nhaliday + is-ought   54

Reconsidering epistemological scepticism – Dividuals
I blogged before about how I consider an epistemological scepticism fully compatible with being conservative/reactionary. By epistemological scepticism I mean the worldview where concepts, categories, names, classes aren’t considered real, just useful ways to categorize phenomena, but entirely mental constructs, basically just tools. I think you can call this nominalism as well. The nominalism-realism debate was certainly about this. What follows is the pro-empirical worldview where logic and reasoning is considered highly fallible: hence you don’t think and don’t argue too much, you actually look and check things instead. You rely on experience, not reasoning.


Anyhow, the argument is that there are classes, which are indeed artificial, and there are kinds, which are products of natural forces, products of causality.


And the deeper – Darwinian – argument, unspoken but obvious, is that any being with a model of reality that does not conform to such real clumps, gets eaten by a grue.

This is impressive. It seems I have to extend my one-variable epistemology to a two-variable epistemology.

My former epistemology was that we generally categorize things according to their uses or dangers for us. So “chair” is – very roughly – defined as “anything we can sit on”. Similarly, we can categorize “predator” as “something that eats us or the animals that are useful for us”.

The unspoken argument against this is that the universe or the biosphere exists neither for us nor against us. A fox can eat your rabbits and a lion can eat you, but they don’t exist just for the sake of making your life difficult.

Hence, if you interpret phenomena only from the viewpoint of their uses or dangers for humans, you get only half the picture right. The other half is what it really is and where it came from.

Copying is everything: https://dividuals.wordpress.com/2015/12/14/copying-is-everything/
Philosophy professor Ruth Millikan’s insight that everything that gets copied from an ancestor has a proper function or teleofunction: it is whatever feature or function that made it and its ancestor selected for copying, in competition with all the other similar copiable things. This would mean Aristotelean teleology is correct within the field of copyable things, replicators, i.e. within biology, although in physics still obviously incorrect.

Darwinian Reactionary drew attention to it two years ago and I still don’t understand why didn’t it generate a bigger buzz. It is an extremely important insight.

I mean, this is what we were waiting for, a proper synthesis of science and philosophy, and a proper way to rescue Aristotelean teleology, which leads to so excellent common-sense predictions that intuitively it cannot be very wrong, yet modern philosophy always denied it.

The result from that is the briding of the fact-value gap and burying the naturalistic fallacy: we CAN derive values from facts: a thing is good if it is well suitable for its natural purpose, teleofunction or proper function, which is the purpose it was selected for and copied for, the purpose and the suitability for the purpose that made the ancestors of this thing selected for copying, instead of all the other potential, similar ancestors.


What was humankind selected for? I am afraid, the answer is kind of ugly.

Men were selected to compete between groups, the cooperate within groups largely for coordinating for the sake of this competition, and have a low-key competition inside the groups as well for status and leadership. I am afraid, intelligence is all about organizing elaborate tribal raids: “coalitionary arms races”. The most civilized case, least brutal but still expensive case is arms races in prestige status, not dominance status: when Ancient Athens buildt pretty buildings and modern France built the TGV and America sent a man to the Moon in order to gain “gloire” i.e. the prestige type respect and status amongst the nations, the larger groups of mankind. If you are the type who doesn’t like blood, you should probably focus on these kinds of civilized, prestige-project competitions.

Women were selected for bearing children, for having strong and intelligent sons therefore having these heritable traits themselves (HBD kind of contradicts the more radically anti-woman aspects of RedPillery: marry a weak and stupid but attractive silly-blondie type woman and your son’s won’t be that great either), for pleasuring men and in some rarer but existing cases, to be true companions and helpers of their husbands.

- Matter: a change or movement's material cause, is the aspect of the change or movement which is determined by the material that composes the moving or changing things. For a table, that might be wood; for a statue, that might be bronze or marble.
- Form: a change or movement's formal cause, is a change or movement caused by the arrangement, shape or appearance of the thing changing or moving. Aristotle says for example that the ratio 2:1, and number in general, is the cause of the octave.
- Agent: a change or movement's efficient or moving cause, consists of things apart from the thing being changed or moved, which interact so as to be an agency of the change or movement. For example, the efficient cause of a table is a carpenter, or a person working as one, and according to Aristotle the efficient cause of a boy is a father.
- End or purpose: a change or movement's final cause, is that for the sake of which a thing is what it is. For a seed, it might be an adult plant. For a sailboat, it might be sailing. For a ball at the top of a ramp, it might be coming to rest at the bottom.

A proximate cause is an event which is closest to, or immediately responsible for causing, some observed result. This exists in contrast to a higher-level ultimate cause (or distal cause) which is usually thought of as the "real" reason something occurred.


- Ultimate causation explains traits in terms of evolutionary forces acting on them.
- Proximate causation explains biological function in terms of immediate physiological or environmental factors.
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july 2018 by nhaliday
Contingent, Not Arbitrary | Truth is contingent on what is, not on what we wish to be true.
A vital attribute of a value system of any kind is that it works. I consider this a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for goodness. A value system, when followed, should contribute to human flourishing and not produce results that violate its core ideals. This is a pragmatic, I-know-it-when-I-see-it definition. I may refine it further if the need arises.

I think that the prevailing Western values fail by this standard. I will not spend much time arguing this; many others have already. If you reject this premise, this blog may not be for you.

I consider old traditions an important source of wisdom: they have proven their worth over centuries of use. Where they agree, we should listen. Where they disagree, we should figure out why. Where modernity departs from tradition, we should be wary of the new.

Tradition has one nagging problem: it was abandoned by the West. How and why did that happen? I consider this a central question. I expect the reasons to be varied and complex. Understanding them seems necessary if we are to fix what may have been broken.

In short, I want to answer these questions:

1. How do values spread and persist? An ideology does no good if no one holds it.
2. Which values do good? Sounding good is worse than useless if it leads to ruin.

The ultimate hope would be to find a way to combine the two. Many have tried and failed. I don’t expect to succeed either, but I hope I’ll manage to clarify the questions.

Christianity Is The Schelling Point: https://contingentnotarbitrary.com/2018/02/22/christianity-is-the-schelling-point/
Restoring true Christianity is both necessary and sufficient for restoring civilization. The task is neither easy nor simple but that’s what it takes. It is also our best chance of weathering the collapse if that’s too late to avoid.

Christianity is the ultimate coordination mechanism: it unites us with a higher purpose, aligns us with the laws of reality and works on all scales, from individuals to entire civilizations. Christendom took over the world and then lost it when its faith faltered. Historically and culturally, Christianity is the unique Schelling point for the West – or it would be if we could agree on which church (if any) was the true one.

Here are my arguments for true Christianity as the Schelling point. I hope to demonstrate these points in subsequent posts; for now I’ll just list them.

- A society of saints is the most powerful human arrangement possible. It is united in purpose, ideologically stable and operates in harmony with natural law. This is true independent of scale and organization: from military hierarchy to total decentralization, from persecuted minority to total hegemony. Even democracy works among saints – that’s why it took so long to fail.
- There is such a thing as true Christianity. I don’t know how to pinpoint it but it does exist; that holds from both secular and religious perspectives. Our task is to converge on it the best we can.
- Don’t worry too much about the existence of God. I’m proof that you don’t need that assumption in order to believe – it helps but isn’t mandatory.

Pascal’s Wager never sat right with me. Now I know why: it’s a sucker bet. Let’s update it.

If God exists, we must believe because our souls and civilization depend on it. If He doesn’t exist, we must believe because civilization depends on it.

Morality Should Be Adaptive: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2012/04/morals-should-be-adaptive.html
I agree with this
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Mistakes happen for a reason | Bloody shovel
Which leads me to this article by Scott Alexander. He elaborates on an idea by one of his ingroup about their being two ways of looking at things, “mistake theory” and “conflict theory”. Mistake theory claims that political opposition comes from a different understanding of issues: if people had the same amount of knowledge and proper theories to explain it, they would necessarily agree. Conflict theory states that people disagree because their interests conflict, the conflict is zero-sum so there’s no reason to agree, the only question is how to resolve the conflict.

I was speechless. I am quite used to Mr. Alexander and his crowd missing the point on purpose, but this was just too much. Mistake theory and Conflict theory are not parallel things. “Mistake theory” is just the natural, tribalist way of thinking. It assumes an ingroup, it assumes the ingroup has a codified way of thinking about things, and it interprets all disagreement as a lack of understanding of the obviously objective and universal truths of the ingroup religion. There is a reason why liberals call “ignorant” all those who disagree with them. Christians used to be rather more charitable on this front and asked for “faith”, which they also assumed was difficult to achieve.

Conflict theory is one of the great achievements of the human intellect; it is an objective, useful and predictively powerful way of analyzing human disagreement. There is a reason why Marxist historiography revolutionized the world and is still with us: Marx made a strong point that human history was based on conflict. Which is true. It is tautologically true. If you understand evolution it stands to reason that all social life is about conflict. The fight for genetical survival is ultimately zero-sum, and even in those short periods of abundance when it is not, the fight for mating supremacy is very much zero-sum, and we are all very much aware of that today. Marx focused on class struggle for political reasons, which is wrong, but his focus on conflict was a gust of fresh air for those who enjoy objective analysis.

Incidentally the early Chinese thinkers understood conflict theory very well, which is why Chinese civilization is still around, the oldest on earth. A proper understanding of conflict does not come without its drawbacks, though. Mistakes happen for a reason. Pat Buchanan actually does understand why USG open the doors to trade with China. Yes, Whig history was part of it, but that’s just the rhetoric used to justify the idea. The actual motivation to trade with China was making money short term. Lots of money. Many in the Western elite have made huge amounts of money with the China trade. Money that conveniently was funneled to whichever political channels it had to do in order to keep the China trade going. Even without Whig history, even without the clueless idea that China would never become a political great power, the short-term profits to be made were big enough to capture the political process in the West and push for it. Countries don’t have interests: people do.

That is true, and should be obvious, but there are dangers to the realization. There’s a reason why people dislike cynics. People don’t want to know the truth. It’s hard to coordinate around the truth, especially when the truth is that humans are selfish assholes constantly in conflict. Mistakes happen because people find it convenient to hide the truth; and “mistake theory” happens because policing the ingroup patterns of thought, limiting the capability of people of knowing too much, is politically useful. The early Chinese kingdoms developed a very sophisticated way of analyzing objective reality. The early kingdoms were also full of constant warfare, rebellions and elite betrayals; all of which went on until the introduction in the 13th century of a state ideology (neoconfucianism) based on complete humbug and a massively unrealistic theory on human nature. Roman literature is refreshingly objective and to the point. Romans were also murderous bastards who assassinated each other all the time. It took the massive pile of nonsense which we call the Christian canon to get Europeans to cooperate in a semi-stable basis.

But guess what? Conflict theory also exists for a reason. And the reason is to extricate oneself from the ingroup, to see things how they actually are, and to undermine the state religion from the outside. Marxists came up with conflict theory because they knew they had little to expect from fighting from within the system. Those low-status workers who still regarded their mainstream society as being the ingroup they very sharply called “alienated”, and by using conflict theory they showed what the ingroup ideology was actually made of. Pat Buchanan and his cuck friends should take the message and stop assuming that the elite is playing for the same team as they are. The global elite, of America and its vassals, is not mistaken. They are playing for themselves: to raise their status above yours, to drop their potential rivals into eternal misery and to rule forever over them. China, Syria, and everything else, is about that.

Heh heh. It’s a lost art. The Greeks and Romans were realists about it (except Cicero, that idealistic bastard). They knew language, being the birthright of man, was just another way (and a damn powerful one) to gain status, make war, and steal each other’s women. Better be good at wielding it.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Transcendentals - Wikipedia
The transcendentals (Latin: transcendentalia) are the properties of being that correspond to three aspects of the human field of interest and are their ideals; science (truth), the arts (beauty) and religion (goodness).[citation needed] Philosophical disciplines that study them are logic, aesthetics and ethics.

See also: Proto-Indo-European religion, Asha, and Satya

Parmenides first inquired of the properties co-extensive with being.[1] Socrates, spoken through Plato, then followed (see Form of the Good).

Aristotle's substance theory (being a substance belongs to being qua being) has been interpreted as a theory of transcendentals.[2] Aristotle discusses only unity ("One") explicitly because it is the only transcendental intrinsically related to being, whereas truth and goodness relate to rational creatures.[3]

In the Middle Ages, Catholic philosophers elaborated the thought that there exist transcendentals (transcendentalia) and that they transcended each of the ten Aristotelian categories.[4] A doctrine of the transcendentality of the good was formulated by Albert the Great.[5] His pupil, Saint Thomas Aquinas, posited five transcendentals: res, unum, aliquid, bonum, verum; or "thing", "one", "something", "good", and "true".[6] Saint Thomas derives the five explicitly as transcendentals,[7] though in some cases he follows the typical list of the transcendentals consisting of the One, the Good, and the True. The transcendentals are ontologically one and thus they are convertible: e.g., where there is truth, there is beauty and goodness also.

In Christian theology the transcendentals are treated in relation to theology proper, the doctrine of God. The transcendentals, according to Christian doctrine, can be described as the ultimate desires of man. Man ultimately strives for perfection, which takes form through the desire for perfect attainment of the transcendentals. The Catholic Church teaches that God is Himself truth, goodness, and beauty, as indicated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.[8] Each transcends the limitations of place and time, and is rooted in being. The transcendentals are not contingent upon cultural diversity, religious doctrine, or personal ideologies, but are the objective properties of all that exists.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Scientia potentia est - Wikipedia
The phrase "scientia potentia est" (or "scientia est potentia" or also "scientia potestas est") is a Latin aphorism meaning "knowledge is power". It is commonly attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, although there is no known occurrence of this precise phrase in Bacon's English or Latin writings. However, the expression "ipsa scientia potestas est" ('knowledge itself is power') occurs in Bacon's Meditationes Sacrae (1597). The exact phrase "scientia potentia est" was written for the first time in the 1668 version of the work Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, who was secretary to Bacon as a young man.

The related phrase "sapientia est potentia" is often translated as "wisdom is power".[1]
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february 2018 by nhaliday
The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective - American Affairs Journal
I don’t claim to be a modern-day Alexis de Tocqueville, nor do I have much in common with this famous observer of American life. He grew up in Paris, a city renowned for its culture and architecture. I grew up in Shijiazhuang, a city renowned for being the headquarters of the company that produced toxic infant formula. He was a child of aristocrats; I am the child of modest workers.

Nevertheless, I hope my candid observations can provide some insights into the elite institutions of the West. Certain beliefs are as ubiquitous among the people I went to school with as smog was in Shijiazhuang. The doctrines that shape the worldviews and cultural assumptions at elite Western institutions like Cambridge, Stanford, and Goldman Sachs have become almost religious. Nevertheless, I hope that the perspective of a candid Chinese atheist can be of some instruction to them.


So I came to the UK in 2001, when I was 16 years old. Much to my surprise, I found the UK’s exam-focused educational system very similar to the one in China. What is more, in both countries, going to the “right schools” and getting the “right job” are seen as very important by a large group of eager parents. As a result, scoring well on exams and doing well in school interviews—or even the play session for the nursery or pre-prep school—become the most important things in the world. Even at the university level, the undergraduate degree from the University of Cambridge depends on nothing else but an exam at the end of the last year.

On the other hand, although the UK’s university system is considered superior to China’s, with a population that is only one-twentieth the size of my native country, competition, while tough, is less intimidating. For example, about one in ten applicants gets into Oxbridge in the UK, and Stanford and Harvard accept about one in twenty-five applicants. But in Hebei province in China, where I am from, only one in fifteen hundred applicants gets into Peking or Qinghua University.

Still, I found it hard to believe how much easier everything became. I scored first nationwide in the GCSE (high school) math exam, and my photo was printed in a national newspaper. I was admitted into Trinity College, University of Cambridge, once the home of Sir Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Prince Charles.

I studied economics at Cambridge, a field which has become more and more mathematical since the 1970s. The goal is always to use a mathematical model to find a closed-form solution to a real-world problem. Looking back, I’m not sure why my professors were so focused on these models. I have since found that the mistake of blindly relying on models is quite widespread in both trading and investing—often with disastrous results, such as the infamous collapse of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management. Years later, I discovered the teaching of Warren Buffett: it is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong. But our professors taught us to think of the real world as a math problem.

The culture of Cambridge followed the dogmas of the classroom: a fervent adherence to rules and models established by tradition. For example, at Cambridge, students are forbidden to walk on grass. This right is reserved for professors only. The only exception is for those who achieve first class honors in exams; they are allowed to walk on one area of grass on one day of the year.

The behavior of my British classmates demonstrated an even greater herd mentality than what is often mocked in American MBAs. For example, out of the thirteen economists in my year at Trinity, twelve would go on to join investment banks, and five of us went to work for Goldman Sachs.


To me, Costco represents the best of American capitalism. It is a corporation known for having its customers and employees in mind, while at the same time it has compensated its shareholders handsomely over the years. To the customers, it offers the best combination of quality and low cost. Whenever it manages to reduce costs, it passes the savings on to customers immediately. Achieving a 10 percent gross margin with prices below Amazon’s is truly incredible. After I had been there once, I found it hard to shop elsewhere.

Meanwhile, its salaries are much higher than similar retail jobs. When the recession hit in 2008, the company increased salaries to help employees cope with the difficult environment. From the name tags the staff wear, I have seen that frontline employees work there for decades, something hard to imagine elsewhere.

Stanford was for me a distant second to Costco in terms of the American capitalist experience. Overall, I enjoyed the curriculum at the GSB. Inevitably I found some classes less interesting, but the professors all seemed to be quite understanding, even when they saw me reading my kindle during class.

One class was about strategy. It focused on how corporate mottos and logos could inspire employees. Many of the students had worked for nonprofits or health care or tech companies, all of which had mottos about changing the world, saving lives, saving the planet, etc. The professor seemed to like these mottos. I told him that at Goldman our motto was “be long-term greedy.” The professor couldn’t understand this motto or why it was inspiring. I explained to him that everyone else in the market was short-term greedy and, as a result, we took all their money. Since traders like money, this was inspiring. He asked if perhaps there was another motto or logo that my other classmates might connect with. I told him about the black swan I kept on my desk as a reminder that low probability events happen with high frequency. He didn’t like that motto either and decided to call on another student, who had worked at Pfizer. Their motto was “all people deserve to live healthy lives.” The professor thought this was much better. I didn’t understand how it would motivate employees, but this was exactly why I had come to Stanford: to learn the key lessons of interpersonal communication and leadership.

On the communication and leadership front, I came to the GSB knowing I was not good and hoped to get better. My favorite class was called “Interpersonal Dynamics” or, as students referred to it, “Touchy Feely.” In “Touchy Feely,” students get very candid feedback on how their words and actions affect others in a small group that meets several hours per week for a whole quarter.

We talked about microaggressions and feelings and empathy and listening. Sometimes in class the professor would say things to me like “Puzhong, when Mary said that, I could see you were really feeling something,” or “Puzhong, I could see in your eyes that Peter’s story affected you.” And I would tell them I didn’t feel anything. I was quite confused.

One of the papers we studied mentioned that subjects are often not conscious of their own feelings when fully immersed in a situation. But body indicators such as heart rate would show whether the person is experiencing strong emotions. I thought that I generally didn’t have a lot of emotions and decided that this might be a good way for me to discover my hidden emotions that the professor kept asking about.

So I bought a heart rate monitor and checked my resting heart rate. Right around 78. And when the professor said to me in class “Puzhong, I can see that story brought up some emotions in you,” I rolled up my sleeve and checked my heart rate. It was about 77. And so I said, “nope, no emotion.” The experiment seemed to confirm my prior belief: my heart rate hardly moved, even when I was criticized, though it did jump when I became excited or laughed.

This didn’t land well on some of my classmates. They felt I was not treating these matters with the seriousness that they deserved. The professor was very angry. My takeaway was that my interpersonal skills were so bad that I could easily offend people unintentionally, so I concluded that after graduation I should do something that involved as little human interaction as possible.

Therefore, I decided I needed to return to work in financial markets rather than attempting something else. I went to the career service office and told them that my primary goal after the MBA was to make money. I told them that $500,000 sounded like a good number. They were very confused, though, as they said their goal was to help me find my passion and my calling. I told them that my calling was to make money for my family. They were trying to be helpful, but in my case, their advice didn’t turn out to be very helpful.

Eventually I was able to meet the chief financial officer of my favorite company, Costco. He told me that they don’t hire any MBAs. Everyone starts by pushing trolleys. (I have seriously thought about doing just that. But my wife is strongly against it.) Maybe, I thought, that is why the company is so successful—no MBAs!


Warren Buffett has said that the moment one was born in the United States or another Western country, that person has essentially won a lottery. If someone is born a U.S. citizen, he or she enjoys a huge advantage in almost every aspect of life, including expected wealth, education, health care, environment, safety, etc., when compared to someone born in developing countries. For someone foreign to “purchase” these privileges, the price tag at the moment is $1 million dollars (the rough value of the EB-5 investment visa). Even at this price level, the demand from certain countries routinely exceeds the annual allocated quota, resulting in long waiting times. In that sense, American citizens were born millionaires!

Yet one wonders how long such luck will last. This brings me back to the title of Rubin’s book, his “uncertain world.” In such a world, the vast majority things are outside our control, determined by God or luck. After we have given our best and once the final card is drawn, we should neither become too excited by what we have achieved nor too depressed by what we failed to … [more]
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january 2018 by nhaliday
The Gelman View – spottedtoad
I have read Andrew Gelman’s blog for about five years, and gradually, I’ve decided that among his many blog posts and hundreds of academic articles, he is advancing a philosophy not just of statistics but of quantitative social science in general. Not a statistician myself, here is how I would articulate the Gelman View:

A. Purposes

1. The purpose of social statistics is to describe and understand variation in the world. The world is a complicated place, and we shouldn’t expect things to be simple.
2. The purpose of scientific publication is to allow for communication, dialogue, and critique, not to “certify” a specific finding as absolute truth.
3. The incentive structure of science needs to reward attempts to independently investigate, reproduce, and refute existing claims and observed patterns, not just to advance new hypotheses or support a particular research agenda.

B. Approach

1. Because the world is complicated, the most valuable statistical models for the world will generally be complicated. The result of statistical investigations will only rarely be to  give a stamp of truth on a specific effect or causal claim, but will generally show variation in effects and outcomes.
2. Whenever possible, the data, analytic approach, and methods should be made as transparent and replicable as possible, and should be fair game for anyone to examine, critique, or amend.
3. Social scientists should look to build upon a broad shared body of knowledge, not to “own” a particular intervention, theoretic framework, or technique. Such ownership creates incentive problems when the intervention, framework, or technique fail and the scientist is left trying to support a flawed structure.


1. Measurement. How and what we measure is the first question, well before we decide on what the effects are or what is making that measurement change.
2. Sampling. Who we talk to or collect information from always matters, because we should always expect effects to depend on context.
3. Inference. While models should usually be complex, our inferential framework should be simple enough for anyone to follow along. And no p values.

He might disagree with all of this, or how it reflects his understanding of his own work. But I think it is a valuable guide to empirical work.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
The Same Old Story | West Hunter
People often reinterpret past events, recast them in terms of some contemporary ideology. When historians talk about the Monophysites in Byzantine times, they often suggest that those struggle are a mask for a kind of proto-nationalism. Maybe they were: and maybe nobody involved was thinking anything remotely like that. The Communists tried to come up with Marxist interpretations of ancient history, which led them to spend way too much time talking about Mazdakites in Sassanian Persia and the Zealots of Thessalonika . And Spartacus: but at least Spartacus was cool.

Then there are feminist versions of history. Let us never speak of them again.

Generally, this is all crap. But we could at least hope for something new along these lines: bullshit perhaps, but at least fresh bullshit. Obviously the reality underlying both the Punic Wars and the Crusades is the ancient struggle between EEF and ANE.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
President Trump believes in IQ tests. He’s not wrong. - The Washington Post
- Stuart J. Ritchie

Most scientists feel a certain nervousness when the topic they research appears in the news. Overstatement is par for the course, misunderstanding a near-inevitability. But what could be more cringe-worthy than the president of the United States engaging in a macho contest with his secretary of state over the area you research? I am, of course, talking about IQ testing: After Rex Tillerson (allegedly) called him a “moron,” President Trump this week suggested that he and Tillerson “compare IQ tests.” Naturally, Trump could “tell you who is going to win.” This isn’t the first time that the president has spoken — and tweeted — about his apparently sky-high IQ.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Americans Used to be Proud of their Universities | The American Conservative
Some Notes on the Finances of Top Chinese Universities: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/world-view/some-notes-finances-top-chinese-universities
A glimpse into the finances of top Chinese universities suggests they share more than we might have imagined with American flagship public universities, but also that claims of imminent “catch up” might be overblown
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Philosophies | Free Full-Text | The Unreasonable Destructiveness of Political Correctness in Philosophy | HTML
Jason Stanley:


Epistemic Exploitation: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/ergo/12405314.0003.022/--epistemic-exploitation?rgn=main;view=fulltext
On Benefiting from Injustice: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/214594

this Halloween, "straw men" come to life
Bauer’s answer to this puzzle is that feminist philosophy must involve a radical reimagining
of philosophy itself – philosophy, to be feminist, must become more
concerned with lived reality, and less concerned with the metaphilosophical goal, as
Bernard Williams put it, of ‘getting it right’ (1989, 3). Thus Bauer endorses the view
that ‘feminist philosophy’ is a sort of contradiction in terms, a contradiction that
must be resolved through a radical revision of philosophy itself.

Voila. This @LizzieWurtzel quote is the logical endpoint of identity epistemology/ethics discourse. Not sarcasm:
WURTZEL: I see sexism everywhere, and I think it has to do with that. I’ve begun to blame sexism for everything. I’ve become so overwhelmed by it that, even though I love Bob Dylan, I don’t want to listen to Bob Dylan, because I don’t want to listen to men anymore. I don’t care what men have to say about anything. I only want to pay attention to what women do. I only want to read women. I’ll tell you how intense my feelings about this are: You know The Handmaid’s Tale, the show, which is feminist in its nature? Because men are behind it, I don’t want to watch it. That is the extent to which I am so truly horrified by what is going on.

Scholars, Eyewitnesses, and Flesh-Witnesses of War: A Tense Relationship: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/267004/

Confession Booth: https://thebaffler.com/salvos/confession-booth-frost
The trouble with the trauma industry
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Human Self as Information Agent: Functioning in a Social Environment Based on Shared Meanings — Experts@Minnesota
A neglected aspect of human selfhood is that people are information agents .... We initially assumed that accuracy would be the paramount concern for the information agent... But there are other considerations. Groups benefit from collective action, and so consensual agreement may be a high priority. Consensus may be needed in many situations when the means to verify information’s accuracy are beyond reach... Even if dissenters tum out to have more accurate information, disobedience is punished... Why might evolution have made people willing to sacrifice accuracy in favor of consensus, at least sometimes? Here we speculate that desire for consensus may derive from an innate social motive, whereas accuracy is an epistemic motive that would need to be acquired, and is therefore less deeply rooted and perhaps weaker. There may not be an innate motive to evaluate the truth value of assertions or to appreciate the meaningful difference between truth and falsehood. Hence it may be necessary to leam from experience that accuracy is an informational virtue that confers benefits, whereas consensus may be more closely tied to innate motivations .... The human mind discovers early in life that other minds have different information, which is something most other animals never discover. The desire to share attention and thoughts with others could thus be innate (or innately prepared) whereas the desire to sort truth from fiction may only come along later...The group first builds consensus and only after that is done seeks novel, idiosyncratic input that might increase accuracy. In an important sense, information shared by the group is valued more and perceived as more accurate than unshared information

When shared information coalesces into a collective worldview that includes values, it often has sociopolitical implications. Many groups are committed to particular ideologies or agenda, and information that impugns shared beliefs could be especially unwelcome. Political and religious ideologies have often sustained their power by asserting and enforcing views of questionable truthfulness. Hence individuals and groups may seek to exert control over the shared reality so as to benefit themselves. Thus many individuals will find it more important to get the group to agree with their favored view than to help it reach an objectively correct view. One fascinating question about official falsehoods is whether the ruling elites who propagate such views believe them or not... As an example close to home, psychology today is dominated by a political viewpoint that is progressively liberal, but it seems unlikely that many researchers knowingly assert falsehoods as scientific facts. They do however make publication of some findings much easier than others. The selective critique enables them to believe that the field’s body of knowledge supports their political views more than it does, because contrary facts and findings are suppressed.

Assessing relationships between conformity and meta-traits in an Asch-like paradigm: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15534510.2017.1371639
Replication of unflattering psychology classic: People bow to conformity pressure, mostly independent of personality

Smart Conformists: Children and Adolescents Associate Conformity With Intelligence Across Cultures: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cdev.12935/abstract
Across cultures, children and adolescents viewed high conformity as a sign of intelligence and good behavior.
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Fear and Loathing in Psychology - The Unz Review
Warne and Astle looked at 29 best-selling undergraduate textbooks, which is where psychology students learn about intelligence, because less than 10% of graduate courses offer an intelligence option.

3.3% of textbook space is dedicated to intelligence. Given its influence, this is not very much.

The most common topics start well, with IQ and Spearman’s g, but do not go on to the best validated, evidence-led Cattell-Horn-Carol meta-analytic summary, but a side-stream, speculative triarchic theory from Sternberg; and a highly speculative and non-specific sketch of an idea about multiple intelligences Gardner. The last is a particular puzzle, since it really is a whimsical notion that motor skill is no different from analytical problem solving. All must have prizes.
Commonly, environmental influences are discussed, genetic ones rarely.

What Do Undergraduates Learn About Human Intelligence? An Analysis of Introductory Psychology Textbooks: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3c4TxciNeJZOTl3clpiX0JKckk/view

Education or Indoctrination? The Accuracy of Introductory Psychology Textbooks in Covering Controversial Topics and Urban Legends About Psychology: http://sci-hub.la/https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12144-016-9539-7

Twenty-four leading introductory psychology textbooks were surveyed for their coverage of a number of controversial topics (e.g., media violence, narcissism epidemic, multiple intelligences) and scientific urban legends (e.g., Kitty Genovese, Mozart Effect) for their factual accuracy. Results indicated numerous errors of factual reporting across textbooks, particularly related to failing to inform students of the controversial nature of some research fields and repeating some scientific urban legends as if true. Recommendations are made for improving the accuracy of introductory textbooks.

Mapping the scale of the narcissism epidemic: Increases in narcissism 2002–2007 within ethnic groups: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092656608000949

The increasing numbers of Asian-Americans at the UCs over time may have masked changes in narcissism, as Asian-Americans score lower on the NPI. When examined within ethnic groups, Trzesniewski et al.’s data show that NPI scores increased significantly between 2002 and 2007 at twice the rate of the yearly change found over 24 years in Twenge et al. (2008a). The overall means also show a significant increase 2002–2007. Thus the available evidence suggests that college students are endorsing progressively more narcissistic personality traits over the generations.

Birth Cohort Increases in Narcissistic Personality Traits Among American College Students, 1982–2009: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1948550609355719

Both studies demonstrate significant increases in narcissism over time (Study 1 d = .37, 1982–2008, when campus is controlled; Study 2 d = .37, 1994–2009). These results support a generational differences model of individual personality traits reflecting changes in culture.

could this just be a selection effect (more people attending)?
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Defection – quas lacrimas peperere minoribus nostris!

Kindness Against The Grain: https://srconstantin.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/kindness-against-the-grain/
I’ve heard from a number of secular-ish sources (Carse, Girard, Arendt) that the essential contribution of Christianity to human thought is the concept of forgiveness. (Ribbonfarm also has a recent post on the topic of forgiveness.)

I have never been a Christian and haven’t even read all of the New Testament, so I’ll leave it to commenters to recommend Christian sources on the topic.

What I want to explore is the notion of kindness without a smooth incentive gradient.

The Social Module: https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/the-social-module/
Now one could propose that the basic principle of human behavior is to raise the SP number. Sure there’s survival and reproduction. Most people would forget all their socialization if left hungry and thirsty for days in the jungle. But more often than not, survival and reproduction depend on being high status; having a good name among your peers is the best way to get food, housing and hot mates.

The way to raise one’s SP number depends on thousands of different factors. We could grab most of them and call them “culture”. In China having 20 teenage mistresses as an old man raises your SP; in Western polite society it is social death. In the West making a fuss about disobeying one’s parents raises your SP, everywhere else it lowers it a great deal. People know that; which is why bureaucrats in China go to great lengths to acquire a stash of young women (who they seldom have time to actually enjoy), while teenagers in the West go to great lengths to be annoying to their parents for no good reason.


It thus shouldn’t surprise us that something as completely absurd as Progressivism is the law of the land in most of the world today, even though it denies obvious reality. It is not the case that most people know that progressive points are all bogus, but obey because of fear or cowardice. No, an average human brain has much more neurons being used to scan the social climate and see how SP are allotted, than neurons being used to analyze patterns in reality to ascertain the truth. Surely your brain does care a great deal about truth in some very narrow areas of concern to you. Remember Conquest’s first law: Everybody is Conservative about what he knows best. You have to know the truth about what you do, if you are to do it effectively.

But you don’t really care about truth anywhere else. And why would you? It takes time and effort you can’t really spare, and it’s not really necessary. As long as you have some area of specialization where you can make a living, all the rest you must do to achieve survival and reproduction is to raise your SP so you don’t get killed and your guts sacrificed to the mountain spirits.

SP theory (I accept suggestions for a better name) can also explains the behavior of leftists. Many conservatives of a medium level of enlightenment point out the paradox that leftists historically have held completely different ideas. Leftism used to be about the livelihood of industrial workers, now they agitate about the environment, or feminism, or foreigners. Some people would say that’s just historical change, or pull a No True Scotsman about this or that group not being really leftists. But that’s transparent bullshit; very often we see a single person shifting from agitating about Communism and worker rights, to agitate about global warming or rape culture.


The leftist strategy could be defined as “psychopathic SP maximization”. Leftists attempt to destroy social equilibrium so that they can raise their SP number. If humans are, in a sense, programmed to constantly raise their status, well high status people by definition can’t raise it anymore (though they can squabble against each other for marginal gains), their best strategy is to freeze society in place so that they can enjoy their superiority. High status people by definition have power, and thus social hierarchy during human history tends to be quite stable.

This goes against the interests of many. First of all the lower status people, who, well, want to raise their status, but can’t manage to do so. And it also goes against the interests of the particularly annoying members of the upper class who want to raise their status on the margin. Conservative people can be defined as those who, no matter the absolute level, are in general happy with it. This doesn’t mean they don’t want higher status (by definition all humans do), but the output of other brain modules may conclude that attempts to raise SP might threaten one’s survival and reproduction; or just that the chances of raising one’s individual SP is hopeless, so one might as well stay put.


You can’t blame people for being logically inconsistent; because they can’t possibly know anything about all these issues. Few have any experience or knowledge about evolution and human races, or about the history of black people to make an informed judgment on HBD. Few have time to learn about sex differences, and stuff like the climate is as close to unknowable as there is. Opinions about anything but a very narrow area of expertise are always output of your SP module, not any judgment of fact. People don’t know the facts. And even when they know; I mean most people have enough experience with sex differences and black dysfunction to be quite confident that progressive ideas are false. But you can never be sure. As Hume said, the laws of physics are a judgment of habit; who is to say that a genie isn’t going to change all you know the next morning? At any rate, you’re always better off toeing the line, following the conventional wisdom, and keeping your dear SP. Perhaps you can even raise them a bit. And that is very nice. It is niceness itself.

Leftism is just an easy excuse: https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/leftism-is-just-an-easy-excuse/
Unless you’re not the only defector. You need a way to signal your intention to defect, so that other disloyal fucks such as yourself (and they’re bound to be others) can join up, thus reducing the likely costs of defection. The way to signal your intention to defect is to come up with a good excuse. A good excuse to be disloyal becomes a rallying point through which other defectors can coordinate and cover their asses so that the ruling coalition doesn’t punish them. What is a good excuse?

Leftism is a great excuse. Claiming that the ruling coalition isn’t leftist enough, isn’t holy enough, not inclusive enough of women, of blacks, of gays, or gorillas, of pedophiles, of murderous Salafists, is the perfect way of signalling your disloyalty towards the existing power coalition. By using the existing ideology and pushing its logic just a little bit, you ensure that the powerful can’t punish you. At least not openly. And if you’re lucky, the mass of disloyal fucks in the ruling coalition might join your banner, and use your exact leftist point to jump ship and outflank the powerful.


The same dynamic fuels the flattery inflation one sees in monarchical or dictatorial systems. In Mao China, if you want to defect, you claim to love Mao more than your boss. In Nazi Germany, you proclaim your love for Hitler and the great insight of his plan to take Stalingrad. In the Roman Empire, you claimed that Caesar is a God, son of Hercules, and those who deny it are treacherous bastards. In Ancient Persia you loudly proclaimed your faith in the Shah being the brother of the Sun and the Moon and King of all Kings on Earth. In Reformation Europe you proclaimed that you have discovered something new in the Bible and everybody else is damned to hell. Predestined by God!


And again: the precise content of the ideological point doesn’t matter. Your human brain doesn’t care about ideology. Humans didn’t evolve to care about Marxist theory of class struggle, or about LGBTQWERTY theories of social identity. You just don’t know what it means. It’s all abstract points you’ve been told in a classroom. It doesn’t actually compute. Nothing that anybody ever said in a political debate ever made any actual, concrete sense to a human being.

So why do we care so much about politics? What’s the point of ideology? Ideology is just the water you swim in. It is a structured database of excuses, to be used to signal your allegiance or defection to the existing ruling coalition. Ideology is just the feed of the rationalization Hamster that runs incessantly in that corner of your brain. But it is immaterial, and in most cases actually inaccessible to the logical modules in your brain.

Nobody ever acts on their overt ideological claims if they can get away with it. Liberals proclaim their faith in the potential of black children while clustering in all white suburbs. Communist party members loudly talk about the proletariat while being hedonistic spenders. Al Gore talks about Global Warming while living in a lavish mansion. Cognitive dissonance, you say? No; those cognitive systems are not connected in the first place.


And so, every little step in the way, power-seekers moved the consensus to the left. And open societies, democratic systems are by their decentralized nature, and by the size of their constituencies, much more vulnerable to this sort of signalling attacks. It is but impossible to appraise and enforce the loyalty of every single individual involved in a modern state. There’s too many of them. A Medieval King had a better chance of it; hence the slow movement of ideological innovation in those days. But the bigger the organization, the harder it is to gather accurate information of the loyalty of the whole coalition; and hence the ideological movement accelerates. And there is no stopping it.

Like the Ancients, We Have Gods. They’ll Get Greater: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/04/like-the-ancients-we-have-gods-they-may-get… [more]
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june 2017 by nhaliday
De gustibus non est disputandum - Wikipedia
De gustibus non est disputandum, or de gustibus non disputandum est, is a Latin maxim meaning "In matters of taste, there can be no disputes" (literally "about tastes, it should not be disputed/discussed").[1][2] The implication is that everyone's personal preferences are merely subjective opinions that cannot be right or wrong, so they should never be argued about as if they were. Sometimes the phrase is expanded as De gustibus et coloribus... referring to tastes and colors. The phrase is most commonly rendered in English as "There is no accounting for taste(s)."[3] The original quotation is an ancient Latin adage, i.e. Roman, and discussed by many philosophers and economists.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Dadly adaptations | West Hunter
If we understood how this works, we might find that individuals and populations vary in their propensity to show paternal care ( for genetic reasons). I would guess that paternal care was ancestral in modern humans, but it’s easy enough to lose something like this when selective pressures no longer favor it. Wolves have paternal care, but dogs have lost it.

This could have something to do with better health in married men. High testosterone levels aren’t cost-free.

It’s possible that various modern environmental factors interfere with the triggers for dadliness. That would hardly be surprising, since we don’t really know how they work.

All this has a number of interesting social implications. Let’s see how many of them you guys can spot.

Poles in the Tent: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/poles-in-the-tent/
I’m considering a different question: what was the impact of men’s contribution on their children’s survival and fitness? That’s not quite the same as the number of calories contributed. Food is not a single undifferentiated quantity: it’s a category, including a number of different kinds that can’t be freely substituted for each other. Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates can all serve as fuel, but you need protein to build tissue. And amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, are not all fungible. Some we can’t synthesize (essential amino acids) others can only be synthesized from a limited set of precursors, etc. Edible plants often have suboptimal mixes of amino acids ( too many Qs, not enough Us) , but I’ve never heard of this being a problem with meat. Then you have to consider essential fatty acids, vitamins, and trace elements.

In principle, if high-quality protein were the long pole in the tent, male provisioning of meat, which we see in chimpanzees, might matter quite a bit more than you would think from the number of calories alone. I’m not say that is necessarily the case, but it might be, and it’s worth checking out.

Sexual selection vs job specialization: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/10/02/sexual-selection-vs-job-specialization/
Pretty much every species is subject to sexual selection: heritable characteristics that lead to more mates or better mates can be favored by natural selection. Typically, sexual selection favors different strategies in males and females. Generally, males can gain fitness with increased mating opportunities, while females gain more from high-quality mates or mates that confer resources. Since the variance in reproduction is usually greater in males than females, sexual selection is usually stronger in males, although it exists and is significant in both sexes.

Usually, though, males and females of a given species have very similar ways of making a living. A male deer and a female deer both eat grass or arugula or whatever. Sexual selection may drive them to evolve in different directions, but finding something to eat mostly drives them in the same direction.

Humans are an exception. In the long past, men hunted and women gathered. The mix varied: in Arctic regions, men produce almost all the food (while women made and repaired gear, as well as raising children). In groups like the Bushmen, women produced most of the calories, but done rightly you would count more than calories: if most of the local plants had low protein or low-quality protein (wrong amino acid mix), meat from hunting could be important out of proportion to its caloric value.

This has been going for a long time, so there must have been selection for traits that aided provisioning ability in each sex. Those job-related selective pressures probably changed with time. For example, male strength may have become less valuable when the Bushmen developed poison arrows.

I was looking for an intelligent discussion of this question – but I ran into this and couldn’t force myself to read further: ” It should not simply be assumed that the exclusion of women from hunting rests upon “natural” physiological differences. ”

God give me strength.

What does Greg think about the “plows vs hoes” theory? (As seen here, although Sarah Constantin didn’t invent it.)

The claim is that some societies adopted farming (Europe, the Middle East, Asia) while some societies adopted horticulture (Oceana, sub-Saharan Africa, various primitive peoples) and that this had an affect on gender relations.

Basically: farming is backbreaking work, which favours males, giving them a lot of social capital. You end up with a patriarchal kind of society, where the men do stuff and the women are mostly valuable for raising offspring.


It’s kinda true, in places. There is a connection I haven’t seen explicated: the ‘hoe culture” has to have some factor keeping population density low, so that labor is scarcer than land. Tropical diseases like malaria might be part of that. Then again, crops like yams don’t store well, better to keep them in the ground until eating. That means it’s hard to tax people – easy with grain bins. No taxes -> no State – > high local violence. At times, VD may also help limit density, cf Africa’s ‘sterility belt’.

I am not a Moron: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/i-am-not-a-moron/
So said Augustin Fuentes on Twitter, a few days ago. He’s the same guy that said “Genes don’t do anything by themselves; epigenetics and complex metabolic and developmental systems are at play in how bodies work. The roundworm C. elegans has about 20,000 genes while humans have about 23,000 genes, yet it is pretty obvious that humans are more than 15-percent more complex than roundworms. So while genes matter, they are only a small part of the whole evolutionary picture. Focusing just on DNA won’t get you anywhere.”

Fuentes was claiming that we don’t really know that, back in prehistory, men did most of the hunting while women gathered.


Someone (Will@Evolving _Moloch) criticized this as a good candidate for the most misleading paragraph ever written. The folly of youth! When you’ve been around as long as I have, sonny, you will realize how hard it is to set records for stupidity.

Fuente’s para is multidimensional crap, of course. People used to hunt animals like red deer, or bison, or eland: sometimes mammoths or rhinos. Big animals. Back in the day, our ancestors used stabbing spears, which go back at least half a million years. Stand-off weapons like atlatls, or bows, or JSOW, are relatively recent. Hunters took big risks & suffered frequent injuries. Men are almost twice as strong as women, particularly in upper-body strength, which is what matters in spear-chucking. They’re also faster, which can be very important which your ambush fails.
So men did the hunting. This isn’t complicated.

Which contemporary hunter-gather societies followed this pattern, had men do almost all of the big-game hunting? All of them.


Look, feminists aren’t happy with human nature, the one that actually exists and is the product of long-term evolutionary pressures. Too bad for them. When they say stuff like “It should not simply be assumed that the exclusion of women from hunting rests upon “natural” physiological differences. “, they just sound like fools.. ‘natural physiological differences” exist. They’re as obvious a punch in the kisser.

Suppose you wanted to construct a society with effective sexual equality – which is probably just a mistake, but suppose it. The most effective approach would surely entail knowing and taking into account how the world actually ticks. You’d be better off understanding that about 6,000 genes (out of 20,000) show significant expression differences between the sexes, than by pretending that we’re all the same. You would to make it so: by hook or by crook, by state force and genetic engineering.

Similarly, if you want to minimize war, pretending that people aren’t warlike is a poor start – about as sensible as fighting forest fires by pretending that trees aren’t flammable.

My advice to Augustin Fuentes, about not being a moron: show, don’t tell.

Since DNA is the enduring part, the part that gets transmitted from one generation to the next, the part that contains the instructions/program that determine development and specify everything – he’s wrong. Stupid, like you. Well, to be fair, ignorant as well: there are technical aspects of genetics that Agustin Fuentes is unlikely to know anything about, things that are almost never covered in the typical education of an anthropologist. I doubt if he knows what a Fisher wave is, or anything about selfish genetic elements, or coalescent theory, or for that matter the breeder’s equation.

There are a number of complex technical subjects, things that at least some people understand: those people can do stuff that the man in the street can’t. In most cases, amateurs don’t jump in and pretend to know what’s going on. For example you don’t hear much concerning amateur opinions concerning detonation physics or group theory. But they’re happy to have opinions about natural selection, even though they know fuck-all about it.

"Significantly fewer females are present at hunts than males...females tend to appear at the hunting site once the capture has been made..."

“Women in Tech”: https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2017/10/26/women-in-tech/
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Evergreen State and the Battle for Modernity | Quillette
It is this dichotomy between postmodern and modern that is the most important takeaway from this entire affair. In many ways, the old left/right dichotomy no longer applies. Instead we are faced with a three-part distinction between postmodern/modern/traditional. Let’s take a look at each of these in turn, and discuss why they are particularly important today. Starting with the most right-leaning, the traditionalists. These folks do not like the direction in which modernity is headed, and so are looking to go back to an earlier time when they believe society was better. They may disagree with same-sex marriage, label sexual promiscuity as “deviance,” and feel threatened by racial and demographic changes in Western society. These folks include typical status-quo conservatives, Evangelical Christians as well as more nefarious types such as white nationalists and the “alt right”. Even though there is much furor in the media about the threat that these groups represent, I would argue that they have largely been pushed to the fringes in terms of their social influence, not withstanding the election of Trump who was actually opposed by many traditionalists such as the Never Trumpers.

Indeed, it is between the modernists and postmodernists where the future of society is being fought. Modernists are those who believe in human progress within a classical Western tradition. They believe that the world can continuously be improved through science, technology, and rationality. Unlike traditionalists, they seek progress rather than reversal, but what they share in common is an interest in preserving the basic structures of Western society. Most modernists could be classified as centrists (either left or right-leaning), classical liberals and libertarians.

Postmodernists, on the other hand, eschew any notion of objectivity, perceiving knowledge as a construct of power differentials rather than anything that could possibly be mutually agreed upon. Informed by such thinkers as Foucault and Derrida, science therefore becomes an instrument of Western oppression; indeed, all discourse is a power struggle between oppressors and oppressed. In this scheme, there is no Western civilization to preserve—as the more powerful force in the world, it automatically takes on the role of oppressor and therefore any form of equity must consequently then involve the overthrow of Western “hegemony.” These folks form the current Far Left, including those who would be described as communists, socialists, anarchists, Antifa, as well as social justice warriors (SJWs). These are all very different groups, but they all share a postmodernist ethos.


First, They Came for the Biologists: https://www.wsj.com/articles/first-they-came-for-the-biologists-1506984033
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june 2017 by nhaliday
- the genetic book of the dead [Dawkins]
- complementarity [Frank Wilczek]
- relative information
- effective theory [Lisa Randall]
- affordances [Dennett]
- spontaneous symmetry breaking
- relatedly, equipoise [Nicholas Christakis]
- case-based reasoning
- population reasoning (eg, common law)
- criticality [Cesar Hidalgo]
- Haldan's law of the right size (!SCALE!)
- polygenic scores
- non-ergodic
- ansatz
- state [Aaronson]: http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=3075
- transfer learning
- effect size
- satisficing
- scaling
- the breeder's equation [Greg Cochran]
- impedance matching

- reciprocal altruism
- life history [Plomin]
- intellectual honesty [Sam Harris]
- coalitional instinct (interesting claim: building coalitions around "rationality" actually makes it more difficult to update on new evidence as it makes you look like a bad person, eg, the Cathedral)
basically same: https://twitter.com/ortoiseortoise/status/903682354367143936

more: https://www.edge.org/conversation/john_tooby-coalitional-instincts

interesting timing. how woke is this dude?
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may 2017 by nhaliday
The heart trumps the head - Research - Royal Holloway, University of London
We observed a robust desirability bias—individuals updated their beliefs more if the evidence was consistent (versus inconsistent) with their desired outcome. This bias was independent of whether the evidence was consistent or inconsistent with their prior beliefs
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may 2017 by nhaliday
I hate every ape I see | West Hunter
Chimpanzees, although expensive, are really useful for medical research, since they’re much closer to humans than any other experimental animal. Yet the Feds are phasing out chimp research, and are sending them off to Club Chimp. Francis Collins, director of NIH, says that “new scientific methods and technologies have rendered their use in research largely unnecessary.” Collins is full of crap, as usual.
west-hunter  scitariat  rant  ideas  science  medicine  model-organism  meta:medicine  realness  westminster  kumbaya-kult  is-ought  people  track-record  commentary  current-events  ethics 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Lucio Russo - Wikipedia
In The Forgotten Revolution: How Science Was Born in 300 BC and Why It Had to Be Reborn (Italian: La rivoluzione dimenticata), Russo promotes the belief that Hellenistic science in the period 320-144 BC reached heights not achieved by Classical age science, and proposes that it went further than ordinarily thought, in multiple fields not normally associated with ancient science.

La Rivoluzione Dimenticata (The Forgotten Revolution), Reviewed by Sandro Graffi: http://www.ams.org/notices/199805/review-graffi.pdf

Before turning to the question of the decline of Hellenistic science, I come back to the new light shed by the book on Euclid’s Elements and on pre-Ptolemaic astronomy. Euclid’s definitions of the elementary geometric entities—point, straight line, plane—at the beginning of the Elements have long presented a problem.7 Their nature is in sharp contrast with the approach taken in the rest of the book, and continued by mathematicians ever since, of refraining from defining the fundamental entities explicitly but limiting themselves to postulating the properties which they enjoy. Why should Euclid be so hopelessly obscure right at the beginning and so smooth just after? The answer is: the definitions are not Euclid’s. Toward the beginning of the second century A.D. Heron of Alexandria found it convenient to introduce definitions of the elementary objects (a sign of decadence!) in his commentary on Euclid’s Elements, which had been written at least 400 years before. All manuscripts of the Elements copied ever since included Heron’s definitions without mention, whence their attribution to Euclid himself. The philological evidence leading to this conclusion is quite convincing.8


What about the general and steady (on the average) impoverishment of Hellenistic science under the Roman empire? This is a major historical problem, strongly tied to the even bigger one of the decline and fall of the antique civilization itself. I would summarize the author’s argument by saying that it basically represents an application to science of a widely accepted general theory on decadence of antique civilization going back to Max Weber. Roman society, mainly based on slave labor, underwent an ultimately unrecoverable crisis as the traditional sources of that labor force, essentially wars, progressively dried up. To save basic farming, the remaining slaves were promoted to be serfs, and poor free peasants reduced to serfdom, but this made trade disappear. A society in which production is almost entirely based on serfdom and with no trade clearly has very little need of culture, including science and technology. As Max Weber pointed out, when trade vanished, so did the marble splendor of the ancient towns, as well as the spiritual assets that went with it: art, literature, science, and sophisticated commercial laws. The recovery of Hellenistic science then had to wait until the disappearance of serfdom at the end of the Middle Ages. To quote Max Weber: “Only then with renewed vigor did the old giant rise up again.”


The epilogue contains the (rather pessimistic) views of the author on the future of science, threatened by the apparent triumph of today’s vogue of irrationality even in leading institutions (e.g., an astrology professorship at the Sorbonne). He looks at today’s ever-increasing tendency to teach science more on a fideistic than on a deductive or experimental basis as the first sign of a decline which could be analogous to the post-Hellenistic one.

Praising Alexandrians to excess: https://sci-hub.tw/10.1088/2058-7058/17/4/35
The Economic Record review: https://sci-hub.tw/10.1111/j.1475-4932.2004.00203.x

listed here: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:c5c09f2687c1

Was Roman Science in Decline? (Excerpt from My New Book): https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/13477
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Interview: Mostly Sealing Wax | West Hunter

- conformity and Google, defense and spying (China knows prob almost all our "secrets")
- in the past you could just find new things faster than people could reverse-engineer. part of the problem is that innovation is slowing down today (part of the reason for convergence by China/developing world).
- introgression from archaics of various kinds
- mutational load and IQ, wrath of khan neanderthal
- trade and antiquity (not that useful besides ideas tbh), Roman empire, disease, smallpox
- spices needed to be grown elsewhere, but besides that...
- analogy: caste system in India (why no Brahmin car repairmen?), slavery in Greco-Roman times, more water mills in medieval times (rivers better in north, but still could have done it), new elite not liking getting hands dirty, low status of engineers, rise of finance
- crookery in finance, hedge fund edge might be substantially insider trading
- long-term wisdom of moving all manufacturing to China...?
- economic myopia: British financialization before WW1 vis-a-vis Germany. North vs. South and cotton/industry, camels in Middle East vs. wagons in Europe
- Western medicine easier to convert to science than Eastern, pseudoscience and wrong theories better than bag of recipes
- Greeks definitely knew some things that were lost (eg, line in Pliny makes reference to combinatorics calculation rediscovered by German dude much later. think he's referring to Catalan numbers?), Lucio Russo book
- Indo-Europeans, Western Europe, Amerindians, India, British Isles, gender, disease, and conquest
- no farming (Dark Age), then why were people still farming on Shetland Islands north of Scotland?
- "symbolic" walls, bodies with arrows
- family stuff, children learning, talking dog, memory and aging
- Chinese/Japanese writing difficulty and children learning to read
- Hatfield-McCoy feud: the McCoy family was actually a case study in a neurological journal. they had anger management issues because of cancers of their adrenal gland (!!).

the Chinese know...: https://macropolo.org/casting-off-real-beijings-cryptic-warnings-finance-taking-economy/
Over the last couple of years, a cryptic idiom has crept into the way China’s top leaders talk about risks in the country’s financial system: tuo shi xiang xu (脱实向虚), which loosely translates as “casting off the real for the empty.” Premier Li Keqiang warned against it at his press conference at the end of the 2016 National People’s Congress (NPC). At this year’s NPC, Li inserted this very expression into his annual work report. And in April, while on an inspection tour of Guangxi, President Xi Jinping used the term, saying that China must “unceasingly promote industrial modernization, raise the level of manufacturing, and not allow the real to be cast off for the empty.”

Such an odd turn of phrase is easy to overlook, but it belies concerns about a significant shift in the way that China’s economy works. What Xi and Li were warning against is typically called financialization in developed economies. It’s when “real” companies—industrial firms, manufacturers, utility companies, property developers, and anyone else that produces a tangible product or service—take their money and, rather than put it back into their businesses, invest it in “empty”, or speculative, assets. It occurs when the returns on financial investments outstrip those in the real economy, leading to a disproportionate amount of money being routed into the financial system.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Reason is but a slave of passions as it always has been – Gene Expression
In my short jaunt through Theory writ large I have finally come that conclusion as well. I am a naive realist and a positivist. I work under the assumption that there is a world out there, that that world out there manifests itself in the order we see when we decompose it with analysis and empirical methods. As long as I kept my eyes on prize, the “score,” I felt at peace.

This was dangerously naive. Whereas before I had worked under the hypothesis that my interlocutors were falling prey to cognitive biases when they engaged in ad hominem or logical fallacy, I am now coming to suspect that one some level they are aware that they are engaging in the dialectics of ultimate victory. Every battle they lose is simply another opportunity to shore up their forces in future battles. Just like Rome against Hannibal, their contention that the structure of human society, rather than the world “out there,” is determinative, may very well be true in relation to all that matters.

hmm, women?: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:f155b33f986c

Honestly I’ve given up on the future of classical liberalism in the West. Most people are cowards and liars when push comes to shove. I don’t want to speak of this at length, as it’s a bit like a God-is-dead moment for me, but I thought I’d come clean and be frank. The Critical Theorists are right, power trumps truth. I’m not sure they’ll enjoy what’s to come in the future when objectivity is dethroned, but I think I will probably laugh as the liars scramble to lie different lies, because that is almost certain to happen.

Ultimately I think our society is going the way of Dutch Pillarisation (though I think the Dutch have abandoned this). Basically our professional and personal lives are going to be mediated by our socio-political tribes (and it won’t just be Left vs. Right). Too many people are getting fired or pressured over their politics or viewpoints. At some point large corporations and institutions need to just give up on the idea that they serve the whole public, and intellectuals need to concede that public reason is probably not possible.


I see referrals to this website now and people make comments about me elsewhere (on reddit, in the comments of Unz, on blogs). Some are wondering about my recent pessimism and darkness of spirit. Because people are stupid or socially unintelligent or something they think they can infer something about my personal or professional circumstances from what I put on this website, no matter how many times I caution them not to do that. I’m pretty clear about separating aspects of my life (I’m not a lifestyle blogger…hot sauce blogging excepted).

What I will say is that I’m very happy at my job and have plenty of friends. My third child and second son is a delight.

The darkness you perceive in my soul is that I suspect that the liberal order, which encompasses politics as well as the intellectual world we’ve cherished since the 19th century, is collapsing around us. Just as the Chinese in 1790 or the Romans in 460 were not aware that their world was coming to an end, we continue to carry on as if all is as it was. I’m sort of at the phase between the death of Optimus Prime in the 1980s cartoon and the emergence of Rodimus. I’m not going to turn into a bald-faced liar or ignoramus like so many of the people in the media around us just yet though (you know who I’m talking about I’m sure). Old ways are hard to give up! God has died but his shadow haunts me.
gnxp  scitariat  rhetoric  essay  truth  values  ideology  meta:rhetoric  anthropology  rationality  epistemic  genetics  gene-flow  europe  germanic  pop-structure  race  social-norms  cultural-dynamics  tribalism  science  within-group  zeitgeist  info-dynamics  cynicism-idealism  enlightenment-renaissance-restoration-reformation  identity-politics  is-ought  whiggish-hegelian  modernity  multi  universalism-particularism  cohesion  open-things  gender  civil-liberty  exit-voice  pessimism  orwellian  feudal  the-self  reason  dennett  within-without  illusion 
may 2017 by nhaliday
Tales of the Chinese future past – Gene Expression
older: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2007/09/the-past-and-the-future/
That being said, the past is likely a guide that the Chinese imperialism of the 21st century will not take the form of massed invasions and conquests, but rather client-patron relationships which reinforce the rise of a new hegemon.

Why Confucianism Matters: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/10/why-confucianism-matters/
Why look to China? After all, there were ethical systems in the West. First, I’m not sure that the supernaturalistic religions work to bind elites together anymore due to lack of credibility. Christianity is getting weaker. My own personal hunch is that the current wave of Islamic assertiveness and violence is the paroxysm of a civilization confronting its irrelevance.

Second, Classical Antiquity had plenty of ethical systems, especially during the Hellenistic and Roman period. But Rome collapsed. There was a great rupture between antiquity and the medieval period. In contrast, the Confucian and Neo-Confucian system persisted down to the early 20th century in classical form and casts a strong shadow over East Asia even today. While Stoicism had personal relevance, Confucianism was designed to scale from the individual all the way to the imperial state.

The 1960s saw a radical transition to notional social egalitarianism in the West. This is the world I grew up and matured in. Arguably, I believed in its rightness, inevitability, and eternal dominance, until very recently. But I think that today that model is fraying and people are looking to find some mooring. In particular, I think we are in need of a rectification of names. From Wikipedia:

Confucius was asked what he would do if he was a governor. He said he would “rectify the names” to make words correspond to reality. The phrase has now become known as a doctrine of feudal Confucian designations and relationships, behaving accordingly to ensure social harmony. Without such accordance society would essentially crumble and “undertakings would not be completed.”

How are we supposed to behave with each given person? A lot of this is free-form and improvisational today, and it turns out that many people are not comfortable with this. Humans need scripts.

Finally, the world that Confucianism developed was highly stratified, though there was some chance of advancement. It was not a calcified caste system, but it was a hierarchical one. I believe that is the system that we are moving toward in the West, and it seems that a system that takes for granted non-egalitarianism, such as Confucianism, may benefit us.

Spandrell: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/10/why-confucianism-matters/#comment-6358
I’d say that arguably Confucianism only really flourished after the Song dynasty broke the Chinese aristocracy and instituted a fully civilian ruling class. Confucianism was a force for egalitarianism if anything. It was the religion of the mandarins, not of the people.

If we were to make an analogy to Chinese history I’d say we are more like in the Eastern Han, with private patronage networks taking over the state from within. The result of that wasn’t a strong confucianism. The result was the spread of Buddhism. A very different beast.

Read and check the comments. I wish it were true; I could sell a couple of books if anything. But Confucianism is an ideology of absolutism, not of oligarchy.

The Western Rectification Of Names: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2015/03/09/the-western-rectification-of-names/
The important insight we can gain from the longevity of a Confucian political philosophy is that its core theses do have some utility for complex societies. Unlike that of Rome the Chinese order of two thousand years ago actually persisted down to living memory, with the fall of the Ching in the early 20th century. Confucius believed he was a traditionalist, rediscovering ancient insights as to the proper relations between human beings. I suspect this is correct, insofar as the Golden Mean he and his humanistic followers recommended between the cold and cruel utilitarianism of the Legalists and the unrealistic one of the followers of Mozi is probably the best fit to human psychological dispositions (both the Legalists and Mohists were suspicious of the family).** In the disordered world of the late Zhou, on the precipice of the Warring States period, Confucius and his followers elucidated what was really common sense, but repackaged in a fashion which would appeal more systematically to elites, and scaffold their own more egotistical impulses (in contrast to the Legalists, who seem to have enshrined the ego of the ruler as the summum bonum).

And that is the reality which we face today. Our world is not on the precipice of war, but social and technological changes are such that we are in a period where a new rectification of names is warranted. Old categories of sex, gender, religion and race, are falling or reordering. Western society is fracturing, as the intelligentsia promote their own parochial categories, and traditionalists dissent and retreat into their own subcultures. To give two examples, there are those who might find offense if addressed by the pronoun he or she, even though this is an old convention in Western society. In contrast, traditionalist Christian subcultures no longer have unified control of the public domain which would allow for them to promulgate the basis of their values. There are those who might accede to traditional Christian claims who can not agree with their metaphysics, which the traditional Christians hold to be necessary to be in full agreement.*** In contrast, the progressive faction which declaims the morally restrictive manners of the traditionalist Right in fact belies its own assertions by the proliferation of terms which serve to define the elect from those who do not uphold proper morals and manners.

Why I Am Not A New Atheist: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/11/why-i-am-not-a-new-atheist/
Fundamentally I do not think this is correct. Nor do I think that religious beliefs have much to do with logic or reason. Religion is a complex phenomenon which is rooted in supernatural intuitions and then evolves further in a cultural context, with some possible functional utility as a group-marker.

Second, I do not think religion is the “root of all evil”, and so see no need to convert the world to atheism. Obviously, the horror of Communism illustrates that removing supernatural religion does not remove the human impulse to atrocity.

More recently, I have been convinced that truth and knowledge is a minor value to most humans, including elites. Lying is pretty ubiquitous, and most people are rather satisfied with big lies girding social norms and conventions. One may try to avoid “living by lies” in private, but actually promoting this viewpoint in public is ridiculously self-destructive. Most people could care less about the truth,* while elites simply manipulate facts to buttress their social positions and engage in control.

In other words, the New Atheists seem to think that it’s a worthy to aim to enlighten humanity toward views which they believe align with reality.

At this point, I care about converting the common man to a true understanding of reality as much as I care about a cow grokking trigonometry. I don’t.

i have long believed many 'traditional' institutions and folkways which we in the post-materialist world look askance at are not traditional, but ad hoc cultural kludges and patches for ppl to manage to survive in villages where our cognitive toolkit wasn't sufficient
in an affluent liberal democratic context they may indeed be outmoded and easy to slough off. but if a different form of life, characterized by malthusian immiseration, comes to dominate then the kludges will come back
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Positively wrong | West Hunter
Wanting something to be true doesn’t make it true – but sometimes, desperately wanting something to be true pays off. Sometimes because you’re actually right (by luck), and that passion helps you put in the work required to establish it, sometimes because your deluded quest ends up finding something else of actual value – sometimes far more valuable than what you were looking for.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Solution Aversion: On the Relation Between Ideology and Motivated Disbelief

Believing in climate change, but not behaving sustainably: Evidence from a one-year longitudinal study: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494418301488
We conducted a one-year longitudinal study in which 600 American adults regularly reported their climate change beliefs, pro-environmental behavior, and other climate-change related measures. Using latent class analyses, we uncovered three clusters of Americans with distinct climate belief trajectories: (1) the “Skeptical,” who believed least in climate change; (2) the “Cautiously Worried,” who had moderate beliefs in climate change; and (3) the “Highly Concerned,” who had the strongest beliefs and concern about climate change. Cluster membership predicted different outcomes: the “Highly Concerned” were most supportive of government climate policies, but least likely to report individual-level actions, whereas the “Skeptical” opposed policy solutions but were most likely to report engaging in individual-level pro-environmental behaviors. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Societal collapse - Wikipedia
en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottoman_d… Despite ever increasing rigor & use of sources, this is why academic historians are useless.
Just like the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire never declined. That common-sense notion is too "simplistic." Instead, if was "transformed."
Nevertheless. There was a period when surrounding European powers "trembled at the name" of the vizier or the sultan or the janissary corps.
Some time later, they were eagerly carving up its territory & using it as a diplomatic plaything.
Something happened in that meantime. Something important. I would like to be able to read straightforwardly what those things were.
Hah! I am right now about halfway through Bryan Ward-Perkins book The Fall of Rome and the end of civilization.
One of the best books I have ever read
One of the most important as well for shaping my worldview, my applied epistemology in particular.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Evolution of Virulence | West Hunter
Once upon a time, I thought a lot about evolution and pathogens. I still do, on occasion.

It used to be the case [and still is] that many biologists thought that natural selection would inevitably tend towards a situation in which pathogens did infinitesimal harm to their host. This despite the epidemics all around them. I remember reading a book on parasitology in which the gormless author mentioned a certain species of parasitic copepod that routinely blinded the fish they attached to. He said that many a naive grad student would think that that these parasitic copepods were bad for the fish, but sophisticated evolutionists like himself knew (and would explain to the newbies) that of course the fish didn’t suffer any reduction in fitness by going blind – theory said so ! Clearly, that man had a Ph.D.

If a pathogen can gain increased reproduction by tapping host resources, or by doing any damn thing that helps itself and hurts the host, that tactic may pay, and be selected for. It depends on the balance between the advantages and costs – almost entirely those to the pathogen, since the pathogen evolves much more rapidly than the host. In some cases, as much as a million times faster – because of generations that may be 20 minutes long rather than 20 years, because pathogens often have very large populations, which favors Fisherian acceleration, and in many cases, a relatively high mutation rate. Pathogen evolution is, at least some cases, so rapid that you see significant evolutionary change within a single host. Along the same lines, we have seen very significant evolutionary changes in antibiotic resistance among pathogenic bacteria over the past few decades, but I’m pretty sure that there hasn’t been much evolutionary change in mankind since I was a kid.

So when analyzing virulence, people mostly consider evolutionary pressures on the pathogens, rather than the host. Something like the Born-Oppenheimer approximation.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Sustainability | West Hunter
There have been societies that functioned for a long time, thousands of years. They had sustainable demographic patterns. That means that they had enough children to replace themselves – not necessarily in every generation, but over the long haul. But sustainability requires more than that. Long-lived civilizations [ones with cities, literacy, governments, and all that] had a pattern of natural selection that didn’t drastically decrease intelligence – in some cases, one that favored it, at least in some subgroups. There was also ongoing selection against mutational accumulation – which meant that individuals with more genetic load than than average were significantly less likely to survive and reproduce. Basically, this happened through high child mortality, and in some cases by lower fitness in lower socioeconomic classes [starvation]. There was nothing fun about it.

Modern industrialized societies are failing on all three counts. Every population that can make a decent cuckoo clock has below-replacement fertility. The demographic pattern also selects against intelligence, something like one IQ point a generation. And, even if people at every level of intelligence had the same number of children, so that there was no selection against IQ, we would still be getting more and messed up, because there’s not enough selection going on to counter ongoing mutations.

It is possible that some country, or countries, will change in a way that avoids civilizational collapse. I doubt if this will happen by voluntary action. Some sort of technological solution might also arise – but it has to be soon.

Bruce Charlton, Victorian IQ, Episcopalians, military officers:
Again, I don’t believe a word of it. As for the declining rate of innovation, you have to have a really wide-ranging understanding of modern science and technology to have any feeling for what the underlying causes are. I come closer than most, and I probably don’t know enough. You don’t know enough. Let me tell you one thing: if genetic potential IQ for IQ had dropped 1 std, we’d see the end of progress in higher mathematics, and that has not happened at all.

Moreover, the selective trends disfavoring IQ all involve higher education among women and apparently nothing else – a trend which didn’t really get started until much more recently.

Not long enough, nor is dysgenic selection strong enough.

ranting on libertarians:
About 40% of those Americans with credit cards keep a balance on their credit cards and pay ridiculous high interest. But that must be the right decision!
” then that is their decision” – that’s fucking obvious. The question is whether they tend to make decisions that work very well – saying ‘that is their decision” is exactly the kind of crap I was referring to. As for “they probably have it coming” – if I’m smarter than you, which I surely am, using those smarts to rook you in every possible way must be just peachy. In fact, I’ll bet I could manage it even after warning you in advance.

On average, families in this country have paid between 10% and 14% of their income in debt service over the past few decades. That fraction averages considerably higher in low-income families – more like 18%. A quarter of those low income families are putting over 40% of their income into debt service. That’s mostly stuff other than credit-card debt.

Is this Straussian?

Examining Arguments Made by Interest Rate Cap Advocates: https://www.mercatus.org/system/files/peirce_reframing_ch13.pdf

Interest rate caps on $1,000 installment loans, by US state, today and in 1935
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march 2017 by nhaliday
A New Germ Theory: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1999/02/a-new-germ-theory/377430/
The dictates of evolution virtually demand that the causes of some of humanity's chronic and most baffling "noninfectious" illnesses will turn out to be pathogens -- that is the radical view of a prominent evolutionary biologist

A LATE-SEPTEMBER heat wave enveloped Amherst College, and young people milled about in shorts or sleeveless summer frocks, or read books on the grass. Inside the red-brick buildings framing the leafy quadrangle students listened to lectures on Ellison and Emerson, on Paul Verlaine and the Holy Roman Empire. Few suspected that strains of the organism that causes cholera were growing nearby, in the Life Sciences Building. If they had known, they would probably not have grasped the implications. But these particular strains of cholera make Paul Ewald smile; they are strong evidence that he is on the right track. Knowing the rules of evolutionary biology, he believes, can change the course of infectious disease.

I HAVE a motto," Gregory Cochran told me recently. "'Big old diseases are infectious.' If it's common, higher than one in a thousand, I get suspicious. And if it's old, if it has been around for a while, I get suspicious."

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february 2017 by nhaliday
The Inexorable Progress of Science: Archaeology | West Hunter
I was noting something from Mario Alinei (an advocate of a model in which nobody ever invaded Europe, probably including Omaha Beach). He blames ideology:

” Surprisingly, although the archaeological research of the last few decennnia has
provided more and more evidence that no large-scale invasion took place in
Europe in the Calcholithic, Indoeuropean linguistics has stubbornly held to its
strong invasionist assumption, and has continued to produce more and more
variations on the old theme.

Clearly, the answer is ideological. For the invasion model was first advanced in the nineteenth century, when archaeology and related sciences were dominated by the ideology of colonialism, as recent historical research has shown. The successive generations of linguists and archaeologists have been strongly inspired by the racist views that stemmed out of colonialism. Historians of archaeology (e.g. Daniel 1962, Trigger 1989) have repeatedly shown the importance of ideology in shaping archaeological theories as well as theories of human origins, while, unfortunately, linguistics has not followed the same course, and thus strongly believes in its own innocence.”

You know, he may have a point.

With a very limited set of clues, smart guys managed to get key facts about European prehistory roughly correct almost 90 years ago . With tremendously better tools, better methods, vastly more money, more data, etc, archaeologists (most of them) drifted farther and farther from the truth.

It is a refreshing antidote to previous accounts based on the pots-not-people fad that originated back in the 1960s, like so many other bad things. Once upon a time, when the world was young, archaeologists would find a significant transition in artifact types, see a simultaneous change in skeletons, and deduce that new tenants had arrived, for example with advent of the Bell Beaker culture. This became unfashionable: archaeologists were taught to think that invasions and Völkerwanderungs were never the explanation, even though history records many events of this kind. I suppose the work Franz Boas published back in 1912, falsely claiming that environment controlled skull shape rather than genetics, had something to do with it. And surely some archaeologists went overboard with migration, suggesting that New Coke cans were a sign of barbarian takeover. The usual explanation though, is that archaeologists began to find the idea of prehistoric population replacement [of course you know that means war – war means fighting, and fighting means killing] distasteful and concluded that therefore it must not have happened. Which meant that they were total loons, but that seems to happen a lot.


I mean, when the first farmers were settling Britain, about 4000 BC, they built ditched and palisaded enclosures. Some of these camps are littered with human bones – so, naturally, Brian Fagan, in a popular prehistory textbook, suggests that ” perhaps these camps were places where the dead were exposed for months before their bones were deposited in nearby communal burials.” ! . We also find thousands of flint arrowheads in extensive investigations of some of these enclosures, concentrated along the palisade and especially at the gates. Sounds a lot like Fort Apache, to me.

more in interview here: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:9ab84243b967

interesting comment about archaeological traces of wars:
Most wars known to have happened in historical times haven't left much of an archaeological record.

The same archaeologists were, a few years ago, sure that migrations and population replacements didn't play a big role in European prehistory.

possibly relevant for historicity of Exodus/OT?
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Son of low-hanging fruit | West Hunter
You see, you can think of the thunderstorm, after a ground discharge, as a vertical dipole. Its electrical field drops as the cube of altitude. The threshold voltage for atmospheric breakdown is proportional to pressure, while pressure drops exponentially with altitude: and as everyone knows, a negative exponential drops faster than any power.

The curves must cross. Electrical breakdown occurs. Weird lightning, way above the clouds.

As I said, people reported sprites at least a hundred years ago, and they have probably been observed occasionally since the dawn of time. However, they’re far easier to see if you’re above the clouds – pilots often do.

Pilots also learned not to talk about it, because nobody listened. Military and commercial pilots have to pass periodic medical exams known as ‘flight physicals’, and there was a suspicion that reporting glowing red cephalopods in the sky might interfere with that. Generally, you had to see the things that were officially real (whether they were really real or not), and only those things.

Sprites became real when someone recorded one by accident on a fast camera in 1989. Since then it’s turned into a real subject, full of strangeness: turns out that thunderstorms sometimes generate gamma-rays and even antimatter.
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november 2016 by nhaliday
Personnel decision | West Hunter
I think we are about due for a career civil servant within the agency or relatively recently retired from it (ideally to academia), with a PhD or M.D. and probably a pay grade of either GS-15 or Senior Executive Service (SES), who has a reputation for integrity, for intelligence, and for getting things done bureaucratically, with some low profile political connections (at least to the ruling party but ideally to both political parties) in private life as well (e.g. through friendships made at a top college, a politician or top political aide parent, or friendships made while attending a top D.C. private school like Sidwell Friends or St. Albion’s or National Cathedral School).

Few federal agencies call for more subject-matter competence to understand its functions well enough to run it well.
The problem is that the typical member of the set you describe is nuts. Members have a lot of incorrect ideas in their heads: in fact, you have to express support of those ideas or you are expelled. So, that means that every educational improvement plan pushed by the Feds fails: you can’t do anything realistic, or you would be a bad person. Every intervention in the Middle East fails: same reason. AIDs shows up, so we abandon quarantine: Fidel Castro deals with the situation 50 times better than we did.

The Aztecs thought that the world would end if they didn’t keep cutting people’s hearts out on an industrial scale. They were crazy. But were they crazier than we are?
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september 2016 by nhaliday
The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everday Life

A Book Response Prediction: https://www.overcomingbias.com/2017/03/a-book-response-prediction.html
I predict that one of the most common responses will be something like “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” While the evidence we offer is suggestive, for claims as counterintuitive as ours on topics as important as these, evidence should be held to a higher standard than the one our book meets. We should shut up until we can prove our claims.

I predict that another of the most common responses will be something like “this is all well known.” Wise observers have known and mentioned such things for centuries. Perhaps foolish technocrats who only read in their narrow literatures are ignorant of such things, but our book doesn’t add much to what true scholars and thinkers have long known.


Elephant in the Brain on Religious Hypocrisy:
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august 2016 by nhaliday
Trust Issues | West Hunter
Imagine how we would have dealt with Japanese-Americans in 1942 if we had been informed by modern sensibilities.

Our stated and enforced policy would have been based on the notion that both Issei and Nisei were perfectly trustworthy, no more likely to aid the Empire of Japan than the Dutch in Grand Rapids

So we would have drafted them into the armed forces just like anyone else, and employed them where their skills seemed useful. We would have had them translating Japanese navy intercepts: we were short on Japanese-language translators, so why not? There would have been a bunch of them working with Hypo, down in the basement. Some would have worked in the Manhattan Project. They would have had jobs in the OSS, in the FBI. What could possibly have gone wrong?


Our actual response was suboptimal: people who knew the score (J. Edgar Hoover) thought that putting the Japanese into camps was a mistake. Watching and infiltrating known pro-Nippon groups, punishing those that actually committed crimes was perfectly feasible; combined with reasonable discretion in assigning Japanese to useful but nonclassified jobs, you would have a policy that was more effective than the one we actually pursued.

Locking them up (except in Hawaii !), wasn’t the best course, but it was a million times more sensible than what we would do today. Because in 1942, Americans weren’t crazy: today, they are.

Could you trust Chinese immigrants? Mostly not. Chinese Americans? Certainly not all of them. But then, what do you do with them?

Let them go home? This issue has come up before. The Feds locked up H. S. Tsien [Qian Xuesen] back in the 50s because they thought he was pro-Chinese and would aid the Chinese rocket program. When they finally let him go, that’s exactly what he did.

There have been many cases in which key individuals have been allowed to go home and fight with their homies, due to chivalry or some other form of stupidity. in 1861, the Feds let many officers go home and fight for the Confederacy. Radomir Putnik, chief of the Serbian general staff, was taking the waters in Austria when the First World War broke out. They let him go home – were they ever sorry! Gernot Zippe, an Austrian POW in a Siberian camp, built a workable centrifuge for separating isotopes. Yet, to my lasting surprise, the Soviets let him go in 1956. He became the Johnny Appleseed of nuclear proliferation [along with Eisenhower – Atoms for Peace].

jfc, Eisenhower: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atoms_for_Peace
Atoms for Peace created the ideological background for the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, but also gave political cover for the U.S. nuclear weapons build-up, and the backdrop to the Cold War arms race. Under Atoms for Peace related programs the U.S. exported over 25 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) to 30 countries, mostly to fuel research reactors, which is now regarded as a proliferation and terrorism risk. The Soviet Union also exported over 11 tons of HEU under a similar program.[8]

lmao: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weixian_Internment_Camp
The compound was a Japanese-run internment camp created during World War II to keep civilians of Allied countries living in Northern China. The camp's population included British, Canadian, American, Australian and other citizens who were forced to stay in the camp for nearly two and a half years until American forces liberated them on August 17, 1945.[1] Information on Weixian has been learned through papers, diaries, official reports and letters written by internees, family members, and other people affected.


During World War II, the Allies were at war with Japan. The Japanese invaded most of the area from the Aleutian Islands in the far North to the Southern regions of New Guinea, and from Western Burma to the Mid Pacific Ocean.[2] Japan historically invaded China on July 7, 1937, which began the second Sino-Japanese War.[3] Overall, the Japanese held approximately 125,000 civilian prisoners or internees. Of those 125,000 civilian internees, 10% were in China and Hong Kong throughout the war.[2] Many allied civilians, mostly Americans and British, lived in some of the Japanese-occupied areas and were forced to relocate themselves into internment camps. The Japanese called these Internment camps Civilian Assembly Centers. In these camps, death rates were high because of the lack of good sanitation, starvation, and poor treatment. There were the occasional executions and some internees suffered cruelty and torture.
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august 2016 by nhaliday
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Ending Poverty - The Atlantic
The case for colonialism: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01436597.2017.1369037

The Case for Contrarianism: http://quillette.com/2017/10/10/the-case-for-contrarianism/
Another semester, another academic publishing scandal, complete with calls for penitence and punishment. This time the catalyst is “The Case for Colonialism,” a “Viewpoint” editorial in Third World Quarterly. In this essay, Bruce Gilley argued that “it is high time to question [the anti-colonial] orthodoxy. Western colonialism was, as a general rule, both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most of the places where it was found, using realistic measures of those concepts.” Gilley’s article has since been withdrawn due to “serious and credible threats of personal violence” made against the journal’s editor. This obviously troubling development should make us wonder: just what evil would this article have brought about if not withdrawn? The Streisand effect is in full display here. The article – detailed, abstruse, and not always beautifully written – has no doubt been far more widely read than it would have been without the controversy.


What’s worth emulating about a prediction market is that it turns the expression of unpopular beliefs into a low-risk, high-reward enterprise. In the real, social world, it is often very costly to dissent from a dominant view: friendships can be lost and careers ruined. But it is not costly at all to assent to a dominant view; on the contrary, conforming in this way is helpful and often necessary both socially and professionally.

Now, consider the situation of someone who believes, for instance, that the dominant view is just as likely to be false as it is true. Normal incentives push such a person to go along with the dominant view, and they may feel perfectly comfortable about it. But the incentives of a prediction market would push a person in the opposite manner. They would push a person, who believes the dominant view is actually a 50/50 proposition, to invest in the belief which has a higher reward – that is, the less popular viewpoint. The distribution of this market ends up more rational over time simply because the dominant view is not artificially inflated by people playing it safe.

Author of article on “the case for colonialism” withdraws it after death threats and social-media mobbing; academics are mostly silent: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/10/12/author-of-article-on-the-case-for-colonialism-withdraws-it-after-death-threats-and-social-media-mobbing-colleagues-are-mostly-silent/
“Credible threats of personal violence” against editor prompt withdrawal of colonialism paper: http://retractionwatch.com/2017/10/09/credible-threats-personal-violence-editor-prompt-withdrawal-colonialism-paper/
How the hate mob tried to silence me: http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/7027/full
- Bruce Gilley

This is where the "Case for Colonialism" paper goes wrong. Western states today couldn't recolonize an anthill. It's Singapore's job
I wouldn't put today's Western states in charge of anything important
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july 2016 by nhaliday

bundles : infopatternsthinking

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