How do you bait a trap for the soul?

You bait a trap for a mouse with tasty food. How do you bait a soul-trap for people too smart to fall for conventional religion? With half-truths, of course.

I bailed out of an attempt to induct me into a cult tonight. The cult is called Landmark Forum or Landmark Education, and is descended from est, the Erhard Seminars Training. The induction attempt was mediated by a friend of mine who shall remain nameless. He has attended several Landmark events, praises the program to the skies, and probably does not realize even now that he has begun to exhibit classic cult-follower symptoms (albeit so far only in a quite a mild form – trying as hard as he did to to recruit me is the main one so far).

“But Eric. How did you know it was a cult?”

Oh, I dunno. Maybe it was all the shiny happy Stepford people with the huge smiles and the nameplates and the identical slightly glassy-eyed affect greeting us several times on the way to the auditorium. Maybe it was the folksy presenter with the vaguely Southern accent spewing pseudo-profundities about “living into your future” and “you will get Nothing from this training” (yes, you could hear the capital N). Maybe it was the parade of people telling stories about how broken they were until they found Landmark.

Dear Goddess, hasn’t everybody seen this movie by now? It wasn’t even subtle. They might as well have put up a nine-foot-high neon sign announcing “HI, WE’LL BE YOUR BRAINWASHERS FOR THE EVENING.” The only uncertainty left in my mind is how pathological this particular gang is – whether their cult induction machinery is mainly mechanism for vacuuming money out of wallets or they actually have a core group that gets off on the processing-people-into-compliant-zombies thing.

What makes outfits like this truly dangerous is that they aren’t entirely wrong. That is, their theory of how human beings tick (a jigger of Neuro-Linguistic Programing, a dash of cognitive behavior therapy, a few skooches of transactional analysis, and generally a substratum of Zen-by-any-other-name) actually works well enough that if you do the process you are in fact likely to clean up a bunch of the shit in your life. Even Scientology, the biggest and nastiest of the cult groups traveling as “therapy”, teaches some useful things – Hubbard’s model of the “reactive mind” is pretty shrewd psychology.

The trouble with cults is that they aren’t actually about the parts that are true. They’re about using the true parts to hook you, to condition you into an becoming an eager little propagator of their memetic infection. For that to happen, your ability to think critically about the doctrine has to be pretty much entirely shut down. Fortunately the behavioral signs of this degeneration are quite easy to spot – I would have learned to recognize them back at the dawn of the New Age movement around 1970 even if I hadn’t gone to Catholic schools before that.

I bailed out after about 20 minutes. It was just too drearily obvious where it was all going.

The evening wasn’t done with me yet, though. It was a cold walk from 7th Street to the 15th-Street train station, and my path took me past a Philly cop on the beat and through City Hall. I think the cop spotted the .45 on my hip under my A2 jacket and that could have become unpleasant – carrying concealed is legal in Philly but the police have been known to hassle carriers pretty hard. This one just nodded at me as I walked by. Maybe he’d read the Heller decision.

Pholadelphia’s City Hall is a huge rococo pile of Second French Empire gingerbread with one redeeming feature – four archway entrances lead to a huge central courtyard where, at the exact center of Philadelphia, there’s a big lovely compass rose in the pavement stonework. Well, there used to be. It’s gone. You can see traces of it around the outside. There’s a big rectangular concrete patch where the center was. I mourn – it’s like they ripped the symbolic heart out of my city. By the wear on the concrete it’s been like that for some years, and I didn’t know.

I was still thinking about this when I descended into the 15th-Street station. I was slightly hungry, having not had dinner, and – aha – I spotted an Au Bon Pain, aka “McDonalds for foodies”. So there I am standing at the counter waiting for night-shift guy to make my sandwich. Night shift guy is what you’d expect behind this kind of service counter in this city: black urban dude in his late twenties. Maybe a bit more alert-looking than average but nothing at all remarkable about him.

So I said “I just bailed out of an attempt to induct me into a cult”. He replied – and I will now channel Dave Barry and assure you that I am not making this up:

“The Obama administration?”

Maybe there’s hope for us yet.

933 thoughts on “How do you bait a trap for the soul?

  1. As many times as I’ve been to Center City Philadelphia, I’ve never actually been into City Hall. I should rectify that.

    But I never thought of you as thinking of Philadelphia as your city, for some reason. You always seemed to be apart from it a bit. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve actually been anywhere with you east of Radnor.

    As for the cop…he might well have sized you up as a sheepdog instead of a wolf, and decided to leave well enough alone. Cops, even (maybe especially) Philadelphia cops, are pretty good at such things.

    And yeah, there may be hope yet.

  2. Jay, Philadelphia is the only municipal entity close enough to us to warrant the name, so of course it’s “our City”. All the more so for Eric, because he actually lived there while he was in college (I only worked there).

  3. > [bits and pieces of useful stuff as bait]
    An interesting project would be to sift through all of these “memetic infections” (great term) and compile the useful bits vs. the payload of the attack. Do you know of any such project?

    >Maybe there’s hope for us yet.
    Wow, just wow.

    I’m still attempting to map what is really going on in this country: massive left-wing slide, libertarian paradise around the corner, diaperhead invasion? What do you look for / ignore?

    — Foo Quuxman

  4. Heh. I never saw the Stepford Wives movie, but I remember Werner Erhard. And Scientology, with which I have both a Slashdot and a personal beef. And Synanon. Oy! Talk about a TRIP.

    And then there was the girl I met who had run away from the Tony And Susan Alamo foundation, which was a Jesus freak cult that didn’t believe in sex. Girl had a lot of sex to catch up on. I helped her the best I could.

    San Francisco had a lot of strange people back then (1970s). Still does.

  5. >You always seemed to be apart from it a bit.

    You didn’t know me when I lived in West Philly.

    >he might well have sized you up as a sheepdog instead of a wolf, and decided to leave well enough alone.

    That possibility occurred to me at the time, especially because he nodded. Older guy, white, looked like he’d seen it all…which improves the odds on that theory.

  6. Good post, great closing story. Maybe the night shift guy recently got his new, smaller, paycheck.

  7. Pingback: Robert JR Graham » Distinctions Between Extremists

  8. Amusing ending, although I don’t think I’d call Obama a cult. If there is a left-wing cult in the US, Obama himself hasn’t been a Member In Good Standing for years.

    Sure, he won the election, but that’s because all of his `betrayals’ were things the left would expect any Republican president to do anyway.

    In 2012, the only real difference between the two candidates was gay rights (which proved decisive).

    The Republicans blew a big opportunity to mop the floor with Obama:

    http://www.engadget.com/2012/11/20/change-copyright-now/

    If only they’d published it before the election, and not retracted it. Computer types who’d like to abolish copyright are one of the hardest groups for the Republicans to attract at present.

  9. I have been voting straight Cthulhu in for the last twelve years. However, in the 2016 election, I intend to vote Obama for president.

    If Obama runs for president again in 2016, anyone who suggests that it is unconstitutional will be deemed crazy, without, however it being explained whether you are crazy to think he has already been president in 2008, crazy to think that the constitution places a term limit of two terms on presidents, or crazy to think we still have a constitution.

  10. The Constitution: It’s not perfect, but it’s better than what we have now.

  11. See the Afterword at http://www.jerrypournelle.com/pictures/wotf.html#scientology for Jerry Pornelle’s discussion of how L. Ron Hubbard created Dianetics and why he turned it into Scientology.

    Short version: If you’re getting in legal trouble for practicing medicine without a license when using your pet theories (“Dianetics is easily shown to be a synthesis of Jung and Korzybski[’s General Sematics]”), the First Amendment can protect you if you declare yourself a religion.

  12. Some years ago, a couple of friends of mine attended a Landmark forum and invited my wife and I to a subsequent recruitment evening. Our take on it was pretty much the same: cult-ish, but definitely containing some good material (in fact, the aforementioned friends benefited greatly from their attendance, as did our friendship).

    I think membership in this sort of group can be a ‘less-wrong’ phenomenon. E.g. I’ve known people who were literally destroying their lives (drug abuse (as opposed to use), organised crime, assault, etc. etc.) and then ‘cleaned up’ by joining a religion.

    I’ll grant you all of the epistemological, moral and ethical faults with religion, but: membership in a relatively benign happy-clappy Christian group is less wrong than suicide by drugs or cops.

    Perhaps this partially explains the success of cults (in which group I include religion)? Maybe you get _enough_ of the benefits of a good philosophy to get by, without the hard work that’s involved in a truly rational one?

  13. There’s a diet cult called Isagenix which, surprise surprise, is also an MLM. My sister got involved with this and I was actually able to witness this sort of trap firsthand. The thing about Isagenix is if you follow the program you will lose weight — a lot of it. But not for the reasons stated. (A big hint should be the use of herbal laxatives in their “cleanse” product.) So people see promising results early on and their brains are primed to accept the new-age health-food-nut nonsense — and of course the critical bit of nonsense that says big profits will come your way if you sell, sell, sell. Bam — instant, free sales force.

    It’s actually fairly frustratingly hard to find negative material about Isagenix online, despite ALL of the warning signs being there. Like Scientology tried to do in the late 90s, Isagenix apparently incentivizes its “associates” to google-bomb search terms relating to it (along with certain key words like “scam”) with positive glowing material. And it all sounds the same.

    Meanwhile, I think I might scream if I hear my sister utter another word of Isa-ganda.

  14. I cannot see how the Obama administration can qualify as a cult. From over here in Europe, the Republicans sounded much more cult-like.
    Also, if I remember well, Romney also lost in any demographic that was not “white male non-urban” voters. My impression too was that Romney could have won easily if he had chosen a different vice president, had not alienated women and Hispanic voters, had not expressed his opinion that he hated half the population, and had not hired Microsoft and Accenture to build his Orca system.

    But hey, what do I know? I live on a different continent.

  15. Duncan Bayne: Bingo. Evolutionary mechanisms aren’t always neat and pretty and rational, but those that are still around can be said to have worked.

  16. I think cults are an example of “Any powerful tool is dangerous”.

    The basic power in the religion-cult-gang spectrum seems to be to supply a meaningful social structure to the life of their followers, or any structure at all. And something to fully occupy their time and mind (remember all the group activity, praying, and studying of lectures?). We all know the personality traits of their victims.

    Given the pervasiveness of religious and cult-like elements in society, I would limit the word Cult to organizations that try to isolate their followers. Your Landmark Forum seems to be just a money scam. But I am already very suspicious if an organization is “too well organized”. Any organization that is “extremely well organized” is single minded and working to only a single goal. That goal is only rarely my general benefit.

    Given the mountains of literature and scriptures available on how to insert meaning into a person’s life and mend dysfunctional habits (starting with all the stuff written down in the 5th century BCE), anyone can easily create a cult. And that is indeed done time and again.

  17. @Duncan Bayne
    “Maybe you get _enough_ of the benefits of a good philosophy to get by, without the hard work that’s involved in a truly rational one?”

    We seriously over-estimate our ability to understand the world rationally.

    Not because of some religious mystic force, but because my brain has limited computing power. Luckily, evolution has added some hormonal and emotional shortcuts that keep me alive and steer me to the right people to hang around.

  18. >Computer types who’d like to abolish copyright are one of the hardest groups for the Republicans to attract at present.

    Indeed we are, at least in part because it’s a young demographic. But there are a few of us (like me) who are, though not entirely enthusiastic Republicans, at least staunch enough anti-Democrats to pass for committed Republicans given the two party system, generally by virtue of belonging to some other more traditionally Republican demographic (white evangelicals in my case).

  19. @Winter:
    >I cannot see how the Obama administration can qualify as a cult. From over here in Europe, the Republicans sounded much more cult-like.

    Both are, I think, to some degree, with a heavy dose of “enemy of my enemy” added in. But the Obama campaign in 2008 was very cult-like. An Argentinian friend of mine, who was fairly critical of both parties, remarked at the time that his first reaction to Obama’s campaign speeches and tactics was to start chanting “Pe-rón! Pe-rón!”.

    And quite frankly, the Republicans don’t really have the political capital to be a cult right now. They manage to hang on to their base because the Democratic cult threatens a good portion of that base, because the first-past-the-post nature of American elections creates a two-party system, and, because, for various reasons, the third parties are unsatisfactory to the elements of the Republican base even without the two-party system (and many third parties are downright crazy). So it’s mostly an “enemy of my enemy” thing at the moment.

  20. You went to a Landmark event? Who *doesn’t* know they’re a cult? They’ve been around forever. But your analysis of how they (and others) work is spot-on. I’m glad you walked, but always be aware that it’s easy to get caught up in these things. No one is immune.

  21. > We seriously over-estimate our ability to understand the world rationally.

    Absolutely.

    > Not because of some religious mystic force, but because my brain has limited computing power.

    I think it’s more because we have older, more purely emotional “reptile” and “mammal” brains from which our rationality arises (often imperfectly). Brain scans show that a decision we think is rational may actually start in non-rational parts of our brains, then we rationalize it and think we have made a rational decision.

  22. @ltw
    “No one is immune.”

    I do not think so. Not everyone can become a junkie (studies of morphine administration in hospital have shown that). In the same vein, not everyone can be drawn into a cult. Actually, I suspect the populations sensitive to drug abuse and cults to overlap considerably.

  23. Plenty of things there…..(seen from Europe)

    Obama being a cult : seems fading. Was obviously true in 2008. My perception is that he was reelected by default of a credible opponent(47% of my potential electors ars thieves, ahem…..). Maybe it’s more obvious now in the US because it is fading.

    Republicans being a cult : seems more complex. Tea party is obviously a way of thinking that infuses the brain & makes everyone think the same in that group. Kind of cult. But they are not the whole part of the republicans, it seems to me.

    Religion being useful : I’ve seen it quite a few times. Some people are able of independant thought, some are desperately in need of outside guidance. Whatever it is. Where religion(or secular beliefs) are honest, it can be a great life enhancer. Trouble of course is that it gives the guru a great power. Many abuse this power. They heal drug-addicted, they get bandits to the honest working path, they steal everyone, and they brainwash followers to anything they think good. Or not.

    My own wife is a strong believer, & we sometimes attend baptist church office on sundays. Where we go seems completely harmless. Yet I am always VERY cautious about possible manipulations. As long as the message is to love the lord & respect his children(i.e. everyone on this planet), i see no problem going there. Though if they happen to deal with bible inerrancy or creationist bullcrap, I think I’ll raise a veto to going there : that kind of thoughts definitively rots the mind. Tight now, they just take care of handicapped. In name of the lord, but who cares?

    IMHO, religion is like all kinds of power(political, economical, ideological…). You can do great things with it. You can do horrible things also. The BIG difference is that the very base of it is irrational.

  24. Republicans being a cult : seems more complex. Tea party is obviously a way of thinking that infuses the brain & makes everyone think the same in that group. Kind of cult. But they are not the whole part of the republicans, it seems to me.

    Um I don’t think I agree with your description of the Tea Party. Mind you I’m just a (frequent) visitor to the US and really only visit California and the DC area so quite possibly I’m missing a lot.

    But the tea party people I have met (online and off) seem to have significant variation in beliefs of just about everything except for the basic commonality of “there isn’t any more money, so stop spending it” and, for the most part, its corollary of “shrink government”

    To go back to cults in general. Are the Mormons cultists? I have to say that they certainly seem to exhibit many of the signs but not all by any means. For example, I’ve met a lot of them and they have been without exception “nice”* and (missionaries excepted) not actively pushing others to join.

    *nice – can’t think of a better way to describe it. They are polite, willing to help, (frequently astoundingly) hospitable and stick to agreements. All of which I used to think were just what people did but which my years on this planet have shown to be rarer than they should be.

  25. That must be an advanced cult. I was at a Scientology lecture when I was young and did not know better, and what made me leave early was basically that it was just content-free: optimistic messages, success stories, can-do vibrations, ray-traced horses running free on a large screen (not making it up), spending a good hour on nothing but drilling in how cool they are.

  26. @Shenpen
    I am always fascinated by the tight links between Marketing and Cults. To the extend that I immediately look for a scam if the marketing is smooth.

  27. “In the same vein”

    Nice junkie pun there Winter. Ok, not everyone can be sucked in. I suppose I should have said you can’t tell who is vulnerable. One of the things people commonly believe about cults is that they recruit from down and out losers, and that “they would never fall for that”. Not true.

    I also doubt – don’t know for sure – that substance abuse and susceptibility to brainwashing correlate. Substance abusers tend to exhibit steadily increasing withdrawal from life in general, to the point of isolation. You could argue that so do cultists (in favour of their new friends) but the gregarious nature of a cult – they have to be to maintain their hold on you – would grate very badly on any drunk I’ve ever known, myself included.

    Recovering addicts, perhaps. I’ve long thought that AA and NA are not far off being cults themselves.

  28. I’ve long thought that AA and NA are not far off being cults themselves.

    Whoa… yes. My stepbrother attended AA briefly (but left after a few weeks and quit drinking on his own). I looked at some of the reading material he brought back and got a really creepy vibe from it. Now you’ve made me realize why.

  29. Any group organized enough to assign greeters to welcome people is doing a certain amount of mind control.

    I really wish Herman Cain’s campaign hadn’t imploded. He didn’t have any more skeletons in his closet than Bill Clinton. He was merely in the wrong party, with the wrong message. He would have wiped the floor with Barak Obama.

  30. BobW: Yeah, me too. It would have ended once and for all the meme that conservatives are racists.

    My reaction when Eric told me this story on the phone was “Whoever sent you there didn’t know you very well, did they?” I can’t think of very many people who are more immune to the calling of such a thing than him.

    And if AA/NA are cults, they’re reasonably benign ones, and at least have a genuinely good result. That’s probably because their goal is not to do anything more than get the person to stop using.

  31. Cults rely on a charismatic leader.

    If the charismatic leader dies, and all the people who ever met the charismatic leader die, but the structure has taken on a life of its own and is granting a survival advantage to its adherents rather than destroying the lives of its followers and disintegrating, that means it’s a religion.

    When you get down to it, to deny the validity of religion is to deny the theory of evolution.

  32. @Winter

    @ltw

    “No one is immune.”

    I do not think so. Not everyone can become a junkie (studies of morphine administration in hospital have shown that). In the same vein, not everyone can be drawn into a cult. Actually, I suspect the populations sensitive to drug abuse and cults to overlap considerably.

    ltw is correct, no-one is immune to falling prey to a cult. It’s possible you may be immune to falling prey to specific cults because their message is one you can easily see through due to past experience. That does not mean that you will not have moments of weakness in your life and at that moment find yourself lectured to by a slick salesman speaking on a subject you have little experience in. Humans are all vulnerable because human perception of the universe is terrifically limited, and our lives are full of pain. We *want* to believe there are magic pills that can remove the pain, and we *want* to believe that we know secrets of life that we can share with friends/family/colleagues. That’s basic human nature, we all have that. Since we all have that, we’re all vulnerable to falling prey to a cult. The only question mark is what specific exposure is required for you to want to believe without question.

  33. I’m pretty sure I’m immune. You see, back in 2001, I got hooked up with something called Word of Life Centre. I won’t go as far to say they’re a cult, but interesting things started happening. I felt we had messed up, and in fairly obvious ways, and voiced my opinions to such after almost two years of attendance.

    The resulting break severed my relationship with every member of that organization, including ones that had nothing to do with it, i.e. colleagues at work who were still attending. It was two years later still that I picked up the book I linked earlier, and wow: the book practically describes Word of Life Centre! “Churches That Abuse” is Enroth’s manual for avoiding cults.

    Anyway, I’m going to try to keep this short and simple: There are two published “Stages of Faith” systems that I am aware of, Jeff Fowler’s titular contribution and Scott Peck’s “Further Along The Road Less Traveled” (which mentions the first.)

    http://www.amazon.com/Stages-Faith-Psychology-Development-Meaning/dp/0060628669
    http://www.amazon.com/Further-Along-Road-Less-Traveled/dp/068484723X

    If you are in or past Stage 4 of the former, in or past Stage 3 of the latter, you are immune to cults. I suspect that this is true of less than 3% of the human population.

  34. @Jay Maynard:

    BobW: Yeah, me too. It would have ended once and for all the meme that conservatives are racists.

    Not only that, I think he might have made a good president. He had charisma coming out his ears. He was a math major. He was a restaurant chain turnaround artist. He could talk to anybody. He had his priorities straight.

    He was weak on foreign policy, but so is the current occupant of the White House. Biden isn’t helping.

    He was black, successful, and didn’t toe the Liberal/Progressive/Socialist party line. He had to go, before he embarassed the wrong people.

  35. I really wish Herman Cain’s campaign hadn’t imploded. He didn’t have any more skeletons in his closet than Bill Clinton. He was merely in the wrong party, with the wrong message. He would have wiped the floor with Barak Obama.

    If you’re going to shag women on the side, it’s political suicide to do it as a Republican because you risk alienating your Christian, conservative, sexually prudish party base.

    Democrats don’t always get a free pass in this regard (see: John Edwards) but as the more liberal (and libertine) party they tend to get off easier on average — no pun intended.

  36. IIRC, Bill Clinton (the only president ever to actually get impeached) was a Democrat.

  37. IRC, Bill Clinton (the only president ever to actually get impeached) was a Democrat.

    This is incorrect multiple levels. First, there was Andrew Johnson, who, like Clinton, was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate. Second, Clinton’s political career survived numerous sex scandals. He was impeached for Perjury and Obstruction of Justice, incidentally pertaining to a sex scandal that was no worse than previous ones.

  38. >Instead of walking out, why didn’t you participate, until they kicked you out for disrupting their process?

    Better things to do with my time.

  39. Terry,

    Bill Clinton was not the only President to be impeached; Andrew Johnson was also impeached (and acquitted by a margin of one vote).

    Clinton’s impeachment was an attempted political assassination against an extremely popular, twice-elected President. It didn’t work: his voting base wasn’t fooled, he left office with the highest approval rating of any President since WWII after serving out his second term in full, and his VP won the popular vote in 2000.

  40. Actually, we are all paying the price for Clinton’s acquittal: the Left in the Senate demanded, and won, a promise he’d back off from any further entitlement reform in exchange for their votes.

    But for what he did – and what he admitted doing – any regular person would have gone to prison. Arguing to not hold him accountable for the perjury he committed is arguing that men should be able to get off scot-free for lying about sexual harassment. I’m still amazed at how many feminists signed up for that one.

  41. LOL…did you hear the joke that moderate Republicans should be happy because we’re going to have one as President for the next four years?

    Even if the Tea Party isn’t the largest component of the Republican party they’ve certainly driven the moderate republicans onto the endangered species list.

    Herman Cain? Meh. The guy got into bed with the Tea Party/Social Conservatives and had affairs. That’s poor judgement on par with Gary Hart. What? He didn’t think it was going to come out? And then he didn’t think he was going to get thrown under the bus?

    Tell me where all the Rockefeller Republicans have gone? Extinct. Gerrymandered out of existence or surviving in the Democratic Party. There’s no space in the GOP for a fiscally conservative but socially liberal member.

  42. This reminds me of my own experience with attempted induction.

    In fall 1999, I did the post-graduation-backpacking-through-Europe thing. One day in Zurich I was waiting for a reasonable hour to call my then-girlfriend back in the U.S. I was approached by a local man who said he was conducting a survey and asked if I would like to participate. It was a nice day, and Zurich is a nice town, and I had time to spare, so I said, “Sure.” He led me to a nearby storefront, handed me a paper with some questions on it, and I sat down and filled it out.

    I grew a little suspicious when I started reading the questions. They were more like psychological profiling questions than “survey” questions, asking things about my mood, impulses, etc. But like I said, I had time, so I finished it. When I was done, the guy looked over it for less than a minute and told me I was depressed. He then launched into a spiel about how I was in danger of killing myself if I didn’t turn my life around and start making better decisions. Fortunately, he could help!

    I told him, “You know what, you’re right. I do need to make better decisions. The first decision I’m going to make is to get up and walk out of here.”

    On my way out I saw a display full of copies of “Dianetics.” I can still vividly hear the big “ahhhhh…” that went through my brain when I saw that.

  43. @Jay Maynard
    “Arguing to not hold him accountable for the perjury he committed is arguing that men should be able to get off scot-free for lying about sexual harassment.”

    I do not think that woman should be persecuted for sexual harassment of the president. As I understood, the president consented.

  44. Cult leaders are never members, functionally speaking.

    Obama as cult: oh man. Some Americans still remember footage of Obama Girl, of schoolkids being taught to sing songs about him…

    This post raises an interesting question: if you wanted to create a cult even an Eric couldn’t detect, how would you build it?

  45. As I am certain that Eric is cult-immune beyond all reasonable doubt, I would start my Eric-proof cult by trying to make sure he never finds out about it. Similar concerns were probably a minor factor in the relocation of the Peoples Temple (minor probably because 2013 Eric would almost certainly have predicted its fate, even if 1978 Eric didn’t.)

    As for inducting Eric into a cult… Well, as defeated Looney Toons recommend, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Spill the $135 to get my name legally changed, join the ECSL, and probably get only one coolness point for my expense ;)

  46. Winter:> I cannot see how the Obama administration can qualify as a cult. From over here in Europe, the Republicans sounded much more cult-like.

    Republicans worship at a variety of altars, and they don’t worship any of the political leaders, are in fact uniformly disgusted with them.

    Obamanites worship Obama as the light bringer. Only a minority of Democrats worship Obama as a supernatural godlike being, but it is a disturbingly large minority.

    Check your spam box. A remarkable large amount of spam says “Respond to this spam to get in on the latest miracle by Obama.”

  47. el_slapper on Wednesday, January 9 2013 at 5:34 am said:
    > he was reelected by default of a credible opponent(“47% of my potential electors ars thieves, ahem…..”)

    What is a gaffe?

    A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth.

    Observing the British politicians after the recent British riots, I noticed the right wing politicians trying to attract the moderate looter and arsonist, while the left wing politicians went after the more radical looters and arsonists.

  48. @Jeff Read

    As I understood it, Andrew Johnson’s impeachment was a not very veiled part of the policy fight over the nature of Reconstruction. Whatever the merits of the dispute, the president was on one side and a majority of Congress was on the other.

    The Paula Jones lawsuit was an attempt to politically hamstring the president. Whatever I thought of President Clinton’s policies I disapproved of the lawsuit.

  49. There are a sizeable number of people who voted for Obama in 2008 who expressed disappointment with him over the next four years, particularly because he wasn’t liberal enough. Whether they tended to vote for him again in 2012 is hard to determine – everyone I know who openly voted Obama in 2012 did not express this type of disappointment (or claimed he was ineffectively only because the Bush boogeyman dragged him down – sorta like “the sun got in my eyes”).

    More hope: there’s the tale my friend tells of a cab driver he met here, who’d immigrated from Trinidad & Tobago, and was disgusted by how Keynesian the current administration was.

  50. Paul Brinkley :> This post raises an interesting question: if you wanted to create a cult even an Eric couldn’t detect, how would you build it?

    NRA?

  51. ” I’ve long thought that AA and NA are not far off being cults themselves.

    Whoa… yes. My stepbrother attended AA briefly (but left after a few weeks and quit drinking on his own). I looked at some of the reading material he brought back and got a really creepy vibe from it. Now you’ve made me realize why.

    Yes, that might be the case. One of the things I was reading when studying mind control and brainwashing techniques (the most random things can turn interesting) – I forget what it was I was reading, but I think the gist of it was that guilt was something that made people uniquely vulnerable to these sort of organizations – whether the guilt is justified or manufactured somehow, the cults get you by

    1) Offering you a way out, through acceptance of their program. Usually something that requires your attention to be directed where they decide it needs to go.
    2) Ensuring that you distrust your own decisionmaking ability – this is where the guilt comes in, You are broken after all, you need them to fix you and make you whole, someone more loyal/indoctrinated in the group needs to be your guide.
    3) Drawing you in to where you don’t have much time or attention leftover of your own. Ensuring you are always jumping through their hoops.

    Anyway, I’m having trouble recalling it all. But if an organization like AA were to become cult-like (don’t know if they are, it would be a shame) the guilt would be there to work with.

  52. Ah, yes,

    3) Drawing you in to where you don’t have much time or attention leftover of your own. Ensuring you are always jumping through their hoops.

    3b) – the mechanics of this have to do with making you used to following orders to earn your absolution from the guilt. By jumping through their hoops, you are being a better person. If you balk at jumping through the hoops you are backsliding, and they can threaten you with being who you were before and being shunned and excommunicated if you don’t continue.

  53. 4) Also, the mechanics of earning your absolution from the cult leaders is that it makes you used to thinking of them as the judges of your actions. Did I do it right? Check with the cult leaders. Did I do well? Check with the cult leaders. Am I a good person? Check with the cult leaders.

  54. I remember seeing some newsweek cover depicting Obama deified. The magazine being what it was, and the title was something appropriately worshipful and slavish, it seemed like they were being straight.

    But the artist chose an interesting deity to represent Obama as – Shiva.

    I burst out laughing when I saw it. I don’t think anyone else in the airport bookstore got the joke.

  55. @ Terry

    If you are in or past Stage 4 of the former, in or past Stage 3 of the latter, you are immune to cults. I suspect that this is true of less than 3% of the human population.

    I had to look those up. There doesn’t seem to be any stage of simply abandoning all faith except that in entropy. That’s about where I would be. I have faith that disorder will continue to increase, but only faith.

  56. @Re: my prior thought
    “I burst out laughing when I saw it. I don’t think anyone else in the airport bookstore got the joke.”

    Though, on second thought, if they are being serious, that just adds another level to their derangement.

    @nigel
    “Even if the Tea Party isn’t the largest component of the Republican party they’ve certainly driven the moderate republicans onto the endangered species list. .. There’s no space in the GOP for a fiscally conservative but socially liberal member. ”

    My understanding of the Tea Party is that it stands for Taxed Enough Already. They are fiscally conservative first and foremost, I didn’t think they did social-con stuff, and I thought they were mostly the segment of the party that was disillusioned with neo-con adventures.

    They are hated because they actually want to end the wild spending, shrink the government to manageable levels, and ensure that the old-guard of the party doesn’t push any turncoats, empire builders, or other appeasers on them. YMMV as to whether or not you think they’ll be successful. Moderate Republicans are republicans that don’t threaten anyone’s tax-eating empire in Washington – their ambition is to occupy office, grease palms, and retire well thought of by their peers in the permanent political class – that’s why people like them: They don’t plan on actually fixing the problem our country has with its government.

  57. Paul Brinkley on Wednesday, January 9 2013 at 4:31 pm said:
    > There are a sizeable number of people who voted for Obama in 2008 who expressed disappointment with him over the next four years, particularly because he wasn’t liberal enough.

    They expected him to immanentize the eschaton.

  58. >if you wanted to create a cult even an Eric couldn’t detect, how would you build it?

    I don’t think that can be done. I know what cult induction methods are like, and I know why they have to be like that – because there are only a limited number of ways to program the meatware. When you know how to analyze on that level, the specific content of the cultic belief system is nearly irrelevant.

    >NRA?

    Ironically, I rather dislike the NRA for being far too squishy about soi-disant “reasonable” firearms restrictions. But a cult it is not – it doesn’t use cultic induction methods, and doesn’t have the characteristically pathologized leader/follower relationships. A comparison with AA (which someone upthread correctly described as cult-like) is very instructive

  59. @Jeremy. “There doesn’t seem to be any stage of simply abandoning all faith except that in entropy.”

    Actually, if you really read it, there is almost always such a phase associated with Fowler 4 / Peck 3, and Scott Peck describes this in his own testimony while James Fowler describes a few case studies. I have this as well, but I’ll get to it later. The Fowler 3 / Peck 2 phase (I call Ritualist) involves the individual growing out of chaos with a system of rule, which is almost always imposed from the outside, usually by parents, sometimes by school, police, jail, church, AA, depending on when and why the individual finally decides to ascend out of chaos. The reason why I say “almost always” is because it is theoretically possible for a person to impose his own system of rule or get it from a book or otherwise self-directed learning, or from the human conscience (I don’t hear a lot from Evolutionists regarding conscience because a natural origin for conscience doesn’t make any sense- any Evolutionists here feel free to chip in. Some Christians believe it is the Holy Spirit, guardian angels, written on the heart by the finger of God, but my belief is rather unusual: I think we ate it from a certain tree in the Garden of Eden: the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil.) It appears to be the case in the lives of James Shaw (who entered Freemasonry of his own free will in Fowler 4 / Peck 3 of his own growth and thus fully met the Mason’s own definition of a Mason – his book is “The Deadly Deception”), and myself (when my memory starts to become somewhat continuous at around age 8, I’m already in Fowler 4 / Peck 3; my study of these faith growth systems finally started to explain why so much of humanity baffles me with their poor decisions and apparent inability to think straight: I have no recollection of my experience in the phases of faith and decision-making ability that the vast majority of humanity is in. Also, I have no recollection of my childhood house and school settings ever imposing rule that I perceived in a ritualist manner, or that made much sense at all, even though the stuff they were teaching me did in many cases (exceptions tending to be in English/Language Arts and Social Studies))

    “That’s about where I would be. I have faith that disorder will continue to increase, but only faith.”

    I believe that if you really think about it, the faith of disorder increasing is really more of a realization that is supported by observation more than an actual faith. You might have realized that disorder doesn’t /have/ to continue increasing if only people would smarten up and start thinking about the big picture. This is a natural effect of growing out of Fowler 4 / Peck 3 and into the next stage. Fowler 5 (Conjunctivitis… brb while checking my notes… “Conjunctive Faith”) describes “the sacrament of defeat”, which is part cynicism and part forgiving oneself and others for the roles that they play in the entropy of human existence. Hopefully, this is sounding familiar to you because it is this problem that Jesus Christ died for. If you don’t grok the increasing disorder of human civilization and the individual causes of it (especially your own contributions), Jesus Christ as the Saviour of Man is not going to make even the slightest bit of sense to you. He knew this:

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+2:16-17&version=KJV

    Fowler wrote: “Unusual before mid-life, Stage 5 knows the sacrament of defeat and the reality of irrevocable commitments and acts. … It generates and maintains vulnerability to the strange truths of those who are ‘other.’ … this stage’s commitment to justice is freed from the confines of tribe, class, religious community or nation. And with the seriousness that can arise when life is more than half over, this stage is ready to spend and be spent for the cause of conserving and cultivating the possibility of other’s generating identity and meaning.”

    When I was fourteen, I had a certain favorite SNES game, and one day, long after I could finish it successfully, I decided to let Arc Nova crash just because I wanted to see the fireworks. After that, I finished the game with a missed objective for the first time:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AxzkRmrU_o

    While I find it hard to believe that I had an actual mid-life crisis in my teenage years, the seriousness this video game lit under my butt is the same seriousness that Fowler described, no doubt about it, and it has affected my irl behaviour an awful lot.

  60. @ams I cannot think of a single socially liberal Tea Party candidate. Doesn’t mean there isn’t one but if they is he or she is assiduously hiding that fact.

    I believe that there is maybe one pro-choice Republican left in the house…Hanna from NY.

    Whatever you believe TEA stands for the religious conservatives have IMHO completely hijacked the Tea Party and the GOP.

    The Tea Party are hated because of the company they keep. Fiscal responsibility is well and good but a fiscally responsible theocracy isn’t an improvement over what we have but a huge negative. And if the Tea Party ever won big time, like the Old Bolsheviks, they’d get purged by Religious Right.

  61. >classic cult-follower symptoms
    >behavioral signs of this degeneration

    What are these? (I want to examine my own behavior, which makes these signs harder to spot)

  62. > They’re about using the true parts to hook you, to condition you into an becoming an eager little propagator of their memetic infection.

    And, notably, to get you to give your money to them.

    I have no personal connection to Scientology whatsoever, but I happened to read “A Piece of Blue Sky” by John Atack over ten years ago. The book is a pretty detailed history of Scientology up to about 1990. At the time, I was amazed at the things the cult could get people to do. In the case of Scientology, that includes a fair number of quite brutal manslaughters, if not murders, and the largest known infiltration of and document theft from the FBI, among other things. Even after all that, they famously managed to intimidate the IRS into giving them tax-exempt status in extended negotiations, at a time when everyone who cared to look knew that Scientology was cult that bled its members dry.

    I’ve been following the slow-motion implosion the Church of Scientology since 2008, when Anonymous got on their case, with some interest. The situation at the so-called Gold Base in Hemet, California is pretty mind-boggling. A good part of the staff, including some of the formally highest-ranking in the church, are held there as prisoners, and in many cases, have been for years. Apparently this has included up to several hundred people at times, all living in a cramped office and sleeping under their desks. Several people who have fled the place have talked and written about it. In case the church collapses completely, the worst case scenario for that place might be Waco-like.

    Re: Stepford people, I recently saw an interview with Nicole Kidman, filmed in 2004 or so. She talked about taking on the role in the Stepford Wives remake and explicitly said that it was a post-divorce comment on her life as Mrs. Tom Cruise. She used the expression “you’ve got to take the piss out of yourself”. I hadn’t known that she was publicly that open about it. I saw the film when it was new and her performance certainly seemed informed.

    Since the cycle for remakes in Hollywood keeps getting shorter, they could soon do another Stepford Wives film with Katie Holmes.

  63. >> Instead of walking out, why didn’t you participate, until they kicked you out for disrupting their process?

    > Better things to do with my time.

    No shit! Crashing a cult meeting would be about as useful as arguing with granny about the existence of .

    Landmark Education sure has been busy launching defamation lawsuits against anyone calling them a cult.

    Landmark Education litigation
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landmark_Education_litigation

    ESR, was there more to the chat with “night shift guy”?

  64. I don’t think there’s an Obama cult in the sense of people handing their lives over– there was a push for people to do a lot of volunteering during the campaign, but I don’t think that’s especially unusual and it’s time-limited.

    However, this might be interesting.

  65. >What are these? (I want to examine my own behavior, which makes these signs harder to spot)

    It’s easier to point them out in specimens than to describe them, because a lot of them are subtle and kinesic. But I’ll try.

    One is that the cult follower is always recruiting, and displays a vulture-like instinct for homing in on the psychologically vulnerable.

    Another is a sort of induced hypomania – a relentless but rather brittle and hollow cheerfulness. That’s what the shiny happy Stepford greeters I noted in the OP were exhibiting. I think it’s a sort of internally generated drug high – the dopamine-release reward circuitry in the brain, which is wired to go off when we think we’ve gained status in our social group, gets superstimulated by the cult.

  66. >ESR, was there more to the chat with “night shift guy”?

    Not much, really. I described Landmark a bit and he said “Some people never learn…”

  67. > Another is a sort of induced hypomania – a relentless but rather brittle and hollow cheerfulness.

    For an example, see a Tom Cruise interview. Then there’s the full-mania version in the videos he’s done for the Church of Scientology, and, infamously, in the couch-jumping session on Oprah.

  68. >Crashing a cult meeting would be about as useful as arguing with granny about the existence of .

    That should’ve read “existence of “. I didn’t think the comment form would read my pseudo tag as an attempt to insert actual HTML tags (which I wasn’t, of course).

    @Nancy Lebovitz, the article you linked was a very interesting read. Some segments of both the left and the right can be equally cult-like and hypocritical about their respective leaders. Patriotism != blindly defending the party line.

  69. It ate it again. Does it have anything to do with a three letter word that is not a number, clothing article, baseball team, or musical instrument, begins with s and ends with x and has nothing to do with vacuum cleaners or Robocop? (Boy, that turned out to be longer than I expected, lol.)

  70. > (I don’t hear a lot from Evolutionists regarding conscience because a natural origin for conscience doesn’t make any sense- any Evolutionists here feel free to chip in.

    We evolved morality to enable us to work together without killing each other too often. Morality is primarily about judging other people, to see if they are safe to cooperate with, and is applied to oneself to the extent that one wants to be a person other people will cooperate with. See “Constant on Good and Evil from self interest

  71. “Sympathy exists because it serves the self.” (and the whole thing on it being about image)

    This is the whole stilt of his argument, that any show of sympathy would need to be public to be of value to the self. Unfortunately, what’s in the Bible could not possibly have evolved on that basis:

    “1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. 2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” – Matthew 4, KJV

    Any argument of contrived self-interest in a purely atheistic light (i.e.: that our brains evolved a conscience that tricks us into giving alms out of a self-interest or species-interest) falls apart because the alms-giving needs to be public or you get such little return in image (especially when giving anonymously) that it makes absolutely no sense to do so. Also, public alms giving often does not produce such a result, and this was probably true before Jesus spoke the above.

    Evolution does not keep things that don’t make sense (why fish that never see the light of day soon evolve away their eyes.) I’m not sure why Evolutionists stopped talking about human vestigial organs when medicine exposed their purposes: the functions of the tailbone, gall bladder, spleen, appendix, adenoids and tonsils explain why evolution has kept them around. If they didn’t give us an advantage, they would be gone in just a few hundred to a few thousand years.

    Note that I have used “Evolution” and “evolution” together. Evolution with a small e is evolution which has been observed to occur by direct human observation, including the speciation of equine animals (Zebra, donkey, mule, horse) the variation of finches in the Galapagos Islands into their various dietary niches, strains of disease organisms to find vulnerabilities in immune systems, and last, but not least, the explosion of variation in particular species (cats, dogs, goldfish, parakeets, tomatoes, cabbages, corn, etc.) as the result of artificial selection, which has obviously caused a couple orders of magnitude more evolution than natural selection has since we started doing it.

    Evolution, Capital E, is the faith of atheists that the entire natural world could have come about of its own accord without any intervention by a God. This involves believing that random mutations can self-organize and create new information, a belief at odds with “I have faith that disorder will continue to increase, but only faith.” The whole Evolution vs. Creation mess can be distilled to whether randomness and physics can generate new information distinct enough from the gobbledegook around it to be able to reproduce itself and evolve, and it needs to do so consistently with an elaborate cookbook of biological means which have a lot of difficulty finding friendly environments in the universe in which to do so … or rather, whether it can do so without divine intervention (the Bible says that God can intervene in such processes: “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.” – Proverbs 16:31)

    An article on the infinite monkey theorem:

    http://patterico.com/2003/05/09/monkey-typing-experiment-a-bunch/

    I’ve had somewhat better experience with pigeons:

  72. >Evolution, Capital E, is the faith of atheists that the entire natural world could have come about of its own accord without any intervention by a God.

    You are confused, and projecting your own religious insanity on others. No “faith” is involved.

  73. > > > (I don’t hear a lot from Evolutionists regarding conscience because a natural origin for conscience doesn’t make any sense- any Evolutionists here feel free to chip in.

    > > See “Constant on Good and Evil from self interest

    > Unfortunately, what’s in the Bible could not possibly have evolved on that basis:

    So much the worse for what is in the Bible. The morality expressed by Xenophon is more appealing: (Pursue glory, be loyal to friends and allies, just to those who are peaceable to you, and destroy your enemies.)

  74. > Evolution, Capital E, is the faith of atheists that the entire natural world could have come about of its own accord without any intervention by a God. This involves believing that random mutations can self-organize and create new information

    Chance and necessity

    Mutations do not “self organize”, but are brutally winnowed by natural selection in the struggle for existence.

    Wherever there is a ecological niche, a way of living, that is not yet been occupied, it will be filled by creatures escaping from the struggle in similar and nearby niches that have already been occupied. Thus niches requiring greater organismal complexity and more complex cooperation get filled from niches requiring slightly less organismal complexity or slightly less complex cooperation, creating, for organisms on the edge of the unoccupied niches, a direction of evolution, a direction towards intelligence and cooperation.

    Of course the morality that follows from Darwinism differs from both the morality of Christianity, and even more from the morality of Christianity’s heretical apostate offspring, progressivism, in that rex talonis was sound. Compared to the morality of Xenophon, even the old testament is a bit lefty, and our host, though wise in many respects, is nonetheless a raving commie.

  75. “You are confused, and projecting your own religious insanity on others. No “faith” is involved.”

    Holy crap! Did I just make the mighty Eric flinch in reflexive denial?

    I usually don’t respond to stuff like this when I come across it (“like this” meaning on the topic, as the sort of balanced and considered perspective I have is extremely rare) because I usually can say something like that, whoever’s side it happens to be on, Creation or Evolution. When a Creationist speaks up, they usually get more wrong than they do right, and as often as not, get eaten alive by Evolutionists. Also, both sides often fail to recognize where fact ends and faith (i.e. assumption) begins. It helps to know an awful lot about the universe, because the more you know, the further out faith can begin and the more likely that faith is going to be somewhere resembling the truth.

    Religious insanity ensues where fact exceeds faith and faith fails to explain the realm of fact known to the religious person. The religiously insane have a tendency to dismiss the fact, rather than adjust their faith, and I’ve found Creationists tend to do this more than Evolutionists, and so I enjoy conversing with the latter more, with the exception of certain close friends who are not religiously insane. Knowing a lot also helps one spot where the religious insanity or ignorance is mild:

    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2013/08jan_sunclimate/

    If you don’t know about the research relating galactic cosmic rays with low level cloud formation, the research pioneered by Svensmark and Calder:

    http://www.amazon.com/Chilling-Stars-Cosmic-Climate-Change/dp/1840468661

    it doesn’t seem like the NASA article is missing anything. Thus, one might somehow remain unaware that global warming is more the result of a political agenda than a real-world phenomenon. Of course, those more familiar with politics and legal matters than science aren’t looking at the science, but the memos, the press releases, etc. and the ones who have their heads screwed on straight agree with my assessment of global warming. The change of nomenclature to “climate change” acknowledges how vacuous the real world evidence for global warming is, but without shelving the political agenda. You have to know an awful lot to sort this out, and the vast majority of those willing to offer information on the political agenda are… well… confused and insane (listen to Alex Jones for about five minutes.)

    I would like to have a conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson, actually. I think we agree on many important points:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afGkv0IT4dU
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_RWT3w_qPU

    One of the most depressing things that I have seen is the Christian who believes in Creation, but has not experienced God. God is a gentleman; you won’t experience Him unless you’re actually looking for it. That I think is the big point of “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” – Matthew 6:33. If you’re experiencing your conscience, it’s fairly easy to explain it away like Constant did. To me, it is quite lamentable when you have a person who believes in Young Earth Creation who doesn’t seek righteousness and the face of God. I’ve found that righteousness and God tend to go together because, in my experience and in the testimony of others whose claims of a personal God are similar to my own, He points out your unrighteousness in a way that makes you very uncomfortable. To be righteous and not have a personal relationship with God, no biggie. People can be comfortable with their own righteousness, and I think Neil deGrasse Tyson is a fine example. To be unrighteous and not have a relationship with God is the most common condition. To be unrighteous and have a relationship with God gets uncomfortable quickly. Say your wife finds your porn stash and kindly asks you to dispose of it, but that’s all she says. Now make her an shameless mind reader who knows how to bat an eyelash at you in just that way that reminds you that she knows, but she’ll never hate you for it. If you don’t get rid of that porn stash, the relationship gets real awkward, real fast. That is what being close to God is like.

    Now, Eric, could you please elaborate on how I’m confused and religiously insane?

  76. “‘This involves believing that random mutations can self-organize and create new information’

    Chance and necessity

    Mutations do not ‘self organize’, but are brutally winnowed by natural selection in the struggle for existence.”

    Actually, as near as I can tell, the vast majority of genetic mutations are fixed by DNA repair mechanisms in the cell, and the vast majority of genetic mutations that remain cause cancer, microcephaly, or some other nastiness. The real clincher is “new information”, adaptations that have never been seen before. How do chance and necessity bring that about?

  77. Eric, I think the hypomania is also a recruiting tool– “look at how happy the cult makes people”.

    James A. Donald, you’re overestimating how efficient evolution is. Niches get moved into if there happens to be variations which can move into them. Terry, you’re overestimating the efficiency, too.

    I’d bet pretty strongly on the evolution being a natural process on this one planet, but I’d be comprehensively and amused and delighted if there was alien intervention, just so that people who were so sure they were right without detailed information (and I mean both the Creationists and the scientists who were emphatic about a best guess) turned out to be outflanked by weird contingencies.

    And to sidetrack the sidetrack, what do folks here think about the possibility that we’re living in a simulation?

  78. @JAD
    “So much the worse for what is in the Bible. The morality expressed by Xenophon is more appealing: (Pursue glory, be loyal to friends and allies, just to those who are peaceable to you, and destroy your enemies.)”

    You just revealed the reason why the Romans, who originated the biblical morality, had an empire with 120 million people, and the Greek never were able to rise above warring city states. Note how easy the Greek city states were mopped up by the fledgling Roman empire.

    @terry
    Btw, giving alms in “secret” is bound to get out and gives you way more credit than bragging about them. Moreover, to be effective as self-interested image building, altruism must be internalized. Moreover E/evolution is quite capable of generating traits that overshoot their target if that helps get it right more often.

    This whole Evolution/evolution crap is just a lack of imagination about what an all powerful deity could achieve with enough time and room.

    That is what irritates me most about religious fundamentalists. They make up an all powerful, omnipotent deity that created a marvelous universe. But He (always he) has the imagination. morals, and behavioral problems of a 13 old boy from a dysfunctional family. I tend to despair that He will ever grow up.

  79. “You just revealed the reason why the Romans, who originated the biblical morality,”

    Ahem… the Bible is a thoroughly Jewish document. Not only that, but the vast majority of it (especially the in/famous Ten Commandments) predate the existence of Rome by hundreds of years. There is probably more in the Bible about how the Babylonians mopped up Israel and how the Medo-Persians subsequently mopped up the Babylonians than the sum total of Roman-related material. Even the New Testament is Jewish, although the Jews seem to be the last people who want to be reminded of that.

    “Btw, giving alms in “secret” is bound to get out and gives you way more credit than bragging about them.”

    The counterargument that I formed is somewhat more detailed than that: it is better to have a few good friends than many shallow ones and secret alms giving is better suited at forming that situation. It doesn’t do anything good to my argument that morality couldn’t have Evolved (shucks).

    “But He (always he)”

    This is where I’ve pissed off quite a few Christians (and my best friend, who takes the concept seriously as near as I can tell, has warned me not to bring this up unless I absolutely have to, especially with other Christians.) I have met Her:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBaO5wxD9SM

    This is just one of the numerous videos on Youtube to arrange the God-is-a-Girl anime series The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya with the titular song by Groove Coverage:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KH49Vx84AU0

    I don’t think very many people, religious fundamentalist or otherwise, would burst into tears at this little bit of fiction because they have a relationship with the real God.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wePAht0NaV4

    After writing Featherwing Love and the FHD Remix trilogy at this God’s guidance, and then bumping into all the prior (and in a few cases, future) art that was so unwittingly related to these stories (and there’s more since I watched this scene.) Is knowing God – the real, unexpected, unpredictable, and exciting God, complete with the flip side implications of Genesis 1:26 – fun?

    I don’t know of a single religious fundamentalist anywhere who has even heard of Haruhi Suzumiya, and any that I’ve introduced her to mark me as nuts. The few Christians who haven’t are not what I call fundamentalist: they are open to an idea if it can be supported with evidence and logic.

    Certainly, Haruhi isn’t a particularly good likeness of the God I know, so why do I ever bring her up? Why did I ever watch Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu in the first place knowing this was probably going to be true? Simply because I’m curious about what people imagine about God. I wonder if the guys behind the scenes thought that anyone could take Kyon’s question about God so personally?

  80. @Terry
    “Ahem… the Bible is a thoroughly Jewish document.”

    Most of the New Testament is (Eastern-) Roman empire. That has the “turn the other cheek”, “Good Samaritan”, and “All men are god’s children” stuff.

    The original Jewish Old Testament is about exterminating your enemies, slaughter their men and boys (and babies), take their women and daughters. In short, Xenophon’s morals. The Ten Commandments handles how you treat your neighbor, not the guy from the other village/tribe. The universal application of the Ten Commandments is from later (Roman) times. But then, the Old Testament is not a single work written at a single time. Morals did evolve, even in the Old Testament.

  81. >>>>>What is a gaffe? A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth.

    But there are different ways to tell the truth. For people without a job, the french way : “it’s a drama for them”. The german way : “it’s a drama for the economy, as we lack those people’s contribution”. The Romney way : “it’s a drama for others, as they are a burden”.

    Being a republican, he could obviously not use the french phrasing. Yet, the much more neutral german phrasing would have pointed towards the same direction(we lack productive work from those people) without insulting them.

    >>>>> Evolution, Capital E, is the faith of atheists that the entire natural world could have come about of its own accord without any intervention by a God. This involves believing that random mutations can self-organize and create new information

    now the question is, if god created everything, who created god?

    more seriously, Evolutionism or Creationism are not realities : they are just theories used to understand the world. Their worth is linked to their usefulness. Let’s compare :

    Creationism teaches us that an undefined entity did use a magic wand to create us. Usefulness : we are not afraid as SOMEONE ELSE is in charge

    Evolutionism teaches us that a lot of things about who we are, how the world really works, how our body works, how to heal it, how to improve crops yield, etc….. usefulness : we are not afraid as WE are in charge.

    I don’t believe in Evolutionism as a grand absolute truth. I just believe it is a better, more useful, more accurate theory than Creationism. Until we find even better. Same for other scientific theories : Newtonian mechanics is outdated, yet was a huge leap forwards. Maybe we’ll find better than relativity one day. For now, let’s use it. It is the best we have.

  82. @Nancy Lebovitz
    “And to sidetrack the sidetrack, what do folks here think about the possibility that we’re living in a simulation?”

    That simulation would have to run on a “computer” as complex as the current universe is. If it works in a universe where Turing’s Undecidable theorem holds, then the simulator could not predict our future without running it on yet another simulator. So, the simulator could not predict what would happen if it intervened in the simulation itself.

    Which is a roundabout way to say that that would not make a difference at all to us. The universe would look the same, and miracles would still be miracles.

  83. >Holy crap! Did I just make the mighty Eric flinch in reflexive denial?

    No, you just sounded like a typical babbling religious idiot.

    >Now, Eric, could you please elaborate on how I’m confused and religiously insane?

    Yes, you projected “faith” on people who don’t have it and don’t need it. This doesn’t reveal any problem in their world-view, merely your need to believe that science and religion are epistemically equivalent at some level. They are not. To the faith-holding mind, evidence is ultimately irrelevant in the face of the need and desire to believe – a scientist cannot be like that, and if he is he fails as a scientist. When you describe “Evolutionism” as “faith”, you impute your own insanity to people who do not have that disease.

  84. @esr
    ‘When you describe “Evolutionism” as “faith”, you impute your own insanity to people who do not have that disease.’

    True. I am a materialist to the bone. I am one of those Terry claims to have the “faith” of “Evolutionism”.

    And as you (esr) say, I have no faith at all. I could not even describe what this Evolutionism would have as it’s foundation. There are observations and a theory that integrates them into a more or less uniform description. This theory about the working of the changes in living things (ie, the dynamics of life) is in fluid, we learn new things every day. I am happy with every new piece of the puzzle. I do not fight reality, I embraze it.

    Then, there is the history of life on earth. As every history, the details are vague and uncertain: What happened when exactly and how did it happen. This is no difference from trying to determine what was said by whom and why, when the constitution of the USA was drawn up.

    This all is completely independent from whether or not there is some god outside the universe. The laws of the universe are the same whether or not $DEITY exists.

  85. @terry

    To be unrighteous and have a relationship with God gets uncomfortable quickly.

    Alas, there are a large number of people that do evil and sleep soundly at night resolute in their belief that they have a good relationship with their God.

  86. That trait is not limited to people whose examined relationship is with “God”.

  87. “When you describe “Evolutionism” as “faith”, you impute your own insanity to people who do not have that disease.”

    Actually, I wonder if the problem could be nailed down to unfortunately not-so-rare failures of scientists to articulate their arguments clearly. Pure falsification of humans coming from apes (though I don’t really understand the fixation about it on either side) is unlikely to happen, so you need something more than pure Popperism to articulate why it’s better to believe it happened via evolution than via deus ex machina. And not too many expositions of science go beyond falsification.

  88. Eric, not that I believe you’re necessarily wrong here, but I took Terry’s allusion to “big ‘E’ Evolution” as his attempt to illuminate a distinction between those who believe in evolution in the way a scientist believes a line on a graph has a certain slope, and those who believe in it in the sense a fanatic believes in a religion. (The reason I believe you’re not necessarily wrong here is that, while Terry appears aware of this distinction, it’s not clear to me which bucket he intends to place you or other evolutionists in.)

    I’ve seen some microjihads in the name of evolution, so I believe they exist. …but then, I’ve seen people successfully avoid leaping from a Christian frying pan and into an Evolutionist fire, particularly in this crowd, so – Terry, who I do not remember seeing here that much – you’d do well to clarify.

  89. Consider what Nancy says about evolution above. Strikes me as a sensible guarded understanding of how evolution would occur. Evolution does not brutally weed out the weak and unsuccessful. It’s often not even clear in its direction. An alpha wolf can be struck by lightning; an entire population of strong, healthy, virile lifeforms can be drowned by a freak flood.

    It’s tempting to say evolution is not a just deity, but rather a drunken master, but it’s not even that. There’s no mind there, and no sense (on some level) in speaking of “survival of the fittest” as if some universal supercomputer is busily calculating probabilities that this organism or that should live long enough to make babies and then arranging events to make those probabilities fact. It’s as if the language itself gets in our way, presses us into describing evolution as if it’s a thing. (Above, I first wrote “how evolution would occur” as “how evolution would behave”, and considered leaving that in and pouring on even more language later just to illustrate the point.)

    Most of the crowd here probably prefers evolution as a useful model. Which is to say, they like it. But as I said before, I’ve seen people mistakenly speak of evolution not just with affinity, but with reverence. As if we can point to this population or that, in terms of its behavior patterns and responses to violence, famine, wealth, etc., and rest in some certainty that because population A reacts this way and population B reacts that way, population B will prevail thanks to Almighty Evolution. I’ve also seen people (like Nancy) appear to successfully avoid that reverence. In a society steeped in not only God, but a pantheon of symbols of justice, it is no doubt easier than it should be to project that quest for justice onto people who say they “believe in evolution”.

    Beware of upholding evolution as a better god, but also beware of projecting a search for justice onto what is mere affinity for the model.

  90. @Paul Brinkley
    Actually, evolution is “things happen”. Looking back in time, some organisms were luckier than others and left some descendants. Darwinism is the realization that luck comes to those who are “prepared”.

    After that, there is mathematics that tells us, that over a looooooong time and an awful many dead individuals, what is left is better prepared to be lucky than what there was before.

    That mechanism is even used as a search algorithm: Genetic Programming
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_programming

    But it is all a random walk in a very large, and mostly empty, space of genetic possibilities.

    But this is all immaterial to the Creationists. They are not against Evolutionism per se. They are against Science as a way to learn about the world.

    Their beef with Science is that it consistently contradicts their pet interpretation of some old scriptures. Their goal is to destroy the credibility of the scientific method. Evolution is just a “credible” target now. But anything scientific, from Cosmology to Sociology and Anthropology, is on their hit list.

  91. That’s just it. Not all people labeled “Creationist” seek to destroy the scientific method. Some of them are merely reacting defensively to a push to offer evolution as a better god. They aren’t bothered by the people doing actual science way in the back. It’s counterproductive to conflate the players into only two sides this way.

    “some organisms were luckier than others and left some descendants” is technically true, but again, is all too often either put forth as all there is to evolution and leaving it open to some bad inferences, or worse, is actively combined with wrongful assumptions that we know everything there is to know about what should make a lifeform successful or not. That eventually leads to one group of people or another taking it on itself to try to help evolution along.

  92. @esr

    Yes, you projected “faith” on people who don’t have it and don’t need it. This doesn’t reveal any problem in their world-view, merely your need to believe that science and religion are epistemically equivalent at some level. They are not. To the faith-holding mind, evidence is ultimately irrelevant in the face of the need and desire to believe – a scientist cannot be like that, and if he is he fails as a scientist. When you describe “Evolutionism” as “faith”, you impute your own insanity to people who do not have that disease.

    Mmm…so pray tell when you guys are so vehement in the ridicule of God (and believers of God) as insane what hard evidence do you have that he/she/whatever doesn’t actually exist?

    /shrug

    To me the question is philosophical rather than scientific one. At some point in the discussion the ardent believers on both sides end up with “it’s turtles all the way down”. For the religious it happens a heck of a lot sooner but they accept faith as a component of their philosophy.

    I like Hawking’s quote:

    “When people ask me if a god created the universe, I tell them that the question itself makes no sense. Time didn’t exist before the big bang, so there is no time for god to make the universe in. It’s like asking directions to the edge of the earth; The Earth is a sphere; it doesn’t have an edge; so looking for it is a futile exercise. We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is; there is no god. No one created our universe,and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization; There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that I am extremely grateful.”

    I believe that rational Christians believe something similar. Looking for God (or absolute proof of God) in the context of this universe is a futile exercise. Before the big bang not even time existed. We have this life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that we should be extremely grateful…regardless of whether you believe the simplest explanation or a different one.

    If we can discuss multi-verse theories without thinking the proponents are all insane crackpots perhaps we can do the same with religion. That some scientists have advanced the Anthropic principle (weak, strong, whatever) to explain some observations of our universe indicates to me we simply push the “turtles all the way down” thinking to cosmologists rather than priests and philosophers…if you presume an infinite number of Turtles then at least one of these Turtles will be fine-tuned to support intelligent life due to statistical selection effect…

    The explanation of origin of life in this universe (and of the universe itself) is currently a philosophical one. Not one of strict science. As science uncovers more understanding of the universe the philosophy of the origins shall evolve with it. Whether as part of cosmology or part of religious apologetics or classic philosophy.

    That crackpots exist in religion/philosophy does not invalidate the value of religion/philosophy any more than crackpots in science invalidates the value of science.

    Many scientists, historical and present, believe(d) in a deity of some kind. I do not believe that they are either insane nor particularly hindered as scientists. Certainly it did not hinder William Phillips, Francis Collins or many other nobel laureates in science that are religious. Many of the scientists I personally know or have met went to church.

  93. @Nigel
    “As science uncovers more understanding of the universe the philosophy of the origins shall evolve with it.”

    There are powerful political movements to ban the teaching of science. Bad education might be good for faith, but it is bad for everything else. Very bad.

  94. >Some of them are merely reacting defensively to a push to offer evolution as a better god.

    Sorry, I don’t believe this. I hear it claimed, but I think the people claiming it are either deliberately deceiving others or indvertently deceiving themselves.

    The reason I don’t believe this is that every time I’ve actually pushed one of these allegedly defensive skeptics into trying to justify their anti-evolutionist position, they’ve fallen back into faith-holder insane gibbering within minutes. There isn’t any there there – these people are superficially emulating the forms and language of skepticism, but superficial emulation is all it is. It has no actual connection to the generative structure of their beliefs.

    It may be, as you say, that there are “evolutionist” faith-holders – I’ve never met one, but humans are observably so prone to the insanity of faith that they’ll fixate on even the most unlikely targets. The existence of such people wouldn’t make religious anti-evolutionists any more credible or justified, just mean there are two groups of frothing lunatics in the dispute rather than one.

  95. >Mmm…so pray tell when you guys are so vehement in the ridicule of God (and believers of God) as insane what hard evidence do you have that he/she/whatever doesn’t actually exist?

    The existence of God as theists imagine it is impossible. You might as well ask me what evidence I have for the nonexistence of square circles.

    First, give up one of omnibenevolence, omnipotence, or omniscience. Then we could talk contingent existence.

  96. @esr
    “The existence of God as theists imagine it is impossible.”

    Sorry, but that was a battle of medieval times. The theist world has progressed much since then.

    Indeed, those medieval monks were so primitive that they really concluded God could not create a stone so heavy he could not lift it.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnipotence_paradox

    Modern theists in the USA have gone beyond these primitive believes and do not consider God to be bound by mere logic. So, indeed, His Omnipotence knows no bounds, not even in logic.

  97. Nb. I have had Creationism, in the form of so called Intelligent Design, described as “God in the Gaps” fallacy, which is bad theology… by a catholic priest.

  98. @Jakub Narebski
    “described as “God in the Gaps” fallacy, which is bad theology… by a catholic priest.”

    The Vatican has stopped fighting reality half a century ago. They accept science. Also, they are rather good a theology.

  99. At one time it was common to post the Ten Commandments and verses from the Bible in public spaces. There is even a bible verse on the CIA headquarters.

    “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
    https://www.cia.gov/news-information/featured-story-archive/ohb-50th-anniversary.html

    There has been a push in recent decades to remove these and other expressions of religion that have been part of our culture for centuries. A minority has gained the power to force this through the courts, in the name of equal rights.

    The framers of the constitution were wary of “tyrannical majorities” who would oppress others, but how far must we go before the shoe is on the other foot?

  100. >Sorry, I don’t believe this. I hear it claimed, but I think the people claiming it are either deliberately deceiving others or inadvertently deceiving themselves.

    Fair enough – if I come across what I see as definite examples, I’ll try to point them out here.

    For now, I’m reminded of an interview on – CNN, I think, since the interviewer was Wolf Blitzer. He was asking then-Congressional contender Christine O’Donnell whether she believed in evolution. I’ll cheerfully admit in the name of science that I could have been reading too much into this, but the way he pushed the question indicated that he felt that if she answered directly the way he believed she would, that it would settle the matter of her legitimacy. Say “yes” and keep treading water. Say “no” and sink forever. Never mind what circumstances would cause you to change that belief; whether it’s just a factoid to you or something by which you live your life; whether you’ve killed that Buddha in the road and come back to it; for him, and in his eyes, for everyone in his tribe, all things came down to a Yes or a No.

    Again – maybe I’m reading too much into that. But that’s not the only time I’ve seen questions pushed that way. And that’s generally the type I’m referring to; not much more to it than that.

    It’s also possible that we’re thinking of two different groups of people on the “creationist” side. I tend to think of people I grew up with, who were devout enough Christians that they’d go to church every Sunday, and for whom God might come up in normal conversation during the week, but who also mow the lawn, raise the cattle, sell insurance, and build electronics. They never struck me as needing to explain everything in terms of God all the time, but they also never struck me as applauding pushy anti-creationists, either. In other words, I don’t mean these defensive skeptics you refer to; just the ones who quietly vote and then return home.

  101. The Catholic church has accepted science for centuries. Doctrine states that when doctrine is demonstrated to conflict with nature the doctrine must be changed.

  102. >“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

    It’s also engraved in the front of the Main Building at the University of Texas at Austin. (FYI.)

  103. >>if you wanted to create a cult even an Eric couldn’t detect, how would you build it?

    >I don’t think that can be done.

    Well certain subsets of US libertarianism are quite cultish (the Rothbard-Rockwell subset, the staunch anti-empiricists) and that is a mighty attractive bait for you, so…

  104. ams: Taxed Enough Already is a retcon. The original meaning was as a modern-day Boston Tea Party.

    Nigel: I came away from A Brief History of Time an atheist. If there is no need for a Creator, then there is not one, by Occam’s Razor, unless and until someone proves that one actually exist{s,ed}.

  105. “I’ve seen people mistakenly speak of evolution not just with affinity, but with reverence.”

    You can have such feelings without any religious connection. Darwin’s theory explains so much, and it doesn’t even require any complex math. It seems so simple, yet no one thought of it in the thousand years of written history until Darwin and Wallace. Now it underlies all of modern biology.

    Maybe ‘awe’ would be a better word than ‘reverence’? The same sort of awe that physicists feel when contemplating General Relativity….

  106. Creationsm is a nice litmus test. If you adhere to it, you are refusing to accept reasonable arguments based in empirical and verifyable facts. In other words, if you are a Creationist you will hold dogma over empirical reality.

    Seems important to know before you enter into a discussion.

  107. Wrt the eternal evolution debates:

    Since this is a hacker blog, I expect a large number of you have some familiarity with programming. You don’t have to “believe” or “disbelieve” evolution – you can actually use it to solve your own design and optimization problems.

    Here’s how:

    1. First define a data structure – the “genome” of a given trial solution. This structure contains information that maps to a given solution to your problem. It doesn’t have to map in any particular way, just so long as there is a correspondance, though later details as to mutation may make one representation more efficient than another.

    2. Create a set of “fitness functions” – these functions evaluate a given trial solution for the characteristics that you want. Given a trial aircraft, return the lift to drag ratio in straight and level flight. Given a trial aircraft, return the expected range, etc.

    3. Initialize a vector of random trial solutions.

    4. Evaluate them all in terms of each fitness function. Keep some fraction of the ones that are better than the rest in terms of each fitness function in turn. Eliminate those that are dominated by some other solution in *all* categories. (This is the algorithm behind non-dominated multi-objective optimization)

    5. Perform some variation on the trail solutions to produce the next generation vector of trial solutions. Apply random variation to a trial solution. Swap pieces of some trial solutions with others.

    6. Redo step 4. Loop.

    This is essentially a hill-climbing algorithm. It isn’t a very efficient one, compared to more straightforward algorithms that do line-searches or simple gradient ascent, but it has some important properties which make it useful in some cases. If your fitness terrain isn’t a nice smooth functional, but something that has a lot of sudden sharp variations and discontinuities, the random-variation aspect adds noise which fuzzes that away and allows the algorithm to proceed without getting hung up as easily on small local maxima. It also produces a population of trial solutions arranged along a pareto-front in terms of each of your evaluation criteria.

    Like most other areas of science, “belief” in some given fact doesn’t get you anything. *Understanding* gets you *everything*.

    Many grade-schoolers are taught to believe that the Earth goes around the Sun. But *understanding* what that implies, allows you to figure out your lattitude from the time of year and the arc of the sun in the sky. *Understanding* the why and how of gravity allows you to navigate space-probes on interplanetary trajectories.

    Belief in evolution doesn’t get you anything. *Understanding* evolution allows you to form expectations about phylogeny, and also, with computers, allows you to use it in your own design problems.

    Belief is generally useless, even if it is of something ‘true’. If you don’t *understand*, what are you believing? Don’t believe X, understand X.

  108. >Well certain subsets of US libertarianism are quite cultish (the Rothbard-Rockwell subset, the staunch anti-empiricists) and that is a mighty attractive bait for you, so…

    If you think so, you don’t understand me as well as you think you do. You could have chosen a more obvious example – the organized Randites are quite cultish. The thing is, cultism revolts me so deeply that it basically doesn’t matter how attractive I might find some aspects of any given cult’s doctrine – the moment I see the religious hypomania and the shutdown of critical thinking I know I’m in the presence of the enemy and must either fight or flee.

    You’ve actually confused a couple of issues here. The subthread question was whether anyone could construct a cult Eric couldn’t detect, and I said I thought this couldn’t be done because cult behavior is too obvious. Pointing at hypothetical cultish libertarians as attractive to me doesn’t serve any purpose in the discussion unless you think I might detect the obvious cult behavior there but not care because I like their doctrine. That’s not going to ever happen either.

  109. Well nevertheless, I think Shenpen took my question in the spirit offered. ;-)

    In hindsight, I probably needed to put much more care into framing the question to arrive at the desired gedankenexperimente. I was envisioning some group that could somehow break past the guards of “an Eric” – ostensibly by offering attractive things, like boardgaming or simulated combat, combined with scrupulous avoidance of the common callsigns of cults – to the point that he “drinks the koolaid”. The trouble was that I couldn’t figure out a way to define “drinks the koolaid” without the CULT! klaxon blaring in my brain.

    Kinda how Eric said – all too possible to just be innately too sensitive to that sort of thing. (Sorta like how I now associate oblong rectangles with safely ignorable content.) Oh well.

  110. The existence of God as theists imagine it is impossible. You might as well ask me what evidence I have for the nonexistence of square circles.

    First, give up one of omnibenevolence, omnipotence, or omniscience. Then we could talk contingent existence.

    The existence of God as imagined is as impossible as squaring a circle until you realize that what theists imagine is simply an approximation of what God might be.

    Yes, I twisted your statement a little to rebut.

    Debating the problem of evil is to me like playing with around with other amusing logical fallacies…which like most such problems the disagreement exist in the premise/assumptions rather than the logic. My understanding is that this philosophical ground is so well covered that discussion go along the lines of:

    Epicurus’ “problem of evil”!
    HAHA! Plantigna’s “free will”!
    BAH! Probability!
    Bonetti’s defense!
    Capo Ferro attack!
    Thibault!
    Agrippa!
    I am not left handed!
    …and so forth…

    There’s no need for the participants to go into the details but simply state the name of the counterpoint until somewhere late mid-game which, to be honest, my knowledge of philosophy isn’t really up for.

    Even so…simply stating the opening move does not normally grant you the game…

  111. ams: not bad, and I think you know where I’m generally coming from since you knew to compare understanding with belief.

    So now the question that comes to my mind, as before, is: how many people who profess agreement with “evolution is superior to creationism” would be able to come up with something like that hill-climbing algorithm on their own? I don’t mean they have to describe it using computing jargon such as “algorithm”. Just the process – say, in whatever jargon is appropriate to their current occupation – in a way that shows they could apply it to at least two different problem types. In other words, they understand it, not merely believe it.

  112. And to sidetrack the sidetrack, what do folks here think about the possibility that we’re living in a simulation?

    Talk to the mice – they are performing very complex and subtle experiments on scientists.

    (which all literate folks will recognize as being from the great work of Douglas Adams – may he rest in pieces.)

  113. > Modern theists in the USA have gone beyond these primitive believes and do not consider God to be bound by mere logic. So, indeed, His Omnipotence knows no bounds, not even in logic.

    That is indeed a great leap of progress. Do these theists expect that to make God more plausible?

    > Doctrine states that when doctrine is demonstrated to conflict with nature the doctrine must be changed.

    …and sometimes the Catholic Church can even do the doctrine-changing in less than four hundred years.

  114. The thing is, cultism revolts me so deeply that it basically doesn’t matter how attractive I might find some aspects of any given cult’s doctrine – the moment I see the religious hypomania and the shutdown of critical thinking I know I’m in the presence of the enemy and must either fight or flee.

    Mmmm…and the FSF? Are there cultish aspects there?

  115. >First, give up one of omnibenevolence, omnipotence, or omniscience. Then we could talk contingent existence.

    And, while we are at it, one of omnibenevolence and the idea of “worship me or I will arrange for you to be tortured for all eternity” (although this is a doctrine thing than an existence of god thing).

  116. Mmmm…and the FSF? Are there cultish aspects there?

    Dude. Do you know who you’re even talking to? :)

  117. >Mmmm…and the FSF? Are there cultish aspects there?

    Duh. Of course there are. This is not breaking news, and hasn’t been since 1991 at the latest.

    Is this some feeble attempt at a trick question? I don’t buy the FSF’s doctrine. And never have – I’m, er, notorious for that.

    To be scrupulously fair, the FSF is not very cultish – certainly it’s much less so than Landmark. Barely registers on the cultometer.

  118. @Jay Maynard:

    > Nigel: I came away from “A Brief History of Time” an atheist. If there is no need for a Creator, [...]

    What you mean here is (I think) that there is no gap in perceived knowledge of beginning of the Universe, hence no gap for God to hide in, isn’t it?

    Unfortunately it is quite easy to fall in “God in the gaps” fallacy in the name of Occam razor… (I’d like to point you to for example works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.)

  119. Personally, I like the ontological argument for the existence of God, which I believe can be (very crudely) expressed by the idea that existence is better/truer/more-powerful than non-existence so [hand-waving> god must exist</hand-waving].

    I think the best answer to this argument is "Man, you need a better grade of drugs".

  120. >First, give up one of omnibenevolence, omnipotence, or omniscience.

    It saddens me to see how many “Christians” who can quote chapter and verse to you all day long yet still believe in omnibenevolence. Could the bible possibly be any clearer on the matter?

    One should not avoid an idea for no other reason than that it is distasteful.

    — Foo Quuxman

  121. @esr:

    To be scrupulously fair, the FSF is not very cultish – certainly it’s much less so than Landmark. Barely registers on the cultometer.

    Except that many of its most fervent adherents have and use their web soapboxes on a regular basis, which makes it a bit more in-your-face to the average tech guy than a lot of cults.

  122. Are regular web soapboxery indicators a standard feature on modern cultometers?

  123. The best answer I have read to the problem of omnibenevolence is:

    “God, in his official capacity, must at times do things which he, in his private capacity, deplores.”

    I probably wrote that badly.

  124. @jay
    Nigel: I came away from A Brief History of Time an atheist. If there is no need for a Creator, then there is not one, by Occam’s Razor, unless and until someone proves that one actually exist{s,ed}.

    Well, there’s no need for Fruit Loops either and they exist. Occam’s Razor strikes me as another opening move and not a finishing one.

    If you accept the premise of a finely tuned universe then there’s a need to explain the observation. Multi-verse works for me but there’s no conclusive proof of that either. If someone wants to claim turtles that’s cool with me too but the evidence is even scantier. Science here strikes me as a bit out of its element.

    Now what’s within the capabilities of science is whether the universe is really all that finely tuned to determine if the premise itself holds water.

    The funny thing is that some of the things we might accept to be future human potential would appear godlike…even to us. Will mankind ever command sufficient knowledge of physics and power to create their own bubble universes that can support intelligent life?

    HA! Gardner’s Biocosm Hypothesis! Your move.

    If I seem glib about it, it would be because however profound it might be it doesn’t seem to be worth the bandwidth to insult someone over their beliefs if they are willing to be reasonable about it.

    “Being reasonable about it” means allowing that other people believe differently and not creating laws against them. Something the religious right isn’t reasonable about at all.

    This is one thing that puzzles me here. Why do you guys believe the belief in a deity is a sign of insanity and yet seem to accept the most virulent of these as political bedfellows because they agree on your particular wedge issue whether that is guns or finance?

    To echo Eric my instinct is to fight or flee when these folks show up. If they ever truly win we’re in a world of hurt…and atheists are going to be some of the first people lined up against the wall and shot…hopefully metaphorically speaking.

    As for politicians that willingly associate with/court the religious right I don’t care what their position on fiscal policies, big government or gun control are. I’m voting against them.

  125. @esr

    Is this some feeble attempt at a trick question?

    If I were to offer you a trick question I would not insult you with one quite so transparent.

    My opinion is that you are a bit too much tolerant of their intolerance is all.

  126. To be scrupulously fair, the FSF is not very cultish – certainly it’s much less so than Landmark. Barely registers on the cultometer.

    A critical gut check: how do members in the cult feel about the proliferation of the true bits of the cult outside the cult framework? The FSF believes that anything which increases the use of free software is a good thing, albeit less good than the FSF and GNU project. (Stallman himself has expressed admiration for the BSD community, and sadness that he couldn’t work with them more, (doubtless because they aren’t as extreme as he is.))

    Contrast that with, say, Scientology, which is ruthless in its suppression of “squirrels”, people who apply Scientology- or Dianetics-derived psychological principles outside of Scientology. (This is a key topic in Keeping Scientology Working, the “KSW” paper Cruise mentions in his epic rant.) The idea is to convince outsiders that the cult is the only source of all good bits; if the good bits can be had outside the cult, the cult risks losing all its membership.

    If open source wins without the FSF’s help (as it is largely doing today), there’d be a bit of butthurt and whining from Stallman’s general direction concerning who gets the credit. But the Goal will have been achieved and I don’t think Stallman would bemoan that. That’s one of the things that separates his breed of crazy from Hubbard’s.

  127. Why do you guys believe the belief in a deity is a sign of insanity…

    Perhaps if we rephrase the question as:
    “Why do you guys believe that faith in the existence a deity is a sign of insanity…

    The answer is that “faith”, as in “belief in something for no rational reason at all” is insane.

  128. > The answer is that “faith”, as in “belief in something for no rational reason at all” is insane.

    That is no definition of “faith”.

    Also from psychological point of view faith can be useful.

  129. That just raises the question of what a “rational reason” is, though.

  130. > I believe that there is maybe one pro-choice Republican left in the house…Hanna from NY.

    > Whatever you believe TEA stands for the religious conservatives have IMHO completely hijacked the Tea Party and the GOP.

    > The Tea Party are hated because of the company they keep. Fiscal responsibility is well and good but a fiscally responsible theocracy isn’t an improvement over what we have but a huge negative.

    I believe the better question is why so few non-(religious conservatives) are interested in fiscal responsibility. Also, the US of say the 1950’s wasn’t exactly a religious theocracy, which is the “worst” case scenario in terms of social conservatives getting power.

  131. To echo Eric my instinct is to fight or flee when these folks show up. If they ever truly win we’re in a world of hurt…and atheists are going to be some of the first people lined up against the wall and shot…hopefully metaphorically speaking.

    Eric is of the belief that those folks are far less dangerous than the eeevil leftists. Since libertarians are too small in number to effect much change on their own, they, like any minority political contingent, have to form a coalition with other contingents with vaguely aligning goals. The religious right are a broad match for libertarians on the gun, tax, and “leave us the hell alone” issues.

    However, I believe that Eric’s sense of the religious right has for more to do with his extensively refined ability to do what is called “passing” in the LGBTQ community than any benign quality of the religious right themselves.

    Meanwhile, the eeevil leftists (actually a rightist in sheep’s clothing as Altemeyer pointedly observed) did manage to kill millions; meanwhile, more moderate and sane leftist policies supplied superior health care, education, work conditions, public order, and infrastructure for millions more. More and more, the libertarian argument sounds like the “What have the Romans ever done for us?” bit from Monty Python’s Life of Brian, which may explain why they’re too small in number to actually do anything.

  132. One thing I got from Political Science class (well, it was not the exact name) was that left right is defined in many dimensions (like e.g. government interventionism unregulated free market, internationalism nationalism (this was Europe version, US would be federal state probably)), and on many issues.

    I do wonder why political faction cluster so strongly, and why they feel that they have to define on all those dimensions (instead of for e.g. only few most important ones).

  133. @ Jakub Narebski

    > The answer is that “faith”, as in “belief in something for no rational reason at all” is insane.

    That is no definition of “faith”.

    Also from psychological point of view faith can be useful.

    It isn’t the definition of “faith”, but it is pretty much what “religious faith” means, although of course religious people don’t say it that way. In my experience, they say “You just have to have faith.”

    @ Paul Brinkley

    That just raises the question of what a “rational reason” is, though.

    Rational thought is thought based on reason.

    So you say “That just raises…”

    And I say: Reason (in this context) is using knowledge or the best approximations, theories and hypotheses that we have, along with logic, to try to determine what is true.

  134. Winter, you haven’t actually read the Bible, have you? It’s all there at http://www.biblegateway.com.

    “Most of the New Testament is (Eastern-) Roman empire.”

    What part of it? Eh?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judea_%28Roman_province%29

    And the Romans wrote which part? Romans is short for “Paul’s Letter to the Romans”; Paul was a staunch Pharisee, both religiously _and_ ethnically Jewish before Christ introduced Himself (quite rudely) on the road to Damascus (and after which Paul remained ethnically a Jew.)

    “The original Jewish Old Testament is about…”

    You really don’t have any idea what the Old Testament is “about”. Yes, it does contain all that, and yes, a lot of that is at God’s express command. Pigeons and eagles both have wings, feathers, two eyes, can fly and normally nest on cliffs, but are they both about the same thing?

    Winter, I am prepared to accept the idea that you were joking.

    @el_slapper. I like your take on Evolution vs. Creation. I do find it ironic that while your Creation “SOMEONE ELSE is in charge” comforts people, the vast majority of people that I’ve met who seem to believe in Evolution (or seem to believe in nothing at all) take comfort in the same thing. However, the things you claim Evolution teaches is merely science. When it comes to Evolution/Creation, the method is, or at least should be, independent from the madness.

    @Eric…

    “Yes, you projected ‘faith’ on people who don’t have it and don’t need it.”

    If I’m reading this right, and I’m pretty sure I am, what you mean is that somehow, I believe that the people around here believe in God; that I’m prejudiced to believe that everyone around me believes in God, or believes in some sort of supernatural. I do believe it is true that to be an Evolutionist, you need faith, otherwise you’re blind to all the questions and objections regarding Evolution and the fossil record, just a the fundamentally religious are blind to all the questions and objections regarding God.

    “To the faith-holding mind, evidence is ultimately irrelevant in the face of the need and desire to believe – a scientist cannot be like that, and if he is he fails as a scientist.”

    Eric, I know what it’s like to be like that, and I know what it’s like to break out of that. Now, I hate to talk to you like a child, but you know science is about the art of disproving. If you assume, or “believe” something in science, you’re a scientist if you set about trying to “break” that belief with an experiment. That is science. Evolution is broken in several different places, and Evolutionists have a tendency to sweep it all under the rug. A smart Creationist (i.e.: me if I’m trying to break Evolution, which I’ll do if I have to if I need to prove that it is a faith and not a fact) will bring up those objections. As for Creation, the main objection is obviously that most people have not experienced God, and this includes a heck of a lot of people who believe in God. Here’s an example:

    https://www.youtube.com/user/GraceAboundedMore

    It was pretty clear to me through a rather lengthy conversation, that she doesn’t have an experience of God that she recognizes as such. I find this true of almost all “religious fundamentalists”. The best a typical Creationist can therefore do is raise the objections to Evolution and present the even more rickety seminary theologian’s perspective, but you really don’t have anything without experiencing God at some sort of human level. Without that experience, I’d find it easier to believe in Evolution than Creation simply because having no experience of a Creator is disproof enough.

    IMHO, if you have an experience of God and you don’t think it is an experience of God, I’m not going to even try to change your mind. If you have an an experience of God and you’re not sure and ask me, I’m probably not going to say yes, but give you of my own experience and knowledge to help you make up your own mind. Who am I to interfere with your relationship (or lack thereof) with God?

    So Eric, do you want to continue to diagnose my insanity? Or, do you actually want to read and answer the whole post this time?

  135. I love this post, and A&D is one of the few places on the internet where this sort of elucidated wisdom can be found and appreciated. Thank you Eric.

  136. Jeff Read on Thursday, January 10 2013 at 3:50 pm said:
    > moderate and sane leftist policies supplied superior health care, education, work conditions, public order, and infrastructure for millions more.

    To see whether it is capitalism or moderate leftism that has provided these good things, compare Greece and Hong Kong.

    Economic growth provided these conditions, not leftist policies, and, as leftist policies have steadily increased, economic growth has slowed and halted.

    It is the dose that makes the poison: Compare Taiwan and Communist China. Compare China before the reforms with China after reforms: You agree that radical leftism is slavery, mass murder, and artificial famine.

    OK, then let us look at moderate leftism: Compare Hong Kong and Taiwan. Moderate leftism does less damage than radical leftism, but it does the same sort of damage. In radical leftism your speech is constrained because you will be tortured and murdered for politically incorrect thoughts. In moderate leftism your career will be destroyed and your company sued for racism and sexism, on the basis of words allegedly heard whispered behind locked doors by someone with his ear at the keyhole.

    In radical leftism, millions are murdered in artificial famine. In moderate leftism, millions are unemployed and stagnate in hellish public housing. Moderate leftism shows all the same symptoms as radical leftism in milder form.

    Further, “moderate” leftism is inherently immoderate. It moves ever leftwards, at an ever increasing pace, heading for a date with mass murder and artificial famine. Obama is left of Bush, Bush left of Clinton, and so on and so forth all the way back to Lincoln.

  137. >Why do you guys believe the belief in a deity is a sign of insanity and yet seem to accept the most virulent of these as political bedfellows because they agree on your particular wedge issue whether that is guns or finance?

    I don’t know whether “you guys” is supposed to include me or not. What is your evidence that any of the anti-religious types here “accept the most virulent of these as political bedfellows”? What do you suppose we would have to do to not “accept” them?

  138. You’re not.

    This is over-generalizing a bit, but pretty much the only part of your long comment that I really accept is:

    after which Paul remained ethnically a Jew.

    I have a good link for you:
    Skeptic’s Annotated Bible

    It has sections on Absurdity, Injustice, Cruelty and Violence, Intolerance, Good Stuff, Contradictions, Science and History,Family Values, etc.

    You can also do searches. If you want to see many of the places where the Bible instructs you to beat your children, try doing a search on the word “rod”.

  139. >If I’m reading this right, and I’m pretty sure I am, what you mean is that somehow, I believe that the people around here believe in God; that I’m prejudiced to believe that everyone around me believes in God, or believes in some sort of supernatural.

    No, you read that wrong. Your projection is expressed by this claim:

    >to be an Evolutionist, you need faith, otherwise you’re blind to all the questions and objections regarding Evolution and the fossil record,

    This claim is false on several levels. You are projecting your insane religious mode of ignoring or suppressing explanatory gaps on people who don’t need it or use it.

    >Evolution is broken in several different places, and Evolutionists have a tendency to sweep it all under the rug.

    This is tendentious nonsense. Evolution is no more broken than physics, unless you have a theory of quantum gravity handy. So…am I exhibiting “faith” when I model electrical currents with electrons? No…I am “believing” physics, despite legitimate questions and objections about the theory, because it is (a) predictive, and (b) consilient. This is exactly the same reason I believe evolution, because it is (a) predictive, and (b) consilient. There are very few perfect theories (no “questions or objections”), but there are many that pass the predictive-and-consilient test and therefore justify rational belief.

    You, like every other anti-evolutionist I’ve ever met, insist that imperfect theories require “faith”. This claim is false, and even if it were true you don’t apply it consistently. You only brandish it like a club against theories that threaten your delusional system.

    >It was pretty clear to me through a rather lengthy conversation, that she doesn’t have an experience of God that she recognizes as such.

    Sad for her, but irrelevant. I have experienced multiple theophanies that I recognized as such myself, and think everyone should at least once, but I’m not stupid or naive enough to think they had any bearing on what I should believe about evolution or science in general.

  140. @Terry
    The three gospels that blame the Jews for Jesus’ death were written by Roman citizens at a time when most converts were not former Jews.

    Most of Paul’s letters were not written by Paul. Authorship had a different meanig then.

  141. @esr Maybe it’s just been the whole Obama as the anti-christ meme. The guy isn’t that far left of center and in Europe my impression is they think we’re nuts to consider him very left at all.

    That and the criticism here is almost always leveled at “liberals” and the democrats. Where, if there are any moderates left at all in partisan national politics, is where any remaining moderates survive.

    Between Obama and any religious right supported candidate Obama is, to me, the lesser of two evils.

  142. @Nigel: “If we can discuss multi-verse theories without thinking the proponents are all insane crackpots perhaps we can do the same with religion.”

    If religion had an actual *theory*, i.e., a set of ideas that could be used to generate testable predictions, this would work. But nobody who believes in a religion actually uses it to generate testable predictions about things that haven’t happened yet (at least, they don’t whenever the predictions actually have consequences that they care about). They only use it to explain, after the fact, things that have already happened.

  143. They don’t, however, appear to use religion to explain *everything*.

  144. @Nigel

    “Alas, there are a large number of people that do evil and sleep soundly at night resolute in their belief that they have a good relationship with their God.”

    I know. To an extent, I am one of them, making promises I can’t quite keep and lying, even if it is the result of an honest mistake, I still see it as such. As a result of this, there is always a level of discomfort in my relationship with God (that’s another of Jesus’ purposes, assuring us that we are still in that relationship despite ongoing sin.)

    The thing is, there are other Gods than the one I serve, and their desires are often evil by any objective measure. Were it not so, what is the context of the first commandment? “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” – Exodus 20:3. This isn’t just demons, but other things as well: addictions, unhealthy thought patterns (that often turn into mental illnesses), and oneself (anyone here ever met a megalomaniac?)

  145. @Paul Brinkley: “They don’t, however, appear to use religion to explain *everything*.”

    Oh, agreed; but the fact that, by hypothesis, they are “believers in religion” presumes, I think, that they use religion to explain *some* things.

  146. “Eric, not that I believe you’re necessarily wrong here, but I took Terry’s allusion to “big ‘E’ Evolution” as his attempt to illuminate a distinction between those who believe in evolution in the way a scientist believes a line on a graph has a certain slope, and those who believe in it in the sense a fanatic believes in a religion.”

    Paul, that’s exactly what I mean, thank you. As for placing people into buckets, I don’t do that. They do a very good job of placing themselves into these buckets. Neil deGrasse Tyson is the most interesting because, so far as what I’ve heard from him, he is definitely big-E Evolutionist … but, in some of his very eloquent and touching descriptions of his views of how the universe works, I’ve yet to hear him use the word “evolution”! Shortly, I’m going to “ask” him what evolution is, and if he has a take on big-E vs. little-e E/evolution, whether there is such a thing as Evolution fundamentalists in the same way are there are religious fundamentalists. I’m expecting him to depart into a definition of science, but I hope not. The reason I put “ask” in quotes is because I’m certain he has been asked before, on camera, and for me it is simply a matter of finding the recording.

  147. “Talk to the mice – they are performing very complex and subtle experiments on scientists. (which all literate folks will recognize as being from the great work of Douglas Adams – may he rest in pieces.)”

    This idea goes back much farther. Take a look at the Murray Leinster story “Keyhole”.

  148. Jay Maynard on Wednesday, January 9 2013 at 10:30 am said: -Snipped-

    “And if AA/NA are cults, they’re reasonably benign ones, and at least have a genuinely good result. That’s probably because their goal is not to do anything more than get the person to stop using.”
    Yep. Stop using and be happy.
    I don’t know about NA, but some AA meetings can get cultish to a minor degree with charismatic leaders, and certainly Bill Wilson generated some controversy (there are a couple of big web sites devoted to demonizing him), but on the whole AA actually is the biggest functional anarchy on the planet. There sure are a lot of drunks.
    One of its traditions states that “AA ought never be organized”. Another states “the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking”, no-one ever gets kicked out, and at $1/meeting suggested donation, no-one is getting rich. Newly sober members can show the fanatic’s grin, but they usually get over it. Belief in “a higher power” is suggested but not required, and there are even atheists with long-term sobriety, though they’re often a bit argumentative. Theophanies are encouraged but not required.

  149. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/faith
    2.b complete trust ; firm belief in something for which there is no proof

    …an excellent definition that fits atheists well. They tend to be as cultish as anyone else, with the added annoyance that they tend to believe that their lack of religious beliefs makes them smarter than all those believers out there. As Glenn Reynolds commented, “Atheism would be a lot more popular if so many atheists weren’t such schmucks.”

  150. > Between Obama and any religious right supported candidate Obama is, to me, the lesser of two evils.

    Who is the religious rightist active in Republican politics, who proposes to go back to the 1950s, or even the 1960s – which were not exactly periods of rampant right wing theocracy.

  151. @Paul “as if some universal supercomputer is busily calculating probabilities that this organism or that should live long enough to make babies and then arranging events to make those probabilities fact.”

    Lols after Proverbs 16:31. Of course, while I believe God /can/ intervene in any probability phenomenon (such as making a TV pop out of a black hole via Hawking radiation), I think it is extremely rare for Him to actually do so. I.e.: If you put a thousand monkeys in a room full of typewriters and in a few hours they had produced the collected works of Shakespeare, I’d be singing Hallelujah (and probably cacking my pants in amazement anyway!)

    @ Winter “But this is all immaterial to the Creationists. They are not against Evolutionism per se. They are against Science as a way to learn about the world. ”

    Perhaps then I and a small number of others should maybe be “creationists” as this is analogous to my E/evolution distinction. I believe in understanding the mind of God through science, and even mathematics. I think God might have a sense of humour in the form of, say, how old is She? Answer: e^pi – pi

    One of my favorite recreational activities is to fly around in Orbiter. You need to know a thing or two about physics though. If you want a simple universe viewer, I recommend Celestia or Space Engine. If you want to feed your wisdom teeth to your cat, I recommend Kerbal Space Program as a less destructive alternative.

  152. @ esr
    > What do you suppose we would have to do to not “accept” them?

    Exhibit 1: http://catchthefire.com.au/2012/12/rise-up-australia-party-national-launch-on-11th-feb-2013-at-national-press-club-in-canberra/

    Pseudo-skeptic the pseudo-Lord Monckton certainly seems to “accept” the nutters at “Catch the Fire Ministries”, a group of particularly distateful right-wing religious nutters who are hosting the Lordship in Australia …

    Surely you climate contrarians understand that this sort of wingbattery damages the credibility of your experts?

  153. “The guy isn’t that far left of center”

    It is unfortunately true that these days stating the “1%” needs to have their property apportioned in the name of “fairness” and “social justice” is not that far from the center. But do consider the possibility that this doesn’t make the underlying ideas any more valid.

  154. > Of course, while I believe God /can/ intervene in any probability phenomenon (such as making a TV pop out of a black hole via Hawking radiation), I think it is extremely rare for Him to actually do so. I.e.: If you put a thousand monkeys in a room full of typewriters and in a few hours they had produced the collected works of Shakespeare, I’d be singing Hallelujah (and probably cacking my pants in amazement anyway!)

    Given the nature of probabilities, I would infer a number of things, with high enough certainty that I would bet $10000 US (pre-default) on each:

    1. No television set has ever popped out of a black hole via Hawking radiation
    2. No monkeys have ever produced Shakespeare
    3. If 1 or 2 were to become true some day, the cardinality of either event would remain at one until the heat death of the universe
    4. Because of 3, the existence of such a higher power wouldn’t matter enough for me to rely on it in any way.

    And that’s only because $10k is all I could cover, since no bank would honor a higher loan.

  155. “The reason I don’t believe this is that every time I’ve actually pushed one of these allegedly defensive skeptics into trying to justify their anti-evolutionist position, they’ve fallen back into faith-holder insane gibbering within minutes.”

    Eric, I think your stopwatch is busted. When I get into these conversations (and I push both ways), the gibberish usually emerges within seconds. If you want to hear both sides of the gibberish, you can watch this- naw, skip the video and look at the comments.

  156. > Surely you climate contrarians understand that this sort of wingbattery damages the credibility of your experts?

    I see. Supposedly “Catch the fire ministry” are not only crazies, but so crazy that merely speaking to them is proof of evil and madness, whereas Obama is moderate centrist mainstream.

    I cannot prove that god does not exist, because I cannot see things failing to exist, only things existing, but I can surely prove that all men were not created equal. Who then is crazier?

  157. It is unfortunately true that these days stating the “1%” needs to have their property apportioned in the name of “fairness” and “social justice” is not that far from the center. But do consider the possibility that this doesn’t make the underlying ideas any more valid.

    My heart doesn’t bleed for the 1% that exploit American workers and puts them on welfare, food stamps and medicaid to make ends meet. Six members of the Walton family have the same net worth of the bottom 30% of American families combined.

    The Waltons and Wal-Mart are parasites on the american economy gaming the system so the US taxpayers subsidize their business.

    Nor does my heart bleed for the 1% wall street bankers that drove the country to the brink of economic collapse. The same folks that are now attempting to sue the US government for bailing out AIG because the terms were too onerous. I wouldn’t have bailed out AIG but what’s done is done.

    If the choice is tax policy where these bloodsuckers decide to move to Russia or a social policy that outlaws abortion, gay marriage and sex ed while adding Creationism into the school science curriculum then there’s no choice at all.

  158. @Eric “First, give up one of omnibenevolence, omnipotence, or omniscience. Then we could talk contingent existence.”

    Well, since I’ve seen Him get Right Pissed Off, I’ll drop the first one.

    @ams “Belief is generally useless, even if it is of something ‘true’. If you don’t *understand*, what are you believing? Don’t believe X, understand X.”

    I absolutely agree. I enjoy getting into conversations about how I understand God. Unfortunately, they remind me of a clip from Star Trek IV:

    Bones: “You really have gone where no man has gone before. Can’t you at least tell us what it was like?”

    Spock: “It would be impossible to discuss without a common frame of reference.”

    Bones: “You mean I have to /die/ to discuss your insights on death?”

    Also, the evidence that I have that God exists is a) highly subjective, and b) not repeatable in a lab experiment. The reason why it is not repeatable is the “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” effect. The stack of unlikely coincidences that I have experienced that convince me of the reality of God and my relationship with Him are each only available once. Even so, almost every time I bring them up, there’s some troll who is absolutely convinced that I’m making them up out of repressed memories or some balderdash like that even if the material involved is brand new.

    In science, it often occurs that several different individuals start discovering or inventing the same thing at the same time out of contact with each other. Many can be traced to context generating an environment where the new discovery or invention is pretty much inevitable (i.e.: the first person who points a telescope at Jupiter is going to see the big moons; had Lippershey done so before Galileo…) Those that can’t seem to be like we as humanity are just plain ready to trip over the principles and knowledge, but why a bunch at the same time, and not before or after? Whatever makes it possible, the only thing a true atheist can believe is dumb luck (remember, for cases where context has been ruled out.)

    One of the big frustrations of evangelism is actually not that people don’t believe me when I share of my experience of God, it’s that if you choose to believe in God because of my experience, that does sweet tweet regarding your own experience of God. Because I experience God, it doesn’t guarantee that anyone else will (even though the God I know wants to know everyone, otherwise I wouldn’t be bringing Him up.) Fortunately, I have yet to meet the person who struggles to believe in God and He never shows up in any way. That said, there are a bunch who don’t really struggle, but the same aren’t stubborn enough to stick with science or reason either.

    “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” – Galileo (At moments he seems like the Neil deGrasse Tyson of theology, but Jesus was even more so.)

  159. Eric’s reference to the synthetic greeters that accosted him upon entering the auditorium brought to mind a funny encounter that I had at fancy ski resort a few years ago. Management had hired a bunch of attractive college-age coeds to act as greeters and welcome the out-of-state guests who were paying upwards of $120 for a day pass. These young ladies were relentlessly cheerful and earnest in asking if there was anything they could do to make the ski day more enjoyable. My buddy, who had been drinking (of course), took the offer at face value and said that yes there was something that she could do if she really meant it. He said that he had a dingleberry that he couldn’t quite reach and wondered if she would mind plucking it off for him. He took her speechlessness as a no, and ever since then we’ve joked about this being the ultimate litmus test for true believers. Are you willing to pluck the dingleberry?

  160. Nigel, if I wanted to read New York Times, I would read New York Times, so please spare the propaganda. I’m still curious, though, do you admit the possibility that you might be wrong about the reasons for certain problems US has (and no, the fact that rich people have more money than poor people is not a problem)? And that what currently is called political “center” would have been called radical leftism some time ago?

  161. @ Shenpen
    >Well certain subsets of US libertarianism are quite cultish (the Rothbard-Rockwell subset, the >staunch anti-empiricists) and that is a mighty attractive bait for you, so…

    Nah, US libertarians aren’t cultish. If they were, they’d be *far* more successful in recruiting new followers.

  162. @Eric “the moment I see the religious hypomania and the shutdown of critical thinking I know I’m in the presence of the enemy and must either fight or flee.”

    I think I’ve said almost the exact same thing before with “see Ephesians 6:12″ tacked onto the end. The Bible (and my own observations and experience) are remarkably consistent with the idea that there is a really evil spiritual force out to destroy our humanity. In non-theist terms, our reason, intellect, ability to think, make new discoveries, show compassion to one another, have children, etc. and that cults are a big part of that. In theist terms, we are made in the image of God, and that is what the enemy hates, so he destroys everything about us that is God-like.

    Paul: “How many people who profess agreement with ‘evolution is superior to creationism’ would be able to come up with something like that hill-climbing algorithm on their own? … in a way that shows they could apply it to at least two different problem types. In other words, they understand it, not merely believe it.”

    There are a few different ways to find your way around in the Orbiter Spaceflight Simulator. I’m most familiar with two:

    TransX MFD: http://www.orbitermars.co.uk/TransXV310.zip (about 700kB)
    Trajectory Optimization Tool: http://www.orbithangar.com/searchid.php?ID=5418 (192.7MB, 22.2MB if you already have MATLAB)

    In the first, it shows you your course in stages and lets you plan the maneuvers yourself to get to where you’re going, including such things as Voyager 2’s Grand Tour.

    The second does it for you using a genetic algorithm.

    Guess which one I’ve had better luck with? TransX. It might be that this particular genetic algorithm isn’t particularly good (and I believe that to be the case), but it is part of my experience that, unless the problem is quite simple, genetic algorithms just don’t cut the mustard as well as intelligent design (both my words and lack of capitalization on them is deliberate.) I was not successful in finding a simple coloured-moth type applet which was made specifically for an Evolution-vs-Creation argument that failed to come even close to demonstrating as much evolution as science observes. I thought it was linked to this one:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcAq9bmCeR0

    So, IMHO, evolutionary hill-climbers are no match for smart human designers, and while I’m not going to tack a “therefore” on it, I will say it doesn’t exactly support the idea that Darwin-esque natural selection would work as well as Dawkins and deGrasse Tyson seem to believe it does.

  163. @Terry “Evolution is broken in several different places, and Evolutionists have a tendency to sweep it all under the rug.”

    @Eric “This claim is false on several levels. You are projecting your insane religious mode of ignoring or suppressing explanatory gaps on people who don’t need it or use it.”

    Okay, back it up. Has the objection regarding Evolution being able to generate new information from scratch ever been properly answered?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaKryi3605g

    “No…I am “believing” physics, despite legitimate questions and objections about the theory, because it is (a) predictive, and (b) consilient. This is exactly the same reason I believe evolution, because it is (a) predictive, and (b) consilient.”

    I haven’t found that to be exactly true. Michael Cremo’s “Forbidden Archaeology” (with Richard Thompson) has shown that a double standard is applied to evidence of evolution, so it is not as consilient as you think (he is Hindu in faith and subscribes to Vedic creationist theory; his book “Human Devolution” gets a bit kooky, IMHO.)

    http://www.amazon.com/Forbidden-Archeology-Hidden-History-Human/dp/0892132949

    Is it predictive at all? What has Evolution predicted that has come to pass? Now, I’m not talking about selective breeding because that is not Evolution, just little-e evolution.

    “You, like every other anti-evolutionist I’ve ever met, insist that imperfect theories require ‘faith’. This claim is false, and even if it were true you don’t apply it consistently. You only brandish it like a club against theories that threaten your delusional system.”

    Eric, get off the damn line if you’re going to talk like that. You’re beating me over the head with reckless abandon using words like “insanity” and “delusional”. You hypocrite!

  164. @Peter: “But nobody who believes in a religion actually uses it to generate testable predictions about things that haven’t happened yet (at least, they don’t whenever the predictions actually have consequences that they care about). They only use it to explain, after the fact, things that have already happened.”

    I believe that the Biblical predictions (i.e.: the prophecies) predicted events which are already in our past from the 21st century context (so the most coherent analysts of prophecy are the historicists.) That said, it does appear that some of the Reformers in the 1750 era predicted that the fulfillment of certain prophecies in advance, and consistent with the modern historicist interpretation. Would you like the details?

    @Glen Reynolds “Atheism would be a lot more popular if so many atheists weren’t such schmucks.”

    (sigh) The Christian corollary is an entire book:

    http://www.amazon.com/unChristian-Generation-Really-Christianity-Matters/dp/0801072719

    Not only that, but the authors blew it by preaching biblical inerrancy. I still find myself wondering how anybody can believe that every thought of God can fit into a volume dwarfed by any issue of Jane’s All The World’s- er… anything, and The CRC Handbook of Physics and Chemistry.

  165. @ James A Donald
    > so crazy that merely speaking to them is evidence of evil and madness

    Well, I was more referring to His Viscountness accepting the invitation of a nutty fringe religious group to be the keynote speaker at the launch of their even nuttier political party. Evidence of sound judgement it certainly ain’t.

  166. @Terry
    “Has the objection regarding Evolution being able to generate new information from scratch ever been properly answered?”

    Yes.

    Summary:
    Darwinian selection is a filter that extract information from the environment. In CS terms, it is a search algorithm.

    Long answer:
    First, lets get the terminology right. Creationists have a way messing up concepts to make their point.

    “Evolution” is the combination of “Selection” (=differential breeding success) working on “Mutations” (=Inheritable Variation). This leads to changes in the traits of a population over time (=adaptation&drift). These are probabilistic processes, so they are basically biased random walks. There is really no controversy in any way that these mechanism work. It is impossible for them not to work. If there is differential breeding success and inheritable variation you get adaptation over time.

    Now, as Creationists cannot attack the above mechanism, they confound it with the history of the earth. They call the history of life on earth “Evolution”. As with any history, it is impossible to prove that something really happened a long time ago. You can repeat experiments in writing a new Constitution of the USA as often as you want. So you can prove easily that people can write down a Constitution. However, you can never prove that the original Constitution was written by specific persons in a specific manner as you can never again observe that. Even worse when talking about things happening millions of years ago.

    Now back to your question: “Evolution being able to generate new information from scratch”

    This is a deliberate mis-formulation. The process of evolution (=adaptation) is a search algorithm. Search algorithms do not generate new information from scratch, they filter information.

    As written above, adaptation is searching a local optimum in a vast space of possible configurations. It is the most efficient algorithm known in cases where a combinatorial explosion makes it too expensive to check a sizable fraction of the possibility space. See the work on Genetic Programming.

    This is all well known. Actually, this is standard curriculum material for under-graduates in Biology and Computer Science. The fact that Creationists keep coming up with these non-sequiturs is proof that they are not seriously interested in “Science”. They only go through the moves to satisfy their scientific illiterate followers, using some interesting sounding words. Simply as a debating technique to bamboozle an audience. In short, Creationists are lying to hide truths they cannot face.

    Btw, I do know honest Creationist scientists. These are not biologists. These are tortured souls who all eventually have to face reality and get their idea of God out of the gaps (eg, Cees Dekker). Over-here there was a well know TV presenter from an evangelical station who was honest enough to admit in the end that the proof was in favor of the biologists. However, this was too distressing for the viewers so his bosses silenced him on this point.
    (Dutch link: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andries_Knevel )

  167. @Terry
    “What has Evolution predicted that has come to pass? Now, I’m not talking about selective breeding because that is not Evolution, just little-e evolution.”

    This is a testament of the inadequacy of USA education. Biology education must be still in the 19th century.

    The DNA profiles (and all the rest of the biochemistry) of every single living organism fits a tree of common descent. That is, the DNA of Chimps is closer to mine that that of Howler monkeys, which again is closer than that of mice, opossums, birds, oak trees, the Yersinii pestis bacteria, in that order.

    There are a few different mechanisms for photosynthesis and oxygen respiration known in living organisms. Only one of each dominates all the others and is used exclusively by multi-cellular organisms (plants, fungi, and animals). Even better. The two species of bacteria that “invented” photosynthesis and respiration have been taken up as a symbiont by every multi-cellular organism that uses light or oxygen. A similar story, with twists, holds for the ability to digest cellulose.

    Just by looking at the flower of an unknown plant, a botanist can tell you most of what you want to know about the anatomy and physiology of the complete plant. Because, by looking at the flower, she can determine the next-of-kin species. Because they share a common ancestor, most of the chemistry and anatomy of the plant can be derived. Even if the plant lives in a completely different environment and has a completely different life-history.

    You have obviously no idea how huge the fact of these simple connections are. Because, under Creationism, there is no connection between species other than that the same God created them all at the same time. But due to Darwin’s work, each of these facts (and many, many more) was anticipated.

  168. @Terry
    “So, IMHO, evolutionary hill-climbers are no match for smart human designers, and while I’m not going to tack a “therefore” on it, I will say it doesn’t exactly support the idea that Darwin-esque natural selection would work as well as Dawkins and deGrasse Tyson seem to believe it does.”

    This goes in with my earlier response. This is simply a very stupid remark. “Evolutionary hill-climbing” is the most efficient strategy in very complex search spaces. No other design strategy has been found that beats it. As for the “Intelligent” in “Intelligent Design”, Darwin himself described hundreds of examples of stupid designs of nature in his works. All understandable as results of the histories of the species.

    Try to find a better search algorithm in N dimensional space (N>1000) with interacting factors (F[i,j] is exponentially bigger/smaller than F[i]*F[j]). You will get every price and reward there is to win in CS and some other fields.

  169. Terry on Friday, January 11 2013 at 1:28 am said:
    > I believe that the Biblical predictions (i.e.: the prophecies) predicted events which are already in our past from the 21st century context (so the most coherent analysts of prophecy are the historicists.)

    People interpret biblical prophecies to have accurately predicted events in the interpreters past. They are markedly less successful at interpreting biblical prophecies to predict events in the interpreter’s future.

    Of course Jesus, famously, did predict the destruction of the temple.

    Jesus: There will be wars and rumors of wars. Kingdom shall rise against Kingdom, and Nation against Nation

    Heckler: And bears shall shit in the woods.

    Jesus: there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down’

    Heckler: Doubtless true of any building. Could you tell us when the temple is going to get thrown down and who shall throw it down?

  170. Maybe a little Catholic theology would do the USA evangelicals etc some good. Here are some points (outdated points, as I am not current on Catholic dogma)

    – The bible is a book about the relation between man and God and is written for all human beings. It is not a book about science, geography, history, or natural history

    – Nature is the “second book” of God. “Read” it to better understand God, do not fight reality

    – God is in the real world, not lurking in the dark shadows of human knowledge

  171. >Eric, get off the damn line if you’re going to talk like that. You’re beating me over the head with reckless abandon using words like “insanity” and “delusional”. You hypocrite!

    I call them like I see them. You, like every other faith-holder, are insane and delusional. The insanity consists precisely in an inability to adjust your predictive models to conform to evidence when that evidence would conflict with the emotional fixations of your faith. I use these words because the world won’t ever be less full of crazy if the sane people keep pretending the nutters are not nutters.

  172. Re “faith” vs “reason”.

    Rational reasoning has its limitations; we live and have to live with incomplete information.
    (I’ll stop here on that issue).

  173. @esr
    “You, like every other faith-holder, are insane and delusional.”

    I can understand the objections to these words.

    Their actual meaning would be “pathological and requiring institutionalized care” and “a state of psychosis”, respectively. It can certainly be argued that most faith-holders are not suffering from a dangerous pathology which requires institutionalized care. Even that “faith” is one of the natural states of the human mind, as part of the big five personality traits.

    Maybe we must accept the reality that a large fraction of healthy human beings can sincerely believe mutually exclusive facts at the same time, and keep faith in magic feats while repeatedly observing their utter failure, never having experienced them working in first place (or vice versa, things work every time but are never believed).

    That is not limited to religion though. I just have to mention “vaccination” somewhere to get loads of anti-science and magical thinking and severe logical delusions thrown at me. (no, I won’t go into the topic)

  174. >It can certainly be argued that most faith-holders are not suffering from a dangerous pathology

    But they are. We can never know on any given day that the voices in their heads aren’t going to trigger an episode of religious mass murder. Historically this is both a frequent and a recent phenomenon. Monotheisms are particularly prone to it.

  175. @esr
    “We can never know on any given day that the voices in their heads aren’t going to trigger an episode of religious mass murder.”

    I know. It is very uncommon, and I would not limit it to monotheism. There are Hindus massacring Muslims in Gujarat once every decade. And Sinhalese Buddhists know how to do it too. South Park had a nice episode of fictional Atheist’ wars.

    But you are probably right, we should keep a watchful eye on people with delusional tendencies.

  176. “The Bible (and my own observations and experience) are remarkably consistent with the idea that there is a really evil spiritual force out to destroy our humanity.”

    No it isn’t. The Jews, who wrote the Book, do not believe that there is any spiritual force in the universe except God. It’s monotheism with a capital ‘M’. Don’t go looking for conspiracies when plain old ignorance and stupidity explain things well enough.

  177. @w23 I’m still curious, though, do you admit the possibility that you might be wrong about the reasons for certain problems US has (and no, the fact that rich people have more money than poor people is not a problem)?

    Nope, I don’t admit the possibility because I haven’t yet espoused any reasons for problems. I have simply stated that in my view, regardless of the reasons or problems, that thus far nothing the liberals has proposed on anything is as dangerous as what the religious right want.

    You wanna hear what I think the problem is? Here goes: the problem in US politics for me is that as a moderate that is fiscally conservative, socially liberal, pro-strong military I am faced with choosing between liberals and anti-science religious conservatism.

    At least Romney believed in evolution and picked Ryan instead of someone like Jindal. But good lord, last go around we had Palin.

    And yet, all I hear around here is Obama this and Obama that while also that creationists (or more accurately, anyone that believes in God) are insane. If creationists are insane and the US conservatives and libertarians pander to creationists…why the hell are you guys picking on Obama? Do you really believe a bit of socialist medicine is more dangerous than teaching creationism in school as science?

    Obama as a cultist? The biggest anti-science cult in the US has conservative politics by the balls and folks here seem to think liberals are the problem? Where 46% percent of the country seems to believe in young earth creationism according to polls?

    Ron Paul rejected evolution and Rand Paul dodges the question on how old the earth is…because that’s a hard question.

    Gary Johnson wasn’t bad in general, believes in Evolution but dodged the issue of teaching Creationism and ID as Science as something to be determined at the local level. Really? As a SCIENCE?

  178. Faith and religion are traits of cultural evolution, and both originated and persist because they “work” in the sense that they enhance cultural survival and growth. A few thousand years ago, our ancestors evolved this memetic methodology as a means of conveying wisdom from generation to generation. At some point, these traits may prove to be unnecessary, and will then become the cultural equivalent of a epiploic appendix.

  179. So massive is the vote fraud in minority precincts – especially in Pennsylvania – that we honestly can never know how black voters actually voted in the past few elections. The pervasive assumption that blacks always vote Democrat makes it far easier to stuff the ballot boxes and get away with it. After all, who is going to be able to prove that the vote should have been 60/40 Dem instead of 90/10?

  180. @nigel
    “Nope, I don’t admit the possibility because I haven’t yet espoused any reasons for problems. ”

    Top 1% Got 93% of Income Growth as Rich-Poor Gap Widened
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-02/top-1-got-93-of-income-growth-as-rich-poor-gap-widened.html

    I am not acquainted with the political affiliation of this Bloomberg outfit, but if all growth ends up in the hands of only a few people, I would indeed expect economic problems. As I understand it, economics is all about incentives and efficient allocation.

    If all growth ends up in the hands of 1% of the population (the richest part), I see no way how the other 99% get the incentives for growth and the 1% will be efficient in allocating resources.

    Not seeing problems in such a state of affairs sounds rather like you are wearing a political blind-fold.

  181. You don’t see where the blindfold actually is when you’re the one wearing it.

    Poor incomes grow slowly because income growth corresponds very closely to current income. In other words, income doesn’t grow by X dollars for everybody, but rather by X% for everybody (roughly speaking). If someone’s income is so low that they’re spending more than they’re actually making, then their growth is naturally going to be low. If someone’s income is so high that their first-level needs are met, additional income will more easily be channeled into endeavors that create even more income. Not only that, but current wealth not tied up in capital investments such as a car, a house, etc. can be invested as well, adding further to the wealth.

    And even that’s not all. Many people who have low incomes, have them not because they’re destitute or homeless, but simply because they’re young and have just started working. Others have low incomes because they’re retired, and have practically zero income, but sizable wealth. There’s an enormous amount of mobility in the American income ladder which income inequality prophets fail to see through their blindfolds, at the expense of my blood pressure.

  182. @Paul Brinkley
    “In other words, income doesn’t grow by X dollars for everybody, but rather by X% for everybody (roughly speaking). ”

    With such reasoning and reading ability, you do not need a blindfold, I agree.

  183. And even that’s not all. Many people who have low incomes, have them not because they’re destitute or homeless, but simply because they’re young and have just started working. Others have low incomes because they’re retired, and have practically zero income, but sizable wealth. There’s an enormous amount of mobility in the American income ladder which income inequality prophets fail to see through their blindfolds, at the expense of my blood pressure.

    Social mobility is higher in Europe than in the U.S. now.

    Libertarians are being driven to fits by the unpleasant fact that equality of outcome is much more important than equality of opportunity when determining the health (physical, mental, and social) of a society. The gap between rich and poor is a real problem and should be narrowed through economic policy. This is spelled out — and backed up with peer-reviewed research — in The Spirit Level by Wilkinson and Pickett.

  184. Went to the Landmark Forum’s website…… Looks pretty soul-less.
    Heaven’s Gate…. Now there was a cult who knew a thing or two about web design!

  185. In Winter’s world, apparently there’s no such thing as an interest rate.

  186. @winter

    I’m not sure where you get the idea that I’m for widening the rich/poor gap given what I wrote…

    @paul

    The trends shown in that chart are not healthy. The most of the middle class lives in that 3rd 20% which isn’t doing well. A lot of the middle class that lives in that 2nd 20% live in areas where the cost of living are very high.

    A strong middle class is politically and financially stable. They make money, they spend money and don’t make a lot of waves. Consumer spending is 2/3rds of the economy. Consumers with little money don’t spend.

    Is it a significant problem? To me the percentages don’t matter as much as whether or not we have a sizable middle class making a good living. That doesn’t appear to be the case.

  187. Winter on Friday, January 11 2013 at 11:09 am said:
    > Top 1% Got 93% of Income Growth as Rich-Poor Gap Widened

    US policies have become radically more left wing and redistributionist, and, lo and behold, surprise surprise, wealth has become more unequal.

    Funny thing that.

    When I visited Hong Kong, the planes flew on schedule, like buses to move the multitude. When I visited Cuba, the planes flew like taxis, to suit the whims of the elite. Similarly Cuba had socialist health care for the masses, consisting of hard bed to die on, and special hospitals for the elite. As our politics becomes more like that of Cuba, our wealth distribution becomes more like that of Cuba.

    Leftists are theoretically in favor of poor people, but in practice treat them as mascots.

    In the US, food and clothing is privately provided, and everyone is well clothed and well fed. Education and protection is provided by the state, and most are neither educated or protected. Housing is an intermediate case.

  188. >Monotheisms are particularly prone to it.

    Which makes perfect sense: the more deities in your head, the more likely there’ll be moderating voices.

    One could think of Polytheism sort of like a layer of anthropomorphism which gilds competing desires. A polytheist can act in a more-or-less rational manner, able to justify any action as a deference to one of many gods. But once you go monotheistic, you begin acting with a dangerous single-mindedness.

    Myself, I believe Dionysus is the one true god, which is why I’m having a portrait commissioned.

  189. Winter on Friday, January 11 2013 at 11:09 am said:
    > Top 1% Got 93% of Income Growth as Rich-Poor Gap Widened

    Observe: Leftism always results in massive inequality, and no where is this more obvious than in Cuba.

  190. “We can never know on any given day that the voices in their heads aren’t going to trigger an episode of religious mass murder.”

    Is nationalism at least as much of a hazard? It seems to me that serving one’s nation is also apt to take the brakes off of people’s aggressiveness.

  191. OK – today I promise to be more careful with my HTML tags.

    I hope that I haven’t already described this here before…

    @ Winter

    Try to find a better search algorithm in N dimensional space (N>1000) with interacting factors (F[i,j] is exponentially bigger/smaller than F[i]*F[j]). You will get every price and reward there is to win in CS and some other fields.

    Many problems in everyday life are of this sort (although many of them are not as large as you specified) – from a mouse trying to find a path through stepping stones to get across the creek to a person trying to decide how to drive to the airport.

    One of my quirks is that if I am trying to do something really new, I don’t look at the existing state of the art much – I don’t want to lay down a way of looking at problems. In any case…

    I started working on this in about 1999 and I had published the idea on my website by 2000 (thank you Way Back Machine) and worked on it at times for a several years.

    I rejected the idea of trying to start a software company, although I guess now that I am effectively retired, I could throw it at the Travelling Salesman problem ;)

    I never got any comments on this but the work does have 923 external links to it at:
    http://www.agt.net/public/bmarshal/aiparts

    Google has loved my home page and anything I choose to hang off it ever since.

    I have a theory that emotions evolved to make decisions. The basic idea is that it is a lot easier to write various bits of code to add to a deer’s fear than it is to write a piece of code to decide when the deer should run away.

    In the early days, the few folks at comp.ai that commented basically sneered at it and I never found anything like it on the web (although, I never tried that hard), but I believe that now the approach is more commonly accepted (ditto).

    (As approximately and metaphorically as it takes for you not to laugh at this:)

    Herbivores need fear (desire to avoid bad results). Carnivores (which, temporarily, at least acquire wealth) like wolves and bond traders, need greed (desire to do take advantage of what is known or what is “owned”). Scavengers like crows and humans need curiosity (desire to try something new).

    So, in a nutshell:
    for a bunch of tries (physically or by consideration):
    for the most urgent or the most obvious unmade decision:
    pick the option with the most hope = fear + greed + curiosity
    adjust the emotions of options based on this try

    One interesting aspect is that bad aspect are much more important than good aspects, so from poorish to extremely bad, the “goodness: goes like -2, -4, -8, -16, -32 etc. while okish to extremely good goes: +2, +4, +6, +8, etc.

  192. As Bayesian evidence, religion is only weak evidence that someone will go nuts and commit mass murder – much as it’s foolish to claim that being Muslim strongly implies being a terrorist or that being religious strongly implies being a criminal. Most religious people don’t go nuts and kill lots of people because most people don’t go nuts and kill lots of people.

  193. Something about Eric’s assertion bothers me, too, actually. I understand where he’s coming from, but when I consider the likely processes going on in the brain, it’s hard for me to conclude that religion (or “faith-holding”, to adhere closely to the quote’s context) is the determining factor.

    To put it more precisely, if I’m faced with a faith-holder, I’m not so much put at unease by the faith, as I am by whatever unseen mechanism within the brain made holding that faith possible in the first place.

    There are some caveats to this. First, if faith isn’t possible without that mechanism, then it’s reasonable to observe faith-holding and infer the problem of note (and this might be all Eric is suggesting here). Second, it’s still the case that many people hold a faith and end up never hurting anyone – possibly more than the other way around, depending on how you count them. Third, and to me, most importantly, if I’m right about the existence of this hidden mechanism, then it’s essentially a zero-day exploit into the human hindbrain, we all have it, and the only way we have to guard it is by laboriously constructing safeguards in the forebrain, a process often known as “critical thinking” – and it’ll still be lurking in there as long as there’s a hindbrain.

    Not that that’s really that depressing. All it means is that logic training manages the risk, which remains non-zero, but could be so small that the time required for the expected occurrence of a snap is many times longer than the maximum human lifespan.

    But I’m still left wondering exactly *how* much of a security hole religion is. Put it this way: if you took a self-proclaimed monotheist and tried to persuade him to go on a murder spree by convincing him his religion requires it, how likely would it work, and how likely is it that he would end up giving up the religion, or just collapse into uselessness? Considering those latter cases are what make me sometimes wonder whether people who profess a faith are really just rationalizing even deeper innate tendencies.

  194. (This last was in response to Nancy’s previous comment, by the way.)

  195. Republicans being a cult : seems more complex. Tea party is obviously a way of thinking that infuses the brain & makes everyone think the same in that group. Kind of cult. But they are not the whole part of the republicans, it seems to me.

    Tea Party is not a cult, although it may be considered part of one, in that it is a functioning portion of the mechanism on which cults function.

    The true purpose of the Tea Party is to distract a large section of the American lower-middle classes, so they do not develop class consciousness, and consequently support policies favored by the financial elite.

    I’m amusedly reminded of John Steinbeck’s succinct summary of Gramscian theory: “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

  196. As Bayesian evidence, religion is only weak evidence that someone will go nuts and commit mass murder – much as it’s foolish to claim that being Muslim strongly implies being a terrorist or that being religious strongly implies being a criminal.

    This may be true, but it’s like the problem of male child care workers. Most men are not paedophiles, but a male child care worker is far more likely to sexually take advantage of a child than a female one. Hence, men working in, say, a day care context are viewed with considerable distrust.

    Likewise, most religious people are not insane killers, but a religious person is more likely to go on a killing spree than an irreligious one.

    There’s also the less likely but more disastrous danger that someone will start hearing voices and, through religion, induce others — perhaps by the thousands — to kill in the name of god.

  197. Jeff – it’s still effectively security theatre, though. Imagine Bruce Schneier doing the numbers on the TSA. The numbers here are of the same order.

  198. Let me tell you something which might at first glance look unrelated: there was observed in a few cases a peculiar type of brain damage which removed emotional responses and left only rational logical thinking to control behavior (unfortunately I cannot offer references). Scientists puts those people against various psychological tests. As it turns out those people have had large problems with tasks which involved incomplete information. Something that we don’t have any problems with. (But probably also those kind of soft problems that AI still has problems with).

    So it turns out that emotional hindbrain responses are very useful (if sometimes misleading and must be controlled and checked by logical thinking).

    Now put science in place of “logical reasoning”, and “faith” in place of emotions…

  199. @Jakub Narebski

    Let me tell you something which might at first glance look unrelated… brain damage which removed emotional responses…large problems with tasks which involved incomplete information

    It may be a step removed from the religion/violence topic but it is a beauty in relation to my (OT) post.

  200. >Is nationalism at least as much of a hazard?

    Historically, nationalism seems to rank about third on the mass-murder threat scale, a good distance behind variants of Marxism (#1) and monotheistic religions (#2). (This judgment is not off the top of my head; I’ve actually studied this question intentionally and considered casualty figures.)

  201. Eric, _you_ are insane:

    esr on Thursday, January 10 2013 at 5:26 pm said
    “I have experienced multiple theophanies that I recognized as such myself, and think everyone should at least once, but I’m not stupid or naive enough to think they had any bearing on what I should believe about evolution or science in general.”

    esr on Friday, January 11 2013 at 6:03 am said:
    “The insanity consists precisely in an inability to adjust your predictive models to conform to evidence when that evidence would conflict with the emotional fixations of your faith.”

    I conclude from this that you believe a person who has experiences of God (theophanies) who actually believes in God because of those experiences is insane.

    -or-

    Let’s go with your more general definition, “an inability to adjust [when] evidence would conflict”… You claim to have had experiences of God yet do not believe in God. You think I’m insane for a perfectly sane reason, and you are insane by your own definition. Who’s the nutter?

    esr on Thursday, January 10 2013 at 7:59 am said:

    “Yes, you projected ‘faith’ on people who don’t have it and don’t need it. This doesn’t reveal any problem in their world-view, merely your need to believe that science and religion are epistemically equivalent at some level.”

    Here, you have imputed upon me several assumptions that I don’t actually hold, Eric, in the same sort of rhetoric that:

    a) You have experienced and absolutely hate (if I’m reading between the lines correctly on what you have to say about “allegedly defensive skeptics into trying to justify their anti-evolutionist position, they’ve fallen back into faith-holder insane gibbering within minutes” – esr on Thursday, January 10 2013 at 11:00 am)

    -and-

    b) I haven’t used in a direct sense upon anyone here. The reason I haven’t is because I want to trigger the neurons firing that get people to consciously ask themselves:

    “Am I an evolutionist or an Evolutionist? If the evidence in paleontology or archaeology painted a different picture than the one I believe in, would I change that picture or would I dogmatically persist that Evolution is correct and there can’t possibly be any other way?”

    One thing I’ve noticed, Eric, is that you haven’t asked me any questions. Why don’t you? Instead of behaving in this insane hypocritical ranting outlash against me, why don’t you try to get me to prove it myself?

    “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.” – God, Job 38:2-3 KJV

    Finally, (I’d have to double check to make sure), Eric, you and I are behaving in the most immature manner on this entire thread as the only two people calling each other names.

  202. >There’s also the less likely but more disastrous danger that someone will start hearing voices and, through religion, induce others — perhaps by the thousands — to kill in the name of god.

    Yes, that’s exactly the danger – not sporadic individual flipouts but collective delusional mania, building on the individual insanity of religion, intensified and directed by charismatics.

    One reason this possibility is more emotionally real and frightening to me than to most people is that I’m pretty sure I could do it – that is, be the crusade-leading charismatic myself. I’ve had theophanies. I know how to channel. I’ve led mass movements. If I were stuck in a supernaturalist/religious belief system and a zealot by personality rather than a rationalist…well, it could add up to a lot of blood and ugliness.

  203. >Now put science in place of “logical reasoning”, and “faith” in place of emotions…

    That’s an unjustified leap. Faith is not merely emotion, it’s the (wilful) substitution of emotional fixation for reasoning.

  204. And if AA/NA are cults, they’re reasonably benign ones, and at least have a genuinely good result. That’s probably because their goal is not to do anything more than get the person to stop using.

    Having opened this particular can of worms, I should respond. Firstly, yes, they are very effective. Astoundingly so, given how hard addiction is to treat. I wasn’t really being pejorative. I don’t like them very much but I don’t discount their good intentions.

    They’re not really cults, but they use cult-like methods. One of the key things successful cults do is to isolate you from your life, family, friends, etc, so you depend on them totally. In the AA context this translates into “giving you something to do other than go to the bar”, i.e. go to meetings. With lots of positive reinforcement (peer pressure) for being able to get up and say you’re still dry.

    They provide a replacement for your old life. Then tell you you’ll never be cured – in their view, you’re always an alcoholic, just one that’s recovering. To tell the truth, that’s not 100% wrong.

    So yeah, benign, and they do good stuff, but they’ve borrowed heavily from cult methods to do it.

  205. >I conclude from this that you believe a person who has experiences of God (theophanies) who actually believes in God because of those experiences is insane.

    Correct. Or, more precisely: A person who has theophany and proceeds from it to a faith-holding worldview is driving himself insane. The insanity inheres in the faith-holding stance, not the theophany. We fail to recognize this because our cultural matrix is heavily poisoned by religious and supernaturalist assumptions about what theophanies mean.

    The sane person, upon having a theophany, withholds judgement about whether the experience tells him anything about objective reality – he understands that it may be nothing more than a storm in his neurons, albeit a rather transforming one. The sane theophanist seeks a model of the experience that is consilient with rationally-acquired knowledge. The sane post-theophanic personality does not fixate on the first religious system to wander by.

    The wise post-theophanist becomes more skeptical about religion, not less – for he has experienced its ur-source directly and has less need for the external forms and inductive methods. If he draws from religion at all it is mainly from quietist mystics – the Sixth Patriarch, George Fox, Meister Eckhart – or from anti-dogmatic groups like the ultimatists in Buddhism, the non-theistic wing of the Quakers, and the “magical” tendency in neopaganism. He understands in his marrow Buddha’s deathbed words to his favorite disciple:

    “Have no fixed beliefs, and find your own light.”

  206. Off topic, but an example of a problem Winter brought up…

    AND >> an Opportunity to spell google starting with a lower case “g”…

    I started the project that turned into AI Parts to write staff-scheduling software, which I believe is an NP hard problem. I don’t know how to prove that, so I called the target problems Dirty Hard Problems – dirty in the sense that they have arbitrary constraints (Jane can’t work past 9:00 pm, Bill can’t work Tuesday, etc.) and every decision affects subsequent decisions.

    In any case, staff-scheduling is a freak’n big problem…

    If you have 10 shift-slots that have to be filled 7 days a week by, say, 15 people (some part-time), the solution-space is:
    15 ** (7*10) = about 2.12e81 ways of filling in the schedule.

    (15 options for the first shift-slot on Monday x 15 options for the second…)

    Brute force ain’t going to do it… If you have a billion super-computers that can each evaluate a billion solutions per second (and there are about 31557600 seconds per year), it would take about 6.7e47 billion years to explore the solution space.

    And that’s not a large staff-scheduling problem. 20 employees for 80 shift-slots is just over 1e104 – 10,000 googles! And that is still just a medium sized staff schedule. My spell checker thinks that google has to start with a capital letter!

    The problem with writing such software where it is needed most – nurses in a hospital is a good one – is:

    1. it takes a lot of work to set up all the constraints and how good/bad various things are (in some hospitals, there are two unions for different kinds of nurses).

    2. I refuse to write software for Windows and I haven’t written GUI software since the 1990s.

    I will, however, help someone else write such software.

  207. I conclude from this that you believe a person who has experiences of God (theophanies) who actually believes in God because of those experiences is insane.

    Wesley Willis had experiences of a trio of demons pursuing them, actually believed in his demons because of those experiences, and was indeed insane.

  208. @TomM “Surely you climate contrarians understand that this sort of wingbattery damages the credibility of your experts?”

    Ugh (eyes rolling around on floor), quit reminding me of those. Unfortunately every camp has its nutters, some far more than others. I think there are camps where the nuttiness is inherent in the concept they believe in, such as Apollo-was-a-hoax and NASA-covers-up-aliens, and thus if you got rid of all the bugs, the camp would no longer exist because there is no one else there (except me occasionally checking out the event horizon of the fringe for purposes analogous to those of military intelligence, and sometimes to attempt a rescue… come to think of it, one of those rescue attempts resulted in the only detailed Orbiter/Delta Glider entry tutorial online at the time.)

    Among the sane camps, such as science, there are the truly nuts, who have somehow been deceived into believing ideals that depart from the mainstream of that camp, and sometimes do so without even realizing it (i.e.: the doctor I had prescribe the most expensive thing she could find that could treat the condition, GSK’s lapdog whether she knows it or not.) And there seem to be people planted, wolves in sheep’s clothing (should I look up verse and chapter?) specifically to appear nuts and discredit the sane within the field. How many different groups have thus hijacked Jesus Christ? (Of course, it doesn’t help that part of having that relationship with God is setting aside your sanity, see Matthew 16:35/Mark 8:35/Luke 9:24/Luke 17:33, 1 Corinthians 1:19-20, and Romans 12:1-2. This appears to be related to Fowler 5/Peck 4 spiritual growth.)

    w23: “But do consider the possibility that this doesn’t make the underlying ideas any more valid.”

    Theft is still theft, Robin Hood. I absolutely agree.

    Nigel: “My heart doesn’t bleed for the 1% that exploit American workers and puts them on welfare, food stamps and medicaid to make ends meet. Six members of the Walton family have the same net worth of the bottom 30% of American families combined.”

    Theft is still theft, Prince John…

    And, before I get to Winter… Ima leave you with a vid on how to keep your head on straight ;);););)

  209. I conclude from this that you believe a person who has experiences of God (theophanies) who actually believes in God because of those experiences is insane.

    Gods and channeling in paganism don’t require anything supernatural. The gods in this case can rationally be interpreted as being or coming from stuff deep down below consciousness in the human brain. The practices of paganism involves assuming these gods have objective existence, but this is only a tool to bring out what is buried deep in the mind/brain.

  210. @ Terry

    I’ve noticed, Eric, is that you haven’t asked me any questions. Why don’t you?

    Can you suggest any sort of question ESR might ask you?

    (For some reason, this sentence by P.J. O’Rourke pops into my head…
    “It’s like doing real-estate deals with your dog.”)

  211. esr on Friday, January 11 2013 at 5:45 pm said:
    > A person who has theophany and proceeds from it to a faith-holding worldview is driving himself insane. The insanity inheres in the faith-holding stance, not the theophany.

    So someone who believes in things unseen is dangerously insane, yet someone who unbelieves in things seen is perfectly sane?

    Surely this should be the other way around.

    Particularly as those who unbelieve in human biodiversity have murdered a hundred and fifty million or so.

    Most respectable well established religions cannot be proven to be untrue, since one cannot see god not existing, whereas one can see that not all men were created equal.

    Progressivism transliterates the standard christian beliefs about the next world, where they might well be true for all that anyone can prove, to this world, where they are evidently false. There is nothing inherently crazy about believing these things about the next world, whereas there it is inherently crazy to believe these things about this world.

    People who believe the standard progressive beliefs about this world are apt to do dangerously insane things, such as war, artificial famine, and mass murder, whereas people who believe the standard Christian beliefs about the next world, do not.

    Mainstream Christianity cannot be disproven. Mainstream progressivism can be disproven, all the way back to the progressivism of the late eighteenth century. Who then is crazier?

  212. Winter,

    Thanks for trying to answer my question. First, I take exception to selection being a “random walk” (remember, Ima still a small-e evolutionist, as I think anyone with serviceable grey matter should be.) Natural, or artificial, selection is the part of the process that isn`t random (please forgive my wacky apostrophes, my keyboard has somehow “randomly” switched into Francais mode; if anyone can tell me the key combination for that, please do.)

    Search engines don`t make new information; they only index what is already there. Since the genetic alleles that tend to have the more interesting variations (especially in artificial selection) tend to be recessive, if selection is too strong or events cause the breeding population to drop very low, dominant (and other) alleles can be lost, leading to a loss of information, not new information. As for new information, random mutations would need to form something that is:

    a) coherent: If it doesn`t make sense in the language of DNA, it will be lost. This might require the sort of mutation that would fool the DNA equivalent of the MD5 checksum.
    b) added: It can`t replace existing information, for if it does, the existing information is lost and the mutation`s “newness” is seriously blunted. If DNA has the equivalent of flie-size checking, this could be difficult.
    c) useful: It isn`t going to stick around if it doesn`t get selected. This is why irreducible complexity is a problem.

    “Now, as Creationists cannot attack the above mechanism, they confound it with the history of the earth. They call the history of life on earth “Evolution”.”

    Oh, so Creationists came up with the story of Evolution, now? That`s as crazy as saying Genesis, as it is in the Bible, was written by Orey on the basis of his lightning bulb experiment! So, the Evolutionists can`t support the history of the Earth they have postulated from their theory, so they throw it out and blame it on the enemy. How ingenious!

    In truth, the story of Genesis is far older. The applicable scriptures were written roughly three thousand years ago. The history of Earth as postulated by Evolution (and with very good theory at the time) was penned in about 1950. (Looking it up now, the 4.5bln year number seems to be related to Wegener and continental drift info published in 1960, but I had a 1959 Oxford Atlas as a child and remember most of the geological stratum and Evolutionary history from that. I`m assuming that the astrophysics and math for solar fusion work out on the basis of the successful H-R diagram and main sequence, and that the Sun really is 4.5 billion years old. I`m quite certain that the classical Big Bang theory and red shift really does work out and the universe appears to be 13.7 billion years old, but negative energy has thrown a wrench in it.)

    “This is a deliberate mis-formulation.”

    No, it`s a question. An objection. How does evolution produce new information such that the complexity of life can increase with the passage of time and the action of mutation and natural selection?

    “It is the most efficient algorithm known in cases where a combinatorial explosion makes it too expensive to check a sizable fraction of the possibility space.”

    And I have found such algorithms tend to break down when more dimensions are added. It is really frustrating, actually, because if I could use such algorithms, it would save my own brain quite a bit of work. I`d like to have a conversation with God about whether He had similar frustrations. (/Thinking)(Thinking like a smart Creationist) Since God must have been able to postulate all the disasters that would befall His creation, and provided evolution as a means (not the only one) of adapting to changing conditions, He would need to provide each “kind” (the word in Genesis apparently for species as they existed at that time) with all the information they would need for their course of evolution. If any “new” information arises, it would result from something akin to fractal decryption or procedural generation. This is nearly certain if evolutionary algorithms are as effective in the biological world as I have observed in computer applications. (/Thinking)(Thinking normally)

    “…In short, Creationists are lying to hide truths they cannot face.”

    Not convinced. Evolutionists (big-E) do the exact same thing, and these accusations fly both ways. Trench warfare.

    `”These are tortured souls who all eventually have to face reality and get their idea of God out of the gaps”

    LOL! Why then do the vast majority of evangelical Creationists that I`ve heard of have tales of being tortured by the objections to Evolution before coming to believe in Creation. In the opposite direction of the tale you describe, Professer Walter Veith. Again, trench warfare, only this time my guns have more and better ammunition.

  213. @ Terry

    Ok. I have read your last post and I have a (somewhat odd) question to ask you:

    Do you think that any (significant amount) of what you said has anything to do with what you are talking about?

  214. @Brian Marshall:

    I started the project that turned into AI Parts to write staff-scheduling software, which I believe is an NP hard problem.

    Of course it is, in the general case.

    I don’t know how to prove that,

    But it’s an interesting enough (in both the academic and economic senses) that you don’t have to. See, for example:

    http://www.cs.nott.ac.uk/~rxq/files/EJOR10.pdf

  215. “Historically, nationalism seems to rank about third on the mass-murder threat scale, a good distance behind variants of Marxism (#1) and monotheistic religions (#2). (This judgment is not off the top of my head; I’ve actually studied this question intentionally and considered casualty figures.)”

    IIRC, the big religious wars are historically pretty distant. Should modern religions be considered to be relatively subordinated by nationalism?

    Are you just counting mass murder within nations? I’d count the world wars as basically driven by nationalism.

    As AA, I’ve read a book called _Sober for Life_ which at least seemed to have some research behind it, and it claimed that AA worked well for many people, but what it claims as universal truths about getting over drinking problems simply aren’t true.

    There are people who can eventually drink in moderation, people who do it alone, people who make the decision once and for all, people who don’t have a higher power.

    The author only found two universal factors– at least a year of abstinence, and attention to the ways that not having a drinking problem makes life better.

  216. Still Winter…

    “This is a testament of the inadequacy of USA education. Biology education must be still in the 19th century.”

    Kent Hovind said pretty much the exact same thing for the opposite camp. Charles Sykes believes that education in the US has actually gotten worse since the 19th century. Have we found something to agree on?

    The bulk of your message.

    I believe God could have used design thought that would resemble macro-evolution to Evolutionists. There is an inherent similarity in the best laid designs made for a similar purpose, both in nature and in technology. They can appear to have a common ancestor, even if they don`t. Despite many similarities, including common “symbiont” engines, the Airbus A330 and the Boeing 767 do not have a common ancestor.

    Similarly, in 1962, General Electric proposed a spacecraft called Apollo D-2, which I shall dub “Union”. The basic idea was to produce a minimum mass three-crew single-sortie spacecraft. They did this by shrinking the descent module by putting all systems not essential for the survival of the Union`s crew through entry, descent, and touchdown outside of it. This way, Union only needed to carry a heatshield, parachute, and impact protection for the smallest part of the spacecraft. Living space and the flight avionics were placed in a mission module forward of the descent module, while propulsion and electrical systems (other than the entry batteries) were placed in a service module behind the descent module. These two modules were jettisoned prior to entry and thus burned up in the atmosphere. The descent module was made the most volumetrically efficient shape compatible with lunar entry requirements, a flat-bottomed seven degree sphere-cone resembling a headlight, generating a roughly 0.30 ratio of lift:drag, enough to soften the g-force of a lunar entry and allow a nearly pinpoint landing on Earth. The mass of the Union spacecraft came to 7470kg.

    Remember, I (and not GE) dubbed it Union, the English word for Soyuz (which came to 6600-7200kg depending on how you loaded it out), a nearly identical spacecraft developed on the other side of the Arctic Ocean. Analysts have pondered whether the Soviet design was copied from the D-2, and concluded that this was extremely unlikely. These two sophisticated human designs apparently have nothing whatever to do with each other, save their design goals, and yet are are almost identical.

    My favorite evolutionist video regarding clocks, featuring After Columbia Project`s theophany song:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcAq9bmCeR0

    The following has the Featherwing Love Project`s theophany music video named after it. Can cdk`s little program possibly come up with anything even close to it?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqhuAnySPZ0

    So, the basic idea is that nature`s designs are so complex and so highly engineered, that evolution, while it obviously played a part in producing the huge variety currently observed, is not good enough at this sort of engineering to be able to pull it off… without Help.

  217. @Terry: “I believe that the Biblical predictions (i.e.: the prophecies) predicted events which are already in our past from the 21st century context”

    James Donald has already responded to this, but I wanted to make it clear, for the record, that I agree with his response. “Predictions” that are only identified retrospectively as predictions don’t count. Every time a religion has been used to make a specific prediction that was identifiable as such in advance, the prediction has not come true. Last December 21st was an example–not a Christian one, true, but Christians have predicted dates for the end of the world plenty of times based on the Bible, and we’re all still here.

    “Search engines don`t make new information; they only index what is already there. Since the genetic alleles that tend to have the more interesting variations (especially in artificial selection) tend to be recessive, if selection is too strong or events cause the breeding population to drop very low, dominant (and other) alleles can be lost, leading to a loss of information, not new information. “

    You’re missing something important: the information that is filtered by evolution isn’t just in the genes. It’s also in the environment. Over time, evolution by natural selection can transfer information from the environment to the genes; so the information in the genes, which is the only information you are looking at, *can* actually increase–new information *can* appear in the genome, and if the genome is all you look at, it will appear that that information comes “from nowhere”.

  218. Last December 21st was an example–not a Christian one, true, but Christians have predicted dates for the end of the world plenty of times based on the Bible, and we’re all still here.

    Oh plenty of millenarian end-of-the-world prophecies have come true — in much the same manner as for the parrot described by Lincoln in the 2012 film. (I have no idea if the historical Lincoln ever told such an account, but it sounds like a chestnut he’d use.)

  219. “Do you really believe a bit of socialist medicine is more dangerous than teaching creationism in school as science?”

    I honestly don’t understand why creationism in schools matters that much, given for example the number of nonscientific subjects at universities.

    “Libertarians are being driven to fits by the unpleasant fact that equality of outcome is much more important than equality of opportunity when determining the health (physical, mental, and social) of a society. The gap between rich and poor is a real problem and should be narrowed through economic policy. ”

    Sure, sure, until we close it completely and reach the level of USSR where the “health” of “society” was in a splendid shape.

    “To me the percentages don’t matter as much as whether or not we have a sizable middle class making a good living. That doesn’t appear to be the case.”

    Now, that’s something we could talk about. What makes you think the number of people living in US making a good living is particularly small? You mention areas with high cost of living, what do you think, for example, the reasons for housing prices in NYC are?

  220. I want to start a RationalWiki article on Isagenix. Mind if I start by adapting the text of your comment?

    Sure, and while you’re at it you can adapt the contents of my fun rants:

    If You’re a Big Believer in the Power of Isagenix, I Have a Bridge in Brooklyn to Sell You

    and its followup:

    No, Isagenix, a Trivial Study from Your Pet Scientist Doesn’t Make You Not a Scam. Get the Hell Off My Planet.

    They’ll need cleanup of course; most notably you’ll have to pick the swearwords out. Like removing the spines from a fugu fish. Anyway, I hope they give you a starting point.

    I’m proud to say that I’ve already lost several pounds and even fit into my old jeans thanks to Stop-Eating-So-Much-Fucking-Food-A-Genix!

  221. I spent all day before coming here shoveling snow; I can never escape Winter ;)

    “As for the “Intelligent” in “Intelligent Design”, Darwin himself described hundreds of examples of stupid designs of nature in his works. All understandable as results of the histories of the species.”

    A big part of the reason we have such designs in nature is because the optimal designs for the niches they occupy have died out. The largest number of phyla (basic body plans) was largest during the Cambrian Explosion, at 100. It has since dropped to 33. SimEarth makes at least one of the extinct phyla, a three-limbed something or other I can`t remember the name of, available for evolution into intelligent life (it came out for the SNES, and I don`t remember a whole lot about it. It is much simpler than SimCity.)

    Terry: “I believe that the Biblical predictions (i.e.: the prophecies) predicted events which are already in our past from the 21st century context (so the most coherent analysts of prophecy are the historicists.) ”

    Ouch! I make it sound as though the most coherent prophecy analyses result from my belief in phrophetic historicism. Actually, it is the other way around, I believe in historicism because those analyses (including my own) are the most coherent. Sorry for any misunderstanding (esp. Eric, who seems quite prone to misunderstanding me in this way.)

    James, the interesting thing about the destruction of Herod`s temple is why not one stone was left upon another. The gold from the furnishings were melted in a fire and seeped into the cracks, so the only way to get it out was to pull the stones apart. Also, there are some Bible prophecies to which dates are attached. The most significant is in Daniel 9, which allows you to calculate when the Messiah dies, right on schedule in 32AD.

  222. @ Patrick Maupin

    Yeah… I sorta read the paper – other than the actual math parts which are totally beyond me.

    I briefly thought “Ah, now with Wikipedia, I can finally figure out what NP-hard problem means.” But… that also continues to be beyond me, or at least I don’t care enough about it to try to understand it. My brain just does not like that stuff.

    I find it wild that I can talk about a solution-space of 10,000 googles when the size numbers are 80 shift-slots and 20 employees.

    I realize that there are Staff Scheduling (SS) problems where mathematical models and algorithms can be applied. Some SS problems can be reduced to (rotating) rosters and are not hard to deal with.

    But, as I believe the paper concluded, the general problem, optimizing with all kinds of arbitrary restrictions, is still a bitch.

    But, do you know what is really wild about SS problems? Stupid people can do them! A stupid person can solve a problem where a formal approach by a computer just doesn’t cut it.

    I tried to write software that would approach the problem like a person would. The emotion stuff just sort of fell out as I was thinking of names for the basic aspects that affect how good an options looks.

  223. LS: “No it isn’t. The Jews, who wrote the Book, do not believe that there is any spiritual force in the universe except God.”

    Do you think that modern Judaism resembles ancient Judaism, or that those who wrote the New Testament were parties to the ancient Jewish theology at the time they wrote their work, which we now regard as scripture? I don`t.

    As for Eric`s ongoing string of poop: “But they are. We can never know on any given day that the voices in their heads aren’t going to trigger an episode of religious mass murder.”

    Actually, in a lot of cases, these episodes of religious mass murder are predictable, and not only that, but non-religious mass murders are all to common. Alas, the worst known mass-murder was perpetuated by non-religious people against religious people starting with reasoning disturbingly similar to yours, Eric. Who should we be keeping a close eye on?

    If you want to hear me say “poo” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYjLxS3YWaE&t=47m07s

  224. >The practices of paganism involves assuming these gods have objective existence, but this is only a tool to bring out what is buried deep in the mind/brain.

    I wouldn’t even go that far. Modern neopagans, at least the kind I hang out with, don’t have any need to assume the gods are anything more than features of human depth psychoplogy. Objective correlatives not required.

  225. >Should modern religions be considered to be relatively subordinated by nationalism?

    Before the most recent phase of the long war of Islam against the West went hot, I might have agreed with that claim, Today…no.

  226. “The sane person, upon having a theophany, withholds judgement about whether the experience tells him anything about objective reality – he understands that it may be nothing more than a storm in his neurons, albeit a rather transforming one. The sane theophanist seeks a model of the experience that is consilient with rationally-acquired knowledge. The sane post-theophanic personality does not fixate on the first religious system to wander by. ”

    So, what if I have done exactly what you have suggested with these theophanies (I call them “flags”) and I have several thousand of them logged? A couple hundred of them have been the subject of unpredicted coincidences in songs and other material that I have encountered after having them. It is these coincidences that have left me completely unafraid to say that I have experienced God. Here`s an outdated, abridged list of involved songs:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8Q7BCB1kSc&t=3m50s

    Now, Eric, it appears that you don`t want to believe there is such a thing as a sane theophanist. Is that true?

    Brian: “Can you suggest any sort of question ESR might ask you?”

    Reading comprehension fail. Read the rest of the post please.

    Brian: “Do you think that any (significant amount) of what you said has anything to do with what you are talking about?”

    Silly question. I counter with “Do you use your keyboard when you type?”

    Peter: “Over time, evolution by natural selection can transfer information from the environment to the genes; so the information in the genes, which is the only information you are looking at, *can* actually increase–new information *can* appear in the genome, and if the genome is all you look at, it will appear that that information comes “from nowhere”.”

    How does it do that transfer? Where does the information in the environment come from?

  227. @Terry:
    “Do you think that modern Judaism resembles ancient Judaism(?)”
    Why yes, it does. Judaism has certainly changed in the past 2000 years, but the basics remain in place. God is not human. The concept of Original Sin is evil, and not to be entertained. God does not die, and thoughts of His resurrection are silly. That’s why Jews in Jesus’ time rejected the Christian beliefs, and that’s why we do so today.

    ” or that those who wrote the New Testament were parties to the ancient Jewish theology at the time they wrote their work, which we now regard as scripture? I don`t.”
    Nor should you. They were Christians writing decades after Jesus’ death. The new religion had already separated from its parent.

  228. >Now, Eric, it appears that you don`t want to believe there is such a thing as a sane theophanist. Is that true?

    No. I think I’m still sane. I’m pretty sure the Buddha was sane. Theophanists can be sane; faith holders can’t be.

  229. @Terry: How does it do that transfer? Where does the information in the environment come from?

    Natural selection: the information in the environment determines which genes make more copies of themselves. Over time, more and more information about which genes are better at making copies of themselves, and why, gets encoded in those genes.

  230. @ ESR

    > I wouldn’t even go that far. Modern neopagans, at least the kind I hang out with, don’t have any need to assume the gods are anything more than features of human depth psychoplogy. Objective correlatives not required.

    That’s good.

    I was actually trying to say that rational neopagans don’t believe in objective existence of supernatural gods but (not knowing much about this) the rituals involve acting (as in action, not pretending, but almost..) (damn, this is hard to say) as if the gods are real.

    I lost my copy of Illuminatus but (my memory is playing tricks on me again) the owner of the sub says at one point something like “It is all very well to consider the gods to be aspects of the mind when you are sitting in an arm chair discussing the matter, but if you are going to invoke one, you damn well better treat it like it is real.”

    Do you have any comments on invoking a god (invoke/evoke – the one where you actually call the god to, uh… come and be present)?

    You use some interesting words, but in a quick search, I can’t seem to find any uses of the word “psychoplogy” that aren’t just misspellings of “psychology”. If this isn’t a misspelling, what does it mean?

  231. I posit that Eric is smart enough to recognize his mistake. Eric, you are conflating the mathematical duality of the inductive construction of the universe with the coinductive construction of infinity.

    > First, give up one of omnibenevolence, omnipotence, or omniscience.
    > Then we could talk contingent existence.

    Indeed it would be impossible to construct an INSTANCE that is simultaneously all good, all powerful, and all knowing, because nothing imperfect could be constructed. Perfection would require infinite degrees-of-freedom, thus a dynamic, competitive world could not exist– the Second Law of Thermodynamics could not exist.

    In type theory, top is the inductive bound and bottom is the coinductive bound. Top is the intersection of all types and bottom is the union of all types. Thus bottom can never be constructed as an instance, yet it exists as type bound.

    Shift your frame-of-reference into the type of types domain of the universe to find the existence you claim is impossible.

    Note that the operations (e.g. methods of a class) of an inductive type are a coinductive type and dually vice versa, e.g. the top class type contains the union of all methods of all types in the universe, thus can not be constructed. And dually, the bottom class type contains the intersection of all methods of all types, thus can be constructed.

  232. Peter Donis, I’ve just realized an area of ignorance, and I’m hoping other people have done my homework for me– I have no idea whether the prophets in the Jewish bible are known to have made their prophecies (so far as I know, mostly of the form “clean up your act or you’re gonna get conquered!) before the fact.

    This segues nicely into further thoughts about nationalism, threat or menace?. The thing about nationalism is that being conquered will probably make you worse off, which means there are prisoner’s dilemma issues. When nations start posturing at each other, it would be best for everyone if they’d just pull back. But maybe one of them sees an advantage from grabbing some territory, and this becomes symbolically important– it isn’t just about the specific territory, it’s about the risk caused by the loss of respect. At least one side of some wars are about self-defense.

    On the other hand, it can be like that for religions, too. If religion is sufficiently entangled with government, then not being the dominant religion is something like being conquered.

    When I said things are better in re religion, I meant that there are large chunks of the world which have dominant Abrahamic religions and yet show no risk of religious war. Protestants vs. Catholics shows no signs of starting up again, and I wouldn’t expect religious vs. atheist, either.

    I admit I’m not going more than twenty or thirty years out on this.

  233. >If this isn’t a misspelling, what does it mean?

    It was just a typo. :-)

    >I was actually trying to say that rational neopagans don’t believe in objective existence of supernatural gods but (not knowing much about this) the rituals involve acting (as in action, not pretending, but almost..) (damn, this is hard to say) as if the gods are real.

    That’s true enough. You analyze outside the ritual circle, you act within it.

    >Do you have any comments on invoking a god (invoke/evoke – the one where you actually call the god to, uh… come and be present)?

    Yes. It’s not really very complicated; essentially it’s method acting plus a bit of autohypnosis. You don’t necessarily get the one you expected, though, and the surprises can be entertaining. A very common sign of successful evocation is spontaneous poetry or musical expression – I actually learned to play hand drums while channeling one night. You feel different while in the altered state, sort of vast and vibrating and hyperacute. The people I know don’t lose continuity of consciousness or memory, but that is known to happen in forms like Vodoun or Candomble that go for very deep states of possession. The hardest thing to describe about it is that you get insight – your whole angle of perspective on the world changes, you often notice connections that you didn’t before or facts change their relative prominence.

  234. >Shift your frame-of-reference into the type of types domain of the universe to find the existence you claim is impossible.

    You’re uttering nonsense. The relationship between mathematical theory and observed reality is not even nearly that simple.

  235. The primary qualification that makes an organization a cult is “is it destructive”? Landmark is a border line case because some people go in, spend some money and leave. Some don’t exit and end up emptying their wallets into it. Destructive for some, not others. Great story though. It has a bit of everything in it. Escaping the controlling group, walking free in public, encountering the law, engaging in free market commerce, and finally, discovering that pigeon holes and stereotypes breakdown the minute you encounter reality. There’s a little something for every libertarian in this anecdote. Brilliant!

  236. PS: The “Obama administration” is not a cult. The statist machine IS.

  237. >> Now put science in place of “logical reasoning”, and “faith” in place of emotions…

    > That’s an unjustified leap. Faith is not merely emotion, it’s the (wilful) substitution of emotional fixation for reasoning.

    That isn’t what I wanted to say; I’m sorry for being not taking time to explain my idea more clearly.
    What I meant is that “science” is to “rational reasoning” like “faith” to “emotion”. We thought that emotions in decisions are always hindrance…

  238. @Terry
    “Search engines don`t make new information; they only index what is already there.”

    No. See literature on data mining and machine learning.

    @Terry
    “How does evolution produce new information such that the complexity of life can increase with the passage of time and the action of mutation and natural selection?”

    Quantifying complexity is a challenge. Machine learning tells you how to extract information from the environment. Genetic programming is such a machine learning algorithm. Every simulation of “evolution” showed that it increases complexity without bounds in a random walk way. (random walk is a technical term).

    @Terry
    “I believe God could have used design thought that would resemble macro-evolution to Evolutionists.”

    No. Either Macro-Evolution is the method used by God or not. DNA has too much redundancy to make functionally equivalent stretches look like homology. If two stretches of DNA look alike, they have a common ancestor.

  239. @terry Theft is still theft, Prince John…

    A 30% minimum tax on folks with more than $1M income (the Buffett Rule) to close loopholes isn’t theft especially given I pay about as much on income tax and will get hit with the same increase in cap gain tax. Cap gains tax was 29% in Clinton’s first term and I didn’t shy away from investment any more than today.

    Removing tax breaks on folks making more than $400K isn’t theft either.

    I make a pretty good living so I don’t mind paying in the higher brackets but if they have an effective tax rate less than mine then my feeling is that they aren’t paying their fair share given I’m not rich. That those less fortunate than me pay less isn’t much of a concern to me.

  240. @Terry
    “How does evolution produce new information such that the complexity of life can increase with the passage of time and the action of mutation and natural selection?”

    And here is a model:
    Every mutation either increases or decreases complexity, say, with probability 0.5. Complexity cannot become zero, because then there is no life anymore. So every generation we randomly add or subtract 1, with a hard bottom of 1. What is the maximum that can be reached in a reasonable time?

    How many generations would it take for complexity to go from 1 to hit 1,000? 5,000?
    A run of 1000 plusses would have a probability of 1/2^1000. Cannot happen?

    Turns out to be extremely variable, but around a million generations for 1,000, and about 30 million generations for hitting 5,000. However you measure complexity, it can grow randomly.

    Here is the Perl one-liner (MIT license, if anyone cares ;-) ):

    perl -e ‘$Pdown=0.5;while($m < 5000){++$i;$c += rand()<=$Pdown ? -1 : +1;$c=1 if $c $m){print “$i: $c\n” unless $c % 1000;$m = $c};};’

    Here is output for three runs:
    Generations: Complexity
    1,138,949: 1000
    1,598,591: 2000
    3,416,119: 3000
    3,717,017: 4000
    39,054,748: 5000

    217,698: 1000
    820,022: 2000
    5,036,596: 3000
    6,176,190: 4000
    29,425,777: 5000

    1,728,849: 1000
    3,628,679: 2000
    4,160,173: 3000
    8,165,033: 4000
    8,613,231: 5000

  241. Nancy Lebovitz on Saturday, January 12 2013 at 9:43 am said:
    > If religion is sufficiently entangled with government, then not being the dominant religion is something like being conquered.

    Progressivism is suppressing Christianity, replacing it with an progressive animatronic imitation of Christianity which rejects the Pauline rules on sex and marriage, and has Jesus as chief community organizer rather than Christ as the redeemer of mankind. It is attempting to do something very similar to Islam, though with markedly less success, and Muslims are, rationally enough, fighting back. This tends to select for the most theocratic religions. Christianity, not being all that theocratic, fades, while progressivism and Islam fight it out, Islam seeking to suppress all alternative belief systems, especially Judaism, progressivism to co-opt all alternative belief systems, especially judaism.

    Observe the marked resemblance between progressive Jews, and conversos. Progressive Jews, like conversos, tend to be anti semitic.

  242. I honestly don’t understand why creationism in schools matters that much, given for example the number of nonscientific subjects at universities.

    Because it’s not science. It’s fantasy. Creationism in philosophy or comparative religion class is fine. Creationism in any science class is complete and utter idiocy.

    I am both surprised and not surprised that ESR has not weighed in on the sanity of calling anyone of faith insane while tolerating politicians that pander to people he considers not just crazy but dangerously crazy and on the brink of religious mass murder.

  243. >I am both surprised and not surprised that ESR has not weighed in on the sanity of calling anyone of faith insane while tolerating politicians that pander to people he considers not just crazy but dangerously crazy and on the brink of religious mass murder.

    I’ve made my detestation of and contempt for the religious right quite clear and quite public. I’m not a conservative and don’t travel in conservative circles, so there’s not a lot I can do about the willingness of conservatives to use (and be used by) religious nutters.

  244. Attempting to post one more time.

    “Do you really believe a bit of socialist medicine is more dangerous than teaching creationism in school as science?”

    I don’t understand all that fuss about creationism in schools. As if schools/universities didn’t teach plenty of nonscientific subjects anyhow.

    “The gap between rich and poor is a real problem and should be narrowed through economic policy. ”

    By all means, all the way to the USSR levels, where the health of society was much better.

    ” To me the percentages don’t matter as much as whether or not we have a sizable middle class making a good living. That doesn’t appear to be the case.”

    Now that’s something we can actually talk reasonably about. What makes you think people are not making a good living in US?

  245. If I’m multiple-posting, sorry, something’s weird with the UI for me.

    “Because it’s not science. It’s fantasy. Creationism in philosophy or comparative religion class is fine. Creationism in any science class is complete and utter idiocy.”

    So you object just to the fact it is being taught in the class with a “science” in its official name? Why? Because it would spoil the notion of what science is in susceptible young minds?

  246. > The relationship between mathematical theory and observed reality is not even nearly that simple.

    I understood your tripartite impossibility claim to be that a good God would not be powerless to make good all that is in the universe.

    The claim is illogical in several orthogonal ways.

    1. Good does not exist without evil. Perception requires contrast.
    2. Good is evil, and vice versa, from different perspectives.
    3. Some cases of global or greater good require local or lesser evil.

    Essentially by implication you claimed that infinity (infinite degrees-of-freedom to attain good at all possible perspectives) must be observable, else it is impossible. Or by implication you claimed that we can prove the universe is finite, thus the necessary degrees-of-freedom would be observed and achieved by such a God.

    Some theories of the universe posit that infinity exists as an unreachable bound in some domain, e.g. entropy, space, time, or precision. True or not, we can not prove that infinity does not exist as unreachable bound. Your claim of impossibility is too strong. Such a God can not provably exist, because we can’t observe for infinite time, precision, etc..

    A possible interpretation of your linked essay on math, is that an infinite universe can not be completely described by any finite set of theories or axioms.

    Infinity can not constructed inductively from a starting point, because infinity (final unreachable bound) can not be observed.

    Whether it exists or not, infinity or the finite bound is decomposed co-inductively as observations directed towards its final unreachable or finite bound that we can not prove is final.

    How sad a finite universe would be, where the scientific method could be shelved and knowledge would cease to expand at some finite bound. The scientific method requires that we never trust a bound (e.g. Planck’s constant precision) as final and continue searching and testing forever.

  247. @Eric: “No. I think I’m still sane. I’m pretty sure the Buddha was sane. Theophanists can be sane; faith holders can’t be.”

    Oh, so someone who has an experience of God and uses that experience to conclude, scientific-like, that God is real and thus build a relationship (faith), is insane. But someone who has an experience of God and pushes it aside as irrelevant while persisting in the believe that there is no God is perfectly alright. Eric, that sounds pretty silly!

    After reading a comment further along, I’m pretty sure I understand why you experience theophanies, don’t believe in God, and call me, whose theophanies are dominated by “spontaneous poetry or musical expression” (except that my writing usually isn’t poetry) insane for believing in God. I am also absolutely certain you won’t like it.

    @Peter: “Natural selection: the information in the environment determines which genes make more copies of themselves. Over time, more and more information about which genes are better at making copies of themselves, and why, gets encoded in those genes.”

    That doesn’t answer my question. How does information from the environment get into the genes? Natural selection only selects from what is already there, it does not produce new information. It can’t be the way information gets from the environment into the genes. How does this “and why” get encoded into genes that are only getting “better at making copies of themselves”?

    @Winter: “No. See literature on data mining and machine learning.”

    Can you advocate for the concept that data mining and machine learning is how an evolutionary algorithm produces new information?

    “Every simulation of ‘evolution’ showed that it increases complexity without bounds in a random walk way. (random walk is a technical term).”

    Certainly not the ones that I’ve run. I haven’t had any produce “new” information, merely search the selection space that I have set, and I have never seen an increase in complexity result. I might counter my own argument with fractals, but I believe the complexity-apparent being the result of the existing information’s inherent complexity, not the result of new information (i.e.: M-prime was discovered, not invented. I would also say the same of each unique Minecraft world, and is a part of the reason why I find it so entertaining.)

    Your Perl one-liner doesn’t convince me. Every time it would hit 1, it means that all the information that was there before was lost and it is starting over again completely from scratch. If this were happening, there wouldn’t be much complexity for mutation to work on, and very little information for natural selection to work on. How many times does it hit 1? What would an actual graph of the complexity value look like and would it resemble any Evolutionist gradually increasing chart?

    @Winter: “No. Either Macro-Evolution is the method used by God or not.”

    It is not. Please don’t fabricate my beliefs like Eric, I know them quite well enough, thank you. Once again, I believe God could have used design thought that would resemble macro-evolution to Evolutionists. I think that if you bonked a staunch Evolutionist on the head just the right way that he forgot that airliners were made by man, he would conclude that the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 evolved from a common ancestor, especially if the examples he saw both carried Rolls-Royce Trent 972 engines.

  248. Yes, it’s a shame about Aaron. Unmade my day.

    @Terry:

    Natural selection only selects from what is already there, it does not produce new information.

    The mutation is the new information. You are probably right that most mutations at a cellular level that we notice are bad, and that most mutations probably aren’t even noticed. But why do you appear to assume this precludes a beneficial mutation from happening and being propagated?

  249. >Oh, so someone who has an experience of God and uses that experience to conclude, scientific-like, that God is real and thus build a relationship (faith), is insane.

    Faith is not a relationship. I know this because I am intimately related to my patron deity, but there is no “faith” involved – only my experience of what I am like when I channel him, and the effect that has on others. It doesn’t matter whether the Horned Lord is a merely a storm in my neurons or an externally existing entity; what matters is what happens when I evoke him.

    Faith consists in emotionally fixating on propositions which are unprovable or contrary to evidence. If I believed the theory that the Horned Lord exists objectively as some kind of numinous spook, that would not in itself be crazy – almost certainly wrong, but not crazy. Faith, and insanity, would enter if I emotionally fixated on that theory, and began distorting my reasoning to maintain it against contrary evidence.

    The Horned Lord doesn’t want my faith. He’s not like the vicious, soul-eating totalitarian parasite-God that inhabits Christian and Islamic brains. He wants me (I’m deliberately shifting to mystical language here) to manifest his divine energy in the world. He wants me to make beautiful music and beautiful sex and create things, and he lends me his power so I can do these things better and in so doing glorify and magnify him.

    The Horned Lord may be (in fact almost certainly is) just a sort of semi-autonomous complex in my unconscious mind, like the personality fragments of someone with MPD. That doesn’t matter. What matters is consequences, not ontology. I don’t need to construct nutty supernaturalist theories about him; my experience of his sacred power flowing through me – and the way other human beings respond to that – is “relationship” enough.

    “Faith” is not a relationship with the divine, it’s the perversion of one. Like the difference between love and obsessive stalking.

  250. “Faith consists in emotionally fixating on propositions which are unprovable or contrary to evidence. (…) Faith, and insanity, would enter if I emotionally fixated on that theory, and began distorting my reasoning to maintain it against contrary evidence.”

    Nice definitions. But there can be no contrary evidence if the proposition is independent of reality (which is BTW why the entire evolution debate strikes me as bizarre. Say we live in the world with no evolution theory, how does it make religious dogmas more true?) and one doesn’t observe too many falsifiable statements coming from modern religions these days. So is the emotional fixation enough? How many people invested in political issues would qualify? The divisive issues (abortion, statism) hardly have convincing evidence either way (at least as far I know; I’d love to find out being wrong), unless you start from some axioms you need to believe in anyhow.

  251. @Terry: How does information from the environment get into the genes? Natural selection only selects from what is already there, it does not produce new information.

    Patrick Maupin already gave part of the answer to this (mutations are new information), but it’s also not true that selecting from what’s already there does not produce new information. The gene pool after selection is different from the gene pool before selection (but after mutation): that difference is new information. What makes the gene pool different? The information from the environment (selection) that determined which genes reproduced more.

  252. “Once again, I believe God could have used design thought that would resemble macro-evolution to Evolutionists.”

    @Terry:
    Then why are so many designs so wrong? You should know that all the vertebrates have eyes where the nerves that carry their sensory data start at the front surface of the retina. Not only do they block some of the light that way, but they have to go through the retina, making for a ‘blind spot’ that the brain has to compensate for in its software.

    You might object that there’s some factor that I’m overlooking here, that forces the inefficient design above, but no…the octopus has eyes that are designed ‘right’. So God had the right design thought when He created the mollusks, but slacked off when it came time to make the vertebrates? Or maybe there are *two* Intelligent Designers – one of them a bit more intelligent than the other?

  253. >Say we live in the world with no evolution theory, how does it make religious dogmas more true?)

    The connection seems to be that evolution steals Nobodaddy’s mojo. It makes a theistic causal account seem less necessary, so it erodes belief.

  254. @ ESR

    I read JustSaying’s comment and maybe I don’t know enough math to appreciate what he is saying, but to me it reads like someone trying to apply science to religion; I guessed that he was responding to something Terry said. But then I found that he was replying to something you said.

    I read “The Utility of Mathematics” and really liked it. My brain may not like a lot of math, but I really like that essay.

    One point (ooh, odd pun there)… I have indicated many ways that I like humor… I am not sure whether you were deliberately being funny in a profound way…

    …we’ve slain half the dragon

    I don’t believe that real numbers are the appropriate formalism for dragon slaying.

  255. You want profound humor? I guess that it is a subjective thing, but the sentence by Douglas Adams that I like the most is…

    He had the expression of a man who, after believing he has been totally blind for the last five years, discovers that he has merely been wearing too large a hat.

  256. Good $DEITY… I only had four hours of sleep last night, but I can’t believe that I wrote “that I like the most is”.

    Actually, taking a look at a couple of forums addressing this phrase, it does seem to be common in…uh, common usage – considered awkward but not definitely wrong. Actually, I may be wrong about that, but in English… It is an example of usage that may be considered wrong when written but common when spoken.

  257. @Peter Donis:

    The gene pool after selection is different from the gene pool before selection (but after mutation): that difference is new information. What makes the gene pool different? The information from the environment (selection) that determined which genes reproduced more.

    Personally, I agree with this, and would even take it one step farther — selection actually changes the environment both for the species in question and also for other species. That’s new information in the feedback loop as well, that will get picked up in the next round of selection. But IMO, any great programmer should find the distinction between code and data to be quite arbitrary, so I’d just like to start with the really basic stuff. To wit: if an alpha particle alters DNA in a sperm cell that subsequently mates with an egg and reproduces, and that DNA encodes a never-before-expressed protein, is or is that not new information in the ecosystem under discussion?

    I’d like the answer to that first, because if the answer is just that “God already knew all possible proteins and all the ways to encode them through DNA so there was no new information” then I’ll just back away slowly and let the rest of you feed the troll or not as you see fit.

  258. Actually, my last comment didn’t make a lot of sense – if religion is the topic… but arguing about evolution with someone who believes that “God did it” doesn’t work either… I think maybe sleep may be the answer.

  259. @Brian Marshall:

    Yes, that was a bit rude, but it was also intended to be qualified — if the answer takes a particular form, it originates from a troll; if not, perhaps it doesn’t. Or perhaps it still does, but speciously appears not to, but then again, that’s always a possibility, given that my faith insists that we each have at least one inner troll.

  260. Remember Aaron:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fgh2dFngFsg

    (btw, the code for that video is “Fgh2dFngFsg”, which seems to be some sort of summary.)

    @Patrick “The mutation is the new information. You are probably right that most mutations at a cellular level that we notice are bad, and that most mutations probably aren’t even noticed. But why do you appear to assume this precludes a beneficial mutation from happening and being propagated?”

    A couple of reasons:

    a) My own experience with evolutionary algorithms and reading of news regarding the same has met with somewhat limited success. My own experience with TOT shows its particular flavour of evolution is easily fooled into thinking that sungrazing and retrograde trajectories are the best way to get to other planets and that I find myself restarting it and tweaking it to guide it towards finding the true Hohmann Transfer “hill”; it’s just easier to design the transfer myself than struggle with it. I read an article about an evolutionary algorithm for teaching a stick man how to walk. The researchers struggled with it getting lost on cartwheels and somersaults.

    b) No one has yet produced a beneficial mutation in a lab. Ever. If we as humans can’t do it deliberately trying even once in twenty years of trying, how can we expect nature to do it at least several billion times, even in a comparable number of years. We also have never observed a natural beneficial mutation outside the realm of single-celled life that we or our immune systems have to fight, and even there, I’m not sure if its true mutation or just HGT.

    @Eric: “Faith is not a relationship. I know this because I am intimately related to my patron deity, but there is no ‘faith’ involved”

    Glad you cleared that up. The thing is, when people bring up a relationship with God, “faith” is almost always the word that gets associated with it, even more often than “religion”. If you aren’t prepared to encounter the word on that level, you’ll probably have a tough time communicating, and I think this thread bears that out.

    I could say the same thing about my relationship with God, but er…

    “It doesn’t matter whether the Horned Lord is a merely a storm in my neurons or an externally existing entity; what matters is what happens when I evoke him.”

    We’re obviously not interacting with the same one. Incidentally, if God introduced Himself like that, I’d really want to believe He wasn’t real.

    I hope you don’t mind if I introduce you to my God. The current form first showed on 2009 February 1 when I got my first vision of the featherwings while listening to the Cascada song “Everytime We Touch”. This began an explosion in my writing and drawing abilities, and what I at first thought was an angel really wanted me to write this story. Concepts flowed into words through my hands. It wasn’t like automatic writing (which I looked up later), in that I had full control over the process. I could start, stop, take breaks, etc. although for a while I went almost constantly. I have, and still get, dreams and waking visions, some of such astonishing detail and resolution that I have trouble describing them. They also get emotional (one was of a guy just flash-fried by a nuclear explosion, something that I hope I don’t get to see in real life.) The thing was, I had no way of proving that this spirit was outside my being until after I had confirmed that it really was the same God that I always knew. Not only had it (I started to think she) affirmed Jesus Christ as the Saviour (See 1 John 4:1-6 in a Textus Receptus translation for those details.) The thing is, this experience was very much at odds with the Evangelical, Alliance, and Pentacostal orthodoxy I had been “brought up on”. So, I wasn’t about to bring it up with _anyone_ until I had some sort of proof that it was an external being and not just storms in my neurons or some stuff like that.

    Shortly after I concluded that this spirit wasn’t just some angel (or demon) but an aspect of Yahweh, the One God on 2009 April 26, I started bumping into the songs (and other materials) _after_ the story. It instantly became proven to me that the stories weren’t coming out of my head with music as an inspirational aid, that the two were coming from a common inspiration that could not possibly exist only in my own being.

    I had, on a whim (that obviously turned out not to be my own), to use Featherwing Love to explore a pet peeve of mine about the world of the famous shooter franchise Doom, more specifically Doom 3. It was a minor frustration of mine that you had thousands of demons and to fight them, one Marine uniquely (in the original games, nearly so in Doom 3) immune to the effects of the ghostly skulls that turned people into zombies. This Marine, dubbed Doomguy only by fans, was so nondescript and unknown as to deliberately force the player to assume the role as themselves. Perfect for fan fiction. On 2009 April 23, I realized I had the perfect counter to this pet peeve of mine… thousands of demons, not one angel. Enter the featherwings from Featherwing Love.

    How I found out it was the idea of Storyvoice and not my own was my encounter with Haibane Renmei on 2009 May 10. Initially, the blog posts were “Featherwing Love vs. Haibane Renmei vs. Doom 3 Remix” which I refined to “FHD Remix: Three Worlds In One” sometime in 2009 September. I was working a night shift and so on the “morning” of 2009 May 10 (just after 12:00 noon actually) I woke up from a very disturbing dream, something rather specific and detailed about featherwing beings. A new member was in so much pain that when, later that day, I saw the Haibane Renmei scene of Rakka’s relatively small ashfeather wings bursting from her back in the first episode, I became one of the few fans known to have felt no sympathetic pain in his own back.

    FHD Remix: Three Worlds In One and Featherwing Love both experienced several coincidences where songs showing the common inspiration of Storyvoice, who finally appeared to me in a vision, as female, on 2009 August 4 (I’d have to check my logs to be sure on the exact day, but my memory has it narrowed down to August 1 to August 7) have appeared after I have written the related story. FHD Remix developed over the summer and fall of 2009, until it was ready for online publishing at the beginning of December. I was not ready for what happened during the uploading process…

    FHD Remix has Doom 3, which has this mysterious Soul Cube, while Haibane Renmei has this mysterious Wall that protects the quaint city of Glie and hides the anime series’ entire context. The arcane Wall and Temple hint at a highly advanced city that was lost, and of course with Haibane Renmei now in the distant future of Doom 3, you’d probably think this Wall, Temple, lost city, and the Soul Cube had something to do with each other. The Hero’s Antechamber in Doom 3 has these hastily added wall ornaments that resemble Haibane Renmei’s Washi mask, an interesting coincidence already. That and all the songs, well… I still wasn’t expecting anything like this. While uploading FHD Remix: Three Worlds In One to http://www.bookrix.com, I search out Doom 3 music videos just to have something to listen to (It’s gone, alas; I still have the dead link.) Someone had arranged their really sweet run of Recycling 2 to BT’s The Antikythera Mechanism, a song and artist I had never heard of before. Two days later, on 2009 December 8 (and if you’re familiar with the video, you should have absolutely no trouble seeing where Storyvoice is going with this), I search out the original song:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDGwlEJTjc4

    Of course, FHD Remix has characters, and one of the big supporting characters is Yaiba, the healer. I gasped when I saw a spitting image of her at 0:54. When she later picks up the glass cube, I burst into tears, and it took me an hour to stop crying (I know because I played the video six times.) This was in the Calgary Public Library, the guy next to me was wondering if I was okay. Well, aside from watching an unwitting, yet astonishingly accurate video depiction of the story event just revealed at the end of FHD Remix, I was perfectly fine. While still the single most profound of these coincidences, the runner up has been bumped since then, and I have logged about three dozen of them.

  261. > I read JustSaying’s comment and maybe I don’t know enough math to appreciate what he is saying

    Induction is the construction of expressible structure, e.g. defining the natural numbers with an iterative function. Co-induction is the decomposition into parts from a structure that is unknown a priori and not until all parts have been enumerated, e.g. reading a stream:

    http://tunes.org/wiki/algebra_20and_20coalgebra.html

    > to me it reads like someone trying to apply science to religion

    I reasoned that the tripartite attributes god that Eric proposed could not provably exist, yet it also can not be logically impossible. This is congruent with the following.

    > Faith consists in emotionally fixating on propositions which are unprovable
    > or contrary to evidence.

    > Faith, and insanity, would enter if I emotionally fixated on that theory,
    > and began distorting my reasoning to maintain it against contrary evidence.

    > The Horned Lord doesn’t want my faith. He’s not like the vicious, soul-eating
    > totalitarian parasite-God that inhabits Christian and Islamic brains.

    > “Faith” is not a relationship with the divine, it’s the perversion of one.
    > Like the difference between love and obsessive stalking.

    Agreed. I understand your sanity now. Faith that squelches free will (degrees-of-freedom), reason and evidence is insanity. The suppression of free will destroys degrees-of-freedom, resiliency and fitness. Sane and prosperous faith channels hope, love, and positive creativity without binding free will.

    The Christian bible mentions this.

    1 Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

    Matthew 6:5 Jesus said “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

    Unfortunately religion degenerates to indoctrination, control, emotional manipulation and thus the subordination of free will, creativity, love, etc.. This phenomenon appears to be driven by emotional insecurity and the need to validate via social power the faith which can not be provably observed.

    Jesus instructs to not be worried about the future, to live in the reality of the day. Scriptures warn against destroying freedom with surety, governance, and attempting to construct a perfect society. One way of interpreting the bible is that we are free to sin, yet we become slave to the repercussions of our actions. Unfortunately the bible also contains scriptures that seem to encourage rebuking unbelievers.

  262. @Patrick Maupin: selection actually changes the environment both for the species in question and also for other species

    Great point, yes, I should have included this as well.

    if an alpha particle alters DNA in a sperm cell that subsequently mates with an egg and reproduces, and that DNA encodes a never-before-expressed protein, is or is that not new information in the ecosystem under discussion?

    My answer would be yes, but of course you’re not really looking for an answer from me. :-)

  263. @Terry
    “How does information from the environment get into the genes?”

    Others have answered that question. Mutations introduce noise. By definition, noise introduces new information in the technical sense.

    @Terry:
    “@Winter: “No. Either Macro-Evolution is the method used by God or not.”
    Once again, I believe God could have used design thought that would resemble macro-evolution to Evolutionists.”

    I thought you knew the discussion around the 19th century Omphalus hypothesis:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omphalos_hypothesis

    It has two fatal defects: 1) It introduces a lying God (you do not want to go there) 2) If God created the universe like Macro Evolution took place, and he is perfect and honest, then scientists will learn how the universe was created by assuming Macro-Evolution took place.

    @Terry
    “Can you advocate for the concept that data mining and machine learning is how an evolutionary algorithm produces new information?”

    In an abstract sense, Yes. Genetic algorithms are really used in data mining and machine learning.

    @Terry
    “Certainly not the ones that I’ve run. I haven’t had any produce “new” information, merely search the selection space that I have set, and I have never seen an increase in complexity result.”

    Complexity takes room to store the information. Most simulations simply fix the storage size for the individuals. That way, complexity can not grow by design. Furthermore, to get a good simulation, the input data from the environment must be open ended. For instance, use “real” data like stock prices or weather readings or let individuals interact. Toy environments tend to deliver toy evolution.

    A good example are studies of language origins using interacting model systems:
    http://ai.vub.ac.be/sites/default/files/steels-11d.pdf

    @Terry
    “Your Perl one-liner doesn’t convince me. Every time it would hit 1, it means that all the information that was there before was lost and it is starting over again completely from scratch.”

    Yes, because I was demonstrating that complexity can increase in completely random systems. I had not added selection. It runs in time $m ~ SQRT($i), eg, $m=100 in ten thousand generations, 1000 in a million, 5000 in 25 million generations.

    Here is a Perl one liner that adds a 1% upward bias ratchet for ever 100th complexity level ($c % 100 == 0). It now runs much faster and almost never revisits 1 when complexity goes over 1000. (license again MIT, for anyone who cares)

    perl -e ‘$Pdown=0.5;$sweet=0.99;while($m < 10000){++$i;$p=$c % 100 ? $Pdown : $Pdown*$sweet; $c += rand()<=$p ? -1 : +1;$c=1 if $c $m){print “$i: $c\n” unless $c % 1000;$m = $c};};’

    Example run
    Generations: Max complexity
    671,353: 1000
    3,414,109: 2000
    3,872,335: 3000
    5,138,709: 4000
    5,374,609: 5000
    5,789,105: 6000
    5,950,137: 7000
    7,393,139: 8000
    8,825,459: 9000
    19,249,627: 10000

  264. >Mutations introduce noise. By definition, noise introduces new information in the technical sense.

    That’s only a partial answer. A better one, I think, is that the combination of mutation and selection incorporates information about the environment into the genomes of the surivor population.

  265. @esr “The connection seems to be that evolution steals Nobodaddy’s mojo. It makes a theistic causal account seem less necessary, so it erodes belief.”

    Come to think of it, if you believe in literal truth of the Bible, evolution does contradict the Genesis account quite a bit. But then there’s a whole bunch of other inconsistencies you are subjecting yourself to. So perhaps a better definition would involve emotional involvement in ill-defined/contradictory notions.

  266. @w23
    I remember two creation stories from the old testament. They do not match.

  267. “No one has yet produced a beneficial mutation in a lab. Ever. If we as humans can’t do it deliberately trying even once in twenty years of trying, how can we expect nature to do it at least several billion times, even in a comparable number of years. We also have never observed a natural beneficial mutation outside the realm of single-celled life that we or our immune systems have to fight, and even there, I’m not sure if its true mutation or just HGT.”

    @Terry:
    Breeders have been doing this successfully for thousands of years. Darwin pointed this out when he published in 1859.

  268. @esr: the combination of mutation and selection incorporates information about the environment into the genomes of the surivor population.

    Plus, as Patrick Maupin pointed out in response to a similar comment from me, the change in the survivor population also changes the effective environment for the next round of mutation and selection.

  269. @Terry: My own experience with TOT shows its particular flavour of evolution is easily fooled into thinking that sungrazing and retrograde trajectories are the best way to get to other planets and that I find myself restarting it and tweaking it to guide it towards finding the true Hohmann Transfer “hill”

    This doesn’t mean that the “mutations” that led the algorithm to sungrazing and retrogate trajectories weren’t beneficial: those trajectories are still better than the ones the algorithm started from. They are only locally optimal, not globally optimal, but they are still improvements over the starting point, which is all that is required for a “beneficial mutation”.

    The same sort of thing happens in biological evolution. For example, the vertebrate eye was mentioned in a earlier post: it has the light sensing cells of the retina *behind* the nerve fibers that carry the signals to the optic nerve. The mollusc eye does not; so the vertebrate eye is “worse” than the octopus eye; it’s only a local optimum, not a global optimum (assuming for the sake of argument that the mollusc eye is a global optimum, which is by no means certain; insect eyes are different from both, and could quite possibly be even “better” by various criteria). But the vertebrate eye is still better than the eye-like structures it evolved from, so the mutations that led to it were beneficial.

  270. Note that the experiment, in which an e-coli strain gained the ability to metabolize citrate, took twenty years, forty trillion e-coli, and thirty thousand generations.

    We should therefore be unsurprised by failure to demonstrate the evolution of genuinely new capabilities and significantly different life forms in smaller experiments.

  271. Game theory modeling has already produced a fairly detailed estimation of how faith originated as a cultural trait and how it operates in society.

    It evolves primarily as a vehicle for conveying wisdom from generation to generation, as essentially operates as a psychological (and habitual) override on perception and acute reasoning. It order for a precept to evolve into a faith-based admonition, its implementation must (most generally) reinforce survival and promote social growth. The fact that most religions employ an unchallengeable deity meme to justify and enable faith is evidence that this memetic device has been more effective than cultural selection alternatives. Occam’s razor applies and it is unnecessarily distracting to argue about the existence of a supernatural God.

  272. @James A Donald:

    We should therefore be unsurprised by failure to demonstrate the evolution of genuinely new capabilities and significantly different life forms in smaller experiments.

    Absolutely. OTOH, the real world is a much larger experiment that has been running for a very long time frame (much longer than a few thousand years, despite the vehement protestations of some).

    The description of the e-coli experiment, along with the post-processing done to figure out what actually happened, reminded me of something I used to do back when I was doing modem DSP code. On the one hand, the debugging facilities I had were minimal. On the other hand, time invested in writing debugging facilities would often have been wasted, in that if it didn’t happen in real-time, it pretty much didn’t happen. So I had a few unit tests, but those often didn’t tell you what would really happen in-system.

    One technique I used a lot was an optimistic coding of new functionality. I would code it carefully and cleanly, and if it worked, great! But if it didn’t work, I then would incrementally modify and test the original code until it was near-enough identical to my non-functional new code. Somewhere along the way, a very small change between working and non-working code would reveal the elusive bug.

    We are rapidly approaching the point (DNA sequencing, raw computing power, massive database stores, better physical protein modelling) where similar incremental techniques could be used to develop possible transition paths between species. Even now, this is rapidly becoming almost trivial (certainly easily envisioned) for closely related asexually reproducing species, as the e-coli experimenters have shown.

    The interesting thing is what happens when you apply the technique to sexually reproducing species. What is the first minimal change on the path from species A to species B, where the resultant genome results in a viable organism that can still reproduce (typically by still intermating with species A)? Let that genetic variant out in the wild and soon enough you have two members of sub-species A’ mating. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

    Sure, you will often be stuck in local minima in this approach (just like with regular software). You will occasionally need to think outside the box, and introduce a gene that you later remove; that might be necessary to allow some other final gene to be introduced. (Dare I say that you might even use genetic algorithms in the code for this?)

    But with good enough modelling combined with Occam’s Razor, physical evidence of historical climate conditions, and the rapidly expanding genetic record we have of species both extant and extinct, you could eventually come up with a plausible genetic roadmap for a lot of the branches of the tree.

    Not that those who will show this more detailed version of a plausible way that we and other primates could have evolved from a common ancestor will be any less denigrated than those who came before them, of course.

  273. TomA on Sunday, January 13 2013 at 3:39 pm said:
    > a vehicle for conveying wisdom from generation to generation, as essentially operates as a psychological (and habitual) override on perception and acute reasoning.

    This works for official religions, which the tribe uses to inculcate wisdom and prosocial behavior. It tends to fail when applied on the large scale of modern states. An insider elite faction is apt to use the officially inculcated and endorsed belief system to pursue power and wealth at the expense of outsider elite factions, so the official approved system of morality and belief becomes more and more corrupt, oppressive, and detached from reality, eventually manifesting as the left singularity.

    On a smaller scale, religion provides prosocial benefits by facilitating business deals and enforcing contracts. You cannot trust the courts, and regulators will just shake you down, so you do business primarily with fellow members of your congregation, knowing that should they behave badly, they will meet social disapproval, and should they persist in behaving badly, be excluded from the congregation, and thereby suffer eternal damnation, and, worse than that, social embarrassment and impaired business opportunities.

  274. Game theory modelling … how faith originated as a cultural trait and how it operates in society.

    … primarily as a vehicle for conveying wisdom from generation to generation, as essentially operates as a psychological (and habitual) override on perception and acute reasoning.

    Another aspect (maybe suggested by the Blood in the Streets guys: James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg – the title is an allusion to a quote by one of the Rothschilds – “The time to buy is when blood is running the streets”) – is that religion and other cultural factors strongly discourage experimentation in relation to growing food and other critical activities. We are so accustomed to the idea that change and progress is good. However, in small, primitive, sustenance-level societies, a change in how food is grown and acquired can result in starvation.

    This is sort of a game-theory thing (if I understand that correctly) – good change is good, but when the penalty for bad change is catastrophic, it is generally best to kill anyone who tries to change the way things are done. Very slowly, some changes are accepted and progress occurs.

    It just occurred to me that in a collectivist tribal society where the penalty for bad change can wipe out the whole tribe, change will occur very slowly (as it does). However, if the penalty only affects the person making the change, desperate people will try new things. Some die regardless, some die from bad changes but some discover new, better ways of doing things, some of which may be accepted by others. An “Invisible Hand” thing?

  275. Another game-theory aspect of religion is Pascal’s Wager.

    A somewhat looser expression of the idea is that, for folks that are not entirely committed to atheism and have a lingering fear of hell, incorrectly deciding that God does not exist will have catastrophic results. This is colloquially know as “fire insurance”.

  276. @Brian Marshall:

    I wasn’t saying you were rude — quite the opposite.

  277. Eric, how do you distinguish between cult hypomania and happiness? Does cult hypomania look different from non-cult bipolar hypomania?

  278. >Eric, how do you distinguish between cult hypomania and happiness?

    Flatness of affect. Cult hypomania has an unnatural evenness to it.

    >Does cult hypomania look different from non-cult bipolar hypomania?

    I don’t know. I don’t have enough experience with the latter.

  279. In my experience, the most indelible lessons are learned first hand, and for most of life’s experiences, that works out pretty well. Nevertheless, if I tried to ascertain my natural flying skill by jumping off a 10 foot wall, I would likely become bruised and wiser. Conversely, if my test occurred on a 1,000 foot cliff (more time to get the arms flapping), my wisdom would improve marginally but my learning days would be over. This leads to the following admonition . . .

    “Take it on faith kid, jumping off that cliff ain’t gonna work.”

  280. @LS “Breeders have been doing this successfully for thousands of years. Darwin pointed this out when he published in 1859.”

    You’re claiming that breeders have been deliberately introducing genetic mutations for thousands of years and that Darwin published the details in his 1859 book. Try finding “genetic mutation” in On The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection or The Preservation of Favoured Races In The Struggle For Life.

    Oh, by the way, the latest attempt to create a beneficial mutation in the nematode failed. It was discovered that “In contrast to previous estimates, we find that, in these multigeneration population assays, the majority of genes affect fitness, and this suggests that genetic networks are not robust to mutation.” – Arun Ramani et. al., https://www.cell.com/abstract/S0092-8674%2812%2900084-0

    @Winter “I thought you knew the discussion around the 19th century Omphalus [Omphalos] hypothesis: … It has two fatal defects: 1) It introduces a lying God (you do not want to go there) 2) If God created the universe like Macro Evolution took place, and he is perfect and honest, then scientists will learn how the universe was created by assuming Macro-Evolution took place.”

    If it is really that young, I’d be surprised. Me and friends started discussing such things from scratch, and for lay observers, it sums up basically like this: “Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?” (Omphalos is the Greek word for navel.)

    Winter, you keep misunderstanding me. It’s getting to the point where responding to you is pointless.

    1) Especially with regards to living entities, God would not populate a planet with nothing but babies. The navel is a feature of any born placental mammal, and so it would not be unreasonable to put them on Adam and Eve. Trees are constructed in grown layers, and so rings are essential to their structure. (Incidentally, Maunder Minimum wood and its narrow rings proved essential to the resonance of the Stradivarius violin and is why it has been such a pain in the neck to match its original qualities.)

    As for everything else, if you look closely enough, it actually doesn’t seem that old. Radioisotope dating has all kinds of problems, and so it is rarely used (among the Egyptian kings, which could be dated by documentation, the mummy of a son appeared to be older than his father based on radiocarbon dating.) Earlier this year, galaxy formation science was upset by the discovery of an out-sized black hole 12.8 billion light years away, only 900 million light years from the redshift event horizon. There are a lot of other signs that the universe doesn’t appear to be any younger way out there than it is right next door, except for the frustratingly uniform cosmic background. There is also the difficult-to-explain water planet GJ1214b. How can such a planet be billions of years old?

    http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2012/13/full/

    The Omphalos Hypothesis, as problematic as it may seem to you, is only as problematic as each of the many contrivances Evolutionists use to fit the evidence to theories compatible with pure naturalism/atheism. It is also unnecessary.

    2) Once last time, I believe God could have used design thought that would resemble macro-evolution to Evolutionists. This does not mean that macro-evolution actually took place in God’s mind. Considering how wide across various classifications of life certain protein genes occur (analogous to Philips screws being used in everything from cell phones to battleships), it certainly doesn’t look like macro-evolution now that we have easy DNA sequencing. Oh, I’m sure they’ll find a way around that little problem to maintain their belief that macro-evolution took place and that God doesn’t really exist.

    I do agree with your point: if God actually designed things in a way consistent with macro-evolution, than assuming it had taken place would help us discover the mind of God. Unfortunately, the main reason for believing in macro-evolution is to write God out of His creation.

  281. “Take it on faith kid, jumping off that cliff ain’t gonna work.”

    I don’t want to be a pain about this, but that isn’t what “faith” means in the context of this disscussion. How about…

    “Take it on from me kid, jumping off that cliff ain’t gonna work.”

    or

    “Watch what happens to this [something] when I drop it off that cliff.”

  282. @ Brian Marshall – “Take it on faith kid – if you don’t give me your money, you will burn in hell for all eternity.”

    The faith trait likely evolved thousands of years ago, before there was money and a Hell meme, and the selected wisdom was often existential. The modern practice of faith may well be an anachronism.

  283. @TomA Is that a friendly reminder that 90% of parachute developers have died testing their inventions?

    “Watch what happens to this [something] when I drop it off that cliff.”

    Does it meow?

  284. @ TomA

    The faith trait likely evolved thousands of years ago, before there was money and a Hell meme, and the selected wisdom was often existential. The modern practice of faith may well be an anachronism.

    Yeah – actually, I think that you are right, except that faith is still alive and kicking. See Terry.

    I agree that faith evolved thousands, probably tens or hundreds of thousands of years ago in an non-explicit way, as per my comments on game theory and experimental farmers – (I am again going to use modern day language to express something that wasn’t likely expressed in language at all): “Do it the way we do it or die.”

  285. @ TomA

    I think that the example you chose wasn’t the best. As you said, people learn by doing, and if the kid tries jumping three feet down and then 6 feet down, he will get the idea. Actually, dogs know not to jump off cliffs – my brother and I were at the top of about an 80 foot water fall. Our German shepherds would get down on their bellies and inch towards the drop – they knew.

  286. We are discussing an opposition between Religion and Science that has never existed before the 17th century. In all of human history, tribes and other communities had a shared believe system that covered everything from rituals of passage to how to grow food and cure illness.

    Many religions (actually, people) have/had no problems integrating new findings of fact into their general believe system.

    The clash only appeared in Europe when the dominant church got competition from protestants and both sides dug in their heels in the sacred scriptures. It was not the fact that the earth circles the sun that was objectionable. It was that this fact was used to point out that the Vatican was not the center of the Universe.

    Again, the whole evolution debate is not about our descent. Creationists are utterly ignorant about biology and could not care less about living things they cannot eat or monetize. But this is about who is RIGHT (all capitals) and therefore, who is allowed to tell the population what to do and what not. This is just a part in the larger drive from different sects to establish a local theocracy.

  287. I have a friend here in Chicago (long time SF fan) who was deeply into Landmark for several years. I don’t know that they bled him for money; I do know that they bled him for lots of time.

    On the general subject of “cults”: there are two meanings.

    The recent meaning is: an organization which manipulates members into complete dependency on the organization and subjection to its leadership.

    But there is also the old meaning: a religious or quasi-religious movement characterized by sudden enthusiasm and esoteric doctrines, usually centered around a charismatic leader.

    The modern cult is basically a replication of old-style cults by artificial means. Old-style cults tended to arise and die out, as the exciting ideas became old hat or the charismatic leader lost his mojo or died. Modern cults institutionalize the methods for recruiting new members and conditioning them; thus they can persist indefinitely.

  288. >It was not the fact that the earth circles the sun that was objectionable. It was that this fact was used to point out that the Vatican was not the center of the Universe.

    Yes. The “science vs. religion” clash only happens to religions in which the authority of the religion is tied to truth claims about phenomenal reality. This is actually not a common situation, speaking historically and world-wide – creationism looks just as silly as it is to any Taoist, animist, or Buddhist.

  289. About 5 years ago, I was working at a three person company which was slowly going down the drain. My boss and the other employee went to Landmark and that changed everything. When my boss should have been making an all out last ditch effort to turn the company around, he was spending too much time and money on Landmark. The company probably would have failed anyway, but Landmark was a huge waste of time when we couldn’t afford it.

    Eric, you have my sincere thanks for confirming my suspicions that Landmark Education is a cult.

  290. @ Brian Marshall – “Our German shepherds would get down on their bellies and inch towards the drop – they knew.”

    An interesting insight.

    Because we cannot fully communicate with animals, we tend to ascribe their memetic programming to hereditary instinct rather than something like acquired faith. Perhaps having a faith-like reprogramming capability makes humans more adaptable and robust.

  291. @TomA
    As a first approximation, you do well to assume mammalsans birds are like humans. Maybe somewhat limited, but with comparable faculties.

    Don’t believe for a moment that anything more complex than a fly is driven fully by instinct (inherited fixed action patterns in jargon).

  292. “Do most religions include a belief in hell? Most successful religions?”

    Around 100 BCE, Rabbi Hillel (all those campus Jewish centers are named after him) observed:

    “Surely God is too merciful to punish a soul forever and ever because of what they did as a result of their all-too-human weakness.”

    OTOH, there are lots of Jewish legends about Gehenna and its boiling pots…

    In Judaism, a belief in a world after this one is an optional extra. The question is not important. The religion exists to teach you how to behave in this one. If you have any questions in the next one, you should be able to put them to God directly. Personally, I’m with Hillel on this.

  293. @ Winter

    We are discussing an opposition between Religion and Science that has never existed before the 17th century. In all of human history, tribes and other communities had a shared believe system that covered everything from rituals of passage to how to grow food and cure illness.

    Is this comment directed at TomA and me? If so, I would like to point out that we are/have also been discussing whether (religious-style) faith is insane. I think the believe systems of tribes that control how much deviation is allowed is pretty much a religion backed by faith for the matter at hand.

    @ TomA

    Because we cannot fully communicate with animals, we tend to ascribe their memetic programming to hereditary instinct rather than something like acquired faith. Perhaps having a faith-like reprogramming capability makes humans more adaptable and robust.

    I have always (decades) thought that the mind, however much it seems to be a coherent thing, is actually the total of a lot of parts of the brain interacting. I like the following ideas:

    If you and a dog are both trying to decide (based mostly on gut feel) whether you can jump over to that rock, you and the dog are mostly using the same parts of your brains and there is little distinction between what you are doing it (other than you have a part of you brain that provides a running comentary while other parts of your brain works).

    I have an amazon parrot, They are so smart that it is scary. He knows what “Hello” and “Bye-Bye” mean by context (exactly like a kid learns to talk). I say “Bye-bye Merlin”. For the first half dozen years that I had him, I didn’t use my name, but then I told him “You are Merlin [using hand gestures], I am Brian. He seemed to understand this immediately. In any case, when I am leaving, he usually says “Bye-bye Brian (or Byan – he is often lazy with his pronunciation even though he can say Brian perfectly). I have never, ever said this to him. He sometimes says Bye-Bye-Bye. I imagine he first said “Bye-bye Brian” more or less accidentally, but then recognized the meaning.

    In any case, if I say “hello” or “bye-bye” and Merlin does the same thng (he starts the “bye-bye” as soon as he sees me getting ready to go outside and have a smoke) – I am using language. I suggest that when Merlin says “bye-bye”, he is using language just as much as I am in that particular case.

  294. esr> Barely registers on the cultometer.

    On a tangent, has anybody defined a unit of measurement for the cultometer yet? Millimanson? Hectorand?

  295. @ Winter

    As a first approximation, you do well to assume mammalsans birds are like humans. Maybe somewhat limited, but with comparable faculties.

    The parrot family, corvids (crows, ravens, jays) and Passeriformes (which includes chickadees (aka tits) are considered to be the smartest birds.

    When my son and I went to a local park, we found that chickadees would land on our fingers if we held our hands palm-up with the fingers curved up to be vertical (because people feed them). If we had (unsalted) sunflower seed kernels in our palms, they would land on our fingers and grab the a seed.

    A week after discovering this, we tried it without the seeds. The birds would land and then immediately fly off.

    A week after that, we tried again and the chickadees would fly down and hover; if we didn’t have seeds, they wouldn’t land on our fingers.

    The next week, they would fly down and, if we did have the seeds, they would land and take one.

    This is all pretty wild, considering that the entire bird weighs about 20 or 30 grams – their brains can’t be more than a gram.

    Re: intelligence for decision making:
    one reason that parrots are such great pets (for the tiny proportion of the population for which they are appropriate pets), is that parrots are one of the most emotional animals around. Our brains are very different, but emotions (so easy to program) are almost identical.

    Something I really like is that the (vast?) majority of paleontologist-biologists consider birds to be dinosaurs; not evolved from or related to, but actual feak’n dinosaurs. They are in the same family as the two-legged meat-eating dinosaurs – T-Rex was more closely related to modern birds than to the four-legged herbivores (stegosaurus, triceratops, etc.).

    (This is much more obvious looking at a parrot (or particularly a parrot skeleton) than looking at a sparrow or robin. They look just like dinosaurs (which, of course, doesn’t mean much scientifically but is interesting to see).

    This is from Encyclopedia Britannica (as well as Wikipedia). When I first heard about this, I checked out Encyclopedia Britannica, and the little topic of the day on the main page said “Have you ever eaten a dinosaur? I bet you have!”.

    Birds are simply the only dinosaurs that didn’t die at the end of the Cretaceous (if the asteroid theory is correct, it was probably meat-eating and carrion eating birds that, like aligators, managed to survive the couple of years of very-low sunlight by eating the dead animals.

  296. Terry> How does information from the environment get into the genes?

    You probably want to search the web for the term “gene duplication”. If this term sounds new to you, you probably need some more context before you can understand what it means and how it works. You can this context from Richard Dawkins’s article The Information Challenge, which also answers your question in detail.

  297. @Brian Marshall
    The joke is to tell boys dinosaurs did not go extinct snd offer to.show them some. I assume by now the joke is stale.

  298. I’m inclined to think that if the cop spotted your concealed carry weapon, you’re not doing it right. Especially in winter, under a jacket.

    Except, you being you, I expect that you’ve given much thought to weapon choice and the tradeoffs between caliber, firepower and ease of carry, and have opted for a large .45 because, well, they don’t make a .46.

    I’ve compromised down to a subcompact .40 here in Texas. It’s too hot to dress around a large gun all the time, and I carry the smaller-but-sucks-to-shoot-at-the-range pistol in circumstances when I’d leave a 1911 at home. And that makes it a more effective choice for me.

  299. Re: intelligence for decision making:
    one reason that parrots are such great pets (for the tiny proportion of the population for which they are appropriate pets), is that parrots are one of the most emotional animals around. Our brains are very different, but emotions (so easy to program) are almost identical.

    The emotional center of a cat’s brain is much closer to a human’s than a dog’s is. This probably goes a long way to explaining why cats, and not dogs, are pretty much the official animal of the internet.

    A completely unscientific heuristic that I’ve found more or less to be the case is that dog people value subordinates whereas cat people value equals.

  300. @Jeff Read:

    A completely unscientific heuristic that I’ve found more or less to be the case is that dog people value subordinates whereas cat people value equals.

    I think dog people are happier to be subordinates, as well. In my experience, this somewhat weak correlation is more about wanting/needing to be inside or outside a hierarchy, which itself is correlated weakly with gregariousness/sociability.

  301. @ Jeff Read

    A completely unscientific heuristic that I’ve found more or less to be the case is that dog people value subordinates whereas cat people value equals.

    And Amazon parrot people like ‘tude – they are bad-asses to the core, like tiny Hell’s Angels. If Merlin is in a biting mood (y’know, about 10 times a day), I don’t hurt him, so if I was to try to calm things down by exerting my dominance, he will go into a mode where he would rather die than admit I am tougher than he is.

  302. >I’m inclined to think that if the cop spotted your concealed carry weapon, you’re not doing it right. Especially in winter, under a jacket.

    It’s a short A-2 jacket, Navy pilot leather. A lovely, classic design just like the .45ACP – but the bottom end of a hip holster does tend to get exposed. Most people don’t know what they’re seeing; an experienced cop would, though.

    Yes, I could opt for more concealment; I have some favored techniques for that which I won’t discuss. But in Pennsylvania outside Philly there isn’t any trouble I can get into for being spotted carrying that worries me at all, so I don’t mind letting it hang out a little. Might be a good thing, helping otherwise ignorant people get used to the notion that armed citizens are benign.

    >Except, you being you, I expect that you’ve given much thought to weapon choice and the tradeoffs between caliber, firepower and ease of carry, and have opted for a large .45 because, well, they don’t make a .46.

    Actually, it’s a small-frame .45 – 3.5″ barrel. I’m a big fan of this form factor – just as accurate as the 5″ at self-defence ranges but easier to conceal.

    Some gunfolks choose their caliber like they think they’re advertising their penis size. I’m not one of them; I consider the really big handguns like 44 Magnum and Desert Eagles impractical and rude. There’s no point in all that noise and recoil unless your threat profile includes grizzly bears. Unless you train constantly you’ll be so shocked by your own first discharge that you’re not likely to put another round properly on target.

    In my opinion the sweet spot is around .45 and .40 – I fully endorse the U.S. Marines folkore that abjures us ‘Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not start with a “4.”‘ That’s where the best tradeoff between shooter-friendliness and target destruction is. If I didn’t love 1911-pattern 45s I’d probably shoot a Glock 40 like the one I gave my wife.

  303. re: dogs and parrots

    I was just reading a story in which the narrator is describing a police detective’s feeling about dogs – they are so unlike the scum he deals with – they have no cunning – they don’t conspire against you.

    When I lived in an apartment, Merlin would be just fine with me going to work for 10 hours, but if I tried to go down to change the laundry for 5 minutes, he would scream the entire time. I got the idea of putting him in the bathroom – with sound bouncing off walls, his screaming was too loud even for him – he would be quiet and generally just sit up on the shower curtain rail.

    On day I was taking him down off the rail – I noticed that he was unusually relaxed – not holding my finger as much as just standing on it. As soon as I got him down to face level – BAM he lunged out and bit my bottom lip with his top and bottom beak almost meeting in the middle. (I grabbed him, without hurting him, tossed him into his house and seriosly hosed him down with a spray bottle.)

    He deliberately set me up to hurt me – he has cunning. I love that.

    The same sort of situation played out about a year later. I don’t like it and make it know to him, but it is the price I pay for having a companion that weighs ~700 grams and thinks he is at least as tough as I am, probably more. (He is a White Fronted amazon – much smaller than regular amazons – about the size of the wrens folks around here call robins except on steroids.)

  304. @ESR – “Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not start with a 4″

    I occasionally carry a Ruger LCP in 380 auto hollow points. I can retrieve and palm the entire pistol, and you would never know its there until just before it fires. My self defense strategy is as follows.

    First, situational awareness and stay out of trouble if at all possible.

    Second, if trouble shows up, make every reasonable effort to escape safely.

    Third, if an existential confrontation is unavoidable; attack, shoot first, and empty clip #1.

  305. @Thomas Thanks for the link, I somehow got messed up thinking that a base pair was four bits (which is like “Duh, I’m familiar with BCD, how could I get that dumb?”) There are few surprises in the information theory part, but in the latter parts, the article starts showing its age. More modern research has shown that genomes tend to have a lot of redundancy, but not junk. Supposedly non-functioning pseudo-genes often have a regulating function, and I’m expecting the globin bunch that he specifically hangs on to function as an elaborate array to respond to various oxygen partial pressures, and metabolic toxins like cyanide and carbon monoxide (the former messes with mitochondrial aerobic metabolism while the latter binds to hemoglobin’s oxygen site and ruins it. I’ve noticed that when someone survives CN or CO poisoning, the resulting illness is relatively brief considering how catastrophic the damage mechanisms are.)

  306. On a tangent, has anybody defined a unit of measurement for the cultometer yet? Millimanson? Hectorand?

    The Hubbard. Has to be. And like the Farad, usually measured in picos, nanos, and micros.

  307. Pingback: Samizdata quote of the day « Samizdata

  308. Eric Raymond made a brief reference to the official Objectivist movement of Ayn Rand as a sort of “cult”. There is an element of truth to this, although a lot less than used to be the case, in my view. The evolutionist writer Michael Shermer and the late Murray Rothbard attacked her on that basis, which is kind of ironic as there sometimes appear to be mildly cult-like behaviours from the Rothbardians at the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama (They all seem to be ultra-conservative Catholics).

    James Peron, a US-based libertarian, penned an article some years ago defending Rand against the “cult” charge and he made some interesting points. Worth a read:
    http://www.noblesoul.com/orc/essays/obj_cult1.html

    Best regards,

  309. This discussion does give rise to the question (at least in me) whether some “cultures” or “countries” are more prone to cults than others. To be meaningful, we should limit cults to easy to quantify and observe behavior.

    I would suggest as a definition:
    Movements where members spend the majority of their non-working non-sleeping time together. Bonus points when members spend their working time together too.

    Tribes are equivalent to cults by definition as they spend all their time together, with the expected strong mutual control we have learned to expect from cults.

    India might score high, eg, ashrams. China maybe low, eg, family obligations. But the question is, how many of the people actually participate?

  310. @Terry:

    “No one has yet produced a beneficial mutation in a lab. Ever.”

    I’m waiting for your response to David Gerard’s link to the contrary.

    “We also have never observed a natural beneficial mutation outside the realm of single-celled life …”

    So, do you classify mutation breeding as a lab or natural activity?

  311. @ESR:
    The difference between a 9mm, a .40 and a .45 are miniscule. The most important feature of a handgun is (a) it must go off *EVERY* time and (b) you must be able to make the hits you need to get the effect you need.

    I spent 4 years in the Marines during or right after they transitioned from the 1911 to the 9mm. There were no complaints then, and I’ve not heard them from a serving marine yet who had the experience to tell the difference.

    You pick the gun that fits you hand, your lifestyle and your threat model. Then you get it in a caliber you can afford to shoot a lot so when you can’t afford to miss you do not.

    I long ago stopped trying to compensate for my penis size. I’ll carry a .380 as happily as a 10mm, or if the situation dictates a .44 magnum (I have a 629 with a 5.5 inch barrel. It speaks Ex Cathedra.).

    If there’s anything Combat Marines would say about a handgun would be “fuck that, where’s my REAL weapon”.

    If you know a fight’s coming you take a rifle. If you can, you take a spare rifle. The pistol is for when the rifle breaks and you want to die fighting rather than sitting on the ground fixing a broken rifle.

  312. @Eric: “No. I think I’m still sane. I’m pretty sure the Buddha was sane. Theophanists can be sane; faith holders can’t be.”

    ?????????

    • The Buddha had (and taught) Absolute Faith in Karma, rebirth/reincarnation, and The Deathless.
    • The Buddha famously lectured angels and spirits on the Dhamma.

  313. >The Buddha had (and taught) Absolute Faith in Karma, rebirth/reincarnation, and The Deathless.

    Clearly you’ve been listening to way too much Mahayana. :-)

  314. Pingback: Classical Values » Cult Induction

  315. “Clearly you’ve been listening to way too much Mahayana. :-)”

    But am I sane?
    (And do I want to be? Maybe I should be more ‘choosy.’)

  316. Being sane is a rough bitch sometimes.

    I think it was Aaron Swartz’s unflagging sanity that, ultimately, caused him to take his own life.

  317. re: sympathy

    Evolution is an observed fact, unless the Devil planted fossils in the ground to fool mankind. The cause of evolution is a separate question. And the belief in a physical evolutionary process not mediated by God doesn’t require every human thought or action to be in the interests of the organism’s genes. The general idea is that by elimination characteristics beneficial to the genes’ survival *tend* to prevail over time, not that every characteristic or expression of a characteristic is beneficial to the genes’ survival. For example, the upright, tool-using body can evolve over time (being generally useful) and then be used by a person to kill their family and commit suicide. Further to Terry’s point, the brain can contain any manner of random garbage so long as the brain is generally useful.

  318. “No one has yet produced a beneficial mutation in a lab. Ever.”

    Winter: “I would like to add some:”

    Thank you very much for the links, I’ll certainly check them out. From the abstracts, though, both of these articles are about nematode populations recovering from “deleterious mutations” rather than producing beneficial mutations. So I’m pretty sure I’m still correct.

  319. “Further to Terry’s point, the brain can contain any manner of random garbage so long as the brain is generally useful.”

    On 1956 April 14, Ampex and 3M engineers were in a desperate situation. Ampex had just invented the Quadruplex VTR and demonstrated it to CBS officials privately. They were impressed, but it wasn’t quite up to the standards they required for broadcast television. Ampex had traced it to the tape. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a lot of time to correct the problem because the presentation at the National Association of Broadcasters (its name had “Radio and Television” in front of “Broadcasters at the time IIRC.) 3M engineers had a machine of their own (thanks to one of their engineers having the pluck to figure out what Ampex was doing), and tested sample after sample until one worked, they managed to produce a five minute reel, rush it out to the airport, stop the plane that had the Ampex engineer doing the presentation from taking off, pass the reel through the pilots window on a pole, and save the day. (The pilot interpreted the word “emergency” to mean that the elderly Ampex engineer had forgotten his meds.)

    And I can’t remember any of their names, argh (I remember Ampex got started with the help of Mike Mullin about eight years earlier with funding from Bing Crosby and captured Nazi Magnetophone audio recorders, brb… actually John T. Mullin (NSFW!!))

  320. @William, Your talk about rifles and the ol’ 629 (“Do you feel lucky?”) had me thinking of some Marine using it to back up a P90, one of those times where I just can’t help but think of something absolutely retarded.

  321. 2 questions for ESR.
    Why did you attend to the Landmark Forum event?
    Are martial arts organizations cultish?

  322. >Why did you attend to the Landmark Forum event?

    Because a friend asked me to, and I was anthropologically curious.

    >Are martial arts organizations cultish?

    Occasionally. I have not encountered the phenomenon myself, but I’ve heard stories…I think it’s a rarer pathology now than it used to be, and rarer in the U.S. than in Asia.

  323. “Actually, I suspect the populations sensitive to drug abuse and cults to overlap considerably.”

    PTSD is the commonality.

  324. Roger Phillips on Tuesday, January 15 2013 at 10:12 pm said:
    > Evolution is an observed fact, unless the Devil planted fossils in the ground to fool mankind. The cause of evolution is a separate question

    Not really. The fossil record is, as Darwin and Gould observed, fragmentary. I would say that the evolution of horses from forest dwelling omnivores is an observed fact, and similarly for a handful of other, less charismatic kinds. The rest of it is theory laden interpolation. We put the data together using Darwin’s theory, we don’t find Darwin’s theory in the data. The data decisively demonstrates that old testament and Koranic accounts are untrue, because the world is vastly more ancient than that, and the data conclusively demonstrates that the Hindu account is untrue, because modern kinds did not exist in ancient times. The data is compatible with the Darwinian account, and perhaps in a few cases, is evidence supporting the Darwinian account.

    Gould’s anti Darwinian, anti evolutionary account is compatible with the fossil record, because the fossil record is so fragmentary that lots of things are compatible with the fossil record, however it is incompatible with what we observe today, because today we observe no sharp boundaries between a species difference and a race difference, with endless arguments as to whether some family of canids are grey wolves or coyotes, and whether barred owls and spotted owls are two races of the same species, or genuinely two separate species. (Female spotted owls seem to be of the opinion that they are one species.) These blurred lines are what Darwin predicted and claimed to observe, and what we do in fact observe today.

  325. I wrote:
    > These blurred lines are what Darwin predicted and claimed to observe, and what we do in fact observe today.

    (Since Darwin’s theory is horribly politically incorrect, few readers know of it, so many readers will not understand what I said above)

    Darwin’s theory is that races are the origin of species, that differential selection causes races, and that over vast immensities of time, differential selection causes races to drift further and further apart, gradually and imperceptibly becoming separate species, one successful species becoming many species, as a branch has many twigs, thus there can be no objective standard as to whether two kinds are two races of the same species, or have become two species, any more than there is an objective standard distinguishing between a large hill and a small mountain. Since we are looking at one moment in an endless smooth continuous flux, most differences between closely related kinds will be hard to categorize as to whether they are species differences or merely race differences.

  326. @Terry
    “both of these articles are about nematode populations recovering from “deleterious mutations” rather than producing beneficial mutations.”

    Sounds like an excuse. These mutations are beneficial, and C. elegans is multi-cellular. The propagation of C. elegans leads to the accumulation of deleterious mutations which have to be cleared.

    But instead of debating this point, here are new links to drug resistance in C elegans. If you now point out that these are the result of man made chance in their petri disks, my answer will be that you asked for lab examples.

    Levamisole resistance resolved at the single-channel level in Caenorhabditis elegans
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2518249/

    Mitochondrial dysfunction confers resistance to multiple drugs in Caenorhabditis elegans.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20089839

    Caenorhabditis elegans Mutants Resistant to Inhibitors of Acetylcholinesterase
    http://www.genetics.org/content/140/2/527.full.pdf

    Titles without links:
    The genetics of ivermectin resistance in Caenorhabditis elegans

    Glutamate-Gated Chloride Channels of Haemonchus contortus Restore Drug Sensitivity to Ivermectin Resistant Caenorhabditis elegans

    Caenorhabditis elegans: A versatile platform for drug discovery

    A genetic selection for Caenorhabditis elegans synaptic transmission mutants

    Caenorhabditis elegans: An Emerging Model in Biomedical and Environmental Toxicology

  327. @JAD
    ” thus there can be no objective standard as to whether two kinds are two races of the same species, or have become two species, any more than there is an objective standard distinguishing between a large hill and a small mountain.”

    http://animals.about.com/od/s/g/species.htm

    The definition is objective:
    The term species can be defined as a group of individual organisms that are capable of interbreeding to produce fertile offspring in nature. A species is, according to this definition, the largest gene pool that exists under natural conditions.

    The definition is not always practical. Non-interbreeding can be caused by geographical barriers. These are seen as “accidental” and ignored. When species are not interbreeding in nature when they are physical intermingle, but could produce fertile offspring in captivity things get complicated. However, to biologists only the flow of genes is important. They do not much care for where the exact boundaries of the “species” definition are in theory.

    But your “political correctness” point is obviously human “races”.

    All human populations will interbreed and produce very fertile offspring when given even half a chance. If you want, the exception might, just might, be certain San and Pygmy people in Africa. Human “races” are nothing but color variants combined with some random genetic drift.

    Your current president is a perfect example of this.

  328. Winter on Wednesday, January 16 2013 at 1:54 am said:
    > The definition is objective:
    > The term species can be defined as a group of individual organisms that are capable of interbreeding to produce fertile offspring in nature. A species is, according to this definition, the largest gene pool that exists under natural conditions.

    Species and speciation are political, and like global warming result in official science, which is incompatible with genuine science.

    Spotted owls and barred owls interbreed extensively and produce fertile offspring in nature, yet are classified as two separate species.

    Coyotes and grey wolves used to interbreed extensively and produce fertile offspring in nature, a cline used to exist between them, resulting in extensive gene flow between these populations, like the cline across the sahara between blacks and whites. This cline was eradicated by a government policy of killing off intermediate kinds and adjacent populations, I suppose if the nazis had been victorious they would have done something similar for the Saharan cline.

    Speciation is best studied in three spined sticklebacks, because you are less likely to get into political trouble, the more distant the species is from human beings. Also, the further from human the species, the more scientific and less political the paper. Among three spined sticklebacks the benthic and limphetic kinds are clearly separate species, despite massive and total failure to comply with the biological species concept, despite five or ten percent interbreeding in each generation, while the river or origin kinds are seldom genuinely different kinds, despite complete compliance with the biological species concept.

    The further you get from humans the more biologists are inclined to notice that species observed in nature seldom correspond to the biological species concept. Conversely, the closer to humans the more papers on speciation are politics rather than science.

  329. @JAD
    “Species and speciation are political, and like global warming result in official science, which is incompatible with genuine science.

    Spotted owls and barred owls interbreed extensively and produce fertile offspring in nature, yet are classified as two separate species.”

    Still, this is the definition used even in botany. That Americans cannot get their act together when trying to protect or exterminate wild animal populations is of no concern for taxonomy. It is USA activists like you who are constantly trying to corrupt science with your incessant political haggling.

    @JAD
    “Conversely, the closer to humans the more papers on speciation are politics rather than science.”

    However you splice and dice it, trying to formulate a species definition that will put Obama’s parents in different species and him in a twilight zone is simply utter nonsense. The Americas are currently populated by people who have ancestors in four continents. And in most cases, it is the same person who has ancestors in all four continents. And they are all simply human.

    Your attempts to divide humanity into separate species is ideology driven. Not the biologist’s attempt to understand nature.

  330. Winter on Wednesday, January 16 2013 at 5:21 am said:
    > Still, this is the definition used even in botany.

    No it is not. It is an extremist left wing political definition of species that is dangerous to openly doubt, but is quietly ignored in actual practice. When Mayr proposed the biological species concept in 1942, the debate was not at first political, but has become politicized since 1972, with state power being applied to science to force ideology, Lysenko style.

    Mayr did not claim that it was used, but that it should be used, but in practice, it has not been used. Since 1972, however, we have seen a fair bit of Lysenko like pretense that it is used.

    But In actual practice there is very little agreement on what constitutes a species, and some scientists are not shy about saying so.

    “The species problem is the long-standing failure of biologists to agree on how we should identify species and how we should define the word ‘species’.

  331. @JAD
    “The species problem is the long-standing failure of biologists to agree on how we should identify species and how we should define the word ‘species’.”

    Your problem is that you want an “existentialist” (biblical?) definition of species. Species as something engraved in the individual. But it is not. Species tells us something about the relation(s) between individuals, populations, and gene pools.

    Biologists discuss different species concepts just as lexicographers discuss word definitions. Because the concept of a species can help understand population dynamics.

    Mayr’s definition is the one universally accepted as making sense. In boundary and edge cases, it does not make sense. Like, in bacteria and viruses and certain plant clades. Your case of genetic clines where the end-points cannot interbreed anymore has been the staple of genetic teaching for decades.

    But there is no ambiguity in the species concept for the great Apes. And most certainly not in Humans. All humans populations interbreed freely and all their offspring is fertile. Exceptions can be helped in clinics. (and I know about the San and Pygmies)

    I repeat, your attempt to define a species concept that designates Obama’s parents to different species is futile and ridiculous.

  332. >“Conversely, the closer to humans the more papers on speciation are politics rather than science.”

    Sadly, JAD is right about this. It’s yet another case of the fear of accusations of racism muting discourse and leaving certain actual truths to be spoken only by racists.

    In the 1970s, my anthropology textbooks admitted that Bushmen have enough morphological differences from and a low enough interfertility rate with other varieties of human to qualify as a different species. I remember that one even included side-by-side drawings illustrating the lower density of cortical folding on a typical Bushman’s brain. A textbook writer who tried to include that fact today would find it a career-ending mistake. This is not progress.

    Not that the truth justifies the sort of inference racists want to draw, of course. “Ethically human” is a different predicate from “biologically human”; interfertility rates tell us nothing about who we can form a community of trust with. Differing structures of instinct might, but there is no evidence that Bushmen differ psychologically from other humans. They do have a mean IQ lower than the world average (predictable from the cortical folding) but it’s well within the normal range of variation.

    I have more in common in every ethically relevant way with Bushmen who are biologically a different species from me than I do with a sociopath who happens to share my skin color. Racists, blinded by prejudice, will never understand why this is so. We should stop giving them power by being unwilling to speak and engage the truth.

  333. @esr
    “n the 1970s, my anthropology textbooks admitted that Bushmen have enough morphological differences from and a low enough interfertility rate with other varieties of human to qualify as a different species.”

    Maybe. I would not even contest that. Whatever the biology, we would all grant San etc human rights.

    But that is not where JAD is after. Not some marginal populations of hunter gatherers. Nor some elusive arguments about the species concept in hybrid plant cultivars or E. coli genetics.

    JAD is literally aiming to designate Obama’s parents to different species. And there is no sensible definition of species that warrants such a conclusion.

  334. An A2 jacket can be rather short for hip carry unless you use a high ride type holster. If your .45 is not a full size 1911 check out Mitch Rosen’s Upper Limit as a suitable option.

  335. >And there is no sensible definition of species that warrants such a conclusion.

    No, there is not. As usual, JAD begins with Damned Facts and careers off into crazy, hateful prejudice.

  336. >If your .45 is not a full size 1911 check out Mitch Rosen’s Upper Limit as a suitable option.

    Thanks, that looks pretty interesting. I’ve set them email asking if the High Ride will fit a Kimber Ultra II.

  337. @ ESR – “Racists, blinded by prejudice, will never understand why this is so.”

    Is this not also true of cultists? They tend to be blinded by memetic programming that produces a faith-like belief system which automatically overrides objective reasoning.

  338. @esr
    > Yes. The “science vs. religion” clash only happens to religions in which the authority of the religion is tied to truth claims about phenomenal reality. This is actually not a common situation, speaking historically

    This is exactly right. And it is not only true of organizations, it is true of individuals too. For example, some embarrassingly high percentage of Americans believe that God created the earth in six days six thousand years ago, despite the overwhelming evidence that that is not true.

    How can they live with such dramatic error? Well because it doesn’t matter a damn in their day to day lives. The can still benefit from all the modernity science gives them without actually accepting the underlying premises of science. It kind of reminds me of the Taliban railing on the evil Western Satan, while using the very technology that the Evil Satan developed against itself.

    However, there are times when reality bites, and you have to actually face the fakeness of religion and religious explanations. I had one of those moments recently when some nut job massacred two dozen kids and adults in a school in CT.

    One wonders at the contrast between an Omnipresent, omnipotent God who stood in the classroom and did nothing while those kids were killed in contrast to Victoria Soto an ordinary, certainly not omnipotent young girl, who used her soft, non bulletproof body to try to shield the children. Richard Dawkins recently asked his Twitter followers to give reasons why they didn’t believe in God. One person said: “I stopped believing in God when I realized that I was a better person than the God of the Bible”, which seems particularly apt in this context. By any reasonable judgement Victoria Soto was a better person than God, and the fact is that, although I honor her bravery and sacrifice, it is unusual only in the infrequency of the situation rather than the ubiquity the of courage. After all, I suspect that pretty much every reader of this blog would have done the same (Eric’s Glock, notwithstanding.)

    However, after the massacre I saw some Bishop or other religious authority interviewed and asked about this very same contrast. He babbled on with the usual stuff, but at the end he pointed out that, regardless of the philosophical answer, these disasters tend to draw people closer to god, not push them away. And in that he is right, scary right, disturbingly self aware-edly right. It just seems to show two things — how people would much rather deny the truth than have their religion challenged even when the error the contrast is so immense.

    But there is another thing too, and it was my immediate response to Eric’s OP. Basically, it is that the delusion is seductive because often it is way better than the truth by many measures. To believe your babies are with Jesus, and that this inexplicable thing is inexplicable, but God is still in control is so much more comforting than what atheism has to offer.

    Atheism: no miracles, no omnipotent God waiting your prayers to do your beck and call, no community indoctrinated to the forgiveness of your errors, no consequences for your sins long term, and always the Devil to blame for all that goes wrong in your life. No certainty of meaning, no questioning about the meaning of morality — what is right and wrong, someone to comfort you when things go wrong, and mostly tell you that you are a good person, and that it isn’t your fault.

    Sure, atheism, or more specifically science does give us all the miracles of the modern world, but the religious guys get them for free, along with the pleasure of burning the heretics at the stake.

  339. >Basically, it is that the delusion is seductive because often it is way better than the truth by many measures.

    No, it isn’t. Not if you include the sporadic flipouts into mass murder as one of the costs.

    It’s not the insanity of religious believers that’s intolerable per se; if they merely had private delusions, or the delusions only affected other believers, it wouldn’t be a problem. The problem is that we can never know when the next baraka is going to happen along, grab them by their insanity, and mobilize them into a blood-crazed mob.

  340. esr:
    > Not that the truth justifies the sort of inference racists want to draw, of course. “Ethically human” is a different predicate from “biologically human”; interfertility rates tell us nothing about who we can form a community of trust with.

    This is, of course, a classic science versus religion clash.

    Observed behavior is that it is difficult to form communities of trust between different kinds, resulting in high levels of anti social behavior and stress related diseases in mixed communities, resulting in major increases of death rate from stress related diseases in mixed communities. Not only do whites suffer from the presence of blacks, blacks, though safer from crime in the presence of whites, suffer from the presence of whites in that they become more inclined to crime, self destructive behavior, and stress related diseases.

    As I wrote elsewhere:

    In order to get the conclusion that statistical differences in outcomes, such as more of group X graduating, or more of group X doing a highly desirable job, are the result of racial discrimination, which must be punished and suppressed, in order to get the conclusion that statistical outcomes are proof of personal wrongdoing which needs to be punished, you have to suppose that evolution in humans came to a dead stop one hundred thousand years or so ago – which requires a biological theory that evolution only happens in short bursts, and for any given species is usually at a dead stop – a theory that is in such flagrant and spectacular contradiction to the evidence that only the power of blind faith backed by political intimidation can sustain it.

    If kinds are prone to drift far apart despite massive gene flow, as sticklebacks do, isolation mechanisms do not matter much, are not causal, do not explain things, in which case the biological species concept does not explain or describe speciation in the real world.. We still get just as huge differences between stickleback species even when ten percent of matings are interspecies, as often enough they are. That stickleback females evolve to avoid such matings is a consequence of the gross difference in lifestyles, not a cause.

    Species drift apart in ways that do not have any close relation to gene flow, so the definitions of isolation do not matter much, and gene flow continues in ways that make the precise definitions of isolation impossible to apply, because species just are not all that isolated. The biological species concept turns into slippery mud when applied to closely related species, and collapses entirely when applied to chronospecies.

    In practice, we don’t get well defined isolation events, rather, as kinds drift apart, gene flow gradually diminishes, but substantial gene flow continues long after kinds have separated into what are very clearly different species, for example wolves and coyotes. Because we get speciation despite substantial gene flow, and frequently fail to get speciation when gene flow is stopped by merely geographical barriers, the biological species concept cannot be applied to the real world, except by political lies and political intimidation.

    Instead, natural selection explains things. Isolation does not explain things.

    If isolation is not causal, and natural selection is causal, if natural selection explains things, then evolutionary change is happening everywhere all the time, rather than only happening when we get the abrupt, sharp, total, well defined isolation events, the events which the biological species concept requires and presupposes exists.

    If evolution is happening everywhere all the time, all sorts of unpleasant political consequences flow: that humans are fiercer than most creatures, and men fiercer than women; that affirmative action is morally wrong; that Ashkenazi Jews are, on average, substantially smarter than Sephardic Jews; and so on and so forth, from which no end of political trouble ensues – and those deemed responsible for such dangerous ideas are apt to suffer punishment.

  341. I wrote:
    > Observed behavior is that it is difficult to form communities of trust between different kinds

    Not impossible, the army manages it, but it requires drastic measures that appear to be impractical to apply in a free society – or even a totalitarian society. Observe what happened to Yugoslavia.

  342. @esr
    > No, it isn’t. Not if you include the sporadic flipouts into mass murder as one of the costs.

    That is why I said “by many measures”. However, for little Susie taking her husband and family to church, it is often a net benefit. As to whether religion has been beneficial to the world as a whole — I am not sure about that answer. I could be convinced either way.

    But, as you surely know, I am not an advocate of it at all. And I think that in the modern age it is mostly deleterious to society as a whole, despite the individual benefits mentioned above.

    Maybe this sounds arrogant, but in truth, I don’t think most people are either smart enough, or self aware enough to be successful atheists. Which isn’t to say that religious people are not smart of self aware, it is just that being a successful atheist needs those qualities in much larger measure.

  343. @esr
    > No, it isn’t. Not if you include the sporadic flipouts into mass murder as one of the costs.

    As I said earlier, I’m still not convinced that I can include that as a cost of religion. It may be the case that if religion were not present, the sporadic flipout would still occur. (“To put it more precisely, if I’m faced with a faith-holder, I’m not so much put at unease by the faith, as I am by whatever unseen mechanism within the brain made holding that faith possible in the first place.”)

    And much as I’d prefer it to be false, my suspicion is consistent with Jessica’s suggestion that “most people [aren't] smart enough, or self aware enough to be successful atheists”. I take heart in that I don’t know just how much potential is inherent in people who initially test as not-smart, and I’m not in a position to research it, and so my belief could be incorrect.

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  345. Night shift guy at Au Bon Pain is not alone.

    Just in the past couple of days I heard of two black icons — rapper Big Boi and actor Jimmie Walker — who were disillusioned with Barack O-Face. (Big Boi is a libertarian and voted for Gary Johnson in 2012.)

    To be quite honest it’s not surprising: the whole Obama shtik is based on the assumption that color of skin will substitute for content of character — the very textbook definition of racism. That the dupe worked so very well on white voters means racism isn’t over in this country, not by a long shot. In terms of actual deeds while President Obama is, to a first approximation, Bush II. More wars, more domestic surveillance, more big business bailouts.

    I don’t know if the Obama campaign qualifies as a cult, but it certainly has as a core component the sort of mendacious bait-n-switch cults rely on to fill their ranks.

  346. esr:esr on Wednesday, January 16 2013 at 2:35 pm said:
    > we can never know when the next baraka is going to happen along, grab them by their insanity, and mobilize them into a blood-crazed mob.

    As you mentioned before, religion, narrowly defined, has not been the biggest killer.

    Of course, we can reasonably define communism and so forth as something substantially similar to religion, the same sort of thing, in which case it has been the biggest killer in recent times.

    On the other hand, there are frequently entirely rational reasons to massacre one’s neighbors, take their stuff, and abduct their women, and religion may merely be a handy organizing principle to facilitate doing it. It seems to me that an entirely rational this worldly doctrine is apt to resemble that of Xenophon, which is probably not going to reduce the death rate, and might well increase it.

  347. Winter on Wednesday, January 16 2013 at 8:19 am said:
    > JAD is literally aiming to designate Obama’s parents to different species. And there is no sensible definition of species that warrants such a conclusion.

    As I, and Darwin, observed, species have no objective definition, species differences and race differences are the same sort of difference.

    To debate whether Obama’s parents are of the same species or two different species is like debating whether something is a large hill or a small mountain.

    The problem is that a species definition that ensures that Obama’s parents must be of the same species, that makes this is a scientific truth rather than merely a terminological convention, has absurd consequences when applied to other sexually reproducing kinds.

    If one also wants one’s species definition to guarantee that evolutionary psychology is false, that men are equal to women, and that all human races are equal to each other, that affirmative action is morally right, this ever more heavily loaded definition has extremely drastic consequences, re-writing all of biology.

    In practice, biologists quietly ignore this heavily loaded species definition, more openly for species far from human, more furtively for species close to human. When studying three spined sticklebacks, a scientist is required to use delicate phrasing, but is otherwise free to say what he thinks.

  348. Of course, we can reasonably define communism and so forth as something substantially similar to religion, the same sort of thing, in which case it has been the biggest killer in recent times.

    Marxism has been able to deliver something that conventional religion can’t: something like accurate prophecy. In the wake of bank bailouts, the Goldman-Sachs-engineered 2008 financial crisis, and automation eroding the labor market and with it the middle class, even financial elites like Jeremy Grantham are giving Marx a second look.

    The stridently anticommunist British historian Robert Conquest is said to have considered titling his revised edition of The Great Terror, I Told You So, You Fucking Fools. One wonders if the stridently communist British historian Eric Hobsbawm should have instead given his recent bookHow to Change the World: Reflections on Marx and Marxism the title Now Who’s Laughing, You Old Fascist Bastard?.

  349. I don’t believe Obama ever appeared to me as something greater than a career politician.
    The cult-leader image of him just seems a little silly in the same way that it is silly to imagine a 2d term president on the fast-track to becoming a king.

  350. >On the other hand, there are frequently entirely rational reasons to massacre one’s neighbors, take their stuff, and abduct their women, and religion may merely be a handy organizing principle to facilitate doing it.

    I hear this from apologists for religious ideology (and Communist ideology) a lot. None of these ideologists ever goes on to explain why, when tango X says he nail-bombed a schoolbus for Allah or Communism, we shouldn’t take him at his word and regard Allah and Communism as being causative. Especially since there are other wide-spread ideologies, such as free-market capitalism or Theravada Buddhism, to which no tango ever attributes his bombings.

    If ideology didn’t matter, nail-bombings of school buses (and other kinds of terrorism and mass murder up to and including planned genocide) would be uncorrelated with it and we would hear of murderous terror performed by people who waved capitalism or Buddhism as a banner. In the real world this never happens. It’s a weird kind of self-willed blindness to ignore (a) what terrorists tell you about their motivation, (b) the ways terror historically correlates with ideology, and (c) the fact that the terrorists’ accounts of motivation and the historical correlations match up perfectly.

    It may be a near-universal trait of humans that they can be talked into committing atrocities in mobs, but that does not mean that all talk is morally equivalent. Ideas matter; some are a short road to blood madness, some lead away from it. Ideology can kill.

  351. Not that I bring this up as a counterexample, but Eric’s argument quickly reminds me of ecoterrorists and assortments of people who commit crime (for this purpose, I’m counting even relatively minor infractions such as vandalism) in the name of environmentalism. (I suspect you consider that to be another case of ideology; if so, we agree.)

    If I cast the net wider, I’m led to consider incidents of violence in which the perpetrators cite a variety of political causes. I can’t help but feel like I’m assymptotically approaching a definition of terrorism (with the difference that terrorism is commonly construed as being more organized and sanctioned – religious nutjobs are sometimes promptly shunned by their organizations).

    Fine distinctions aside, what I’m seeing here is a possible commonality between violent religious people, violent political people, and in general, violent ideological people, which I simultaneously fail to see in others who espouse an ideology but will never be significantly violent.

    Eric cites free-market capitalism and Theravada Buddhism as two ideologies that never produced mass bombers. I don’t know Theravada Buddhism, so I’ll concede that one; maybe it’s bomber-proof. I know capitalism, though, and… I’m conflicted. While I know of no actual incidents of capitalism-motivated bombings, I don’t have much trouble constructing a narrative that appears plausible to me. (Something vaguely reminiscent of Wyatt’s Torch.) One could easily respond that such an act would be in defiance of true capitalism (“he damaged someone else’s property!”), but one could make the same arguments on a religion’s account (even more easily, in fact, given how religious ideologies tend to be logically inconsistent).

    So what’s the true difference? I agree that ideas matter, but I’m less sure that it’s as simply put as that. Ideology can kill, but Eric also claims the existence of at least two ideologies which don’t. For me, my strongest theory still stands: that there’s some currently hidden mechanism that causes the mind to misinterpret an ideology, that would make that error no matter what ideology you put there, with the exceptions of (presumably) Theravada Buddhism and the axioms of logic, and in even those cases, all it does is reduce the rate of error. But I admit I could be holding too much faith in that.

  352. esr on Wednesday, January 16 2013 at 10:23 am said:
    > No, there is not. As usual, JAD begins with Damned Facts and careers off into crazy, hateful prejudice.

    As usual, you are lying about me, perhaps in fear that you might be punished for my ideas.

    I have nowhere suggested that humans are several species – merely pointed out that religious doctrines that make the very question impossible lead to absurd conclusions in the rest of biology, that your ideology, not mine, is veering into madness and deny reality for religious reasons. You fear facts about three spined sticklebacks because they could be used to make arguments about humans, arguments that I have not made, arguments that I have repeatedly denigrated as pointless.

  353. @ Jessica Boxer – “As to whether religion has been beneficial to the world as a whole — I am not sure about that answer.”

    When trying to analyze organization religions in the present cultural environment, it is helpful to remember that the faith trait and religious social structure originally evolved thousands of years ago when our ancestors were small tribes of primitive peoples. In that context, both faith and social-religious belief systems were generally very useful as a means of conveying wisdom to each seceding generation. The proclivity toward this habit is still with us, but in modern society it has become more of a vulnerability than a survival asset.

  354. One thing that has always surprised me is how people, like Richard Dawkins and Jessica, constantly speak of the evidence as though it is for Evolution and against Creation, when that is really not true. If you were to knock yourself on the head in just the right way to eliminate from your mind all Evolution vs. Creation bias either way, and all prior knowledge of the evidence and leave the scientific principles and Occam’s Razor as your only remaining bias, Creation should win because it has fewer objections and contrivances. Plus, it is easier for the Creator to justify the evidence leading to objections than it is for Evolution to contrive justifications around the objections, often only to have other evidence come along and cause objections to the contrivances. Evolution as it is today is a kitbash of small, somewhat isolated theories like irregular masonry stones that don’t fit together properly, held together by a mortar that I would call “faith”.

    The Fossil Record: The fossil stratum records how the creatures of Earth die, not how they live. There are also a lot of pieces of evidence that only make sense in the Biblical scenario, such as long creatures and trees cutting vertical through multiple strata periods, the occasional advanced creature or man-made article vastly out of place in the strata, and frequently places where the multiple layers of strata (say, Permian to Cretaceous) are bent as though they were all wet at the same time and hydrated minerals did not yet have a chance to set. One of the most compelling problems is a salt mine in Pakistan where the entire Cambrian-Tertiary geological stratum was found on top of a huge salt deposit which contained flowering plants and conifers.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khewra_Salt_Mines

    There is the thought that the first vertebrates were fish and other sea creatures in that the Cambrian layer, the lowest, consists almost entirely of sea creatures, and we don’t see land animals until quite a bit higher. Is this likely with the Biblical scenario of Noah’s Flood?

    “In [analyzed as BC 2344 April 14] were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.” – Genesis 7:11

    Underwater volcanoes are obviously implicated as a source of death for the creatures of the sea, and they would have been dying at the same time as the creatures on the land. The now-dead creatures of the land, however, would be washed into the sea and thus lie on top of the creatures of the sea, which are already dead on the sea floor. It is easy to explain the strata that we see from the Biblical account. Tectonic lifting later during this catastrophe explains both why we find these strata on land, and why they are bent together as though they were still wet.

    There is also little accounting for processes of decay, erosion, and solvent transport processes happening far faster than it appears to in fossils. We have dinosaur bones, and even some soft tissue specimens, with no way to explain how they could have lasted the sixty-five million years without becoming completely mineralized or destroyed.

    Astronomy: As we peer deeper and deeper into space with ever-increasing spectral and spatial resolution, it is looking more and more like the galaxies 12.8 billion light-years distant (i.e.: hypothetically just 900 million years after the Big Bang) are just as old as our own galaxy and galaxies right next door, with flat disks, spiral arms, star-forming nebulae, and enormous black holes in their cores. Creationist contrivances to explain how light that seems to be billions of years old (i.e.: it is a major problem that this light is obviously older than than the YEC’s universe) isn’t are even more atrocious than Evolutionary contrivances around fossil record and genetics problems, but the problem remains that the universe doesn’t seem to be getting any younger the further out we look.

    We’ve also found a whole bunch of extrasolar planets that are very inconsistent with our knowledge of astrodynamics and theories of star system formation; planets that could not have been in their current positions for more than a few thousand years, hot jupiters and the strange GJ1214b, a ball of water with a surface temperature of 505K because of a tight orbit around its host star. Astrodynamicists speak of them migrating from the snowball regions of a star system inward as though they have somehow overlooked how difficult it is to move such huge objects when there isn’t anything nearby large enough to trade momentum with (i.e. gravitational slingshots and Belbruno’s weak stability highways count on trading momentum with planets.) Also, momentum-trading gravitational encounters tend to place planets and other objects on eccentric orbits, and doesn’t form a sufficient explanation of how a hot jupiter or other such implausible (yet found to exist) world could move to a tight circular orbit around a star without having formed there to begin with. Of course, I’m just as much at a loss as to why God would make such worlds, which are unapproachable to intelligent beings that might want to visit or live on them.

    Biology: As we’ve already discussed, molecular biology Evolutionists are figuring out how life survives damaging mutations, not how they benefit from the useful ones. Natural selection obviously has a heck of a lot more damaging mutations to weed out than beneficial mutations to select for evolution. Also, since fossils are the dead creatures, we should expect to see the losers in it. This would make the tracking of beneficial mutations more difficult. As a child (before I’d give a Creationist the time of day), I was expecting a lot of progress in molecular biology along the lines of genetic modification, vaccines, cancer and other mutation treatments, and laboratory abiogenesis than has actually occurred since then. Not so much progress in computers and cell phones though!

    Deep Time: Evolutionists everywhere, especially Dawkins, would have you believe that the typical evangelical Christian is so lunatic as to be frothing at the mouth (some are, I know.) One of his analogies is to compare the Evolution timeline to continent size and say it’s like believing North America is eighty yards across from sea to sea to believe in a young universe. Unfortunately, this analogy can be countered by a similar analogy explaining the human condition in time: Say some temporal anomaly whisks you into the distant past, standing exactly where you are, but around you are no maps, no guide, and no clue. Can you figure out where you are without walking more than eighty yards in the process? Like it or not, we’ve only been recording history since about 3500BC and have anything approaching a contiguous record since about 1500BC. We can’t measure millions and billions of years in that sort of time.Now, I’m not setting out to prove Biblical Creation by any stretch of the imagination. What I hope you can take home from this is the idea that Creation isn’t an idea as maniacal as things like the Apollo Hoax, Flat Earth, Hollow Earth and stuff like this:

  355. Eric
    > if ideology didn’t matter, nail-bombings of school buses (and other kinds of terrorism and mass murder up to and including planned genocide) would be uncorrelated with it and we would hear of murderous terror performed by people who waved capitalism or Buddhism as a banner.

    Well, as a matter of fact, we do hear of murderous terror performed by people who wave Buddhism as a banner, for example in Burma and Ceylon. Buddhism, though less inclined to terror and mass murder than most major religions, is arguably more inclined to terror and mass murder than Christianity, and is clearly more inclined to terror and mass murder than modern Christianity.

    Obviously the inclination to terror depends on the ideology, with communism being number one by far, but it looks to me that some religions, such as Christianity, reduce terror below the natural non ideological level.

    I must reluctantly concede that progressivism has not done a lot of mass murder, but it has done, and continues to do, quite a lot of war and artificial famine, and some of those wars, for example the war by progessivism in the Congo against the supposed racism of the Tutsi related people of the Congo, have employed quite extraordinarily brutal terror, for example killing women of Tutsi and allegedly Tutsi related races by vaginally impaling them with large objects. Similarly the war against whites in Rhodesia.

    (Of course, since Tutsi are the superior race, there is supposedly nothing racist about impaling Tutsi women with large objects. Supposedly only members of superior races can be racist. According to progressives, nothing members of inferior races do to superior races is racist, even impaling women with large objects while calling them by racial epithets.)

    And, I predict, Eric will have profound difficulty speaking truth about war in the Congo, although it would seem highly relevant to the discussion of the relationship of ideologies and belief systems to terror. Rather than addressing the issue, he will probably blame me for encouraging the thoughts that regrettably make it unfortunately necessary to impale Tutsi women with large objects.

  356. >While I know of no actual incidents of capitalism-motivated bombings, I don’t have much trouble constructing a narrative that appears plausible to me.

    Construct all the narratives you like. The relevant fact is that this has never actually happened. I’m talking about observed reality, not fictional cloud-cuckoo land.

    >For me, my strongest theory still stands: that there’s some currently hidden mechanism that causes the mind to misinterpret an ideology, that would make that error no matter what ideology you put there, with the exceptions of (presumably) Theravada Buddhism and the axioms of logic, and in even those cases, all it does is reduce the rate of error.

    I am irresistibly reminded of Molière’s play The Imaginary Invalid. In it, he lampoons a group of physicians explaining the sleep-inducing properties of opium as deriving from its “virtus dormitiva” – bad Latin for “sleep-inducing virtue”. Your “currently hidden mechanism” is exactly as silly as that, and in exactly the same way; it’s a non-explanation masquerading as an explanation and does nothing to make the question go away.

    Instead, it simply leads to a reformulation of the question: “What is it about Theravada and capitalism that makes them apparently invulnerable to being turned into rationalizations for mass murder? (Or, effectively equivalently, with statistical vulnerability indistinguishable from zero by observations to present time?) At which point your “virtuus dormtiva” vanishes and we’re right back to ideas mattering and ideology killing.

    Hint: I have some serious differences with Ayn Rand, but I think she called this one exactly right.

  357. @ ESR

    I certainly agree that ideology can kill. I have a couple of points on which I would value your comments.

    The US seems to have more or less defined terrorism as violence intended to cause terror by brown people or people from Idaho ([weaseling> as opposed to "shock" and "awe" </weaseling]) that is inherently evil. However, it worth considering the cases of:

    – the fire bombing of Dresden and Tokyo
    – the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
    – the deliberate use of napalm against individuals

    Fighting ideology can also require killing, but is terrorism, per se, moral if there is any reasonable alternative? The US certainly got into it when it suited their purposes.

    Profound humor from Dave Barry:
    "It was Truman who made the difficult decision to drop the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, the rationale being that only such a devastating, horrendous display of destructive power would convince Japan that it had to surrender. Truman also made the decision to drop the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, the rationale being that, hey, we had another bomb."

    The
    – Brussels Declaration (1874)
    – Hague Conference (1900)
    – Washington Arms Conference Treaty (1922)
    – the Geneva Protocol (1929)
    all prohibited the use of [poison gas]. (I may be simplifying this a bit, but still).

    I realize that sovereignty involves the concept that laws are for inside nations; between nations, we get "deals". In any case, I am surprised that the use of napalm against individuals is considered acceptable (except perhaps as a last resort).

  358. >Well, as a matter of fact, we do hear of murderous terror performed by people who wave Buddhism as a banner, for example in Burma and Ceylon.

    The Tamil Tigers were Marxist atheists – as lethal a combination as non-Marxist atheism is benign. I have investigated the matter and I know of zero evidence that their Sinhalese enemies invoked Buddhism. Knowing what I do about Theravada I cannot see how this would be even possible. Citation needed. Likewise for Burma: citation needed. If you knew anything about Theravada, which is one of the purest forms of quietist mysticism humans have ever invented, you would understand that the implied claim is bizarre and requires very strong confirming evidence.

    Historical note: Atrocities with Buddhist religious sanction are not actually completely unknown, but have been quite rare and confined to sects that are (a) Mahayana rather than Theravada and (b) rather aberrant within Mahayana. The closest analogies to the routine bloodletting of Christianity and Islam are the history of the two Japanese Pure Land sects, Jodo-sho and Jodo Shinshu. These have the dubious distinction of having been the only religions outside the Zoroastrian family to have practiced conversion by the sword.

  359. @ Terry

    Not that the rest of your comment isn’t nuts, but this was really special…

    Plus, it is easier for the Creator to justify the evidence leading to…

  360. @ ESR

    First, give up one of omnibenevolence, omnipotence, or omniscience. Then we could talk contingent existence.

    Omnibenevolence certainly provides some interesting talking points, but is it tied into the inherent contradiction between omnipotence and omniscience (ie. does dropping omnibenevolence change anything logically?)

  361. While I have heard Ayn Rand’s followers described as a cult I am not even sure that I would
    agree. Something that I would infer from the current thread ( of which I’ve read perhaps a
    3d ) is that cults have proliferated in the society. Capitalism, as an ideology and as a policy, may be unrelated to proliferation of cults. A person may join a cult without having many opinions about socialism.

  362. >>Eric, how do you distinguish between cult hypomania and happiness?
    >Flatness of affect. Cult hypomania has an unnatural evenness to it.

    Sounds strikingly similar to the flatline brainscan from people “tinkered” with by the Second Foundation.

    — Foo Quuxman

  363. FWIW: my personal definition of a cult is a very slight modification of the Admiral’s:

    Any religious group more than half of whose members joined it as an adult.

  364. >- the fire bombing of Dresden and Tokyo
    >- the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

    Ironically the A-bombs could be considered “better” than the fire bombing, one boom and the raid is over. Of course then a few days later a bunch of otherwise ok people die, but still…….

    >Truman also made the decision to drop the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, the rationale being that, hey, we had another bomb.

    My understanding of the matter is that we had 3 bombs ready to go; the first one got their attention, the second proved that it wasn’t a one-off.

    — Foo Quuxman

  365. @ Foo

    My understanding of the matter is that we had 3 bombs ready to go; the first one got their attention, the second proved that it wasn’t a one-off.

    Without bothering to research this, I thought that there was only enough U-235 for one “gun-style” bomb, but no matter…

    It is worth noting that the same effect could have been achieved by detonating one or both bombs in places other than civilian population centers…. although the Japanese were convinced that even civilians with bamboo spears could repel an invasion by the Allies. Certainly, the second A-bomb didn’t have to be over a city.

    The real point I was trying to make was that the US is pushing the idea that “terrorism” is evil per se… unless they want to do it.

  366. My sentence:

    The US seems to have more or less defined terrorism … that is inherently evil.

    s/that is inherently evil/which is inherently evil/

  367. @Brian “Plus, it is easier for the Creator to justify the evidence leading to…”

    To leave that out would have been dishonest. I prayed about GJ1214b because it makes no sense to me to put a planet in such a position as God because it’ll be gone before we could possibly reach it. No answer so far. So, you see, Creation does have some rather gnarly objections that I am uncomfortable about.

  368. @Eric: “non-Marxist atheism is benign.”

    I dunno (*scratches head*) Nietzschean and Nazi atheism didn’t seem particularly benign IMHO.

    Re atomic bombs: The three atomic bombs referred to by Foo were actually Trinity, Little Boy, and Fat Man (test program designators Trinity, Alberta/Hiroshima and Alberta/Nagasaki.) If the Japanese didn’t surrender immediately after Nagasaki, the next one would have been ready in about December or January. I’m more familiar with the atomic program than most laymen (I don’t have anything unpublished, though.) I found out that fifteen people experienced both war shots in “The Last Train From Hiroshima” by Charles Pellegrino. The interesting thing about Nagasaki is that it missed. Instead of going off over the military/industrial downtown area intended, it was dropped five miles northwest over the suburb of Urakami, which is why the death toll is lower than Hiroshima despite a much higher yield.

  369. >Fighting ideology can also require killing, but is terrorism, per se, moral if there is any reasonable alternative? The US certainly got into it when it suited their purposes.

    There are several good arguments against equating city-killing fire-bombs or A-bombs with terrorism. You’ve touched on a rather legalistic one that, wearing my anarchist hat, I actually reject. More sound, I think, is the distinction between terror aims and war aims. I’d prefer not to wander off into that, though, as it would rathole the thread.

    I will observe that there is a customary law of war – I’m not referring here to the Geneva Convention, which is a late and formalized development from it, but of an evolved tradition going back to Hugo Grotius and medieval European just-war doctrines. One significant distinction in World War II is that the Germans, with sporadic exceptions, honored it; the Japanese did not. They could have chosen to; they had Europeanized their military enough in other respects.

    The customary law of war makes distinctions among regular warfare, irregular warfare, terrorism, and piracy which are…remarkably coherent, even to one as scathingly critical of state action as I am. Learning this was one of my larger surprises from studying history; I had expected it all to be a tissue of sleazy rationalizations and victors’ justice. Instead I found quite a few genuine Schelling points.

  370. @ Terry

    I prayed about GJ1214b because it makes no sense to me to put a planet in such a position as God because it’ll be gone before we could possibly reach it. No answer so far.

    Perhaps this is the location where multiple angels dance on the point of a needle.

  371. >My understanding of the matter is that we had 3 bombs ready to go; the first one got their attention, the second proved that it wasn’t a one-off.

    Correct. The most important ethical fact may have been that the U.S. chose not to drop the third one.

    People thinking about this a half-century later tend to miss another important point – Stalin had troops on Sakhalin and within a shout of Berlin. Arguably the second bomb wasn’t aimed at the changing the mental state of the Japanese as much as it was at changing Stalin’s…

  372. @ ESR

    Thanks. That was interesting and conceptually addressed my question (and I can imagine that the details would drag us far from the topic(s) at hand).

    Of course, part of the purpose of my comment was to express an opinion about “The War Against Terror”, which someone on Slashdot yesterday proposed that we should refer to by its initials.

  373. >I dunno (*scratches head*) Nietzschean and Nazi atheism didn’t seem particularly benign IMHO.

    It’s not atheism when you replace god-worship with state-worship. Besides, on what grounds are you supposing the Nazis weren’t Marxists? Heretic Marxists that partially substituted racialism for class warfare, to be sure – but the notion that Naziism was some sort of polar opposite of Marxism is an invention of Soviet propaganda.

  374. @Terry: If you were to knock yourself on the head in just the right way to eliminate from your mind all Evolution vs. Creation bias either way, and all prior knowledge of the evidence and leave the scientific principles and Occam’s Razor as your only remaining bias, Creation should win because it has fewer objections and contrivances.

    You forgot to include the complexity of the Creator in your accounting. When you do, Creation becomes much more complex than Evolution, and correspondingly disfavored by Occam’s Razor. Eliezer Yudkowsky’s post about Occam’s Razor nailed this one:

    http://lesswrong.com/lw/jp/occams_razor/

  375. > > Well, as a matter of fact, we do hear of murderous terror performed by people who wave Buddhism as a banner, for example in Burma and Ceylon.

    Esr:
    > I have investigated the matter and I know of zero evidence that their Sinhalese enemies invoked Buddhism.

    Investigated Burmese Buddhism also did you?

    And, I also mentioned progressivism as responsible for the Rwandan genocide and the quite extraordinary atrocities now under way in the Congo. Progressives are reluctant to genocide all over again in the Congo, since it did not work out last time around, but are trying every other form of vile disgusting horror.

    It frequently happens in the streets of America that a flash mob of “youths” will suddenly attack some other “youths”, hurling racial epithets, and reminding each other of what they were taught in school about all the sins that one race supposedly did to another. The mainstream press, and you, are strangely reluctant to mention the race of the attackers, the race of the attacked, and the loudly proclaimed motivation of the attack.

    Even more so, when crimes are committed in Africa for similar reasons based on similar rhetoric, the New York Times will not mention the incident at all, and those media that do mention the incident will refrain from mentioning who were committing the crimes, who were the victims of the crimes, and why the crime were committed.

    And, so will you refrain.

    > Knowing what I do about Theravada I cannot see how this would be even possible.

    And what do you know about Christianity?

  376. >> Are martial arts organizations cultish?
    > Occasionally[…] I think it’s a less common pathology now than it used to be, and less common in the U.S. than in Asia.

    Or is it? ;-) Whatever the case, there’s no shortage of charlatans on either continent.

    George Dillman’s “no-touch KO” debunked on National Geographic
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsSzSflkns8
    The poor boy in the video probably tried to hadoken a bully in school and got his ass beat as a result.

    The Power of Kiai
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pl1KEDMCQw8
    Hilarious comment bonus: “I tried it and it worked!! My imaginary? enemies went flying!”

    It’d be great to see ESR try his latest stick fighting moves on either of the above “masters”.

  377. >The mainstream press, and you, are strangely reluctant to mention the race of the attackers, the race of the attacked, and the loudly proclaimed motivation of the attack.

    The mainstream press is; I’m not. Yes, we have a persistent problem with violent flash mobs of young black thugs attacking whites for reasons which combine ordinary criminality with explicit racism. This is reality and I do not shrink from calling it what it is. Nor do I avert my eyes from the fact that these thugs are being enabled by the willingness of much of our political class to ignore them, excuse them, and largely suppress press coverage of the phenomenon.

    Nor do I have any issue with describing the nightmare in the Congo as at least in part a genocidal race war that happens to be black-on-black. In part – it’s more complicated than that. A lot of it is straight-up old-fashioned warlordism.

    I don’t know what misfire in your mind caused you to imagine I would ignore such plain facts or refuse to speak them.

    However, I am also not going to buy any theory about there being a stable genetic distinction between “superior” Tutsi vs. “inferior” Hutu. That is nothing but racist fantasy – they’ve been cohabiting and interbreeding too long for it to be anything else.

  378. >I don’t know what misfire in your mind caused you to imagine I would ignore such plain facts or refuse to speak them.

    He like many (hell, most) people is apparently incapable of making the cognitive shift into someone else’s worldview.

    — Foo Quuxman

  379. >Whatever the case, there’s no shortage of charlatans on either continent

    Granted, but cultism is a much more specific thing than mere charlatanism.

    >It’d be great to see ESR try his latest stick fighting moves on either of the above “masters”.

    Not likely to end well for either of them, no. Especially not if I’m carrying the almost ludicrously oversized pair I’ve dubbed the Trauma Twins – Massive and Blunt. (Sifu calls them my “treetrunks”.)

    I will however note that the kiai stuff is only about 99% bogus rather than 100%. I have thrown opponents off their game with posture and kiai and expect to do so again. You don’t get slumping to the ground, but you can get the crucial 200ms of whatthefuck you need to get in and score a disabler.

  380. @Eric Notwithstanding the fact that I was told so in high school, I do not believe that Nazi or Nietschzean (did I spell that right?) philosophy is the polar opposite of Marxist philosophy, and that yes, they do have a lot in common, probably more than you and Richard. I still dispute the notion you seem to hold: that they are synonymous.

    @Peter The link is a bunch of gibberish, but I do see your point. God is quite complex. The thing is, God is allowed to be complex, while Evolution is not. What God is _not_ allowed to be is deceitful, and that is the point on which Rickard Dawkins hangs his hat. This is why a Creationist needs to pick a certain creation story and stick to it at least until he is satisfied that it has been scientifically refuted.

    Genesis is an excellent choice because it is part of the single most authenticated and supported collection of ancient documents in the world (second place is Homer’s Iliad while most other sacred texts are not ancient.) The Genesis Creationist then has to figure out if and how astronomical, geological, and biological evidence fits into it. There are several web sites devoted to this topic, and I do wish some of them would bring up and acknowledge the objections, as I do. This would set them apart not only from the kooks, but also the Evolutionists, the only other group which looks at the objections to their theory, but not very consistently.

    There is a story that I have been thus far unable to verify, that a guy named George Washington Carver was having a bad day and walked out in nature, uttered a prayer during that walk, “God, why did you create the universe?”

    God answered, “That is too much knowledge for you.”

    George, encouraged at hearing anything at all from God, glanced about and spotted a common weed, to the best of human knowledge at the time (my best guess is 1910), utterly useless to cultivate. “God, why did you invent the peanut.”

    God answered, “I’ll meet you in your lab in half an hour.” He was about half an hour’s walk from his lab, but apparently they met there, and God told him literally everything there was to know about the peanut.

    While I haven’t been able to verify this story, I have been able to verify that there was a man named George Washington Carver, that he was a strong Christian, and that he apparently did know everything there was to know about the peanut!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_washington_carver

  381. @Terry: The link is a bunch of gibberish

    I disagree, but there’s not much point in arguing about it. One comment, though: it will be difficult to follow that post (like many of Yudkowsky’s posts on LessWrong) if you haven’t read the previous posts that it builds on. That’s why the “followup to” links at the top are there.

    God is allowed to be complex, while Evolution is not.

    That’s not what Occam’s Razor says. Occam’s Razor says that nothing is “allowed” to be complex unless nothing simpler will suffice to explain the data.

  382. @Peter Of course, you’re right, but you might be mistaken about Evolution’s simplicity. Due to all the contrivances needed to get around the evidence that refuses to fit politely to Evolution’s model, it has actually gotten far more complex than Genesis Creationism. I’m a fan of Air Crash Investigations, and so far as I’ve been able to tell, the NTSB has never entertained the thought that when they come across a tangle of shredded aluminum, wiring, and upholstery, it somehow grew out of the ground without human intervention.

    As for Yudkowski’s article, I did get the impression that it was meant to be jibberish, at least to a certain degree. To me, it made about this much sense:

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TranslationTrainWreck

  383. Brian Marshall on Wednesday, January 16 2013 at 8:07 pm said:
    > It is worth noting that the same effect could have been achieved by detonating one or both bombs in places other than civilian population centers

    No it would not have.

    After Hiroshima, the Japanese government held a cabinet meeting and unanimously agreed to fight to the last man.

    After the Nagasaki, the Japanese government held another cabinet meeting. During the meeting they were given false information that the Americans had hundreds of bombs rolling off the assembly lines, and were preparing to use them all. They were evenly split on whether to surrender, or whether to fight to the last man.

    The emperor then ordered surrender, and informed the cabinet he was going to broadcast the order generally – and shortly thereafter faced a coup attempt as elements of the army attempted to seize the emperor and the palace to prevent the order from being broadcast. The emperor put down the coup, and most of Japan’s military leaders “committed suicide”. After the “suicides”, the emperor was then able to order surrender.

    So with two nukes on population centers, and false information of a holocaust coming, it was still a very near thing.

  384. Omnibeneviolence
    didn’t seem like a word.
    I was going to say that I have heard Ayn Rand’s followers described as a cult, but
    I am not even sure that I would
    agree. Something that I would infer from the current thread ( of which
    I’ve read perhaps a
    3d ) is that cults have proliferated in the society. Capitalism, as an
    ideology and as a policy, may be unrelated to proliferation of cults. A
    person may join a cult without having many opinions about socialism.

  385. >I still dispute the notion you seem to hold: that they are synonymous.

    Naziism and Communism are not synonymous, but the differences between them are minor – and irrelevent to this thread.

  386. @Terry: You seem to believe the story of Noah and the Flood. Laying aside the fact that the Hebrews copied it from the Babylonians, who copied it from the Assyrians, who copied it from the Akkadians, who copied it from the Sumerians, please answer one question:

    After being saved in the Ark, and let out on the mountains of Ararat, how were all the egg-laying monotremes able to swim the Indian Ocean and end up in Australia? Wouldn’t that have been worse than the Flood itself?

  387. @ James A. Donald

    Re: both a-bombs needed to make a BIG point

    OK – learn something new every day. (I did know about the army attempting to prevent the Emperor from surrendering.)

  388. >So with two nukes on population centers, and false information of a holocaust coming, it was still a very near thing.

    I can certify that JAD’s facts are in this instance correct and well known to historians. The coup attept is remembered as the “Kyujo Incident”; the plotters actually tried to put the Emperor under house arrest.

    American military planners believed that the contemplated invasion of Japan, “Operation Olympic”, would cost somewhere around four million casualties, many of them Japanese civilians. Thus, the Nagasaki bomb was justifed under both the customary and formal law of war as the lesser use of force required to compel Japanese surrender. Which is further into this issue than I really wanted the thread to go.

    Dave Barry is a very funny man, but comedy is not ethical analysis.

  389. @Terry: Due to all the contrivances needed to get around the evidence that refuses to fit politely to Evolution’s model, it has actually gotten far more complex than Genesis Creationism.

    You obviously have a very different definition of “complexity” than I do, not to mention “contrivances needed to get around the evidence”.

    As for Yudkowski’s article, I did get the impression that it was meant to be jibberish, at least to a certain degree.

    I think that’s an extremely mistaken impression, but again, there’s not much point in arguing about it.

  390. lesser use of force

    I knew about that, but not why two were bombs were used.

    Dave Barry is a very funny man, but comedy is not ethical analysis.

    No, of course not. But I didn’t know why two bombs were used, so I used the quote to shake things up enough to be pretty sure my (implied) question was addressed (a sort of golden apple thing?) and to insert a little humor – one of my purposes in life.

  391. I find arguments about the justification of using the atomic weapons on Japan to be very much the sort of arguments I dislike. People who want to apply their arbitrary moralistic viewpoints without any reference to the pragmatic reality of the situation. In fact, pretty much my main criticism of religion.

    The plain fact is that we had a foretaste of an invasion of Japan at Okinawa where at least 10% and possibly 30% of the population of that tiny, tiny island were killed. There is no reason to think that it would have been any less brutal when the main islands were invaded, in fact there is good reason to believe it would have been worse. Regardless of American and Allied casualties, the number killed in that battle would undoubtedly have been two orders of magnitude more that were killed with the two bombings.

    As fate would have it, a storm at exactly the wrong time would also have made the invasion plans a disaster, and would have made things a lot worse.

    Which is to say America did Japan a HUGE favor by dropping the A bomb on them.

  392. esr on Wednesday, January 16 2013 at 9:19 pm said:
    > Nor do I have any issue with describing the nightmare in the Congo as at least in part a genocidal race war that happens to be black-on-black. In part – it’s more complicated than that. A lot of it is straight-up old-fashioned warlordism.

    That is like as saying that the terrorism against white Rhodesians was warlordism. You deny the obvious.

    The war in the Congo is not black on black warlordism, but progressivism against certain blacks.

    And why do progressives hate and demonize certain blacks? Well that is no secret at all: If you read any mainstream source on the genocide of the Jews in Germany it will say, plausibly enough, that the genocide the Jews was caused by Nazi racism, imperialism, etc, but if you read any mainstream source on the genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda, it will say, quite implausibly, that the genocide of the Tutsi was caused by Tutsi racism imperialism etc.

    The Tutsi government gets internationally condemned for failure to promote reconciliation with Hutus sufficiently vigorously, while somehow no one ever worries about promoting reconciliation with Tutsis.

    Similarly, when crimes are committed in the Congo by members of non Tutsi races, armed, organized, and funded by the international community against members of Tutsi races, these crimes are supposedly never evidence of non Tutsi racism, always evidence of Tutsi racism. Mainstream sources delicately refrain from mentioning who is committing these crimes, and who is funding and arming those who commit these crimes.

    And so do you. Joseph Kabila. is not a “warlord”. He is not a warlord because his army and government is armed and funded by the international community. When you call him a warlord, you excuse the crimes of those that you fear to criticize, and when you call it black on black war, as if it had nothing to do with us and neither side supported by the people here that you fear, you condemn the victims of those you fear to criticize.

    When you say “warlord” that is a pious evasive lie, like saying that “youths” committed an attack. A government funded and armed by progressives committed these crimes for progressive reasons, committed these crimes to suppress Tutsi “racism” in pretty much the same way that progressives set about suppressing Rhodesian “racism”.

    You even handedly condemn both sides, as on American streets the person getting the boot to his head gets even handedly condemned with the person putting the boot in, without mentioning the race of the one applying the boot, or the race of the one receiving the boot.

    > However, I am also not going to buy any theory about there being a stable genetic distinction between “superior” Tutsi vs. “inferior” Hutu. That is nothing but racist fantasy – they’ve been cohabiting and interbreeding too long for it to be anything else.

    Gould’s rationale: You would rather believe left wing ideology than your lying eyes. Even a white can see that Hutu and Tutsi are physically rather different. Does this mingling homogenize their insides, while somehow strangely failing to affect their outsides?

    As we saw with three spined sticklebacks, a high rate of interbreeding does not prevent two kinds from drifting further and further apart, and, in the case of three spined sticklebacks, we have two kinds that over the last several thousand years have drifted so far apart that they are obviously very different species, despite a high rate of interbreeding.

    If moderate levels of interbreeding prevented racial differentiation, if moderate levels of interbreeding could overcome differential selection, speciation would seldom happen.

    The fact that the “international community” is determined to erase Tutsi superiority by drastic means admits the superiority that is denied.

    Much as the fact that Madame Curie got two Nobel prizes for something that no one would remember if a man did it shows that women really are less capable of science, the fact that the international community has spent so much money and blood to bring Tutsis down to equality with other blacks shows that they really are superior to other blacks.

  393. Dave Barry is a very funny man, but comedy is not ethical analysis.

    Actually, as in this case, even though it seems that Dave Barry also didn’t know why two bombs were used, humor is either based on, or strikes at the heart of, ethical analysis. He didn’t analyze the ethics but he sure raised the subject in a way that I and many other people will never forget.

  394. > [JAD's post]

    Meh, I need to go read the Illuminatus trilogy

    — Foo Quuxman

  395. > [JAD's post]

    Meh, I need to go read the Illuminatus trilogy

    I strongly recommend the Illuminatus trilogy – I found it very inspiring.

    But why in relation to JAD’s post?

  396. >I am irresistibly reminded of Molière’s play The Imaginary Invalid. In it, he lampoons a group of physicians explaining the sleep-inducing properties of opium as deriving from its “virtus dormitiva” – bad Latin for “sleep-inducing virtue”. Your “currently hidden mechanism” is exactly as silly as that, and in exactly the same way; it’s a non-explanation masquerading as an explanation and does nothing to make the question go away.

    I appreciate the response, but I didn’t intend my “hidden mechanism” to be an end-all explanation, since it leaves obvious unanswered questions. (I’m sorry for inadvertently presenting it that way.) It’s just that it’s the best explanation I have access to for the existence of people who kill while waving an ideological banner and also people who don’t.

    That latter case is exactly what continues to give me problems with the “ideology kills” notion – that, and the existence of capitalism and Theravada Buddhism (unless you somehow don’t consider those ideologies). I’ve *observed* people – many people – who waved such a banner, and never bombed anything. I can’t imagine you haven’t, and you’ve apparently thought about this enough to avoid the obvious errors, so the most reasonable explanation I have left on *that* front is that (a particular type of) ideology is necessary (in this context) to produce mass murderers, but not sufficient – which is as unsatisfying to me as my “hidden mechanism” apparently is to you. That someone espouses an ideology is only enough to put me at “yellow”, so to speak – I’m compelled to ask what else is enough to send me to “red”.

    (I’m inclined to bet this isn’t that far from you. After all, I’ve never seen you advocate disarming everyone who isn’t a capitalist Buddhist, to put it overly generally.)

  397. > When you call him a warlord, you excuse the crimes of those that you fear to criticize, and when you call it black on black war, as if it had nothing to do with us and neither side supported by the people here that you fear, you condemn the victims of those you fear to criticize.

    I don’t fear to criticize anybody – something only a blithering idiot could fail to notice since 2009. Next to the Iranian mullahs I willingly cheesed off back then, Joseph “I’m the baddest baboon on the block” Kabila is small fry.

    But I didn’t name Kabila for a different and better reason; I was thinking more of the several and frequently-replaced half-bandit/half-chieftain faction leaders in the interior. They largely don’t give a crap about the Hutu-Tutsi war, which is mainly Rwanda-Burundi’s problem with some spillover into the eastern margins of the Congo. What they want is mostly to collect rent from mining operations, with a side order of rape and pillage as a hobby.

    I’ll give your fantasy about an international conspiracy to crush the Tutsis credit for at least being entertaining in a sort of perverse if-you-thought-the-Protocols-of-the-Elders-of-Zion-were-funny mode. Dimwit, the transnational progressives don’t care enough about random clumps of black Africans to make that kind of effort; they only pretend to in order to guilt-trip useful idiots in the G8. And they never will care – unless maybe they could contrive a way for some outcome to injure the U.S., which fortunately has no strategic stakes there at all.

  398. @Eric “Naziism and Communism are not synonymous, but the differences between them are minor – and irrelevent to this thread.”

    I can live with that… minor – maybe. Irrelevent – heck no (lol). Irrelevant, yes ;)

    @LS ” Laying aside the fact that the Hebrews copied it from the Babylonians, who copied it from the Assyrians, who copied it from the Akkadians, who copied it from the Sumerians…”

    Hmm… time travel has been invented, it seems. It must have gone back in time at least twice in this sequence.

    @LS “how were all the egg-laying monotremes able to swim the Indian Ocean and end up in Australia?”

    No one has any trouble believing there was a land bridge between Alaska and Asia. Why should it be such a problem for Australia?

    @Peter “You obviously have a very different definition of ‘complexity’ than I do, not to mention ‘contrivances needed to get around the evidence’.”

    To each his own, I guess. I don’t have much of a retort on the contrivances bit obviously, except that the ones for Creation are less numerous and easier to swallow if you believe in a complex God.

    @Jessica “Which is to say America did Japan a HUGE favor by dropping the A bomb on them.”

    Be that as it may, I, and I’m sure a seven or eight figure of Japanese would stand with me, am rather offended that a large motivation for the use in anger of the first nuclear explosives was as the test series “Alberta” to subject about half a million largely innocent civilians to treatment as radiation guinea pigs, especially by the ABCC/RERF after the war.

  399. >But why in relation to JAD’s post?

    Probably to wash out that taste. If you want wacko conspiracy theories, Shea & Wilson wrote a better grade of them forty years ago than JAD will ever manage.

  400. >It’s just that it’s the best explanation I have access to for the existence of people who kill while waving an ideological banner and also people who don’t.

    But it’s not an explanation. Not in any way at all. It merely replace the question “Why do some ideologies kill?” with the question “Why are some ideologies vulnerable to the hidden mechanism?”.

    Remember, I didn’t claim that all ideology kills. My whole point – which you resisted – is that the content matters. It’s not just humans being humans; some ideologies are predictably causative of violence, others are not. Specifically, collectivist ideologies cause violence – especially, chiliastic collectivisms like Communism, Naziism, Islam, Christianity – and, since it came up in another subthtread, Pure-Land Buddhism.

  401. @esr: The most important ethical fact may have been that the U.S. chose not to drop the third one.

    According to the Wikipedia page on the Manhattan Project, there were actually several more expected:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manhattan_Project

    “Groves expected to have another atomic bomb ready for use on 19 August, with three more in September and a further three in October.”

    This reference is footnoted:

    http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB162/72.pdf

  402. Re: Illuminatus trilogy

    If you want wacko conspiracy theories, Shea & Wilson wrote a better grade of them forty years ago than JAD will ever manage.

    So true. Plus, a great hilariously discordant introduction to neopagan magic for rational people.

  403. esr on Thursday, January 17 2013 at 12:01 am said:
    > I don’t fear to criticize anybody
    >
    > I’ll give your fantasy about an international conspiracy to crush the Tutsis credit for at least being entertaining

    If you don’t fear to criticize anybody, here is are some questions you should easily be able to answer:

    What organization is terrorizing people by vaginally impaling women with large objects?

    Who is paying and arming that organization?

    Which people are being terrorized by seeing their women vaginally impaled with large objects?

    After those questions are answered, it should be perfectly obvious why women are being vaginally impaled

    If, strangely, you don’t know the answers to those questions you should wonder why you do not know. After all, when the Serbs were raping the Kosovars, everyone in the entire world knew who was raping, who was being raped, and why they were being raped, but with vaginal impalement, it is all a big mystery, just as the race and motive of the groups of “youths” that keep attacking other groups of “youths” is supposedly a big mystery.

  404. Oops, I forgot about the Daghlian incident and that they did have a fourth gadget. After that, though, the schedule was a bit sketchy according to more modern references. Apparently, this was due to issues in the plutonium production reactors at Hanford.

  405. @Terry
    “Due to all the contrivances needed to get around the evidence that refuses to fit politely to Evolution’s model, it has actually gotten far more complex than Genesis Creationism.”

    Sorry, evolution is simple, but the history of the earth is not. History never is simple.

    The surface of what happened in WWII has hardly been touched in this thread about why two A-bombs were dropped on Japan.

    Creationism is a “Just so story”.

    Why are there marsupials in Australia, and a single one in South America, and non elsewhere? Just so. Why do the great apes only live in Africa? Just so. Why do we have a wisdom tooth? Just so. Why look my mitochondria the same as those from an oak tree and like a member of the Rickettsiales bacterial family? Just so. Why is a squids eye build different than a whale’s eye? Just so.

    History is complex, but it explains something. Creationism is simple, but explains nothing at all.

  406. @JAD
    “After those questions are answered, it should be perfectly obvious why women are being vaginally impaled ”

    Remember why Dracula was called Vlad Tepes? Impaling is quite old. Gang raping women is older than war itself.

  407. Re: Burma, Theravada Buddhism, and mass slaughter

    I won’t claim a deep knowledge of Burmese history – but I’ve read (in Paul Johnson’s Birth of the Modern) that this ruler (I believe Johnson spelled it “Bhodawpaya”) was savage – and built “atonement pagodas” after slaughtering people, as the Europeans used to build chantries.

  408. Winter – There is one marsupial in North America – iconic to Americans of a certain age – though that doesn’t detract from your point about creationism.

  409. > Much as the fact that Madame Curie got two Nobel prizes for something that no one would remember if a man did it shows that women really are less capable of science, the fact that the international community has spent so much money and blood to bring Tutsis down to equality with other blacks shows that they really are superior to other blacks.

    http://xkcd.com/896/

    Also, the first Nobel prize of Marie Curie was shared with two men, all things aside.

  410. A question. If religion stimulates mass murders, why have the Netherlands not seen ideologically driven mass murders since the 17th century?

    We do have our own bible belt.
    I am really curious about the answer.

  411. > > Much as the fact that Madame Curie got two Nobel prizes for something that no one would remember if a man did it

    Jakub Narebski on Thursday, January 17 2013 at 3:32 am said:
    > http://xkcd.com/896/

    The story of Lise Meitner is of course a lie, and the fact that they have to tell such lies is further proof that women are incapable of science:

    Fortunately we have the correspondence between Hahn and Meitner:

    Hahn did the experiment showing nuclear fission, Meitner did not, Hahn drew the correct conclusion from his experiment, Meitner did not, Hahn published the results, Meitner did not, and, surprise surprise, Hahn got the Nobel and Meitner did not.

    The lie is that Meitner had the brilliant idea that Hahn’s results were indicative of nuclear fission – that Hahn got the bright idea of nuclear fission from Meitner.

    “The historical development of quantum theory”
    By Jagdish Mehra, Helmut Rechenberg, page 1001

    You can find it in google books:

    On Page 1001, we find direct quotes from the letters between Meitner and Hahn.

    Hahn writes to Meitner that his results are strange because “it should not break up”, implying that what he observes is uranium atoms breaking up when hit by a neutron.

    Meitner responds that Hahn’s results must be experimental error. “The assumption of far reaching smashing appears to me to be rather problematic.

    Hahn disagrees, and tells Meitner he is going to publish that uranium atoms are breaking up.

    He sends a paper to Naturwissenshaften reporting atom smashing – what we now call nuclear fission.

    He sends a copy of that paper to Meitner.

    After receiving that paper, and only after receiving that paper, then Meitner “discovers” nuclear fission.

    Gee, if he had sent me a copy, I could have “discovered” it also.

    It is obvious that women cannot do this stuff, everyone knows it. Observe how in practice all the politically correct quietly act as if women in science all got there by affirmative action, just as all the politically correct quietly follow John Derbyshire’s advice. and just as Esr does not want to know who is doing the sexual mutilations in the Congo.

    Everyone is lying about what they believe, because they fear punishment were they to speak their true beliefs. Only women are allowed to say what everyone thinks about women bosses.

  412. @JAD
    “Everyone is lying about what they believe,…”

    The mark of insanity.

    Actually, you were not there, you have not visited these labs, not spoken to the people. When given an example of achievement of people you do not know from places you have never visited, you just make up some story to fit your preconceptions. And you never believe a scientist when she writes something you do not want to believe.

    So, what makes you different from a random Creationist, biblical or Muslim fundamentalist? I cannot find much.

  413. @JAD
    > > “After those questions are answered, it should be perfectly obvious why women are being vaginally impaled ”

    Winter on Thursday, January 17 2013 at 1:58 am said:
    > Remember why Dracula was called Vlad Tepes? Impaling is quite old. Gang raping women is older than war itself.

    The military purpose of sexually degrading the enemy is, of course, to lower the self esteem of the enemy population, and raise the self esteem of another group.

    In our schools, the progressives seek to lower the self esteem of males and raise the self esteem of females, to lower the self esteem of whites and raise the self esteem of blacks. They have long been working on a similar project with Tutsis and related races, using similarly non violent means, means piously called democracy, justice, and so forth, but lately the Tutsis have declined to play ball, with the result that things have escalated from politics to war, from the normal progressive politics of supposedly being nice while loudly and nastily accusing your opponents are not being nice, to politics by other means.

    Seems that telling the Tutsis they were not being nice stopped working, so firmer measures were needed.

  414. @JAD
    “In our schools, the progressives seek to lower the self esteem of males and raise the self esteem of females, to lower the self esteem of whites and raise the self esteem of blacks.”

    More likely you are projecting your own school traumas onto other people. I doubt it very much whether you actually know much about school systems outside of the USA.

    As usual, you yell louder the less you understand the topic.

  415. @JAD
    > > “Everyone is lying about what they believe,…”

    Winter on Thursday, January 17 2013 at 5:11 am said:
    > Actually, you were not there, you have not visited these labs, not spoken to the people.

    I have been to some labs and spoken to enough people. No one believes what they claim to believe. Their words are discrepant with their deeds, and their words, like esr’s, are internally inconsistent. It is like the latter days of the Soviet Union. Only fear holds things together.

  416. @JAD
    “I have been to some labs and spoken to enough people. No one believes what they claim to believe. Their words are discrepant with their deeds, and their words, like esr’s, are internally inconsistent. It is like the latter days of the Soviet Union. Only fear holds things together.”

    I am pretty sure I spoke to more top scientists and visited more labs than you.

    And the scientists I spoke believed what they claimed. Their papers were in line with their experiments. And they had no fear for anything related to their field of study. And many of the top scientists were women who had made top achievements in their field. Before your start, I witnessed in person that they earned their statue.

    So, why should I even start to believe your rants? Or believe anything else you write is not equally deluded?

    An advice for innocent readers passing by. If you doubt about my words, try for yourself. Just visit any scientific gathering or lab and talk to the scientists. If there is anything they like, it is talking about their studies. Just do not insult their intelligence with conspiracy theories.

  417. > And many of the top scientists were women who had made top achievements in their field

    They are top bureaucrats, not top scientists. That your poster girls are Lise Meitner and Marie Curie shows you have not got any genuine poster girls.

    Everyone knows it, and no one dares say it.

  418. @JAD
    “They are top bureaucrats, not top scientists.”

    Nope, hard-core experimentalists. You simply do not want to know.

    But hey, that is my experience against your prejudice. When someone comes up with and example, say Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, you simply fabricate some stupid story.

    And your claims of affirmative action in the 1920 towards women scientists is simply ludicrous.

  419. >But why in relation to JAD’s post?

    His raving sounds just like a conspiracy theorist who has driven himself insane* with the subject, they *always* have that 60 cycle hum.

    I actually haven’t read illuminatus, I only know of it by reputation.

    * Does anyone know what causes conspiracy theorists to go insane?

  420. @Foo
    “Does anyone know what causes conspiracy theorists to go insane?”

    The question is actually, can you acquire paranoia pathology by harboring paranoid believes?

    Sounds like a chicken egg problem.

  421. @Winter: Creationism is simple

    Not really. It *looks* simple because, as I pointed out to Terry, all the complexity is hidden inside the Creator. That’s where the “just so” ultimately comes from: “the Creator wanted it that way.”

  422. @Peter Donis
    That was the way I understood it.

    The “Simple” part is that a Creationist does not have to explain or understand anything:
    “His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts”

    Q: Why is it so that X?
    A: Because He made it so

    No need to actually walk into the field and look what happens. Just read some old commentaries.

  423. >Remember, I didn’t claim that all ideology kills. My whole point – which you resisted – is that the content matters. It’s not just humans being humans; some ideologies are predictably causative of violence, others are not. Specifically, collectivist ideologies cause violence – especially, chiliastic collectivisms like Communism, Naziism, Islam, Christianity – and, since it came up in another subthtread, Pure-Land Buddhism.

    Maybe I’m not saying it right…

    If you’re saying such ideologies will predictably cause mass violence by someone in the set of people following that ideology, I have little problem with that claim (even if it’s strengthened to claim multiple members); I’m trying to claim merely that there also exist members of that set who will never embark on mass violence, and that that’s evident to me from empirical observation. You can point out flaws in my “explanations” all you like, but yours doesn’t agree with my damn data! Am I not supposed to trust my own senses now? This is getting genuinely frustrating. What’s the missing information?

  424. @Paul Brinkley
    ” I’m trying to claim merely that there also exist members of that set who will never embark on mass violence, and that that’s evident to me from empirical observation.”

    I agree. I can point to a few centuries of no mass violence by Christian fundamentalists in the Netherlands.

    That is even more remarkable as we had a bloody religious civil war before in the 16-17th century. During the same period, our compatriots were abusing and murdering lots of people in our colonies for economic reasons. Actions that would now be squarely under the headings of “war crimes” and “genocide”.

  425. >I can point to a few centuries of no mass violence by Christian fundamentalists in the Netherlands.

    Give it time. The acute form of the mass insanity can go dormant for long periods. Even Islam has had quiet centuries.

  426. >Give it time. The acute form of the mass insanity can go dormant for long periods of time. Even Islam has quiet periods.

    “There will at some time be an explosion of mass murderousness” isn’t a very powerful prediction.

  427. @Winter: The “Simple” part is that a Creationist does not have to explain or understand anything

    I definitely agree, I just wanted to clarify.

  428. @JAD
    >Much as the fact that Madame Curie got two Nobel prizes for something that no one would remember if a man did it shows that women really are less capable of science,

    JAD, you seriously can’t see the logical flaws just dripping out of this stupid statement?

  429. @Winter
    > A question. If religion stimulates mass murders, why have the Netherlands not seen ideologically driven mass murders since the 17th century?

    Because there isn’t enough room in Holland to store a cache of weapons? Because it rains so much, that raging in the streets isn’t as much fun when you are drenched to the skin? Perhaps running through the streets raping, pillaging is tricky in those weird shoes? Perhaps burning heritics at the stake is more dangerous when your footwear is made of wood?

    Or perhaps that religion is not the only thing that affects memetics. There is a national culture as well which has been very pro tolerance in The Netherlands for a long time. Perhaps when one is tiny, and surrounded by adversaries who could readily squash you like a bug it seems wise to advocate a philosophy of live and let live? Perhaps also because the Netherlands has always been crossroads of Europe, and consequently always a pretty eclectic mix.

  430. “Creationism is simple, but explains nothing at all.”

    @Winter:
    No, it’s not simple. Look at the complicated bullsh*t stories that Terry has had to make up in order to save appearances. A land bridge between the Middle East and Australia?

  431. @LS ” Laying aside the fact that the Hebrews copied it from the Babylonians, who copied it from the Assyrians, who copied it from the Akkadians, who copied it from the Sumerians…”

    “Hmm… time travel has been invented, it seems. It must have gone back in time at least twice in this sequence.”

    @Terry:
    Sumer started ca. 4000BC
    Akkad ca. 2200BC
    Assyria ca. 1200BC
    Babylon ca. 800BC

    Look it up. No time travel needed.

  432. @JAD
    >The military purpose of sexually degrading the enemy is, of course, to lower the self esteem of the enemy population, and raise the self esteem of another group.

    “Of course” is not generally speaking considered sufficient proof of a claim like this. I think it is extremely unlikely to be true in general. Sex, including rape is just the prize of domination. The biological urges of humans aren’t much different than of other animals, especially in the unconstrained pathos of war, and in the animal kingdom the victor in the fight, the alpha male, gets to do all the fucking.

    Which isn’t to say rape isn’t used as a terror weapon. It is. But I doubt it is even a tiny fraction of the purpose of rape during war.

    > In our schools, the progressives seek to lower the self esteem of males and raise the self esteem of females, to lower the self esteem of whites and raise the self esteem of blacks.

    That is also nonsense. The schools are screwed up for sure, but I don’t think anyone (or hardly anyone) is actually consciously trying to degrade the self esteem of anyone. You might think that that is the result, but I know of no reason to believe that the lowering of anyone’s self esteem is on any serious agenda.

  433. I had another question. Is there a story about what happened to the compass rose from
    Philadelphia’s city hall. I wondered if it might have been appropriated by a private citizen.

  434. @Paul Brinkley
    > [@esr]
    >>Remember, I didn’t claim that all ideology kills. My whole point – which you resisted –
    >>is that the content matters. It’s not just humans being humans; some ideologies are
    >>predictably causative of violence, others are not. Specifically, collectivist ideologies cause
    >>violence – especially, chiliastic collectivisms like Communism, Naziism, Islam,
    >>Christianity – and, since it came up in another subthtread, Pure-Land Buddhism.

    >Maybe I’m not saying it right…

    >If you’re saying such ideologies will predictably cause mass violence by someone in
    >the set of people following that ideology, I have little problem with that claim (even if it’s
    >strengthened to claim multiple members); I’m trying to claim merely that there also exist
    >members of that set who will never embark on mass violence, and that that’s evident to
    >me from empirical observation. You can point out flaws in my “explanations” all you like,
    >but yours doesn’t agree with my damn data! Am I not supposed to trust my own
    >senses now? This is getting genuinely frustrating. What’s the missing information?

    May I paraphrase each of you? I think Eris is essentially saying that belief in certain ideologies is a necessary precursor to mass violence; Paul is essentially agreeing, but also saying that it is not a sufficient precursor, and is wondering what also has to be added (or already present) for violence to erupt.

    Did I get each of you right?

    If so, I, like Paul, wonder if Eric has any insight into that “other piece”. Not every sincere ideologue becomes another Pol Pot* – what makes the ones that do go that way do so?

    (* not using the traditional example to avoid Godwin’s Law)

  435. @John D. Bell
    ” Not every sincere ideologue becomes another Pol Pot* – what makes the ones that do go that way do so?”

    Absolute power?

    “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
    Lord Acton (1887)

  436. @ myself at 1:22 PM –

    … that would be Eric, not Eris …

    although She might have a word or two to say about ideologies and crazy, come to think of it.

  437. Yes, John, I think you see my points, and what my unanswered question is as well. Just as you said: not every true believer turns into a dictator (although he might make one more likely). And you got what *I* think Eric is saying, now – hopefully he will return and confirm or refute.

    (I’m a bit surprised I’ve had this much trouble – I usually find Eric’s points clear. Maybe I’m low on coffee.)

    I keep wondering if maybe I chose words poorly by referring to a “hidden mechanism”. It’s not like I think it’s secret Raelians or anything like that. Just brain chemistry I don’t understand yet. I don’t think it’s that controversial (pre-determinism issues aside – those *do* give me concern).

  438. Jessica Boxer on Thursday, January 17 2013 at 12:13 pm said:
    > “Of course” is not generally speaking considered sufficient proof of a claim like this. I think it is extremely unlikely to be true in general. Sex, including rape is just the prize of domination

    Sure, it is standard procedure to pay one’s soldiers in women when the cash is running low, or has been embezzled, as in Africa it frequently is, but impaling women with large objects is primarily intimidation and degradation, not a reward for troops.

    One the whole it appears more common to use rape as an instrument to subdue enemy populations, than to use it in lieu of pay. Extraordinary practices, such as impalement, are clearly intended to subdue enemy populations, rather than intended in lieu of pay.

  439. @JAD
    The common practice in the region has always been jacking pieces from people. A practice introduced by the Belgiums and French it seems.

    I can see soldiers got bored hacking off arms and legs. Impaling seems to be a new fashion.

    As far as I know, the Tutsi government of Ruanda is supporting a collection of war groups in Eastern Congo. Not really the good guys.

  440. Jessica Boxer on Thursday, January 17 2013 at 12:13 pm said:
    > I don’t think anyone (or hardly anyone) is actually consciously trying to degrade the self esteem of anyone

    If members of group A typically think they are better than members of group B, the response is to attack those qualities in which they are better, and officially attribute to individual members of group A faults analogous to or closely related to virtues characteristic of group A – for example shut down physical activities at recess, and indeed shut down recess, because the boys tend to be better at it than girls.

    Observe, for example, that boys, on average, score slightly better on any objective test of learned material. To correct this, subjective academic rankings always favor girls. The teacher ostentatiously nominates certain students as the best, and the supposedly top five or so are typically girls, even though it is highly improbable that this quite startlingly one sided ratio reflects academic genuine merit. This manifests as the SAT saying one thing, and the GPA saying a different thing, even though these days the SAT is intended to measure the same material as the GPA.

    If the supposedly top five people in the class are girls, it is pretty obvious that male academic achievement is being ignored, that boys are being marked down for being male. One might suppose that boys are just naturally stupid and nasty, and whenever the discrepancy in GPA is discussed, that is pretty much the official line, but SAT and LSAT shows it is not true.

    Stereotypically male activities are denigrated and de-emphasized, collectively lowering male status, while individual males have their individual performance ignored, individually lowering male status case by case. Boys are punished, girls are not punished for similar or equivalent behavior. It is not plausible that the supposed top of the class should be so disproportionately female, nor that those needing punishment be so disproportionately male.

    One might suppose that testosterone predisposes to bad behavior, and likely that is true of bad behavior that consists of physically fighting, but direct tests on this show that testosterone predisposes to manly behavior, such as speaking the truth, and not cheating, honorable behavior, that when some university students were given testosterone and other students a placebo, and then given a task on which there was an opportunity to misbehave, the they behaved better on testosterone than on placebo.

    It is common sense and casual observation that females behave worse than males in non violent forms of misconduct, and testosterone has been shown to improve conduct, at least where it is honor related rather than peace related, so again, it is improbable that the disproportion in punishment reflects real male misconduct. Boys are being punished to show that they are inferior to girls.

    In school, case by case, girls are encouraged, boys are discouraged. Physical activity is deemed bad behavior in boys and athletics in girls. Academic achievement in boys is unacknowledged. The discrepancy between SAT and GPA confirms what should be obvious to your eyes.

  441. >If so, I, like Paul, wonder if Eric has any insight into that “other piece”.

    I wouldn’t say that chiliastic collectivism is either necessary or sufficient in a logical sense. Think Bayesian conditional probability, not Aristotelian binary logic: if a population is saturated with chiliastic collectivist ideology, then the conditional probability of acute mass insanity and atrocities becomes extremely high. The fact that some individuals have personalities that immunize them from the insanity is irrelevant. If I’m a kulak in the Ukraine in 1930 the fact that 5% or 10% of my neighbors aren’t infected is not going to save me – in fact, they’re my most likely co-victims.

    My original point was that these outbreaks of mass insanity are not just humans being randomly vile. In each and every case about which we know enough to speak of motives, the reports of the people who survived the violence and the reports of the aggressors are clear. These massacres happen because the pogromists believe insane things that they have been taught by an insane ideology. Humans being randomly vile produces only sporadic low-level violence; it takes a diseased belief system to produce mass atrocities.

    The kind of belief system that generates atrocities is consistent. It is faith-holding (that is, emotionally fixated on unprovable or false claims to the exclusion of evidence). It is collectivist (that is, elevates groups or abstractions above individual liberty). It is chiliastic (that is, promises millenial bliss providing certain corrupting or blocking elements are removed). It is reliably associated with either monotheistic religion or a secular ideology such as Marxism (or its minor variant, Fascism) that produces a psychology of belief identical to that of monotheistic religion.

    The Netherlands is an example of a place where history and hard-won social capital have successfully prevented such outbreaks, because the chiliastic faith-holder percentage of the population has been low. The Netherlands is now doing its best to destroy that fragile peace by encouraging the unrestricted immigration of Muslims and failing to assimilate them to Western norms of religious tolerance. The murder of Theo van Gogh was the merest foretaste of the consequences.

  442. esr on Thursday, January 17 2013 at 10:12 am said:
    > The acute form of the mass insanity can go dormant for long periods. Even Islam has had quiet centuries.

    The only quiet century of which I am aware was 1830 to 1960, when the colonialists quieted Islam by extraordinarily drastic means. Do you have some other period that I have missed?

  443. Winter:
    > And your claims of affirmative action in the 1920 towards women scientists is simply ludicrous.

    People were saying that something must be done about the under representation of women in science and engineering all the way back to 1865, which inclines me to believe that they were doing something.

    It is often said that we had affirmative action as soon as we ended segregation, but this is not true. Segregation in substantial part was affirmative action. There were black universities, and graduates got jobs as black judges and black lawyers to administer the law in black communities. Segregation protected the white working class from black competition, but it also protected the black business class from white competition. In the nineteenth century as today, black intellectuals were made into poster boys, for example John Jacob Thomas, the originator of what we would now call ebonics.

  444. >The only quiet century of which I am aware was 1830 to 1960, when the colonialists quieted Islam by extraordinarily drastic means. Do you have some other period that I have missed?

    Yes. There was a quiet period of about a century around the year 1000. The Mu’utazilite (rationalist) school was at its height. The veil and strict purdah had not yet been imported from Persia. These were the years of Haroun al-Rashid and the Thousand and One Nights; Islamic art and science achieved heights they would never again attain. It was all ended by the occasionalist theology of Abu Hamed al-Ghazali, the second most effective civilization-wrecker in history after Karl Marx.

  445. @ John D. Bell

    Godwin’s Law, as in “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” is fine.

    The idea that any analogy involving Nazis should be avoided and/or kill the tread is ridiculous if the (somewhat mutated) subject of the tread is nut cases rising to power and causing mass violence involving killing many (, MANY) people, and the Nazis are the best example to make a point. (Just don’t use it when talking about burglars or a handful of rape cases or spotted owls.)

    I think Eris is essentially saying that belief in certain ideologies is a necessary precursor to mass violence;…

    …that would be Eric, not Eris…

    [;-)> I think that you are basically right about Eris as well - thus the need for discord to shake up and disrupt the bad guys and shake up everyone else so that hopefully more will start using their brains. <;-)]

  446. @ Winter

    @Foo
    “Does anyone know what causes conspiracy theorists to go insane?”

    How about faith? Perhaps this is JAD’s religion.

  447. @ Jessica

    Because there isn’t enough room in Holland to store a cache of weapons? Because it rains so much, that raging in the streets isn’t as much fun when you are drenched to the skin? Perhaps running through the streets raping, pillaging is tricky in those weird shoes? Perhaps burning heritics at the stake is more dangerous when your footwear is made of wood?

    Wonderful… There is nothing like ridiculous humor to get people to pay attention to a serious point.

    Or perhaps that religion is not the only thing that affects memetics. There is a national culture as well which has been very pro tolerance in The Netherlands for a long time. Perhaps when one is tiny, and surrounded by adversaries who could readily squash you like a bug it seems wise to advocate a philosophy of live and let live?

    Ditto for Canada.

  448. @JAD
    > > Much as the fact that Madame Curie got two Nobel prizes for something that no one would remember if a man did it shows that women really are less capable of science,

    Jessica Boxer on Thursday, January 17 2013 at 11:07 am said:
    > JAD, you seriously can’t see the logical flaws just dripping out of this stupid statement?

    If people make a big fuss over a dancing bear, this implies that they believe that bears cannot dance. By showering Marie Curie with honors, they sought to draw attention to her real and imaginary accomplishments, but by showering her with honors they drew attention to the fact that they had far lower expectations of a woman than of a man. Her achievement was only remarkable in that a woman did it, much as it would be remarkable for a trained chimp to ride a bicycle.

    And their failure to come up with better poster girls (Winter proposes top science bureaucrats and Lise Meitner) shows there are no better poster girls. If women could do top science, you would by now have a pile of science poster girls more impressive than Marie Curie.

    Similarly, observe the black poster boy intellectuals. The twenty first century black poster boy intellectuals are not a big improvement on the nineteenth century black poster boy intellectuals, and the nineteenth century black poster boy intellectuals are unremarkable. They are smart enough, but for the most part people only notice them because they are smart for a black man, much as people are wowed by Obama’s ability to read from a teleprompter without mucking up the long sentences too often.

  449. The proposition that colonizers introduced equilibrium where it was hitherto unknown
    has been disputed.

  450. esr on Thursday, January 17 2013 at 4:49 pm said:
    > Yes. There was a quiet period [in Islam] of about a century around the year 1000. The Mu’utazilite (rationalist) school was at its height. The veil and strict purdah had not yet been imported from Persia. These were the years of Haroun al-Rashid and the Thousand and One Nights; Islamic art and science achieved heights they would never again attain. It was all ended by the occasionalist theology of Abu Hamed al-Ghazali, the second most effective civilization-wrecker in history after Karl Marx.

    Some time around one thousand ad was indeed the height of Islamic culture and civilization, but it was not all that quiet:

    1000 AD would be the rule of Al-Hakim bi Amr al-L?h, known to non Muslims and a great many Muslims as “The mad Caliph” whose cruelty, sacrilege, and religious delusions were forever afterwards the justification for the crusades.

    I suppose he was quiet enough in that he was massacring internal minorities, not external majorities. It was indeed a period when Islam was at peace with Dar al Harb. However, the middle eastern period of colonial domination, from 1830 to 1960, was the only period when Dhimmis did OK.

    I would not call a period that for near a thousand years has been used as justification for non Muslims to resist Islam, and which permanently discredited the Caliphate among Muslims, all that quiet. Relatively quiet, I suppose.

  451. dotpaw on Thursday, January 17 2013 at 5:47 pm said:
    > The proposition that colonizers introduced equilibrium where it was hitherto unknown
    has been disputed.

    Has been demonized, rather than disputed, denounced as evil rather than false.

    For eye witness testimony, I recommend “Translations from the Hakayit Abdulla, with comments by J.T. Thomson” which describes the colonialists as what libertarians and public choice theorists would now call stationary bandits, and the native rulers as what libertarians and public choice theorists would now call mobile bandits.

  452. cruelty, sacrilege, and religious delusions
    No one is asking for sources to be fabricated supporting the
    claims made here, but respected historians will cringe.

  453. >If women could do top science, you would by now have a pile of science poster girls more impressive than Marie Curie.

    There is, unfortunately, some point to this. The average IQ of women is very slightly below the average IQ of men, but depending on what study you believe the difference is either statistically insignificant or just barely significant, not enough to account for the near absence of women in the top echelon. The killer is the difference in dispersion; the IQ distribution of white males is wider than of white females (and of both male and female nonwhites). Thus, the white male population has a disproportionate share of the people at both extreme ends of the IQ distribution – both geniuses and idiots. (Male Jews as a population have the double advantage of higher average IQ and higher dispersion.)

    While this doesn’t exclude “poster girls more impressive than Marie Curie” (and I have a better opinion of her than JAD does) it means we can statistically expect they will be quite rare. One carefully-worked-out estimate I know I’ve mentioned before is that a female mathematician capable enough to win a Fields Medal will come along about once a century. I don’t know exactly how far off the median Nobel Prize winners are as a group, but my informed guess is that the expected interval between female Nobelists is also on the close order of a century – perhaps a bit less. JAD is correct that a frequency significantly higher than that would suggest political deck-stacking, but I don’t know what the observed frequency is.

    No, institutional prejudice does not explain these figures. Prejudice is effective at suppressing average and moderately gifted people, much less so at stopping the exceptionally bright – who, especially in the last 200 years, tend to get adopted as poster children because they’re good at gaming for that response (that is, when they don’t simply drive the dimwits around them like cattle). Thus, the high right-hand end of the ability distribution is least hindered by prejudice. (This argument is informal but there is statistical evidence for it.)

    On the other hand…about two weeks ago I met the scariest-bright new acquaintance I’ve made in the last five or six years at least. Take that description seriously because my social network is stiff with geniuses and the highly gifted. This one, who had me picking my jaw off up off the floor from about three minutes after we started talking, is both black and female.

    Bell curves are not individuals. It is important never to forget this.

  454. @ ESR

    >If women could do top science, you would by now have a pile of science poster girls more impressive than Marie Curie.

    How about the idea that many (great) scientists, like hackers, come from the part of the population that gets obsessed with some particular idea or subject to the exclusion of almost everything else, and that boys and men have this trait more than girls and women?

  455. @esr: I don’t know what the observed frequency is.

    This site lists all the Nobel winners and gives some totals:

    http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/lists/all/

    A total of 863 individual Nobel Prizes have been awarded to 835 recipients. Assuming that nobody has gotten one more than twice (AFAIK that’s true), that means 28 people have received two Nobels, and 807 have received one.

    Elsewhere on the same site they give the numbers for women: 44 prizes have been awarded to 43 women recipients, meaning that only one woman (Marie Curie) has received two prizes, and 42 have received one.

    So the stats look like this, for a period of 112 years (1901 to 2012, inclusive):

    * 42 women out of 807 people have received one Nobel, or 5.2 percent.

    * 1 woman out of 28 people has received two Nobels, or 3.6 percent.

    This suggests that if the null hypothesis (no political deck-stacking in Nobels) is true, a Fields Medal is more or less equivalent to winning *two* Nobels, not one. That actually makes some sense, since the pool of potential Fields Medal winners is smaller–you can’t be past your 40th birthday on 1 January of the year of award–and there are fewer such medals awarded since they are only awarded every four years. I count 52 total recipients from 1936 to 2010 listed on the Wikipedia page, all of whom are men:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fields_Medal

  456. a Fields Medal is more or less equivalent to winning *two* Nobels, not one

    Actually, I mis-stated this a bit: the null hypothesis requires that winning a Fields Medal is *harder* than winning two Nobels, since 1 woman of 28 people has won two Nobels, but no women have yet won a Fields Medal with 52 winners.

  457. Having sat through the Landmark Forum, I think I’m qualified to say that I think you bailing so quickly pretty much disqualifies you from knowing what you’re talking about. Admitted, they do a hard sell, because it’s the only way they advertise … kind of like network marketing/Amway. And the Forum could be easily summarized in 15 minutes … there’s a lot of sales pitches, and some nice teaching context on how to look at your life. But it basically comes down to this …
    1. The past is the past, get over it. You probably don’t remember what really happened anyway, just your interpretation of what happened.
    2. You’ve probably dragged a lot of that past history around and are letting it influence your behavior now in negative ways. Don’t. Your brain looks for reinforcement of those events in every little thing, and it becomes your truth. It isn’t true though.
    3. Live in the moment.
    4. Don’t procrastinate, you may not be here tomorrow.
    5. Give your lif the meaning you want it to have, because that’s all there is.

    Not very cultish. You are such a whiner. Get over yourself.

  458. >This suggests that if the null hypothesis (no political deck-stacking in Nobels) is true, a Fields Medal is more or less equivalent to winning *two* Nobels, not one.

    Well analyzed! 2:1 is near the high end of the ratios I would consider credible, but in the right range.

  459. subject of the tread is nut cases rising to power and causing mass violence involving killing many (, MANY) people, and the Nazis are the best example to make a point.

    Actually if you’re making a point about killing many people (generic) then i seem to recall someone showing that Stalin had the Nazi’s beat. The thing that distinguished Stalin from Hitler is that Hitler would have (theoretically) killed his most valuable supporter for being Jewish, whereas Stalin killed those who political/ideological enemies (or just inconvenient).

  460. @ESR – “My original point was that these outbreaks of mass insanity are not just humans being randomly vile . . . These massacres happen because the pogromists believe insane things that they have been taught by an insane ideology.”

    Game theory modeling has demonstrated that certain types of memetic conditioning can reach a critical mass in threatened populations, and lead to runaway destructive behavior. The resultant population reduction often has the effect of lessening the original threat and restoring balance to the system.

  461. >How about the idea that many (great) scientists, like hackers, come from the part of the population that gets obsessed with some particular idea or subject to the exclusion of almost everything else, and that boys and men have this trait more than girls and women?

    For our explanatory purposes, it does not actually matter very much whether the relevant statistic is IQ alone or IQ plus some measure of other personality cofactors that are differentially found in males. The important features are the relative means and dispersions of the resulting curves.

    In fact, any such cofactor-X theory lowers the odds that differences in achievement are due to exogenous forces like institutional prejudice and makes genuine, earned female excellence in the sciences and mathematics less likely rather than more. It might be that some such theory is true – but that’s not usually the outcome people proposing such theories are hoping for.

    As usual, fighting the idea that IQ is important lands you in a worse pickle than accepting it.

  462. James A. Donald:
    > > cruelty, sacrilege, and religious delusions
    dotpaw on Thursday, January 17 2013 at 6:17 pm said:
    > No one is asking for sources to be fabricated supporting the claims made here, but respected historians will cringe.

    “A History of Egypt: in the middle ages” By Stanley Lane-Poole, who is surely a respected historian
    http://books.google.com/books?id=OzUix2rKFqwC&pg=PA131&lpg=PA134 depicts the mad caliph as mad, evil, and sacrilegious, desecrating both things sacred to Christians, and things sacred to Muslims.

  463. Stereotypically male activities are denigrated and de-emphasized, collectively lowering male status, while individual males have their individual performance ignored, individually lowering male status case by case.

    Can you make this assertion concrete? Because thinking of any school system I have heard of, the most obvious “male activity” is “football” (of whatever kind is dominant in the individual school context. E.G. Gridiron in the american context). Which is frequently and repeatedly accused of being a breeding ground of people to whom “the rules don’t apply”.

    Note that the only equivalent I can think of (Cheerleading… although that doesn’t really appear in my culture) has much the same reputation, showing to me that there’s (as usual) less difference between the sexes in aggregate than might be expected.

  464. ““A History of Egypt: in the middle ages” By Stanley Lane-Poole …depicts the mad caliph as mad…””
    You have me on that. At least it is a plausible character study of a single
    man.

  465. @esr: Well analyzed!

    Thanks!

    2:1 is near the high end of the ratios I would consider credible, but in the right range.

    I think some of the difference is due to the fact that the stats I quoted include all the Nobels, including the non-scientific ones, which are much more subject to political correctness in their award methodology. I’m trying to pull separate stats for just the science prizes now.

  466. Ok, here are stats for just the science Nobels–physics, chemistry, and physiology/medicine. I didn’t include the prize in economic sciences because it’s only been awarded since 1968 and I wanted to have stats all covering the same time period, 1901-2012.

    554 people total have been awarded at least one Nobel science prize. 2 of them have received 2 prizes in the same category (1 of them in physics, 1 in chemistry). No data is given for how many people received 2 prizes in different categories, but assuming that the ratio is the same as for the total of all prizes that I gave before, we would estimate 28/835 * 554 people total have received 2 prizes, or 19 people total (including the 2 who got one in the same category, plus an estimated 17 others who got 2 prizes in different categories).

    15 women total have been awarded at least one Nobel science prize; only one (Marie Curie) has received 2 prizes.

    So the stats are:

    * 14 women out of 533 people have received one Nobel science prize, or 2.6 percent.

    * 1 woman out of 19 people has received two Nobel science prizes, or 5.3 percent.

    IMO this makes it considerably more likely that Marie Curie winning two science prizes is not consistent with the null hypothesis. (The number of women winning one science prize still seems reasonable to me under the null hypothesis; if Marie Curie had only won one she would not be an outlier.)

  467. @Winter “Sorry, evolution is simple, but the history of the earth is not. History never is simple.”

    I have a directory full of huge PDF files and none of them are about history, but theory and experiment (mostly unsuccessful), not history, so I am certainly not about to buy “Sorry, evolution is simple.”

    @Winter “The ‘Simple’ part is that a Creationist does not have to explain or understand anything:
    ‘His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts’ [citation needed]”

    Maybe I don’t have to, but I have, and you (and Peter) damn well know it. Isaiah 55:8 aside, you decide to simply cop out and say that anyway. Ignore that I mentioned a Christian (and Creationist) scientist, quite possibly the most famous black scientist ever and what he explained and understood. Don’t even use him as an example to add to your curbstomping of JAD and his racist ideas.

    @Winter “Creationism is a ‘Just so story’.”

    If you’re going to reduce multiple three screen posts of mine to “just so” without successfully refuting a single point I have made, you’re wasting my connection bandwidth. If you’re going to answer all the questions you should actually be asking me (or better yet, ask ICR, they’ve spent years answering them) by typing “Just so.” before even hitting the “Post Comment” button, it is a complete and total waste of my time to talk or listen to you. Go home.

    @Peter “That’s where the ‘just so’ ultimately comes from: ‘the Creator wanted it that way.'”

    I suppose this could make sense of why life makes sense. Evolution says it should not be so. Here’s a video with a really good clock building evolutionary program that quietly puts in “This gear does nothing. It is neutral. I will no longer display such gears.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcAq9bmCeR0&t=6m29s

    In actual biology, there are no such gears, and when there are, it is a congenital defect. Every organ has a function, and when it occurs that one doesn’t, he tends to get deselected. It is easier to say, “God wanted it that way” than to wonder after Evolution’s lack of vestigial organs (oh, they looked hard, and they found four candidates in the human body, all of which turned out to have a function after all.) Why does Evolution want it that way, and how can Evolution add information and complexity to life it has such a tendency to do away with the only things it has to work with?

    @Eric “Give it time. The acute form of the mass insanity can go dormant for long periods. Even Islam has had quiet centuries.”

    A way of denying that there may be, just maybe, some believers and practitioners of the popular religions and ideologies who are not crazy.

  468. @LS “Sumer started ca. 4000BC
    Akkad ca. 2200BC
    Assyria ca. 1200BC
    Babylon ca. 800BC”

    Time travel needed:

    Israel: 1406BC :p

  469. @Terry: how can Evolution add information and complexity to life it has such a tendency to do away with the only things it has to work with?

    Why do you think the lack of vestigial organs in, say, humans implies that organs in ancestors were “done away with”? In some cases we have good evidence that that did in fact happen: parasites such as tapeworms are a good example. But in other cases, organs didn’t lose functions, they changed functions. Our limbs are modified fish fins, for example; does that mean we’ve “lost complexity” because we no longer have fins?

    Also, there is no requirement that evolution *must* always add complexity. It adds complexity if more complex organisms are better at reproducing in a particular ecological niche; it takes away complexity if simpler organisms are better at reproducing in some other ecological niche (as with the tapeworms).

  470. > > Stereotypically male activities are denigrated and de-emphasized, collectively lowering male status, while individual males have their individual performance ignored, individually lowering male status case by case.

    JonCB on Thursday, January 17 2013 at 7:27 pm said:
    > Can you make this assertion concrete?

    Once upon a time, every school for small children had a playground that permitted and encouraged boisterous physical activity, and at fairly frequent intervals, the children were allowed out into the playground to let off steam, It featured stuff like slides, see saws, swings, monkey bars, etc. This required strength and dexterity, so tended to be male dominated. Boys and girls played together at athletic stuff at which the boys were very much better than the girls. It was therefore suppressed, and replaced with drugs, collectively lowering male status.

    Instead of male energy demonstrating superior status at playtime activities, it became a sickness that required medication and harsh repression.

    As for individually lowering male status, I have already mentioned how male academic achievement is ignored and discouraged but to rehash: The supposed top achievers in class, often the top five or so, are supposedly girls, with the result that girls grade point average is substantially higher than boys. Since boys have on average higher SAT and LSAT, and SAT measures the same stuff as class achievement is supposed to, it is highly improbable that none of the top academic achievers in class are boys.

  471. >(The number of women winning one science prize still seems reasonable to me under the null hypothesis; if Marie Curie had only won one she would not be an outlier.)

    When I read this, it rang faint bells. Then louder ones.

    I realized why while in the shower just now. A very long time ago, as a child, I read a biographical precis of Marie Curie’s scientific work. And thought: Over the whole span, one Nobel is reasonable. A second seems excessive.

    Huh. I guess I had a pretty good feel for these things even then.

  472. As usual, fighting the idea that IQ is important lands you in a worse pickle than accepting it.

    Sorry, Eric, but once again you’re on the wrong side of science.

    http://m.thestar.com/living/article/1304289–iq-a-myth-study-says

    “When we looked at the data, the bottom line is the whole concept of IQ — or of you having a higher IQ than me — is a myth,” said Dr. Adrian Owen, the study’s senior investigator and the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging at the university’s Brain and Mind Institute. “There is no such thing as a single measure of IQ or a measure of general intelligence.”

  473. There are very few purer tests of raw intellectual capacity than competitive chess.

    Until 1978, no woman had ever qualified as a Grandmaster. The second was not qualified until 1991.

    Today there are 28. This is a small number, compared to the 1,360 male grandmaster. But there was a period when people speculated that there might be some obscure sex-linked neurological factor at work, not just the relative numbers of male and female players.

    I mention this as an example of how real-world results can change dramatically.

  474. > “There is no such thing as a single measure of IQ or a measure of general intelligence.”

    Similar claims have been made before. They have always turned out to be junk. IQ stubbornly continues to be predictive of a wide range of important outcomes, including not just academic success but lifetime income and propensity to criminality. And remains so when you normalize out for SES and other potential confounders.

  475. >But there was a period when people speculated that there might be some obscure sex-linked neurological factor at work, not just the relative numbers of male and female players.

    Those numbers don’t do much to falsify such a theory. At 2% of the grandmaster pool, we’re still down in the range where you have to think seriously about fetal androgen exposure and mosaic chromosome abnormalities as possible causative factors. Especially since the entire grandmaster population is highly deviant to begin with.

    Here’s a consequent testable prediction for you: the incidence of lesbianism in that 2% will be well above the 4% that we would expect from a random female-population sample. In 28 randomly sampled women, expect 1 self-reported lesbian; among 28 female grandmasters, I predict significantly more – I’m going to guess 5, and 10 wouldn’t startle me.

  476. @esr:

    Those numbers don’t do much to falsify such a theory. At 2% of the grandmaster pool, we’re still down in the range where you have to think seriously about fetal androgen exposure and mosaic chromosome abnormalities as possible causative factors.

    I would assume, from what little I know about chess, there is some reasonably objective way to compare current grandmasters to previous ones. So, perhaps the converse of the argument that chess is more appealing to women than it used to be can be tested — is chess less appealing to men than it used to be? Chess used to be unique — intellectual yet approachable, easy to learn, hard to master, good rewards for mastery. It would not surprise me if many who would have taken up chess in past decades are now taking up other pursuits with some of those same attributes. Programming, for example.

  477. Peter Donis on Thursday, January 17 2013 at 7:05 pm said:

    Those numbers include the Nobel Peace Prize, which is of dubious merit, and awards to organizations.

    There have been 841 awards to persons, and exactly four second awards to persons:

    Marie Curie: Physics: 1903; Chemistry, 1911
    Linus Carl Pauling: Chemistry, 1954; Peace, 1962
    John Bardeen: Physics, 1956; Physics, 1972
    Frederick Sanger: Chemistry, 1958; Chemistry, 1980

    Excluding Pauling, for obvious reasons, there have been three double laureates, one of whom was a woman.

    As to the number of aggregate awards to men and women: the totals include the Peace Prize, which is a largely political act, and has been given to outright charlatans such as Rigoberta Menchu and Al Gore, and to miscellaneous distinguished windbags such as Nicholas Murray Butler and Sir Austen Chamberlain. (Also to genuine peacemakers like Sadat and Begin, to heroes like Carl von Ossietzky and Liu Xiaobo, and major humanitarians like Mother Teresa and Norman Borlaug.)

    The totals also include the Literature Prize, which is also problematic. (What committee could possibly evaluate the relative merits of authors working in many different languages?)

    And also the Economics Prize, which many think is not really a Nobel.

    So they should be excluded.
    Women have 12 Literature, 10 Peace, 1 Economics; leaving 16 in the sciences (15 laureates)
    Men have 97 Literature, 93 Peace, 70 Economics. leaving 542 in the sciences (540 laureates).

    1 double out of 15 women, 2 doubles out of 540 men.

    I wouldn’t make too much of this: sometimes an elephant just comes through. And also, Curie was early in the history of the awards, so the process was still erratic.

  478. >I would assume, from what little I know about chess, there is some reasonably objective way to compare current grandmasters to previous ones.

    There is. FIDE rating methods have been stable since 1970. Very similar and comparable systems go back to around 1950.

    >It would not surprise me if many who would have taken up chess in past decades are now taking up other pursuits with some of those same attributes. Programming, for example.

    That could well be. Arguably that set includes me.

  479. Time travel needed:

    Israel: 1406BC :p

    No. Israel was in Babylon much later. Read your Bible.

  480. @Rich Rostrom: The numbers I quoted from nobelprize.org were only for individual prizes, not awards for organizations. But see my later post that only counted the physics, chemistry, and physiology/medicine prizes.

    Btw, your numbers for second awards are much lower than mine; what source are you using?

  481. esr on Thursday, January 17 2013 at 10:28 pm said:
    >But there was a period when people speculated that there might be some obscure
    >sex-linked neurological factor at work, not just the relative numbers of male and female players.

    Those numbers don’t do much to falsify such a theory.

    More than you think. Bear in mind that 21 of these 28 women are under 40, whereas that’s about the median age for male grandmasters. The change is still in progress, it seems to me, and 5% or even 10% looks possible as an end state. In any case, 2% is ample to disprove the counter-proposition: that women couldn’t do it at all.

    At 2% of the grandmaster pool, we’re still down in the range where you have to think seriously about fetal androgen exposure and mosaic chromosome abnormalities as possible causative factors.

    Actually, the speculation was that women are wired to be responsive to child distress calls at all times, and thus can’t achieve the total focus on the game required for top-level play.

    Especially since the entire grandmaster population is highly deviant to begin with.

    Well, they’re at one end of the curve. People that distinctive in any category tend to be deviant in other categores as well.

    Here’s a consequent testable prediction for you: the incidence of lesbianism in that 2% will be well above the 4% that we would expect from a random female-population sample. In 28 randomly sampled women, expect 1 self-reported lesbian; among 28 female grandmasters, I predict significantly more – I’m going to guess 5, and 10 wouldn’t startle me.

    Not going there… For one thing, all I have is names and countries. Most are east European or Chinese.

  482. Peter Donis on Thursday, January 17 2013 at 11:42 pm said:

    @Rich Rostrom: The numbers I quoted from nobelprize.org were only for individual prizes, not awards for organizations. But see my later post that only counted the physics, chemistry, and physiology/medicine prizes.
    Btw, your numbers for second awards are much lower than mine; what source are you using?

    nobelprize.org;

    I grabbed the complete list of laureates, and massaged it.

    That’s how I identified the double laureates. Your estimate of 17 two-category science laureates struck me as absurdly high.

    BTW I count 555 science laureates, you count 554. I may have dropped one somewhere.

  483. >The change is still in progress, it seems to me, and 5% or even 10% looks possible as an end state.

    Right. At that level developmental abnormality stops looking like a plausible explanation.

    >Actually, the speculation was that women are wired to be responsive to child distress calls at all times, and thus can’t achieve the total focus on the game required for top-level play.

    Really? That strikes me as an astoundingly stupid idea. Selfish-gene theory predicts that women should be responsive to the distress calls of near kin, and that it should be advantageous not to respond readily otherwise. If such sensitivity existed, I would expect it to vary in inverse proportion to the amount of time since a woman gave birth or lactated.

  484. Getting back toward the original topic…

    ESR: would you consider these people to be a cult? (The Satmar Hasidim community in NYC, who have a communally-enforced lifestyle that is close to totalitarian. But they don’t recruit at all.)

  485. @Rich Rostrom: I grabbed the complete list of laureates, and massaged it.

    Ah, ok. I was too lazy to do that. :-) Then you’re right, the number of double laureates in the sciences is too small to draw any conclusions about Marie Curie.

    It’s interesting that there are so few double laureates in the science prizes, whereas there are considerably more in the non-science prizes; the difference is even greater if you look at percentages instead of absolute numbers. That makes me think I was right when I said the non-science prizes are considerably more prone to political correctness in the award methodology.

  486. Actually if you’re making a point about killing many people (generic) then i seem to recall someone showing that Stalin had the Nazi’s beat.

    Millions of people starved to death as a result of Stalin’s policies, although AFAIK it is hard to say how much of this was a goal and not an unintended result. Millions more were killed or imprisoned for political reasons.

  487. >ESR: would you consider these people to be a cult?

    Hmmmm. No attempt to recruit outsiders. Unclear whether the hypomania I associate with cults (and have ever since meeting my first Jesus freaks in the 1970s) is normal; my guess is probably not. The characteristic attempt to prevent people from having ties outside the group is present. Heavy and pervasive indoctrination in a faith system, check. Extremes of sexual practice tied to doctrine, check. No explicit information about how the group’s internal power dynamics work, but reading between the lines I’d say authoritarianism centered on charismatic leaders appears highly likely.

    Interesting borderline case. Exhibits significant cult-like behaviors, but lacks some of those I consider central. Whether we want to label it a ‘cult’ is a definitional wrangle I’m not really very interested in; the territory is what’s interesting, not the map.

    I’m glad she got out. Cult or non-cult, it’s nasty.

  488. >That makes me think I was right when I said the non-science prizes are considerably more prone to political correctness in the award methodology.

    No offense meant, but I think that is obvious to anyone who isn’t thicker than a cinderblock.

  489. Wrt women chess masters.

    I expect women to do less well in anything that correlates with Asperger autism spectrum.

    It is well known that Asperger is more prevalent in men. People along the autism spectrum are attracted to activities that require spending most of your time doing something regular without direct interaction with other people. Chess and programming are obvious examples.

    The underlying, evolutionary, explanation is as yet unknown. The most interesting story I have heard is that Autism and Psychopathy are the symptoms of a “war in the uterus” by the parents (idiotic terminology) in epi-genomic imprinting.

    Summarized, fathers imprint the DNA of their sperm for maximal resource use by the offspring. Mothers imprint the DNA of their eggs to minimize resource use by the offspring so they can make more offspring.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics_in_psychology

    The result is, in general, a draw (pun intended). However, if the imprinting by either of the parents is “too weak”, the child will overshoot the target due to the imprinting of the other parent.

    It is well known that “evolution” gambles more with boys than girls so it is not surprising that boys are more extreme (prone to pathologies) in any respect than girls.

    Cutting many corners, the imprinting of the mother tries to make the child “easy” and undemanding, which fits autism. The imprinting of the father makes the child “difficult”, demanding, and anti-social, which fits psychopathy.

    Note, this is a story, or an unvalidated hypothesis if you like.

  490. @Terry
    “If you’re going to reduce multiple three screen posts of mine to “just so” without successfully refuting a single point I have made, you’re wasting my connection bandwidth.”

    Sorry, but my time has value too. You have not answered or reacted to many of my questions and answers.

    You wanted useful mutations in multi-cellular organisms in the lab. I gave you half a dozen titles.

    You wanted to know how complexity could arise from random processes, I gave you a random walk model. Evolution really is simple.

    I gave you a lot of Creationist “Just-So” stories that can be explained from the deep history of the earth.

    All I saw as a response, if any, were excuses.

    A land bridge in Indonesia when the earth had just been flooded miles high with fresh water? A land bridge only found by marsupials? Please, spare me.

    The fact that many vestigal organs and bad designs (human retina, human backbone) do not damage survival is to be expected, or else they would have been disposed with completely.

    Most of these bad designs are just good enough. Human bad backs develop only after children have grown up, wisdom teeth can sometimes work as a spare tooth etc. That does not make them perfect designs by any stretch of the imagination. They are just good compromises given history and resource needs.

  491. @JAD
    “(Winter proposes top science bureaucrats and Lise Meitner)”

    No I didn’t. I proposed Christiane Nüsslein. I would add Emmy Noether. I know some others, but I do not want to drag personal acquaintances into this fight.

    But hey, this is an opportunity to advertise Dutch science, so here is the list of people who received the highest Dutch science price, the Spinoza prices:
    http://www.nwo.nl/nwohome.nsf/pages/NWOP_8FVBQR_Eng

    And here the Heineken prices for young scientists:
    http://www.knaw.nl/Pages/DEF/27/619.bGFuZz1FTkc.html

    All for scientists doing active work in experimental science. Check out the women.

    JAD will simply ignore their work and claim the women did not do it. The Netherlands are a small country, and I know the prices were justified from having spoken to (and worked with) people who were involved in some of the research.

  492. @Terry
    I only found your gem today:
    “As for everything else, if you look closely enough, it actually doesn’t seem that old. Radioisotope dating has all kinds of problems, and so it is rarely used (among the Egyptian kings, which could be dated by documentation, the mummy of a son appeared to be older than his father based on radiocarbon dating.) Earlier this year, galaxy formation science was upset by the discovery of an out-sized black hole 12.8 billion light years away, only 900 million light years from the redshift event horizon. There are a lot of other signs that the universe doesn’t appear to be any younger way out there than it is right next door, except for the frustratingly uniform cosmic background.”

    This sums up what is wrong with Creationism very well.
    1) You dismiss all of physics and chemistry.
    Radio-Isotope dating leads to very consistent numbers. Cherry picking sampling problems in a very large field is the hallmark of pseudo science. It is especially telling that Creationists ignore the vast scientific literature on the limitations of radio-isotope dating and the even vaster literature on how to cope with these limitations. Creationists also ignore the fact that this literature is completely devoid of any references to religion. Scientists in this field do not care about religious scriptures in their work and most certainly are not involved in any conspiracy coordinating and fabricating results to annoy Christians. And claiming God created trees with tree rings matching past weather patterns is cunning indeed. Who is conspiring here?

    2) Predicting and understanding the cosmic background radiation and the composition of the universe (90% H, 10% He, traces of Li) are the triumphs of Cosmology. Everything fits together for a universe with an age of around 13B years.

    3) Whatever the shortcomings in our scientific knowledge, nothing, absolutely nothing at all in the universe around us makes any sense for a universe less than 10k years old. From biology, through history, medicine, geology, chemistry, astrophysics, cosmology, it all breaks down when the earth is less than 10k years old.

    As I wrote before, all of our scientific knowledge becomes a “Just So” story in Creationism.

  493. @JAD
    > > “(Winter proposes top science bureaucrats and Lise Meitner)”

    Winter on Friday, January 18 2013 at 2:41 am said:
    > No I didn’t. I proposed Christiane Nüsslein. I would add Emmy Noether.

    Christiane Nüsslein is a science bureaucrat, not a scientist. Emmy Noether was indeed a great female scientist, but the fact that you started with Christiane Nüsslein shows you are hard up for great female scientists.

  494. IIRC, in the sixties, orchestras recruiting musicians did decide to hide the person they were hearing. Rationale was to avoid recruiting musicians they’d know. Percentage from women in orchestras went up from 0% to 35%, quickly, and then didn’t move any more.

    0% was due to the old belief that women’s coordination eye-to-hand was lower than men’s. Statistically true. But when you recruit, you shouldn’t care about statistics : you should focus about that person, there, and not about f****g statistics.
    That’s the story about Marie Curie.
    That’s also the story of that black woman who did impress Eric : statistics about IQ of women/black may be true or false, they shall not be used, as they are deceiving.

    Yup, you read me right. My opinion goes further than Eric’s. He say you shall not pay attention to ethnic statistics when speaking to a specific person. I say you shall not use them, at all, as the natural tendency of the human brain is to use available data. Not everyone has Eric’s ability to bypass “known” data; I’d even say it’s the opposite. My stance is to view those statistics as false. Maybe they are not, but if I see them as false, they will not make me think wrong about someone.

  495. > The Satmar Hasidim community in NYC, who have a communally-enforced lifestyle that is close to totalitarian. But they don’t recruit at all.)

    Genuinely ancient religion, therefore not a cult.

    Of course all modern Judaism really goes back only to 200-400AD, it almost as different from the Judaism of Jesus’s time as Christianity is, but this is nonetheless the genuinely sixteen hundred year old stuff. Cults don’t last that long, or if they do, they do by transforming into not-cults

    There is nothing sexually peculiar about their practices, it is the complainant that is sexually peculiar. Observe that her sex life is still mucked up. Somehow I seriously doubt that not being told about sex until you are seventeen is likely to produce that effect.

  496. @JAD
    “Christiane Nüsslein is a science bureaucrat, not a scientist.”

    That is “Proof by assertion”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proof_by_assertion

    We have witness accounts that she did great experimental work, eg, from our current minister of the Interior Ronald Plasterk, one of the Spinoza winners I mentioned before.

    You say she is not. This is one of your “Just So” stories. Where is the evidence?

    Anyhow, you still have a number of laureates to go in the list I put up before.

  497. >Percentage from women in orchestras went up from 0% to 35%, quickly, and then didn’t move any more.

    That is fascinating. It tells us two valuable things: (1) Exactly how much talent was being wasted by prejudice against women, and (2) what the (quite large) difference in the percentages of sufficiently capable males and females is in the absence of prejudice. Larger than I would have guessed, frankly.

    I want to be able to cite this. Can you point me at a documentary source?

    >I say you shall not use them, at all [...] if I see them as false, they will not make me think wrong about someone.

    But ignoring real differences in means and dispersion is also dangerous in a different way. There is a certain sort of political animal that thinks it is “justice” to require orchestras to be at 50% male/female parity. (Don’t laugh – google for “Title IX”.) Unless you know what the statistics are and are prepared to deploy them in argument to stop this, here’s what will happen: 35% of the competent male players will be forcibly displaced by women who are not capable enough to meet the standards the orchestra would set if its choices were sex-blind.

    The quality of the playing will crash, not just because of the drop in skill level but because players at both ends of the curve will be demoralized – the really good ones of both sexes by having to play with duffers and the mostly-female duffers by having their noses rubbed in their ineptitude (when they might have been happy and productive in an organization with lower standards where they were closer to the mean).

    Now consider what this costs if the players are…architects, or medical doctors, or military officers, or scientists. And shudder.

  498. >Genuinely ancient religion, therefore not a cult.

    Not dispositive. Ancient religions spin off cults all the time. Compare “Jesus freaks”.

    >There is nothing sexually peculiar about their practices

    Yes there is. Maintaining sexual ignorance that deep and that late is beyond peculiar and well into perverse. The article makes gruesomely clear that the woman profiled is neither an isolated case nor the worst one – recall the ruptured colon.

  499. > Maintaining sexual ignorance that deep and that late is beyond peculiar and well into perverse.

    Had to go back and read the article. Dafuq? There is no other way to say it, just Dafaq?

    I can understand the idea of sex only for reproduction and well, whatever, but this kind of thing? WHAT THE FUCK!??!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?

  500. Once upon a time, every school for small children had a playground that permitted and encouraged boisterous physical activity, and at fairly frequent intervals, the children were allowed out into the playground to let off steam, It featured stuff like slides, see saws, swings, monkey bars, etc. This required strength and dexterity, so tended to be male dominated. Boys and girls played together at athletic stuff at which the boys were very much better than the girls. It was therefore suppressed, and replaced with drugs, collectively lowering male status.

    Ok, that certainly is concrete. Thank you for that.

    I remember when the events you describe happened in Aus. The cause was openly described as being because of “fears of injury leading to lawsuits”. This is supported by the fact that the first attempt was to pad the entire thing with shredded tyres so that you bounce instead of break. Note that this trend continues to this day with news articles even in 2010 talking about the sad removal of playground equipment due to risk of injury.

    At the same time, my memory gives no clear temporal linkage between the decommissioning playgrounds and the other effects you describe. Indeed, the response i remember tended more towards an increase in boys sports programs which I would suggest would have at best a neutral and at worst the opposite effect to what you describe.

    In short, the events you mention certainly took place, but i doubt the causal result you describe and the motivation is well documented as completely unrelated to your assertion (e.g. google for playground equipment removal).

  501. Unless, of course, you have documentation for this. I’m assuming not since it would be a conspiracy spanning a good 4 different countries that hasn’t been reported on despite the significant number of exposes on various other gender bias topics (e.g. upper management, computing).

  502. >>Genuinely ancient religion, therefore not a cult.

    >Not dispositive. Ancient religions spin off cults all the time. Compare “Jesus freaks”.

    Indeed. And this one… it’s mentioned in the article that was linked that it’s something akin to a “revival movement”, with practices that were modified in reaction to events from only 70 years ago.

  503. > “Anyhow, you still have a number of laureates to go in the list I put up before.”

    Winter, it does’t really matter what you put up. It just leads to yet another variation of
    “They didn’t do it themselves, they got awarded for political reasons, and you (Winter) know this but are afraid to admit it”. Possibly with a slur on “leftists” or so in there somewhere too – one is well overdue.

  504. el_slapper on Friday, January 18 2013 at 5:42 am said:
    > But when you recruit, you shouldn’t care about statistics : you should focus about that person, there, and not about f****g statistics.
    > That’s the story about Marie Curie.

    Marie Curie did not discover radium. She was a member of a team of three people that discovered radium.

    Radon has similar remarkable properties to radium, and was scientifically far more important, for radon revealed that radioactivity was the result of transmutation of the elements. No one remembers the discovery of radon, because a woman was not on the team. A big dramatic fuss was made about the discovery of radium because a woman was on the team

    Marie Curie was planned to be a poster girl for females in science before she set foot in the lab. This is analogous to current practice with female programmers, where a female “programmer” is teamed up with good male programmers. Indeed, this is the general tendency with all affirmative action jobs: Either the job is redefined so that it does not need to be done, as with firefighting and most government jobs, or a white male does the actual work. Observe that with many black college professors, people are somewhat relieved if the professor never actually turns up for work, and often enough, he does not.

    You write as if there was systematic discrimination against members of inferior groups, but we have also had systematic discrimination in favor of members of inferior groups for over two hundred years. As individuals, people tend to make assumptions about strangers on the basis of group membership, and these assumptions disadvantage unusually able members of inferior groups, but we have had intervention in the other direction, helicoptering members of inferior groups into posts to which they are not qualified, for over two hundred years.

    Further, we have had no genocides of members of inferior groups, while we have had repeated genocides of innumerable superior groups. The doctrine of equality has repeatedly led to the mass murder of those who violate it by being superior, the current internationally sponsored mass murder of the superior happening in the Congo, but when they are done equalizing the Tutsi, someone else will be up for the high jump. The doctrine of inequality, since it corresponds to reality, seldom leads to any problems.

    esr observes that religious beliefs frequently lead to mass murder, and that some religious beliefs are more apt to lead to mass murder than others, but fails to notice the religious belief that in the twentieth century has led to more mass murder than any other, and fails to notice the current mass murder driven by that belief.

    Esr tells us that Tutsi cannot possibly be superior to their neighbors. But, since the Tutsi keep, in practice, being superior to their neighbors, obviously they are doing something nasty and unkind, and have to be taken down a peg or two.

  505. @esr: No offense meant, but I think that is obvious to anyone who isn’t thicker than a cinderblock.

    No offense taken; you’re quite right. I just hadn’t thought about it showing up so clearly in that specific metric.

  506. Peter Donis on Friday, January 18 2013 at 12:37 am said:

    It’s interesting that there are so few double laureates in the science prizes, whereas there are considerably more in the non-science prizes…

    Say what? The four names I listed are the only double laureate individuals, period. Three were double-science, one was science-Peace.

    No Literature or Economics laureate has received a second award, ever.

    There have been multiple awards of the Peace Prize to organizations (Red Cross 4, Quakers 2); but an organization is longer lived than a person, anyway.

    The Peace Prize is inherently political. The award to Carl von Ossietzky, then a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, was extremely controversial.

  507. “It would not surprise me if many who would have taken up chess in past decades are now taking up other pursuits with some of those same attributes. Programming, for example.
    @ESR – That could well be. Arguably that set includes me.”

    In the 1970s, when I was playing chess competitively, it was the United States Chess Federation (USCF) than tabulated rankings. My highest was 1982; however, the demands of work and family forced me to put the game aside.

    Eric, did you play competitive chess, and if so, what was your highest ranking?

  508. @Eric. I’ll try to find it. Thing is, I’m rather old-fashioned & mainly read papers. My source is probably an old edition of “courrier international”, but their online articles are not their written articles.

    And don’t forget that there might be other reasons for the difference, like the choice of certain women to not have a job, instead taking care of children(my wife comes to mind).

    @JAD : erm, I’m french, and do not have experience of positive discrimination. But I’m unconvinced by your extreme description.

  509. @Rich Rostrom: Looking at the page I linked to before, it looks like I misinterpreted their totals. Here’s the actual quote:

    “Between 1901 and 2012, the Nobel Prizes and the Prize in Economic Sciences were awarded 553 times to 863 people and organizations. With some receiving the Nobel Prize more than once, this makes a total of 835 individuals and 21 organizations.”

    So there are 856 people and organizations that have received awards. From your count, 4 people have received two awards, one organization has received two awards, and one organization has received four awards; that adds 4 + 1 + 3 = 8 to the 856, for 864 total awards to people and organizations. That’s off by one from the 863 given in the quote above. I had calculated double awards assuming that the 863 meant 863 individuals, but you’re right, that’s not the case.

  510. @Peter: “Why do you think the lack of vestigial organs in, say, humans implies that organs in ancestors were ‘done away with’?”

    Because that was the line I was fed as a child: That these organs were vestigial because in humans, their functions were no longer necessary. The evidence, however, shows that natural selection tends to eliminate the useless in the phenotype and what remains is useful. “New” useful things appear only when the thing had been done away with previously. Dark cave animals losing and regaining their eyes are the common example cited by both sides.

    “Our limbs are modified fish fins, for example; does that mean we’ve ‘lost complexity’ because we no longer have fins?”

    Homologous doesn’t necessarily mean modified or evolved. The fish fin is so different from the homologous amphibian limbs they are supposed to have evolved into that I find it very difficult to swallow (much harder to swallow than limbs evolving from those amphibians, but there the leaps lie in other systems.) It also makes little sense to me that a fish, superbly adapted to life at sea, could evolve into an amphibian which is poorly suited as either sea dweller or land lubber (although some have pretty fantastic defenses to compensate.) My experience with TOT shows that once it has made up its mind to beeline for a particular local maximum, it does not change it. I therefore would never expect a fish to evolve into anything other than a sea dwelling creature, and find the thought more plausible that fish evolved directly into whales and dolphins without there ever being a land-dwelling phase.

    Also, there is no requirement that evolution *must* always add complexity. It adds complexity if more complex organisms are better at reproducing in a particular ecological niche; it takes away complexity if simpler organisms are better at reproducing in some other ecological niche (as with the tapeworms).”

    @Winter: “You wanted useful mutations in multi-cellular organisms in the lab. I gave you half a dozen titles.”

    @Terry (earlier): “both of these articles are about nematode populations recovering from ‘deleterious mutations’ rather than producing beneficial mutations. So I’m pretty sure I’m still correct.”

    Winter, you’re not worth refuting anymore. Quit wasting your time.

  511. @Terry: Homologous doesn’t necessarily mean modified or evolved.

    As the term is used in biology, it does; biologists only call a feature homologous to an earlier feature if they have evidence to show that it evolved with modification from the earlier feature.

    The fish fin is so different from the homologous amphibian limbs they are supposed to have evolved into that I find it very difficult to swallow

    It looks different on the surface, but when you look at the bones, there are the same number in the same arrangement (they have different sizes and shapes, but the correspondence is there). AFAIK there is also embryological research that shows that fish fins and animal limbs develop the same way. These are the kinds of evidence that show homology. If fish and land animals didn’t evolve from a common ancestor, there would be no reason for them to have the same number of bones in the same general arrangement in fins and limbs, or for fins and limbs to develop in embryos in similar ways.

    (In fact, the fact that fish and land animals both *have* embryos, not to mention sharing much of the same DNA, is strong evidence that they evolved from a common ancestor. There would be no reason for this if they were separately created.)

    (Also, it’s important to realize that, as I said just now, fish and land animals evolved from a common ancestor; present-day land animals did not evolve from present-day fish. Both have undergone changes from the common ancestor; land animals have undergone more change, but present-day fish are not the same as the common ancestor was.)

    My experience with TOT shows that once it has made up its mind to beeline for a particular local maximum, it does not change it.

    That’s because the environment is fixed in TOT. In evolution, the environment changes, which means that selection pressures change, which means that a local maximum at a particular time does not *stay* a local maximum. Those changes trigger evolutionary changes in organisms.

    Also, the changes do not have to always be in the same direction. You mentioned cetaceans; there is much evidence that yes, they did have land-dwelling ancestors, who in turn evolved, like all land animals, from fish-like ancestors. Why the “reverse in direction”? Because, again, environments and selection pressures change, and the changes aren’t always in the same direction. We would not expect them to be, since the changes in environments and selection pressures are not directed at any goal; they are effectively random. That means we should *expect* to see “reversals of direction” in evolutionary lineages. (Organisms that lose functional parts, like the tapeworms I mentioned before, are also examples of such reversals; the ancestors of tapeworms needed organs that the tapeworms don’t, because the selection pressures were different; but ancestors of those ancestors didn’t have those organs either. Those organs evolved, and then were lost; that’s a “reversal” as much as cetaceans evolving from land-dwelling ancestors who in turn evolved from sea-dwelling ancestors.)

  512. @JAD
    > > “Christiane Nüsslein is a science bureaucrat, not a scientist.”

    Winter on Friday, January 18 2013 at 6:08 am said:
    > That is “Proof by assertion”

    You assert she is a famous scientist, I assert she is a senior bureaucrat. If she was a scientist, you would have listed her most prominent scientific accomplishment, rather than her position.

  513. el_slapper on Friday, January 18 2013 at 11:31 am said:
    > erm, I’m french, and do not have experience of positive discrimination

    Madam Curie was french, and she is my favorite example of positive discrimination, being still the most prominent poster girl of all time.

    People from “priority education zones”, aka blacks and Muslims, get special treatment and favorable placement in the french education system. Highly ranked French schools are required to give special treatment to “impoverished” people. In the US, “impoverished” is a code for certain racial groups, and even if in France it really does mean impoverished, which I much doubt, the overwhelming majority of the impoverished in France are black and/or Muslim.

  514. @Peter: “As the term is used in biology, it does; biologists only call a feature homologous to an earlier feature if they have evidence to show that it evolved with modification from the earlier feature.”

    That is more symptom than cause. The field of biology is sold enough on Evolution that the entire language is built around it.

    @Peter: “It looks different on the surface, but when you look at the bones, there are the same number in the same arrangement (they have different sizes and shapes, but the correspondence is there).”

    The arrangements are similar, I know that, and they also give the same names to the bones. In human aircraft, wings have had main spars since Cayley’s time and still do today, for a form of homology in something that was designed. Wheels on carts and wagons have been around for far longer. Leaf springs on modern pickup trucks are nearly identical to leaf springs on stage coaches from the 1880s. Homology is not evidence of evolution if we see it so often in design. Why didn’t God use different bone arrangements? I don’t know, but you can’t turn a “why not?” question into a “just so” retort. Why would he? James Watt used a planetary gear instead of a crankshaft to convert the reciprocal action of his steam engine into rotary motion, but he did that only because of a dumb patent that should never have been issued. God has no such limitations. That could well be why every vertebrate has a tibia and a fibia in his upper legs.

    Peter: “AFAIK there is also embryological research that shows that fish fins and animal limbs develop the same way.”

    That’s probably from Ernst Haeckel, the nineteenth century evolutionist crackpot:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haeckel

    There is certainly no doubt today that this 1874 embryological drawings are totally inaccurate, and some like to say they are even fraudulent. Nevertheless, I remember seeing them in school over a hundred years later and noticed the contrast between them and more modern beautiful color photographs in library books. That was back when I believed in Evolution, so it didn’t trigger much doubt at the time.

    Peter: “(In fact, the fact that fish and land animals both *have* embryos, not to mention sharing much of the same DNA, is strong evidence that they evolved from a common ancestor. There would be no reason for this if they were separately created.)”

    Au contrare, you have to remember what DNA does: it encodes proteins. All life on Earth uses the same twenty amino acids (all right-handed, for whatever reason), and various really wide swaths of life (plants, vertebrates, invertebrates, bacteria) use similar families of proteins to construct their phenotypes. Whether I believe in Creation or Evolution, I would expect all life in each broad category to have a lot in common in their DNA (actually, I find it troubling that their DNA is as different as it is.)

    As for the first point, all life has young, so it is really no point at all. Biologists even talk of plant embryos with the same word.

  515. @Terry:

    “Winter, you’re not worth refuting anymore. Quit wasting your time.”

    Whatever. I’m still waiting for answers about the citrate consuming mutations pointed out by David Gerard, and the mutation breeding pointed out by me. You seem to be very good at picking and choosing what you respond to, which isn’t particularly surprising, but is disappointing.

  516. Terry on Friday, January 18 2013 at 12:03 pm said:
    > The fish fin is so different from the homologous amphibian limbs they are supposed to have evolved into that I find it very difficult to swallow (much harder to swallow than limbs evolving from those amphibians, but there the leaps lie in other systems.) It also makes little sense to me that a fish, superbly adapted to life at sea, could evolve into an amphibian which is poorly suited as either sea dweller or land lubber.

    We have found skeletons of the intermediate kinds. They appear to have lived in mud flats or river deltas by the sea. They are fish, with fingers at the end of their four fins. In that environment, you are apt to frequently find yourself stuck in shallow water on top of thick mud, with what little water you do have draining away due to the tides, the winds, and the weather. The fingers allow you to grab onto things in the mud and haul yourself through the too shallow water.

    The next intermediate kind after that one is ambush predator with hands on his fins that lived in running water. Presumably he holds onto things so he can remain motionless in running water.

    The next intermediate kind after that one is back to stagnant water and muddy shallows. He has a fish body but a crocodile head, capable of grabbing land prey, with something rather like legs, that could propel him partially out of the water. I conjecture he ate something like crabs or land insects. At this point, the intermediate looks mighty like an axolotl, ready to grow up into a salamander.

  517. @Terry: Homology is not evidence of evolution if we see it so often in design.

    You should say “similarity of structure” instead of “homology”, since the whole point is that you are questioning the standard meaning of “homology” as it is used by biologists. It’s their word, not yours.

    You’re correct that similarities of structure are often dictated by functional requirements, and in such cases they can arise from separate design processes operating under the same functional requirements, rather than from common ancestry. That’s why biologists look for similarities of structure that are *not* dictated by functional requirements, in order to show homology. For example, fish fins and animal limbs have very different functional requirements; similarities of structure between them are therefore not explainable by functional constraints on separate design processes.

    That’s probably from Ernst Haeckel

    There has been a lot of embryology research done since the 1870’s. You realize that, right?

    you have to remember what DNA does: it encodes proteins.

    Yes; so what? That’s just one more commonality that makes no sense if organisms didn’t evolve from a common ancestor. Why should they all have the same proteins with the same amino acids? Also, why should they all use the same encoding scheme? Not just DNA–though there are other ways to encode for proteins than by using DNA, RNA for instance–but also the same genetic code? There are many ways of arranging DNA to encode for proteins, yet all organisms use the same one.

    Again, these are similarities of structure that can’t be explained by functional constraints; they only make sense if they are due to common ancestry.

  518. I find many of these discussions of the faults of evolutionary theory tiresome, because they totally miss the big picture. Scientists with good will can certainly discuss the different aspects of evolution, but whenever a creationist comes along (or an intelligent design-ist, which amounts to the same thing) the good will is gone. The point is no longer a search for truth but rather a search for justification of the pre-determined truth.

    From a big picture point of view the Christian Bible’s teaching on the origins of the world are so laughable as to justify such acronyms as ROTFLMGAO. Laughable were they not actually taken seriously by some people. Might as well believe the world is supported on the back of a turtle.

    Secondly, even if you buy that “I don’t believe Adam and Eve, but I do believe that the complexity of the world demands a designer” one is left to say that he/she/it wasn’t a very good designer. Although nature is miraculous you find lots and lots of “slaps forehead” engineering errors all over the place. The human eye, for example, has some pretty dumb design features.

    Nonetheless, those are, generally speaking, engineering errors that you are quite likely to get from being stuck in an evolutionary minima, where the evolutionary cost in the short term is far to large to realize the evolutionary benefit in the long term.

    On a purely tangential basis, if you can’t believe the Genesis story of creation the whole of Christian doctrine falls to pieces, since it is rooted in the idea of an original sin of one man, and the consequential redemption of one man. But lets not do doctrine here.

    Nonetheless, my point is that playing defense on the theory of evolution against ID people is nuts. It is like arguing about the possibility of ET life with someone wearing an aluminum foil hat. Is there a legitimate discussion? Sure, but the participants have to be coming from a moderately sane, moderately honest point of view to get a seat at the discussion table.

  519. @Terry
    I gave 6 or so new titles in response to your quip about deleterious mutations. You probably missed it.

    The fin/arm homology is not to modern fish but to coelacanth lungfish.

    Modern fish have stongly reduced the bone counts of their fins. Hence all the fuss when they found a living coelacanth.

  520. Having sat through the Landmark Forum, I think I’m qualified to say that I think you bailing so quickly pretty much disqualifies you from knowing what you’re talking about. Admitted, they do a hard sell, because it’s the only way they advertise … kind of like network marketing/Amway.

    There’s a reason MLMs are called “sales cults”.

    And the Forum could be easily summarized in 15 minutes … there’s a lot of sales pitches, and some nice teaching context on how to look at your life. But it basically comes down to this …

    All good advice. But inasmuch as sales cults sell something useful, it’s a secondary business goal. The primary business goal is recruitment — getting people signed up, paying into the system, and actively expanding the network to their friends and family, hopeful to receive the boons that supposedly only membership can provide.

    Landmark is Isagenix for the soul.