# Stranger Than History

Suppose I told you that I knew for a fact that the following statements were true:

• If you paint yourself a certain exact color between blue and green, it will reverse the force of gravity on you and cause you to fall upward.

• In the future, the sky will be filled by billions of floating black spheres. Each sphere will be larger than all the zeppelins that have ever existed put together. If you offer a sphere money, it will lower a male prostitute out of the sky on a bungee cord.

• Your grandchildren will think it is not just foolish, but evil, to put thieves in jail instead of spanking them.

You’d think I was crazy, right?

Now suppose it were the year 1901, and you had to choose between believing those statements I have just offered, and believing statements like the following:

• There is an absolute speed limit on how fast two objects can seem to be traveling relative to each other, which is exactly 670,616,629.2 miles per hour. If you hop on board a train going almost this fast and fire a gun out the window, the fundamental units of length change around, so it looks to you like the bullet is speeding ahead of you, but other people see something different. Oh, and time changes around too.

• In the future, there will be a superconnected global network of billions of adding machines, each one of which has more power than all pre-1901 adding machines put together. One of the primary uses of this network will be to transport moving pictures of lesbian sex by pretending they are made out of numbers.

• Your grandchildren will think it is not just foolish, but evil, to say that someone should not be President of the United States because she is black.

Based on a comment of Robin Hanson’s: “I wonder if one could describe in enough detail a fictional story of an alternative reality, a reality that our ancestors could not distinguish from the truth, in order to make it very clear how surprising the truth turned out to be.”1

• You can actually give a semi-plausible justification of special relativity based on what was known in 1901. Maxwell’s equations are fundamentally incompatible with what I might call “Newtonian relativity.” They define a fixed speed for light, which is impossible in Newtonian relativity for observers in different inertial reference frames. Magnetism is also a puzzle, as the magnetism depends on the relative velocity in a way that makes it appear to create different forces in different inertial frames. Without length contraction from special relativity, magnetism has uncomfortable implications.

• “You can actually give a semi-plausible justification of special relativity based on what was known in 1901.”

You can give a semi-plausible justification for anything. It was obvious at the time that our knowledge was incomplete, but the specific way in which our knowledge was incomplete was still a mystery. It is very easy to invent a plausible-sounding quack theory of physics; that is why we have the Crackpot Index.

• Well, the key equation of special relativity had already been written down in 1901 as the Lorentz contraction. People just hadn’t thought of interpreting it so literally.

But the larger point is still valid. Change the date to 1894 and it would be a complete novelty.

• You can actually give a semi-plausible justification of special relativity based on what was known in 1901. Maxwell’s equations are fundamentally incompatible with...

Yes, this is the chain of logic that Einstein followed in 1905. But it was followed in 1905, not 1901, despite plenty of other physicists focusing on the question.

There’s a reason why I did not list the “semi-plausible justification” in my account of the Bizarre Speed Limit. People typically try to judge absurdity by surface features, without in-depth study of a topic.

• It might be worthwhile to list statements about present-day society that would have seemed incredible to me at various times in the past. For example:

1. That nobody has been to the moon since 1972.

2. That the Soviet Union no longer exists and there has been no nuclear war. (One or the other would have been plausible but not both.)

3. That we’re still using fossil fuels on a large scale.

4. President Ronald Reagan.

5. That there is a major communications network that is not run by any single organization.

6. That there would be a high-quality computer operating system based on free software.

• “1. That nobody has been to the moon since 1972.”

Wow. I never realized it’d been that long—I grew up with that as part of my history, and never realized that it all occurred before I was born.

• “President Ronald Reagan.”

President Donald Trump

• Length contraction was proposed by George FitzGerald in 1889, in response to the Michelson-Morley experiment, and it gained greater circulation in the physicist community after Hendrik Lorentz independently proposed it in 1892. I imagine that most top physicists would have been familiar with it by 1901. Lorentz’s paper included the ideas that the relative motion of reference frames was important, and that funny things were going on with time (like non-simultaneity in different reference frames), and his 1899 follow-up included time dilation equations (as did a less-known 1897 paper by Joseph Larmor). I’m not sure if people familiar with this work saw c as the universal speed limit, but the length contraction equations (which imply imaginary length for v greater than c) suggest that this proposal wouldn’t strike them as crazy (and they would have recognized the number as c, since estimates of the speed of light were accurate within less than 0.1% by then).

• Unnamed, remember that the histories we read promote particular events to prominence, while all others fade into the background; but to the people alive at the time, there are plenty of distractions.

I agree that future events of the most “absurd” sort are often predicted by at least some specialists paying very close attention to the field. This does not interfere with the lesson that I personally draw from history, which is that you have to go very deep and very technical in order to evaluate the possibility of a future event—surface absurdity counts for nothing.

• Megan McArdle reposts this, though alas without a link.

• I could believe in the spanking thing happening pretty easily. (I could believe it pretty easily. It wouldn’t happen easily.) A society with a different approach to deterrence/​punishment, a different view of the relative cruelty of prison vs. corporal punishment, etc. The others require violations of our concepts of physics, economics. Changing the punishment structure doesn’t violate our ideas of human nature/​psychology, etc.

A while back, Marvel Comics put out a “2099” group of books. The premise of the “Punisher 2099″ series was that the civil tort system had replaced the criminal justice system entirely. A violent Paris Hilton type murders Punisher’s entire family, and he goes vigilante.

Although, I guess it compares fairly with a black person becoming President in 1901. A few people with broad knowledge might find it possible but radically unlikely. It’s a fair cop, and shame on Janegalt.net.

• judging by where the commments took this discussion on Megan’s blog, she may have been doing you a favor by not linking to overcomingbias.com

• I get unsolicited email offering to genetically modify rats to my specifications.

I guess this is evidence that we live in a sf novel. Thanks to spam the world’s most powerful supercomputer cluster is now run by criminals: http://​​blog.washingtonpost.com/​​securityfix/​​2007/​​08/​​storm_worm_dwarfs_worlds_top_s_1.html Maybe it is by Vernor Vinge. Although the spam about buying Canadian steel in bulk (with extra alloys thrown in if I buy more than 150 tons) might on the other hand indicate that it is an Ayn Rand novel.

This whole issue seems to be linked to the question of how predictable the future is. Given that we get blindsided by fairly big trends the problem might not be lack of information nor the chaotic nature of the world, but just that we are bad at ignoring historical clutter. Spam is an obvious and logical result of an email system based on free email and a certain fraction of potential customers for whatever you sell. It ought to have been predictable in the earliest 90′s when the non-academic Net was spreading. But at the time even making predictions about the economics of email would have been an apparently unrewarding activity, so it was ignored in favor of newsgroup management.

Maybe the strangeness of the future is just a side effect of limited attention rather than limited intelligence or prediction ability. The strangeness of the past is similarly caused by limited attention to historical facts (i.e. rational ignorance, who cares to understand the victorian moral system?), making actual historical events look odd to us (Archduke Franz Ferdinand insisted on being sewn into his clothes for a crease-free effect, which contributed to him dying and triggering WWI).

• Since this is overcomingbias, it might be useful that when presenting our narratives of past vs. present, it might be useful to watch out for narratives invoking an inevitability of progress.

All of Eliezer’s 3 points from the past seem to touch on that: (1) new scientific knowledge, (2) improved technology, and (3) more social acceptance and opportunities for power minorities.

• “I could believe in the spanking thing happening pretty easily. ”

Don’t forget, Singapore’s reliance on caning brings revulsion from the kind of person who thinks of prisons as cruel.

-dk

• Given that WWII showed that race could be dynamite, it’s surely astonishing that so many rich countries have permitted mass immigration by people who are not only of different race, but often of different religion. Even more astonishing that they’ve allowed some groups to keep immigrating even after the early arrivers from those groups have proved to be failures, economically or socially. Did anyone predict that 60 years ago?

• Some say we did elect a partly black Prez in 1920 -- Warren Harding.

• dearieme: “Given that WWII showed that race could be dynamite, it’s surely astonishing that so many rich countries have permitted mass immigration by people who are not only of different race, but often of different religion. Even more astonishing that they’ve allowed some groups to keep immigrating even after the early arrivers from those groups have proved to be failures, economically or socially. Did anyone predict that 60 years ago?”

I thought that the excessive tolerances and the aversion to distinguish groups of people based on factual differences are traits that developed as a result of oversensitization from the events of WWII. Hitler’s people engaged in cruel and unjust discrimination, so all discrimination is now cruel and unjust. Hitler’s people (and others before them) engaged in cruel and gruesome eugenics experiments, so all eugenics are cruel and gruesome.

If Hitler did cruel experiments using pasta, pasta would now be known to be bad for everyone.

• Jim Crowe laws were there up until 1965, two decades after the war. If there really was such an over-sensitization, this wouldn’t be the case. Clearly, they weren’t sensitized enough. You’d have a hard time linking this to WWII.

What are the examples you can give of such excessive tolerances and aversion to distinguish groups of people based on factual differences without resorting to generalizing, and instead judging each individual separately? In my opinion, it’s very hard to be over tolerant. It’s clear as day that George Zimmerman wouldn’t have shot that kid dead if he was white. Even if it is true that black men have a predisposition to violence, that doesn’t mean the kid deserved the bias against him.

I think it is this thought that drives the anti-discrimination political movement. It’s the idea that people are more than members of their races. More than the WWII, it’s just how the rise of individuality in the Western world would go forward. This also explains why Russia is still rampantly discriminating against all sorts of people, be it women, or gays, or minorities. They were involved in the WWII too, but clearly it hasn’t caused any over-sensitization.

Other than that, there’s the more obvious fact that among the people who are against Affirmative Action, Immigration, Disparate Impact Doctrine etc. are people like Pat Buchanan, who clearly doesn’t have the best interests of protected groups in his heart. So you can’t blame people for trying to be excessively tolerant so that they can counter the people who are excessively intolerant.

• Actually, the last statement (about spankings instead of jails) doesn’t sound foolish at all. We abolished torture and slavery, we have replaced a lot of punishments with softer ones, we are trying to make executions painless and more and more people are against death penalty, we are more and more concerned about the well-being of ever larger groups (white men, then women, then other “races”, then children), we pay attention to personal freedom, we think inmates are entitled to human rights, and if we care more about preventing further misdeeds than punishing the culprit, jails may not be efficient. I doubt spanking will replace jail, but I’d bet on something along these lines.

• I think that the idea of spanking replacing jail is very unlikely, but doesn’t sound as absurd as most of them on the list.

The thing that makes it sound absurd is the idea that our grandchildren will find it EVIL to put criminals in jail instead of spanking them. Imagine people 100 years from now pointing to revered historical figures and saying they supported the use of jails, the way people point out that some of America’s Founding Fathers owned slaves.

Although… if you accept the premise of other punishments replacing jail, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised by the idea that people would come to regard jail as evil, and that many people would be reluctant to accept it even in a discussion of situations where the replacement punishments weren’t practical. I think that also makes a rather useful way for me, personally at least, to consider the idea of whether modern ideas might not actually be better than past ones in a different light. In this thought experiment, our descendants genuinely do have a society better than ours, but their moral standards that have resulted from it aren’t necessarily better than ours, even though they think they are.

• Stranger than World War II?

Let’s start with the bad guys. Battalions of stormtroopers dressed in all black, check. Secret police, check. Determination to brutally kill everyone who doesn’t look like them, check. Leader with a tiny villain mustache and a tendency to go into apopleptic rage when he doesn’t get his way, check. All this from a country that was ordinary, believable, and dare I say it sometimes even sympathetic in previous seasons.

I wouldn’t even mind the lack of originality if they weren’t so heavy-handed about it. Apparently we’re supposed to believe that in the middle of the war the Germans attacked their allies the Russians, starting an unwinnable conflict on two fronts, just to show how sneaky and untrustworthy they could be? And that they diverted all their resources to use in making ever bigger and scarier death camps, even in the middle of a huge war? Real people just aren’t that evil. And that’s not even counting the part where as soon as the plot requires it, they instantly forget about all the racism nonsense and become best buddies with the definitely non-Aryan Japanese.

HT: Volokh

• Several of those became staples of fiction because of their association with World War II, so this is sort of like complaining that Shakespeare is full of cliches. If the Nazis had eaten Jews instead of putting them in death camps, the past 70 years of fiction would have been full of cannibal stormtroopers.

• Note that Yvain is the author.

• I know this is entirely beside the point, but in 1901 Zeppelin’s first airship company collapsed, having built one prototype. The word wasn’t exactly a genericized trademark yet.

• And imperial units such as the mile weren’t standardized yet across countries, nor was the metre defined in terms of c and the second, so c wasn’t “exactly 670616629.2 miles per hour” according to the 1901 meaning of mile.

• Maybe some kind of hindsight bias is at work, but I think I would have found Statement 2′ a lot less crazy than Statement 2: the latter requires there being several billion male prostitutes, which (assuming that less than 20% of all males will be prostitutes and about 50% of all people will be male) would require a world population of several tens of billions.

(One of the main reasons why I would’ve found Statement 1′ very unlikely is the “exactly 670616629.2” part, but I’m sure that was not your point: I’m sure you would assign a much lower prior to “I (army1987) generated a random 32-bit number a few minutes ago and it was 735,416,352” than to “… and it was more than 1 billion”, but you won’t be shocked to know only the former is true. So I’ll pretend it said “between 600 and 700 million miles per hour” instead.) I think I would’ve found Statement 1 crazier than 1′, too: the idea that one particular colour (within the convex hull of the set of all colours I’ve seen before) has quasi-magical powers but an ever-so-slightly bluer or greener one has no weird properties at all sounds pretty bizarre to me (and possibly unfalsifiable, if there exist infinitely many colours), in a way that the idea that there is a speed (several orders of magnitude larger than anybody ever experienced) such that weirder and weirder things happen the closest you get to it wouldn’t.

• Statement 2 is more plausible than you think. Given the stated sizes of the spheres, it’s highly unlikely that they exist solely as prostitute storage units. I’d suggest that they’re aerial habitats, and prostitutes are just one of their many exports to the surface. They also offer really awesome bungee rides.

Alternatively, they could be organism production facilities, and the prostitutes are produced on site upon being ordered. They also offer pet velociraptors and colorful ponies.

• Given the color and size of the spheres, I’m guessing they use solar power and stay aloft by being mostly full of vacuum. As such, statement 2 doesn’t seem particularly crazy.

People consider all sorts of wacky things evil, regardless of, or even in direct opposition to, what the previous generation thought of as evil. As such statement 3 doesn’t shock me at all. There are already some pretty solid arguments circulating about how locking people up for trivial offenses and giving them little or no opportunity to socialize except with career criminals is a bad idea.

Statement 1 is on it’s face inconsistent with what I know about thermodynamics, but there are some pretty big gaps in our understanding of how gravity works, so the paint could just be a way to request a lift from some orbiting tractor-beam taxi service. A stretch, but not inconceivable.

Possibly I am just numb to absurdity.

I’d still wager that there will never be more than 1,999,999,999 male prostitutes (or facilities to produce male prostitutes on demand) on Earth in the next 60 years, though. :-)

• If they’re not exclusively prostitutes, this just requires 2 billion males that are willing to have sex for money. We already have billions of males that are willing to have sex for free, so all this actually requires is a societal shift in which sex-for-money is considered a respectable arrangement instead of an extremely low-status one.

Alternatively they can just be consider AI generic servants, whose duties include sexual deals.

• You do realize that what you’re saying is classic hindsight bias, right? Saying that “Weird happens when you go a certain speed” is just as crazy as saying “Weird stuff happens when you’re a certain color”. There’s no real difference in strangeness between the statements.

• Read my post again. It’s not a matter of speed vs colour, it’s a matter of “there is a maximum possible value of [quantity], much greater than almost all values of [quantity] you experience in everyday life, and weirder and weirder things happen the closer you get to it” vs “there is one particular value of [quantity], well within the range of values of [quantity] you experience in everyday life, at which weird things happens, though nothing weird happens at even very slightly smaller or larger values of [quantity]”.

Anyway, I think the post would be more effective at getting the point across if the true statements were clearly weirder (even factoring in hindsight bias) than the false ones, whereas here the intention appears to be making them approximately equally as weird.

• That seems reasonable. For comparison, consider the following statement, which is the Color equivalent of the first type of statement: If you get light that’s too blue, first it becomes invisible, then it becomes mildly harmful to humans, more harmful the bluer it gets and if it gets really, really, really blue it can pass through solid objects. In the future,doctors will use devices that emit small amounts of this very blue light to look at bones under the skin, and the most destructive weapon ever created by humanity will be a device that emits enormous amounts of incredibly blue light.

...OK, that started out as saying “that’s how light actually works [i.e. extreme ranges do weird things], so it makes sense”, and turned into me talking about how the way light works is also super weird. Oh well.

• It is literally true that a computer is a machine and that it adds, but “adding machine” brings to mind a host of specific attributes that are not true for computers. “Floating black spheres” doesn’t similarly imply other attributes.

Also, “adding machine” is a noncentral description of computers because it omits important attributes that computers have. If that was likewise true for floating black spheres, then the example isn’t crazy at all—for instance, perhaps the spheres are nanobot swarms that can do almost anything, and being able to lower a male prostitute on a bungee cord is just a specific example of “anything”, and whoever described the spheres to me is being dishonest (although literally accurate) by failing to tell me that.

I think the idea is that “adding machine” is supposed to be the closest equivalent that a person from 1901 can understand, and that excuses the noncentral, misleading, description. It really isn’t, so it doesn’t.

Also, X-rays aren’t more blue than regular light. We often say that, but it’s shorthand for “x-rays have more of one particular trait that blue light has” and we normally say it to people to whom we can explain exactly which trait we are talking about and thus avoid misleading them. We wouldn’t say that the planet Venus is “very, very, Arizona” just because it’s hot, and especially not to someone who is likely to conclude that you mean it has even more cacti in it than Arizona.

• Yes, if given a choice to believe one or the other, we’d all probably choose the speed one. But the person in 1901 is not being given the color option as a counterpoint, they’re just being told “if you go really, really fast, reality turns into an Escher painting.” I don’t know about you, but had I been born in 1901, I’m pretty sure I’d sooner believe in Scientology.

• (Of course, someone in 1901 would answer “Who the hell is Escher?” :-))

ETA: And “What the hell is Scientology?”, too. Jokes aside, I would probably agree if I was a randomly chosen person in 1901, but I’m not sure I would if I was a randomly chosen physics graduate student in 1901. I mean, If there’s a reason why only four years later the Annalen der Physik published an article proposing special relativity but none proposing Scientology. (I’d probably still consider quantum mechanics less plausible than Scientology, though.)

• Maybe some kind of hindsight bias is at work, but I think I would have found Statement 2′ a lot less crazy than Statement 2: the latter requires there being several billion male prostitutes, which (assuming that less than 20% of all males will be prostitutes and about 50% of all people will be male) would require a world population of several tens of billions.

(One of the main reasons why I would’ve found Statement 1′ very unlikely is the “exactly 670616629.2” part, but I’m sure that was not your point: I’m sure you would assign a much lower prior to “I (army1987) generated a random 32-bit number a few minutes ago and it was 735,416,352” than to “… and it was more than 1 billion”, but you won’t be shocked to know only the former is true. So I’ll pretend it said “between 600 and 700 million miles per hour” instead.) I think I would’ve found Statement 1 crazier than 1′, too: the idea that one particular colour (within the convex hull of the set of all colours I’ve seen before) has quasi-magical powers but an ever-so-slightly bluer or greener one has no weird properties at all sounds pretty bizarre to me (and possibly unfalsifiable, if there exist infinitely many colours), in a way that the idea that there is a speed (several orders of magnitude larger than anybody ever experienced) such that weirder and weirder things happen the closest you get to it wouldn’t.

• If you were actually living in 1901 and got a bunch of future predictions made by people of the time, and chose the ones with similar absurdity to the ones described above, chances are very unlikely that you’d end up with an accurate prediction. Pointing out that an accurate description of today would have sounded silly in 1901 is hindsight bias; most things that would have sounded silly in 1901 really were silly.

Also, although it doesn’t show up too much in the predictions you chose, people in 1901 had much lower levels of rationality than people from the 20th century. For instance, I’d expect someone from 1901 to think gay marriage is absurd, because beliefs about that have a heavy religious component and religion ruled people’s lives in 1901 in a way that it does not now.

(And some of the items are described in a way that seem stranger to people from 1901 than necessary. What if you described the Internet as a network which controls fax machines that displays pictures so fast that they looked like flipbooks?)

• Also, although it doesn’t show up too much in the predictions you chose, people in 1901 had much lower levels of rationality than people from the 20th century. For instance, I’d expect someone from 1901 to think gay marriage is absurd, because beliefs about that have a heavy religious component and religion ruled people’s lives in 1901 in a way that it does not now.

First even 1901 atheists would consider gay marriage absurd. Also, in order to establish that this constitutes a lower level of rationality, you need to do more then show that their beliefs differ from ours, after all they looking at us would conclude that we are being irrational for not considering it absurd. What argument would you present to them for why they are wrong?

• What argument would you present to them for why they are wrong?

It only does any good to present an argument to someone for why he is wrong if he is rational. If someone believes something for non-rational reasons, there may not be any argument that you could present that would convince him.

• Well, people changed their mind about this issue, and since you consider this a rational change, you presumably believe they changed their mind based an a rational argument. Or are you using “rational” as a 2-place function?

• Well, people changed their mind about this issue, and since you consider this a rational change

Hold on there. That doesn’t follow. It is possible to do the same thing either for rational or irrational reasons.

Nobody who was an adult in 1901 is alive today, but for people who changed their mind and were adults many decades ago, I’d suggest that either

1. the influence of religion on them went down, so they were susceptible to a rational argument recently, but no rational argument could have convinced them in the earlier time period, or

2. they changed their mind about the issue for a reason that was not rational (such as their preacher telling them that God says gay marriage is okay)

3. “many decades ago” was long enough after 1901 that there wasn’t as much religious influence on them in the first place, so they were susceptible to rational argument, but only because they were not from 1901

• the influence of religion on them went down, so they were susceptible to a rational argument recently, but no rational argument could have convinced them in the earlier time period,

(..)

“many decades ago” was long enough after 1901 that there wasn’t as much religious influence on them in the first place, so they were susceptible to rational argument, but only because they were not from 1901

First as I explain in more detail here your claim that it was religious influence that kept people from believing gay marriage was a reasonable thing, appears highly dubious upon closer examination. Second, since you presumably believe that the arguments that convinced them to be less religious were also rational, you could presumably convince them using the rational arguments to be less religious followed by the rational arguments for gay marriage.

• I do not believe that the arguments that convinced them to be less religious were rational (and probably weren’t even, strictly speaking, arguments).

• Then in want sense did you mean “people in 1901 had much lower levels of rationality than people from the 20th century”?

• Since 1901 is in the 20th century, I think you need to be a bit more charitable and figure out that that’s a typo.

Once you correct that, there are two things going on here:

1. People from 1901 and people from the 21st century aren’t the same people. The people from 1901 didn’t become people from 2014 and get more rational in the process; they died off and were replaced by different people who were more rational from the start.

2. Even limiting it to a shorter timespan, people who became rational didn’t do so for rational reasons. In fact, they couldn’t—it would be logically contradictory. If they became rational for rational reasons they would already be rational.

• So what is the basis for your claim that these changes constitute becoming more as opposed to less rational?

• Um, by examining the reasons they gave.

I suppose that it depends on what you mean by “rational”. In particular, it matters whether you consider logically valid reasoning based on false premises (such as the premise “every interpretation of the Bible by my religion is true”) to be rationality. If you do, then I concede, that it might be no change in rationality or even a change in the direction of less rationality.

On the other hand, if you consider rationality to be following a process that results in true beliefs, then believing that gay marriage is okay is rational and rejecting gay marriage is not, but to convince you of that I would have to convince you that the former is a true belief and it’s probably impossible for me to do that.

• “every interpretation of the Bible by my religion is true”

First, I don’t think even most Christians at the time would agree with that as a premise. This about as accurate a caricature as describing someone’s position as “every one of my beliefs is true”. Second, as I have pointed out repeatedly in this thread even the atheists at the time rejected gay marriage.

but to convince you of that I would have to convince you that the former is a true belief and it’s probably impossible for me to do that.

Why are you so convinced that is in fact a true belief since you don’t seem able to produce any argument for it?

• This about as accurate a caricature as describing someone’s position as “every one of my beliefs is true”

“such as” means that what follows is an example, not an exhaustive list, and what I said doesn’t apply just to that example and to nothing else. If rationality means deriving conclusions logically from premises, then I concede that opposition to gay marriage can be rational, given appropriate premises.

Why are you so convinced that is in fact a true belief since you don’t seem able to produce any argument for it?

It’s pointless to produce an argument for it. The chance that even with a valid argument I could persuade someone who opposes gay marriage, to support gay marriage, is negligible.

• The chance that even with a valid argument I could persuade someone who opposes gay marriage, to support gay marriage, is negligible.

The question is not, how would you persuade someone else, but, what persuades you?

• even with a valid argument

What would constitute a valid argument in this context?

• An argument is valid if, given true premises, it always and exclusively produces true conclusions. A valid argument in this context might therefore be “given that we wish to maximise social welfare (A) and that allowing gay marriage increases social welfare (B), we should allow gay marriage (C)”. A and B really do imply C. Some people contend that the argument is not sound (that is, that its conclusion is false) because at least one of its premises is not true (reflecting reality); I am not aware of anyone who contends that it is invalid.

Jiro is contending that people who oppose gay marriage do not do so because they have valid arguments for doing so; if we were to refute their arguments they would not change their minds. Xe has argued above that people (as a group) did not stop being anti-homosexuality for rational reasons, i.e. because the state of the evidence changed in important ways or because new valid arguments were brought to bear, but rather for irrational reasons, such as old people dying.

The fact that Jiro considers it rational to believe that gay marriage is a good thing, and thus that people’s beliefs are now in better accord with an ideal reasoner’s beliefs (“are more rational”), does not contradict Jiro’s belief that popular opinion changed for reasons other than those that would affect a Bayesian. Eugine_Nier appears to be conflating two senses of “rational”.

As RichardKennaway observes, we ought to ask why Jiro believes that we should allow gay marriage. I suspect the answer will be close to “because it increases social welfare”, which seems to be a well-founded claim.

• I suspect the answer will be close to “because it increases social welfare”

Ok, now what’s the evidence that this is in fact the case?

• To a first approxmotion: the fact that there’s uptake for it means people judge it to increase their welfare.

Since that is obvious, I suppose you mean there are negative externalities that lead to ne.tt negative welfare. In which case: what is YOUR evidence?

• To a first approxmotion: the fact that there’s uptake for it means people judge it to increase their welfare.

Which also applies to things like smoking and starting a war with your neighbours. Are you really arguing that everything people do in noticeable numbers increases social welfare?

• “To a first approximation.”

We know the negative externalities of the examples you mention.

• You’re making the argument “people doing X is evidence for X increasing social welfare”. I don’t think this argument works, first approximation or not.

• An argument is valid if, given true premises, it always and exclusively produces true conclusions.

We’re discussing social and cultural memes, not formal logic.

Do note that “I oppose gay marriage because it goes against God’s law” is a valid argument.

• What would it even mean for support or opposition to gay marriage to be rational or irrational? The utility function isn’t up for grabs.

• It would be an odd utility function which had an explicit term for gay marriage specifically. Arguments for it tend to be based on broader principles, like fairness and the fact of its non-harmfulness to others.

An irrational opposition might be something like having a term for fairness but failing to evaluate that term in some particular case, or becoming convinced of harmfulness despite the absence of evidence for such.

• First even 1901 atheists would consider gay marriage absurd.

Do you have any evidence for this?

Also, France had a significant atheist population, no one there was proposing gay marriage.

Edit: By the 1930′s there were several countries where Atheist Militants (of the priest-killing kind) either ruled or controlled large chunks of territory, none of them ever considered implementing gay marriage. So you can’t even argue “the atheists actually thought gay marriage was a sane idea but didn’t say so for fear of how they’d look to their religious neighbors”.

You needn’t go as far back as Freud. Hell, read what Ayn Rand had to say about homosexuality (and she thought that God existing was metaphysically impossible and religion was the “negation of reason”).

• I agree with the statements of fact but not with the inference drawn from them. While Jiro’s argument is poorly expressed, I think it is reasonable to say that opposition to homosexuality would not have been the default stance of the cultures of or derived from Europe if not for Christianity being the dominant religion in previous years. While the Communists rejected religion, they did not fully update on this rejection, but rather continued in many of the beliefs that religion had caused to be part of their culture.

I am not sure that “the atheists actually thought gay marriage was a sane idea but didn’t say so for fear of how they’d look to their religious neighbors” was Jiro’s position, but I think that it is a straw man.

• ...I think it is reasonable to say that opposition to homosexuality would not have been the default stance of the cultures of or derived from Europe if not for Christianity being the dominant religion in previous years. While the Communists rejected religion, they did not fully update on this rejection, but rather continued in many of the beliefs that religion had caused to be part of their culture.

Blaming lingering Christian memes for the illegality of gay marriage doesn’t seem right to me, because almost all countries that currently allow it are predominantly Christian or Post-Christian. Are there any countries that allow gay marriage that don’t have a longish history of Christianity?

• Are there any countries that allow gay marriage that don’t have a longish history of Christianity?

No. There are 17 countries that allow it and 2 that allow it in some jurisdictions. A list may be found here: http://​​www.pewforum.org/​​2013/​​12/​​19/​​gay-marriage-around-the-world-2013/​​

There have been plenty of cultures where homosexuality was accepted; classical Greece and Rome, for example. Cultures where marriage is predominantly a governmental matter rather than a religious one are all, as far as I am aware, heavily influenced by the cultures of western Europe. One might also observe that all of these countries are industrial or post-industrial, and have large populations of young people with vastly more economic and sexual freedom than occured before the middle of the 20th century. One might also observe that China, Japan and South Korea seem to be the only countries at this level of economic development that were not culturally dominated by colonial states.

The fact that a history of Christianity is positively correlated with approval for gay marriage does not imply that Christian memes directly influence stances on homosexuality. Christianity spread around the world alongside other memes (such as democracy and case law). Those countries where European colonies were culturally dominant also received the industrial revolution and the immense increases in personal rights that came as a consequence of the increased economic and political power of the working class. One might also point out that thinking black people are inferior is a meme that arose from the slave trade in Christian semi-democracies.

There seems to be abundant evidence that the Abrahamic religions have strongly influenced societal views worldwide with regard to sexual morals; indeed, I cannot imagine a remotely plausible argument for this being untrue. I also wish to observe that Eastern Orthodox Christianity survived the USSR and still affects cultural values in Russia; it seems highly improbable that it did not influence Russian culture in the 1930s.

• There have been plenty of cultures where homosexuality was accepted; classical Greece and Rome, for example.

And, as Vaniver pointed out, feudal Japan and imperial China as well. However, none of these societies allowed gay marriage, as far as I know.

Note that in all pre-modern, and in particular pre-industrial, societies, economic and military strength were constrained by population size. Also, social organization was centred around clans/​extended families.
Therefore, marrying and making lots of children was considered a duty of every man and woman towards both their clan and their country.

There seem to be some exceptions to the rule: the Catholic Church attempted to bar its priests from marrying, with little success until the 11th century, possibly to avoid priests spread in a multitude of countries, over which the Church had little control, to form dynastic lines. Priests still provided valuable services to their communities, hence the loss of fertility caused by the marriage ban was tolerated.
I suppose that similar arguments can be made for Buddhist priests, but I’m not as knowledgeable of Asian history.

• However, none of these societies allowed gay marriage, as far as I know.

You have to be careful with terminology here. Let’s say that in some society it’s acceptable for a man and a woman to live together and have regular sex. The society calls this relationship by the word X. In the same society it is also acceptable for a man and another man to live together and have regular sex. The society calls this relationship by the word Y.

Now, X and Y are different words but by itself that does not mean that this society does not “allow gay marriage”. It might mean that all it does is distinguish between two (or more) kinds of “marriage”.

To figure out whether a society “allows gay marriage” you probably need to taboo the word “marriage” and define what does your question mean—most likely in terms of a bundle of rights and obligations that comes with the declaration of some sort of a union between some people.

• All known human societies, present and past, have heterosexual marriage: a man and a woman perform a ritual in front of their community and a religious figure or elder, throw a large party with lots of food, and then they go to live toghether and have regular sex, and the community will consider them a family, which entails a number of rights and obligations depending on the local laws and customs.

In many societies a man can marry multiple women, although usually only high status men do it. In very few societies a woman can marry multiple men, usually brothers or cousins. But even in a polygamous marriage the marriage relationship is largely intended to be binary: one party can be married with multiple parties, but these other parties aren’t married to each other. They have few mutual rights and obligations and are generally not expected to have sex with each others.

Traditionally, in socieites which accepted homosexuality, there was no equivalent of the marriage relationship for people of the same sex. Homosexual relationships were intended to be pre-marital and extra-marital, occurring aside heterosexual family-building marriage.
Cohabitation and regular sex between unmarried people of the same sex may have been tolerated, but it was not encouraged, and certainly not given social or legal recognition.

Legally and socially recognized homosexual marriage only occurs in some modern Western societies.

EDIT:

Apparently, some ancient societies did give some degree of legal recognition to same-sex unions, although not equivalent to heterosexual marriage: http://​​en.wikipedia.org/​​wiki/​​History_of_same-sex_unions

• I’m not sure this is true. In ~350 Emperor Constantius II ordered executions of people who were same-sex married, and outlawing it going forward. It seems this law would be unnecessary if legal, same-sex marriages weren’t rarely occurring and legally recognized in Republican Rome. Also, Nero famously married two men, so there were at least two legally recognized Roman same-sex marriages, if only legal by will of the emperor.

Also, many traditional societies (the Gikuyu and Nandi for instance) have same-sex or third-sex marriage as a legal practice to deal with inheritance. Its purpose is not sexual, but nothing stops it from becoming so. Native American tribes had marriages between berdaches and men. The fuijan, in China, also had religious same-sex marriages (I have no idea if they were legally, but according to Passions of the Cut Sleeve they were socially recognized).

• Emperor Nero was known for being a weirdo, hence I wouldn’t consider him as representative of Roman culture.

Anyway, according to Wikipedia, stable or semi-stable same-sex relationships were given some degree of legal recognition in Rome and other ancient societies, hence it appears that my original claim should be weakened.

• Traditionally, in socieites which accepted homosexuality, there was no equivalent of the marriage relationship for people of the same sex.

That sounds like a naked assertion not much supported by evidence. Since we were talking about Asia, here is a passage from Wikipedia talking about Japan:

From religious circles, same-sex love spread to the warrior (samurai) class, where it was customary for a boy in the wakashū age category to undergo training in the martial arts by apprenticing to a more experienced adult man. The man was permitted, if the boy agreed, to take the boy as his lover until he came of age; this relationship, often formalized in a “brotherhood contract”,[11] was expected to be exclusive, with both partners swearing to take no other (male) lovers. This practice, along with clerical pederasty, developed into the codified system of age-structured homosexuality known as shudō, abbreviated from wakashūdo, the “way (do) of wakashū”.[12] The older partner, in the role of nenja, would teach the wakashū martial skills, warrior etiquette, and the samurai code of honor, while his desire to be a good role model for his wakashū would lead him to behave more honorably himself; thus a shudō relationship was considered to have a “mutually ennobling effect”.[13] In addition, both parties were expected to be loyal unto death...

Looks like an “equivalent of the marriage relationship”, doesn’t it?

• The man was permitted, if the boy agreed, to take the boy as his lover until he came of age

It doesn’t really look like a marriage relationship, it seems more like the master-disciple pederastic relationships of ancient Greece, although perhaps more formalized.

• It doesn’t really look like a marriage relationship

That’s the thing, isn’t it? Whether it looks like one or not critically depends on your idea of what a “marriage relationship” is.

For example, there are a bunch of people who define marriage as a “union between a man and a woman”. Given this definition, of course the idea of gay marriage is nonsense. Given a different definition it may not be, though.

I repeat my suggestion of tabooing “marriage”. I suspect that talking about what kind of relationships should society recognize and what kinds of rights and obligations do these relationships give rise to could be more productive. If that’s possible, that is.

• Whether it looks like one or not critically depends on your idea of what a “marriage relationship” is.

For starters, compare it to marriage in the society in question.

• The religious leader is not actually required in marriage cerimonies for all religions.

• I suppose that similar arguments can be made for Buddhist priests, but I’m not as knowledgeable of Asian history.

Well, most strains of Buddhism don’t formalize a role like that of Catholic priests; there are ordained monastics, some of whom are also teachers, and there are lay teachers, but there isn’t a process of ordainment specifically for religious instructors. That monastic community is quite old and well-developed, though, and its members (monks, nuns) have generally been expected to be celibate.

Some strains do include variations that are less restrictive. The Dzogchen tradition in Tibet provides for noncelibate ngakpa, for example. Most Buddhist monks in Japan, and some in China and Korea, take vows that allow for marriage. Theravada traditions in Southeast Asia often encourage temporary ordination (generally for older male children).

• One might also observe that China, Japan and South Korea seem to be the only countries at this level of economic development that were not culturally dominated by colonial states.

I get the impression that both China and Japan (I’m less familiar with Korea) are accepting of homosexual desire and activity, and assumed that bisexuality (of some sort) was normal, and almost all opposition to it stems from Christian influences in the 1800s. I think that none of them have gay marriage, or any sort of serious movement towards gay marriage, because of a conception of marriage as family-creating, rather than bond-creating, and under such a view obviously sterile marriages are a bad idea. (Why not just marry a woman and have a male lover?)

• This was certainly the attitude of ancient Greece, to a first approximation anyway (they didn’t even have a social category for gay relationships between two men of equal status).

I’m not sure how much this was the case in China. Given how fashionable it is in certain parts of academia to retroactively declare historical people gay, I’d take this claim with a grain of salt.

• This was certainly the attitude of ancient Greece, to a first approximation anyway (they didn’t even have a social category for gay relationships between two men of equal status).

This is the way it was in Japan and China, and seems to be the societal default. Male-male relationships were typically between older and younger men, with some between two young men.

Given how fashionable it is in certain parts of academia to retroactively declare historical people gay, I’d take this claim with a grain of salt.

Which claim? The evidence for existence of socially acceptable sexual relationships between men seems as good for ancient China and Japan as it is for ancient Greece.

(Agreed that individual claims of sexuality- was Buchanan gay, or just asexual?- are dubious, because it’s hard to get anything more definite than a “maybe,” but it’s much easier to be confident about aggregates: at least some of the historical figures suspected to be gay were gay.)

• I’ve heard one suggestion that it might not even make sense to talk about people in societies with different sexual morals, such as the ancient Greeks or the Chinese and Japanese in these examples, as being “gay” or “straight” in the sense that modern Western countries talk about it. They certainly didn’t see themselves that way. It’s clear from examples like pederasty that cultural values have a lot of impact not only on how people act sexually, but on how they conceive of sexuality.

On the other hand, it’s clear from the existence of “homosexuality” even amidst Christian moral values that humans also have innate tendencies on this that differ from person to person for some reason. But I’m not sure if we really know enough to say what those innate tendencies are like on a statistical level; we don’t have any large data on a society with minimal enough influence on both sexual mores and the conception of sexuality that we can see how humans act as a result. Maybe studying a large number of hunter-gatherer societies would give us something similar; they’d all have societies with specific conceptions of sexual morals, but we’d avoid most arbitrary distinctions and get at some things that actually relate to natural human tendencies, even if they aren’t the pure expression of them.

• One might also point out that thinking black people are inferior is a meme that arose from the slave trade in Christian semi-democracies.

Read Arabian Nights, blacks are portrayed pretty negatively there as well.

• Arabs had been enslaving Africans since medieval times.

• They were also enslaving Europeans.

• And as far as I can tell, they didn’t have a very high opinion of European intelligence, customs, or capacity for civilization either—though ibn Fadlan might have been excused, considering who he was dealing with.

• I’ve read it. Views about black people in the Islamic Golden Age were not the cause of views about black people in the nations participating in the transatlantic slave trade; a quick check of Wikipedia confirms that slavery as a formal institution had to redevelop in the English colonies, as chattel slavery had virtually disappeared after the Norman Conquest and villeinage was largely gone by the beginning of the 17th century. One might as well argue that the ethic of recipricocity in modern Europe owes its origin to Confucian ren.

• Views about black people in the Islamic Golden Age were not the cause of views about black people in the nations participating in the transatlantic slave trade;

I never said they were. It’s possible that both views had a common cause, e.g., blacks actually being less intelligent.

• Firstly, that explanation has a very low probability of being true. Even if we assume that important systematic differences in IQ existed for the relevant period, we are making a very strong claim when we say that slavery is a direct result of lower IQ. As you yourself point out, Arabs also historically enslaved Europeans; one might also observe that the Vikings did an awful lot of enslaving. Should we therefore conclude that the Nordic peoples are more intelligent than the Slavs and Anglo-Saxons?

Secondly, your objection now reduces to “other people in history were predjudiced against blacks, so modern prejudice is probably not a consequence of slavery”. Obviously it reduces the probability, but by a very small amount. Other people have also been angry with Bob; nevertheless, it remains extremely probable that I am angry because he just punched me.

Are you seriously trying to argue that the prejudice against blacks in Europe and the USA is not a consequence of the slave trade?

• we are making a very strong claim when we say that slavery is a direct result of lower IQ.

I meant the views on black people.

Secondly, your objection now reduces to “other people in history were predjudiced against blacks, so modern prejudice is probably not a consequence of slavery”. Obviously it reduces the probability, but by a very small amount.

True, we better evidence that modern “prejudice” against blacks is due to the “prejudices” largely being accurate. Namely the fact that the prejudices are in fact accurate, in the sense that (whether because of nature or nurture) blacks are in fact less intelligent and more prone to criminality than whites.

Are you seriously trying to argue that the prejudice against blacks in Europe and the USA is not a consequence of the slave trade?

They are an indirect consequence of the slave trade in the sense that the slave trade resulted in large numbers of blacks in the United States (and also possibly contributed to the difference in intelligence).

• Cultures where marriage is predominantly a governmental matter rather than a religious one are all, as far as I am aware, heavily influenced by the cultures of western Europe.

My understanding of non-Christian cultures is that this claim is dubious. Of course the notion of a separation of religion and state is itself a modern western notion, so it’s hard to say what this means for most cultures.

• The modern West treats marriage as being primarily about romantic love, which is an idea not shared by earlier cultures. A culture which does not see romantic love as the essential component of marriage would be unlikely to come up with the idea of gay marriage. There may be some convoluted connection between Christianity and the Western ideal of love-based marriage, but it seems likely that if there were a culture that had the same overriding love-marriage association without any religious objections to homosexuality, that culture would endorse gay marriage.

• people in 1901 had much lower levels of rationality than people from the 20th century.

Do you have any examples of this which do not rely on measuring peoples’ rationality by the extent they agree with modern progressive political views?

• That’s a tricky question because modern progressive political views are opposed to religion. And religion is a large source of irrationality. So most examples are going to happen to match modern progressive political views just because of that, even though they’re not measured by their agreement with modern progressive political views.

The first example that comes to mind is a decline in anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism 1) is irrational and 2) because of left-wing opposition to Israel and the West and support of third world Arab states, is not necessarily reduced by modern progressive political views.

• 2) because of left-wing opposition to Israel and the West and support of third world Arab states,

This might be a good example in Europe, but both sides of mainstream US politics support Israel over its neighbors, fairly heavily. The fringes don’t (on both ends), but the main body of political discourse does, and that takes away the support for your claim.

• No, it still counts. If both groups support it, it still isn’t specific to progressive political views.

• The Overton Window is far more progressive than it was a century ago and that makes anti-Semitism socially unacceptable.

Also, that we no longer treat Jews as the Evil Outsiders and have replaced them with Muslims, does not speak well for the rationality of our society. A century ago we were, as a society, racist against Italians. Now we aren’t; instead we’re racist against Latinos, for substantially the same reasons. Neither of those looks like an improvement from where I’m standing.

• Another example is how a lot more people have realized that central planning doesn’t work. An example where things have become less rational since the 1900′s is the current irrational belief that race and gender don’t correlate with anything significant.

• I admit that I encounter people who make a big deal of how edgy and contrarian they are for speaking out about innate differences in the face of the stifling politically correct consensus that race and sex don’t matter at all. It’s pretty amazing how they seem to be everywhere, given the supposedly universal consensus rejecting and supressing such edgy, contrarian views.

• The public controversy about James Watson remarks on African intelligence happened fairly recently. To me that controversy indicates that the ideas are at least a bit edgy.

• It’s pretty amazing how they seem to be everywhere

Really? Does that “everywhere” includes managerial positions in companies and various institutions? Are these people responsible for hiring anyone, by any chance?

Or let’s even put it this way. Given the current legal and political climate and the habits of EEOC, do you think it’s a good idea for a company to promote to a position of responsibility someone who publicly asserts that sex and race differences are significant?

• I admit that I encounter people who make a big deal of how edgy and contrarian they are for speaking out about innate differences in the face of the stifling politically correct consensus that race and sex don’t matter at all. It’s pretty amazing how they seem to be everywhere, given the supposedly universal consensus rejecting and supressing such edgy, contrarian views.

When you say “encounter,” are you talking about internet postings? Private conversations in real life? Television commentators? Newspaper op-ed pieces?

• Mostly the first two. I don’t watch much TV news or read many newspapers any more.

• Mostly the first two. I don’t watch much TV news or read many newspapers any more.

Would you mind linking to a couple of these internet postings so I can get a better handle on what you are saying? TIA.

• Since you haven’t provided examples of your observations, I will add that I suspect you are subconsciously exaggerating your case quite a bit. But I’m happy to look.

• I admit that I encounter people who make a big deal of how edgy and contrarian they are for speaking out about innate differences in the face of the stifling politically correct consensus that race and sex don’t matter at all. It’s pretty amazing how they seem to be everywhere, given the supposedly universal consensus rejecting and supressing such edgy, contrarian views.

Have you seen any of these people on mainstream fora? The reason these people seem so common is that you’re per-filtering your internet browsing to sites that strongly value truth.

• As far as I can tell, the far left position on sex is that most of the stereotypical sex differences are exaggerated, and most of the genuine differences are more the result of socialization rather than biology. I don’t encounter anyone who goes further than that; I’ve never encountered anyone who would replace either “most” with an “all,” or who would replace the “more” with an “entirely,” in the case of sex, and I encounter a lot of people who are pretty far left (being fairly far left myself these days). The situation with race is a little different; some people would replace the second “most” with an “all,” and the second “more” with an “entirely.” But then, the evidence is also different with respect to race. People who think there’s just no difference at all in the case of sex I only encounter as straw characters in conservative rants.

• As far as I can tell, the far left position on sex is that most of the stereotypical sex differences are exaggerated, and most of the genuine differences are more the result of socialization rather than biology.

And anyone who suggests they might be caused by biology is an EVIL SEXIST who must be suppressed.

I don’t encounter anyone who goes further than that; I’ve never encountered anyone who would replace either “most” with an “all,” or who would replace the “more” with an “entirely,” in the case of sex, and I encounter a lot of people who are pretty far left (being fairly far left myself these days).

True, in the sense that I don’t think any leftists are insane enough to claim that differences in genitals and breasts are the result of socialization, but then again I don’t hang out with the SJ crowd.

• Have you seen any of these people on mainstream fora? The reason these people seem so common is that you’re per-filtering your internet browsing to sites that strongly value truth.

I see these people in my everyday life all the time. I think that the edge internet contrarians don’t realize their views are held as common sense by fairly large sections of the population.

• I suspect there are many fewer such people in places where said edge internet contrarians live (e.g. New England or the Bay Area) than elsewhere.

(I’ve never been to New England nor to the Bay Area, so take this with a huge grain of salt.)

• I’m under the impression that many of those internet contrarians are in the Bay Area or in New England and forget what things are like in the rest of the world.

• Oh, I’m sure a lot of people (or at least their system I’s) have noticed the forbidden facts we describe (in part because some of them are blinkingly obvious unless one is actively trying not to see them), whether they’re willing to say them anywhere semi-public is another issue.

• Have you seen any of these people on mainstream fora?

I see quite a lot of them on Facebook, some of whom are outraged by some ‘news’ on Italian analogues of The Onion without even realizing they’re satire so they hardly “strongly value truth”.

• OTOH the stifling consensus isn’t stifling teh Webz

• Depends on which website you’re talking about.

• ...enough to stop treating people as individuals

• Taboo “treating people as individuals”.

Also, how would you count things like Affirmative Action and especially the Disparate Impact Doctrine?

• I would count them ss relevant to the US only.

Someone once told me that Obama must be dumber than GWB because he is black. That is what treating someone as an individual isn’t.

• Someone once told me that Obama must be dumber than GWB because he is black. That is what treating someone as an individual isn’t.

It is, however, proper application of Bayesian evidence.

• “It is, however, proper application of Bayesian evidence.”

Nonsense.

If the only relevant pieces of information you had were the race of each man, and the average intelligence of each race, then of course it would be rational to estimate that the man from the ‘smarter’ race were the smarter of the two. But this is very far from the truth. In the Obama-Bush example, there is more than enough evidence on the public record to swamp any racially determined prior.

I think the principle of ‘treating people as individuals’ exists to combat a couple of things. One is the tendency to form stereotypes on flimsy or non-existent evidence, to over-estimate the generality and force of those stereotypes that are factually based, and to treat prejudice (i.e. group membership-based priors) as a substitute for even very easily-gathered and reliable evidence about the individual. The other is the direct emotional harm done to people by treating them as members of a group first, and individuals second (if at all). It is possible for this harm to outweigh the benefits of otherwise-rational discrimination.

• Note: I honestly have no idea about the relationship between race and intelligence, so I deliberately set aside the question of who, if anyone, would have the higher prior in the Obama-Bush comparison. These aren’t politically correct weasel words; I would have a hard time properly defining intelligence, let alone measuring it in a culturally neutral way, but if I do see good evidence for a racial intelligence gap then I will readily accept it. All of this is beside the point of the dispute between TheAncientGreek and Eugine_Nier, though, for the reasons I gave above.

• Note: I honestly have no idea about the relationship between race and intelligence,

It’s statements like this which make me extremely skeptical of the idea that human rationality has increased over the last 100 years.

• If the only relevant pieces of information you had were the race of each man, and the average intelligence of each race, then of course it would be rational to estimate that the man from the ‘smarter’ race were the smarter of the two.

Even then, assuming the difference between the averages is one standard deviation of either race’s distribution and each race’s distribution is Gaussian, there is only 76% probability that the smarter guy is the one from the smarter race, which hardly counts as “must” in my book.

• If both are per-selected to be in the upper Nth percentile for their race, likely given the way affirmative action works, the probability is much higher.

• But this is very far from the truth. In the Obama-Bush example, there is more than enough evidence on the public record to swamp any racially determined prior.

In principal, yes. In practice there is also so much noise put out by spin doctors that it might very well make sense to fall back on the prior.

• Well, then let’s do a back of the envelope calculation based on statistics of today’s student bodies. Let’s stipulate that due to affirmative action, students of color are at the bottom of their class.

Harvard Law School’s class body is 40% of students of color. The 25 percentile LSAT score at Harvard Law is 170, and score 170 is 97.5th percentile among people who take the LSAT. So at least (40%-25%)/​40% = 37.5% of the students of color at Harvard Law have a 97.5th percentile LSAT. Let’s assume that a black editor of the Harvard Law Review will be among those top students of color, so at least 25% percentile among HLS students. Based on his race, university and editorship, we estimate that Obama has a 97.5th percentile LSAT score or greater.

Compared to Harvard Law School, Harvard Business School relies less on standardized tests and enrolls fewer students of color (25% vs 40% for Harvard Law). George Bush, being white, is in the upper 75% section of the class. I know of no indication to suggest that he was an exceptional student, so I’ll put him in the middle of the white range (62.5 percentile). That corresponds to an GMAT score percentile of about 96 or 97 percent.

No, this is not a rigorous analysis, but it’s an improvement over a simple race prior (which I think is pretty crazy)

• It is, however, proper application of Bayesian evidence.

With a “must” in there?

• Not really. Its privileging a piece of weak evidence (race) against stronger evidence (Obama was in the top 10% of his Harvard law class, Bush was was a C student at Yale).

• Conditioned on ‘has graduated from an Ivy League college’, it certainly is not. If anything, it is evidence in the opposite direction.

• These days most Ivy League schools are easy to graduate if one doesn’t pick a hard major, so that really means “conditioned on ‘was admitted into an Ivy League college’ ”. Except Ivy League colleges practice affirmative action, so it’s still evidence in the original direction.

• These days most Ivy League schools are easy to graduate if one doesn’t pick a hard major,

We know which majors Obama and Bush picked.

• Yes, and they weren’t STEM fields, so no additional evidence there.

• Even with affirmative action, it’s still harder to get into Ivy League schools as a minority than as a white person. You need more talent to get in than the white guy you’re competing with.

• What on earth are you talking about? The way affirmative action works, is that the cutoff for blacks is lower than the cutoff for whites.

• I wouldn’t be surprised if you disagreed with his point, but I’m a little surprised that you just don’t understand it. The cutoff you speak of is in the admissions criteria, not in talent (there being no way to measure talent directly). VAuroch is pretty obviously of the opinion that admissions criteria are poor measures of talent, and that in particular minorities are more likely to score poorly on the admissions criteria for reasons other than talent. Again, not surprised if you disagree, but I’m very surprised you couldn’t figure out that that was what he meant.

• (there being no way to measure talent directly). VAuroch is pretty obviously of the opinion that admissions criteria are poor measures of talent

I would be interested to know what people consider to be better “measures of talent” than those usually considered by admissions office.

• Those usually considered by admissions offices are known to be horrible and in fact were originally selected so as to allow tacit discrimination while maintaining a veneer of fairness (specifically to discriminate against Jews, who by previous measures of achievement would have dominated the Ivies for a couple decades. Asians are currently in that same position.)

• I am still waiting for someone to be specific about what they consider to be better measures.

• Raw grades have been demonstrated to be better, but still not good.

• Also, raw grade have been demonstrated to be better at predicting what?

When people talk about predictors of success in college, they’re usually talking about how well they predict completion of a four-year degree and/​or college GPA. The first non-paywalled source I’ve found is this one, though I haven’t read it closely enough to vouch for its quality.

(Note that I’m agnostic on the object-level question here; this is not intended to be an endorsement.)

• When people talk about predictors of success in college

Yes, but we are not talking about that. We are talking about “measures of talent” which, even given the fuzziness of the term, is clearly not limited to college GPA.

Two people in this thread has asserted that the usual measures (which I understand to be IQ proxies like the SAT and the high school GPA) are “poor” or “horrible”. I asked for better measures of talent and so far got pretty much nothing.

• Raw grades are notorious for being subject to grade inflation and otherwise depending on the specific high school.

• You’d think that, but when it’s actually put to the test, they’re found to be a much better predictor of academic ability than standardized methods. Grade inflation and the vagaries of the schools apparently all come out in the wash.

• One reason for thinking that a measure of talent is poor might be that it is outperformed by other measures. There may not be genuinely good measures of talent. It does occur some sort of retrospective measure based on results is probably better than what the admissions office uses, but that is surely still not a perfect measure, and is also obviously not a practical option to replace what the admissions office uses (unless someone invents a time machine). Another reason to think a measure of talent is poor, though, and this is probably more applicable here, is that a measure may be considered suspect if there is reason to think it is really measuring something else entirely, perhaps because it correlates suspiciously strongly with factors regarded as independent of talent.

• perhaps because it correlates suspiciously strongly with factors regarded as independent of talent.

Except you’re only evidence that those factors are independent of talent is that you declare any test that shows a correlation suspect.

• might be that it is outperformed by other measures.

Well, which ones? I am asking to name specific measures (and, of course, forward-looking—hindsight is not relevant here).

• VAuroch is pretty obviously of the opinion that admissions criteria are poor measures of talent, and that in particular minorities are more likely to score poorly on the admissions criteria for reasons other than talent.

Even if that were true, affirmative action is based on admitting a certain percentage of blacks. Thus unless he (or you) are claiming that the average black has more talent than the average white, the amount of talent a black needs will still be less than the amount of talent a white needs.

• This would only be true if affirmative action were carried to the point where the percentage of black students in the elite schools exceeded the percentage of blacks in the general population. I don’t have the numbers handy, but I did go to grad school at an Ivy, not terribly long ago, and that does not match my recollection of the racial make-up there. The undergraduate ranks seemed to be dominated by rich white kids.

• but I did go to grad school at an Ivy, not terribly long ago, and that does not match my recollection of the racial make-up there.

Yes, affirmative action isn’t used for grad school in STEM fields (at least for now).

• Which I said nothing about. I referred to the undergraduate population (I wasn’t an undergrad, but university campuses aren’t particularly segregated between grad and undergrad populations). Actually, the grad student population generally was more racially diverse than the undergraduate population (mostly due to lots of international students among the grad students).

• Actually, the grad student population generally was more racially diverse than the undergraduate population

That’s not the same as having more blacks, (by “black” I mean someone of sub-Saharan African decent, dark-skinned Indians have different IQ statistics).

• You make a lot of assumptions. When I said the grad student population was “racially diverse” I was not trying to give a more impressive sounding name to the fact that it included a decent number of Asians. It did, of course, but it also included plenty of people from Africa, the West Indies, the Middle East, and, well, pretty much everywhere.

• Unless I miss your point, this only holds true if the percentage of blacks required to be admitted is higher than the percentage of blacks in the population.

• Even if that were true, affirmative action is based on admitting a certain percentage of blacks.

This sort of quota approach isn’t the only kind of affirmative action, although it’s possible it’s the only kind implemented in universities?

• Perhaps by “minority,” he is lumping all non-Whites together.

• No it’s not dude. Confounders are really important. If you don’t adjust for them your inferences are going to be crap.

• I can appeal to negative externalities at this point, and I have evidence for them too.

• I can appeal to negative externalities at this point, and I have evidence for them too.

Such as?

I can certainly list negative consequences of the false belief being widespread (and “official”). For example, currently companies must either hire unqualified people or risk being accused to racism and/​or sexism since they’re workplace ratios don’t match those of the general population. People attempting to create alternate accreditation systems regularly get sued on disparate impact grounds.

• Companies are not forced to hire literally unqualified people: Myth 10

Btw, AA is a terrible example of creeping progressivism/​ir rationality.

Its not obviously irrational, since there are rational arguments on both sides.

It’s not a darling of the left, as some self identified liberals don’t actually like it.

It’s not universal feature of modern liberal democracies -it is mostly an issue in the US.

It’s not obviously harmful: the US, with its AA , has higher per capita GDP than Western countries without it.

EDIT And some companies adopt similar policies voluntarily.

• It’s not universal feature of modern liberal democracies -it is mostly an issue in the US.

You may have heard of a country called India, which had a racism problem that seems worse than the American one, and which attempted to counteract it with affirmative action, beginning over a century ago. The opponents of AA have had their predictions validated, and the proponents of AA have mostly had their predictions disconfirmed, by the Indian experience.

• Can you elaborate? I can speculate, but I don’t actually know much about India with regards to this problem.

• Sure. Here’s an article from the Economist, but Thomas Sowell also wrote a book about the issue called Affirmative Action Around the World. I should also note that the national reservation system is not quite a century old yet, but reservation systems of some sort have existed for longer.

I should note that I am a fan of the policy that ‘affirmative action’ originally described- that is, taking action to affirm the government’s commitment to meritocracy over bias, in order to counteract the self-fulfilling prophecy of people not applying because they don’t expect to be hired or promoted on racial grounds- and am a strong opponent of reservation systems that ‘affirmative action’ is now used to describe. Officially, reservation systems are illegal in the US- but it’s hard to see how one should interpret ‘disparate impact’ any other way. (‘Disparate treatment’ is the American word for anti-meritocratic bias, and so American systems have to be a tortured mess that is not too meritocratic (or it’s racist) or too anti-meritocratic (or it’s racist).)

A handful of claims:

• AA is a temporary fix /​ AA is a permanent fixture of society:

It proposed that the policy exist for a decade to see what progress would be made, but without spelling out how to measure it. The provision has been renewed without fuss every decade since.

(On this subject, reading Sotomayor’s questioning during affirmative action cases that come before the Supreme Court is an… interesting experience.)

• AA will not lead to loss of quality /​ AA will increase corruption and decrease meritocracy:

Worse, the policy has probably helped to make India’s bureaucracy increasingly rotten—and it was already one of the country’s greater burdens. An obsession with making the ranks of public servants representative, not capable, makes it too hard to sack dysfunctional or corrupt bureaucrats. Nor will this improve. In December 2012 parliament’s upper house passed a bill ordering that bureaucrats be promoted not on merit alone, but to lift the backward castes faster.

• AA will decrease resentment between groups /​ AA will increase resentment between groups:

For secondary schooling state funds help to encourage more Dalit and tribal children into classrooms; the effect of setting aside special places in colleges and university is to lower the marks needed by Dalit and other backward applicants.

That causes resentment among general applicants, who vie for extremely competitive spots in medical, business and other colleges.

(One weird quirk of psychology, here: suppose there are 10 slots, and 100 applicants, 10% of which are Dalit, so one of the slots is reserved for a Dalit. If the top Dalit scores 20th best on the test, numbers 10 through 19 all feel as though they have been deprived by the Dalit taking the 10th slot, even though number 10 is the only person actually deprived.)

• AA will lead to homogeneity and acceptance /​ AA will lead to heteogeneity and perpetuate divisions.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, an academic at the Centre for Policy Research in Delhi, favours affirmative action but concludes that a policy focused on distribution of limited state resources is bound to fail. “The current system is not about equal opportunity, it is about distributing the spoils of state power strictly according to caste, thus perpetuating it”, he says.

• The benefits will go to the poorest and most deserving /​ The benefits will go to the richest and least deserving.

The Economist article doesn’t discuss this directly, but others (that I don’t have time to find now) do. There’s a ‘creamy layer’ provision to try to prevent the richest of the Other Backwards Castes from benefiting (to convert to an American example, if your parents are millionaires, you probably don’t need AA consideration even if you’re black) but this does not apply to the Scheduled Castes (Dalits). The hypothetical highest scoring Dalit mentioned earlier almost certainly comes from a rich Dalit family, and by looking at the subdivision within caste of the various beneficiaries of reservations it’s been shown that the majority come from the SCs that were already privileged within the SCs.

• Thankyou for that information. Note that I am arguing against the proposition. “The world is getting more irrational, which we can tell from the rise of affirmative action, which is clearly irrational.”.

I don’t have any strong commitment to AA. I only need to argue that it is not clearly irrational. It may nonetheless be mistaken in subtle way that takes decades of empirical evidence to detect.

• What’s irrational is the belief (or rather alief) that anyone arguing that the cause of the observed differences in intelligence by race isn’t caused by white racism (or for that matter anyone pointing out said difference who doesn’t immediately attribute it to white racism) is an EVIL RACIST. AA is just one consequence of this irrationality.

• It’s not obvious 2+2=5 irrationality, since there are arguments on both sides. You are effectively calling people irrational for disagreeing with you.

• Nothing, outside mathematics is obvious 2+2=5 irrational. Near as I can tell, AA appears to be pretty close to flat-earther irrational. You keep saying there are arguments on both sides, but seem rather short on arguments for yours.

• Near as I can tell, AA appears to be pretty close to flat-earther irrational. You keep saying there are arguments on both sides, but seem rather short on arguments for yours.

South Africa, 1994. For the previous several decades, the government policy has been something called Apartheid; which can be briefly summarised as, the white people get all the nice stuff, the coloured people get okay stuff, and black people get pretty much the stuff no-one else wants, including (for by far the majority) severely substandard education specifically designed to prevent them from having the mental tools to escape their economic dead-end. The system is maintained partially by the fact that ‘all the nice stuff’ includes the right to vote.

Recently, the government has caved in and allowed everyone to vote. Predictably, they are voted out and a new government is voted in, determined to undo the damage of Apartheid. They face, of course, the problem that most of the white people in the workforce are well-educated and fairly well-off; while most of the black people are not doing so well on either front. (Oh, sure, there’s plenty of educated black people—generally ones who could afford to be educated overseas—but they’re a tiny proportion in a vast sea of people). By and large, the white minority is in a position to continue to hold an economic superiority over the black majority for generations, unless something is done to redress the balance.

In such circumstances, would you think that a temporary bout of Affirmative Action would be a rational response by the new government?

• They face, of course, the problem that most of the white people in the workforce are well-educated and fairly well-off; while most of the black people are not doing so well on either front. (Oh, sure, there’s plenty of educated black people—generally ones who could afford to be educated overseas—but they’re a tiny proportion in a vast sea of people). By and large, the white minority is in a position to continue to hold an economic superiority over the black majority for generations, unless something is done to redress the balance.

Ignoring for the moment the question of genetic differences in intelligence, the fundamental problem here is that the blacks are less educated (and less a lot of other things related to education) than whites. These problems are not getting resolved quickly and until they are it makes sense for the white minority to be in an economically superior position. Otherwise, you’ll wind up with an advanced economic system manged by people who aren’t qualified to manage it. Look at what happened to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to see where that leads.

Note, however, if your only goal is to redress the power balance between whites and blacks, Zimbabwe did in fact solve that problem, i.e., blacks are now being oppressed by fellow blacks rather than whites. Also the economy has been destroyed, so the conditions for everyone involved are much worse.

• Otherwise, you’ll wind up with an advanced economic system manged by people who aren’t qualified to manage it. Look at what happened to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to see where that leads.

I’m not an expert on Zimbabwean history by any means, but this doesn’t quite seem to add up. According to World Bank data, Rhodesia/​Zimbabwe has lagged sub-Saharan Africa (never mind the rest of the world) in per-capita GDP (measured in constant 2000 dollars) since at least 1960. As you can see from the graph, there’s no dramatic discontinuity coinciding with the end of the Bush War; there is a decline over the war years themselves, but I’d attribute that more to the damage done by a markedly nasty civil conflict. It later stops tracking Africa’s broader economic performance around 2001, but that timeframe seems to coincide with Robert Mugabe’s land redistribution programs and involvement in the Congo War: a specific case of mismanagement by a notorious dictator, twenty years after the changes you’re alluding to.

I’d consider this more conclusive if I’d been able to find data going back further. Still, if Rhodesia had qualified as an advanced economy, I’d have expected better than \$500 GDP/​capita in 1960 -- and if it was the removal of Zimbabwe’s white minority’s political influence that had screwed everything up, I’d have expected a decline starting around 1978, not the minor increase and quick plateau that we observe.

• the fundamental problem here is that the blacks are less educated (and less a lot of other things related to education) than whites.

That is a large part of the fundamental problem, yes. A lot of blacks were also:

• Unable to pay for a proper education

• Without a house of their own

And the education problem is made worse by the fact that there were not enough properly qualified teachers in the country to deliver that education to everyone.

And you are right, these problems are not going to get resolved quickly. (It’s twenty years later now, and a lot of the problems still haven’t been resolved). It’s probably going to take two, maybe three generations minimum to get the country back on an even keel again.

But, in short, Apartheid was an incredibly unbalanced system. The inequalities caused and perpetuated during the Apartheid years were massive, dwarfing any possible genetic differences in intelligence. And, in the face of those inequalities, it seems to me that a temporary program of affirmative action (defined as, if there are muliple qualified applicants for a position, bias the selection process in the direction of the black applicants if present) is a reasonable measure to try to counteract those inequalities without sabotaging the country’s economy.

• Compare apartheid with feudalism. And notice that a lot of countries transitioned away from the latter didn’t require AA in favor of commoners.

• The transition away from feudalism took literally hundreds of years. On the same time scales it took countries to transition out of feudalism, I’d assume any difference that affirmative action would have on South Africa would be absolutely dwarfed by hundreds of years of technological progress.

• The transition away from feudalism took literally hundreds of years.

In any particular country, no, not really. The important switches (e.g. the ability of commoners to obtain education beyond primary school) happen much more quickly. However we have a current example: China. Over the last thirty years or so there has been a massive influx of former peasants (without “proper education”) out of the countryside into the industrial workforce and into the cities. Funny how no one suggests there should be an affirmative action program for them.

• EHeller’s got the main point, here; we kindof want the transition to go a little faster than ‘centuries’. If we’re careful, we can hopefully make the transition happen in merely a two or three generations, instead.

(Then, of course, Affirmative Action will need to be stopped—which is probably going to be quite a political battle, involving lots of shouting an arguments in Parliament. And hopefully no more than that.)

• If we’re careful, we can hopefully make the transition happen in merely a two or three generations, instead.

Or we can screw up and cause the country to collapse into chaos, i.e., what’s happening now in Zimbabwe.

• Yes, that’s also a possibility. There’s the very visible example of Zimbabwe to show what not to do, of course; I’m not saying that there won’t be a mess-up, but if there is a mess-up I’m pretty sure it’ll at least be a different mess-up.

• I’m not the only person on the planet with Google. If you type in “arguments for affirmative action” , you’ll find them.

• Google doesn’t know which of those arguments make any sense at all and which are complete bollocks, so locating the former specifically isn’t that trivial.

• The topic of the discussion seems to have shifted from “there are no arguments for AA” to “there are no good arguments for AA”

• In general speech, “there are no arguments for X” and “there are no good arguments for X” are synonymous.

• I don’t think so, because “there is an argument for ,X, but it is not good” makes sense. There is however a tendency to slide down a slope from “no argument” to “no good argument” to “no argument I like”.

• See implicature and “When Truth Isn’t Enough”. If there are arguments for X but they are all bad, “there are arguments for X” is technically true, but misleading, and not terribly relevant to whether X is obviously wrong.

As for the specific case of AA, I agree it’s neither as obviously right as banning murder nor as obviously wrong as banning glasses (to steal examples from “Searching For One-Sided Tradeoffs” on Yvain’s blog), otherwise it would either be uncontroversially implemented everywhere or something no-one ever seriously proposed (other than the kind of mentally ill dictators who ban banknotes in denominations not a multiple of 9), but to treat this as something very informative about AA is the fallacy of gray.

(There are good arguments for banning glasses: for example, kids might try to use them to focus sunlight to burn ants and accidentally burn their own skin instead. It’s just that arguments against banning glasses are much stronger.)

• If the arguments for X are bad, you should be able to say why, and not just shift the burden:-

“Hedgehogs are evil alien robots sent to kill us.”

“Huh?”

“Prove to me that they are gentle and Noble creatures, then!”

• If the arguments for X are bad, you should be able to say why, and not just shift the burden:-

You’re the one who’s shifting the burned by insisting that AA isn’t obviously wrong while refusing to provide any arguments for it. Whereas arguments against AA have been provided by me and others in this thread.

Furthermore, I’d like to remind you that this thread started because I cited opposition to AA as an example of a practical application of a certain fact about reality (namely racial differences in intelligence), which you were attempting to argue had no practical applications and thus suppressing it wasn’t irrational. (At least that’s my attempt to steel-man your position.)

• There are arguments for AA which are know to everybody who knows even a little about the subject.

Its not rational for me to study AA in detail because it is not an issue in my life. One of my 5 or 6 arguments against using AA as a proxy for irrationality is that it is a very localised issue.

A standard argument for AA is that it is form of recompense. Standard arguments against it are that it makes the economy inefficient, or interferes in freedom. These arguments tacitly make value judgements...that freedom is more (or less) valuable than justice. However, people arent irrational just because they make different value judgements to you. Unless you can argue that there is one rational set of values.

• One of my 5 or 6 arguments against using AA as a proxy for irrationality

Who was arguing for using it as a proxy for irrationality?

A standard argument for AA is that it is form of recompense.

This isn’t really a viable argument because:

1) This argument relies on collective justice, something its supporters otherwise oppose.

2) It’s not clear what is supposedly being recompensed. If the answer is slavery and/​or past discriminatory policies why does it apply to recent immigrants from Africa? Why isn’t it being applied to other groups, e.g., Irish, Jews, Asians that were subject to such policies in the past. (In fact in the case of the latter two AA is functionally a continuation of said policies).

3) Pursuing highly economically inefficient policies seems a weird way to provide recompense.

• This seems an unfair response to me—TheAncientGeek offers a standard argument pro-AA while admitting they haven’t studied the issue in detail. You attack the response on grounds that an AA supporter could rebut without ever contradicting themselves (i.e. “It isn’t collective justice, it compensates for individual inequality of opportunity (unless, say, you choose to define a progressive income tax as ‘collective justice’ in which case I do support collective justice)”, “It applies to certain minorities and not others because of the size of the disopportunity facing them (discriminatory social structures don’t distinguish between recent immigrants and descendants of slaves, but they do appear to discriminate between black African and white Irish)” and “It isn’t economically inefficient, and might even be economically efficient”).

The next paragraph contains an argument for AA which I support which I think proves there is at least one rational argument for AA. If it is important to you, I can also defend my position to prove to you it is not obviously wrong (although I hope the argument alone will be enough). If there is a rational argument in favour of AA, then there must be at least one utility function that makes supporting AA rational (in the same way that a utility function which really REALLY values ants might rationally choose to try to ban glasses so children can’t use them to burn ants). I don’t agree with TheAncientGeek’s starting premise that we should therefore suppress research into race, but I think it is important you don’t base your conclusion on a faulty premise (“AA is obviously wrong”).

This 2005 paper published in The Journal of Economic Education gives the result of an experiment where participants were randomly assigned a colour (‘green’ or ‘purple’) and given the following information (I’m paraphrasing badly to ensure I remain brief, please consult the paper for the actual protocol): “You are allowed to get education, which costs £1. You then take a (simulated) test where your score is randomly picked from 1 to 100, but if you bought education the score will have a small bias towards the higher end. ‘Employers’ (other participants) will then choose whether to ‘employ’ you. They only know your colour and your test score. If they employ you, you get £5. If they don’t, you get £1. If an employer picks an individual with education, the employer gets £10, otherwise they get nothing.” I presume the experiment was then iterated an unknown number of times to prevent gaming, but I can’t find that in the paper. Clearly, the socially optimal outcome is that everybody gets education and the employers employ everybody. However, individuals can earn the full £10 rather than a net £9 by gambling on the employers being over-generous and picking them even though they didn’t get education.

By chance, the ‘purples’ happened to be under-educated in the first round, which meant some purples who got an education decided not to waste the money next round. This therefore compounded the effect, to the point where new purples realised there was no point in investing in education, so even some free-riding greens couldn’t prevent employers betting on greens (even if the green score was lower than the purple score). If the society in the experiment were allowed to implement AA they would; it would be hugely more economically efficient to remove the pro-green bias and both encourage purples back into education and force greens to keep up their initial levels of education and not ‘free ride’. The experimental confirmation that AA can be economically efficient is reason enough to support such policies, but I think they would be more effective in the real world compared to the experimental world; for example, two contradictory opinions are likely to lead to more economic progress than two homogenous opinions, and this cultural bonus is not modelled in the original experiment.

• I will point out again that there is no concrete evidence that AA is economically inefficient lot alone highly so.

Yes, the arguments for AA are somewhat muddled...as are the arguments again and every other argument in politics. Politics isn’t a science. But believing in one typically muddled argument isn’t 2+2=5 irrational.

• Who was arguing for using it as a proxy for irrationality?

The thug abusing the karma system, for one. Unless that person knows he’s trying to silence people for reasons unrelated to rationality.

• I’m aware of the standard arguments for AA, I’m also aware of arguments for the flatness of the earth. I find both sets of arguments about equally rational. If you have a specific argument that you think is more rational, state it and we can analyze it.

• Companies are not forced to hire literally unqualified people: Myth 10](http://​​www.understandingprejudice.org/​​readroom/​​articles/​​affirm.htm)

I am sorry, do you consider your link to be evidence? It is a piece of handwaving propaganda from a site called “understandingprejudice.org″ that doesn’t even talk about what’s happening in real life, it just mumbles about ways that AA might be interpreted.

• It’s not obviously harmful: the US, with its AA , has higher per capita GDP than Western countries without it.

Really? You would need a really, really high effect of affirmitative action to be stronger than all the other economic effects combined.

In mindkilled enviroments people make arguments that they would never make if they would look at the issue with a statistical perspective. This is one of those arguments.

It’s not a darling of the left, as some self identified liberals don’t actually like it.

That doesn’t mean that it’s not an effect of progressivism.

• In mindkilled enviroments people make arguments that they would never make if they would look at the issue with a statistical perspective. This is one of those arguments.

I agree, and this is why I think it’s sketchy (to put it politely) to argue that people are more (or less ) rational now than some point in the past because of greater (or lesser) acceptance of some political viewpoint.

Besides which, even if there were overwhelming proof that support of affirmative action is rational or irrational, I’m pretty confident that most people would choose their belief based on (1) what they are supposed to believe; and (2) what favors their interests.

In short, the vast majority of people are irrational when in “far mode” and always have been.

• Let’s say AA is an effect of progessivism,in those countries that have it. What follows from that about any rising tide of irrationalaity?

• If US AA had weak negative effect, as you claim, that would match the data.

If US AA had a weak positive effect, that would match the data.

If US AA had no effect,that would match the data.

• But you didn’t appeal to the data. You appealed to a single data point.

In any subject that’s not politically charged, people don’t argue that they can see a weak effect in a single data point.

In health science a lot of observational studies that gather way more data don’t replicate. You can’t simple throw out everything we learned in statistics out of the window just because we are talking about a political charged issue.

• I am not claiming to see an effect. I am claiming not to see a stro.ng effect. I have stated that I am neutral on AA. I have also stated that that even if AA has a weak negative effect, that proves nothing about the wider points. To do that,I have entertain the hypothesis that AA has a negative effect. Are you still going to call that mindkilled?

• I am not claiming to see an effect.

The problem is that you shouldn’t expect to see an effect in the case that a meaningful effect exists that isn’t outlandishly high.

I don’t see the weather in Wyoming at the moment. I don’t know whether it’s sunny or cloudy. I wouldn’t make an argument based on my ignorance about the californian weather in most cases.

I would have probably noticed if Yellowstone went of, but apart from that the fact that I don’t know the weather is not meaningful information from which to draw conclusions.

It might be possible that someone did study the issue academically and investigated how affirmative action legislation that passed in different states and countries at different times has an effect on the economy.

that proves nothing about the wider points.

That’s the point. The argument that you made proves nothing at all about the wider points. In political discussions people frequently make arguments that prove nothing at all because they aren’t focusing on the arguments but on the conclusions they want to draw.

I don’t have many stakes in whether or not to have affirmative action legislation. I do have stakes into not making statistical unsound arguments when discussing politics.

I know a single country that used policy X at time Y and the country is not collapsed as a result is not a very useful argument. Of course I’m exaggerating when I say “collapsed” and the US having a worse economy than Western Europe wouldn’t be “collapse”, but it still goes into that direction.

• The argument I made was that AA proves nothing about the wider point namely the allegation of growing irrationality. Since that argument is explicitly meta, it is not supposed to address the wider point at object level.

• I am claiming not to see a stro.ng effect.

That’s not what you claimed before . .. before you claimed that it was not obviously harmful

It’s not obviously harmful: the US, with its AA , has higher per capita GDP than Western countries without it.

. Now you are claiming that it’s not strongly harmful, which is a much easier claim to defend. Changing your position is perfectly fine, but there is more than one way to go about doing it. If you say “I now see that I overstated my case,” that’s one way. On the other hand, if you just do it without acknowledgment, it strongly suggests to me that you are in battle-mode so to speak, i.e. that you are mind-killed.

Which again shows why it’s a bad idea to assess peoples’ rationality based on their agreement with one or another side of a politically controversial issue. For one thing, most people are too mind-killed to determine which side is the rational side. (I, of course, am an exception :)).

For another, most people choose their beliefs on these issues based on what they are supposed to believe and what favors their interests. Even if they come down on the rational side, they are very likely not doing it for rational reasons. (Again, I, of course, am an exception :)).

• Also: companies in countries without AA have been known to adopt ethnic monitoring policies voluntarily.

Really, if AA is the most broken thing about progressivism, it’s not all that broken.

• Companies are not forced to hire literally unqualified people

However, if they get sued, the burned of proof is on them to show that the people they didn’t hire are in fact unqualified. This is hard to do to the court’s satisfaction, especially if one gets a left wing judge. Furthermore, it will cost you a lot of money and bad publicity even if you win.

Its not obviously irrational, since there are rational arguments on both sides.

And yet neither you nor anyone else in this thread have presented any in favor of AA.

• However, if they get sued, the burned of proof is on them to show that the people they didn’t hire are in fact unqualified.

A perhaps more salient point to make here is whether or not “qualified” includes opportunity cost. Take recent firefighting anti-discrimination court cases as an example. The legally approved way to conduct promotion testing is to pass over 90% of the people, and then randomly select from everyone who passed. The legally disapproved way is to test everyone, keep the scores as numbers, sort them, and promote from the top of the list going down.

If you imagine hiring or promotion decisions as binary- “are we going to promote Bob or not”- the first view of qualification makes some sense. Bob doesn’t have anything obviously wrong with him, so sure, we could promote Bob. If you imagine hiring or promotion decisions as multi-optional- “which of these firefighters are we going to promote”- then you’re making n choose 2 pairwise comparisons. Is Bob a better or worse candidate than Tom? Joe? Sue? Under the second view, there isn’t really such a thing as ‘qualified’; there’s the ‘best candidate’ and the ‘not best candidates.’

(This maps pretty clearly onto whether you view the promotion decision from the employee’s point of view- did I get promoted or not- or the employer’s point of view- who should I promote.)

• the New York City Fire Department used written examinations with discriminatory effects and little relationship to the job of a firefighter (emphasis added)

The Court found that the City’s use of the two written examinations as an initial pass/​fail hurdle in the selection of firefighters was unlawful under Title VII.

Now in addition, the court did say,

the City’s use of applicants’ written examination scores (in combination with their scores on a physical abilities test) to rank-order and process applicants for further consideration for employment violated Title VII.

But if they believed that a candidate with a better score was (ceteris paribus) a better candidate, they would presumably have no problem with this. Remember that people who want you to use AA probably won’t trust your judgment alone. (ETA ceteris)

• No, quite wrong:

Which part of my statements specifically are you claiming is wrong?

But if they believed that a candidate with a better score was (ceteris paribus) a better candidate, they would presumably have no problem with this.

I think you have the causation backwards here. Because they have a problem with this, they decide that the candidate with the better score is not a better candidate. If you would like to take a look at the tests yourself, they’re here.

• OK, we disagree about motive. Did you notice you were objectively wrong about the reason you gave for your speculation? Or that I got downvoted after pointing this out?

• Did you notice you were objectively wrong about the reason you gave for your speculation?

I’m still confused by this part. By ‘legally approved’, I’m referring to the state of things in, say, Chicago, and doing decisions by lottery is an easy way to satisfy both disparate impact and disparate treatment requirements.

By ‘legally disapproved,’ it sounds to me like the part you quoted is obvious that this is disapproved. But let’s take a closer look at the actual decision (copied from a pdf, so there may be errors caused by my reformatting):

Before proceeding to the legal analysis, I offer a brief word about the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Ricci v. DeStefano, 129 S. Ct. 2658 (June 29, 2009). I reference Ricci not because the Supreme Court’s ruling controls the outcome in this case; to the contrary, I mention Ricci precisely to point out that it does not. In Ricci, the City of New Haven had set aside the results of a promotional examination, and the Supreme Court confronted the narrow issue of whether New Haven could defend a violation of Title VII’s disparate treatment provision by asserting that its challenged employment action was an attempt to comply with Title VII’s disparate impact provision. The Court held that such a defense is only available when “the employer can demonstrate a strong basis in evidence that, had it not taken the action, it would have been liable under the disparate-impact statute.” Id. at 2664. In contrast, this case presents the entirely separate question of whether Plaintiffs have shown that the City’s use of Exams 7029 and 2043 has actually had a disparate impact upon black and Hispanic applicants for positions as entry-level firefighters. Ricci did not confront that issue.

The Ricci Court concluded that New Haven would not likely have been liable under a disparate impact theory. See id. at 2681. In doing so, the Court relied on the various steps that New Haven took to validate its civil service examination. Id. at 2678-79. It is noteworthy, however, that in this case New York City has taken significantly fewer steps than New Haven took in validating its examination. The relevant teaching of Ricci, in this regard, is that the process of designing employment examinations is complex, requiring consultation with experts and careful consideration of accepted testing standards. As discussed below, these requirements are reflected in federal regulations and existing Second Circuit precedent. This legal authority sets forth a simple principle: municipalities must take adequate measures to ensure that their civil service examinations reliably test the relevant knowledge, skills and abilities that will determine which applicants will best perform their specific public duties.

In rendering this decision, I am aware that the use of multiple-choice examinations is typically intended to apply objective standards to employment decisions. Similarly, I recognize that it is natural to assume that the best performers on an employment test must be the best people for the job. But, the significance of these principles is undermined when an examination is not fair. As Congress recognized in enacting Title VII, when an employment test is not adequately related to the job for which it tests—and when the test adversely affects minority groups—we may not fall back on the notion that better test takers make better employees. The City asks the court to do just that. Regrettably, though, the City did not take sufficient measures to ensure that better performers on its examinations would actually be better firefighters. Accordingly, the court grants the Motions for Summary Judgment and finds that Plaintiffs have established disparate impact liability.

What does this say? In effect, that any test which has different score distributions for different races is guilty until proven innocent. They go on, in sections II and III, to discuss the numbers and conclusions of the calculations.

However, the general cognitive factor exists and differs by race, and will show up on almost any cognitive test. As a result, every test is guilty.* This is the reverse of good sense- the military has done copious research to show that, for every job, g is beneficial (see here for discussion, references to other research, and so on), and the only question is how beneficial.

*They imply that if the Ricci history had been different- that is, the city had promoted the white firefighters on the basis of a rank-ordered written test, and then the minority firefighters had sued on disparate impact grounds, the minority firefighters would have lost because the city had put in sufficient effort to validate the test- but that doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that should be taken on faith. Indeed, one of the arguments in the decision,

In essence, the City asks the court to reject Plaintiffs’ statistical significance analysis because it improperly assumes “perfect parity” among groups of people (see Def. PF Mem. 1-3, 5-7)

is responded to by:

First of all, the court rejects the premise that comparison to a standard of equality among groups provides an improper foundation for statistical testing under Title VII. In order to determine whether a particular employment practice has had a disparate impact on a minority group, statistical tests “ask what the results would be for the salient variable . . . if there [had been] no discrimination.” Adams v. Ameritech Servs., Inc. , 231 F.3d 414, 424 (7th Cir. 2000) (emphasis added). To determine what results “would be,” statistical tests properly assume that racial or ethnic groups will perform equally well absent discrimination.

The only two possibilities the court considers is that either the minorities all got really unlucky on test day (stupendously unlikely, as they correctly calculate) or the city is discriminating against them; the possibility that they might not be as good at doing the job (and thus not as good at taking the test) is assumed to not be the case.

• If the US Census Bureau has changed its hiring practices then I may be wrong. But after the initial ruling for Chicago and two rulings for NY, they were still ranking potential new-hires in every area by scores on a basic skills test. The Bureau tailored this test to the set of entry-level Census positions.

Now the last quote in the parent certainly looks disturbing. But that decision emphatically did not give a blanket endorsement of a cut-off followed by a lottery, because it found them liable for exactly that procedure. More specifically, it found them guilty of stupidity or deception for setting a “passing score” of 65 and then failing anyone who made less than 89.

Like every other source, the parent has the court say:

the City did not take sufficient measures to ensure that better performers on its examinations would actually be better firefighters.

It would appear that the court and the people who wrote the law do not share your view of this particular test’s effectiveness. Perhaps you should try to convince them.

• If the US Census Bureau has changed its hiring practices then I may be wrong.

I am unfamiliar with how the Census Bureau hires; I was talking about the Chicago fire department, which I am fairly confident does use lotteries in its hiring and promotion decisions.

It would appear that the court and the people who wrote the law do not share your view of this particular test’s effectiveness. Perhaps you should try to convince them.

If they won’t listen to the psychometricians about g, why would I expect them to listen to me?

To clarify, the difference between my view and the court’s view is that I assume that the universally replicated finding of intelligence differences between races will show up on basically any test, because that’s what universally replicated means. Thus, unless the disparate impact is more than would be predicted by the relevant intelligence cutoff, then the burden to show disparate treatment should fall on those claiming discrimination.

The court’s view is that if there is any statistically significant difference between races (which is more strict that the previous 4/​5ths rule), the burden of demonstrating differences in racial intelligence and the relevance of intelligence to the job (combined, thankfully, into one ‘validate the test for the particular job you’re hiring for’) falls on the maker of the test. But this falls on the maker of every test, making testing much more costly (and thus much less used) than it has it be, with the resulting efficiency losses. If you would like to use an extensively researched and validated IQ test for your narrow position (perhaps only one person will have this job at your company), that’s not possible- you have to pay for experts to design a test for every position you would like to use a test for and validate that it works for that position, despite copious research demonstrating that a test that targets g specifically will be comparably effective to a specifically-designed test that targets performance on that job.

• So you claim these courts (and lawmakers) all know this research on g, and you can’t imagine any better way to present it?

Anyway, you said:

Take recent firefighting anti-discrimination court cases as an example. The legally approved way to conduct promotion testing is to pass over 90% of the people, and then randomly select from everyone who passed. The legally disapproved way is to test everyone, keep the scores as numbers, sort them, and promote from the top of the list going down.

This is false. The first is almost exactly what the Chicago fire department got slapped for doing, and the courts likewise said it would illegal for the NY department. The second is what the US Census Bureau did, and appears perfectly legal due to their test intuitively matching the jobs. This makes no mention of it, instead attacking the Bureau’s use of a binary cut-off.

The court’s explicit motive explains all this quite well. For pointing this out I lost around 50 karma.

• So you claim these courts (and lawmakers) all know this research on g, and you can’t imagine any better way to present it?

I don’t know what they know or don’t know, and it’s not clear to me that the presentation rather than the content of the research is the issue.

The first is almost exactly what the Chicago fire department got slapped for doing

All of the discrimination lawsuits I’ve seen for the Chicago fire department, the courts have decided in favor of the city, but I doubt I’ve seen all of them. Which case are you thinking of?

For pointing this out I lost around 50 karma.

I can’t comment as to why others downvoted you; I did not. The primary thing I’ve noticed in discussing this issue with you is that you have several times declared a collection of claims false, which I would replace with putting forth specific contrasting claims. If you want to argue that promoting by lottery, after getting rid of some portion of the applicant pool by using a test, is legally disapproved, then make just that argument, and then we would discuss just that issue instead of having to figure out which issue we’re discussing. If you want to argue that the burden of proof should be on the employer to validate any test which has different score or pass distributions for different groups, then say that clearly, and so on.

• What?

In previous research I found this one, brought by white firefighters protesting the affirmative action policies in Chicago, and while I recall a second I’m on a different computer and so can’t easily check my history.

But I don’t think that case makes the point you want it to make. It does not disapprove of hiring by lottery- indeed, the remedy involves selecting which African Americans (but not white or other races!) who scored between 65 and 88 (who are still interested) will get the available jobs by lottery- they just think that the city did not put the passing score bar low enough, and the standard they used to determine what was “low enough” was the disparate impact standard, not any sort of job performance criterion.

: I should clarify that, again, the court’s decision is made with the presumption that tests are guilty until proven innocent, and so when the decision says “the test was biased” or “there was no evidence that the test was necessary,” they do not mean that “there is evidence that the test was biased” or “there was evidence that the test was not necessary,” they just mean “there was not sufficient presented evidence that the test was necessary.”

• I think I’ve disproven the factual basis you gave for your speculation: the real standard is orthogonal to your cutoff-with-lottery versus rank-by-test-scores.

And it’s now 80 karma paperclips. Do you know how ridiculous this looks, how badly Less Wrong is breaking its own rules of conversation?

• the real standard is orthogonal to your cutoff-with-lottery versus rank-by-test-scores.

The real standard was that ‘disparate impact’ of the black pass rate being less than 80% of the white pass rate was prima facie evidence of discrimination; the more recent cases suggest that any statistically significant difference can be evidence of discrimination. If you ever got the impression that I didn’t think that was how the courts behaved, I apologize for the miscommunication on my end. (I left out the four-fifths part, and just mentioned ‘over 90%’, because I thought it would be more communicative than adding the additional detail.)

I still maintain that if you are seeking to promote, say, 5% of the population, no merit-based test which gives you the top 5% of the population will pass the four-fifths rule in the presence of underlying racial differences in merit. (This would be the ‘rank-by-test-scores’ approach.) Promoting from the entire pool at random would not discriminate by race, but it also wouldn’t discriminate by merit. The way to both have some merit selection, and not run afoul of the four-fifths rule, is to set some cutoff such that the rate at which blacks are above the cutoff is at least 80% of the rate at which whites are above the cutoff, declare everyone above that cutoff as having passed, and then promote randomly from those who passed.

It’s still not clear to me what you think you’ve disproven, or why you think you’ve disproven it. How long this conversation has gone and the propensity for others to downvote your comments suggest to me that it may be wise to call this conversation done here, or move it to PMs if you’re interested in carrying on.

• I’ve lost about 150 karma (and the actual loss if it wasn’t for people voting up −1 comments would probably be more like 250). The moderators have done squat, if we even have anything that passes for moderators. (The admins, then.)

• The moldbuggians seem to prefer downvoting to argument. Maybe it’s cooler.

• What exactly do you think the moderators should do?

• They could ban the stalker.

Alternately, they could release the stalker’s name.

And of course they could always use the incident as evidence that the code needs support for other measures.

• They could ban the stalker.

For what? Is there a particular explicit rule that’s being broken?

Yes, I know how well-kept gardens die. But that’s not the only way for a garden to die.

• But this falls on the maker of every test, making testing much more costly (and thus much less used) than it has it be

So every job I’ve ever applied for required tests, and all of them looked more like general intelligence tests than specific (the standard brain teasers about buckets of water, geometry questions,etc all for statistical programming jobs). With the exception of one insurance company (who disguised their geometry questions as programming questions), none of these companies tried to pretend these were directly applicable to job performance. To my knowledge, none of these companies have been sued.

If anything, my experience is that testing is overused. A recent hire I wanted (who I’ve worked with before, and who is very competent at exactly what we need) was refused on the basis poor performance on two tests. I’ve consulted for several companies that have expressed that they hired me as a consultant because their HR’s testing procedures have made staffing too inflexible.

• I’m fairly confident that you’d have an easier time in court of proving the relevance of g (or proxies for it) to statistical programming than to, say, firefighting.

• So every job I’ve ever applied for required tests, and all of them looked more like general intelligence tests than specific (the standard brain teasers about buckets of water, geometry questions,etc all for statistical programming jobs).

So, a handful of brain teasers issued and interpreted by non-experts is surely inferior to an IQ test. So why don’t we have nationally recognized agencies that administer IQ tests, that they then report to potential employers at your request, like the SAT and colleges?

(And it is unfortunate about that hire- organizations should make the most of local knowledge like that, but often fail to. Hiring people as consultants might be more efficient, though, especially if you know the person has the skills for the job you need done now but might not have the skills for the next job you need.)

• Which part of my statements specifically are you claiming is wrong?

First,

Take recent firefighting anti-discrimination court cases as an example. The legally approved way to conduct promotion testing is to pass over 90% of the people, and then randomly select from everyone who passed.

I don’t know what you’re talking about here, but I just quoted such a decision explicitly calling it illegal to use a particular test pass/​fail. Because the court explicitly didn’t trust the test.

It looks to me like you assume everyone does trust the test to do something other than hurt minorities. Otherwise you wouldn’t need to speculate about motives. In general, if someone wants you to improve minority representation, you can assume they don’t trust your personal judgment—and if you’re using tests, they don’t trust you to judge the value of the tests. Should they? Should we believe these written tests produce better firefighters, based on the available evidence?

• In general, if someone wants you to improve minority representation, you can assume they don’t trust your personal judgment

I don’t think this is true. The doctrine of disparate impact says that your personal judgement is irrelevant—you MUST achieve something resembling proportionate representation regardless of anything (other than a demonstratable business need). It tests for outcomes, not intentions.

• I mean they don’t trust your personal judgment of what constitutes “demonstrable business need”. Either that or they suspect you have conscious motives beyond business need.

• You are assuming there are no significant race- or sex-based differences.

For example, let’s say I run a business and I like to hire smart people. Basically, I prefer high-IQ people to low-IQ people. Given that the average black IQ is about one standard deviation below the average white IQ which is lower than average East Asian IQ, I would end up with employing relatively more Asian and white people and relatively less black people.

This is very straightforward case of disparate impact. What is it about my personal judgement that “they” should not trust?

• Are you being serious? Did you notice how you went from “business need” to “like to hire smart people” to “prefer high-IQ”?

• It might help to taboo what we mean by “business need”. Does it mean, “probably won’t go out of business next year if I don’t do this”, in that case it is likely that I don’t have a “business need” not to hire completely unqualified people as long as the rest can fill up the slack.

On the other hand, if “business need” means “this will make my business run better”, then as Lumifer pointed out, it just happens that business runs better with smart people than with stupid people.

• Are you being serious? Did you notice how you went from “business need” to “like to hire smart people” to “prefer high-IQ”?

Yes, I am. I do not have a legally demonstratable business need (that’s why I said it’s a straightforward case). It just happens that business runs better with smart people than with stupid people. Therefore I prefer to hire smart people and in this context “high-IQ” is a synonym of “smart”.

The outcome is clearly illegal under the disparate impact doctrine.

I am not sure what your position is here. That my desire to hire smart people is mistaken? That my ability to identify smart people is not be trusted?

• I don’t have a clue who ‘you’ are. For the firefighting department we started with, I challenge both inferences. And I’m baffled at having to spell this out.

• I don’t have a clue who ‘you’ are.

In this subthread “I” means a fictional business manager in a hypothetical situation. Specifically, that manager wants to hire smart people and runs head-first into a disparate impact case.

And I’m baffled at having to spell this out.

Perhaps you should consider that other people think differently than you and often start from different assumptions, too.

• Are “you” using race as a proxy for IQ, using actual IQ, or using evidence of domain relevant knowledge?

I notice that real world employers tend to emphasise the last. Rightly, because it avoids the Spolskyan problem of “smart, but doesn’t get things done”

• Are “you” using race as a proxy for IQ, using actual IQ, or using evidence of domain relevant knowledge?

(a) No; (b) Mostly; (c) Somewhat.

Domain knowledge functions as a hard cutoff at the lower end (if you need an accountant, you need someone who can do accounting) but the higher it is, the less important it becomes unless you’re filling a position at the bleeding edge of a particular field.

Domain knowledge is also not the same thing as work habits, effectiveness, etc.

• If you are not filling a position at the bleeding edge, you wouldn’t need high domainknowledge. I don’t see why you would need high IQ either.

Work habits, etc, can be judged by someone’s ability to get things done, which can be judged from their resume as per standard recruitment procedures.

You seem to think IQ is a better indicator. Why?

• Work habits, etc, can be judged by someone’s ability to get things done,

These haven’t been as extensively studied, but anecdotal evidence suggests these are also correlated with race. Furthermore, since judging these things is obviously going to be more subjective than looking at the results of a test, an employer relying on these is going to be even more open to accusations of racism.

• I don’t see why you would need high IQ either.

Not necessarily high, but higher.

Basically, each job has an appropriate IQ range. It’s better to pick people from the higher end of that range than from the lower end.

Work habits, etc, can be judged by someone’s ability to get things done, which can be judged from their resume as per standard recruitment procedures.

No, I don’t think you can effectively evaluate things like work habits on the basis of a “normal” resume. There is a reason people are hired after interviews and, sometimes, test periods and not just on the basis of their resumes.

You seem to think IQ is a better indicator. Why?

IQ is not a better indicator of work habits. However it is a good indicator of the contribution that a person can make to your organization. To make obvious observations, people with higher IQ work faster, make fewer mistakes, need less things explained to them, can handle the unexpected better, etc. etc.

• Real worldemployers are careful not to hire unqualified people, because they get .bored, leave etc. I don’t see why thatwouldnt stretch to IQ.

So an antisocial geek with a high IQ would be great in customer services? Well, other wouldn’t. Real world employers have a more multidimensional view.

• The US govt passed legislation that no one could argue for?

• The US govt passed legislation that no one could argue for?

I think Eugine is arguing that they passed legislation for reasons that are not rational.

• For example, currently companies must either hire unqualified people or risk being accused to racism and/​or sexism since they’re workplace ratios don’t match those of the general population.

I think that only applies in certain countries.

• That’s a tricky question because modern progressive political views are opposed to religion

I’m not sure if that’s correct, depending of course on how you define “religion” and “opposed.”

The first example that comes to mind is a decline in anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism 1) is irrational and 2) because of left-wing opposition to Israel and the West and support of third world Arab states, is not necessarily reduced by modern progressive political views.

Let me ask you this: If you meet a person who tells you that he hates Jewish people and nothing more (and you believe him), would you guess that, generally speaking he is in agreement or disagreement with modern progressive political views?

• That combines the questions of “are they anti-Semitic” and “if they are anti-Semitic, how would they phrase it”. A right-wing anti-Semite is more likely to phrase it that way than a progressive one, even if they are both anti-Semites.

• Since you choose not to tell me how a progressive anti-Semite would tell people he hates Jews, I assume you have no good answer for that question. The most charitable interpretation I can think of of your point is that a right-wing anti-Semite is more likely to be open about his hatred of Jewish people; that a left-wing anti-Semite is more likely to express his hatred of Jews through the three D’s: delegitimization of Israel; double-standards for Israel; and demonization of Israel. He might not even be fully consciously aware that he hates Jewish people and is likely to deny it if asked. If he is asked why he criticizes Israel for some isolated misdemeanor while ignoring other countries which systematically engage in felonies, so to speak, he will not have a good answer.

So where does that get you in terms of your original point that people are more rational now than in the past, and anti-Semitism is an example of this? Well certainly people in the West are less likely to express hatred for Jews or to organize pogroms. But your example of the left-wing anti-Semite shows that there is still a good deal of irrationality in play by your own standard. So again, it seems you are assessing rationality by measuring conformance with modern progressive political views

For reasons I have expressed elsewhere, I think this is a bad idea.

• But your example of the left-wing anti-Semite shows that there is still a good deal of irrationality in play by your own standard. So again, it seems you are assessing rationality by measuring conformance with modern progressive political views

What in the world are you talking about? You are aware, I hope, that “progressive” is a euphemism for “left-wing”? The example of left-wing anti-Semitism shows that a reduction in anti-Semitism is not in conformance with modern progressive political views.

• What in the world are you talking about? You are aware, I hope, that “progressive” is a euphemism for “left-wing”?

Yes.

The example of left-wing anti-Semitism shows that a reduction in anti-Semitism is not in conformance with modern progressive political views.

Well how do you know there has been a reduction in anti-Semitism? You seem to agree that anti-Semitic progressives will generally not express their anti-Semitism by expressly stating they hate Jews or by engaging in pogroms. Instead they are more indirect about it.

• Well how do you know there has been a reduction in anti-Semitism?

You can observe that Jews have an easier time getting jobs in industries that used to discriminate against them, that Jews tend not to get lynched any more, etc.

• You can observe that Jews have an easier time getting jobs in industries that used to discriminate against them, that Jews tend not to get lynched any more, etc.

That doesn’t mean anything, since, by hypotheses, progressive anti-Semitism manifests itself in different ways.

If someone is against policies which prohibit job discrimination on the basis of religion, would you guess that such a person generally subscribes to progressive viewpoints or not?

• That doesn’t mean anything, since, by hypotheses, progressive anti-Semitism manifests itself in different ways.

By hypothesis, progressive anti-Semitism is verbalized in different ways. The things I described weren’t verbal.

If someone is against policies which prohibit job discrimination on the basis of religion, would you guess that such a person generally subscribes to progressive viewpoints or not?

If someone loudly says “I am against policies which prohibit discrimination on the basis of religon” I would assume he subscribes to progressive viewpoints. Actually doing it would be pretty much neutral, at least in the context of Jews.

• By hypothesis, progressive anti-Semitism is verbalized in different ways. The things I described weren’t verbal.

That’s an interesting distinction. Let’s break things down. First of all, do you agree that a significant part of the reason there is less discrimination against Jews (at least in the United States), is because society has become less tolerant of discrimination on the basis of race, religion, age, etc.?

If someone loudly says “I am against policies which prohibit discrimination on the basis of religon” I would assume he subscribes to progressive viewpoints. Actually doing it would be pretty much neutral, at least in the context of Jews.

Actually doing what? All I asked about was the hypothetical person’s beliefs.

Just so we are clear, you are saying that if a person is against policies which prohibit job discrimination on the basis of religion, it gives you little or no information on the probabilities that he holds modern progressive political views?

• First of all, do you agree that a significant part of the reason there is less discrimination against Jews (at least in the United States), is because society has become less tolerant of discrimination on the basis of race, religion, age, etc.?

There are several factors which operate in different directions for Jews. There’s a larger increase in tolerance among the left and a smaller increase in tolerance among the right which is progressive and is for religion in general, but there’s also a decrease in tolerance among the left and an increase among the right specifically for Jews. Add them together and the results are still positive for both the left and the right, but can no longer be called progressive

.Just so we are clear, you are saying that if a person is against policies which prohibit job discrimination on the basis of religion, it gives you little or no information on the probabilities that he holds modern progressive political views?

Policies which prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion in general are associated with progressive views. Policies which specifically prohibit discrimination against Jews but not religion in general aren’t.

• There are several factors which operate in different directions for Jews. There’s a larger increase in tolerance among the left and a smaller increase in tolerance among the right which is progressive and is for religion in general, but there’s also a decrease in tolerance among the left and an increase among the right specifically for Jews.

Umm, does that mean “yes” or “no”?

Policies which prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion in general are associated with progressive views. Policies which specifically prohibit discrimination against Jews but not religion in general aren’t.

Ok let’s make this a little more concrete with an example: A WASPY country-club is having an internal debate over whether to admit Jews to membership. One club member takes the position that the country club should let Jews join; another members states that the club should continue to exclude Jews. According to you, this information tells you little or nothing about which of the two members is more likely to have progressive political views. Right?

ETA: By the way, if you object that membership in such a country club affects the chances that one will have modern progressive political views, you can imagine that it’s two members of the community who may or may not belong to the country club. One believes that the club should start admitting Jews; one believes that the club should continue to exclude Jews.

• That not the only relevant question. Let’s say someone named Rothschild runs for a congress primary. There are people from whom that’s enough to choose to vote against that person. Those people aren’t necessarily politically on the right.

Even when I personally wouldn’t call it anti-semitism there are plenty of people on the left who want to boycot Israel economically after the example of South Africa. On the other hand someone like Mencius Moldbug is quite all right with Israel.

Political correctness leads to a lot of things not being said and the historical reasons for why someone might be take a political position are complicated.

• That not the only relevant question. Let’s say someone named Rothschild runs for a congress primary. There are people from whom that’s enough to choose to vote against that person. Those people aren’t necessarily politically on the right.

I’m not sure that “Rothschild” is the best example here since the name is far more evocative of extreme wealth than of religion. But let’s suppose that someone named “Shapiro” or “Cohen” is running for Congress. Would that automatically disqualify him for people on the Left? For the most part, I would say “clearly not.” If he supports the traditional Leftist positions, it won’t be a problem.

Even when I personally wouldn’t call it anti-semitism there are plenty of people on the left who want to boycot Israel economically after the example of South Africa. On the other hand someone like Mencius Moldbug is quite all right with Israel.

And a desire to boycott Israel is indeed consistent with modern progressive politics, agreed?

• I’m not sure that “Rothschild” is the best example here since the name is far more evocative of extreme wealth than of religion.

Are you really saying that judging someone that way isn’t a form of antisemitism?

On of Hitlers main talking points against Jewish was that the big evil Jewish bankers control the world economy and have to be fought. People like the Rothschilds. That talking point was one of the essential elements of antisemitism.

I had the experience talking with someone about Jeffrey Sachs and that person immeditaly going for an ad hominem based on the name. There a point where it’s simply clear that one’s confronted with antisemitism.

“I’m no racist, but...”

And a desire to boycott Israel is indeed consistent with modern progressive politics, agreed?

Yes, people like Naomi Klein are progressives in good standing.

• Are you really saying that judging someone that way isn’t a form of antisemitism?

Don’t let your culturally trained pattern-matching go astray. Judging people for being extremely wealthy is not per se antisemitic. Only judging people for being extremely wealthy jews (while being okay with extremely wealthy non-jews) is.

• If I know that someone’s lastname is Rothshield I don’t even know that the person is wealthy. I’m effectively judging them by actions of their ancestors.

• Yes, but that is entirely orthogonal to the question of whether it’s antisemitism. brazil’s point was merely that “Rothschild” brings to mind excessive riches more saliently than it brings to mind Judaism, and so any judgment of that may not be genuinely antisemitic.

• 70 years ago it would have brought up rich Jewish bankers with political power.

Things happened and you don’t speak about rich powerful Jewish bankers. Now it might not bring up the same image anymore, does that mean it was antisemitic 70 years ago but isn’t antisemitic today?

• If it brought up rich Jewish bankers 70 years ago and only brings up rich bankers now, it’s obviously less antisemitic now than it used to be. But in any case, you cannot use the name “Rothschild” to make the point that a Jewish person would have a disadvantage in an election—you could at most make the point that someone whose name brings to mind rich Jewis people might have a disadvantage. I think this is more properly construed as the basis of brazil’s original objection.

• If I know that someone’s lastname is Rothshield I don’t even know that the person is wealthy.

You also don’t know if they are Jewish.

• Being Akashi Jewish is a racial category that has something to do with who your ancestors happen to be. If someone is named Rothshield that suggest at least partly Akashi Jewish ancestry.

People who descriminate against Jewish people often don’t care whether the person is practicing Judaism but more about their ancestery.

• Being Akashi Jewish is a racial category that has something to do with who your ancestors happen to be. If someone is named Rothshield that suggest at least partly Akashi Jewish ancestry.

Sure, and if someone is named Rothschild, it also suggests that they come from wealth. It doesn’t mean they are wealthy and it doesn’t mean they are Jewish.

By the way, I think the word you are looking for is “Ashkenazi” not “Akashi.”

• Are you really saying that judging someone that way isn’t a form of antisemitism?

Not necessarily. Let me ask you this: Imagine your hypothetical left-winger who won’t vote for a Rothschild. Do you think that person would vote for a “Rockefeller”? My guess is he probably wouldn’t, but even if he would, he would probably invent some rationalization for it so he could pretend to himself and his peers that he is not an anti-Semite.

By the way, I do agree that much of the time, criticism of “Bankers” or “Wall Street Bankers” or “Elites who Control the Media” etc. is tinged with anti-Semitism, even when it comes from the Left.

• Umm, does that mean “yes” or “no”?

It means “yes according to what you literally said, no according to what you’d have to mean for what you’re asking to make any sense”.

The reduction in discrimination against Jews has a progressive component and an anti-progressive component. So literally speaking, a “significant part of the reason there is less discrimination” is progressive. But the whole thing is not.

A WASPY country-club is having an internal debate over whether to admit Jews to membership.

Since you have specified that the club is WASPy, you are no longer asking whether someone would approve of discrimination against Jews, you’re asking if they would approve of discrimination against Jews and in favor of white Christians—a subcategory of that. It is entirely plausible that that subcategory of discrimination is more supported by the right, while discrimination against Jews in general is not

Also, the question asks if P(not progressive|discrimination) is large. Even if this is true, it would not imply that P(discrimination|not progressive) is large.

• It means “yes according to what you literally said, no according to what you’d have to mean for what you’re asking to make any sense”.

The reduction in discrimination against Jews has a progressive component and an anti-progressive component. So literally speaking, a “significant part of the reason there is less discrimination” is progressive. But the whole thing is not.

I didn’t ask about the whole thing—I asked about a “significant part.” But anyway, let’s do this: Please tell me the three most prominent American industries over the last 50-years in the United States where (1) there has been a reduction in employment discrimination against Jewish people; and (2) the reduction was primarily anti-progressive in terms of its’ “component.”

Since you have specified that the club is WASPy, you are no longer asking whether someone would approve of discrimination against Jews, you’re asking if they would approve of discrimination against Jews and in favor of white Christians—a subcategory of that. It is entirely plausible that that subcategory of discrimination is more supported by the right, while discrimination against Jews in general is not

So are you saying that reduction of discrimination against Jews in favor of White Christians probably is, for the most part, consistent with modern progressive political views?

Also, the question asks if P(not progressive|discrimination) is large. Even if this is true, it would not imply that P(discrimination|not progressive) is large.

And even if that were true, it wouldn’t matter. Because the real question is which is more consistent with modern progressive political views—continuing to keep Jews out of the country club or letting them in. I take it you concede that it’s the latter?

• But anyway, let’s do this: Please tell me the three most prominent American industries over the last 50-years in the United States where (1) there has been a reduction in employment discrimination against Jewish people; and (2) the reduction was primarily anti-progressive in terms of its’ “component.”

I don’t claim that there is an industry where the reduction in discrimination against Jews is primarily anti-progressive, but rather where the reduction is in approximately equal measures progressive and anti-progressive.

• I don’t claim that there is an industry where the reduction in discrimination against Jews is primarily anti-progressive, but rather where the reduction is in approximately equal measures progressive and anti-progressive.

Ok, can you give me 3 examples of such industries?

Also, are you saying that reduction of discrimination against Jews in favor of White Christians probably is, for the most part, consistent with modern progressive political views?

• Ok, can you give me 3 examples of such industries?

Pretty much every industry that has a lot of people who aren’t progressive.

Also, are you saying that reduction of discrimination against Jews in favor of White Christians probably is, for the most part, consistent with modern progressive political views?

Same answer as before: the answer to the literal question you asked is “yes”, but the answer to a version of it that is meaningful would be “no”. That question as you ask it has no bearing on what you’re using it to prove.

• Pretty much every industry that has a lot of people who aren’t progressive.

So can you please name 3?

Same answer as before: the answer to the literal question you asked is “yes”, but the answer to a version of it that is meaningful would be “no”. That question as you ask it has no bearing on what you’re using it to prove.

Well perhaps it does and perhaps it does not, but it’s useful to understand what we agree about so as to get a bettter handle on what we disagree about.

So, just so we are clear, you agree that just looking at discrimination against Jews in favor of White Christians, reduction of this type of anti-Semitism is consistent with modern progressive political views. Agreed? (And yes, I totally understand that you don’t believe that this fact rebuts your position.)

• So can you please name 3?

I deduce that it has decreased in many industries from the fact that it has decreased in general. This means that I know that it has decreased in more than 3 industries without being able to name 3 industries. Of course, I could name three random industries and have a high chance of being correct, but if I did so you could then complain that I had no statistics specific to each one.

• I deduce that it has decreased in many industries from the fact that it has decreased in general. This means that I know that it has decreased in more than 3 industries without being able to name 3 industries

:confused: I am not just asking for industries where job discrimination against Jews has decreased. I am asking about industries where job discrimination against Jews has decreased AND according to you that reduction is roughly equal in terms of progressive and non-progressive components.

I take it you are unable to identify even one such industry?

but if I did so you could then complain that I had no statistics specific to each one.

I will accept that discrimination against Jews has decreased in pretty much every industry. But that’s not the critical issue in this exchange and you know it perfectly well. Your claim is that there exist industries where the reduction in job discrimination against Jews is roughly equal in terms of progressive and non-progressive components. I am very skeptical that any such industries exist and I would like you to name 3 AND show me your evidence that this is the case for them.

Can you even name three American industries which have had a reduction in discrimination against Jews in hiring which reduction was NOT reduction of discrimination against Jews in favor of White Christians?

• I will accept that discrimination against Jews has decreased in pretty much every industry. But that’s not the critical issue in this exchange and you know it perfectly well. Your claim is that there exist industries where the reduction in job discrimination against Jews is roughly equal in terms of progressive and non-progressive components.

Just like discrimination against Jews has decreased in pretty much every industry, discrimination against Jews has decreased with a non-progressive component in pretty much every industry too (except for industries that don’t have many non-progressives).

• Just like discrimination against Jews has decreased in pretty much every industry, discrimination against Jews has decreased with a non-progressive component in pretty much every industry too (except for industries that don’t have many non-progressives).

Please name three such industries. If it’s “pretty much every industry,” it should be extremely easy for you.

Also, note that you claimed there exist industries where the reduction in job discrimination against Jews is roughly EQUAL in terms of progressive and non-progressive components. I am very skeptical that any such industries exist and I would like you to name 3 AND show me your evidence that this is the case for them.

Finally, can you even name three American industries which have had a reduction in discrimination against Jews in hiring which reduction was NOT reduction of discrimination against Jews in favor of White Christians?

Quite likely this is the last time I will ask you for evidence or examples to back up your claim. If you continue to fail to provide them, I will conclude that you have nothing to go on besides your own wishful thinking.

• Please name three such industries. If it’s “pretty much every industry,” it should be extremely easy for you.

Do you want me to name three with specific evidence for each industry, or without?

• Do you want me to name three with specific evidence for each industry, or without?

The evidence should support your claim, i.e. be applicable to each industry, but can be general in application.

Also, please respond to all of my questions from the last post. If you ignore them or dance around, I’m going to most likely conclude you can’t back up your claims.

• The Wikipedia article on antisemitism in America lists right-wing anti-Semitic groups of the past that are disbanded nowadays (such as the Liberty Lobby), and several factors that increase left-wing anti-Semitism, such as greater anti-Semitism among blacks (who are likely to be on the left). The right is still involved in “New antisemitism”, but on an equal basis with the left.

There was also a Republican who appointed a Jewish supreme Court justice and another who nominated one unsuccessfully. I don’t think that Republicans suddenly decided it was okay to appoint Jews because of the progressive movement.

Of course, none of this is specific to an industry, but it is reasonable to conclude that anti-Semitism generally being on par between the left and right also means that it is on par between the left and right in industries. If you refuse to accept a reduction in right-wing anti-Semitism or an increase in left-wing anti-Semitism outside industries as also indicating a similar movement within industries, there’s no way I can convince you.

And the “in favor of white Christians” question is 1) not something I claimed (so asking me for examples of something I never claimed is pointless) and 2) irrelevant. “Reduced discrimination in favor of white Christians” is not necessarily progressive. “Reduced discrimination against Jews and for white Christians, because nobody should be discriminated against” might arguably be progressive, but “reduced discrimination against Jews and for white Christians, because Jews now go in the friend category instead of the enemy category” is not progressive.

• The Wikipedia article on antisemitism in America lists right-wing anti-Semitic groups of the past that are disbanded nowadays (such as the Liberty Lobby), and several factors that increase left-wing anti-Semitism, such as greater anti-Semitism among blacks (who are likely to be on the left). The right is still involved in “New antisemitism”, but on an equal basis with the left.

That’s not an answer to my question—nothing here has to do with job discrimination. Besides which, blacks on the left do not necessarily adhere to modern progressive values. For example, there is a lot of opposition to gay marriage in the Black community.

There was also a Republican who appointed a Jewish supreme Court justice and another who nominated one unsuccessfully. I don’t think that Republicans suddenly decided it was okay to appoint Jews because of the progressive movement.

Not an answer to my question, and besides which, you are wrong. Republicans have been heavily influenced by the increased adherence to modern progressive values. Perhaps they are 20 or 30 years behind the Democrats, but, for example there is plenty of support among Republicans for things which came out of progressive thinking such as bans on race discrimination, rights for women etc.

Of course, none of this is specific to an industry, but it is reasonable to conclude that anti-Semitism generally being on par between the left and right also means that it is on par between the left and right in industries

Again, you fail to give specific examples. And you conflate republican with non-progressive. Which in the case of discrimination is simply false.

And the “in favor of white Christians” question is 1) not something I claimed

Yes it is. You implicitly conceded that “reduction of discrimination against Jews in favor of White Christians probably is, for the most part, consistent with modern progressive political views” (Actually you tried your best to wriggle out of it but you first implied it and then did not dispute it when I told you I was assuming that your positive response was a response to my question on this point.

So now you are weaseling, i.e. pretending you said something different from what you actually said.

Anyway, you have presented essentially no evidence to support your sweeping claims about employment discrimination. You have failed to produce examples. And now you have weaseled.

I conclude that you have no evidence besides wishful thinking to support your position, which position really is quite ridiculous. Your argument has completely failed to stand up to scrutiny.

In any event, I have my own rules of debate—I don’t engage with people who won’t answer reasonable questions about their position; who refuse to provide examples; or who pretend they took a different position from what they actually took. I’m not interested in engaging people who hide their positions or weasel. So I’m adding you to my shit list.

Goodbye.

• And you conflate republican with non-progressive.

I must wonder exactly what you expect me to use to show that something or someone isn’t progressive, then, if political affiliation is unacceptable.

You implicitly conceded that “reduction of discrimination against Jews in favor of White Christians probably is, for the most part, consistent with modern progressive political views”

It’s consistent with progressive views, but those are not the only views it’s consistent with. It’s consistent with a lot of things, including other, non-progressive, views.

And that’s why I’m very careful about answering your questions: because I know you’re going to interpret them as support for or opposition to views which they don’t actually support or oppose. Confusing “consistent with” and “implies” is an elementary mistake, yet you’re so sure about it that you want to use that as a reason not to discuss anything with me at all!

But I brought up the example. To refute the example, you have to show that discrimination against Jews in general has gone down due to progressive thought, not just that a component of it has.

Because the real question is which is more consistent with modern progressive political views—continuing to keep Jews out of the country club or letting them in. I take it you concede that it’s the latter?

Now you’re asking about whether P(no discrimination|progressive) > P(discrimination|progressive), which is a different question. The answer to this one is also “yes to what you just literally asked”.

It’s also true that P(no discrimination|not progressive) > P(discrimination|not progressive).

• To refute the example, you have to show that discrimination against Jews in general has gone down due to progressive thought, not just that a component of it has.

That may be so, but I was asking a question in order to understand and scrutinize your position. When I ask a question, and instead of just answering it you guess or imagine what argument is behind the question, and then respond to the argument and don’t answer the question, it increases the confusion and makes me suspect you are trying to dance around the issues.

Now you’re asking about whether P(no discrimination|progressive) > P(discrimination|progressive), which is a different question.

Actually not, I was asking exactly what I asked. Anyway, I take it you concede that reduction of discrimination against Jews in favor of White Christians probably is, for the most part, consistent with modern progressive political views?

• When I ask a question, and instead of just answering it you guess or imagine what argument is behind the question, and then respond to the argument and don’t answer the question, it increases the confusion and makes me suspect you are trying to dance around the issues.

When you ask a question that is very peculiar as a request for information, but completely understandable as an attempt to make a fallacious argument while maintaining plausible deniability about exactly what your argument is, that increases the confusion too.

• When you ask a question that is very peculiar as a request for information, but completely understandable as an attempt to make a fallacious argument while maintaining plausible deniability about exactly what your argument is, that increases the confusion too.

Perhaps, but I have not done so. Anyway, the simple way to respond to such a question and deal with the issue is to say “Yes, I agree with X but I don’t think it undermines my position for reason Y. Are you trying to make argument Z?”

:confused: The post you are responding to does not contain a question I have asked you. Besides which, it has taken a lot of patience to get answers out of you.

I assume that just now you were responding to this question:

I take it you concede that reduction of discrimination against Jews in favor of White Christians probably is, for the most part, consistent with modern progressive political views?

• If someone is against policies which prohibit job discrimination on the basis of religion, would you guess that such a person generally subscribes to progressive viewpoints or not?

Given the prevalence of what Scott Alexander calls object-level thinking, I’d guess people against banning discrimination on the basis of religion are less likely to be progressivist than the rest of population in regions where said discrimination is more commonly in favour of believers against atheists than vice versa, and more likely elsewhere.

• Given the prevalence of what Scott Alexander calls object-level thinking, I’d guess people against banning discrimination on the basis of religion are less likely to be progressivist than the rest of population in regions where said discrimination is more commonly in favour of believers against atheists than vice versa, and more likely elsewhere.

That may be so, but my question is more of a practical one than a theoretical one. I’m asking about the West in the 20th century, with an emphasis on the United States.

• I don’t think the West, or even the United States, is as homogeneous as you appear to imply.

Turns out that believers and atheists are discriminated against in the US, presumably by different people.

• I don’t think the West, or even the United States, is as homogeneous as you appear to imply.

I wasn’t trying to imply such . . . I was just looking for a concrete answer to my question.

Turns out that believers and atheists are discriminated against in the US, presumably by different people

With that in mind, what’s your answer to the question? If you are told that there is an American who opposes policies which prohibit job discrimination on the basis of religion, would it make you more likely or less likely (or the same) to believe that such person holds progressive political views?

• With that in mind, what’s your answer to the question? If you are told that there is an American who opposes policies which prohibit job discrimination on the basis of religion, would it make you more likely or less likely (or the same) to believe that such person holds progressive political views?

I dunno—averaged over all of the US, probably more likely, but I’m not sure.

• A right-wing anti-Semite is more likely to phrase it that way than a progressive one,

Well how would a progressive anti-Semite tell people he hates Jews?

• He’ll say something along the lines of: “The Zionist lobby makes Congress send aid to Israel.” If he wants to be really obvious about it, he’ll endorse Gilead Atzmon.

• [ . . . ]

By the way, I don’t engage with eli_sennesh due to his past dishonesty.

• Sorry, what? I wasn’t aware we were holy-warring. By the way, I’m not voting on anything you’ve said.

• What?

• What?

:shrug: I had an exchange a while back with eli_sennesh in which he misrepresented my position, i.e. attacked a strawman, and did not retract it when I called him on it. I have a personal rule of not engaging with such posters as such tactics are both annoying and a complete waste of time. There is little chance of learning from someone who doesn’t respond to what you actually say but instead pretends you said something unreasonable so that he can attack it and pretend that he has defeated you in battle, so to speak.

• Flynn effect, economic prosperity, increase in rate of innovation, and better educational systems and other tools are around nowadays.

I cannot provide you a video tape, but this seems to be at least some evidence for that statement in my opinion.

• The significance of the Flynn effect is disputed, and some claim that the course of the 20th century saw a decline in innovation. Unfortunately, the divide on these matters, at least in the lay blogosphere, aligns with a political division. Those who want to say that the world is going to hell in a handbasket point to a decline in reaction times (which are correlated with intelligence) and claim scientific stagnation, those who believe that we’ve never had it so good and will have it better in the future point to Flynn and the modern cornucopia. Is evidence producing worldviews or are worldviews selecting evidence?

• Unfortunately, the divide on these matters, at least in the lay blogosphere, aligns with a political division.

To an extent I agree with you, but based on my personal observations I would say that most people are pretty much irrational now and probably were also back in 1901. Gay marriage is actually a good example. Whether it’s a rational belief or not, it’s pretty clear to me that most people believe in it or not based on what they think a good liberal (or conservative) is supposed to believe. As opposed to any logical reasoning.

I doubt people were any better back in 1901 -- it’s just human nature to believe stuff based on what serves your interests; what group you belong to; what signals you want to send; etc.

So I would say that people were pretty much irrational back in 1901 just like today. (At least in “far mode.”)

• Those who advocate that the world is going to hell, do they point to a certain era as the most rational time, and what would have caused the downturn?

EDIT: Mainly asking this question in order to find out how they measure rationality, as right now I find the point of view rather surprising.

• Those who advocate that the world is going to hell, do they point to a certain era as the most rational time, and what would have caused the downturn?

I’m referring to the reactosphere, of course, which I don’t actually follow, but am aware of. Some trace the fall to the Enlightenment, some to the Reformation. Moldbug, on the other hand, has a lot of time for writers up to the 19th century, as people who knew what was what and from whose state of grace we have fallen. He has mentioned many times the persistent leftwards trend since then but the last I saw, still considered it a mystery. Others look to prehistory when men were men and women were chattels, and think that things started going downhill with the invention of agriculture, with the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the 20th century being but further headlong descent down the rings of hell.

Leftists, in contrast, read the persistent leftwards trend as the inevitable march towards truth. At least, when they aren’t crying “help, help, I’m being oppressed!”, which requires portraying their opposition as the ones with power.

• You accept the leftard trend as fact, but the economics of the left have been abandoned, while their social policies have been accepted.

• “Leftard” :)

What do you mean by economics of the left? Do you mean state capitalism like in China, or a generous welfare state like in Sweden? Arguably both are quite successful.

I think I stopped paying attention to Moldbug somewhere around the time he said he was too cool to respond to Scott’s demolishing of neoreaction.

• I mean state communism, nationalization, the govt co strolling the means of production.

• How has nationalization and the government controlling the means of production been abandoned? Have you seen what Russia and China are up to?

The history of the 19th and 20th century has seen a continuous movement towards welfare and labor reforms, which are broadly “leftist” (or at least a part of the liberal project—the neoreaction types will agree). In other words, what the heck are you talking about?

• Nationalization etc have been abandoned by the parties of the left in western democracies. Putin acts for Putin. China is state CAPITALISM.

The past 100 years have seen a trend towards labour reform. The past 30 years have seen capitalist economics accepted by everyone. Free market economics was imposed on Russia in the 90s, as the obvious choice of system. Because of prevailing inequalities, that led to the oligarchs. Putns threats of nationalization are part of a power struggle with them.

Edit: do you think western countries could have the kind of capitalism they one have with an unreformsd labour market of downtrodden serfs, bonded for life to a single overlord? Much labor reform came about because capitalism was evolving to a form where employers needed an educated and flexible workforce. Some reforms were pushed by government, but much just had to happen, because you can’t plug Jethro the serf into the job done by Josh the freelance web designer.

• Here is how this conversation played out:

you: “The economics of the left have been abandoned.”

me: “What do you mean by ’economics of the left?”

you: “Nationalization, the government controlling the means of production, etc.”

me: “What about Russia, China, etc?”

you: “Russia is actually not a true Scotsman, and I am going to apply the label ‘capitalism’ to China in such a way that it trumps the fact that a huge amount of economic capacity activity there is directly controlled by the state, many many firms are nationalized, or effectively nationalized, etc.”

re: edit: 19th-20th century reforms are a very complicated subject, I don’t think you can give a good analysis in one paragraph. Reforms in Russia went very differently from reforms in the Ottoman empire, which went very differently from reforms in Hapsburg Austria, and so on.

For example, Russia abolished the serfs because they noted that their army was pathetic during the Crimean war, and they wanted to have an army that is competitive with the West. And of course the process wasn’t even complete until 1907, which is amazing if you think about it because it implies Russia was part-feudal into the 20th century.

One view on the current Crimean crisis is that Russia is still playing conceptual catchup with the West. When the West was living in the 19th century, Russia was living in the 16th. Now that the West is living in the 21st century, Russia is living in the 19th. At any rate, Russia’s trajectory has very little in common with, for instance, England’s trajectory. England started on the path of restricting the power of the King back during the Magna Carta days. Russia is still not fully on board with this being a good idea today, 8 centuries later.

You can’t just talk about “labor reform [unqualified].”

• Russia also had free market economics imposed on it in the nineties, in line with pretty much everyone seeing it as the only option. So much for relentless leftwardsness.

• Your “huge amount” is less than the everything the Chinese government used to control.

Edit: if China had been mostly ccapitalist 50 years ago, you could say it had moved to the left. But 50 years ago, it was under Mao....

• You accept the leftard trend as fact

Just stating Moldbug’s view, but I do think he has a point here. Compare current policies everywhere with those of 100 to 150 years ago (which is the timescale he is viewing things on).

• Social or economic policies?

• Either. Consider government budget as a percentage of GDP today versus 100 years ago. No, left-wing economic policies haven’t been abandoned.

• Hmmm. Is that policy, or just size? Consider the money spent on beaurocracy by large corporations as opposed to small ones.

• The increase in the size of government is the left-wing policy I’m referring to.

• And it’s theinevitable and politically neutral organic change I am talking about. One fact, two interpretations.

• Those who advocate that the world is going to hell, do they point to a certain era as the most rational time, and what would have caused the downturn?

I don’t think the world is going to hell, but I do think that wealth and power can give you more luxury to hold irrational beliefs. So perhaps people were more rational back in the days of our noble savage ancestors and it’s been downhill ever since. :)

• Since holding irrational beliefs tends to result in eventually loosing one’s wealth and power, this tends to work as a negative feedback effect.

• Since holding irrational beliefs tends to result in eventually loosing one’s wealth and power,

I’m not sure this is true because of standby-rationality mode. Also known as hypocrisy.

• Agreed. Powerful people (especially politicians) seem to hold plenty of irrational beliefs. Of course we can’t really tell the difference between lying about irrational beliefs and hypocrisy, if there’s a meaningful difference for the outside observer at all.

• The problem is that the politician who honestly holds a popular irrational belief (assuming said belief isn’t directly related to the mechanisms of election campaigns) is better able to signal it and thus more likely to get elected than the politician who merely false claims to hold it.

• I’d expect politicians to be much better at occlumency than the general population, though.

• I’m not sure about that. As Granny Weatherwax points out in Wyrd Sisters, “Things that try to look like things often do look more like things than things.”

Or, to put it a different way, if one concentrates on the signalling, and if one is reasonably competent at acting, and isn’t caught in the act of breaking character, one can signal a belief a lot better than someone who merely holds said belief.

• Deliberate intent is more likely to produce a superstimulus than chance, yes. Stack the modifiers. Politicians tend to be those who happened to already hold something close to the ideal belief, then deliberately took steps to refine their faith in it as well as their ability to present it to others.

• Faking sincerity isn’t easy. The person who seems like he’s putting effort into proving that he has a certain belief looks different than the person who isn’t out to prove that he’s holding the belief and simply believes.

Presenting a belief as an unspoken assumption in a very light way is something that usually happens with a true believer but not with someone who acts like he believes.

You can tell a joke in a way that the person who listens laughs for a few seconds. You can also tell it in a way that the person suddenly get’s a realization when he comes home after a few hours. The subtlety that you need for the brain spending hours processing the joke is a hard skill.

It’s not impossible to learn. I don’t know excatly what Obama does to get the kind of emotional effects in his audience he does. That’s more than just being reasonably competent at acting. On the other hand not every politician is at that rhetorical level.

• That depends on whether you’re trying to fool outsiders or fellow believers.

• Standby-rationality mode isn’t nearly as good as actual rational reasoning. Also hypocrisy creates cognitive dissonance (both in individuals and institutions) that tends to be resolved by actually adopting the (false) beliefs one is claiming to believe.

• Standby-rationality mode isn’t nearly as good as actual rational reasoning

Can you give me a couple concrete examples of this?

Also hypocrisy creates cognitive dissonance (both in individuals and institutions) that tends to be resolved by actually adopting the (false) beliefs one is claiming to believe.

Same question. TIA

• a decline in reaction times (which are correlated with intelligence)

I chalk it up to sleep deprivation, which was much less prevalent before the Internet/​television/​the light bulb became available.

• Lengths changing around is called “Lorentz transformations”, and pre-dates 1901:

Main article: History of Lorentz transformations

Many physicists, including Woldemar Voigt, George FitzGerald, Joseph Larmor, and Hendrik Lorentz himself had been >discussing the physics implied by these equations since 1887.[1]

Early in 1889, Oliver Heaviside had shown from Maxwell’s equations that the electric field surrounding a spherical >distribution of charge should cease to have spherical symmetry once the charge is in motion relative to the ether. >FitzGerald then conjectured that Heaviside’s distortion result might be applied to a theory of intermolecular forces. Some >months later, FitzGerald published the conjecture that bodies in motion are being contracted, in order to explain the >baffling outcome of the 1887 ether-wind experiment of Michelson and Morley. In 1892, Lorentz independently presented >the same idea in a more detailed manner, which was subsequently called FitzGerald–Lorentz contraction hypothesis.[2] >Their explanation was widely known before 1905.[3]

It took time and combined effort of many smart people to finalize the full theory complete with dynamics; the most fundamental bits such as transformations came first.

At Einstein’s level, human abilities top out—it’s like world’s best athletes, the second best, the 100th best, they run about the same speed, for all practical purposes. Remaining variability in total distance those athletes run in their lifetime is largely due to how hard they work, and that one is also topping out. And the variability in how a layperson would attribute and misattribute discoveries has to do with quite random factors.

• They didn’t anticipate what the Internet would become—because they weren’t fucking insane...

Robert Evans, Cracked

• I don’t know why it’s only mentioned in one comment deep at the bottom, but the claim about hair color and gravity is completely implausible, far less believable than the spheres and spanking. Whereas speed is directly by definition related to distance/​space and time. As noted in one of the comments, about the color it would be logical to the same extent if at some point it became invisible. Well, or vice versa, transfer gravity to the part about speed and say that it is the effect of displacements in time.