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

77

334 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 6:51 PM
New Comment
Some comments are truncated due to high volume. (⌘F to expand all)Change truncation settings

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.

3PhilGoetz6yWell, 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.

1wleightond3mo"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... (read more)

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 manageme... (read more)

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.

3brainoil7yJim 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.

1AlexanderRM6yI 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.

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.

1[anonymous]9yAnd 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 (ar... (read more)

2cassidymoon9yYou 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.
5[anonymous]9yRead 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.
3Torgamous9yYes, 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.
1[anonymous]9y(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.)
1AlexanderRM6yThat 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.
0Jiro6yIt 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.
9Torgamous9yStatement 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.
0[anonymous]9yGood points, I hadn't thought about that. 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. :-)
7ArisKatsaris9yIf 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.
4Strange79yGiven 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.

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 (ar... (read more)

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

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 th... (read more)

6Eugine_Nier7yFirst 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?
2Jiro7yIt 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.
0Eugine_Nier7yWell, 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 [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ro/2place_and_1place_words/]?
1Jiro7yHold 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
3Eugine_Nier7yFirst as I explain in more detail here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/j1/stranger_than_history/aplk] 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.
1Jiro7yI do not believe that the arguments that convinced them to be less religious were rational (and probably weren't even, strictly speaking, arguments).
-1Eugine_Nier7yThen in want sense did you mean "people in 1901 had much lower levels of rationality than people from the 20th century"?
1Jiro7ySince 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.
-1Eugine_Nier7ySo what is the basis for your claim that these changes constitute becoming more as opposed to less rational?
-2Jiro7yUm, 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.
1Eugine_Nier7yFirst, 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. Why are you so convinced that is in fact a true belief since you don't seem able to produce any argument for it?
-1Jiro7y"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. 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.
4RichardKennaway7yThe question is not, how would you persuade someone else, but, what persuades you?
0Lumifer7yWhat would constitute a valid argument in this context?
2Chrysophylax7yAn 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.
2Lumifer7yWe'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.
1Eugine_Nier7yOk, now what's the evidence that this is in fact the case?
1TheAncientGeek7yTo 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?
2Lumifer7yWhich 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?
1TheAncientGeek7y"To a first approximation." We know the negative externalities of the examples you mention.
1Lumifer7yYou'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.
1[anonymous]7yWhat would it even mean for support or opposition to gay marriage to be rational or irrational? The utility function isn't up for grabs.
2Wes_W7yIt 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.
-2EHeller7yDo you have any evidence for this?
7Eugine_Nier7yRead what Freud (who was an atheist) had to say about homosexuality for starters. Also, France had a significant atheist population, no one there was proposing gay marriage. Edit: By the 1930's there were several countries [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrible_Triangle] 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".
6Jayson_Virissimo7yYou 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").
3Chrysophylax7yI 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.
6Jayson_Virissimo7yBlaming 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?
8Chrysophylax7yNo. 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/ [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
2Vaniver7yI 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?)
0Eugine_Nier7yThis 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.
1Vaniver7yThis 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. 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 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Buchanan#Personal_life] 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.)
0AlexanderRM6yI'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.
1Eugine_Nier7yRead Arabian Nights, blacks are portrayed pretty negatively there as well.
5V_V7yArabs had been enslaving Africans since medieval times.
1Eugine_Nier7yThey were also enslaving Europeans.
2Nornagest7yAnd 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 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmad_ibn_Fadlan] might have been excused, considering who he was dealing with.
2Chrysophylax7yI'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.
0Eugine_Nier7yI never said they were. It's possible that both views had a common cause, e.g., blacks actually being less intelligent.
0Chrysophylax7yFirstly, 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?
0Eugine_Nier7yI meant the views on black people. 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. 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).
-2Eugine_Nier7yMy 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.
4V_V7yAnd, 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.
0Nornagest7yWell, 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 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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).
1Lumifer7yYou 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.
4V_V7yAll 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 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_same-sex_unions]
2EHeller7yI'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).
1V_V7yEmperor Nero was known for being a weirdo, hence I wouldn't consider him as representative of Roman culture. Anyway, according to Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_same-sex_unions], 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.
1Lumifer7yThat sounds like a naked assertion not much supported by evidence. Since we were talking about Asia, here is a passage [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_in_Japan] from Wikipedia talking about Japan: Looks like an "equivalent of the marriage relationship", doesn't it?
5V_V7yIt doesn't really look like a marriage relationship, it seems more like the master-disciple pederastic relationships of ancient Greece, although perhaps more formalized.
3Lumifer7yThat'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.
2Eugine_Nier7yFor starters, compare it to marriage in the society in question.
0Ceph5yThe religious leader is not actually required in marriage cerimonies for all religions.
4Protagoras7yThe 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.
5brazil847yDo you have any examples of this which do not rely on measuring peoples' rationality by the extent they agree with modern progressive political views?
3Neo7yFlynn 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.
5RichardKennaway7yThe 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?
3Neo7yThose 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.
3brazil847yI 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. :)
1Eugine_Nier7ySince holding irrational beliefs tends to result in eventually loosing one's wealth and power, this tends to work as a negative feedback effect.
3brazil847yI'm not sure this is true because of standby-rationality mode. Also known as hypocrisy.
3Grant7yAgreed. 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.
1Eugine_Nier7yThe 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.
0CCC7yI'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.
-1Eugine_Nier7yThat depends on whether you're trying to fool outsiders or fellow believers.
1Strange77yDeliberate 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.
0ChristianKl7yFaking 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.
0[anonymous]7yI'd expect politicians to be much better at occlumency than the general population, though.
0Eugine_Nier7yStandby-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.
0brazil847yCan you give me a couple concrete examples of this? Same question. TIA
4RichardKennaway7yI'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.
1TheAncientGeek7yYou accept the leftard trend as fact, but the economics of the left have been abandoned, while their social policies have been accepted.
4IlyaShpitser7y"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.
0TheAncientGeek7yI mean state communism, nationalization, the govt co strolling the means of production.
0IlyaShpitser7yHow 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?
0TheAncientGeek7yNationalization 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.
1IlyaShpitser7yHere 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]."
-1TheAncientGeek7yYour "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....
1TheAncientGeek7yRussia 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.
1RichardKennaway7yJust 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).
0TheAncientGeek7ySocial or economic policies?
-1Eugine_Nier7yEither. Consider government budget as a percentage of GDP today versus 100 years ago. No, left-wing economic policies haven't been abandoned.
1TheAncientGeek7yHmmm. Is that policy, or just size? Consider the money spent on beaurocracy by large corporations as opposed to small ones.
-1Eugine_Nier7yThe increase in the size of government is the left-wing policy I'm referring to.
1TheAncientGeek7yAnd it's theinevitable and politically neutral organic change I am talking about. One fact, two interpretations.
4brazil847yTo 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.")
2[anonymous]7yI chalk it up to sleep deprivation, which was much less prevalent before the Internet/television/the light bulb became available.
6Jiro7yThat'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.
4VAuroch7yThis 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.
1Jiro7yNo, it still counts. If both groups support it, it still isn't specific to progressive political views.
4VAuroch7yThe 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.
0brazil847yI'm not sure if that's correct, depending of course on how you define "religion" and "opposed." 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?
4Jiro7yThat 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.
-1brazil847yWell how would a progressive anti-Semite tell people he hates Jews?
4[anonymous]7yHe'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.
0brazil847yBy the way, I don't engage with eli_sennesh due to his past dishonesty.
2[anonymous]7yWhat?
4brazil847y: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.
3[anonymous]7ySorry, what? I wasn't aware we were holy-warring. By the way, I'm not voting on anything you've said.
1brazil847ySince 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.
-1Jiro7yWhat 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.
-1brazil847yYes. 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.
1Jiro7yYou 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.
0brazil847yThat doesn't mean anything, since, by hypotheses, progressive anti-Semitism manifests itself in different ways. Let me ask you this: 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?
1Jiro7yBy hypothesis, progressive anti-Semitism is verbalized in different ways. The things I described weren't verbal. 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.
0brazil847yThat'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.? 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?
0Jiro7yThere 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 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.
0brazil847yUmm, does that mean "yes" or "no"? 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.
-1Jiro7yIt 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. 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.
1brazil847yI 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." 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? 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?
0Jiro7yBut 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. 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).
0brazil847yThat 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. 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?
0Jiro7yWhen 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.
0brazil847yPerhaps, 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?"
0Jiro7yI did answer it/ The answer is yes.
0brazil847y: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:
0Jiro7yI 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.
1brazil847yOk, 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?
0Jiro7yPretty much every industry that has a lot of people who aren't progressive. 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.
2brazil847ySo can you please name 3? 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.)
0Jiro7yI 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.
0brazil847y: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? 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?
0Jiro7yJust 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).
0brazil847yPlease 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.
0Jiro7yDo you want me to name three with specific evidence for each industry, or without?
0brazil847yThe 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.
-1Jiro7yThe 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.
0brazil847yThat'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. 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. Again, you fail to give specific examples. And you conflate republican with non-progressive. Which in the case of discrimination is simply false. 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 add
0Jiro7yI must wonder exactly what you expect me to use to show that something or someone isn't progressive, then, if political affiliation is unacceptable. 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!
2ChristianKl7yThat 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.
1brazil847yI'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. And a desire to boycott Israel is indeed consistent with modern progressive politics, agreed?
-1ChristianKl7yAre 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..." Yes, people like Naomi Klein are progressives in good standing.
2Creutzer7yDon'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.
0ChristianKl7yIf 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.
2Creutzer7yYes, 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.
0ChristianKl7y70 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?
1Creutzer7yIf 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.
1brazil847yYou also don't know if they are Jewish.
3ChristianKl7yBeing 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.
1brazil847ySure, 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."
0brazil847yNot 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.
0[anonymous]7yGiven 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.
0brazil847yThat 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.
0[anonymous]7yI don't think the West, or even the United States, is as homogeneous as you appear to imply. Turns out [http://lesswrong.com/lw/9b/help_help_im_being_oppressed/] that believers and atheists are discriminated against in the US, presumably by different people.
-1brazil847yI wasn't trying to imply such . . . I was just looking for a concrete answer to my question. 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?
0[anonymous]7yI dunno -- averaged over all of the US, probably more likely, but I'm not sure.
1Eugine_Nier7yAnother 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.
3TheAncientGeek7y...enough to stop treating people as individuals
0Eugine_Nier7yTaboo "treating people as individuals". Also, how would you count things like Affirmative Action [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirmative_action] and especially the Disparate Impact Doctrine [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disparate_impact]?
7TheAncientGeek7yI 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.
-6Eugine_Nier7y
3Protagoras7yI 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.
-1Eugine_Nier7yHave 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.
0TheAncientGeek7yOTOH the stifling consensus isn't stifling teh Webz
2Eugine_Nier7yDepends on which website you're talking about.
4Protagoras7yAs 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.
-2Eugine_Nier7yAnd anyone who suggests they might be caused by biology is an EVIL SEXIST who must be suppressed. 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.
1EHeller7yI 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.
1Eugine_Nier7yOh, 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.
0[anonymous]7yI'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.
2[anonymous]7yI 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.)
0[anonymous]7yI 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”.
2ChristianKl7yThe 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.
2brazil847yWhen you say "encounter," are you talking about internet postings? Private conversations in real life? Television commentators? Newspaper op-ed pieces?
2Protagoras7yMostly the first two. I don't watch much TV news or read many newspapers any more.
2brazil847yWould you mind linking to a couple of these internet postings so I can get a better handle on what you are saying? TIA.
0brazil847ySince 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.
1Lumifer7yReally? 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?

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. >Fi

... (read more)

They didn't anticipate what the Internet would become--because they weren't fucking insane...

Robert Evans, Cracked