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Gender relations = politics.


Not speaking of Lent specifically, but abstinence can restore enjoyment as much as teach impulse control. Take chocolate for example; overindulge and it'll lose it's appeal, so then take a month/40 days/etc break from it and you'll be able to eat it again. Or -more anecdotal- in Ramadan Muslims are supposed to abstain from food & sex during the day, this leads to a lot of 'feasting' once night falls as well as a marked increase in sex.

You don't have to do Lent or whatever, but such rituals are/can be quite useful.


The idea that Christianity was born under a foreign military occupation and had to compromise with it & Islam didn't and went on to make it's own empire is correct.

But the author's assertion that Islam can be nothing but theocratic -"it lacks separation of church and state"- is far from accurate. In the first place, the first Muslim civil war was fought over the question of whether government was secular (Sunni's) or theocratic (Shi'a) and was resolved in favor of the secular side. The fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims past and present theoretically & practically confirm secular over theocratic government is not a minor footnote, the author paints with a very wide stroke here.

Muslims did have institutions besides the basic Caliphate structure, in fact the Arabs borrowed quite heavily from the Roman/Byzantine tradition in the early (Umayyad) years, going on to absorb the Sassanid modes of government in latter (Abbasid) times. Successive Muslim kingdoms and empires mixed and merged those traditions with their own according to their specific tradition (Turkish, Berber etc) well enough to rule over vast swathes of the old world and their numerous peoples and traditions for well over a millennium, continuing to this day. So the claim that "Islam" lacked/s institutional ingenuity/flexibility is moot. All 'civilizations' have up and down periods, history is not so simple as to be explained from first principles yet.

He makes another inaccurate assertion; that Europeans left the Middle Easterners and co. in the dust because of "separation of church and state".

The advancements in science and technology the Europeans used to gain an edge with weren't hindered by the church by the sixteenth century or thereabout when the Ottomans began receding. In fact some of those discoveries were made by men of the church in the first place. My point being; church and state as in "political and religious power lying in separate hands" isn't what gave the Europeans an advantage, my own opinion is that geographic and ethnic factors played that role but that's a post of it's own so I'll stop here.

As an exercise, does "give unto Ceaser ..." explain why say, the Chinese succumbed (Unequal Treaties, Opium Wars)? Does democracy? The United Kingdom is both a democracy and fairly prosperous, but current china is an authoritarian 'People's Republic' and seems poised to be even more prosperous. Yes there are differences in scale but then wasn't Qing China -the guys who lost the Opium Wars- much larger and more populous than the British Isles back then too? Whatever it was that made the British beat the Chinese back then or makes China ascend so quickly today as to leave All of Europe combined let alone the UK in its dust, it's clear that simplistic answers like "Separation of Church and State" or "Favorite Ideology" are not sufficient if you want to say something meaningful about history.


hey gwern, I like your writings & have developed a taste for stuff like this, any more recommendations?


"You can't reject absolutes without un-restraining certain particulars -that should remain just that- to replace it" is this a fair description of your position here Wei?


"old dead guys" is mind kill, and it sounds immature/impolite.

On the post itself, it'd be awesome if SIAI starts this in-house, something along the lines of semester long CFAR boot camp.


Thanks for the clear reply, and I agree with your points.

IMO the fact that Politics is a moderately functional substitute for direct bloodshed means that the 'rational' in any 'rational alternative' has little to do the masses becoming more rational, as opposed to careful grooming by an informed clique capable of long term planning.

That doesn't necessarily imply a shadowy cabal of super secret rationalists deftly maneuvering the public for it's own good. Rather, something as simple as spreading basic rationality skills is sufficient if we emphasize 'long term', as we should.

But that good work has to come with a working theory of capital r 'Rational Politics' or LW's knowledge base has a huge chunk missing under the 'Practical knowledge' heading, say an LWer of high karma by some twist or other became adviser to the Archduke of Wallachia, will the people be better off or not?

In other words, if despite the impressive body of knowledge created here the preferred way for dealing with politics is either: a. Outright tabooing the subject or b. Denouncing the masses as prone to being insane...

Then surely as a community can do better than that?

Admittedly I'm not that well versed in political studies myself, and I'm not calling for Eliezer or anyone else for that matter to focus on this, rather I believe the community is mature enough to have a theoretical discussion about politics -and yes, that includes discussion of parties, partisan positions etc- without devolving into mudslinging or shouting matches.

A curated area in LW with strict rules -default set to anonymous posting, no more than 5 posts per day etc- should solve most potential issues, the hullabaloo that happened during say, the feminist war is not impossible to contain.


Wedrifid, I was disappointed that Eliezer so succinctly identified the problem then mostly left it hanging.

Now, your comment fundamentally missed the point I was making, furthermore you seem to be acting out a common politician's caricature, I don't see you making an actual argument here & tbh I'm slightly surprised as you usually do much better than that.

Either way. in the interest of preserving the sanity waterline I'll stop here.


I was encouraging the reader not to identify with either raiders or victims.

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