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Open Thread, 11/26/2017 – Gene Expression
A few days ago there was a Twitter thing about top five books that have influenced you. It’s hard for me to name five, but I put three books down for three different reasons:

- Principles of Population Genetics, because it gives you a model for how to analyze and understand evolutionary processes. There are other books out there besides Principles of Population Genetics. But if you buy this book you don’t need to buy another (at SMBE this year I confused Andy Clark with Mike Lynch for a second when introducing myself. #awkward)
- The Fall of Rome. A lot of historical writing can be tendentious. I’ve also noticed an unfortunate tendency of historians dropping into contemporary arguments and pretty much lying through omission or elision to support their political side (it usually goes “actually, I’m a specialist in this topic and my side is 100% correct because of obscure-stuff where I’m shading the facts”). The Fall of Rome illustrates the solidity that an archaeological and materialist take can give the field. This sort of materialism isn’t the final word, but it needs to be the start of the conversation.
- From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life. To know things is important in and of itself. My own personal experience is that the returns to knowing things in a particular domain or area do not exhibit a linear return. Rather, it exhibits a logistic curve. Initially, it’s hard to make sense of anything from the facts, but at some point comprehension and insight increase rapidly, until you reach the plateau of diminishing marginal returns.

If you haven’t, I recommend you subscribe to Patrick Wyman’s Tides of History podcast. I pretty much wait now for every new episode.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Holding People Responsible for Ethical Violations: The Surprising Benefits of Accusing Others
Individuals who accuse others of unethical behavior can derive significant benefits. Compared to individuals who do not make accusations, accusers engender greater trust and are perceived to have higher ethical standards.

Why Do We Hate Hypocrites? Evidence for a Theory of False Signaling: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/51ed234ae4b0867e2385d879/t/588a3582e6f2e1c31f5283f5/1485452723488/Why-do-we-hate-Hypocrites.pdf
Why do people judge hypocrites, who condemn immoral behaviors that they in fact engage in, so negatively? We propose that hypocrites are disliked because their condemnation sends a false signal about their personal conduct, deceptively suggesting that they behave morally. We show that verbal condemnation signals moral goodness (Study 1) and does so even more convincingly than directly stating that one behaves morally (Study 2). We then demonstrate that people judge hypocrites negatively—even more negatively than people who directly make false statements about their morality (Study 3). Finally, we show that “honest” hypocrites—who avoid false signaling by admitting to committing the condemned transgression—are not perceived negatively even though their actions contradict their stated values (Study 4). Critically, the same is not true of hypocrites who engage in false signaling but admit to unrelated transgressions (Study 5). Together, our results support a false-signaling theory of hypocrisy.
pdf  study  psychology  social-psych  morality  ethics  signaling  status  incentives  dark-arts  impro  meta:rhetoric  trust  multi  hypocrisy  homo-hetero  anomie 
october 2017 by nhaliday
Living with Ignorance in a World of Experts
Another kind of track record that we might care about is not about the expert’s performance, qua expert, but about her record of epistemic integrity. This will be important for helping provide reasonably well supported answers to (Q3) and (Q4) in particular. Anderson (2011) offers some related ideas in her discussion of “criteria for judging honesty” and “criteria for judging epistemic responsibility.” Things we might be interested include the following:
• evidence of previous expert-related dishonesty (e.g. plagiarism, faking data)
• evidence of a record of misleading statements (e.g. cherry-picking data, quotations out of context)
• evidence of a record of misrepresenting views of expert opponents
• evidence of evasion of peer-review or refusal to allow other experts to assess work
• evidence of refusal to disclose data, methodology, or detailed results
• evidence of refusal to disclose results contrary to the expert’s own views
• evidence of “dialogic irrationality”: repeating claims after they have been publicly refuted, without responding to the refutations
• evidence of a record of “over-claiming” of expertise: claiming expertise beyond the expert’s domain of expertise
• evidence of a record of “lending” one’s expertise to support other individuals or institutions that themselves lack epistemic integrity in some of the above ways
• evidence of being an “opinion for hire”—offering expert testimony for pay, perhaps particularly if that testimony conflicts with other things the expert has said
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september 2017 by nhaliday
No, Politics Is Not About Power – Arc Digital
What does it mean to say that politics is a contest of domination? For Robinson, “there are conflicting interests in society, and they are deep.” One side has value V, the other value not-V, so “there is no available compromise. There is only a test to see which one of us can have our values enacted in the world.” Conservative values, he says, “are that people should struggle for subsistence in a miserably unequal, sexist, and racist economy.” But to centrist liberals, “compromise is a goal rather than a tactic.” So, according to Robinson, these liberals end up allowing conservatives to inflict the immiseration they so desire upon the world.

This is a wild caricature, of course. But even in terms of his basic logic Robinson is doing some projecting here. For it is “dominance” as a tactic, not as a goal, that Heer critiques, and no tactical justification is given in response.

Freddie deBoer has wondered: “Why is it forbidden to say ‘I support your goals, but I find your tactics, your strategy, and your messaging counterproductive’?” Nothing against Freddie (and compare his views to mine), but the answer is common sense: If the people in question cared more about their goals than about their tactics, then they wouldn’t have such ridiculous tactics in the first place. They would be actually winning rather than talking, on podcasts and in online journals, about winning.

‘Tactics’ Are Not the Problem with Antifa: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/451092/antifa-violence-tactics-anger-politics-attacks-liberals-too
But isn’t this a familiar pattern by now? For the most part, in American political discourse, we — whether we’re conservatives or liberals ourselves — condemn those to our left on strategic grounds and those to our right on moral grounds. Thus we are constantly trying to explain to those on our left that we share their values, that we have their best interests at heart when we express our strategic considerations; and to those on our right that we don’t share their values, that their strategic considerations have no bearing on our interests. With our right hands, we push (punch?); with our left hands, pull toward.

https://johnhalle.com/violence-and-the-far-right-chomsky-responds/
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Immigrants and Everest, Bryan Caplan | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty
Immigrants use less welfare than natives, holding income constant. Immigrants are far less likely to be in jail than natives, holding high school graduation constant.* On the surface, these seem like striking results. But I've heard a couple of smart people [Garett Jones] demur with an old statistics joke: "Controlling for barometric pressure, Mount Everest has the same altitude as the Dead Sea." Sometimes controls conceal the truth rather than laying it bare.
https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/897153018503852033
https://archive.is/9k2Ww
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Pensees - Notes for the Reactionary of Tomorrow
Sobran on "Alienism" and Liberalism

One of liberalism's most successful strategies has been to establish a standing presumption of guilt against the native: his motives are always in question, his racism and bogotry "just beneath the surface." But the native is forbidden to play this game: if he suggests that certain Alienist forces aren't on the up-and-up, he "thinks there's a Communist under every bed." His bad faith can be inferred from "patterns of discrimination"; he has to make a "good-faith effort" to cleanse himself before Alienist arbiters of good faith.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Edward Feser: Conservatism, populism, and snobbery
https://twitter.com/tcjfs/status/888972865063747587
https://archive.is/nuwnX
feser is good on this: chief task of conservative intellectuals is to defend epistemic credentials of mere prejudice

The Right vindicates common sense distinctions: https://bonald.wordpress.com/2017/02/10/the-right-vindicates-common-sense-distinctions/
In some ways, we’re already there. One of the core intellectual tasks of the Right has been, and will continue to be, the analysis and rehabilitation of categories found useful by pre-modern humanity but rejected by moderns in their fits of ideologically-driven oversimplification.
Consider these three:
1. Friend vs. Enemy. Carl Schmitt famously put this distinction at the core of his political theory in explicit defiance of the liberal humanitarianism of his day that wanted to reduce all questions to abstract morality and economic efficiency. The friend vs. enemy distinction, Schmitt insisted, is independent of these. To identify a threatening nation as the enemy does not necessarily make any statement about its moral, aesthetic, or economic qualities. Schmitt observed that the liberal nations (for him, the victors of WWI) in fact do mobilize against threats and competitors; forbidding themselves the vocabulary of “friend” and “enemy” means they recast their hostilities in terms of moral absolutes. The nation they attack cannot be called their own enemy, so it must be demonized as the enemy of all humanity. This will be a reoccurring conservative argument. Eliminating a needed category doesn’t eliminate hostility between peoples; it only forces them to be incorrectly conceptualized along moral lines, which actually diminishes our ability to empathize with our opponent.
2. Native vs. Foreigner. Much of what Schmitt said about the distinction between friend and enemy applies to the more basic categorization of people as belonging to “us” or as being alien. I argued recently in the Orthosphere, concerning the topic of Muslim immigration, that we can actually be more sympathetic to Muslims among us if we acknowledge that our concern is not that their ways are objectionable in some absolute (moral/philosophical) sense, but that they are alien to the culture we wish to preserve as dominant in our nation. Reflections about the “universal person” are also quite relevant to this.
3. Masculine vs. feminine. Conservatives have found little to recommend the liberals’ distinction between biological “sex” and socially constructed “gender”. However, pre-modern peoples had intriguing intuitions of masculinity and femininity as essences or principles that can be considered beyond the strict context of sexual reproduction. Largely defined by relation to each other (so that, for example, a woman relates in a feminine way to other people more than to wild animals or inanimate objects), even things other than sexually reproducing animals can participate in these principles to some extent. For example, the sun is masculine while Luna is feminine, at least in how they present themselves to us. Masculinity and femininity seem to represent poles in the structure of relationality itself, and so even the more mythical attributions of these essences were not necessarily intended metaphorically.

The liberal critique of these categories, and others not accommodated by their ideology, comes down to the following
1. Imperialism of the moral. The category in question is recognized as nonmoral, and the critic asserts that it is morally superior to use only moral categories. (“Wouldn’t it be better to judge someone based on whether he’s a good person than on where he was born?”) Alternatively, the critic presumes that other categories actually are reducible to moral categories, and other categories are condemned for being inaccurate in their presumed implicit moral evaluations. (“He’s a good person. How can you call him an ‘alien’ as if he were some kind of monster?!”)
2. Appeal to boundary cases. Sometimes the boundaries of the criticized category are fuzzy. Perhaps a particular person is like “us” in some ways but unlike “us” in others. From this, conclude that the category is arbitrary and meaningless.
3. Emotivism. Claim that the criticized category is actually a sub-rational emotional response. It must be because it has no place in liberal ideology, which the liberal presumes to be coextensive with reason itself. And in fact, when certain ways of thinking are made socially unacceptable, they will likely only pop out in emergencies and moments of distress. It would be no different with moral categories–if the concepts “evil” and “unfair” were socially disfavored, people would only resort to them when intolerably provoked and undoubtedly emotional.
4. Imputation of sinister social motives. The critic points out that the categorization promotes some established social structure; therefore, it must be an illusion.

Why the Republican Party Is Falling Apart: http://nationalinterest.org/feature/why-the-republican-party-falling-apart-22491?page=show
Moore and a great many of his voters subscribe to a simplistic and exaggerated view of the world and the conflicts it contains. Moore has voiced the belief that Christian communities in Illinois or Indiana, or somewhere “up north,” are under Sharia law. That’s absurd. But why does he believe it, and why do voters trust him despite such beliefs? Because on the other side is another falsehood, more sophisticated but patently false: the notion that unlimited Islamic immigration to Europe, for example, is utterly harmless, or the notion that Iran is an implacable fundamentalist threat while good Sunni extremists in Saudi Arabia are our true and faithful friends. Each of the apocalyptic beliefs held by a Roy Moore or his supporters contains a fragment of truth—or at least amounts to a rejection of some falsehood that has become an article of faith among America’s elite. The liberal view of the world to which Democrats and elite Republicans alike subscribe is false, but the resources for showing its falsehood in a nuanced way are lacking. Even the more intellectual sort of right-winger who makes it through the cultural indoctrination of his college and peer class tends to be mutilated by the experience. He—most often a he—comes out of it embittered and reactionary or else addicted to opium dreams of neo-medievalism or platonic republics. Since there are few nonliberal institutions of political thought, the right that recognizes the falsehood of liberalism and rejects it tends to be a force of feeling rather than reflection. Moore, of course, has a legal education, and he assuredly reads the Bible. He’s not unintelligent, but he cannot lean upon a well-balanced and subtle right because such a thing hardly exists in our environment. Yet there is a need for a right nonetheless, and so a Roy Moore or a Donald Trump fills the gap. There is only one thing the Republican establishment can do if it doesn’t like that: reform itself from stem to stern.

Who Are ‘The People’ Anyway?: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/who-are-the-people-anyway/
Beware of those who claim to speak for today's populist audience.
- Paul Gottfried

Gottfried's got a real chip on his shoulder about the Straussians
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Gnosticism - Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Voegelin#Voegelin_on_gnosticism

Faith and other Epistemic Categories: https://quaslacrimas.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/faith-and-other-epistemic-categories/
In response to Bonald’s excellent little piece Faith is honesty in doubt, I wanted to offer a parallel thesis (or, if you like, a friendly amendment): faith is a matter of whom, not what.

I can have faith in a man (I believe him). Maybe I have faith in him in a general sense, or maybe I have only heard him recite one particular narrative (in which case when I say I believe him I mean I have faith in that particular narrative). I can also have faith in groups and communities, and in their reports, publications, traditions, in the names they put forward as trustworthy authorities on certain questions, and so on.

Faith (or belief) is a matter of trust; fundamentally it is your confidence in the man that makes you confident his words will ring true. (Indeed, confidence is a Latin word meaning with faith.)

You can trust a man, or a group; you can always trust every word that comes out of his mouth, or just in one incident; you can trust him on account of his honesty, his accuracy, or both; you can trust him absolutely or only casually; but wherever you say you trust, the question whom it is that you trust arises. You can’t trust things, states of affairs, trees…

...

As Christians, we believe Christ and his Apostles. When Mr. Smith tells us something that conflicts with our Christian creed, we withhold our assent from Mr. Smith’s claims because we have greater faith in Christ than in Mr. Smith. If later on Mr. Thompson tells us something that conflicts with some other rumor we heard from Mr. Smith, this conflict will cause us to experience some uncertainty and confusion; but we will have a much more vivid understanding of what is going on if we have recently had some reason to reflect on Mr. Smith and how much (or how little) we trust him.

...

Perhaps we could say that this is the difference between faith and conviction. Conviction refers to something that you have been convinced is true (and only implicitly, if at all, to those who convinced you), whereas faith refers to someone you trust (and only implicitly to opinions you hold as a result of this trust). To restate a point using this new conceptual contrast: everyone has convictions, but a Christian has faith as well.

Faith and Gullibility: https://quaslacrimas.wordpress.com/2018/05/09/faith-and-gullibility/
But Chesterton’s point is in a certain sense a petty one to score: which of the trendy superstitions in circulation today is half as trendy as barren, godless materialism?

The vulgar errors of the plebs have actually become part of the metabolism of our godless society. As the Cathedral and its choirboys have gradually improved message-discipline on science and superstition (yes, they “freaking love science”), the contrast between the amusingly rustic ignorance of the commoners and the smug confidence of the overclass has become part of the status-structure that draws ambitious youngsters into the Cathedral’s cold embrace. Abandoning the poor to the torment of demons is now part of the Left’s plan; more room to tut-tut and demonstrate that you are a reasonable bugman, more misery to justify the next stage in the revolution.

But still, this fails to get at the root of the fairies and the séances and the horoscopes, which is neither faith’s relation to superstition, nor to the arrogance of those who lift themselves up above the superstitions they despise in others, but rather faith’s relation to gullibility.

Gullibility is a more general concept than superstition. Let us define superstition as gullibility with respect to opinions and possibilities that are held in contempt by the powerful, while gullibility itself is the epistemic equivalent of pettiness — an inability to dismiss highly improbable hypotheses.

...

Not because of any special piety or zeal, but simply because it was barely yesterday that I was an atheist, I had a vivid impression of the changes in my thinking process. It was not impossible that supernatural agency was involved, of course, but it was very implausible — because it seemed too trivial and indistinct to be worth the effort of a self-respecting angel. So I set that aside immediately, and stayed focused on thinking about what might actually be going on.

Putting aside the insignificant possibility lightened my mind almost in the way pouring water out of a jug would. I seem to remember that when I was an atheist confronting this type of “superstition”, I would keep the supernatural hypothesis in front of my mind, regulating my thoughts, considering the case from every angle but only from the perspective of what might disprove the superstitious opinion.

But a superstition is the opinion of a crackpot. Why was I worried about what crackpots believe? If Eddington has a hypothesis or Einstein has a hypothesis, then falsifying the hypothesis is science. Falsifying a crackpot’s hypothesis is proof that you place a low value on your time.

...

Here is another possibility: I don’t know why the appliance turns on when it does. I wasn’t able to figure it out. It would be odd if I could, since I’m not an electrician or an engineer. The world would be a boring place if you could just suss out the answer to arbitrarily unusual questions without making any special study of the topic. Sometimes we don’t know. And often when we don’t know we don’t care. In fact, most of the time we don’t care about what we don’t know precisely because the insignificance of the topic is the very reason we never prepared ourselves to answer that type of question in the first place.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
American Spring | Museum of the American Revolution
“The use of pseudonyms or pen names by contributors was not at all unusual in those days, but just why writers adopted them is an interesting question. There usually was little mystery — among the well informed, at least — as to the true identity of an author. Newspapers were leaky sieves of gossip and innuendo. Libel laws may have been of some concern, but prosecution was usually reserved for blatant assaults on individual character rather than advocacy of general political views. Such presumed anonymity tended, however, to allow authors to express views more pointed and accusations more personal than if they had signed their own names. Some authors no doubt also felt that such pseudonyms — particularly when they referenced noted Roman statesmen or were otherwise Latin flavored — added a mark of distinction and gravity to their words.

“Samuel Adams appears to have used at least twenty-five pseudonyms, including Candidus, Populus, and A Son of Liberty, and Alexander Hamilton (Publius, Americanus), Benjamin Franklin (Silence Dogood, Richard Saunders), Robert Livingston (Cato), and James Madison (Helvidius) all employed pen names. Another advantage, according to journalism historian Eric Burns, was that the more pseudonyms an author used, ‘the more likely it was that readers would think of him as several authors [and] his views, therefore, would seem to be held by many rather than simply one man with a prolific pen.’

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pseudonyms_used_in_the_American_Constitutional_debates
https://www.jstor.org/stable/3125034

http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/amendI_speechs16.html
Benjamin Franklin, An Account of the Supremest Court of Judicature in Pennsylvania, viz., The Court of the Press

...

Of the Checks proper to be established against the Abuse of Power in these Courts.

Hitherto there are none. But since so much has been written and published on the federal Constitution, and the necessity of checks in all other parts of good government has been so clearly and learnedly explained, I find myself so far enlightened as to suspect some check may be proper in this part also; but I have been at a loss to imagine any that may not be construed an infringement of the sacred liberty of the press. At length, however, I think I have found one that, instead of diminishing general liberty, shall augment it; which is, by restoring to the people a species of liberty, of which they have been deprived by our laws, I mean the liberty of the cudgel. In the rude state of society prior to the existence of laws, if one man gave another ill language, the affronted person would return it by a box on the ear, and, if repeated, by a good drubbing; and this without offending against any law. But now the right of making such returns is denied, and they are punished as breaches of the peace; while the right of abusing seems to remain in full force, the laws made against it being rendered ineffectual by the liberty of the press.

My proposal then is, to leave the liberty of the press untouched, to be exercised in its full extent, force, and vigor; but to permit the liberty of the cudgel to go with it pari passu. Thus, my fellow-citizens, if an impudent writer attacks your reputation, dearer to you perhaps than your life, and puts his name to the charge, you may go to him as openly and break his head. If he conceals himself behind the printer, and you can nevertheless discover who he is, you may in like manner way-lay him in the night, attack him behind, and give him a good drubbing. Thus far goes my project as to private resentment and retribution. But if the public should ever happen to be affronted, as it ought to be, with the conduct of such writers, I would not advise proceeding immediately to these extremities; but that we should in moderation content ourselves with tarring and feathering, and tossing them in a blanket.

If, however, it should be thought that this proposal of mine may disturb the public peace, I would then humbly recommend to our legislators to take up the consideration of both liberties, that of the press, and that of the cudgel, and by an explicit law mark their extent and limits; and, at the same time that they secure the person of a citizen from assaults, they would likewise provide for the security of his reputation.

https://twitter.com/ThomasHCrown/status/902616970784370689
https://archive.is/yGAKs
1/ Americans, especially journalists, don't really understand why the First Amendment exists or how it came to be.
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july 2017 by nhaliday

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