% of the students don’t care one way or the other (save when the union organises a protest which is treated as a great excuse to skip classes and head for the pub for day drinking) and internally it’s all internal politics to gain office (and hence influence with the administration) and build up experience for careers in actual politics, be that as advisers, campaign members or trying for elected office themselves.

        When I read that it was the student union calling for his head, I just nodded and said to myself “yeah of course”.

      • Statismagician says:

        +1. Everyone less than maximally political hasn’t got the energy for extracurriculars.

    • Talexander Urok says:

      Oh, and the people leading the charge appear to be Michigan’s graduate students. You know, the ones he’s in charge of. The ones he’s meant to keep happy, as part of that high-paying job. Knowing graduate students as I do, they probably wouldn’t be doing this if he’d been treating them well for the last few years.

      “Many of the actual accusations they’ve publicly made against him are provably false, but I’m sure that there is more wrongdoing that they aren’t sharing with us for some reason!”

    • gbdub says:

      Michigan and Michigan State (Hsu’s employer) are two different universities.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Anyone doing scientific work on race has a responsibility to be extremely careful with their media appearances, for much the same reason that anyone working on smallpox samples has a responsibility to be extremely careful with their containment procedures.

      Is this some new meme I need to be aware of? If so, who is advancing this new meme?

      This meme looks extremely dangerous and has universal applicability. I can’t really think of anything else that can stifle debate faster than assuming all non-conformist thoughts are equivalent to weaponizable infectious diseases. I suspect, like in this domain, it will be applied in every other in an asymmetrical fashion: to use an example in economics, advocating austerity is now dangerous and costs lives, while advocating QE infinity is right-and-just and it’s bastard step-child MMT is simply allowed to propagate without check (and any rebuttal to it needs to be phrased in the most careful terms, lest it be confused with “austerity” which is as bad as smallpox).

      • Lambert says:

        What if the public finds out about the idea of comparing memes to smallpox and it starts spreading exponentially?

        • albatross11 says:

          Then we will need to find a less destructive but similar meme and spread it to protect people from the much more dangerous one. Maybe check out what milkmaids are tweeting….

          • Lambert says:

            But then people would argue about which was the dangerous version of the meme. Each side would get outraged by the other’s suggestion that their meme was the smallpox meme. You’d get a vicious cycle of two memes self-reinforcing in a way that makes it look like two morphologies of the same memeplex.

    • gbdub says:

      The thing about smallpox or Ebola research is that, despite the obvious and direct dangers involved in studying the pathogen we still do it. Because there are obvious good things that can come from this research.

      Much of the anti-Hsu crowd (and this opinion has even been expressed here) doesn’t believe that these things should be studied carefully, they pretty clearly believe they shouldn’t be studied at all (or I guess studied but never talked about, but for the purposes of advancing science that amounts to the same thing).

      This throws the baby out with the bath water. It’s hard to treat disease if you don’t study the pathogen, and it is hard to treat racial disparity if you don’t study all aspects of it.

  10. Dan L says:

    Is there a seriously buried lede, or am I missing something? Genomic Prediction is a real extant company that appears to be selling genetic screening kits right now for the express purpose of embryo selection. Its co-founder is appropriately cagey in an interview about what the technology might be capable of a decade from now, but the company is IME unusually forward about how it can be applied to polygenic traits. I think there’s a legitimate defense of that stance, but it’s pretty much the opposite of pure academic work.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      The company projects that once high-quality genetic and academic achievement data from a million individuals becomes available

      Seriously problematic that (what the Guardian says) their IQ trait correlate will be is academic achievement in lieu of g itself (which we only have proxies for measuring, and I don’t doubt that many of these proxies are biased in favor of particular sub-intelligences). I don’t doubt that many of the genetic studies used as inputs to this embryo selection process will indeed look for genetic elements correlating to academic achievement, but given that we know for an absolute fact that IQ and academic achievement are not perfectly correlated, this would be f*ed up to the extreme.

      People like me would be sorted against in favor of those with lower IQs but whose temperaments and psychological complexes are pro-academic achievement.

      Gorillas selecting for a bunch of stronger gorillas, too. What is potentially lost by selecting for higher IQ? Anything? Most likely, at least statistically speaking, given that they aren’t building embryos de novo, but merely selecting for ones highest in a singular phenotype.

      What a Brave New World you bring us Mr. Hsu. The inmates not only run the asylum (doctors running the academy), but soon they will turn their hand to making us non-inmates in their images.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Adding: I was generally supportive of Hsu until seeing this. Now I’m genuinely anxious as to what his company is planning on doing.

        I’d far, far rather medical and precision genome editing cures for diseases than embryo selection (barring serious lethality).

      • Incurian says:

        I think you’ll still be allowed to make your own kids however you want.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          All things considered it’s likely my parents (especially my father) would have chosen a different kid.

          Given how often I’ve seen parents express desires that their children be a chip off the old block I expect that this is not unusual.

          Also: If you give people particular options to choose, enough of them will make choices based on those options simply because they’ve been given the power to make a particular choice. However this does not negate the fact that you are the one choosing which options, and which order, they are presented with to choose from.

      • Murphy says:

        but given that we know for an absolute fact that IQ and academic achievement are not perfectly correlated, this would be f*ed up to the extreme.

        Things don’t have to be perfectly correlated to be informative.

        If I’m doing a disease study and I have 2 groups, cases and controls where cases are people diagnosed to have the condition of interest, lets say parkinsons…

        There is not a 100% correlation between a diagnosis of parkinsons and whether that person actually has parkinsons.

        Because doctors aren’t great at giving consistent diagnosis’s.

        Sometimes some of your cases turn out to look like they have some other kinda similar movement disorder that’s on the differential diagnosis chart for parkinsons.

        Sometimes some of your controls show as having mutations known to have a super-strong link to the disease in question and when you look at their details they have a bunch of symptoms but the doctor just never diagnosed them.

        Academic achievement doesn’t have a 100% correlation with intelligence. But it has a reasonably strong correlation which is good enough to be informative.

        Just like, height can be strongly affected by diet, someone can have every height allele but if their parents starved them then they could end up 4-foot-2. There’s not a perfect correlation. But it’s good enough.

        Genetic studies can cope with correlations not being perfect and it’s not a slight against you.

        Parents might want children like themselves…. but they already have access to one of the most powerful ways of doing this already.

        Choosing partners who are similar to themselves.

        People already mate assortatively on height, IQ and various other features. You have a trillion possible alternative siblings who could have been who don’t exist because your dad didn’t like the eye colour of that other woman or your mom gravitated to familiar facial shapes.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Yeah, sure. But given the social dynamics inherent in various of the world’s educational systems it is known that IQ can actually interfere with academic achievement (see: Miraca Gross, Terman).

          This is of serious concern. Modifying a populace to fit a system is equivalent to a government selecting its electors.

          And just because parents generally choose their partners (same goes for arranged marriages) does not currently mean their children will be identical, or even a blend, of the parents (except externally phenotypically), or at least not a particular blend. This is easily seen in any family that has multiple children: most of the children will not share anything other than incidental personality characteristics with their parents (they certainly won’t be all of the same personality type, at least).

          If personality traits start being selectable features, then even if parents are diverse enough to select the whole diversity of human personality there is still a likelihood that you start getting personality-based sub-populations who are raised by parents of their own personality. It is important that constitutionally liberal people be raised by conservatives. That ESFJs be raised by INTPs (and vice-versa). (Yes, this happens to an extent with current mating, but embryo eugenics is likely to accelerate it.)

          (As an aside: as a person who looks at efficiency and sustainability I’d rather have people who are shorter than average, all else held equal. You can have more of them for the same resource expenditure. If human IQ is important to Hsu, then wouldn’t the number of high-IQ people also be important?)

        • No One In Particular says:

          The plural of “diagnosis” is “diagnoses”.

    • Randy M says:

      Interesting, thanks for bringing that up.

    • Ketil says:

      Genomic Prediction is a real extant company that appears to be selling genetic screening kits right now for the express purpose of embryo selection.

      Oh noes! What if white supremacists use this to ensure they don’t have black kids?

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        I mean, I think “eugenics” (as in germinal choice, not racist early 20th century stuff) is good akshually, but you still have to acknowledge that most people disagree and engage with something resembling the stronger arguments against it.

        • B_Epstein says:

          Is it obvious, or even true, that most people who are capable of separating the two disagree with the non-early-20-century version? The typical stance I’ve encountered, across the political spectrum, was “obviously great on paper but requires a great deal of caution”. If this is at least a fairly well-represented position here in this commentariat, then it is the opponents of (non…-) eugenics who need to begin justifying their position before they can just shoot down companies by pointing and saying ‘eugenics eww’. Of course, Dan L wasn’t doing that – he explicitly wrote ” I think there’s a legitimate defense of that stance”.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            I was considering people in general, not sensible people. I agree that saying “eugenics eww” would be bad; luckily no-one is doing that.

        • LudwigNagasena says:

          People are doing “eugenics” every day by selecting their partners. You can go to a sperm bank and choose a donor (demand for short guys is so low many sperm banks don’t even accept their sperm). What is more, government and lots of other entities in some way affect parenthood decisions. Yet no one bats an eye.

          Most people’s argument against “eugenics” can probably be summarized as “nazism bad”, I think even anti-abortion activists have more reasonable arguments.

  11. meh says:

    what is the best way to chronologically watch the videos of a youtube channel?

    • Machin Shin says:

      You can sort by date (oldest->newest) on a channel’s video page…

      • meh says:

        that will show videos ive viewed already though. (assume i am not watching it all in one sitting)

        • fwipsy says:

          Maybe do the sort, then go through and add the ones you haven’t seen to your queue? I don’t think there’s a way to avoid manually filtering out videos you’ve already seen.

    • Lambert says:

      The hard part is when it’s a channel about history and you want to watch it the other kind of chronologically.

    • Pazzaz says:

      If it isn’t too many videos, you could download all videos with youtube-dl and then (re)move videos when you’ve watched them. This can be done using something like (command not actually tested)
      youtube-dl -f best -o "%(timestamp)s-%(title)s.%(ext)s"

    • Rinrin says:

      Use youtube-dl to easily download everything to your computer.

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      youtube-dl the entire channel to your hard drive. Delete each video upon watching.

  12. Purplehermann says:

    There is an accusation against the professor in the twitter thread about conflicts of interest not being properly declared, I didn’t understand exactly what is being claimed. Could someone explain what he’s being accused of exactly, and if it is or isn’t a serious issue?

    • caethan says:

      He wrote a paper (published October 2019) involving work at his company Genomic Prediction, and didn’t initially divulge in the paper that he was on the board. A month later (November 2019), he submitted a correction divulging the conflict of interest. I don’t see anything about it in his response. It’s the only, IMO, legitimate complaint against him.

      It’s not great, but it’s been corrected. I’d say a sharp word from the higher ups not to let it happen again is enough.

  13. ranttila1 says:

    I’m looking for authors (nonfiction) who make big grand statements about big grand topics. Hopefully this thread will allow us to look at the bigger picture in a time so focused on short term anger.

    Most nonfiction authors like making big statements about little subjects, or small statements about big subjects. I’m looking for those that make big statements about huge topics, and change your whole viewpoint on life.

    A few examples to make my point clearer: Rene Girard, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell (The Power of Myth), Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens), Nassim Taleb (The Black Swan), Robert Greene, Michel Foucault, Matt Ridley, Jared Diamond, Freidrich Nietzsche, David Graeber (Debt: A 5,000 Year History), and Julian Jaynes (The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind).

    These people have totally flipped my worldview, and I want to be amazed again. Do you have any recommendations for authors that make huge statements about grand topics?

    • slipperypig says:

      Interested as well. Martin Gurri’s “Revolt of the Public,” several of Tyler Cowen’s books like “Average is Over.”

    • Tenacious D says:

      Vaclav Smil has some pretty big-picture books.

      • ranttila1 says:

        What books of his are your favorites?

        • salvorhardin says:

          Not the OP but I learned a lot from Creating the Twentieth Century.

        • Tenacious D says:

          So far I’ve only read Harvesting the Biosphere. I believe there’s a fair bit of thematic overlap with Energy and Civilization. The one I want to read next is Growth—I was actually thinking of reviewing it for Scott’s contest, but I don’t think I’ll have it read in time.

    • SamChevre says:

      Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism: from de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse (page with free pdf).

      I found it in a dumpster when I was 15, and it is one of the 10 most influential books I ever read. It’s definitions are precise enough to be helpful even if you disagree–thinking about how and why you disagree is enlightening. And its Central-European focus in the discussion fo the First World War is enlightening if your education, like that of most Americans, focuses on the western front.

      ETA: I’d recommend reading it alongside Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind

      Also, I’ll link the discussion on this a couple weeks ago.

      • ranttila1 says:

        Thanks for linking my previous discussion! It’ll be interesting to check out the descent of both the Left and the Right. Are the two books written from people who are on the political side which they are writing about or are they opposed to the political leaning they are writing about?

    • romeostevens says:

      Invariances by Nozick is kind of dry unless you pick up on what he is doing which is to flip the is-ought problem on its head in an interesting way. The inversion is difficult enough to conceptualize that he takes most of a book to do it.

      Elevator pitch: Nozick extends extensionalism using extensionalism, which is even more Quinean than Quine.

      • ranttila1 says:

        Is Quine worth a read? What book of his is a good introduction to him? I know that the rationalist community mentions him a lot, but I have not yet delved into why that is.

        • Doug S. says:

          Quine did a lot of work on formal logic. You don’t need to read him any more than you do Einstein – you read textbooks on the subject.

    • Rinrin says:

      http://www.paulgraham.com/sun.html

      May I tentatively suggest that you’re taking these people too seriously? I myself used to do this. (I believe I still do if I don’t concentrate.) Then I noticed how little evidence they present for their views, and how UNHELPFUL their “insights” are for achieving anything concrete.

  14. johan_larson says:

    You are invited to submit the latest headlines from June 16, 2050.

    ENGLAND ACCEPTED AS 53RD STATE OF US

    103 PRIVATE CARS WITH INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINES REGISTERED IN CANADA

    CHINESE-IRANIAN BORDER DISPUTES CONTINUE INTO FIFTH YEAR

    • John Schilling says:

      These are not “headlines”, these are entire news articles. In 2050, all journalism is done on Twitter.

    • Biater says:

      TROUBLE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

    • Matthias says:

      You think Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland would no longer be with England?

      Scotland and perhaps Noether Ireland would probably be out of the UK by then. But Wales?

      • John Schilling says:

        Wales and Northern Ireland were the 51st and 52nd states. Scotland’s application for admission was rejected on the grounds that the United States already had all the Scotsmen it could handle. Same goes for Ireland.

        • salvorhardin says:

          The Scottish vote to join the US was also complicated by loud nationalist allegations that “join” voters were not true Scotsmen.

          • Evan Þ says:

            The allegators were then summarily Canceled for assuming the “join” voters’ gender.

          • johan_larson says:

            Won’t Scotland break off and rejoin the EU in 2028 or so?

          • John Schilling says:

            On the original point:

            RIOTS IN BRUSSELS MARK 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE DISSOLUTION OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

    • Randy M says:

      Whistleblowers allege US no longer has capabilities to land on Mars. (cheating, that should probably be 2080 or so).
      Midterm primary elections still in manual recount as voting machines found to have voted for themselves.

    • fibio says:

      YOU WONT BELIEVE THESE WEIRD CELEBRITY BABY NAMES. JEAN?!? THATS JUST THE START

    • Statismagician says:

      NUMBER OF DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY CANDIDATES NOW UNDER 100

    • Eric T says:

      X Æ A-12 MUSK WORLD’S FIRST PERSON TO BE WORTH 100 TRILLION DOLLARS

    • noyann says:

      GREAT PLAINS STEPPE CLOSED FOR TOURISM

  15. littskad says:

    Apparently bread-and-butter pickles may possibly be called that because they were commonly eaten on buttered bread during the Great Depression, but actual contemporaneous evidence for this is hard to find. Anyone out there who eats pickle and butter sandwiches?

    • broblawsky says:

      Seems like a similar flavor profile to vegemite sandwiches.

    • Gerry Quinn says:

      Never have, and I find it hard to imagine because pickles are just a bit too watery for a bread and butter sandwich. But then again, I often eat bread and butter sandwiches with salted slices of tomato. So if you like the rather more acidic flavour, perhaps pickle sandwiches would work.

    • Pazzaz says:

      Eating bread-and-butter pickles on bread is pretty common in Sweden (where it is called Ättiksgurka or Smörgåsgurka). It is often combined with liver pâté (leverpastej). A typical person would eat it like this.

      • SamChevre says:

        That’s a typical use of pickles in the US also–on bread with some other sandwich ingredients. Would it be unusual in Sweden if someone had only the buttered bread and the pickles–nothing else?

        • MilesM says:

          Not quite the same thing, but bread with bacon lard and pickles is definitely a thing in Polish “cuisine.” Wouldn’t surprise me if people substituted butter in a pinch, but it’s not the same thing – the lard is saltier, has little bits of crackling… I think I need to go put together some lunch.

          (I don’t really have a good feel for how popular it is at the moment – IIRC it enjoyed a resurgence as restaurants serving “country food” became a thing, and Polish places in NYC serve it still. It’s also one of the “classic” accompaniments when drinking shots of vodka.)

        • Pazzaz says:

          It would be a little unusual but I know people who always eat it with only butter. I think I’ve done it too.

  16. Tenacious D says:

    Last year, samples of Ebola virus were shipped from the only BSL-4 lab in Canada to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Several months later, the main researcher involved (Dr. Qiu) was escorted out of the lab on national-security grounds that still haven’t been disclosed. The story has stayed in the news partly because of its links to Covid19 conspiracy theories (which don’t seem plausible as Ebola isn’t a coronavirus), but apart from that, how big a deal is it? Routine scientific collaboration, or pretty irregular?

    • Aftagley says:

      I mean, if they expelled her, her husband and all her students like your article says it was almost certainly some kind of industrial/academic espionage.

      • Tarpitz says:

        My impression is that the scale of essentially amateur* industrial espionage of this kind carried out by the PRC is enormous. MSS intelligence officers seem to pretty much try to recruit any nationally or ethnically Chinese person they can find who even might have access to anything useful at all, provide them with minimal if any training, throw them at the problem and not really worry if they get caught because their activities don’t tend to meet Western standards for criminal prosecution and the agents know almost nothing that would be of interest to Western intelligence agencies.

        *amateur with respect to espionage/tradecraft – they may well be experts in the field they’re trying to acquire industrial intelligence in.

        • Tenacious D says:

          Up til now, there’s been little risk, but the US is starting to crack down on researchers with undisclosed funding from China (link). I wonder if Dr. Qiu’s case was linked to that effort, or perhaps as part of the tit-for-tat following the Meng Wanzhou arrest.

      • Aftagley says:

        My understanding from reading the news is that it’s twofold – they’ll both send people into places that have information they want and that if they identify someone with ties to China who’s currently got access to their wanted information, they’ll start turning the screws.

        not really worry if they get caught because their activities don’t tend to meet Western standards for criminal prosecution and the agents know almost nothing that would be of interest to Western intelligence agencies.

        Also because at this point, there’s basically no risk to China. From what I read, they don’t risk actual intelligence assets running these guys – it’s almost always handled by civilian intermediaries and whatever reputation hit could fall on China’s already happened. Everyone knows they’re thieves, it’s not like the world’s opinion of them can drop more in this regard.

  17. acertainidiot says:

    This was supposed to be a culture-war free open thread, but I guess the ship has sailed on that one

    To be fair, the link you provided us is filled with comments to get rid of the current university system rather than showing any support for Dr. Hsu, so it’s not like you had much of a chance.

    • DBDr says:

      Oof. I went to the defense link; half of the people commenting on the blog take the reasonable “That sucks bro” stance, the rest is split between the modern equivalent of weirdo NWO types, people who are really worried (like, they aren’t making analogies, they’re just talking about china) about the PRC for some reason, and general deplorability.

      Even if you are a normal god damn human, getting tarred with this particular brush attracts defenders you probably would rather just support you silently.

      • Anonymous` says:

        The hey? You’re just going to drive-by-smear people who are worried about Chinese influence on American universities as deplorables with no reason for their beliefs? Have you not been paying attention?

        Check out these links first at least.

    • Talexander Urok says:

      comments to get rid of the current university system rather than showing any support for Dr. Hsu

      The two are not mutually exclusive.

      I have a real question for Scott about how far we should take the being charitable rule.

      I just do not believe that the commenter named “acertainidiot” is, on this issue, anything other than a concern troll. Now, if evidence were to be provided that he has spoken out in defense of Hsu in a different context, something as simple as single tweet from a Twitter account that wasn’t created in the past month, I would change my view. But he has no blog, no twitter account, no paper trail, his very username…

      So how should I respond to this? Should I, in the future, just keep the suspicions above to myself because sharing them would not be charitable? How do you think a church is going to respond to someone who comes in from nowhere, no record of attending the church or any church in the town as far as anyone is aware, and says “oh, the people in these pews are good Christians, the people in these pews are sinners, they need to repent change their ways, and they’re harming the credibility of our church by not doing so?” You don’t want this to become reddit where people feel free to say “well, I believe you’re supporting policy A because you hate group X, and no amount of evidence will change my mind.” The difference is that all I’m asking for is a single tweet from a Twitter account that wasn’t created in the past month. I don’t think that’s very unreasonable.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        If you see posts of his you’re worried about, report them. Nothing I see here seems concerning to me, but if I see enough to notice a pattern, I’ll take it into account.

      • MilesM says:

        I think your post is far more damaging to the tone and quality of discussion here than the one you complain about.

        The idea that someone needs to have “proof” (as defined by you) of their intentions before stating an opinion is uncharitable. And unreasonable.

        You say “you don’t want this to become reddit”, but scrutinizing people’s posting history to validate their arguments is the most Reddit thing ever.

        • Talexander Urok says:

          The idea that someone needs to have “proof” (as defined by you) of their intentions before stating an opinion is uncharitable.

          This is not just any opinion. acertainidiot’s opnion is what you call a wedge argument, trying to divide a group of people. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, I’ve made many wedge arguments on the Unz comment section in the past few months as part of my personal jihad against the corona deniers. But when people say “as an advocate of X, I think this subgroup of people who are also advocates of X are bad or at least strongly misguided,” it’s not unreasonable to ask them what they’ve actually done for X. Suppose you went to an IRL meeting about X, whether it’s world hunger, police brutality, tea party, etc., and opened with that kind of argument, what do you think you’re going to be asked? It’ll be, what have you done, why are you only showing up here now? Is that unreasonable? What would you do, if you were the leader of the meeting?

          Yes, this is not a quest to solve world hunger, but the general principle is the same. You can search for “acertainidiot” slatestarcodex.com on google and you’ll get 3 results.* If he were to make an argument advocating for Hsu, and he had this lack of a paper trail, I’d say we should be charitable about his intentions. If he were to make an argument against Hsu, I’d say the same thing, be charitable about his intentions. But if he’s saying exactly what a concern troll would say, and he has this total lack of a paper trail, what should be the null hypothesis? Think about what that figure means. Has he never expressed an internet opinion on anything other than in three SSC threads? Almost certainly not. Like most commenters, he presumably has expressed opinions elsewhere and hasn’t correlated his identities together. He might say it’s because he has a life unlike us blogger NEETs. What would we lose if we tell people we’re not going to accept wedge arguments unless the commenter is one who chooses to leave a paper trail, whether that’s an extensive comment history here, a blog, a twitter account, etc?

          *I, btw, have 414, and Hsu has been in my blogroll for years, so I have the paper trail.

      • No One In Particular says:

        I could read your comment several more times trying to piece together what your argument is, but maybe you could just say what it is?

        • Talexander Urok says:

          maybe you could just say what it is?

          Have you stopped beating your wife? I made myself quite clear, and I’m going to respond to your passive aggressive comment by stating clearly that I don’t have much respect for you and feel under no obligation to “explain myself” further.

  18. Dan Elton says:

    Twitter user @GradEmpUnion kickstarted the Twitter mob which eventually led to a petition to get him fired. In a very misleading and disingenuous series of tweets, @GradEmpUnion points to an interview Hsu did with Stephan Molyneux. Molyneux is an alt-right character, but that shouldn’t matter. We should encourage discourse, even with those on the alt-right. Talking with someone should never hurt someone or be socially stigmatized. I watched some of the interview, and Hsu is just talking about the basic science of IQ and the g factor. The only time he brings up race, it is to downplay its importance. Of course, the twitter mob used a clip where he was downplaying race to try to say he thought race was important – classic twitter mob tactics. (see https://twitter.com/GradEmpUnion/status/1270829018208706562). The only factual complaints I’ve found so far are that he “hosted X on his podcast, who holds controversial opinion Y”. That’s hardly a reason to fire someone in any case, let alone from a university where academic freedom is supposed to be a core value!

    • ChelOfTheSea says:

      > The only time he brings up race, it is to downplay its importance.

      Given that he appears, elsewhere, to attribute the achievement gaps between blacks and whites to the same forces, it seems like he’s “downplaying its importance” only to say the equivalent of “no, they’re not underperforming because they’re black, they’re underperforming because they’re stupid”.

      That is a claim you can make, but it’s a claim that should come under extreme suspicion at a minimum – much less if you’re doing it on the show of someone who is known to be really, really racist!

      • albatross11 says:

        ChelOfTheSea:

        IQ tests are basically intended to predict academic ability. It would be utterly shocking if groups with very different average IQs did not have very different average levels of academic success.

        IIRC, IQ scores predict black and white academic and workplace achievement equally well.

        • Dan Elton says:

          I listened to the full interview. My comment was really rushed.. so I didn’t get it quite right. More specifically what he was saying in the clip was that conditioned on IQ, race doesn’t play much of a role on achievement. Elsewhere he downplays the possibility of racial differences in IQ somewhat but acknowledges it’s possible.

    • No One In Particular says:

      Stefan, not Stephan.

      Molyneux is an alt-right character, but that shouldn’t matter. We should encourage discourse, even with those on the alt-right. Talking with someone should never hurt someone or be socially stigmatized.

      The only factual complaints I’ve found so far are that he “hosted X on his podcast, who holds controversial opinion Y”. That’s hardly a reason to fire someone in any case, let alone from a university where academic freedom is supposed to be a core value!

      Academic freedom doesn’t mean that we should give everyone an equal platform. Whether to ignore or confront people with terrible views is a difficult question, and the former has strong arguments for it. Sanctioning those who disagree is quite problematic, but when someone is interacting with someone with terrible views, it is legitimate to look at whether they think the other person’s views are in fact terrible.

  19. SamChevre says:

    And now for something completely different: Andrew Flicker recommended cocktails as something to make on the last OT, and I agree. I bartended in college, got really into cocktail-making a decade ago, and love cocktails.

    So for fellow cocktail lovers: what’s one favorite cocktail, and if you make it yourself exactly how do you make it?

    One cocktail I love is a good bourbon and ginger ale: chill Canada Dry ginger ale thoroughly, fill a glass with ice cubes, pour Evan Williams until it’s 1/3rd full, stir till the glass starts to sweat, pour the ginger ale gently down the side and carefully lift the spoon out to just combine it. My grandfather used to drink these (with Early Times vs EW), and once I
    d graduated from college he’d offer me one.

    Any highball made with that technique will be 100% better than in a standard bar.

    • Matthias says:

      I like Negroni and Boulevardier. Made the standard ways, but with better ingredients than your average bar uses.

      • SamChevre says:

        Can you expand? What gin/bourbon and vermouth do you find ideal? (I love both drinks).

        Sometime, try a half-teaspoon of Jamaican rum (ideally Smith and Cross) floated on a Boulevardier.

        • J.R. says:

          Not Matthias, but the Negroni is my favorite drink. My build dries out the drink a little.

          1.5 oz gin (Beefeater)
          1 oz sweet vermouth (Cocchi vermouth di Torino)
          0.75 oz Campari
          Stir and strain over a big rock, garnish with an orange peel.

          Boulevardier build for kicks:
          1.5 oz rye (Rittenhouse is my standard)
          0.75 oz sweet vermouth (Cocchi)
          0.75 oz Campari

          And finally, my latest cocktail revelation is I really like martinis, BUT I don’t love dry vermouth, so I go very heavy on the gin. And use both orange and lemon peel as a garnish – a trick I use in my Old Fashioned’s that I like here.

          2.5 oz gin (Tanqueray No 10 preferred, but Beefeater is still great here)
          0.5 oz dry vermouth (Dolin Dry)
          Stir and strain into stemmed glasses (coupes are better than the V-shapes martini glass). Squeeze lemon and orange peel over glass. Add to drink or throw away if desired.

    • JayT says:

      I love Manhattans. I make a pretty good one, but the best bars I’ve been to are still better. I suspect it’s mostly due to the cherries, or possibly the vermouth.
      3 parts rye, I like Michters.
      1 part sweet vermouth. Of the easily accessible ones, stay away from Martini, Rivata is better, but if you have a specialty liquor store nearby, try something nicer, like Carpano Antica.
      A few dashes of Angostura bitters. You can play around with other bitters, but I always come back to Angostura.
      A maraschino/brandied cherry for garnish. You can add a drop of cherry juice of you want a sweeter Manhattan, but I don’t usually do that. Find some decent cherries though, stay away from the neon red ones. If you can’t find any good ones, put some dried sour cherries in a mason jar and cover with brandy. Let them sit for a few days, and you’re set. Make sure they are sour cherries.

    • ltowel says:

      The Daquiri (not to be confused with one out of a blender) is a stupendous drink.
      3 parts white rum
      2 parts lime juice
      1 part simple syrup

      Shake, strain, server up or in an old fashioned glass.

      My preferred way to prepare it for a beach weekend with friends is to take a growler (the stainless steel one’s with large mouths are best), one 750 of the bacardi dragonberry rum, 6 juiced limes, 250 ml (or 8 oz) of simple, add a dash of salt, top with water or ice if it fits in the growler, shake it or chill. This gives you 16 or so portable and delicious servings.

      Really any 3 booze/2 parts sour/1 part simple drink is great – just make sure you have the right sour for the booze.

    • thesilv3r says:

      If we’re allowed to talk simple mixers (e.g. bourbon+ginger ale) and not complex things, I’m going to go with Vanilla Galliano, Lemonade and a slice of lime – it is delightfully refreshing and it was pure chance that someone ordered this for me once. I do enjoy cinnamon vodka mixed with my family classic fruit punch (pineapple juice, lemonade, fresh mint and soda water to taste). If I’m at a catered event I do love an espresso martini (and I don’t think they’re that hard to make from the one time I did it at a party).

      Also, because drinking calories is something I usually try to avoid, I’m always surprised at how much more the liquor flavor shines through when mixing with Diet Cola (any brand) vs normally sweetened drinks.

      • SamChevre says:

        When you say lemonade do you mean American lemonade (tap water, lemon juice, and lots of sugar) or European lemonade (carbonated, lightly sweetened and citrus-y)?

        • thesilv3r says:

          Great point! I mean European lemonade.

        • No One In Particular says:

          I think “still water” is a better term to distinguish between carbonated and non-carbonated. One can make American lemonade with bottled water.

    • Aftagley says:

      Hot toddy with a bit of ginger muddled in for some spiciness. Absolutely delicious, tastes almost like a tea and is the perfect nightcap.

    • GearRatio says:

      The sidecar, made simply, is great; if you used to like screwdrivers, you now like sidecars. Wikipedia says 2 oz Cognac, 3/4 oz Lemon juice, 3/4 oz Triple sec; I say 2/1/1, experiment a bit. Sidecars do not mind cheap components.

      If you try to order it at a nice bar, the bartender is going to do a bunch of unforgivable stuff to it; he’s going to burn orange rinds over it and put in a bunch of extra sugar and salt the rim and it’s going to be terrible. Bartenders think you are trying to be impressed when you order a sidecar and will, in their enthusiasm, ruin your entire life if they can.

      • andrewflicker says:

        I agree entirely about the greatness of the simple sidecar, and that many bars destroy it. I do use a different ratio, slightly, though- usually 2oz cognac, juice of half a lemon (roughly the 3/4oz), but only 0.5oz triple sec. I prefer the brandy to shine through more, and not get overly sweetened by lots of triple.

        The stereotypical sugared rim is both unnecessary and (in my opinion) a detriment to the drink. If I do feel like getting fancy with it, I’ll express a bit of lemon oil and toss a twist in. Sometimes I’ll serve it on the rocks (with one single giant cube), and tap out a little bitters (of whatever I’m feeling like) onto the cube- basically no flavor change, but you get some nice aromatics.

        My wife enjoys rum sidecars as well, as a variation.

      • SamChevre says:

        I make a sidecar variant which I prefer to the original sidecar: mix orange marmalade with an equal amount boiling water, strain, and use the syrup instead of at least half the triple sec. The pectin gives it a very rich mouthfeel, which I enjoy.

        I also prefer my sidecars on the sweet side–one of the very few drinks where I use less lemon and more sweetener than the typical recipe.

    • gbdub says:

      The Last Word – equal parts gin, green chartreuse, lime juice, and maraschino.

    • sfoil says:

      The Aviation
      – 2 parts gin
      – 1 part lemon juice
      – 1 part maraschino
      -.25 parts creme de violette
      shake/strain

      Unfortunately the creme de violette can be rather difficult to find and is absolutely vital, though an inferior version can be made by simply omitting it. Recently I’ve seen a brand called “Rothmann’s” appear with reasonable regularity however — at least one store in a large town will have it. Usually.

      • Lambert says:

        > creme de violette can be rather difficult to find

        Viola odorata can be grown in hanging baskets or pots, as well as in the ground and is hardy to -10 °C or so. Pick newly opened flowers (morning’s usually the best time to pick flowers for culinary use) and steep in everclear (vodka is an acceptable substitute). Steeping in brandy is also an option. Wait a week or so then strain out the flowers and sweeten/dilute to taste.

        African violets are unrelated to violets and pansies, and they are not edible. Do not use them.

      • andrewflicker says:

        Probably our house favorite! What gins do you prefer? If I’m drinking it at home myself, I usually just use a london dry of some kind. If I have guests over, I’ll use Empress sometimes, just for the enhanced color.

        This is a drink where the extra-herbal gins aren’t well-suited, in my opinion.

        • sfoil says:

          This is a drink where the extra-herbal gins aren’t well-suited, in my opinion.

          Mine as well — I usually use Tanqueray though any London dry works.

          (I’ve never liked “American” gins to the point that I have a conspiracy theory that they’re just failed experiments by American distillers).

    • psmith says:

      I’ll throw in a good word for the margarita, in summers. Espolon Reposado, Cointreau, key lime juice, rocks, salt on the glass. I’ve had some at a Mexican restaurant that had a very nice smoky note to them, but I’m not sure if they were using mezcal or just a different tequila.

      Trader Joe’s lemon-ginger seltzer is also worth a mention as my preferred low-calorie mixer for most things. Now I think about it, a dash of ginger might be pretty good in a margarita, too.

      • andrewflicker says:

        They’re probably using mezcal or an anejo tequila. If we do a stirred margarita on the rocks like that at my house, we’re usually using a smoky mezcal. Try it with rangpur lime juice, if you get the chance sometime- it’s a nice variation.

    • salvorhardin says:

      Vieux Carre. My usual mix:

      1 part cognac (Camus or Marnier or if feeling fancy Dudognon)
      1 part rye (Sazerac or Lost Republic or if feeling fancy Hudson Manhattan Rye)
      1 part Carpano Antico sweet vermouth (Dolin is probably more authentic but I like the bolder Italian flavor better)
      Orange bitters to taste

    • Simulated Knave says:

      The Simulated Knave:

      Two parts grapefruit soda
      One part gin
      One part lime juice

      I worried I was an alcoholic after I invented that, until I realized I stopped drinking them if I ran out of lime juice.

    • WoollyAI says:

      Grog. Like the pirates drank. 4 parts hot water, 1 part rum.

      Advantages:
      #1 Delicious, especially before bed
      #2 Comically simple
      #3 Pirates

      • Lambert says:

        I raise you a gunfire: 4 parts black tea, 1 part rum.

      • John Schilling says:

        Grog. Like the pirates drank. 4 parts hot water, 1 part rum.

        Ye forgot the lime juice, ye scurvy dog!

        • Well... says:

          My daughter pulled an Um Actually on me once when I said this. Apparently dogs cannot get scurvy; she was taught this fact (and to correct people with it) on some PBS Kids show.

          Crap, they got me too. Sorry.

      • bean says:

        Grog was specifically a Royal Navy drink, specifically to keep the men from hoarding the rum. I would assume that most pirates drank their rum straight.

    • broblawsky says:

      If you live in/near NYC, you can get Dr. Brown’s, which means you can make The Stone Fruit: 2 parts Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry soda, 1 part Slivovitz plum brandy. Inspired by re-reading Dracula.

    • Ketil says:

      Some options I didn’t see mentioned:

      Moscow mule – vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer, served icy cold, and traditionally in a copper cup. I don’t keep accurate recipes, so go look it up or mix to taste – but I prefer Fever Tree GB.

      Gin tonic – it’s probably no longer fashionable to do it like this, but Hendrick’s gin, your favorite tonic, and garnished with cucumber slices and fresh black pepper.

      Some other options for summer I like are Campari and orange juice, or mojito (rum, lime, fresh mint leaves, syrup, top up with soda).

    • episcience says:

      My girlfriend and I have been on a cocktail kick since we’ve started quarantining together. Favourites are:
      — Negroni. We make it with Antica Formula, Campari, and whatever gin the local spirits merchant recommends — we’re currently enjoying East London batch #2. I like to go slightly lighter on the gin than the standard equal parts (so I do two parts gin and three parts vermouth and Campari when making two cockails). Make sure you have heaps of ice and stir until everything is ice-cold and the tumbler is sweating. Use a potato peeler to peel some orange skin without any pith, twist to get some oils out, and rub it around the rim of a lowball glass before pouring. Twist the orange peel into a nice spiral or flower as a garnish.
      — Manhattan. Not something I drank much of before quarantine. Four parts bourbon (Wild Turkey is the go to), two parts vermouth (Antica Formula, as above), generous amounts of both Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters, serve with a Luxardo cherry. We like these served low too.
      — Margarita. Two parts tequila blanco (Cabrita or Espolon), one part Cointreau, one part freshly-squeezed lime juice, salted rim.
      — Martini. Here we differ. Mine is a gin martini (Brooklyn Gin is good) with 4 parts gin, 1 part vermouth, 1 parts olive brine (from Perello canned green olives, honestly the best canned olives I’ve ever tasted), served with three olives on a toothpick. Hers is a vodka martini (Tito’s), with a tiny splash of olive brine and only using vermouth to coat the inside of the glass before serving (with an olive).
      — Paloma. 2 parts tequila blanco, 2 parts grapefruit juice, 1 part lime juice. Serve in a highball with a salted rim, top with grapefruit soda, garnish with half a slice of grapefruit. Super refreshing on a hot summer’s day.

      We’ve also experimented with gimlets and Moscow Mules, and have had a couple too many Aperol Spritzes whilst sitting in the park in the sun. Any recommendations appreciated!

      • SamChevre says:

        My recommendations given what you have and like:
        A Boulevardier – equal parts bourbon (or rye), sweet vermouth, and Campari.- very like a Negroni, but richer.
        A Perfect Manhattan – equal parts sweet and dry vermouth (same total as the sweet vermouth in a regular Manhattan), lemon peel garnish.

        I’d try Cocchi Vermouth di Torino – it’s a slightly less honey/vanilla profile than Carpano Antica.

    • Fitzroy says:

      I love a French 77: St. Germaine elder-flower liqueur and a squeeze of lemon juice topped up with champagne. It’s even nicer with a measure of good gin in there as well.

      A good Old Fashioned is a joy as well. I know just one cocktail bar in London that makes them properly (IE with the bitters dripped slowly over a sugar cube to dissolve it, slowly stirring). Indeed the process take sufficiently long that when you order an Old Fashioned they serve you half a pint of beer while you wait.

      • Lambert says:

        I’d ask which bar it is but I expect I’d have to liquidate all my assets to buy one.

      • SamChevre says:

        A really good Old Fashioned (although I’m a rich simple guy vs a sugar cube guy) – just good bourbon (I like Elijah Craig), sugar, and bitters garnished with an orange twist–is a delicious cocktail, very easy to make and very hard to buy.

        • CatCube says:

          I actually started drinking Old Fashioneds with simple syrup during the quarantine, and started using the syrup in my coffee. It help me use it up before worrying about it going bad, always an issue when you live alone. It does make it easier to dissolve sugar in stuff.

    • Ed Silva says:

      Nothing beats a good caipirinha. Tasty, easy to make and strong as hell.

      3-4 shots of cachaca
      Cut one lime in 4 slices, remove the white strand/core, and score the skin with the knife.
      Throw one big spoonful of sugar (sorry I can’t be more specific. Just get one big spoon and stack as much sugar in there as you can, it’s better to add too much than too little).

      mix the shots with lime and sugar in cocktail mixer and grind with a pestle. Then throw some ice cubes in there and shake well. You’re done! Needs almost no ingredients and is super quick.

      For the cachaca, the best one for me is Velho Barreiro, but any should be fine. You can also substitute with vodka, but it’s less authentic!

    • Byrel Mitchell says:

      I really like a vermouth-heavy dirty vodka martini:

      1 part vodka (Tito’s)
      1 part extra dry Vermouth
      0.3 parts olive brine

      And ideally 3 olives as a garnish.

    • Garrett says:

      A challenge, appropriate to your name:

      Come up with a mixed drink which uses goat’s milk as the base and actually tastes good.

      • Lambert says:

        Well first you mince some of that particular goat’s kid’s meat and add it to the glass…

      • SamChevre says:

        (I’m too dairy-intolerant to drink it but) I’d suggest a milk punch. 3 parts goat milk, 1 part brandy or Jamaican gold rum, I part rich simple syrup*, shake vigorously with ice, grate some nutmeg over the top, and drink.

        These were a favorite (with cows milk) when I could still have milk–and they are deceptively easy to drink.

        *My go-to Jamaican rum is Appleton Special Gold, my go-to brandies are Korbel (just fruity) and St Remy (richer). Rich simple syrup is 2 parts sugar, 1 part water, bring to a boil–it will keep at room temperature for months.

      • noyann says:

        White Muzhik.

        The taste you have to find out yourself. Then we’ll see what condition your condition was in.

        • Garrett says:

          Alas, a White Russian does not do so well when made with goat’s milk. I’ve tried. But goat’s milk has a pungency to it which seems to clash terribly.

          • noyann says:

            The things I learn here…

            Did you catch the oblique movie reference?
            (uggcf://jjj.lbhghor.pbz/jngpu?i=qbbFSViYa-L)

          • nkurz says:

            What kind of goat milk did you use? I’ve always intensely disliked goat cheese because of the taste. I also disliked all the goat milk I’d had, for having the same licking-a-dirty-goat flavor. Then I was given some very fresh goat milk by a friend with goats, and to my great surprise, it was approximately the best milk I’d ever drank — no caprine flavor, fabulous creaminess, basically perfect.

            Apparently some of the difference is breed, some is whether the does are kept near a buck, but a lot is just freshness. Cared for well, I think you at most three days. I’ve never had anything in a store that came close. I don’t know that it would do well in alcoholic drinks, but if like a good Muzhik you’ve got your own goats, I wouldn’t be too surprised if it was really good.

          • noyann says:

            The pungency of a riper goat chees is great when used as spice. A few small crumbs in a salad add a nice ‘vulgar’ tastiness to it. Start with few and small, then add to taste.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Your Bourbon’n’Ginger is identical to mine, down to preparation and Canada Dry, except that I vary up the bourbon based on what I have on hand, or feel like. Often Bulleit, since it’s incredibly cheap at Costco, but half a dozen other common bourbons as well on rotation. Good call!

    • andrewflicker says:

      Since a few people have mentioned Manhattans, and it’s one of my favorites- I heartily recommend you brandy your own cherries! Cheaper than buying the oh-so-expensive Luxardo cherries, and I find that the liqeur that I soak them in to be an interesting and flavorful ingredient in its own right. Lots of people do it very basic, with just brandy, sugar, water, and a bit of spices. Screw that- if you’re doing it yourself, go crazy!

      I change it up every time I do it, but here’s a sample recipe:
      2lbs ripe cherries, de-stemmed and pitted (use a cherry pitter!)
      3 tbsp whole allspice
      3 cinnamon sticks, broken up a bit
      1 whole star anise
      2 cups sugar (I did half white – half brown last time)
      1 cup water (add a bit more later if you can’t get the sugar to dissolve in)
      1 cup brandy
      1/2 cup bourbon
      1/2 cup white rum
      juice of 2 lemons

      Make a spice sachet with all your whole spices.
      Simmer sugar and water till dissolved, then add the spice sachet and simmer for a few minutes.
      Add the cherries, and mix so well coated- don’t let it boil/burn.
      Add in all the booze and lemon juice, and heat/stir till it’s hot but not simmering.
      Remove spice sachet.
      Pack jars/glass canisters with the cherries (using a slotted spoon).
      Pour hot boozy liquid into each jar until almost full (leave like 1/2″-1″ of air).
      Seal ’em, and refrigerate for use.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      Here are two I like.

      The Twentieth Century is

      1 1/2 oz gin
      3/4 oz Lillet Blanc
      1/2 oz white creme de cacao
      3/4 oz lemon juice

      The Lillet gives it a little foam and cacao gives it a mysterious taste without being enough to identify as chocolate.

      But if you like chocolate, I give you my own invention:
      His Nibs is:

      2 oz chocolate rye
      3/4 oz orange liqueur — I use Combier, but Citronge or even Cointreau works too
      3/4 oz Meyer lemon juice — or ordinary lemon juice with a little hunk of muddled orange
      Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.

      That much is my invention. It’s dead easy once you have a batch of chocolate rye, which I didn’t invent:

      1/3 cup cacao nibs
      1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
      5 allspice berries
      1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
      2 2-inch cinnamon sticks
      1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
      1 1/2 cups rye whiskey

      In an airtight container, combine it all and swirl to mix. Let it sit at room temperature for a couple of days, shaking occasionally, and then strain into a clean airtight container.

      Serious Eats gives a recipe for a cocktail to make with it, but I tried it and thought it was dreadful. Try His Nibs instead.

  20. cassander says:

    So I need help with a topic that’s certainly not culture-warry at all. Which god should I worship?

    In the forgotten realms, of course. Some friends are doing a pandemic themed 5e game set in Waterdeep, and I’m trying to come up with an interesting angle (both from a mechanical and character perspective) on a necromanticly oriented character can comply with a mandate to “You know, like tone down the murder hobo this time…” (the last time this group played was in high school, and we were VERY murder hobo-y). In previous editions, cleric was the way to go for necromancy but I know nothing of 5th edition, so who’s got recommendations for interesting builds? Or any tips about what I should know that’s different in 5e from 3.5

    • Plumber says:

      I’d have my PC worship Tymora, the goddess of good luck (after Tyche split ib two).

      Dice as holy symbol.
      “Please baby please, Papa needs a brand new pair of shoes!” as prayer.

      My favorite 5e ‘build’ is for “Hans d’Shovel (back-story here)

      Race: Standard Human

      Background: Folk Hero

      Class: Barbarian

      STR:19, DEX:12, CON:12, INT:10 WIS:10, CHA:11

      Skills: Animal Handling, Athletics, Perception, Survival

      Second Level
      Class:
      Barbarian

      Third to Sixth Level
      Class:
      Fighter
      Subclass: Champion
      Fighting Style: Great Weapon Fighting
      ASI: +1 to DEX

      Seventh to 9th Level
      Class:
      Rogue
      Subclass: Swashbuckler
      Additional Skill: Stealth
      Expertise in: Perception, and Stealth

      Levels 10 to 16:
      Class:
      Fighter to 11th level
      Fighting Style Archery,
      ASI’s: +1 DEX, +1 INT, +1 STR

      Levels 17 – 20
      Class: Rogue to 7th level
      ASI: +2 DEX
      Expertise in: Athletics, and Thieves tools

    • ECD says:

      School of Necromancy Wizard is probably what you’re looking for.

      A circle of Spores Druid, or Death Domain (if your DM allows it) Cleric would be alternatives that maintain a necromantic vibe and powers.

      On specific builds, it depends on group and goal, but for a caster you can’t go wrong focusing on their spellcasting attribute, with con and dex as secondary stats. For a spellcaster, pumping the first ASIs into your spellcasting until you get to 20 is probably the right choice as it ups spell DC and attacks. Then feats depends on your interests and party.

      I tend to view the wizard base class as strong enough that multi-classing isn’t worth it.

      • cassander says:

        animate dead (the spell) seems pretty minimally useful. are there ways to make raising the dead viable in 5e yet or will I need to wait for the inevitable splat books?

        • ECD says:

          Animate dead and minionmancy generally are rather overpowered in 5e due to the bounded accuracy. Additionally, remember that because you control them, you can also equip them and they aren’t stuck with the gear listed. Depending on wealth, or loot, you can have your skeletons outfitted with half-plate (AC 17, given their dex) and wielding longbows (only +4 to attacks but 1d8+2+proficiency bonus (minimum 3 maximum 5).

          Managing it can (reportedly, I don’t play minionmancers, as I find the management painful) be rough, but if you’ve got enough room to deploy, it can get powerful fairly fast, especially as you can cast it multiple times. The real limits are your max control number, time and money for equipment.

          However, the other players may not love sitting and watching you spend as much time as everyone else put together to do your four (note you can maintain control over more than you can summon with one level 3 slot, so as prep you’d cast, short rest and use arcane recovery to get the level 3 slot back, recast and have four, then in future you can maintain all four with one slot in the morning, then short rest to get it back before adventuring all day behind your guards) longbow attacks and move your skeletons forward, as a bonus action at level five.

          This is mostly hearsay, but I think it’s doable.

          ETA: Technically you might be able to do 8, but I think that might run into timing issues with the 24 hour period.

          • cassander says:

            intriguing. We’re starting at first level, so it will take a while to get there, but I like the notion, and I can probably convince the DM to let me do larger, but fewer creatures if we ever get that far. It looks like 5e has really changed how character progression works. Is there a strong reason to go wizard over cleric?

          • ECD says:

            Yeah. If your DM is looking for models, the revised ranger companion might be a good place to look, as it scales quite well with player advancement. Frankly that scaling makes more sense for a bone golem or whatever, as you’re tinkering with it and grow more powerful.

            Might be a bit overpowered on a full-caster chassis, but that could be dealt with.

          • caethan says:

            The benefit of wizard over cleric is the 6th level school of necromancy benefit: your minions get bonus HP and bonus damage.

          • Spookykou says:

            Last I looked the companions are like 70% of a player character, giving one to a player character as a pet has pretty serious balance implications.

          • ECD says:

            Last I looked the companions are like 70% of a player character, giving one to a player character as a pet has pretty serious balance implications.

            Oh, definitely. The question is what do you pay for it? If it’s quite a few spell slots essentially permanently locked down on maintaining control of the creature you may well be balanced, even without the social issues which come with trying to walk around with a bone golem (or whatever).

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          animate dead (the spell) seems pretty minimally useful. are there ways to make raising the dead viable in 5e yet or will I need to wait for the inevitable splat books?

          A level 11 necromancer has 3 third-level spells that can command up to 4 skeletons each, 3 fourth-level spells that can command up to 6 skeletons each, 2 fifth-level spells that can command up to 8 skeletons each, and 1 sixth-level spell that can command up to 10 skeletons, for a total of 54 skeletons.

          A skeleton has 13 Hit Points, Armor Class 13, +4 to hit with a shortbow (range 80 feet at 1d20+4, 320 feet at 2d20 take-the-worse +4). That’s similar but not tactically equal to having a bone golem with 702 HP (but only +4 to hit, which is not mechanically impossible in 5E, just against tradition), crap AC and 54 pairs of arms making ranged attacks. That’s incredibly OP in 5E.
          (To make the 702 HP bone golem more equal to the Centurion Necromancer’s troops, a DM would want to make it lose 1 arm from each attack that does >6 damage and give it a vulnerability where Fireball reduces it to inanimate bones like a weird special Dispel.)

          • ECD says:

            It’s even worse, because the Necromancer gets their level added to HP, so it’s actually 24 HP per skeleton.

          • cassander says:

            Yeah, I saw the +4 to hit for skellies and was thinking about that in 3.5 terms, not realizing how much they’d scaled down attack bonuses in 5e.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            It’s even worse, because the Necromancer gets their level added to HP, so it’s actually 24 HP per skeleton.

            I stand corrected! So you effectively get a monster with 1296 hit points and 54 attacks from 108 arms, though Fireball usually dispels it.
            And 11th level isn’t even that impressive anymore. When I’ve played Adventurers League (Hasbro-sanctioned 5E play), you gain a level just from sitting in the chair for 2 4-hour sessions.

          • ECD says:

            And 11th level isn’t even that impressive anymore. When I’ve played Adventurers League (Hasbro-sanctioned 5E play), you gain a level just from sitting in the chair for 2 4-hour sessions.

            I wouldn’t know, my main campaign has stayed at nine for a long time. I think my DM is having some serious concerns about power creep, especially with six of us. Still, it’s actually pretty nice. We all know our tools, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to use them to solve the problem at hand.

            I stand corrected! So you effectively get a monster with 1296 hit points and 54 attacks from 108 arms, though Fireball usually dispels it.

            It’s definitely nice, but at the same time, the main limitation looks like it’s going to be spacing (good luck getting your army to all be in the same room in a dungeon crawl) logistics (no need for food, but lots of need for more remains and supplies) and maybe politics (DM dependent, but in most settings, trying to show up with an undead army ends up getting heroes and/or assassins sent after you).

    • Spookykou says:

      Lliira seems like the best bet, the goddess of eternal motion, her funerary rites are supposed to include animating the dead, maybe something like, you take the skeletons on a final journey, which is why they travel around with you.

      Still I would go with a religious wizard rather than a cleric, maybe with the acolyte background. The flavor for Clerics in basic 5e is very anti-undead full stop, especially the grave cleric.

    • Randy M says:

      Pff, my group was doing D&D pandemics before it was cool.
      I actually texted the DM when we had to cancel the third arc of our “stop the plague” campaign due to the social distancing, “wow, you really out did your prop design this time.”

      • Spookykou says:

        Oddly similar thing happened in my D&D game with a plague plotline that was running for a few sessions before Covid hit the stage.

    • broblawsky says:

      If your GM is willing to consider 3rd-party material, the Channeler makes for an interesting ghost-summoner.

      Alternatively, the Hexblade Warlock from Xanathar’s Guide gains the ability to summon spectres and can temporarily animate zombies or skeletons with Danse Macabre.

      Edit: the Phantom Rogue could also be interesting.

      As for viable choice for FR gods who might be willing to countenance necromancy:
      – Velsharoon, god of necromancy
      – Shar, goddess of entropy
      – Bhaal, god of murder
      – Jergal, god of memorials

    • strstr says:

      My current group invented the Ronald Reagan inspired god “Reaganov”. I’m currently playing as a Cleric that worships Reaganov and desires to bring the Free Market to all (for a price). His devout followers can invoke the invisible hand for assistance (cast Unseen Servant). There are more specifics, but they are all basically whatever our group thought was amusing (like the divination spell directly requiring gold).

      I find it to fun to worship a cartoonish take on a neoliberal/capitalist god. The “moral flexibility” is nice in our current campaign, since it throws a lot of curve balls when it comes to who/what we interact with. We were recently trying to establish free trade with the Feywild. We were eventually banned and told to never return (due to some unfortunate accidents involving fireballs).

      If you know your group well enough, you could also pick something else and worship a cartoonish take on it. In the same vein, Marx would probably work (but you would be inspiring the workers to unite). You’d probably have the knock spell since you have nothing to lose but your chains. Obviously, I’m stuck in the political philosophy mindset, but there are certainly others.

      As to how angles like this play out with necromancy: Reagan could be freeing his servants from death. Marx could be inviting all workers to unite, undead or alive.

      • rocoulm says:

        My current group invented the Ronald Reagan inspired god “Reaganov”

        He’s True Neutral but his most devout followers swear he’s Lawful Good?

        • strstr says:

          Reaganov can either be true neutral or lawful neutral. Mostly depends on how militant you are about Freedom. Mix in just a bit of ambivalence and you land in true neutral territory.

          Unlike the real world, Reaganov’s followers have no problem judging his good-vs-neutral-ness, since they unfortunately have mechanical effects. You could make all his followers be under the illusion that all effects that distinguish the two imply that He is good, which would be funny. I should keep that in mind.

          • bullseye says:

            Alignment has very little mechanical effect in 5e. A cleric can have any alignment regardless of their god’s alignment. Just about the only way to find out Reaganov’s alignment would be to somehow meet him in person, give him a magic item that cares about alignment, and ask him to use it

    • fibio says:

      Worship yourself, when one day you become powerful enough to ascend to the pantheon you can reach back through time and retroactively grant yourself miracles.

  21. relative-energy says:

    Scott, it’s really good of you to stand up for Hsu like this. Thanks for doing it!

  22. gbdub says:

    This was supposed to be a culture-war free open thread

    Aren’t fractional threads usually CW allowed? Or were you planning on making this one a special exception?

    • GearRatio says:

      Special exception. He thought things were getting too heated lately and was considering telling everyone to knock it off temporarily.

      • Gerry Quinn says:

        And then CW came knocking on the door…

      • gbdub says:

        Where did he say this? And if he meant it, I hope he reconsiders. The Culture War is very much live and immediately relevant right now, and I much appreciate a place to talk about it where more than one opinion is allowed

        • Nick says:

          From 156:

          5. Speaking of protests, the open threads have been getting pretty intense lately. I realize some awful stuff has been going on, and emotions are really high, but I want everyone to take a deep breath and try to calm down a little bit before saying anything you’ll regret later. I will be enforcing the usually-poorly-enforced ban on culture war topics in this thread with unrecorded deletions. I may or may not suspend the next one or two hidden threads to give everyone a chance to calm down. I hope everybody is staying safe and sane during these difficult times.

          I take “I may or may not suspend the next one or two hidden threads” together with 156.25’s “This was supposed to be a culture-war free open thread, but I guess the ship has sailed on that one” to say Scott was definitely leaning toward making this thread culture war free after all, and when the Hsu thing came up decided he couldn’t do that consistently.

          • gbdub says:

            Gotcha. I either missed that last sentence, or interpreted it to mean “open threads might not be posted at all”.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think his goal was mainly “stop talking about BLM-related stuff.”

    • No One In Particular says:

      Do you mean “fractious”?

  23. gallowstree says:

    Most of the people who are ‘just asking questions’ and ‘support free inquiry’ when it comes to genetics, race, intelligence, etc. have not actually done the work of seriously grounding themselves in the science and literature. They’d rather idly speculate and have provocative-sounding conversations. Weirdly, this trait is often stronger in people who do have (different) areas of incredibly strong domain knowledge. The reverse thought experiment is illustrative – we would think it was very peculiar for a geneticist to go on podcasts and carry on about research in astrophysics or quantum mechanics.

    I don’t think this is something that is necessarily cancel-worthy, but to pretend that this is all totally normal behavior for an academic is not accurate.

    (P.S. And as other commenters have pointed out, claiming that Molyneux wasn’t well known as an alt-right figure in 2017 strains credulity.)

    EDIT: I missed in his bio that he had transitioned over to do some computational work in genetics/genomics. So he has more grounding than some other ‘race and genetics’ provocateurs. But his publication record is very sparse (5 papers total I can find), and most of it has to do with polygenic risk scores which are of…questionable utility, to put it charitably.

    • GearRatio says:

      The reverse thought experiment is illustrative – we would think it was very peculiar for a geneticist to go on podcasts and carry on about research in astrophysics or quantum mechanics.

      Not really. Shuffle your specialties and that’s what Neil Degrasse Tyson is. Nobody thinks it’s weird until it’s a banned thought.

      • ECD says:

        I’m confused, I know Degrasse Tyson as mostly a space guy and a preliminary look on his wiki page lists his degrees as all being in astronomy and astrophysics.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          He thinks he’s a qualified historian on the side.
          I’m 90% confident there’s a screen cap where he’s standing in front of a Powerpoint slide of this infamous chart to support atheism. Did I imagine that, guys?

          • No One In Particular says:

            I find your sarcasm in lieu of an explicit point unseemly.

          • ECD says:

            I mean, maybe, but: “I can’t agree to the claims by atheists that I’m one of that community. I don’t have the time, energy, interest of conducting myself that way… I’m not trying to convert people. I don’t care.”

            The closest I can find is his essay “Holy Wars,” which includes some stuff that might be moderately bad history of near New Athiest type, but also states:

            “Successful researchers do not get their science from their religious beliefs. On the other hand, the methods of science have little or nothing to contribute to ethics, inspiration, morals, beauty, love, hate, or aesthetics. These are vital elements of civilized life, and are central to the concerns of nearly every religion. What it all means is that for many scientists there is no conflict of interest.”

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @ECD: Cool, thanks for that quote.

            And for clarification, that wasn’t sarcasm. That was a Bayesian statement by someone with Aspergers, adjusting “I was sure I…” down based on knowledge of memory fallibility.

        • GearRatio says:

          In interview settings, he will talk about nuclear power, AI, global warming and genetics, to name a few I’ve heard him talking about. Here’s him talking about global warming, nuclear, automation and civil war history while being interviewed by somebody a lot of people consider an alt-right racist; no eyes were batted.

          • ECD says:

            I mean, maybe…but I’m not seeing any references to Adam Carolla as alt-right in his wiki page, unlike Molyneux. The closest it comes is a couple of controversies that are pretty clearly him being an idiot more than anything else (which obviously doesn’t mean he couldn’t/isn’t a racist).

      • gallowstree says:

        Degrasse Tyson largely sticks in physics and space, and even then is routinely mocked for holding forth on subjects he knows very little about (to be fair, some of this is just the inherent suspicion scientists have of any researcher who gets famous and/or gives a TED Talk).

        • GearRatio says:

          Degrasse Tyson largely sticks in physics and space, and even then is routinely mocked for holding forth on subjects he knows very little about

          He largely sticks to physics and space, but is routinely mocked for something he barely does, somehow? I would think the part where he’s known for getting out of his lane might be indicative of him getting out of his lane.

          Also, and very importantly: getting routinely mocked is not comparable in any substantial way to what Hsu is getting, which is something close to “let’s slur this guy with the agreed-upon ‘worst thing to be’ title and more-or-less destroy his career”. If Scott was telling us to protest Hsu getting made fun of on twitter and nothing else, nobody would care; if people were trying to hurt NGT in substantial ways for having an opinion on nuclear, I’d be similarly pissed.

          • keaswaran says:

            Nearly all of his TV show was rightly mocked for its ignorance of the history. I mean, saying that Giordano Bruno is some sort of ignored scientist, and saying that Newton was good and Hooke bad, is really a whole lot of buying unthinkingly into lots of propaganda.

    • Gerry Quinn says:

      Well, if he is ignorant on the subject, it should make it all the easier to prove him wrong, no?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      He runs a genetics company and he was on the first team to create a working polygenic predictor for height. It’s possible there are levels beyond his, but the highest-level people I know seem to endorse him (check the names on his petition – Robert Plomin is one of them).

    • Talexander Urok says:

      The reverse thought experiment is illustrative – we would think it was very peculiar for a geneticist to go on podcasts and carry on about research in astrophysics or quantum mechanics.

      Maybe all you’re observing here is that some disciplines make it into a controversy and others don’t? Did any physicists care that John Von Neumann didn’t have any credentials in physics, only chemical engineering and mathematics? There are plenty of crank physicists on the History Channel, but I believe the complaint there is that they don’t know what they’re talking about, not that they are “invading” other disciplines.

      • TomMustang says:

        I think theoretical physicists are special in that they are smart enough to do whatever they want. Off the top of my head, I believe Scott mentions how absurdly smart they are at the beginning of “the parable of talents, but he’s definitely said that many times. Theoretical physics is weird in that lots of people without a background pop-in, while lots of people with backgrounds in theoretical physics do amazing things in other fields.

        Smart people gonna smart.

        If you’re smart enough to be a publishable theoretical physicist, you will probably be awesome at lots of things too.

        The salient feature here isn’t degrees, it’s IQ.

        • boylermaker says:

          Replace “smart” with “mathy”, and I think you’re on to something. Every discipline needs math-ronin to ride in and and do your equations for you, and theoretical physicists are likely better-equipped than average to do this. Genetics is a subfield of biology that is especially amenible to gas-law style idealization, and so math is especially useful in that context.

          I would hesitate to say “smart” exactly because I have seen too many things like physicists trying to come in and solve biology by things like the physics of glass cooling [not a joke; also maybe paywalled, but the abstract will give you all you need], or whatever nonsense-du-jour Nassim Taleb is spouting today about GM crops. (Taleb is admittedly not a physicist, but people on the borderline between statistics and economics have contributed-via-math much more to biology than physicists, so I think it’s fair to lump in in the general category).

    • Murphy says:

      polygenic risk scores

      As a bioinformatician, I kinda dislike how polygenic risk scores get used. They can be informative when used properly.

      But they also often get used as a fallback form of data dredging for people who couldn’t p-hack any more interesting results.

      I think some of it is an artefact of how a handful of the most commonly used tools like plink output their results. One thing I always have to stress when talking to our grad students is that when plink spits out a low p-value variant it’s very very common for people to get fixated on that specific variant… when in reality it’s most likely not that variant itself doing anything but rather something in the surrounding haplotype blocks.

      Polygenic risk scores tend to replicate terribly across populations for this reason. Because of course various common snps are associated with completely different blocks.

      In practice it means that if you are using a polygenic risk score to check someone’s risk of [x] you need to use different tests depending on the population of the subject…. which is apparently politically unacceptable now even in medical tests with a solid statistical grounding in a manner that even a couple of years ago people would have called an absurd Strawman because apparently admitting any average physical difference between populations, even when medically relevant is politically unacceptable.

      For the record I strongly oppose Lysenkoism in all it’s forms. If you aren’t allowed come to a politically unpopular conclusion then any politically acceptable conclusions you do publish are meaningless.

      • Christopher Chang says:

        plink developer (and direct collaborator with Stephen Hsu) here.

        It is long past time that I created an updated tutorial and FAQ; I’ll try to include an explicit warning against the common misinterpretation you describe. If you’ve noticed other common pitfalls, feel free to elaborate on them either here or in a direct email to me.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          @Christopher Chang

          If you are willing and able I’d be very appreciative if you can answer my concerns in the following three posts as to Stephen Hsu’s work and company:

          https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/06/16/open-thread-156-25/#comment-916234
          https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/06/16/open-thread-156-25/#comment-916278
          https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/06/16/open-thread-156-25/#comment-916702
          (Please note with respect to the issue posed in the third link: I have a tic-related obsessive-compulsive disorder. While this has been an annoying impediment at times, it also gave me a facility with basic arithmetic and an interest in digit-sum mathematics. Had I chosen to become a mathematician it is quite likely that my tic-related OCD would have been a source of inspiration.)

          Thanks,
          Anonymousskimmer

        • Murphy says:

          Hi

          I wasn’t expecting my sentiment to reach a plink developer!

          I suspect just adding a line to the FAQ won’t catch peoples attention much unfortunately. I’d suggest a line in the text output or a line somehow specifying an approximate estimated interval…. but I suspect there’s a thousand other explicit clarifications that people suggest and it’s not practical to include all the caveats.

          Congrats on writing one of the most used/useful tools in Bioinformatics!

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      Steve Hsu predicted the sample sizes necessary to create polygenic riskscores that capture most of the genetic variance in certain traits. At the time the field was all over the place in discussions of the “missing heritability”.

      Then he validated that prediction with a polygenic risk score that captures most of the genetic variance in height.

      Frankly, while height might not be one of them, there are a lot of traits where capturing most of the heritable variance by a prs is extremely high utility.

      Your objections would have sounded reasonable five years ago. Now, they are just wrong.

  24. No One In Particular says:

    This week, some students at Michigan State are trying to cancel him.

    I expect better from you, Scott. Take that as a compliment, or insult, or both, as you wish. If students want to get him fired, why not just say “Students want to get him fired”? You also don’t discuss who these students are, how many there are, what power they have, etc.

    They point an interview he did on an alt-right podcast

    You’re missing a “to” between “point” and “an”.

    You can read the case being made against him here, although keep in mind a lot of it is distorted and taken out of context, and you can read his response here.

    While I can understand a reluctance to stand on principle when one’s job is on the line, shouldn’t there be a social norm that anyone childish enough to put their complaint in a Twitter thread should be simply dismissed out of hand? “Hey, I have this super-serious point to make, and I’m going to split it into 144-character bits so it can be read with thirty-years-old technology that is trendy for some reason.”

    If you support him, you can sign the petition to keep him on here.

    Things that come to mind when reading this are “dollar auction”, “virtue signalling”, and “slacktivism”. I have virtually no connection to Michigan, academia, or race studies. There is no rational reason for MSU to take my opinion into consideration. I guess your implicit position is “I expect MSU to act irrationally regarding this matter, and I encourage you to manipulate that irrationality to the goals that I favor”. Kinda goes against the “Guided By The Beauty Of Our Weapons” thing.

    • Spookykou says:

      A note of personal preference, including a typo in a critical post feels rude in a way the typo correction alone would not.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I thought “cancel” made the dynamic clearer than “fire”. I agree I’m a little annoyed at a lot of the ways it’s used, but I can’t think of a real argument against using it, so I kept it.

      I signal-boosted the petition because Steve asked me to. I also asked him whether it was worth having non-academics sign it. He says that it is, and since he is a high-ranking official at a university, I assume he knows more about how to influence high-ranking officials at universities than I do.

      It’s possible he’s just wrong and very bad at PR (see: the current situation), but I figured I would give him the benefit of the doubt and let him coordinate his own defense.

      • keaswaran says:

        I, for one, would have appreciated at least *some* description of what “cancel” means here. Do they want MSU to relegate him from VPR to a regular faculty position? Do they want MSU to revoke his tenure and fire him? Do they want MSU to write a Strongly Worded Letter that all the thousands of students can retweet? Do they want Twitter and YouTube to suspend his accounts? All of these are reasonably described by the word “cancel”, and while some of them seem like overreaction, not all of them obviously are.

      • No One In Particular says:

        I can’t think of a real argument against using it

        I find it vague and hyperbolic. When it comes to talking about this sort of conduct in the aggregate, I can see the “I can’t think of a better term” argument, but in a particular case, you can just say what’s going on.

        I assume he knows more about how to influence high-ranking officials at universities than I do.

        That doesn’t address the issue of having an arms race of petition-signing. Signing petitions is not a weapon that the “good guys” can wield any better than the “bad guys”. Maybe you think winning the game is more important than challenging it, but it does go against positions you’ve taken previously.

    • 10240 says:

      There is no rational reason for MSU to take my opinion into consideration. I guess your implicit position is “I expect MSU to act irrationally regarding this matter, and I encourage you to manipulate that irrationality to the goals that I favor”.

      I’d say either they act rationally and evaluate the situation independently. In that case signatures don matter.

      Or they act in a silly way and just look at whose mob is the bigger. That’s unfortunate, but if your side doesn’t play the game, it loses.

      Edit: Or (and this is I suspect often a pretty common scenario) they prefer to evaluate the situation independently, but if they see a big mob demanding one thing, and few people opposing it, they may feel the need to cave. If they see that there is broad support for both positions, they can decide themselves.

    • drethelin says:

      Buddy keep up with the times. The President of the United States is using twitter! It’s a big deal. People get fired and hired regularly from stuff posted on there.

    • TomMustang says:

      IDK, Tyler Cowen thinks that Twitter is one of the best, if not the best sources of info. There is lots of great stuff on Twitter. I think it’s fine.

      BUT

      Lets, asssume you’re right, Twitter is silly.

      Well then, where should he respond to his criticism? If not Twitter then where?

      Is Facebook more prestigious? Would his Facebook page get as many views?

      Should he hang flyers around campus?

      Will a post on his blog get as much attention?

      Whatever you think if the “character limit” Twitter was the best way to bring the unfairness to the publics’ attention.

      If not Twitter, what would you have him do?

      • matkoniecz says:

        Tyler Cowen thinks that Twitter is one of the best, if not the best sources of info

        Seriously? I would consider it possible if reduced to some subset, like “about ongoing events” or “personal opinions” or something, but such broad statement is clearly absurd.

      • No One In Particular says:

        IDK, Tyler Cowen thinks that Twitter is one of the best, if not the best sources of info. There is lots of great stuff on Twitter. I think it’s fine.

        I have no idea who Tyler Cowen isto , so while this looks kind of like argument to authority, it’s lacking the “authority” part. Twitter is a terrible source of information. It can be a source of links to information, but actually providing information is not something it does well.

        Well then, where should he respond to his criticism?

        I assume by “him” you mean Hsu. But my criticism was primarily directed towards the students.

        Is Facebook more prestigious? Would his Facebook page get as many views?

        The issue isn’t prestige or views, it’s what’s a proper medium. Twitter is, quite simply, not a proper medium to have an in-depth conversation. Full stop. For over two decades, we’ve had a protocol for transferring text over the internet. It even allows hyperlinks. If you can’t figure out what this hypertext transfer protocol is called, you don’t belong at college. If you want to include a link to a website or word document in a tweet, that’s one thing. But posting your argument in tweets is ridiculous.

        Whatever you think if the “character limit” Twitter was the best way to bring the unfairness to the publics’ attention.

        I assume you mean “think of” rather than “think if”. That typo, plus the lack of a comma after “character limit”, makes your sentence hard to parse. And the apostrophe in “publics'” is in the wrong place. Even if Twitter was the most effective strategy, there’s still wider issues such as participating in the degradation of discourse.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        Literally the only thing I know about Tyler Cowen is that I think he had an argument with Scott about preferences and psychology, and from what I remember I’m pretty sure Scott is right and this Cowen guy is wrong.

        • Nick says:

          Are you sure you aren’t thinking of Bryan Caplan?

          • Dan L says:

            Confusingly, here is Cowen weighing in on that disagreement with Caplan.

            Cowen comments on Scott’s work from time to time, with varying levels of approval. (And vice versa.) Depends on the topic.

          • Nick says:

            @Dan L
            Huh, I missed that post at the time. I only read MR on and off. Looks like Tyler agrees with Scott, though, with some criticism for his approach.

  25. LightlyRow says:

    If you’re researching infectious diseases, everyone understands that you need to work in secure facilities and take precaution in your work lest you accidentally release a dangerous pathogen or allow someone to break in and maliciously do so.

    It’s the same thing with genetics research and speculation on racial differences. There is an incredibly energetic and highly-motivated set of bad-faith actors who will use anything they can to legitimize white supremacist views. There is an even larger contingent of casual racists who would believe racist views if given by a plausible authority.

    If you’re a researcher, you need to take heightened precautions before even speculating on racial differences and you need to take pro-active measures to minimize the chances that your research is purposefully used for ill-intent. This is as unfair as it is unfair to demand that Ebola researchers have thorough safety procedures and a secure facility before they can recreate the virus.

    Steve took very little precautions. If you don’t think his blog has been used by racists, just read the comments. This isn’t a case of someone being caught up because a bad group happened to stumble upon their website. He allowed his legitimacy as a professor and the VP of research for a major institution to be used by actors with obvious ill-intent repeatedly. He is not being punished for researching taboo topics – there are plenty of genetics researchers, plenty of intelligence researchers, plenty of people who are studying difference in genetics between human sub-groups who are not being cancelled. He’s being cancelled from his job as VP of research, not as a professor because he is so blasé about the risk that it demonstrates exceptionally bad judgment.

    It is characteristic of Scott that doesn’t address any of the actual claims of the petition, relying instead on Steve being kind and patient and having a good heart. Lots of people who are reckless have the same qualities. It has no bearing on anything. If you’re reckless with this type of risk, an institution has every right to determine that you don’t deserve to hold a position of power and prestige.

    • Cliff says:

      If you’re a researcher, you need to take heightened precautions before even speculating on racial differences and you need to take pro-active measures to minimize the chances that your research is purposefully used for ill-intent.

      What type of precautions are you thinking of? Like, you can’t allow blog comments if you research in this area?

      • LightlyRow says:

        Like you need to be much more definitive to highlight the limitations of the research, be careful to correct ambiguity in your statements, be careful about the forums and circumstances in which you discuss the research, take steps to rectify if you made mistakes. I noted the blog comments as an indication of how the usual readers of his blog evaluate his writing. Having someone misinterpret you is not the fault here, it is a consistent failure to take any kind of care.

        I’m sure the usual suspects will be out in full force outraged that research in this area should be any more sensitive than anything else, but they are all disingenuous in their arguments. Every single person I have discussed this topic with online or in person is consistently outraged because *they believe that genetic differences between racial groups results in average cognitive differences and that aggregate social outcomes are due to this difference*. They don’t care about free inquiry – they never defend anything else in any other context – they just care that this particular view be maintained.

        • textor says:

          To demonstrate that people you’ve talked to do not care about free inquiry, you’d do well to either show them not being in support of free inquiry in general (Sam Harris comes to mind as a counterexample), or this topic being a representative one. So can you come up with another contentious topic which deals with such a consequential issue, has such a wealth of data in support for the position that’s socially shunned, and is censored to a comparable degree? Ah, but you’re of the mind that it’s not being censored:

          He is not being punished for researching taboo topics – there are plenty of genetics researchers, plenty of intelligence researchers, plenty of people who are studying difference in genetics between human sub-groups who are not being cancelled. He’s being cancelled from his job as VP of research, not as a professor because he is so blasé about the risk that it demonstrates exceptionally bad judgment.

          Forgive me for pedantry; Geoffrey Miller says, in a thread about another such cancellation:

          There are fewer than 500 active intelligence researchers in the world, and fewer than 250 usually attend the International Society for Intelligence Research annual conferences. By contrast, there are tens of thousands of social psychologists. The deterrence is very effective.

          Now you could also add Geoffrey to your list of people who you imply have some objectionable motivations, but he’s right; research of genetics of intelligence is extremely unpopular, to the extent research of intelligence itself, without any racial angle, is becoming toxic. Also, you are not correct that he is being canceled because of bad judgement, at least inasmuch as you don’t mean his cancellation is a consequence of bad judgement; grad student union’s intent is explicitly to punish his views per se.

          I also have issue with the following:

          There is an incredibly energetic and highly-motivated set of bad-faith actors who will use anything they can to legitimize white supremacist views.

          Is there any evidence for this being a real issue? But of course yours is a belief the supporter of this witchhunt shares, as he attacks luminaries like Arthur Jensen and William Shockley, claiming that they were motivated by money and not pursuit of truth; and gloats that “hereditarianism” is being slowly erased from the field.

          I find your thinly veiled accusations of bad faith hypocritical, sorry.

          • gallowstree says:

            Asserting that there is a ‘wealth of data’ supporting racial differences in IQ, and subsequently disputing any link between genetics and white supremacy, makes me think that your empirical standards are perhaps not terribly consistent.

          • LightlyRow says:

            Is there any evidence for this being a real issue?

            Is there any proof that humans have consistently used race as a justification for violence? You’re obviously arguing in bad faith, can’t take anything you say with any ounce of seriousness if you actually doubt the existence of white supremacists as being an issue or don’t recognize the propensity of humans to latch on to race as a justification for violence.

            I’m sure that there exists a strongly organized group of people who are trying to silence others because they disagree with their political views, but there does not exist a strongly organized group of people trying to implement a racial caste system.

          • Aapje says:

            @LightlyRow

            Is there any proof that humans have consistently used the desire to stamp out beliefs they consider harmful as a justification for violence?

            I’m sure that there exists a strongly organized group of people who are trying to silence others because they disagree with their political views, but there does not exist a strongly organized group of people trying to implement a racial caste system.

            So does that mean that you agree that people have a point who don’t see white supremacy as such a serious issue that it requires us violating our core principles, because there is not actually a real risk of ending up with an institutionalized racial caste system, but there is a real risk of institutionalized silencing of people with certain views?

          • AlesZiegler says:

            There obviously is “an incredibly energetic and highly-motivated set of bad-faith actors who will use anything they can to legitimize white supremacist views”. They are generally called, you know, white supremacists.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @Scoop

            Wait, you are claiming that white supremacists do not exist?

          • Nick says:

            @AlesZiegler
            He’s not claiming white supremacists don’t exist, he’s claiming they aren’t an issue anymore. That is explicitly what he said. It’s also implied by the linked section of Scott’s article, which provides evidence that white supremacists are rare and powerless.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @Nick

            Oh, I see. We will just have to agree to disagree on that, I guess. I think that even if they are few in number, they are still an issue.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @AlesZiegler: If a certain heresy is socially dangerous, how much effort should we dedicate and how much should we trade off other values to reduce their number from “a few thousand, probably all in low-status positions” down to a number where we feel they’re not an issue at all and what would that number be?

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Frankly, I do not like this phrasing of “reducing the number” of white supremacists, as if they should be sent to gulag. That is most certainly not what I want. But I do think that people who work in the field of human genetics should be aware that their research might be misrepresented as a part of racial (including nonwhite) supremacist propaganda, and they should not treat racial supremacism as a non-issue.

        • Cliff says:

          To be clear, are you saying Hsu was not being careful in the things he said about his research? Or are you saying he should have policed his comments more?

          • LightlyRow says:

            He was not careful in the things he said. The comments are evidence of his failure to take sufficient care – not just because he should have known how his statements would be misused, but because he *did* know (as indicated by the consistently racist comments on his blog through many years) and he did not adjust his behavior to be more clear or forceful on the topics to mitigate the ability of of misuse. This is sufficient, in my view, to lose a VP of Research position because of the lack of judgment it demonstrates. It is not sufficient, imo, to revoke tenure.

        • B_Epstein says:

          Your experience online and your interpretation thereof are your own. But there certainly are many who are willing to consider non-extremal options – “perhaps genetic differences amount to small differences in cognitive ability between groups, though almost certainly smaller than internal variance. These differences might explain some part of the observed social outcomes. If we don’t understand this well, we won’t be able to have meaningful discussions on this vital topic.” Are all people holding this view being disingenuous? Did no person you’ve met online profess this, not even a view, but a question?

          • Simon_Jester says:

            Either the supposed cognitive differences are significant, or they aren’t.

            If you hold that they aren’t significant, then the people advocating mindfulness of them are putting WAY too much effort into a subject likely to yield marginal returns on investment. A two-point IQ difference, say, would be inadequate to explain observed racial disparities in American society

            If you hold that they are significant, then you’re basically arguing something that might impolitely be phrased as “our society cannot accommodate green people without acknowledging the obvious truth that green people are, on the whole and on average, with perhaps some honorable exceptions, rather stupid.”

            This latter is a position that has a long history of being held in the face of ample evidence to the contrary, through multiple paradigm shifts in biology and medicine, ceding only very stubbornly and very slowly to changes that make the old positions untenable.

            It is this combination that gives rise to such suspicion. On the one hand, language is often used to imply that the differences are small BUT that it is vitally important that we keep talking about them. On the other hand, the idea that these differences even exist has been defended for centuries in a stubborn rear-guard action for centuries. The rear guard includes people who grow so wrathful and bitter at the idea of racial equality that they resort to terrorism when they’re afraid it might happen.

            I am reminded of an analogy Scott used several years ago. Imagine that the Department of Public Works starts putting a new chemical in the water. They assure you that it will not, contrary to scurrilous rumors, cause your fingers to fall off. But you notice that when splashed with the chemical they scream “NOOOO MY FINGERS!” and panic and wash it off themselves.

            When a claim is frequently advanced by people with strong apparent motive to manipulate the truth, suspicion becomes inevitable.

          • B_Epstein says:

            ……
            ……
            I’m genuinely confused. One of us really misreads the other.

            First, my point was simply that LightlyRow engaged in massive hyperbole, pretty much claiming that all online discussion of this topic is driven by more-or-less hidden white supremacists, not-too-thinly implying that no decent and reasonable person would ever question the mainstream position – and thus if someone does question it, they’re not decent and reasonable. I don’t see how your reply really engages with mine, here.

            Second,

            Either the supposed cognitive differences are significant, or they aren’t.

            Nope. Just nope. You don’t get to reply to a comment about the existence of a continuum by simply assuming a dichotomy.

            Next,

            If you hold that they aren’t significant, then the people advocating mindfulness of them are putting WAY too much effort into a subject likely to yield marginal returns on investment. A two-point IQ difference, say, would be inadequate to explain observed racial disparities in American society

            Disparities are multi-faceted. If we’re measuring, e.g., the number of key politicians and CEOs, then a two-point average difference might well explain a lot. Or perhaps it would take 5 points. Or 500. Wouldn’t we want to know?.. For reference, what is your stance on the 15-20 IQ advantage enjoyed by subsets of Ashkenazi Jews as an explanation for their unusual prominence in certain fields?

            Then,

            If you hold that they are significant, then you’re basically arguing something that might impolitely be phrased as “our society cannot accommodate green people without acknowledging the obvious truth that green people are, on the whole and on average, with perhaps some honorable exceptions, rather stupid.”

            You can absolutely hold that they’re significant (what does that mean?..) but less so than internal variance (as I wrote, explicitly). That is entirely and obviously different from your description.

            The rear guard includes people who grow so wrathful and bitter at the idea of racial equality that they resort to terrorism when they’re afraid it might happen.

            Eh, the avant-guard of the opposite idea includes people who grow so wrathful and bitter at the idea of any kind of physical difference between races, including, say, height, that they resort to denial of medical differences (and sometimes, terrorism). Both these groups suck a great deal. That’s a blatantly obvious “reverse intelligence” mistake.

          • 10240 says:

            @Simon_Jester Holding that racial differences in personality are significant, on the basis of bogus evidence, was widespread back when political pressure, and the biases of the scientists themselves, were in favor of the belief that differences were significant. Today, political pressures and the biases of most scientists are very much in favor of the belief that there are no such differences. As such, there is much more likelihood of the latter belief being held very stubbornly, even if there is little or no evidence for it.

          • LightlyRow says:

            Are all people holding this view being disingenuous? Did no person you’ve met online profess this, not even a view, but a question?

            My experience, which is just my own, is that literally all of the people I’ve met, when pressed on this issue (and who hold a strong or weak view that genetic differences do exist and the genetic differences are responsible for aggregate social outcomes), have a significant attachment to it because they believe that it should be a serious consideration in determining which legal policies (affirmative action, policing, etc.) to take. They are attached to the belief itself because of its political implications, and not to the belief as a curious scientific fact in itself. That might be just my experience, but I have read Chateau Heartiste back when he was Roissy and am well familiar with the alt-right / manosphere / MRA / race-realist / neo-reaction / dark enlightenment blogs and thinkers since way back in Obama’s first term, and I feel pretty confident in my belief that the focus on this topic is precisely because they would like to use it as a justification for certain politics and not because of an interest in science.

          • 10240 says:

            @LightlyRow It’s likely that people are interested in this topic because of its political implications. Does that mean that this interest is wrong, or that it’s only right as long as the science supports particular policies?

            You seem to think there is a significant risk that if people wrongly believe in genetic differences (or perhaps even if they rightly believe them), that may lead to dangerous political consequences, but there is no risk from the possibility of people wrongly believing that there are no differences. If the only options on the table were discriminating against minorities, or not discriminating against anyone, as they were in the 60s, then this view would be reasonable.

            However, today, legalizing discrimination against minorities is a light-year outside the Overton window; there is a pretty strong consensus that discrimination against historically disadvantaged minorities based on their group membership is wrong even if there is a difference between the mean abilities of the groups. On the other hand, affirmative action in favor of less successful minorities is very much on the table, and it’s usually justified based on the assumption that there are no genetic differences, which (according to some worldviews) implies that disparities in outcomes are the result of injustice. This ideology demands affirmative action to be increased until all races have equal outcomes. If there actually are genetic group differences in abilities, this requires discrimination against white people or successful minorities.

            So, I don’t think the idea that only a belief in the existence of differences can be dangerous holds today.

            I’m not saying that only a false belief that there are no differences is a problem, and a false belief in the existence of differences isn’t. If we wrongly believe that there are genetic differences, then we may pay less attention to (potentially remediable) societal causes of outcome differences.

            As far as I can tell, at this point we don’t know if there are genetic differenes; this is what Hsu says. Then people who assert that there are differences are wrong; they are about equally wrong as people who assert that there are no differences. The former group has about a hundred times less clout.

        • Aapje says:

          @LightlyRow

          Every single person I have discussed this topic with online or in person is consistently outraged because *they believe that genetic differences between racial groups results in average cognitive differences and that aggregate social outcomes are due to this difference*. They don’t care about free inquiry – they never defend anything else in any other context – they just care that this particular view be maintained.

          You can also turn this around: can it be that almost no one who rejects these beliefs is principled enough to defend free speech? That would also result in your observation that only people with one kind of belief speak out in favor of free inquiry, for cases like this.

          Note that you can find people who will defend free inquiry in such beliefs and into other beliefs on this very forum, so your accusation of bad faith is unconvincing to me.

    • gallowstree says:

      Nothing to add to the substance of the original comment, but wanted to register vigorous agreement to the characterization of Hsu’s behavior. This is an issue of professionalism and responsibility.

    • Clutzy says:

      It’s the same thing with genetics research and speculation on racial differences. There is an incredibly energetic and highly-motivated set of bad-faith actors who will use anything they can to legitimize white supremacist views. There is an even larger contingent of casual racists who would believe racist views if given by a plausible authority.

      If true, which I am skeptical of, the same extremely heightened scrutiny should be demanded of social justice social sciences. Because as we have seen, not hypothetically, actually seen in 2020, there is a highly motivated set of bad faith actors that will use anything they can to justify rioting and violence. And there is a large group of leftists willing to use their studies to justify massive changes in public policy.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        If true, which I am skeptical of, the same extremely heightened scrutiny should be demanded of social justice social sciences. Because as we have seen, not hypothetically, actually seen in 2020, there is a highly motivated set of bad faith actors that will use anything they can to justify rioting and violence. And there is a large group of leftists willing to use their studies to justify massive changes in public policy.

        Exactly. No double standards!

      • JPNunez says:

        The current riots were originated on a video of police violence.

        Dunno what that has to do with “social justice social sciences”.

        • Randy M says:

          But why protest in California (let alone Europe) when it is a Minnesota police department, if not for a belief that widespread racism is to blame?

          • Simon_Jester says:

            Because quite a few police departments in California, and for that matter also Europe, also indulge in excessive brutality. Regardless of whether racism is to blame, they’re protesting the murder* of George Floyd because they have reason to worry that they may be next.
            _________________

            *Gonna be blunt, when you choke a man out for like eight minutes, it’s murder.

          • JPNunez says:

            Why wouldn’t you protest in California when that kind of police brutality happens all over the states?

            Europe would be weird, except for this little thing called the internet that allows a video to be shown across the world. Europe has its own racism problems, so this sparking protests over there may be surprising, but not unnatural.

        • gbdub says:

          The proximate cause was a video, sure. But reflect on why you definitely know the name George Floyd but probably don’t know the name Tony Timpa. (Even if you do, consider how many, how large, and how well attended by politicians and the celebrities any memorials to Mr. Timpa or protests of his death have been)

          The idea that unjustified police violence is primarily a racial problem is widespread culturally and seems to be the dominant strain of thought in the academy, to the point of actively suppressing alternative explanations. And both the reactions to individual instances of police violence and the proposed solutions to it are going to be strongly influenced by this, quite possibly in a very negative and destructive way.

          • gbdub says:

            The crazy thing about that (in addition to the obvious) is that the first peak for Tony Timpa (when the video came out last summer) is like 8 times smaller than the current peak, which lags the George Floyd peak by a couple weeks.

            “Breonna Taylor” vs. “Dennis Tuttle” is also instructive. That one is doubly interesting in that “Breonna Taylor” peaked recently at 4x the height of the peak surrounding her actual killing.

            Another (less reliable) approach: Wikipedia maintains monthly lists of individuals killed by police in the US. The lists aren’t comprehensive (although there are a lot of entries) but I poked through to see how many entries were high profile enough to warrant individual Wiki pages. Excluding various mass shooting and terrorism incidents (which have their own pages, but mostly because of the crime and not because the individual died due to police), there does seem to be a bias in that the “notable” incidents are disproportionately black victims. A deeper dive than I have the time or skill for might involve trolling the sources for each death and figuring out what percentage get national publication level coverage.

            The general impression is hard to shake, that the most salient feature in whether a police killing makes national news is the race of the victim.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I remember Tony Timpa, although I rapidly forgot his name.

            But I came across the video many times when it first came out, as sign of the abuses the cops do. Everyone I knew was angry about it, just like everyone I knew was angry about George Floyd.

            I wouldn’t have minded nation-wide protests over him. I’m not sure what they would have looked like, though.

          • gbdub says:

            I didn’t know until a couple days ago. Maybe it was a local/regional thing?

            I know we tend to get coverage of basically every police involved death in the local metroplex, but most don’t seem to become national news.

          • JPNunez says:

            And both the reactions to individual instances of police violence and the proposed solutions to it are going to be strongly influenced by this, quite possibly in a very negative and destructive way.

            I don’t think this is true, or at best, you’d be able to cherrypick examples to support your claim, but overall it does not hold.

            Look at the main proposal by academia to the current protests: defund the police. A simple, clearly non race-based proposal.

            Or putting into google “stop police violence” the first hit is

            https://www.joincampaignzero.org/solutions#solutionsoverview

            Only the fifth (out of ten) proposal is race based, but honestly, does not seem super crazy or biased. Tho I have to question whether this solution would work that well.

            I am sure you can look for more crazier, race-oriented solutions promoted by crazy academians on response to the current riots, or even before (cause police violence is not new), but the public seems v good at latching onto the solutions that are not race-oriented and crazy.

            I remember Tony Timpa, although I rapidly forgot his name.

            But I came across the video many times when it first came out, as sign of the abuses the cops do. Everyone I knew was angry about it, just like everyone I knew was angry about George Floyd.

            I wouldn’t have minded nation-wide protests over him. I’m not sure what they would have looked like, though.

            The cops kill so many people that you’d be rioting year round. People are desensitized to it, which is why only cases where there is maximum injustice are highlighted, thus, cases where black people are concerned, cause it intersects two powerful issues.

        • Clutzy says:

          Social justice science and its not very rigorous statistics are constantly cited by the protesters, rioters, supporters in media, and politicians they are allied with. They are given as justifications not only of the protests, but indeed even of the violence. They have been used to weave a narrative that police are hunting black people.

    • John Schilling says:

      If you’re researching infectious diseases, everyone understands that you need to work in secure facilities and take precaution in your work lest you accidentally release a dangerous pathogen or allow someone to break in and maliciously do so.

      I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the whole “your words are violence!” shtick has been wholly unconvincing every single time I’ve heard it before, and I’m skeptical that you have anything new to say on the matter. Words are words, violence is violence, and I can’t help but think of ways to demonstrate the difference between the two.

      Except, this time you actually do have something new to add. Instead of violence, the words you don’t like are now a deadly plague. And you think this is an appropriate comparison to make now, in the middle of an actual deadly plague that’s already killed a couple orders of magnitude more people this year than the KKK did in their entire existence? Yeah, this version is even more offensive. And I think wholly anticonvincing to anyone who hasn’t already drunk your brand of kool-aid. Let’s not have any more of this, please.

      It’s the same thing with genetics research and speculation on racial differences. There is an incredibly energetic and highly-motivated set of bad-faith actors who will use anything they can to legitimize white supremacist views. There is an even larger contingent of casual racists who would believe racist views if given by a plausible authority.

      By the same logic, anyone in the race- or gender- or ethnic-studes fields, anyone researching intersectional anything, needs to be extraordinarily careful unto the point of self-censorship, lest they set off a riot. Er, another riot. You’ll say that of course that’s different. And you’re right, it is different. The marginal Social Justice Warrior, the kind only one excuse away from taking the “warrior” part to the violently literal level, is I believe far more likely to seriously listen to the words of a scientist or university professor than is the marginal white supremacist.

      I nonetheless do not ask such researchers to suppress their own expression of whatever scientific research they might do, but that’s because I believe academic freedom and the whole panoply of first-amendment rights are not just the Law but Good Ideas. If we’re changing that, suppressing speech because we’re afraid the wrong sorts of people might listen to it – you go first.

      ETA: Ninja’d by Clutzy, at least in part

      • Clutzy says:

        Yours is better. The price of speed is often quality!

      • LightlyRow says:

        And you think this is an appropriate comparison to make now, in the middle of an actual deadly plague that’s already killed a couple orders of magnitude more people this year than the KKK did in their entire existence? Yeah, this version is even more offensive.

        I don’t know who exactly you think you’re fooling here with your clumsy attempt to try to use what you consider to be the tactics of the side you associate me with – like attempting to strike offense at something that you are not offended about. I never mentioned the KKK, because racism is endemic in every culture in every time period and is not limited to the KKK. I can think of at least a dozen genocides that happened in the last 100 years based on race. But, sure, recognizing this exists is drinking the kool-aid. This style of rhetoric you’re trying to use was tired a few years ago and is quickly expiring.

    • HALtheWise says:

      I think the infectious disease analogy is interesting because it highlights some interesting questions about agency and blameworthiness. It seems to me like there’s a spectrum of situations, roughly as follows:
      1) An infectious disease laboratory uses inadequate protective gear, and a deadly disease is released. It would be ridiculous to blame the disease for spreading, since that’s just what diseases naturally do, so we blame the laboratory.
      2) A genetics researcher publishes a paper with a factually true but easily abusable claim about human genetics. White supremacists abuse the true claim to support false and/or harmful beliefs, and ultimately to cause material harm to people. This case is up for debate.
      3) A person wears attractive clothing in a public place. A sexual offender sees them, and rape/abuse ensues. In this case, it’s pretty clear that blaming the victim is bad, and the fault should lie with the criminal.

      In all three cases, the situation could have been avoided by changing the behavior of either the person that took a risk or the entity that ultimately committed the crime, so there is some sense in which either would be “productive” places to lay blame. There are a variety of arguments for why case 1 and case 3 are different, and I find thinking through those to be insightful for deciding how to classify case 2.

      Ultimately, I’m concerned that by transferring blame onto researchers like Steve for the actions of white supremacists, you end up transferring blame off of the white supremacists themselves, and treating them as if they are have no agency themselves (like a virus). That seems dangerous, since I don’t actually think the KKK is a unchangeable part of nature, and I would very much like to work towards a world where there isn’t racial violence no matter what papers get published.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        The problem is that you can only blame a given group of people so hard.

        When an axe murderer murders people with axes, you blame them for it.

        But, to add a humorous hypothetical… Suppose you find out that they kept having problems with their axes breaking, and they kept going back to a particular supplier? And that they’ve been leaving five-star reviews of the supplier saying “this axe is great for murdering people!” At some point, the supplier’s behavior will start to seem downright irresponsible.

        We wouldn’t normally blame the hardware store that sold the murderer the axe… but if there is evidence of a persistent commensal relationship between the store and the murderer, then people may want to address that.

        This is also a reason why the “don’t blame the rape victim” analogy breaks down. In the rape, there are only two parties involved- a criminal, and a victim. It is clear that the criminal is 100% responsible for the crime.

        But here, there are three parties involved: the white supremacists, the targets of white supremacism, and the people who (inadvertently?) keep passing the white supremacists stuff that they see fit to use as ammunition.

        The rapist is clearly responsible for the rape, but if someone keeps selling the rapist Viagra and it never occurs to them “stop, you’re making this worse,” then that does not say good things about them. They’re either gullible or complicit.

        • jesduff says:

          To what extent should Viagra suppliers vet their customers in case they are rapists? If it’s impossible for them to vet their customers, should they stop producing Viagra altogether?

        • But here, there are three parties involved: the white supremacists, the targets of white supremacism, and the people who (inadvertently?) keep passing the white supremacists stuff that they see fit to use as ammunition.

          You are missing a fourth and fifth party — the people who want to claim that unequal outcomes by race (or sex) are proof of discrimination, and do so by a factual claim inconsistent with the researcher’s result, and all the people who are injured if that factual claim is mistaken and the results of making it harmful.

          How do you think the number of people who are confident that unequal outcomes are almost entirely due to discrimination compares with the number who are white supermacists?

          I would guess that it is larger by about two orders of magnitude. If so, the effect of factually true research on white supremacists is likely to be tiny compared to the effect on controversies over what can be attributed to racism/sexism and what to do about it.

          • albatross11 says:

            Also there are a lot of ordinary citizens who are neither researchers nor white supremacists, who would like to know the current state of knowledge in fields like genetics and psychometrics.

        • Monkey See says:

          This analogy doesn’t speak well of X studies departments 😅

    • Murphy says:

      There is an incredibly energetic and highly-motivated set of bad-faith actors who will use anything they can to legitimize white supremacist views. There is an even larger contingent of casual racists who would believe racist views if given by a plausible authority.

      This is Lysenkoism.

      Political Lysenkoism. And Lysenkoism tends to have a price in human lives.

      “our political enemies might like your results, hence pretend you have different results or shut up and don’t tell anyone”

      It’s also absurd. Lets carry forward with your virus comparison.

      Pathogens like Smallpox and TB have killed more people than every war in recorded history and every genocide in recorded history combined. Vaccines are our primary defense against them. As such, if you’re remotely intellectually consistent/honest any argument you make about genetics of race should also apply to talking about vaccine adverse events related to anything that anti-vaxers might use to support their position.

      Every anti-vaxer gishgallop includes papers like this:

      Narcolepsy and Influenza A(H1N1) Pandemic 2009 Vaccination in the United States

      and

      Increased Incidence and Clinical Picture of Childhood Narcolepsy Following the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic Vaccination Campaign in Finland

      Should the authors have avoided talking about it? been quiet about it? Just shut up in case the the collaborators of the ancient evils that have stalked the children of mankind throughout history might find it useful for a quote? Should they have phrased everything in such a way as to not imply that a vaccine could be dangerous?

      Of course not!

      the authors were scientists, they observed reality and they spoke about it frankly. Like good scientists should.

      If you’re only allowed come to a politically acceptable result, you’re no longer doing science.

      You don’t seem to want science, you seem to want propaganda for your own tribal beliefs.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        In regards to the vaccine issue: Aye, there’s the rub!

        Because see… we DO expect scientists who report adverse reactions to vaccines to be cautious and circumspect in reporting their results. Wildly speculative articles or papers (“DO VACCINES CAUSE ALZHEIMER’S?”) are discouraged.

        We want the facts, but we also want the facts to be used by honest people for honest purposes. It is a genuine problem that there are of people who, out of ignorance or malice, will use the facts badly, who will abuse or overuse the truth to support predetermined positions that have a history of causing destruction. The fact that this is true requires a degree of caution in vaccine research that is not required in, say, astrophysics.

        Because nobody’s gonna die in an epidemic caused by public hysteria that is in turn the result of some asshole willfully misinterpreting the evidence in a paper about astrophysics.

        And so we don’t really mind if astrophysicists ramble about God or overstate the significance of some finding or whatever, because it’s ultimately pretty harmless. We DO mind if vaccine researchers start talking in ways that can easily be seized on by bad actors. The very importance of their subject matter demands some awareness of how easy it would be to cause disasters by overstating one’s case.

        ============================================

        @LightlyRow was very much talking about this. Note that Lightly didn’t say “and therefore you should suppress your confirmed results,” and it’s disingenuous to paint the argument that way. Lightly said:

        If you’re a researcher, you need to take heightened precautions before even speculating on racial differences and you need to take pro-active measures to minimize the chances that your research is purposefully used for ill-intent.

        This isn’t “suppress the truth, it contradicts my political beliefs.” It’s “make sure NOT to leave room for some genuinely nasty and rotten people to willfully misinterpret your results to their advantage.”

        • Murphy says:

          After reading LightlyRow’s other posts I think you’re assuming far far too much good faith.

          Nobody mobs vaccine researchers for publishing that they’re seeing an unusual cluster of oddball cases that might be a vaccine adverse event. Even if it’s speculative. Indeed it’s encouraged.

          The crackpots constantly quote legit vaccine papers out of context or in misleading ways. We don’t respond by trying to fire the researchers.

          We respond by calling the anti-vaxers idiots. Not by trying to silence the researchers they quote.

          In reality we don’t make such absurd demands of vaccine researchers.

          But we do of geneticists.

          I point to those papers because they verifiably have ended up on most anti-vaxer gish gallops. Whatever careful phrasing you claim was used, it had no effect on the anti-vaxers.

          They also ended up on the CDC website because we don’t censor things like that.

          Because while the field of vaccine research has 1 pack of evil idiots on one side, genetics has 2 groups of evil, anti-science idiots to deal with. One trying to twist their results and one made up of people who object to the very existence of the field of human genetics on political grounds.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            +1. I think this is the most insightful post on this topic, and the takeaway lesson for me in this argument.

            ETA: I just mean the part about “we pile on geneticists but not vaccine researchers.” I think LightlyRow is arguing in good faith, but is generally incorrect.

          • JPNunez says:

            We’d pile on a vaccine researcher that went to an anti-vaccine podcast to discuss how his research may support some of the anti-vaccine claims tho.

          • Aftagley says:

            +1 JPNunez

            I don’t like the broad acceptance of “just doing research” as a defense of all activity related to that research.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            to discuss how his research may support some of the anti-vaccine claim

            I’d want to see what the researcher said.

            And be really really suspicious of “no, we cannot show you the bad thing he said, just trust us this is bad.”

          • JPNunez says:

            It’d be a podcast so you probably could go listen to it.

            I am honestly not that bored to go look at the particulars of the Hsu case, so I am limiting myself to hypotheticals like our vaccine guy.

        • LightlyRow says:

          The responses to my comments here remind me why I stopped participating in SSC a few years back. Not one person has recognized that I was making the argument that Hsu is engaged in a form of negligence, which does not warrant legal sanction in the form of damages, does not warrant removal of tenure, but does warrant removal of his position as VP of research.

          The commentators here cannot seem to distinguish between a duty to take care vs. a prohibition on an act. It is the difference between being liable for setting off fireworks negligently versus prohibiting fireworks altogether. I never suggested his research should be prohibited.

          Every single instance in which people in these comments have said “we don’t make heightened demands on researchers in X field,” we actually DO. Vaccine researchers are well aware of the potential for misuse and take active measures to try to counter it.

          If you want to argue that you think Hsu DID take sufficient care, that is fine and reasonable people can disagree. What instead people are arguing, although they fail to articulate it in these terms, is that Hsu does not owe a duty of care regarding how his research may be used. I disagree, and I don’t think any rational evaluation of the last 150 years of history can lead to any conclusion except that research which may be used to promote racist views should be carefully phrased and discussed to try to limit the possibility of misuse. The duty is heightened the more responsibility and authority you have in an organization whose values are explicitly about inclusion and tolerance.

          This isn’t a slippery slope, and it isn’t that hard of a judgment to make. The basic inability to grasp the notion of duty to care versus blanket prohibition, and to distinguish between being careful and suppression is at the root of almost all of the comments here.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Every single instance in which people in these comments have said “we don’t make heightened demands on researchers in X field,” we actually DO. Vaccine researchers are well aware of the potential for misuse and take active measures to try to counter it.

            I’m not aware of any equally rigorous demands on any academic fields under the grievance studies umbrella.
            You certainly couldn’t Sokal a university medical department.

          • L (Zero) says:

            “Scientists weren’t careful enough in the potential for misuse of the atomic bomb” was explicitly used as an example in HPMOR, yet “racism played a role in the historical usage of the atomic bomb” is assumed by many SSC commenters to be such an absurd claim it must be trolling. God do I feel you.

          • Murphy says:

            No, I fully understand your position. And it is textbook Lysenkoism.

            You just don’t like it put starkly.

            You want anyone who produces results that are not politically acceptable or voices scientific opinions that don’t fit with the dominant political ideology to remain silent or to be purged from positions of influence. If any political officer hears about unacceptable results then it serves as proof that they weren’t silent enough.

            Sure, you don’t want to jail him or fine him, how very noble of you. You just want to remove him from any position of influence and replace him with a nice, politically acceptable modern incarnation of Trofim Lysenko.

            Calling it a “duty to take care vs. a prohibition on an act.” doesn’t make it better. An ideological purge remains an ideological purge and does not become less contemptible.

            Making a big show of rolling your eyes and complaining about the temerity of the SSC commenters to disagree with your factually incorrect claims doesn’t make your claims any more convincing.

            In virology, right now you can download the full genetic sequence of smallpox from the NIH website.

            Nobody so much as suggested firing anyone senior at NIH over it.

            Right now you can download papers that describe how to construct a virus, base by base from whole cloth.

            Nobody suggested removing any of the authors from positions of influence.

            Right now, you can download papers on base-washing and how to construct long DNA or RNA fragments.

            Compared to that, suggesting that principles of genetics that apply to every other mammal almost certainly apply to humans as well, that doesn’t even register.

            But you don’t care, you’ve got your isolated demand for rigour and it’s utterly isolated to politically unpopular results or positions.

          • Murphy says:

            @L (Zero)

            A great deal of the community does not mirror EY’s views.

            Neutron chain reactions were never going to stay secret.

            The principle of nukes were not going to be kept secret no matter what they did.

          • LightlyRow says:

            @ Murphy – The duty does not stem from it being dominant or non-dominant, but from the potential for harm. Characterizing it as “Lysenkoism” is absurd – not only did I clearly state that the sanction should be limited to removal of his VP of research position, I also clearly stated that the research itself should not be prohibited.

            You’re jumping to an extreme which would be absurd in any other context – someone has a duty of being careful in the handling of children could just as easily be characterized as Lysenkoism. If you want to say that you don’t think the potential for harm warrants the existence of the duty, then say so.

          • Murphy says:

            I also clearly stated that the research itself should not be prohibited.

            I clearly state that the sanction should be limited to removal of his VP of research position

            How very magnanimous.

            So you merely make it so that only individuals who produce politically acceptable results can get into senior positions, positions where they also strongly influence what research can happen at their institution at all and make sure that you send a message that anyone who wants their career to progress better make sure they only produce politically acceptable results.

            handling of children

            Grad students are adults, not chidren.

            Again, going back to the previous post, in virology, right now you can download the full genetic sequence of smallpox from the NIH website.

            Nobody so much as suggested firing anyone senior at NIH over it.

            Right now you can download papers that describe how to construct a virus, base by base from whole cloth.

            Nobody suggested removing any of the authors from positions of influence.

            If you’re concerned about “harm” from publishing true things then that’s about a million times more risky.

            But you don’t care, you’ve got your isolated demand for rigour and it’s utterly isolated to politically unpopular results or positions.

            You want your purge and everything you are posting is hollow, thin justification based on your , again to stress this, factually incorrect beliefs about the demands placed on scientists in other fields.

          • albatross11 says:

            LightlyRow:

            Do you think *all* people speaking about racism, racial differences, etc., are required to exhibit that level of care, or is it only the ones who come to some particular set of conclusions or raise some particluar set of issues?

            Because I do not see much evidence of people who speak carelessly about race and racism getting this kind of response, when they conclude that the black/white performance gap in education is caused by white racism, or when they claim that calling the police on a black man is putting his life in serious danger, or when they claim that there is no such thing as race, or that there are no average cognitive differences between racial groups. Those claims often seem to be increasing racial tensions—something that can plausibly cause enormous damage to the country. And indeed, we’ve sometimes seen riots and looting as a result of that tension.

            If your position applies a duty of being extra careful with words only to some people discussing these issues, and by great good luck that duty just happens to only land on people with whom you disagree on facts or morals or policy, then it will probably be difficult for those of us who do not agree with you to see why this isn’t just an attempt to put a thumb on the scales of who is able to speak in public.

            Suppose you live someplace where supporters of the ruling party can say almost anything without consequences, whereas opponents of the ruling party can avoid getting in trouble if they phrase every criticism in the most neutral and careful way possible, never give an interview to any press other than the state controlled press, and never associate with any dissidents. You will probably not think that’s a place that has robust freedom of expression.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            Notallcommentators (observe whether I will get deleted for an inapropriate sarcasm :-). I hope I understood your argument, without necessarily endorsing it.

          • albatross11 says:

            LightlyRow

            I understand your point about negligence, I just don’t agree, on two separate fronts:

            a. The Danger:

            I do not believe that discussing these matters openly is actually a particularly risky thing to do in the sense of societal bad outcomes. I think the expected impact by one academic giving interviews on some right-wing podcasts that talk about his work is very small, whatever its sign.

            We disagree about the sign (I think it’s a net positive, you think it’s a net negative), but also about the magnitude. And the magnitude is the only justification I can see for a demand for extreme care when discussing these matters.

            I mean, we live in a society where _The Bell Curve_ was published and widely read and is still available for sale, and where many mainstream books and some mainstream articles have discussed racial IQ differences and what they mean. There are online fora where people discuss this stuff openly, ranging from pretty serious folks like Steve Sailer and Greg Cochran and Razib Khan to various actual white supremacists and actual Nazis. We also live in a society in which there’s still plenty of overt racism if you look for it, though thankfully a lot less than in the past. Probably an average high-school kid, today, could tell you about common racial stereotypes w.r.t. intelligence.

            In that environment, Hsu going onto a right-wing podcast, even a white-supremacist podcast (I’m not sure how you’d qualify Molyneux’s podcast) and talking about racial IQ differences or the genetics of race is a drop in the ocean. Perhaps a few thousand people heard his podcast, of whom most were probably already regular Molyneux listeners.

            Even assuming Hsu devotes his whole spare time to talking about race/IQ and race/genetics questions in ways you think are insensitive and careless and easy to misinterpret, I think the actual size of the impact almost can’t be very large. There are thousands of people talking about these issues, with various levels of rigor and care.

            This is why I think the “working with smallpox” analogy doesn’t make any sense. This is a lot more like someone working with the currently-circulating flu strain. Maybe he’ll do some good, maybe he’ll do some bad, but a lab escape will not have a huge impact on the world.

            b. Consistency of the Standard

            Now, you have said that you believe that open discussion of these issues is society-level dangerous like doing experiments with deadly pathogens. And I have seen this argument many times.

            But what I don’t see is the people making this argument applying it to their preferred side of the same issues. It seems to me that plenty of prominent people go out in public and make very careless and imprecise and easily-misunderstood statements about race and society, like saying or implying that black underperformance in schools relative to whites is the result of white racism[0], or saying that there’s no scientific meaning of race[1] and IQ scores mean nothing but how good you are at taking tests.

            This looks like a double-standard, to me. You expect people expressing some views on these contentious subjects to be super careful in their words, implications, and associations to avoid giving anyone grounds for misunderstandings. You allow people expressing other views on the same contentious subjects to say whatever they like, associate with whomever they like, be imprecise and confusing in their words, etc.

            The term often used here on SSC for this is an isolated demand for rigor. It’s a way of putting a thumb on the scales of discussions, by making much higher demands of proof or evidence or credentials or care on one side than on the other.

            So, it’s not that I (or many others here) don’t understand your arguments, it’s that we don’t agree with them, and also don’t think you apply them to your own side in the same way you do to the other side.

            [0] Maybe the speaker meant structural racism instead. But surely, then, if this is an area where it’s critical to be very careful to avoid misinterpretations, they should be very clear about that, distinguishing it from intentional racism by white teachers or school administrators. I will admit that I am not familiar with cases where prominent media or academic figures got fired for that kind of lack of precision.

            [1] Note that this is one of those statements that is arguably true, but easy to misinterpret. If you were very concerned about people being careless and imprecise in these discussions, folks tossing around “there’s no such thing as race” without a lot of context would be good people to yell at.

          • Aapje says:

            @LightlyRow

            Not one person has recognized that I was making the argument that Hsu is engaged in a form of negligence

            The logical conclusion if no one gets you, is that you were being unclear in your communication. Perhaps even a bit careless and negligent in your assumptions.

          • Dan L says:

            Come on, man. This was yesterday. Miscommunication happens, but it’s ludicrous to pretend the speaker is always at fault here.

            ETA: your response there does you credit, but I would still push for a greater norm of humility of interpretation. (Doubly so for views not defended on this site, but that’s just me dreaming.)

          • Aapje says:

            @Dan L

            I wasn’t arguing that the speaker is always at fault, but that accusing everyone else of misreading you, without recognizing the possibility that one’s own writing is poor (and/or doesn’t mean what they think it means), is not very persuasive.

            I don’t see how the case you refer to is really relevant, because I wasn’t arguing that the speaker is at fault for any misreading. That is you misreading me (for which I don’t think I am at fault).

          • Murphy says:

            @Dan L

            If one person misunderstands you then it’s likely the readers mistake.

            If everyone misunderstands you then it’s likely the writers mistake.

          • Dan L says:

            Am I seriously going to have to explain the concept of survivorship bias? Representativeness?

            Do you really think nobody ready LightlyRow correctly? Of those that did, what do you think they did next? Who would have noticed?

          • Aapje says:

            @Dan L

            I have no idea how many people read LightyRow correctly or what ‘correctly’ even means in this context. I wasn’t commenting on that.

            I was commenting on the implications of LightlyRow’s claim:

            The responses to my comments here remind me why I stopped participating in SSC a few years back. Not one person has recognized that I was making the argument that Hsu is engaged in a form of negligence, which does not warrant legal sanction in the form of damages, does not warrant removal of tenure, but does warrant removal of his position as VP of research.

            The commentators here cannot seem to distinguish between a duty to take care vs. a prohibition on an act.

    • Aapje says:

      @LightlyRow

      There is an incredibly energetic and highly-motivated set of bad-faith actors who will use anything they can to legitimize white supremacist views.

      This undermines your point completely, because if they will actually use anything, then it doesn’t matter how careful you are. It won’t help to completely silence a discussion on a topic, only allow it behind closed doors, lie to people about the facts that they believe supports their point of view, etc, etc, because all of this will be interpreted as evidence of a conspiracy.

      At a certain point you have to accept that you cannot actually control what other people believe. If you don’t, your only choice is totalitarianism.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        I disagree.

        There are two groups – a) white supremacists highly motivated to use anything to increase racial prejudices of the general population, and b) part of the general population that is inclined to believe in spurious arguments confirming their racial prejudices, especially when they come from respectable (e.g. academic) sources, as opposed to low status hairless thugs.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I’ve heard that it’s bad that Hsu was on Molyneux, but not that he said something untrue to Molyneux.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            I most assuredly do not want to opine on Hsu situation, not having done the research.

            But vitriol expressed here by many comments towards LightlyRow for making imo correct observation that white supremacists are highly motivated to twist results of genetic research to suit their agenda is wholly inappropriate.

          • gbdub says:

            The “vitriol” is not directed at the observation, but at the implied conclusion that “because bad actors might use your research badly, it is your responsibility to suppress your research”. Reading the arguments against LightlyRow with that little charity is also inappropriate.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            I’m not sure how to review the Molyneux interview without somehow indirectly benefiting or boosting Molyneux, and without having YouTube spam me with further links to Molyneux content I don’t want to see.

            If I knew how, I think I’d want to review that interview or at least its transcript.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not sure how to review the Molyneux interview without somehow indirectly benefiting or boosting Molyneux

            I’m not sure how to sell groceries to Stefan Molyneux without somehow indirectly benefiting Molyneux. If he’s struggling 80 hrs/wk as a subsistence farmer, fewer people will see his podcasts. Therefore…

            …you need a better standard for cancellation, or you need to understand that you won’t be taken seriously outside the cancel-happy bubble.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Simon_Jester

            Ad-block and a private window. For extra security against Google linking your computer to it you could use Opera’s VPN. Granted his video will still get an addition view, but I don’t see a way around this.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @gbdub

            The “vitriol” is not directed at the observation, but at the implied conclusion that “because bad actors might use your research badly, it is your responsibility to suppress your research”.

            Perhaps I will be corrected by the author him(her)self, but I do not think that this what he or she wanted to say. Implied conclusion is probably implied only in your head.

        • albatross11 says:

          If you only consider listeners who have evil motives and will never change their minds on anything, you can justify shutting down all discussion, because what purpose would any of it have?

          Of course, there are also people listening who would like to understand the world better. People who don’t know whether the black/white performance gap in schools is really due to some kind of racism or is due to something else, and would like to have a better way of thinking about the question. People who maybe would like to know why the poor Asian kids whose parents are fresh off the boat from China do better getting into the local school magnet program than rich white kids.

          Knowledge has some purpose other than to simply reaffirm the beliefs of evil people.

        • gbdub says:

          spurious arguments confirming their racial prejudices

          This bakes in two assumptions that weaken your argument. First, that Hsu’s arguments are spurious. Second, that the audience is still interested in confirming preexisting biases. Which is again placing the responsibility on Hsu, instead of the people engaging in motivated reasoning. Victim blaming.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            I have no opinion on whether Hsu´s arguments are spurious or not, and I do not blame him for anything.

            But I do assume that people are interested in confirming their preexisting biases, that is correct.

          • gbdub says:

            Well then what’s your point?

            Everyone is susceptible to confirmation bias, but confirmation bias works just as well (heck, even better) with true, useful information as it does with false information.

            Some people have biases I would prefer they don’t. But if I have a piece of information that could potentially support a “negative” bias, I don’t think it’s fair to force me to caveat the heck out of every one of my statements (and certainly not fair to cancel me) just because those negative-bias people exist. We definitely don’t apply this standard rigorously anywhere.

          • albatross11 says:

            People tend to confirm their own biases, but that’s not the *only* thing people do. Some people also update their beliefs, overcome their existing biases, come to understand the world better. The best way I know to enable that is to allow wide-ranging discussions about important issues without shutting anyone down or firing anyone or any of that crap. This will inevitably allow some people to say dumb or evil things. We do not have an option marked “make sure people only say smart and good things.” Instead, we can decide to what extent there will be mechanisms to punish people saying things some powerful person doesn’t like, knowing that sometimes, those mechanisms will be used to punish people who are saying dumb/evil things, and other times, they’ll be used to punish people who are disagreeing with the acceptable dumb/evil things someone is saying.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @gbdub

            I honestly think that people should ” caveat the heck out of every one of their statements”, when it comes to sensitive topics like genetic racial differences.

            Now, caveat: I am also against cancelling those who fail to do that with twitter mobs. In fact my support for nuance sort of inevitably leads me to oppose twitter mobs.

          • gbdub says:

            when it comes to sensitive topics like genetic racial differences.

            But the determination of “sensitive topics” is not being judged in a viewpoint neutral way, as others have noted here. Careless and untrue statements on the same or similar topics are allowed without caveat, so long as they are on the “right” side and support the right biases.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @gbdub

            So? Careless and untrue statements from the leftwing are bad. Careless and untrue statements from the rightwing are also bad.

          • Matt M says:

            So? Careless and untrue statements from the leftwing are bad. Careless and untrue statements from the rightwing are also bad.

            But only one of these will get you fired.

        • Aapje says:

          @AlesZiegler

          part of the general population that is inclined to believe in spurious arguments confirming their racial prejudices, especially when they come from respectable (e.g. academic) sources, as opposed to low status hairless thugs.

          It seems to be perfectly acceptable in academia to spread spurious arguments confirming racial prejudices different to the ones you are referring to.

          The perceived respectability of academia is not a given. If academia only allow subjective or spurious claims that favor radicals and moderates from one side, it is going to make people from the other side angry at academia in general and disbelieve them, not just on this topic.

          And this anger will not just be by white supremacists or those with great prejudice that is easily validated, but also by people who don’t want radicals to be left unchallenged or want academia to be a think tank for one side of politics. The latter group is surely far greater.

          Don’t come complaining to me if/when ever more people stop presuming that scientific claims are correct unless proven otherwise, but incorrect by default.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            Um, I totally agree that deep entanglement between social sciences and social justice activism is damaging to the credibility of the former, but that is for a different discussion.

      • LightlyRow says:

        This undermines your point completely, because if they will actually use anything, then it doesn’t matter how careful you are. It won’t help to completely silence a discussion on a topic, only allow it behind closed doors, lie to people about the facts that they believe supports their point of view, etc, etc, because all of this will be interpreted as evidence of a conspiracy.

        At a certain point you have to accept that you cannot actually control what other people believe. If you don’t, your only choice is totalitarianism.

        It does matter how careful you are. The anti-vax movement is pretty bad, but it would be significantly worse is vaccine researchers were less careful than they were. It can always get worse. Your only choice is not totalitarianism – there are gradations possible in this world. It isn’t life or death, you can have different thresholds of responsibilities, different sanctions, things can depend on the context.

        • Aapje says:

          Where is your limit where people are careful enough? If that limit is when white supremacists stop existing altogether, researchers can never be too careful and thus anything they do that doesn’t go 100% against the white supremacy narrative (even when the white supremacy narrative is actually less than 100% false), is ground for retaliation.

          Your only choice is not totalitarianism – there are gradations possible in this world.

          Yes, but your demands exceed the level of totalitarianism that I consider acceptable and seems to encourage, rather than discourage further increases in totalitarianism.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      It’s the same thing with genetics research and speculation on racial differences. There is an incredibly energetic and highly-motivated set of bad-faith actors who will use anything they can to legitimize white supremacist views. There is an even larger contingent of casual racists who would believe racist views if given by a plausible authority.

      And this doesn’t apply to Critical Theory and grievance studies professors who rant about the heteronormative white patriarchy all the time with zero evidence. In their case, it’s muh academic freedom.

      According to your logic we must approve the Catholic Church censoring Galileo: after all he carelessly disseminated his dangerous research, not devoid of factual errors, which could have been easily used by heretics and atheists to promote immorality, sin and upheaval the social order. Hell, two hundred years after Galileo, one certain Marx guy created a materialistic ideology which caused 100 million deaths and incalculable suffering. Clearly it would have been much harder for him to argue his case if people still believed that planets were being pushed around the sky by angels. And in fact his followers were the first ones to pollute the Moon with the hubris of Man.
      The Inquisition should have persecuted these heliocentrists harder! /s

      • Simon_Jester says:

        White supremacists have managed to kill, like, a lot of people.

        I’m pretty confident that in terms of actual violence dealt unto human beings, the ideas promoted by what you call “grievance studies” professors will amount to an ineffectual fart in a hurricane. They may well even result in a net decrease in human suffering.

        I know which group I’m more worried about.

        Well, I’m not so sure about “Critical Theory,” since I’m not even sure what you think that even means. “Grievance studies” I can at least parse

        • John Schilling says:

          I know which group I’m more worried about.

          The relevant groups are, first, white supremacists who will turn violent if and only if a scientist or professor says the wrong thing, and antifascists/SJWs who place similarly high weight on the teachings of their tribe’s academicians.

          I have my own suspicion as to which group is larger and more dangerous, and I suspect it’s not the same as yours.

        • White supremacists have managed to kill, like, a lot of people.

          Could you fill that out?

          Apartheid South Africa was a white supremacist society, but the number of people they killed was very small, relative to the population, compared to the number killed by black on black violence elsewhere in Africa. Similarly for the post Civil War American South, unless what you mean by “a lot” is “a few thousand over a period of decades.”

          If we are thinking in terms of ideologies that have really killed large numbers, tens or hundreds of millions, I can only think of two plausible claims for white supremacists — the Belgian Congo under Leopold and the slave trade. I’m not sure that either of those depended on the belief that blacks were innately inferior to whites, although it provided some support. If you look at Kipling’s poem “The White Man’s Burden,” it’s clear that his support for imperialism is based on cultural, not genetic, differences — the burden is the obligation to raise the uncivilized primitives up to our level. And we have lots of examples of non-racial slavery in history.

          The essential requirements for both of those crimes was not a racial difference in genetics but in power.

          Did you have other examples that I haven’t thought of in mind?

          Also, do you think the connection between research showing differences in IQ distribution by race and what killed lots and lots of people is closer than the connection between academic Marxists and communist states, which killed many millions of people?

          • viVI_IViv says:

            — the Belgian Congo under Leopold and the slave trade. I’m not sure that either of those depended on the belief that blacks were innately inferior to whites, although it provided some support.

            If I understand correctly, the mass killings and atrocities in Belgian Congo weren’t motivated by any grand white supremacist ideology. In fact they were mostly carried out by black people of some tribe against black people of some other tribe.
            Belgian Congo wasn’t originally an actual colony of the Belgian Kingdom, it was a personal property of King Leopold who ruled it for profit using a mercenary army of cutthroats of various nationalities and local militias who seized the opportunity to settle old tribal conflicts. Eventually the place became so much of a shitshow that the European colonial powers pressured the Belgian government to seize the colony from their own king and run it properly, according to “White Man’s Burden” principles.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Belgian Congo wasn’t an actual colony of the Belgian Kingdom, it was a personal property of King Leopold who ruled it using a mercenary army made of cutthroats of various nationalities and local militias who seized the opportunity to settle old tribal conflicts.

            Which raises the question: was it a state or anarcho-capitalist?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            It had an archon: Leopold II.

          • JPNunez says:

            Are we discounting Nazi Germany as a white supremacist state?

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Are we discounting Nazi Germany as a white supremacist state?

            No, but they didn’t kill Jews because of race and IQ research. Had they based their ideology on such research, they would have had to conclude that Ashkenazi Jews were the master race.

          • JPNunez says:

            No, but they didn’t kill Jews because of race and IQ research. Had they based their ideology on such research, they would have had to conclude that Ashkenazi Jews were the master race.

            This is a silly argument.

            Even if we discount the jews killed in the holocaust, and assume the Nazis go onto WW2 to conquer territory for the jewish master race, they still go ahead and kill tens of millions of europeans.

            Maybe the idea of having a master race is the problem in the first place, regardless of whether you think the research is respectable enough.

          • Randy M says:

            Maybe the idea of having a master race is the problem in the first place

            Agreed. Let’s not reify IQ, or height, or any other partially genetic trait, even if we discover different demographics differ in trends.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I never thought leopards would cancel my face!

        • mitigatedchaos2 says:

          Buddy, this ‘critical race’ stuff is Communist in its methods (collective moral liability + broken epistemology aiming at total equality), and conspiracy theories based on “unexplained group differences in outcomes must be the result of a conspiracy” don’t, uh, have such a great track record, either.

    • Incurian says:

      Censorship is great and all, but you need to be careful where you talk about it because even though you and me just want to censor the really dangerous ideas, once you release censorship into the wild it gets misused by every crank with an axe to grind.

    • Rinrin says:

      This is an isolated demand for rigor. It’s also a thinly veiled intimidation tactic that’s saying we won’t come for you if your work is hard to understand by the public, but if you engage in popular science we’ll lynch you.
      “Religion poisons everything.” It’s funny how that doesn’t change.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        Nah, it’s more like:

        If your research shows that left-handed people have on average two IQ points when controlling for all other factors, we’ll leave you alone.

        If your research then becomes an excited talking point among people whose entire political ideology revolves around the belief that left-handed people and their brutish stupid atavistic ways are threatening to cause the Decline and Fall of The West, and if you do nothing to alert these ideologues to the fact that no, a two-point IQ difference cannot cause that… Then at some point, we’re gonna associate you with that belief system, the one that’s getting a ton of mileage out of your results with no opposition from you.

        And if the belief system starts doing nasty things to lefties, then you are going to be held, in some small way, partially to blame.

        Again, this isn’t about suppressing the truth, it’s about not willfully lending moral support to immoral people who have a long history of creatively shifting their justifications to keep finding excuses for horrible behavior.

        • albatross11 says:

          Simon Jester:

          This looks like an isolated demand for rigor to me. I do not believe you or many other people hold to this standard when it is inconvenient to their views.

          Mainstream voices in the US right now routinely claim that the black/white gap in school performance is due to white racism. They widely report both true and false claims about police misconduct toward blacks. This surely increases racial tensions and sometimes leads to riots. As best I can tell, nobody ever thinks this merits deplatforming. Intemperate or inflamatory statements, getting basic facts wrong–no problem.

          At the same time, as best I can tell from your writing, you object when someone correctly reports the known facts about racial IQ differences–at least, if the do so in a way that might even conceivably lend any support for white racists[1]. The slightest ambiguity or intemperate language is a reason for cancellation–even talking about that data in the wrong company is reason for cancellation.

          This isn’t a concern for people being careful how they discuss touchy topics–it if were, you’d care when *anyone* discussed touchy topics. This is an attempt to put a thumb on the scales of what people are allowed to talk about and read, in order to help people and policies you approve to rise in status relative to the ones you disapprove.

          The result of doing that has been, and will continue to be, less-informed public discussions about critical issues that we as a country really need to get right, and a continued, justified loss of confidence in academic and media institutions that are visibly purging people for having the wrong political views or reaching the wrong conclusions.

          [1] Remember, if you report that Eastern European Jews and Asians have a higher average IQ than whites, this is probably because you are a white supremacist.

          • Matt M says:

            Indeed. The same people who are insisting it is absolutely vital that anyone discussing racial IQ differences take a significant amount of care in being absolutely clear in the evidence for their statements, the implications, etc. don’t demand even the slightest bit of care from someone discussing racial IQ differences… whose position on it is “they don’t exist and anyone who thinks they do is a racist.”

            The demand isn’t “take care when discussing this topic” so much as it is “take care when discussing this topic and coming to a conclusion that is outside the mainstream.” So the problem isn’t the discussion or the topic, it’s the conclusion…

        • Aapje says:

          @Simon_Jester

          And if the belief system starts doing nasty things to lefties, then you are going to be held, in some small way, partially to blame.

          This strongly implies that you are perfectly willing to accept academia spreading beliefs that result in nasty things happening to people (that you perceive to be) on the right.

          Again, this isn’t about suppressing the truth, it’s about not willfully lending moral support to immoral people who have a long history of creatively shifting their justifications to keep finding excuses for horrible behavior.

          Unless those immoral people are in your camp and hurt your outgroup.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      If you’re researching infectious diseases, everyone understands that you need to work in secure facilities and take precaution in your work lest you accidentally release a dangerous pathogen or allow someone to break in and maliciously do so.

      This must be some meme going around. We already had one person show up with this:

      Anyone doing scientific work on race has a responsibility to be extremely careful with their media appearances, for much the same reason that anyone working on smallpox samples has a responsibility to be extremely careful with their containment procedures.

      • Matt M says:

        I wonder if the same people saying this would unequivocally and without qualification agree that the majority of responsibility for COVID being a global pandemic rests with the leaders of the CCP for not being sufficiently careful in securing it and allowing it to spread.

        • Simon_Jester says:

          If I thought that COVID came from a disease research lab, hell yes I would say that the majority of the responsibility for COVID belonged with those who made a containment breach at that lab likely.

          Instead, I believe that the disease spread to humans from animals, and that the Chinese government made a good faith effort to contain the virus but, unsurprisingly and like almost everyone else on Earth, failed. COVID is very very hard to contain, for reasons that are already well known. Moreover, awareness of the salient characteristics of COVID takes time to percolate; the reasons it’s harder to contain than, say, SARS are learned only through experience.

          I strongly suspect that by the time the Chinese government realized how hard they would have to work to keep COVID fully contained within China, COVID had already escaped China. The Chinese government almost certainly could have handled it better, but a lot of other governments have screwed up too.

          All things considered, I don’t think they could really have prevented the outbreak of a respiratory droplet-borne disease with a two-week latency period. Not short of having a time traveler show up when there were only like ten infected patients in the whole world and single them all out to be locked in plastic bubbles for a few months.

          • Aapje says:

            The danger of wet markets has been known for a long time. They chose not to shut them down.

            They also tried to cover up the outbreak, initially.

          • matkoniecz says:

            that the Chinese government made a good faith effort to contain the virus

            That is untrue. Their initial action were to deny, censor, terrorize people who spotted it and coverup the problem.

            They also are fully responsible for setting up system that works in this way.

    • Sebastian_H says:

      I’m open to this idea, but wonder specifically what other academic areas it should apply to. I’m not sure I understand the areas which you think require special care. Do they include for example:

      Communism?
      Moral relativism?
      Atheism?
      Post modernism?

      All of these have been used by highly energetic bad faith actors in the fairly recent past. Should people not sufficiently careful with these topics be barred from being in the grant making process? Do you believe that in general they have been such that it makes a norm where Steve is just another example of that? Or is he to be the first, and we should move next to Communists?

    • mitigatedchaos2 says:

      If you’re a researcher, you need to take heightened precautions before even speculating on racial differences and you need to take pro-active measures to minimize the chances that your research is purposefully used for ill-intent.

      Wouldn’t this also apply to those researchers who are arguing on behalf of a “systemic racism” explanation? If it’s asserted that some groups (such as Asians) cannot do better through either culture or biology, that pretty much just leaves either chance/weak selection effects or conspiracy. Accusations that a racial or ethnic group succeeded through conspiracy have been quite dangerous in the past.

      Can researchers in these other categories be said to have done their due diligence on this matter?

  26. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Hey Civilization players: I haven’t bought a new entry since Civ 4. I’m curious if the game’s “message”, for lack of a better term, has changed?
    What I’m gesturing toward:

    I had Civ 2 back in, uh, I guess fifth grade. Cities were made up of individual population units (initially 10,000 people, abstracted bigger as you get closer to the present). They could be Happy, Content, or Angry (you later got the options to turn units of people into Scientists, Tax Collectors or Elvis Impersonators if there was enough surplus food). If Angry people became a majority, the city would riot, producing nothing for the state. There was also “Corruption”, where based on how far a city is from the capital, the more stuff produced by the tiles is inaccessible to the state (very Seeing Like a State, but it’s treated as total waste instead of free people making their own stuff with it). Researching better governments has benefits like reducing Corruption, down to zero. Depending on your form of government, you could rush what a city was currently building by working people to death or with cash. You end up choosing either Democracy for peace or Fundamentalism for war. Under Democracy or the more primitive Republic, there’s a Senate that can force the player to do something they don’t want to do (make peace). Every government building (which inexplicably includes things like Marketplaces) in the Realm takes money from your treasury each turn. Settlers or Engineers could “terraform” land tiles. You have a Research & Development program from 4000 BC until victory or defeat. There were two victory conditions: conquer the word or launch a starship to Alpha Centauri. The way productivity worked, it was always a better idea to conquer other civilizations’ cities rather than trade with them: more living space under your government led to a faster spaceship victory.

    I then bought Civ 3 (this must have been somewhere in Middle School age) and years later, Civ 4.

    By Civ 4, some of the mechanics of 2/3 had been changed as “unfun” and new complexity was added. You always had total access to everything produced by land tiles in use. Tiles never change except by chopping down trees or global warming (desertification). A city would never go into civil disorder: as cities got too big, they would start getting Angry heads, units of people who refused to work. This was actually a resource, because the optimized way to play was to slave rush a building or unit in every city every ten turns, improving the city while simultaneously making it “not too crowded”. Upkeep costs were by city rather than by government building. There was never an internal government faction forcing you to make peace. On that note, you don’t have a simple government like “Democracy”: you now choose one government policy from each of five columns like the stereotypical Chinese menu. Want both Universal Suffrage and Slavery? Go for it. You want Free Religion or a Pacifist state religion with that?
    There were now more victory types: Domination, where you controlled at least 67% of the world’s land and population. Diplomatic, where you control half the world’s population and get one AI civilization to help democratically elect you ruler of the world. And the one that required the least violence: Cultural, where you research the technologies that unlock the most Culture-producing stuff and then make your people become Luddites who produce Culture (culture, science, and taxes compete for the same resource) until three cities reach Legendary Culture.
    Your civilization also had two special abilities (introduced in Civ 3), which depending on your leader. This led to the devs guessing what two adjectives from a buffet best described a historical person like Abraham Lincoln, and their guess would have totalizing effects on the entire American population (e.g. “this guy was Philosophical” = your cities produce 100% more Great People).

    So what are things like now? I’m looking for deep implications about politics and economics, not changes like “tiles are now hexes and units can’t be stacked.”

    • Randy M says:

      Shamus Young is doing a series about the gameplay of the Civilization series at his blog. It doesn’t directly answer your question, but it may be of interest nonetheless.

    • C_B says:

      Civ 5:

      Cities produce resources (the primary ones being food, money, and production) based on both the buildings/upgrades contained in the city itself, and the quality of the surrounding land (e.g., grasslands produce more food than deserts, building a mine on a hill makes it generate more production, tiles adjacent to a river produce more gold because trade, etc.).

      Cities have population units, representing [arbitrary number] people each. Those population units can be used to work tiles (you always get the resources from your city tile, but you only get resources from surrounding tiles if someone is working them), or they can become “specialists” (scientists, merchants, artists, etc.), providing less resources but more of some harder-to-get thing, like science or culture.

      Population units consume food, and a city will eventually hit an equilibrium where it can’t grow any bigger without increasing its food production. Military units and some buildings have gold upkeep. Aside from those sinks, all resource income is always fully available to the state.

      Happiness is civilization-wide. Having more cities and bigger cities decreases happiness, while various things like building colosseums and theaters increases happiness. Recently conquered or occupied cities produce extra unhappiness. If your civilization is a little unhappy, your city growth gets a big penalty. If your civilization is very unhappy, you get a whole bunch of penalties; you really, really don’t want to be very unhappy. By default, it’s difficult to make a large empire without happiness problems, but there are various options in the game that loosen the restrictions, allowing you to sprawl if you invest in it.

      You customize your civilization by selecting “Social policies” (civilization-wide values) with culture points, which are things like “Tradition” which makes you better at generating culture and building wonders, “Honor” which makes you better at fighting, or “Exploration” which makes you better at naval stuff and trade. In the late game, you pick one of three special policies called “Ideologies,” which are Freedom (capitalism), Order (communism), and Autocracy (fascism). Ideologies have some special between-civilization mechanics, like producing extra unhappiness for you if a civilization with a mismatched ideology from yours has much higher culture generation than you do.

      Different civilizations have built-in bonuses. Sometimes these are special units or buildings, other times civ-wide bonuses. For instance, the English get Longbowmen (longer range than Crossbowmen other civs get), Ships of the Line (better than equivalent boats for other civs), and global bonus naval movement all game long.

      You can win the game via Domination (conquering everybody), Science (building a fancy spaceship), Culture (making everybody drink your Coca Cola and wear your band T-shirts), Diplomacy (getting the UN to elect you World Leader, usually by bribing all the city states), or Time (having more points than anyone else at the end of the game).

    • silver_swift says:

      CIV 6:

      Like Civ 5 Cities have population units, representing [arbitrary number] people each. Those population units can be used to work tiles as normal and you still get the bonus from the cities own tile for free.

      A big difference from 5 is the addition of districts, large city upgrades that take up an entire tile and allow cities to specialize more. Districts are limited both directly by the size of your city and indirectly by the fact that you lose the resources from the tile. Population send to work on a district instead turns into specialists, (provided you have build the correct buildings in that district).

      Amenities, Housing, loyalty and religion are now all tracked per city, rather than civilization wide.

      Amenities work similarly to happiness in older versions of civilization. Cities need an amount of amenities based on its size. Luxury resources add one amenity to four or six (depending on the resource) of your cities. Beyond that, you can add more amenities through the usual wonders, buildings and other bonuses. Having too few amenities reduces population growth and production and having dramatically too few amenities makes rebels spawn near the city and attack it (this typically doesn’t happen as a city stops growing before it reaches that point).

      Housing represents the capacity of a city to grow. Cities cannot grow larger than their housing capacity + 5 and growth slows down dramatically as you near this cap. The initial amount of housing for a city depends on whether the city is located next to fresh water, a coast or not near a water source. On top of that you get a small bonus for farms and other early developments, but as your city grows and you progress through the tech tree, you will eventually need to build neighborhood districts in order to house your entire population.

      Loyalty represents your control over your cities, it is based mostly on happiness and pressure. Happiness is based on amenities and pressure is generated by other nearby cities. Nearby domestic cities (cities controlled by you) generate positive loyalty while nearby foreign cities generate negative loyalty. Larger cities generate more pressure. If loyalty drops too low, the city will secede from your empire, becoming a free city, that might eventually join another nearby civilization (or, in practice more likely, immediately get conquered by said civilization).

      Governments work differently than before. You select a government type, which gives you specific bonuses and a number of economic, military and diplomatic policy slots. These policy slots can be filled with any matching policies that you’ve researched and there are no restrictions on what policies can be combined with what government (there is no slavery policy, but you can be a democracy with serfdom).

      • silver_swift says:

        (there is no slavery policy, but you can be a democracy with serfdom).

        Oh oops, no you can’t. Serfdom becomes obsolete when you unlock Public Works, which is a prerequisite for democracy. Also, there are in fact a few policies that are unique to a particular government.

        You can, however, have Corporate Libertarianism as your government with Collectivism* and Music Censorship policies.

        Would be fun to figure out what is the most ridiculous government that is theoretically possible.

        * Collectivism does require that your civilization is currently going through a Dark Age, (as opposed to Collectivization, which requires a communist government) so you could argue that this represents the society breaking down and paying only lip service to Libertarianism.

        • Dack says:

          Would be fun to figure out what is the most ridiculous government that is theoretically possible.

          My current game of Civ6 has New Deal Fascism.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            How is that ridiculous? I ran Universal Suffrage Free Speech Slavery Free Market Pacifism in most of my Civ4 games.

          • silver_swift says:

            You actually can’t do that any more with the latest expansion (Gathering Storm).

            New Deal is one of the few policies that is now restricted to a specific government type (Democracy in this case).

          • silver_swift says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            The only two of those that are directly incompatible are slavery and universal suffrage and even then I can kind of imagine a society that functions that way, you just need to find a reason why the free-all-the-slaves party isn’t getting enough votes to change things.

            There are any number of ways in which democratic societies end up ignoring the voice of a significant portion of their people, even if everyone has the right to vote. Maybe voter turnout among slaves is particularly low, maybe ending slavery is so far out of the overton window that nobody wants to run it as a platform (and the slaves can’t vote for one of their own because universal suffrage != everyone has the right to run for office) or maybe the slaves have some kind of hierarchy and the slaves higher up on the totem pole are afraid of losing what little status they have if the system collapses.

            It’s not particularly likely, (and historically inaccurate) but it’s not entirely unthinkable either.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @ silver_swift: Or to go a bit more CW-y, you could have the slaves be leased convicts, and have certain criminal laws be dramatically more heavily enforced against a certain group of people so that a large proportion of them are felons.

            Universal suffrage doesn’t necessarily preclude depriving people of the franchise as punishment for a crime, after all. And even if the term of penal servitude for any given crime is relatively short, if people with criminal records have limited opportunity to earn a living in non-criminal ways (because nobody will hire them) then it often won’t be long after their release before they get convicted again…

          • Doug S. says:

            I can also imagine debt slavery and indentured servitude being tolerated by voters…

    • Bugmaster says:

      Alpha Centauri is the only true Civ. All others are but pale imitations.

      • jrdougan says:

        Too true. It has aged astonishingly well over the two decades it has been out. To be fair, some elements of it have snuck into to the later Civ games, but the complete package is still unique.

        As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth’s final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.
        Commissioner Pravin Lal, “U.N. Declaration of Rights”

      • Byrel Mitchell says:

        Civ 6 is the first Civ game I’ve played that seemed as good as Alpha Centauri, over all. Very different games, but with enough new, good mechanics that it’s not clearly inferior.

    • fibio says:

      Hey Civilization players: I haven’t bought a new entry since Civ 4. I’m curious if the game’s “message”, for lack of a better term, has changed?

      Probably the biggest changes has been a through-run trend away from being a historical game and towards being a game with historical trappings. Civ 6 is particularly guilty of requiring high level players to pick an initial strategy (Science, Culture, Religion, Diplomacy or WAR!!!) at the beginning of the game and stick to it come hell or high water. While this and many changes have arguably made the game more fun, or at least more approachable to new players, it fails to really model history in the same way say the Paradox grand strategy games try to.

    • mendax says:

      The lead designer of Civ 6, Ed Beach, is also the designer of the wargames Here I Stand and Virgin Queen which deal with the wars of religion in Europe in 16th century.

      He is currently designing a game about…. Border Reivers.

  27. hnau says:

    My sympathies to Prof. Hsu, and kudos for being (as far as I can tell) in fact a very upstanding person.

    That being said: “Here’s a detailed, civil explanation of why I’m not guilty” is not tactically or strategically the right response when the Mob comes for you.

    The right response is “lol, f*** you.”

    It’s tactically a better response because the Mob doesn’t operate rationally. It does what it thinks it can get away with (and then some), not what’s reasonable. And it smells fear.
    Defend yourself? You just validated the Mob’s narrative and, by reacting, told it that you fear the consequences of attack. It will fisk your defense, find something arguable or objectionable, and keep going.
    Apologize? You just gave the Mob a taste of blood and, by reacting, told it that you fear the consequences of attack. It will dismiss your apology, escalate its demands, and keep going.
    Laugh in its face? You just told the Mob “bring it on”, sending a signal that you aren’t afraid. It will back down and go looking for a softer target.

    It’s strategically a better response because as long as people keep coughing up polite, deferential responses to the Mob’s demands, it can spin “lol, f*** you” responses as admissions of guilt. No matter how defensible your position is, by deigning to defend it you give ground to the Mob and make the world less safe for people without such an ironclad defense.

    And make no mistake: no matter what your defense is, no matter how unpopular your views are, the demands the Mob makes are fundamentally invalid. An exercise of social-cultural force is never a valid response to an honestly held belief. It is intellectual terrorism, and there are reasons we don’t negotiate with terrorists. The Mob has no right.

    Argument does not get bullet. Conversely, I submit, bullet does not get argument.

    • zero says:

      The Mob is not the only other actor in this scenario. There is also Michigan State University, who controls the ultimate outcome. It is unclear to me
      what the optimal strategy to satisfy them would be.

      • hnau says:

        Fair point, but I don’t see it affecting the calculus much. Michigan State University presumably knew the facts that Hsu cited in his defense already. And there have been many cases of cancellation where the employer knew the facts and apparently didn’t care. The main factor in the employer’s decision seems to be the amount of pressure the Mob brings to bear. My claim is that the pressure will tend to be less if one adopts the defiant strategy.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I think having a petition full of very famous people supporting you is helpful, and the defense seems to be important in getting the petition (even if it’s only a ritualistic step, as I suspect it was for most of the people involved)

          • The Big Red Scary says:

            Never forget– liberals get the bullet too.

            For what it’s worth, I have relevant credentials (tenure at a respectable institution, in a not irrelevant subject) and am familiar enough with Hsu to be willing to sign my name in his defense. However, the letter is written not so much as a defense of Hsu as a defense of an adulterated form of classical liberalism, emphasizing among other things diversity in hiring, which in most cases is a euphemism for affirmative action on behalf of one group and therefore effectively discrimination against another group. In short, I can’t in good conscience sign the letter as formulated, and think that some subtler form of “lol, fuck you” would be a more appropriate response.

          • 10240 says:

            @The Big Red Scary , I don’t really see the petition as taking a position on affirmative action. It uses the word ‘diversity’ and at a different point ‘inclusion’, but it’s pretty diplomatic about whether it means racial diversity/inclusion or diversity of thought. IMO it’s a good strategy for it to be diplomatic, and suggest that free inquiry doesn’t contradict diversity/inclusion (whatever we take those to mean), without really taking sides on anything other than academic freedom. I oppose affirmative action but I don’t see this as a good reason not to sign the petition. (I don’t know what version you’ve seen; it was a publicly editable document for a while.)

        • alawisgreen says:

          Michigan State University presumably knew the facts that Hsu cited in his defense already.

          You’re assuming that just because one person in MSU’s administration knows something, then all people at MSU know it. Imagine you’re the Dean of MSU. MSU has 2600 faculty. You might know Hsu by reputation, and interacted with him a few times. You haven’t read his blog. Hypothetically, if he posts racist things on it regularly, you wouldn’t know unless someone complains.

          As the Dean, your options are to 1) fire him immediately 2) start an investigation or 3) make a public statement affirming diversity.

          If Hsu made a statement saying, “lol f*** you,” which option do you feel the Dean would lean toward?

          • keaswaran says:

            On a minor terminological note – Hsu is the “Senior Vice-President for Research and Innovation”, and thus likely outranks all the Deans at MSU. So in this case, likely anyone in the administration knows him better than your post suggests.

            In any case, “lol f*** you” is perhaps an appropriate public reaction, even as much more sober documents and defenses are prepared privately for the administrators that will likely read them. (They should be phrased in a way that doesn’t make them awful if they leak, but they shouldn’t be written primarily for the mob.)

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Building up a giant petition to save Hsu might create an expectation that the next guy who we try to cancel needs to come up with a giant petition or else get canceled.

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah… even if this results in Hsu not getting canceled, a statement like “we were going to fire him, but then all these relatively high status people spoke out in his defense, so now we won’t” strikes me as a hollow victory, at best…

          • Spookykou says:

            What about, spoke out against firing him for this, expressing that a lot of high status people disagree with this category of thing.

          • Matt M says:

            Are people speaking out against the category? Or are they defending the man?

            In Scott’s post above, he seems primarily interested in defending the man. There are plenty of similar such cases in the same category that, while I’m sure Scott opposes, he did not personally rally to the cause of.

            Unless everyone in the category receives a similarly vigorous defense, this interpretation will ring hollow to everyone involved.

          • Spookykou says:

            It is not clear what high status people signing the petition are motivated by, if I was to sign the petition personally I would be speaking out against the category, but I am both a nobody, totally unassociated, and in a profession where this kind of association could be bad for me so I am abstaining.

    • INH5 says:

      That only works if either you have an independent source of income or your employer is willing to back you up on it. And if it’s the latter case and that support ever falters, well, just ask Milo Yiannopoulos. A university isn’t going to be anywhere near as lenient as Breitbart was.

      So I think that a defensive posture is the right move here, even though I have some quibbles with some of his arguments that I don’t want to get into here.

    • Marvin says:

      >That being said: “Here’s a detailed, civil explanation of why I’m not guilty” is not tactically or strategically the right response when the Mob comes for you.

      I agree that only trying to parry the accusations or basing your core argument on it is a bad plan, but I think Hsu sort of gets this, even though the response in the blog post primarily respond to the Twitter posts. He finishes with “Academics and Scientists must not submit to mob rule.”, which he probably should have started with. One of the letters in his support does this better, it starts with an argument that the MSU president should not fire staff due to a Twitter mob, independent of whether their accusations have merit.

      I’m not sure how literal I should take the defense you are proposing, but I think seriously arguing why the mob has no right is a better idea than to laugh at them because you believe it has no right.

      • hnau says:

        You’re right. As written my comment reads like “This is what Hsu should have done” but that’s not what I intended to convey (I agree there are practical reasons why his response makes sense as-is). My motivation was more to point out (contra what other commenters have focused on) that the details of Hsu’s defense aren’t important, because a much stronger claim (“the Mob has no right”) can and should be defended, and that claim suffices to show why Hsu is in the right here.

    • aristides says:

      Everyone already considers “lol, f u” to be an admission of guilt. If that was his response, the university wouldn’t want to defend him even a little, and his only recourse would be a law suit, which means hoping for a sympathy jury. A rational defense has the potential to get your employer in your side, and you can still sue in the end anyways. I do agree an apology is the worst option. It is explicitly an admission of guilt, and the only times I’ve heard it working is when your a democratic nominee for a position of power.

      • albatross11 says:

        There’s no reasoning with a mob, and probably apologies make things worse. Hsu needs to reason with his employer, and if he thinks apologizing will help him keep his job, it may be the prudent thing to do. In which case, that sucks, but he’s got to think about how to take care of himself and his family first.

        From reading a lot of what he’s written, one thing I am fairly sure of is that he has not been philosophically disarmed. That’s happened to a lot of liberals/progressives who were canceled by a Twitter mob–you could see the people basically cycling through all the defenses against the charges of {racism/sexism/white fragility/whatever} and being unable to apply any, as they personally had accepted the idea that such defenses were invalid when offered by a white person, and probably had cheered on previous mobbings. Tearfully apologizing while trying to explain somehow that “this isn’t me” without using any of the forbidden defenses, stuff like that.

        Hsu can be forced to shut up, to apologize, maybe even forced to recant, but he’s no more going to start believing the self-criticisms he’s been told to state than would someone like Steven Pinker or Sam Harris or Razib Khan.

  28. Randy M says:

    I agree with your take. This is a situation where neither truth nor good intentions are a suitable counter-argument even if proved, and the mob isn’t in the mood for reconciliation. Thus the proper response is probably “Yeah, so?” not “but I didn’t technically do all that.”

    FYI Atlas, you seem to be having an autocorrect problem with Hsu’s name.

    • Incurian says:

      I like it better that way.

    • Randy M says:

      I wondered if it wasn’t another valid transliteration of his Chinese name or something, but Hsu’s usage would probably have deference.

      • Michael Watts says:

        I wondered if it wasn’t another valid transliteration of his Chinese name or something

        Definitely not. Shu is a separate syllable from Hsu. (In modern spelling, shu is still shu, but hsü has become xu.)

  29. Scott Alexander says:

    I am not at all surprised this is happening, and am honestly shocked that Steve has been able to hold on as long as he has. This doesn’t justify firing him – I could be shocked if an atheist managed to stay alive for a few months in Saudi Arabia, without being in favor of killing him – but it makes it all dreadfully predictable.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I am also surprised about all of those people.

    • teageegeepea says:

      Henry Harpending was a normal professor, and I think through him Greg got some sort of nominal status at Utah, but I don’t think that’s ever been his primary source of income.

    • Michael Watts says:

      I am not at all surprised this is happening, and am honestly shocked that Steve has been able to hold on as long as he has.

      I find this admission pretty disturbing, because it tends to imply that you are intentionally lying in your post when you characterize his discussion of the genetics of race as “basically repeating the same [thing] everyone else does”, even as you link that claim to a post in which Hsu says the same thing that got Larry Summers dismissed from his university administrative position 15 years ago.

      • Spookykou says:

        Doesn’t your own post support and provide evidence for the ‘everyone says this and it is grounds to get you canceled’ interpretation of what Scott is saying, I am not seeing how that is a lie, as much as it is Scott complaining about the state of things.

        • Michael Watts says:

          No? My post says that

          1. “Everyone says” one thing;

          2. Steve Hsu pretty clearly says the opposite.

          Saying the opposite of what everyone else says is indeed not a surprising grounds for cancellation. Agreeing with everyone else is.

          Compare Atlas’ comment (here) making among others the following points, which I agree with:

          1. Hsu’s protestors object to his views, not just the fact that he has appeared in public with other people who the protestors consider unsavory;

          2. The protestors’ characterization of Hsu’s views is substantially correct;

          3. Scott’s description of Hsu’s past statements on the genetics of race is phrased so as to imply that the views Hsu has expressed are the opposite of what they in fact are.

        • Spookykou says:

          I am not familiar with any of the relevant everyones so it is possible I did not understand you, in your post you reference only one other person, and imply that this person says the same things that Hsu said, and got canceled for it. You now seem to be saying there is a third group, which actually constitutes everyone, and they say different things from Hsu and this Larry Summers person, as such I was confused, and wrong.

        • this Larry Summers person

          Larry Summers is a prominent economist who was, among other things, treasury secretary under Clinton. He later became president of Harvard.

          In a talk at the National Bureau of Economic Research he discussed possible reasons why there were few women in some niches, such as math professors at Harvard. One of the possibilities he mentioned, I think about number three, was that there might be a different distribution of abilities.

          For which he was ferociously attacked, and forced out as president of Harvard.

          A much more prominent case than Hsu.

  30. Guy in TN says:

    And alternatively, if you have examined the evidence against Hsu and decided that the best course of action would be for him to be removed from his position, you can sign that petition here.

    • textor says:

      Good God. That’s a nice list right there.

      Is there some tool available to store the list of names, such that I always see them highlighted in browser? Wouldn’t wish to be gullible and trust research produced by intellectually dishonest opportunists. Who knows when they decide to smuggle an agenda.

    • leaguemember says:

      Is that list accurate? Someone I know from MSU is on it & it seems quite unlikely they’d sign such a thing.

      I guess it’s possible, but seems likely they’re not vetting their list properly

      • davidoj says:

        At one point it had the name of a person who has since written a letter in support of Hsu (Corey Washington) – see here http://archive.is/aj8Bh

        I’m going to guess it’s not the only faulty inclusion.

    • Briefling says:

      I don’t think it’s appropriate (in SSC comments) to boost a petition going after someone this aggressively.

      • Guy in TN says:

        Are you suggesting that my words and thoughts are dangerous in some sort of way?

        • B_Epstein says:

          There’s some irony in signal-boosting a petition against a person, with one of the central arguments being them spreading potentially dangerous knowledge, and then asking said signal-boosting to be treated as neutral knowledge sharing.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I edited my post above to be slightly less snarky.

            I’ll be straight with you: There is no such thing as neutral information. No neutral science. No neutral university research, or neutral choice in faculty hiring/retaining.

            You may be opposed to my post because you recognize that presenting information, even factually true information, is not really “neutral” knowledge sharing. Alright. Is it also reasonable to apply the same standards to Hsu?

          • B_Epstein says:

            “Direction”-wise – sure. You’re perfectly within your rights to post that link (unless Scott disagrees, I guess). People are then within their rights to criticize your for your potential impact.

            I guess your point is the difference in platforms and exposure? But that matters only for the magnitude. Nobody has called for a petition to fire you.

        • Briefling says:

          You’re participating in a political movement to get somebody fired from their job, of course it’s “dangerous” in the sense that a real person could experience significant harm stemming directly from your post.

          But lots of ostensibly dangerous speech is allowed here; I just think actively supporting the petition crosses a line. It’s too much of a call to arms against an individual. IMO, if this kind of comment were routinely allowed, it would break SSC.

          (By the way, I edited my original comment to take a less pointed tone, a couple minutes after your initial reply. Just FYI.)

          • Guy in TN says:

            We’ve both been editing our posts, it’s okay. I feel sorry for anyone trying to follow this conversation from the outside.

            If Scott decides it does cross a line, I would definitely want to see that line spelled out for future reference. Is the principle that in a trade-off between concentrated vs. dispersed harms, I should only be allowed to only advocate for the option of dispersed harms, even if I believe that choice causes greater net disutility?

          • Briefling says:

            How about, “Don’t use this space to coordinate real-world attacks against individuals”?

            I agree that it’s important to draw the line precisely. IMO it’s basically ok for you to say “Hsu should be fired” (although it’s still clearly an aggressive position, and should be argued carefully).

            But it’s not ok to say, “We can totally get Hsu fired by doing XYZ, who’s with me?” Which is how I read your original post, more or less.

            Does that distinction make sense?

      • silver_swift says:

        Pointing to “the enemy’s” side of a discussion that is being signal boosted on SSC seems entirely appropriate for SSC comments.

        • Briefling says:

          Sure, but my issue is that he encouraged people to sign the petition. Not that he linked to the discussion.

          EDIT: I acknowledge that this was not totally clear from the wording of my original comment. Merely linking the petition as an FYI is fine. Implicitly encouraging people to sign it is too inflammatory.

          EDIT 2: Another important point to emphasize. When Scott boosts a petition that says “please don’t hurt this guy,” that’s much less aggressive than when Guy in TN boosts a petition that says “please hurt this guy.” The apparent symmetry is completely superficial.

          • silver_swift says:

            Merely linking the petition as an FYI is fine. Implicitly encouraging people to sign it is too inflammatory.

            That is basically how I read Guy in TN’s comment: “If you disagree with Scott, here’s a link to the other side’s petition.”

            Obviously linking to the petition at all is acknowledging that some people might want to sign it and as such it might encourage people to sign it. I also suspect Guy in TN does actually agree with Hsu getting fired, but his actual comment sounds pretty neutral to me.

            (Also, completely separate from this, but I would be entirely ok with people defending the position that Hsu should be fired in the comments here as long as they did so in a civil way. I’d disagree, strongly, but the cool thing about the SSC comments is that you can read about a large variety of viewpoints, not just ones that you agree with.)

    • LudwigNagasena says:

      Crazy, a bunch of people most of whom probably can hardly explain how factor analysis works (Anthropology PhDs and undergraduate students?) try to cancel an honest scientist in a Twitter-induced rage.

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      Would you be willing to set out what you see as the case for firing him?

      (If you don’t want to face the hornets’ nest of hostility that will inevitably result in, I totally understand. And everyone else, if Guy or anyone else is willing to set out what’s likely to be a deeply unpopular position on SSC, please try not to dogpile – keep it kind, and ask yourself whether anyone else has already said what you have to say.)

  31. teageegeepea says:

    The folks at Mises.org did not think Stefan Molyneux was good at making even arguments whose conclusions they agreed with.

  32. INH5 says:

    As I discuss in a comment below, I’m afraid I find it hard to see how the facts justify this interpretation. Molyneux had been vigorously and frequently discussing controversial issues of race, gender, immigration, etc. on his show for quite some time by 2017.

    I second this. I fully oppose Hsu facing professional consequences for this, but Molyneux was widely considered a crank in the Youtube community, even by many “centrists” and “right-wingers”, well before May 2017 when the interview happened. If Hsu genuinely believes this about Molyneux, then he really should have done more research on him back in 2017 and especially right now.

  33. Peter Gerdes says:

    Thank you. Hsu is my personal hero and this is important.

  34. Reasoner says:

    Signal boosting this recent thread on “cancellation insurance” as a permanent way of solving the unwarranted cancellations problem.

    I felt like I did a decent job of answering objections last time around, but here is another pitch for the idea.

    The government’s monopoly on the use of force regulates the use of force as a punishment. As as a society, this has allowed us to move beyond blood feuds. The invention of law happened so long ago so as to be practically mythological (for example, consider Moses and the Ten Commandments, the Code of Hammurabi, or whatever). We’ve forgotten details of how it happened, but it was a massive breakthrough.

    Public shaming is a punishment just like any other. In the social media era, public shaming has become way easier. But unlike the use of force for punishment, the use of public shaming is totally unregulated. That’s why the current era feels so lawless. It’s possible we will only move beyond this when we find some way to regulate the use of public shaming the way we regulate the use of force.

    In the United States, the First Amendment means that our government isn’t well-equipped to regulate the use of public shaming. That’s why we need private firms to do it. Cue David Friedman’s ideas about anarcho-capitalism and legal systems different from ours. The public shaming crisis is not just a crisis, it’s an opportunity for legal innovation.

    However, although legal innovation would be great, it isn’t strictly required. A vast improvement on the public shaming status quo would be to achieve the basics of what our use-of-force legal system does. Identify some trusted people who are fairly likely to be disinterested parties. Assign them the job of spending several weeks acquiring expertise on the topic of “is this person actually a racist asshole”. Have them announce their verdict.

    What concrete form could this take? How do you turn it into a business? I think there is room for innovation there too, but here is one proposal. Post job ads online and hire a diverse range of seemingly fair-minded individuals. Sell subscription services to people who are scared of public shaming and want to preserve their livelihood (i.e. everyone). If someone is getting shamed, they report it to the cancellation insurance firm. The cancellation insurance firm assembles the strongest case for and against them and gets the judge team to come up with an overall verdict. (The judge team could also be hired on a part-time basis, jury style. In some cases the team could be, for example, 100% African Americans in order to achieve greater moral authority / have some baseline familiarity with the subject matter. But, and this is crucial, they should be “randomly” selected from the population, not self-selected the way pitchfork-wielding Twitter users are. It’s been said many times Twitter is not real life, this corp does arbitrage on that fact. Another crucial part is they are doing this as their job, hence they have a longer attention span than a little blue bird, and feel a greater obligation to carefully consider both sides of the story even if reading things they disagree with is painful and not something they’d normally do while goofing off online.)

    If the judgement team delivers a guilty verdict, the insurance firm stays silent–“Sorry, we can’t help”. However, if the judgement team thinks the person is innocent, or that the person is guilty but not guilty enough to get cancelled (the mob’s punishment does not fit the crime), they could:

    * Get their publication arm to publicize the case for the person’s innocence. Cancellation insurance is highly synergistic with a fair-minded, widely respected journalism business. We’re killing two birds with one stone here. Everyone knows newspapers are dying. Everyone knows newspapers operate with shitty incentives. Cancellation insurance represents a method for creating a new and highly lucrative journalism business that does not suffer from shitty incentives.

    * Hire people to find social media discussion of the person subject to cancellation and patiently refute false claims that are being made about them / provide a more balanced perspective.

    * Straight up give the person a cash payment to help tide them over until they find their next job. Maybe publicize the fact and the size of the cash payment so the mob feels silly. (Or maybe not, if you’re concerned with the mob bankrupting the cancellation insurance firm. However, I think the mob’s throughput of cancellations will remain more or less steady since it’s limited by other factors.)

    • Bugmaster says:

      This sounds like a good idea in theory, that is plagued by the same type of problems as libertopian private security companies:

      * What prevents your organization from being taken over by biased activists ? So far, no other organization had turned out to be immune. You say that your quasi-judges will be randomly selected from the population, but you have no power to do that; all you can do is randomly select from those who apply to work for you.

      * Who is in charge of this organization ? Who makes the hiring and firing decisions ? Is it you ? Why should I trust you ?

      * What prevents your organization from going full mercenary, and offering its services in the burgeoning cancellation-for-hire business ?

      * What prevents your organization from being cancelled ?

      * You say you will “patiently refute claims”, but no one reads patient refutations, so what’s your next move ? Directly giving money to people is not a good idea, but how will you able to afford lifetime support for someone who was cancelled and can no longer get a job ?

      * Let’s say I hired your firm, paid my insurance for many years, then got cancelled. Are you going to honor my claim, or are you going to do your best to weasel out of it, like every other insurance company ? If you did try to get me un-cancelled, and failed, can I sue you ?