The talks from Skepticon IV are being posted to YouTube

So far we have:


More to come soon, hopefully...

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Expect the next batch on Monday, including the panel on death (lovingly dubbed the atheist death panel by the moderator, Jesse Galef) featuring Eliezer Yudkowsky, Greta Christina, Julia Galef, and James Croft!

It's possible that they'll be up sooner, but as far as I understand it, our videographer (Rob Lehr) is taking a well-deserved break.

Yay, the "death panel" was my favorite. I had a great time, thanks for organizing the event!
Thanks for coming!
Seconding the thanks for organizing; I also had a great time! Suggestion for next year: invite Luke to talk about why he takes the Singularity seriously.
Could not agree more! I'm suggesting Luke to the new team - they're not particularly interested in the LW crowd, but I think I can probably tempt them by providing some of Luke's atheism-related writings/works.
Katie, is there any place where the slides are posted for these?
No, not at the moment. I've passed Skepticon off to next year's crew (just successfully moved out of the area and on to new things), but I'll suggest that they contact speakers about making the slides public.
Can't wait to see this!

The videos I've seen so far have all been great! If there are any videos you'd like transcribed, post a request as a comment to this. If the request is already posted, upvote it. (If you say "all of them" I will scowl menacingly in your general direction)

I'm about a third of the way through transcribing Straw Vulcan. It will be up Monday at the latest, but probably earlier. If there are any other Skepticon videos that have at least 3 people wanting them, I'll transcribe them next, starting with the most popular.

I'll commit to doing the 4 most popular. (I don't want to commit to doing all the vids with 3+ votes, because for all I know that would be all of them, lol!)

As would this.
I'm most curious about the death panel.
This is relevant to my interests. Also, thank you very much for your many transcripts; they are very helpful.
Would be neat.

Eliezer from the Death panel talk:

Yehuda Yudkowsky is dead. There is nothing left of him. He does not live on in me. He's dead. That's all. And maybe some day I'll contribute to laying the reaper, if not forever then at least for a few billion years. And maybe then I'll feel better, or maybe I wont. But the point is I'm not conflicted; I know what I'm doing about it. And it's all right to feel the same way, despite all the people telling you about ways to come to terms with death. It's all right to say "No, I wont come to terms with it. It's just evil."

This made me want to get up and cheer.

I felt depressed through the first part but by the end I felt the same :) "Its just evil"

Greta Christina on angry atheists

The comments on the place of anger in a "social change movement" at 35:40 just got me laughing. Yes let's cherry pick all the social change movements that won or at least haven't yet been clearly defeated and the audience happens to mostly agree with! Hm I really can't imagine any angry "social change" movements that failed or I didn't like in the ... oh ... past 200 years.


Getting a blank here.

She also really annoyed me in the death talk. She kept mentioning advantages atheists have over religious people, like that when it comes down to it we're less afraid of death. It seemed like she was just cheering for her (and my) team. But I'm not an atheist because it has social benefits or might be better for my mental heath. I'm an atheist because I think the religions are wrong. If there are benefits to being an atheist that doesn't make it more right to be one; the social benefits of religions certainly don't make them more true.
42:20 seems to be almost offering itself as a pedagogical example, lets do an exercise together: angry [demographic X here] Think of 10 examples by yourself. Now think about the implications. Overall my assessment is that this is a good pro-atheist pep talk, a neat catalogue of applause lights but it has very little if any rationalist value. Now you might ask me: "But Konkvistador was it supposed to have rationalist value?" Why, yes. Yes it was. Or rather it should have been a good source of tips to help improve our instrumental rationality to promote a sane beliefs (which happens to be atheism). I understand the need to do politics and rallies, the value of such a talk is basically purely entertainment, an ingroup ritual to keep people around for some boring stuff. Too bad, lots of people can do that. In the long run a serious analysis of "angry atheism" would do the spread of atheist beliefs (though not necessarily the movement of atheism) more good. Note: By which I don't mean to imply it is necessarily the wrong approach, just that rational analysis of it is practically non-existant, due to rational religious people being unreliable due to tribal loyalties and activist atheist being unreliable due to ... tribal loyalties.

Overall my assessment is that this is a good pro-atheist pep talk, a neat catalogue of applause lights but it has very little if any rationalist value.

It may be a good pep talk for her co-ideologists, but from the outside it looks like straight-out ideological warfare, which of course it actually is. Unsurprisingly, like nearly all such material, its reasoning is full of holes big enough to drive a truck through. (The stuff you pointed out is only the tip of the iceberg.)

If anything, this should be evident from the fact that she makes a number of highly controversial ideological statements about current issues -- which I'm sure many people here would in fact dispute or at least consider as lacking in evidence -- as plain and common-sense truth, to an enthusiastic response by the audience.

I think it's indicative of some deep biases that this stuff, unlike ideological rants in general, can be posted on LW with general approval.


I should have made it more clear that I was using "pro-atheist" in the sense of the organized atheist movement. And yes obviously that movement is ideological. Worse for quality of thinking, it is political, in the sense that it has some clearly defined political allies (and also enemies).

I think it's indicative of some deep biases that this stuff, unlike ideological rants in general, can be posted on LW with general approval

Remember it wasn't posted separately, just as a batch of stuff from Skepticon. I doubt that many people from LW have seen it.

But yes some blatantly ideological material gets a free pass or at least much less scrutiny than is warranted (such threads show up in discussion once every week or two) because of the demographics of Lesswrong. Like any group of people we bring our politics with us at least implicitly (even if it is explicitly banished), which translates into ideological sympathies and the vocabulary of applause lights we use and recognize.

In addition most users here have a warm fuzzy feeling when they hear atheism, which might mean they misidentify to which contrarian cluster someone actually belongs to.

Also, another bias (or rather, a whole huge complex of biases) that I see as even more problematic is the choice of targets of these "skeptic" luminaries. Looking through the website of their conference and the list of speakers, I see people who attack traditional religion and various low-status folk superstitions, many of whom also promote ideological positions of the sorts that tend to have high status among academics and other respectable intellectuals. I haven't see anything, however, about skepticism towards various falsities and biases that enjoy high status and official approval under the present academic system. Unless we are so lucky nowadays that no such things exist -- a proposition that seems plainly false to me -- I can't help but conclude that the whole enterprise ends up as a farcical parody of "skepticism."

Two potential counterexamples to keep in mind: (1) Yudkowsky's pro-cryonics and generally anti-death stance, as evidenced in the "death panel" discussion (which hasn't been posted yet, but his views are anyway familiar to regular readers of LW); and (2) J.T. Eberhard's (very personal) discussion of mental illness, which (except for certain fashionable exceptions, and despite occasional rhetoric you may hear from time to time) actually remains quite low-status virtually everywhere, elite intellectual communities included.

Fair enough. Still, apart from these exceptions and the strictly non-ideological topics, the rest really does sound like a protracted scream of "Yay Greens! Down with Blues!"
The organized skeptical movement is aimed primarily at improving critical thinking among the general public. In LW terminology, this is about raising the sanity waterline about things like religion, astrology, and homeopathy. Given how much money is spent on such things, that's a useful goal even from a simple naive utilitarian perspective.
Can you give an example of these falsities or biases? Meta-note: I'm watching out for confirmation bias here because I'm strongly inclined to agree with you. I'm requesting specifics to better understand you, but I'm wary of it turning into a case of asking for confirming evidence.
As always there's a bias against anything that might be considered to give aid and succour to the enemy. Since the time of Hitler, there's therefore a politically motivated bias in favor of egalitarianism, in all its forms, and against the strong linking of aptitudes, especially mental aptitudes, to genetics. And especially when statistically linked to politically relevant groups and politically relevant aptitudes. E.g nobody cares that Irish have red hair more commonly than Greeks, but to link average IQ and racial groups causes political shitstorms. Why? Because Politics is the Mindkiller. Once a belief is identified as a belief of the enemies, defending it makes you perceived as defending the enemies.
I don't think it's useful to steer the discussion towards such extremely charged issues, as if there were no other ones pertinent for the topic. Even if the whole class of biases you describe were absent, there would still be plenty of questions where (in my opinion, at least) a consistent skeptic would have to take up issue with the consensus of the academic institutions. (By "consensus" I also mean situations where there exist significant disagreements within the academic mainstream, but all the positions acceptable within the respectable mainstream share some underlying assumptions, which it is not possible to dispute without consigning oneself to an unacceptable contrarian status.) In many of these areas, contrarian opinions aren't particularly scandalous, and one doesn't have to fear any serious repercussions for voicing them. (Unless one aims for an academic career in a field under direct bureaucratic control by the purveyors of the disputed official truth, of course.) The problem is that contrarian statements tend to sound just laughably wacky, like the rants of a physics crackpot, unless one accompanies them with lengthy and careful arguments in order to bridge the inferential distances. (And finds an audience willing to give them a fair hearing instead of just laughing them off, of course.) This is often just too time-consuming, and possibly also too demanding on one's interlocutors. However, the existence of such topics is, in my opinion, particularly damning for the selective skeptics of the sort I've been criticizing. Here they don't even have the excuse that contrarian opinions would be too offensive and inflammatory to bring up. Their silence betrays either complete lack of critical thinking about such topics or the unwillingness to take even a minor status hit by dissenting from the highest-status purveyors of respectable opinion -- in any case making their self-designation farcical.
I didn't choose it for being charged, I chose it for being the clearest and simplest example IMO. In contrast, I read your three paragraphs above, and I don't know what in the name of Cthulhu you're actually talking about.
Can you name one or two, then?
For example, in economics and in all kinds of fields related to health and lifestyle, there are many issues where the academic mainstream appears to be seriously detached from reality, and the falsities and delusions purveyed by it cause very real damage in practice. Attacking these is unlikely to be dangerous, but it will put you in a position where you're presumed to be a crackpot until proven otherwise (and likely even after that), since the word of the accredited experts is against you. Now, if some people speak up against one sort of delusion and falsity, I certainly don't think that they are obliged to speak against all of them. However, if there is mass gathering where purported skeptics and free-thinkers assemble to discuss a broad agenda of topics where, according to them, skeptics must speak up because dangerous delusions and falsities are rampant, then their choice of included and omitted topics sends a message by itself.
Aaaaaaaaaaand because espousing such a belief probably means you are "the enemy", that you're a reasonable person who came to the same conclusion (and didn't have the sense to introduce it in a more effective way) is probably much less likely.
That's pretty much the same point I made in a different thread By correlating X with Y (where e.g. X=race and Y=average intelligence), other people end up correlating "People who correlate X with Y" with Z (Z=people who are evil racist bastards). That's a proper correlation, but it's still a epistemological bias to prejudice against the idea, just because the speakers of that idea are often evil.
Well said!
The trouble is that by the very nature of the problem, concrete examples are bound to provoke controversy, at least if stated bluntly and without careful explanation. See my comments in this thread, where I presented my views on this issue at length, and especially this subthread.
Don't you see a blatant inconsistency between you criticizing others for not putting their faces and names on a public attack to such high-status biases, and yet you hesitate to speak clearly even when you are anonymous through the Internet? Right now religion is arguably still killing more people than any other bias in the modern world - and unless one defeats it and its accompanying delusions of a just, designed, meant-to-be world, one has little chance of defeating deathist or other biases as well. Because most of them stem from the idea that what is was also meant to be. Inshallah and stuff.

Don't you see a blatant inconsistency between you criticizing others for not putting their faces and names on a public attack to such high-status biases, and yet you hesitate to speak clearly even when you are anonymous through the Internet?

I don't think people have any obligation to speak publicly against anything, and I am not criticizing anyone for mere failure to do so. What I am criticizing is when people claim to be skeptics, free-thinkers, etc. loudly and proudly, while at the same time effectively demonstrating this skepticism and free-thinking only on issues where it's safe and easy to do so. (Safe in the sense that it won't result in a controversy dangerous for one's status, reputation, or career, and easy in the sense of sticking to topics where the existing official intellectual institutions provide reliable guidance -- as opposed to those where they are unreliable, or worse, and one needs genuine skepticism and independent thinking to discern the truth. Unless you deny that any such topics exist, would you not agree that they are the ones that represent a real test of whether one deserves to be called a "skeptic," "free-thinker," etc.?)

Right n

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Perhaps the metaphysical beliefs aren't that much important. They are almost always free-floating, not tied in any significant way to expectations and experiences, and serve as a group identification sign. (After all, it doesn't seem to me that, say, Rand's Objectivism is less explicit with its assumptions than Zoroastrianism. That ideologies don't refer to gods doesn't imply that they masquerade their basic beliefs.) Putting too much attention to these beliefs is itself a mistake, since it diverts attention from the real mechanisms of harm, which are related to biases and shared among ideologies and religions.
Let's take your concrete example, which is a good case study for ideology in general. Notice that Objectivism purports to be a product of pure rational thinking based on obviously true axioms, which will be accepted by anyone who is not ignorant or delusional, like some well-established result in mathematics or physics. In reality, however, dissecting the actual beliefs held by Objectivists reveals a whole rat's nest of weird metaphysics -- which is in fact the real content of their ideology, for which its purported derivation from pure logic and reason is just a masquerade. With this in mind, even though I don't know almost anything about Zoroastrianism, I would be surprised if its assumptions aren't much more explicit than the real assumptions of Objectivism. Similar analysis can be applied to any ideology, including those that are nowadays popular enough that they commonly pass for sheer rationality and common sense. The danger is that these metaphysical beliefs masquerading as products of reason and common sense can easily motivate further beliefs and acts that clash with reality, sometimes quite severely. (In this sense, they aren't free-floating.) Or to put it in a different way, the question is ultimately about the importance of a specific common pattern in belief systems, namely postulating the existence of antropomorphic metaphysical entities. If one singles out religion as an especially problematic subset of the broader space of belief systems, this basically means that one's heuristic for judging belief systems assigns an especially large negative weight to matching this pattern. The trouble is, over-focusing on this particular pattern can make one's heuristic vulnerable to ideas and belief systems that can be quite awful even though they pass this particular test with flying colors. The usual failure mode for passionate atheists and self-declared skeptics and free-thinkers is that they crank up their sensitivity to this pattern to eleven (along with
I agree that non-religious ideologies have an advantage over religions in that they lack one clear sign of irrationality, thus being potentially more attractive for those who identify with reason and skepticism. (Religions may be, on the other hand, more attractive to believers in "spirituality" and whatever kind of self-identified opponents of rationality; it's far from clear what group is larger and thus whether religions are more or less dangerous - measured by their propagation potential - than non-religious ideologies.) Specifically, you are right that most self-reported skeptics aren't well prepared to tackle ideologies that don't openly contradict science. On the other hand, formulating it as a matter of explicit or masqueraded metaphysical assumptions suggests that the ideologies in question have assumptions in the first place - that is, that they have a fairly rigorous logical structure based on few starting axioms, which are stated openly in case of religions while being falsely pretended to be derived from some common-sensical truths in case of secular ideologies. I think a better model is that most ideological / religious beliefs are more or less arbitrary; when they are presented as being derived from some assumption, almost always the derivation is a non sequitur. Consider Christianity as an example: there is long tradition of theological inquiry based on assumption that truths about God can be revealed by reason (at least in Catholicism, that may not be true for other denominations), but in fact even if you accept the truth of whole Bible as a metaphysical assumptions (a fairly large axiom set, in fact), you can hardly derive truth of e.g. trinitarianism therefrom. (By "derive" I mean using arguments acceptable to human audience; of course from a formally logical point of view, you can derive anything from the Bible using the principle of explosion.) This is also true for many of the historically most harmful beliefs tied to Christianity, such as Ant
There is also a particularly severe failure mode, which occurs when non-religious ideologies clash with ones that claim (some degree of) religious inspiration, and the views of the latter on practical matters are less bad by any reasonable standard. This may happen if the non-religious ideology purports to have rational and scientific answers, which are however just rationalization and pseudoscience, and as such severely delusional. At the same time, the views of the pro-religious ideology may use the religious stuff mainly to support some sort of traditionalist pro-status quo position, which may have many problems, but is at least unlikely to be downright crazy. In this situation, people whose approach to evaluating ideas is excessively focused on anti-religious hostility may end up siding with the former -- which means that they are, for all practical purposes, supporting the crazier side. I think this pattern has in fact been quite common in recent history. To take a remote and hopefully uncontroversial example, imagine living in some country circa 1930 in which the main contestants for power are Communists and, say, Catholic conservatives -- and while the latter side may be problematic in all sorts of ways, it still offers something within the bounds of livable normality, unlike the former. (And indeed, observe how many intellectuals who would scoff at religious people have historically advocated Marxism and similar recipe-for-disaster ideologies.) I think contemporary instances of the same pattern could also be found, although these are of course likely to be extremely controversial. That's a valid point. Every religion also has some such "masqueraded assumptions," in some cases to a very large degree. (Here there is some contrast between religions that insist they're based on straightforward readings of holy texts versus those that admit the role of extra-scriptural tradition, thus, in a sense, explicitly legitimizing some of their "masqueraded assumptions.
Comment test - please ignore. Comment test - please ignore. Comment test - please ignore.
Upvoted for concreteness.
There have already been several discussions in which I made similar points. (See e.g. my comments in this thread for a particularly detailed exposition of my views.) The problem is that the juiciest examples are likely to provoke extreme ideological controversy, so I usually limit myself to the blander ones, where contrarian views are, if not respectable, then at least not overly scandalous. One such example is academic economics, where even rudimentary logical and epistemological scrutiny suffices to show that much of it is just institutionalized charlatanism and pseudoscience -- and considering its influence in the current system of government, it seems bewildering that all these champions of skepticism and warriors against pseudoscience don't seem bothered by this at all. (Similar things could be said about many other "social sciences" too, although the problems are usually less blatant and the related controversies more violent.) Another such example is provided by the vast complex of "scientific" fields concerned with lifestyle issues such as diet an exercise, where rampant pseudoscience is also quite evident, and it's also clear that many people's health and quality of life have suffered due to nonsense peddled by various officially accredited experts. These examples are probably as far as one can go without getting into hot-button issues that are too highly charged to be worth opening. Moreover, I don't think that confirmation bias is a problem here. As long as significant high-status and officially approved delusions exist, they should be high on the list of anyone who sports the label of "skeptic," simply because their practical influence will be, for obvious reasons, much greater than that of low-status folk superstitions. Thus, recognizing some particular examples of such delusions is enough to establish my point, regardless of how representative these examples are of the overall state of the respectable and accredited intellectual institutions.
The outside view is that angry people don't think as clearly as non-angry people. I don't think I'll be watching that video.

Wow, James Croft singing excerpts from Rent...what the fuck was that about?

A lot of people (judging exclusively by this comment) didn't like Eliezer's talk at the Singularity Summit, but I thought this one was good. I don't think any of it will be new most LW-ers, but it was interesting, and funny, and probably introduced a lot of new ideas to the audience there. The o... (read more)

Added to post. We're still missing PZ Myers, and the first speaker (the president of American Atheists, whose name temporarily escapes me). I think that may be all, but I can't be sure since the Skepticon website is down.

Eliezer's talk has been posted.

I liked it, but there are a number of things that could have been a lot better:

  • There were way too many digressions. Though subsequences work well in writing, it's hard to follow a chain of reasoning that jumps between levels. Though the stories about peoples' strange opinions at dinner parties were illustrative, some of them go on for way too long. Likewise, recursing into reductionism then recursing into Bayesian Judo and then popping back out into the discussion of Occam's Razor was a bit confusing because so much time

... (read more)
I saw it in person and agree with all the above. Additionally, it could have used more structure, e.g., "I'm going to talk about X, Y, and get to Z" before talking about X, Y and Z-- it's possible to do so much of that that it becomes redundant and annoying, but a small amount would have greatly improved the talk. I followed it (and enjoyed it), but I think a fair amount of the audience was pretty lost. The contrast was particularly jarring because he spoke immediately after David Silverman, who was a very polished speaker.
Agreed, more structure would have been good, because I had no idea where he was going with each chain of reasoning.

If is of course, impossible to obtain a survey that bears directly on this issue since everyone knows that such a survey would yield results that are horrifying politically incorrect

Why would this research be politically incorrect? It seems entirely consistent with (what I understand to be) the consensus among experts that children are usually victimized by people in a position of trust.

Perhaps you underestimate how difficult it would be to generate reliable data for such a study?


Greta Christina on angry atheists

Reasonably fun to watch the presenter is kind of likeable, if a bit nerdy. However it is darkartsy and I disagree with a few minor points.

I disagreed with the bit at 27:40 about the supposed unique badness of religion since any free floating that's basically a tribal marker is similarly insulated, especially anything that's extensively used by a professional class who basically make a living of reinterpreting it and do so from a position of authority. To take the most extreme case, there is no reason North Korean ideolo... (read more)

I think you're being much too charitable here. The critical assumption in her argument is that ideological delusions can normally be successfully confronted by pointing to empirical evidence of their practical failures. However, this is completely wrong. In practice, it is very rare that we have clear enough natural experiments that enable us to present such evidence in a clear and convincing form. Even when such natural experiments exist in a striking form, as it was in the case of communism, ideological partisans usually have little difficulty rationalizing them away in practice. When they don't exist, as is typically the case, it is normally impossible to move the public opinion towards greater accuracy with empirical evidence of failure, since any such evidence can be discounted by disputing the counterfactual. For example, disasters brought by irresponsible government guided by crackpot economic theories are easily excused by arguing that things would have been even worse without the enlightened guidance of these theories, and the cause of the problems is the insufficient purity of our sticking to them (perhaps along with some regrettable mistakes in execution). The speaker herself confirms this with her concrete examples. To me it seems pretty clear that she responds to some evident failures of ideology in recent times by (pretty much) doubling down on the ideology, and she's nowhere close to examining its problematic fundamental tenets -- such examination being simply unthinkable for her. (I understand that this last statement is controversial, and normally I would not open such topics here, but I think it's justified given that this talk has already been made the subject of discussion.)
Which statement? That she doesn't examine the most fundamental downsides of ideological thinking?
My claim is stronger than that. Take for example her views on economics. She presents the current economic crisis (as well as longer-term negative economic trends) as an example where ideology is evidently conflicting with reality, so that more and more people are now rejecting these ideological falsities and adopting more accurate views. She gives the OWS movement as a concrete example of such people, and from that and her other more vague statements, it's pretty clear which positions in general she sees as a step away from ideological biases and towards greater accuracy on economic issues. (Looking at her blog confirms this.) Yet in my (controversial) opinion, she completely fails to understand the actual ideological delusions and pseudoscience that are rampant in modern economics, both in hands-on government policy and in the academia (and everywhere in-between). What's more, the views that she sees as getting closer to reality in fact represent an amplification of some of the worst of these delusions. Thus, she provides a counterexample for her own thesis: the ongoing clash between ideology and reality leads to a vicious circle of doubling down on the ideology, not a rejection of it. And contrary to her thesis, in practice this tailspin of almost monotonically worsening ideological delusions usually ends up with utter, and often violent, disaster. (Which I think indeed threatens us unless technological progress and the surprising resilience of various informal institutions keep saving the day.) Such disasters are, by any reasonable metric, certainly no better than the worst historical disasters she can bill on traditional religion.

Do you think this is controversial (within LW)? Given the average karma gain of similar comments and general lack of expressed disagreement, controversiality doesn't seem to be a reasonable hypothesis. Personally I wouldn't like you being less controversial; but I certainly would like you being more specific.

(This comment of yours was more specific than the grand-parent, but still: what are the actual delusions and pseudoscience in modern economics, what are GC's ideological delusions, what sort of disaster is likely to result from them? Of course I can imagine plausible answers, but not unique answers. Being a bit vague in order to not offend anyone, or not introduce explicit political debate is useful, but a bit dark-artish.)

By "controversial," I don't mean that it will provoke hostility, or even widespread disagreement here. I'm just making it known that I'm aware that this opinion is a matter of significant disagreement in the general public, with otherwise smart and reasonable people taking different sides. Also that I don't expect people to accept my claims based on a comment that provides no supporting arguments and uses them only for illustrative purposes. (The above also holds for the text below.) Clearly, these would be topics suitable for long books, not short blog comments! But to give you some idea of what I'm talking about, my criticism of economics would be roughly along the lines of Hayek's "Pretence of Knowledge" speech. (My criticism would likely be harsher -- to me the pseudoscience seems even more scandalous, the damage done even more extensive, and the threats for the future even more severe.) I also think that the intellectual standards are abysmal, and ideological biases rampant, even in areas that don't fall under this general criticism. (Also, to avoid potential confusion due to citing Hayek, I am not a principled libertarian in any way. My concern is with irresponsible, corrupt, and destructive government, and with all the ideology and pseudoscience that motivate and excuse it.)

If I am not incorrect, Amanda Marcotte was a speaker at last year's Skepticon? The skepticism movement creates some strange alliances.

Also, on an unrelated note, the Yudkowsky pony is quite nice:

The most politically important issue of Shakespeare's time, the issue that was most similar to modern PC, was religion.

In effect you exclude all the subjects that Shakespeare wasn't even allowed to remotely touch, and that last subject you make as fuzzy as you can get -- a "Roman Catholic point of view"? A "point of view". He was a man with Catholic parents and never attended church, and yet that's the best he was allowed to do, a "point of view" that doesn't point to anything in particular?

Let's talk specifics. In regards... (read more)

sam0345 is referring to the Condemnation of 1277. I'm not sure which of the propositions he believes are true but are disbelieved by the typical Less Wronger. The list contains propositions such as the following:

  • That man should not be content with authority to have certitude about any question.
  • That we can know God by His essence in this mortal life.
  • That God cannot know contingent beings immediately except through their particular and proximate causes.
  • That eternity and time have no existence in reality but only in the mind.
  • That there is more than one
... (read more)
The full text is here He probably wanted to point out that in the propositions that can be verified, the philosophers were wrong and the Church was proven right (the universe is not eternal, mankind is not eternal, astrology is bunk etc...)
Judging from his previous comments, the proposition is approximately that the political right is persecuted in all tiers of society (LW included) by the political left. It has some subpropositions about political correctness, race, war in Afghanistan, libertarianism etc. I am not sure how does he define right and left.

While I'm wary of sam's posting style and history, again I feel the need to point out this comment, while it could be more tactful, is basically correct.

The self-censored can blame their self-censoring on others as much as they like, but (the way I see it) by that they forego any right to criticize others for similar self-censoring. Again I note the discrepancy of Vladimir_M being the one that criticized others for not attacking status quo biases. As for sam, half the times he was ridiculously wrong (e.g. when he claimed that Shakespeare supposedly suffered from less censorship than modern writers do, or that conservatives don't deliberately manipulate language), and the other half times the quote from Big Lebowski applied: "You're not wrong, Walter, you're just an asshole."
Basically yes.

Simply check for which of my posts have been downvoted into oblivion?

Ones where you forget you are in an international forum and insist on discussing parochial American political issues?

Want to discuss who originated the idea of common descent

Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis in 1745

You won't be able to. If I should quote the relevant passages from the earliest who proposed this idea, I suspect my post would not merely be downvoted, but deleted.

Could one not say that, in the fortuitous combinations of the productions of nature, as there must be ... (read more)

No, that's not it. The problem is being in a rational* forum and insisting on discussing political issues (tout court). (...and just being a troll.) * word chosen because it rhymes with "international", allowing a rhetorical parallelism with the wording of the parent. Comments on how the word is too self-congratulatory are not invited.
I think the main problem was writing like a fanatical crackpot.

Let us imagine a modern play where the female love interest is thirteen years old.

That's not an interesting point about Shakespeare. That's an interesting point about the Elizabethan era, when marriage and puberty were much more closely related than they are now.

ETA: The fact that we are turned off by different things than Shakespeare's audience doesn't say much about government censorship. It is possible that one could self-censor based on potential public censure, but that's not the same thing as government censorship.

And I know it's not a play, but... (read more)