Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Questioning assumptions, left and right


We lead off with a pair of recent books, one striving desperately to undermine our confidence, and the other trying just as hard to snap us out of our funk.

Though as an appetizer… here’s probably the most cogent observation about our current political climate.  And this.

 == Decline of the Western Experiment ==

Much touted in conservative media is a new book by Notre Dame Professor Patrick Deneen - “Why Liberalism Failed” that starts with the cleverly implied assumption that it has failed. In supplying “why” incantations, Deneen joins a genre of gloom that includes Allan Bloom’s (1980s) “The Closing of the American Mind” and David Gelernter’s imitative article “The Closing of the Scientific Mind,” stretching all the way back to Oswald Spengler’s “Decline of the West” and even “Das Kapital.”  

To be clear, I’ll avow that liberalism has many flaws in its specifics and execution. Our civilization — vastly more successful than any combination of others, across all of time — suffers from mistakes, inconsistencies, contradictions and obstinacies that we’re behooved to re-examine, on a regular basis. Indeed, that ability and habit of openness to reciprocal criticism — (discussed extensively in “The Transparent Society”) — is a core hallmark of most branches of liberalism. It’s a trait that enemies pounce upon, calling it weakness.

Take the descriptive paragraph issued by Deneen’s publisher, presumably the author’s chosen pitch to all readers:

Of the three dominant ideologies of the twentieth century—fascism, communism, and liberalism—only the last remains. This has created a peculiar situation in which liberalism’s proponents tend to forget that it is an ideology and not the natural end-state of human political evolution. As Patrick Deneen argues in this provocative book, liberalism is built on a foundation of contradictions: it trumpets equal rights while fostering incomparable material inequality; its legitimacy rests on consent, yet it discourages civic commitments in favor of privatism; and in its pursuit of individual autonomy, it has given rise to the most far-reaching, comprehensive state system in human history. Here, Deneen offers an astringent warning that the centripetal forces now at work on our political culture are not superficial flaws but inherent features of a system whose success is generating its own failure.”

Sentence by sentence, alas, this diatribe is (let’s be plain) utter bullshit in every single detail. Professor Deneen deliberately excludes the fourth and by-far largest creature in our political bestiary —  the elephant in the room — feudalism. In its various forms, aristocratic hierarchism dominated almost all societies for 6000 years.

Inheritance lordship by owner-caste oligarchy is arguably the most natural form of governance, having dominated nearly all societies that had agriculture. It never went away, and indeed is roaring back. Its omission from Deneen’s list of “dominant ideologies of the twentieth century” is glaring, that is, unless he implicitly folded it into “fascism.” Either way, the first sentence of this summarizing paragraph is an outright, knowing and spectacular lie.

== Two kinds of liberalism ==

But pray continue with Prof. Deneen’s summary: “liberalism’s proponents tend to forget that it is an ideology and not the natural end-state of human political evolution.”

While some shallow people presume this, very few serious thinkers do. Most know that liberalism is an exception to historical patterns, that always had the decks stacked against it. Indeed, Liberalism has two major branches, that agree on overall policy, but not the reasons.

First is a large minority who know about liberalism’s founder - Adam Smith – who taught about both harnessing and liberating the most creative force in the universe: flat-fair-open competition.

Lords, kings and priests always crushed fair competition. Cheating by the mighty always led to feudal cancer that killed competitive vigor, far more thoroughly and often than socialism ever did. Even the doyen of conservative economics, Friedrich Hayek, proclaimed that markets, democracy and our other arenas do best when there’s maximum participation.  Smith’s teachings, to keep the playing field flat and fair, form the deep root of “liberal” politics and economics.

All liberals push for rights, tolerance, diversity, science and compassionate uplift of the poor. But the Smithian branch does so for practical reasons. Maximizing the number of empowered and knowing participants almost always maximizes competition’s pragmatic benefits.

== The touchy-feely branch of liberalism ==

A much larger population wants those same policies — rights, tolerance, diversity, compassion, science etc. — for somewhat different reasons. They view these things as absolute moral virtues needing no practical justification. Ironically, that weakens their case! Since anyone else can answer: “my absolute virtues differ! And dismissing them makes you intolerant!”

Those in this passionate second category are more numerous, as you’d expect in any movement, and sure, their simplistic dedication to generosity and individualism might be dismissed as just another religion.  Certainly forces of feudalism/fascism - like Professor Deneen - try desperately to argue this point.

Feeding them ammo are performances like the weepy “response to the State of the Union” given recently by Rep. Joe Kennedy. It perfectly played into the right-wing narrative that liberals are impractical moralists, and not creators of the most successful, pragmatic, and dynamic problem-solving civilization of all time.

But the first category of liberals cannot be so easily dismissed.  Rights and compassionate uplift and science have had pragmatic effects, profound and even spectacular, leading to a society that out-performed all others - *combined* - by every conceivable metric of success, like exponentiating knowledge and wealth and health and freedom and happiness. There are also under-appreciated outcomes. Only liberal society created a vast and unhindered literature of error-prevention and opportunity-targeting called science fiction. And only this society managed to maximize opportunity-reification to such a degree that we may soon - very plausibly - become an interstellar species.

Liberal virtues achieved this in part by opening the flow of criticism and reciprocal accountability that comes from free speech by educated and calmly competitive masses. It also reduced the waste of human talent by orders of magnitude, by eliminating so many stupidly unjustifiable prejudices.

Reiterating: Liberals such as Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek (yes “liberals” in the classic sense of opposing market cheating) emphasized that entrepreneurial competition and market wisdom cannot occur until the number of skilled, competent participants is maximized, something that feudal regimes try desperately to prevent! Maximizing the diversity and number of skilled, competent participants cannot happen without rights and compassionate uplift and science.

== The insidious message ==

Let’s get back to the Deneen book writeup:

Of the three dominant ideologies of the twentieth century—fascism, communism, and liberalism—only the last remains. This has created a peculiar situation in which liberalism’s proponents tend to forget that it is an ideology and not the natural end-state of human political evolution. As Patrick Deneen argues in this provocative book, liberalism is built on a foundation of contradictions: it trumpets equal rights while fostering incomparable material inequality; its legitimacy rests on consent, yet it discourages civic commitments in favor of privatism; and in its pursuit of individual autonomy, it has given rise to the most far-reaching, comprehensive state system in human history. Here, Deneen offers an astringent warning that the centripetal forces now at work on our political culture are not superficial flaws but inherent features of a system whose success is generating its own failure.”

Every sentence fizzes with dizzying silliness, as Deneen denounces liberalism because: “it trumpets equal rights while fostering incomparable material inequality; its legitimacy rests on consent, yet it discourages civic commitments in favor of privatism…” 

Malarkey! Never before have the descendants of peasants, slaves and serfs been more participatory on civic life. Moreover, every single feudal society was more unequal than ours, in terms that matter most, the ability to raise comfortable, healthy and educated children who might plausibly compete with even the children of elites. (Witness today’s tech billionaires.) Almost never was this allowed in earlier aristocracies. And it will not be allowed again, if feudalists are allowed to control things, again.

Moreover, it was liberal policies enacted by the Greatest Generation - whose most-adored figure was FDR - that reduced inequality to its lowest levels! And it was GOP politicians - tools of resurgent feudalism - who dismantled most of those reforms, leading - directly and causally - to skyrocketing inequality.

This is very old stuff. Many of the same “contradictions of liberalism” were hollered by the Marxists for 150 years and by Oswald Spengler - then the Nazis - a century ago. And yet, this unusual experiment perseveres, dazzling future historians, who will call this an age above all others.

After all that, is the author wrong to say liberalism faces danger of failure?

His reasons and reasonings may be calamitously stupid. But, in fact, the decks have always been stacked against this bold and rare departure from the feudalist attractor state. As happened to the brief Periclean and Florentine experiments, many powerful forces are trying desperately to crush our renaissance. To stave off and prevent an onrushing Star Trek future, that could lock in liberal civilization — the way that Francis Fukayama thought it was already locked in, when he wrote about “The End Of History.”

The feudalist attractor state of brutally enforced inheritance-lordship by owner castes is very strong, deeply-embedded and driven by male reproductive urges. It overwhelmed 99+% of our ancestors, smashing all hope and any chance of advancement. It has tried to do the same to us, across the last 240 years. They are verging on success right now. And Professor Deneen is what he appears to be. Their shill and lackey propagandist.

== In contrast. We are truly a diverse species. ==

I’ve long touted the works of Harvard Professor Steven Pinker, whose book “The Better Angels of Our Nature” make clear that the modern era is one of unprecedented peace. All of Pinker’s careful statistics notwithstanding, you have only to know that a majority of our ancestors who ever lived near a city must have watched it burn, at least once in their lives. It’s no longer true for the vast majority.

Here, Bill Gates reviews Pinker’s latest tome “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress,” a vigorous defense of our stunningly successful civilization, against the gloom merchants seeking to wreck citizen confidence.

Enlightenment Now takes the approach he uses in Better Angels to track violence throughout history and applies it to 15 different measures of progress (like quality of life, knowledge, and safety). The result is a holistic picture of how and why the world is getting better. It’s like Better Angels on steroids.”

Now, Pinker has drawn bilious ire not only from the mad-right, but also from a large component of today’s left. Their reasoning – a stunning example of insane illogic – is that any acknowledgement of actual progress will undermine the urgency we must feel, in order to attack all the problems before us. Of course this plays into the hands of rightists, who can then proclaim: “See? Liberalism never worked, and liberal activists are the first to admit it!”

Nonsense. Countless past “liberal” endeavors were fantastically successful, from reducing war to lowering the arms spending of most nations to unprecedented low fractions of their national income and wealth. (What? You never heard that one?) From saving the ozone layer to increasing the populations of every species of whale. From ending the pandemic of southern lynchings to supplying every ghetto youth with a cell phone camera. From black and woman presidential nominees and #MeToo exposure of sexual predators to rising IQ scores wherever children got better nutrition. And none of that led to complacency! In fact, bragging is great salesmanship! It leads to a can-do spirit.

Gates continues: “People all over the world are living longer, healthier, and happier lives, so why do so many think things are getting worse? Why do we gloss over positive news stories and fixate on the negative ones? He does a good job explaining why we’re drawn to pessimism and how that instinct influences our approach to the world, although I wish he went more in depth about the psychology (especially since he’s a psychologist by training).”

He adds: “I agree with Pinker on most areas, but I think he’s a bit too optimistic about artificial intelligence. He’s quick to dismiss the idea of robots overthrowing their human creators. While I don’t think we’re in danger of a Terminator-style scenario, the question underlying that fear—who exactly controls the robots?—is a valid one. We’re not there yet, but at some point, who has AI and who controls it will be an important issue for global institutions to address.”

(Want my own take on a possible AI Apocalypse?  I've been speaking and writing about Artificial Intelligence a lot.  Here’s video of my talk on the future of A.I. to a packed house at IBM's World of Watson Congress - offering big perspectives on both artificial and human augmentation.)          

Still, Gates adds: “ Enlightenment Now is not only the best book Pinker’s ever written. It’s my new favorite book of all time.”

---

Books along similar lines:

Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future,” an optimistic science fiction anthology edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer.

Try optimism and confidence on, for size. If you want to change the world, it helps to note that some of your predecessors thought they could. And they did.      

284 comments:

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Paul SB said...

Alfred (again),

"| I'm tempted to ask you if you think 'tradition' is a means of control or an outgrowth of indirect reciprocity."
C. quite a few other things.
D. All of the above.

Tradition is like culture in that everything thinks they know what it is but no one can settle on an actual definition, much less one that can be operationalized. Tradition is dynamic, constantly changing (though often so slowly it isn't obvious) and it encompasses virtually all aspects of human life. Remember that reciprocity only works if there is an expectation that its obligations will be met. Those expectations are traditions, though this might be something of a chicken/egg question. Someone, somewhere hundreds of thousands of years ago had to start the whole thing with an act of trust, which then had to be returned more often than rebuffed for all parties to include reciprocity as part of tradition. People manipulate reciprocity to their advantage, which can lead to the development of more formal control structures. Once those are in place they tend to resist changes to tradition, since what they have established as "tradition" serves their interests.

"I respect Duncan's choice to leave because he has explained it as being about keeping his family out of a bad future. Obviously that doesn't scale."

The scale problem has dogged the human species since the sis elf agriculture. Think about optimal diets. The human species is omnivorous with an optimal diet that includes a necessary variety of fruit and vegetable nutrients, supplemented with small amounts of meat and carbohydrates. Once humans started to rely on wheat, rice, and other grains they increased their meat consumption way above optimal while shrinking the fruit/vegetable components and human health has suffered badly since then. But the HG diet was not even close to sustainable once the Neolithic population explosion happened. No matter what the paleo Diet books, meat lobby groups or our agricultural traditionalists say, the number of people who can be sustained on the optimal human diet is vanishingly small compared to the current scale of human life, and has been for at least 8000 years.

"I look at human migration percentages, though, and see that most people DON'T walk away even when terrible things are happening. Most hunker down and try to survive. Coping with mental dissonance seems to be the rule in the more modern version of 'human'. 'My neighbors are suffering and dying, but I'll get through this.'"

This is doing it right - look at the actual facts rather than the idealized "shoulds" that "everybody knows" - which are wrong 9 times out of 10. This is the difference between science and scientism. Our faux rancher will claim that his ideas are all right, then come up with all sorts of analogical excuses for reasons based on his one, person set of "shoulds" and slander anyone who isn't 100% in lockstep with him. That's scientism at its core.

"Not all of them collapse to the Stone Age, though."

Which is why I said "tend to."

Darrell E said...

These days what scientism means seems to depend entirely on who is using the term. Most people that actually have some clue about science don't use the word at all. Most people that accuse others of scientism these days don't have a clue about what science is, or if they do they choose to ignore it because intellectual dishonesty in the service of whatever view of their's they feel science is threatening in some way is OK. They use the term to denigrate those who think that evidence actually matters. They are almost always proponents of religion or spiritualism and are feeling defensive about their beliefs, or some flavor of post-modernist. Or some combination thereof.

David Smelser said...

What I found interesting in the 3d printed concrete house was that the walls were hollow. This results in less material used and should result in walls that are more insulated than typical cement tilt up walls.

What I don't see the 3d printed walls doing is supporting large structures.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

Amusing comments about religion's political usage in the US. But it's a little bit of a simplification. Religion has been a tool of conservative thought for millennia. The '60s hippy usage of religion to counter the war just shows that religion is subject to all sorts of different interpretations and emphases. The T-type corporate elders disdain religion generally, but in private, because they know that religion motivates all those S-type conservatives, making them easily duped/led. The S-type dupes have been quite attached to religion, but only their own interpretation of it. If religion had not been a tool of the right wing before the '70s you wouldn't have had the Scopes Trial, or, for that matter, the "godless" aspect of the Red Scare. It's just that the advent of the TV preachers intensified the propaganda and strengthened the connection between the T-types and S-types.

Darrell E said...

Tilt-wall panels often have rigid foam insulation, EPS or XPS, panels inserted during the casting process.

Paul SB said...

Darrell,

You're right in terms of the general public, but in the scientific community accusations of scientism do happen. Otherwise no one outside would have even heard the word (and most people haven't). The traditional misuse of that term has been physicists and chemists hurling it at social scientists of various kinds when they disagree with their conclusions. Even Richard Feynman was guilty of that. Ironically that put the so-called "hard" scientists in the category of those who were guilty of scientism, because their basis for the accusation has so often been that social sciences often draw conclusions from a lot of qualitative data, and "everybody knows" that quantitative data are more scientific than qualitative - never mind that the first half of the scientific method is qualitative in nature. Just ignore that humbug behind the curtain there. But you are right that the term is getting out beyond the confines of the sciences themselves. Most likely this is a reflection of the much larger percentage of people who have university educations these days, so many more people have been exposed to the term, though they do not all really understand it. More often than not it is a chimerical accusation, but it is also a valid criticism in a supertanker-load of situations.

Paul SB said...

David S.,

Good observation. I noticed that about the hollow walls, too. In addition to insulation it also facilitates future expansion and remodeling of utilities. Darrell is right about the foam inserts in tilt-up cement construction, though the 3D printing technology might actually make insulating easier. The nozzle can just as easily squirt out something like polyurethane foam as concrete, creating a layered construction without the need for laborious and time-consuming human installation. This is another way this technology could save huge quanta of cash for end-users by cutting down on labor expenses.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

The '60s hippy usage of religion to counter the war just shows that religion is subject to all sorts of different interpretations and emphases.


It wasn't just the war. The 60s generation gap had much to do about rampant consumerism leading to a loss of spirituality. The conservative generation of the day was on the rampant consumerism side.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

If religion had not been a tool of the right wing before the '70s you wouldn't have had the Scopes Trial, or, for that matter, the "godless" aspect of the Red Scare.


I'm distinguishing between Christianity as a badge of membership and being swayed by the actual tenets of Christianity. The former was definitely at work during the Red Scare, but I don't see that the latter was much in evidence there. You maybe have more of a case with the Scopes trial. Still, that was purely in the realm of social issues. There was no economic downside to mouthing the tenets of religion there.

Where the rubber meets the road is whether so-called followers of Jesus are actually willing to economically sacrifice when His service requires them to do so. If they really believed in Scripture and the afterlife it promises, the choice would be easy. Yet, time and again, the right-wing shows the opposite. This is equivalent to using betting sites to demonstrate what people really believe about future trends--the rich and powerful always seem to "bet" on economic success over the demands of religion. Yet they preach that the masses should do just the opposite.

Darrell E said...

Paul SB,

Here's a good example. I don't completely agree with your characterization of the history of scientism and went to google to look around. On of the first articles I found is this one.

What is Scientism?

The article is published on the website of the American Association For The Advancement of Science. Reading it I quickly started smelling something bad. The author uses the following examples of scientism in modern times.

"Scientism today is alive and well, as evidenced by the statements of our celebrity scientists:

“The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” –Carl Sagan, Cosmos

“The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” –Stephen Weinburg, The First Three Minutes

“We can be proud as a species because, having discovered that we are alone, we owe the gods very little.” –E.O. Wilson, Consilience

While these men are certainly entitled to their personal opinions and the freedom to express them, the fact that they make such bold claims in their popular science literature blurs the line between solid, evidence-based science, and rampant philosophical speculation."


I was not at all surprised to find that the author is an associate editor at The Biologos Foundation. This usage of scientism, and these tactics, have been extremely common for at least the past 12 years. Nearly always in the service of religious apologists or sometimes post modernists. The current rise in popularity of this term, used in this way, seems to coincide with the popularity of the so called New Atheists', Harris, Hitchens, Dennett, Dawkins & others, popular books. But the usage is older than that.

Though I'm sure that there have been plenty of unjust jabs at the "soft sciences," there has been plenty to justly criticize them for. And overall, it has been a good thing too because it applied pressure in the right direction. As you've pointed out qualitative is much harder than quantitative. And that's just one of the major differences between the soft sciences and hard sciences that make the soft ones harder. That's why physicists and cosmologists are always saying things like "Yeah, I do this because (field X involving human behavior) is too hard." The thing is that, more so in the past than now, many practitioners in the soft sciences didn't realize that themselves.

Anonymous said...


Paul SB:

The creation of cement produces terrifying amounts of CO2.
There must be other options.
Winter7

Anonymous said...

Paul SB:

The creation of cement produces terrifying amounts of CO2.
There must be other acceptable options.

Winter7

Anonymous said...

¡Ups! I thought that the message had not been published the first time. By the way. There is someone who often repeats the end of the messages he publishes over and over again. I suppose that is for the purpose of emphasizing what has already been said or to create a "hypnotic effect".

Winter7

Anonymous said...

By the way. Could someone ask the oligarchs to stop bulldozing all the lands.
¡Hooo; wait! ... I just read something ... It seems that it's too late.

Link:

https://phys.org/news/2018-03-degradation-planet-sixth-mass-extinction.html

Winter7

locumranch said...


If Darrell_E , David_S & Duncan_C are truly interested in alternative outside-of-the-box construction methods, then they might consider googling the Hexayurt project as proposed by V. Gupta, as this approach emphasises cost-effective low-skilled semi-permanent structures that last <15 years, even though their adoption would require the rejection of the West's object permanence fixation (ie. the belief that we are building for the Ages) that currently demands high-cost & high-skilled construction modalities that last (at best) maybe 20 years.

It is unlikely, however, that the West would adopt such an innovative approach as it flies in the face of our current self-contained belief systems that include (but are not limited to) our current fetish for False Economy, Mausoleum construction & the progressive 'End of History' delusion.

In general, humans HATE thinking outside-of-the-box -- unless they are forced to improvise by cataclysmic adverse circumstance -- which is part of the reason that a well above-average intellect like Alfred can barely conceive of an economically falsifiable Hayek.

The Freudian School of Psychiatry is similarly non-falsifiable, as it involves a self-contained belief system that requires practitioner ego investment, resists critical deconstruction & demands the unqualified acceptance of certain insupportable initial assumptions like Penis Envy.

And, let's not forget the whole 'Diversity is Our Strength' canard as there is literally zip-zero-nada-nothing in the way of empiric evidence, from sexual mutilation to tribal cannibalism to mass murder, that could conceivably convince the progressive fanatic that diversity is NOT our strength because it absolutely MUST BE OUR STRENGTH in the best of all possible worlds dreamt of in their philosophy.

Best

TCB said...

Quoth Jon S., "Mr. Gray is confusing "liberalism" with the mindset that I last heard called "neoconservatism". Liberalism as it's understood by anyone aside from Mr. Gray certainly had nothing to do with GWB's apparent determination to launch a war against Iraq for no readily apparent reason" *cough profit cough ideology cough political advantage cough*

Don't I complain, every four or five threads, about imprecise political terminology and how it is The Root of All Political Evil, More Or Less?

It's Malice in Fuckin Wonderland up in here, words mean whatever the politburo decides they mean this week, liberals were responsible for the Holocaust, which didn't happen anyway, read a book you morans!

I'm too tired to even have a point.

TCB said...

BTW I read about Hexayurts before and they are pretty damn cool, and locumranch busted out an entire paragraph I agree with. Somewhere, an angel got his wings.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Paul SB

The 40 minute house was an exercise in planning - specifically it was used to sell a Critical Path Planning package

They had over 400 men working on it

As far as the foundations are concerned they need to cure before the house is put on top - and so would the foundations for that 3D house - only more so because it's heavier

Prototypes and one offs - even very small scale production are ok for 3D printers but if I want LOTS and CHEAP - no use at all

Concrete is much much worse than wood for CO2 - wood actually locks up carbon for the life of the building - concrete releases masses of CO2!

By building a wooden house you have taken CO2 out of the air and sequestered it for at least the life of the house
In my opinion we don't need to sequester CO2 for ever - if we can remove CO2 from the atmosphere for a few decades to enable us to replace fossil fuels with renewables that will help a LOT

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding scientism...

I have to admit I'm using a meaning for the term that was applicable near the beginning of the second half of the 20th century. It is quite possible the term has drifted over two generations to include what I would classify as pseudo-science. Railing against changes to definitions reminds me of tilting at windmills, so I try to refrain. I can't seem to let go of what people have done to 'liberalism' in the US, but I am willing to qualify what I mean by scientism so it is clear.

In my defense of the older definition, I'll point out that locumranch and I were going toe-to-toe over Hayek's material. That means a mid-20th century definition would be appropriate when I paraphrased Hayek.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | Popper is another fellow I've read in some detail. You might need to get a book or two to keep up. He had a rather strict definition for 'science' and neither of us are even close in our tit-for-tat here.


those theories that CANNOT be proven false under any circumstance qualify as religious dogma rather than science.

No. Popper was pretty clear. A theory that cannot be proven false can't be a science theory. He did not imply they qualified as dogma. YOU are the one adding a value judgment here.

For an example of Popper's definition for science, when a doctor offers a diagnosis, they aren't doing science. They are using science, but not doing it. Any particular diagnosis might be falsifiable, but often they are not more that educated guesses based on what is believed to be known. Fortunately, we don't need doctors to DO science. We only need them to use it and try the best they can to help.

As for the challenge, I'm up for it. I'll offer scientific criteria is we are actually discussing science. If we are not, then we can try to work out some other mutually agreed upon criteria. [The science methods themselves are essentially agreed upon criteria. Natural philosophers needed an adjudicator for their arguments and refutations and discovered Creation was willing to do the job.]

So... what's the topic for today?

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | You're old enough to remember the 60s, right?

umm... Sorta. I was 7 years old when Apollo 11 made it to the Moon. I remember my mother worrying a lot in '68 with my father over-seas. I was shielded from a lot of the crap, though. No surprise as I was barely into elementary school and need time to be a little kid.

I remember the early 70's better and the late 70's MUCH better. I remember the backlash and upheaval that resulted form the Civil Rights victories of the mid-60's better than the fighting, protesting, and rioting immediately associated with it and the war.

Oddly enough, though, I DO remember the population bomb theory and how we were all going to die in WWIII. My mother failed to prevent me from hearing those problems and a few other social ills that were supposedly permanent fixtures of a civilized world. Imagine my surprise decades later when I lifted my nose out of a textbook and discovered some of them had been solved. Famine? Yah. I remember the Chinese were starving. Then they weren't. Then everyone started to get fat. Amazing.

However, my mother was adamant about keeping me away from religion and she was mostly successful. I was mostly puzzled by Falwell and the whole religious counter-reaction once Reagan was in office. I didn't understand why they were upset and didn't care for long as I was in grad school and had more important things to do.

Today, I still mostly don't care about religion. I care when social conservatives want to dictate parts of my life, but couldn't give a fig about why they do.

If push comes to shove, I suppose I'd be a follower of the lady on the old coin in my pocket. Some people wear a cross around their neck, but I carry a 1921 US silver dollar. [I just got to the part of the story in 'American Gods' where she is described with rats in her dress and where she takes her lovers. Yeowch! I know how to spell 'tumbril' now.] 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | Tradition is like culture in that every(one) thinks they know what it is but no one can settle on an actual definition, much less one that can be operationalized

Heh. Yah. I just got through that section in Sapolsky’s book where he pointed out the difficulties with the definition. Sociobiology and the ‘evolution of behavior’ looks like a broad field full of pits armed with sharp stakes set by opposing academics. Jerks and Creeps. Ha! 8)

I learned about the struggle to define tradition from liberalism authors. They couldn’t agree either and I wound up with a working definition that went something like this…

Culture is that order which emerges from individual humans that is not determined by any particular individual humans. We can (to some degree) decide what we want to do and act upon our intent, so those contributions don’t count toward culture. What remains IS culture.

I’m old-school in my liberalism, so negative definitions like this don’t bother me in the slightest. The best definition I’ve seen for ‘liberty’ is defined in a similar way by what it isn’t. I’ve shared it here a few times, I’m sure.

Sapolsky’s chapter left me thinking ‘tradition’ and ‘justice’ are almost the same. Bidirectional social expectations. McCloskey backs that up quite strongly. That would mean the question I was tempted to ask is actually nonsense. What is the difference between a duck? Is it genes or environment? Fate or Free Will? Pfft. We are getting somewhere when we realize our questions make no sense. That leaves us with the realization that we have to tear down the edifice that argues they do.

the number of people who can be sustained on the optimal human diet is vanishingly small

I’m not sure there IS an optimal diet anymore. Some of our groups have changed. I can tolerate lactose moderately well. My filipino co-worker can’t. I don’t need to explain that to YOU, though, it’s just that I wonder if we are heading into a world where each of us CAN know our optimal diet and buy accordingly.

That's scientism at its core.

I might be mixing too much Popper into my definition for ‘scientism’. It would make sense since Hayek is the first author I read to use the term and Popper was his contemporary and philosophical ally. Because of that, I don’t see the rancher doing science or scientism. I see him doing pseudo-science.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | The Freudian School of Psychiatry is similarly non-falsifiable

woo hoo! We agree on something. Freud's theory in INHERENTLY non-falsifiable. It was believed to be useful in it's time, but those times have change. The more interesting question, though, is whether ANY theory of psychology can avoid this. Can any theory of economics? Sociology? Anthropology?

In general, humans HATE thinking outside-of-the-box

Sloppy and untrue. We do it when we perceive a possible advantage to us or our offspring. We usually don't make a habit of it and it can be quite rare, but if you come visit us in California, the ideas are practically having sex in the streets.

And, let's not forget the whole 'Diversity is Our Strength' canard

Heh. The way they argue it, this is one of those areas where I would agree with you if you labeled this as dogma. I think there IS some evidence that diversity is useful, but I think the jury is still out on whether it is a strength. Humans are damn tribal.

That said, I'm not inclined to squish diversity. I'd be inviting thugs to notice that I don't conform either and then I'd get squished. So... Viva Diversity!

dera said...

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LarryHart said...

TCB:

It's Malice in Fuckin Wonderland up in here, words mean whatever the politburo decides they mean this week, liberals were responsible for the Holocaust, which didn't happen anyway, read a book you morans!


Just as the same people who insisted that 9/11 was masterminded by Jews (remember the 4000 Jews who stayed home from the WTC that morning), also praised Osama Bin Laden for the success of the attack.

Back on the old "Cerebus" list, my formerly-sane conservative buddy raked me over the coals for complaining about Republicans calling then-candidate Obama a Muslim. His rebuke to me was "Why would Republicans call Obama a Muslim when we're trying to call attention to the treasonous ideas he's been imbibing from his Christian pastor for the past 25 years?" My response was that he's wasting his time arguing that Republicans shouldn't pursue a line of argument that they in fact were pursuing, and that he can't blame me for the inconsistencies of his own side's rhetoric.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I was 7 years old when Apollo 11 made it to the Moon.


Well, then you're only a year (maybe a year-and-a-half) younger than I am. I don't "remember" the 60s the way an adult would have, but a whole lot of news stories and cultural references in the 70s came out of the earlier decade. That's one reason that to this day, I have a hard time equating liberals with big government and conservatives with personal liberty. That's not what was going on at the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention.

Anonymous said...


Duncan Cairncross:

Specifically, it is the process of calcining rock to produce cement that releases CO2 from the rock. And, of course, burning thousands of cubic liters of gas in rotary kilns also produces CO2. To which can be added the spent fuel by the machinery in the quarries and the spent fuel for the distribution and handling of the cement.

I like the concept of houses manufactured with prefabricated pieces. The wooden houses have the problem that they can catch fire. The bombings with incendiary bombs in Europe and Japan, had a great success during the attacks on towns that had wooden houses. Oceans of fire were created. Y; I do not know, but it seems that the United States will be involved in many wars soon; so it seems that wooden houses are not a good option, unless they fully trust the ability of the air force to repel any surprise attack. And certainly, radar systems or AWACS aircraft are not enough to avoid such an eventuality. It is always good to take precautions at a civil level. The English counted on the subway tunnels during the Second World War. But not all can be near a subway tunnel.
Which does not mean that concrete houses are the best in case of war. We have all seen the images of Syrian concrete cities, razed by Russian bombs.
But we must consider the problem of how to give houses to a human population that is increasing, without continuing to destroy the planet.

Winter7

Anonymous said...

Duncan Cairncross:

Specifically, it is the process of calcining rock to produce cement that releases CO2 from the rock. And, of course, burning thousands of cubic liters of gas in rotary kilns also produces CO2. To which can be added the spent fuel by the machinery in the quarries and the spent fuel for the distribution and handling of the cement.

I like the concept of houses manufactured with prefabricated pieces. The wooden houses have the problem that they can catch fire. The bombings with incendiary bombs in Europe and Japan, had a great success during the attacks on towns that had wooden houses. Oceans of fire were created. Y; I do not know, but it seems that the United States will be involved in many wars soon; so it seems that wooden houses are not a good option, unless they fully trust the ability of the air force to repel any surprise attack. And certainly, radar systems or AWACS aircraft are not enough to avoid such an eventuality. It is always good to take precautions at a civil level. The English counted on the subway tunnels during the Second World War. But not all can be near a subway tunnel.
Which does not mean that concrete houses are the best in case of war. We have all seen the images of Syrian concrete cities, razed by Russian bombs.
But we must consider the problem of how to give houses to a human population that is increasing, without continuing to destroy the planet.

Winter7

Anonymous said...

Opss. I posted something twice again. It was a mistake. My apologies.
Maybe my brain is very tired after several hours in video games. Definitely some video games are addictive. I'd better go back to the real world for a cup of coffee and some snacks. Wars in video games are sometimes very realistic.

Winter7

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

"And, let's not forget the whole 'Diversity is Our Strength' canard"

Heh. The way they argue it, this is one of those areas where I would agree with you if you labeled this as dogma. I think there IS some evidence that diversity is useful, but I think the jury is still out on whether it is a strength. Humans are damn tribal.


"Diversity" is one of those words that is being used incorrectly, the same way that "hate crime" is.

I cringe every time someone talks about "hate crimes" because I don't think hate is what they're trying to describe. "Terrorism" would be closer, but of course, that word is already taken. What makes a "hate crime" extra harsh is not the emotion of the perpetrator--it's the intent to terrorize and thereby intimidate a whole population who hears about the incident. So while I argue against using that term, I do not therefore join ranks with those who think the idea of harsher penalties for the offenses intended to be described by the term is a bad one.

Likewise, the strength does not come (directly) from "diversity" so much as from "inclusion" or something like that. Allowing people who want to join your team with something valuable to offer instead of turning them away because they don't conform to your prejudices. Ok, we're currently too focused on how things make people feel, so the buzz-word "diversity" is the one being used for that thing. I'll grant a problem with the word, but I won't argue against the thing itself being a strength, or at least being a prerequisite to a strength.

Anonymous said...

Huggg. The depravity of the GOP does not end:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/judge-burgles-neighbour-home-soiled-underwear-robert-cicale-new-jersey-a8281651.html

Paul SB said...

Duncan,

Selling the planning package makes sense as an advertisement, now you mention it, but having 400 people on the job isn't likely to reduce labor expenses as much - at least if you are building just one house. If you are using that team to build a whole project it would probably add up to substantial savings, assuming the workers don't collapse and you have to pay their medical expenses. It's a little harder to get away with whipping workers to death as it was in the good old days.

There are types of concrete now that absorb CO2 while they set, which helps to offset the CO2 released in the manufacturing process. If you can find it in a library, you might enjoy thumbing through a book called "Transmaterials" or its sequel. It's been around for years, and it's a real joy to browse through, seeing all the amazing materials that clever chemists and others have concocted for architectural use. It's one of those things that gives you reasons to be optimistic about humanity.

I just looked it up on Amazon and they are now up to volume 3. Take that, gloom-and-roomers!

https://www.amazon.com/Transmaterial-Materials-Redefine-Physical-Environment/dp/1568985630/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1522502549&sr=1-2&keywords=transmaterial

On the foundations, the website said that the printer made the foundation itself, though it did not say how that time was included in 24-hour construction time. Presumably laying the foundation was included in the 24 hours, but not the curing time. If you are using the concrete that absorbs CO2, then this would be a much better carbon sink than wood. It doesn't burn, get eaten by ruminating termites that fart methane, nor does it end up getting burned or decaying after a house is flooded, warped and covered in toxic mold. Durability matters, especially when you consider that no matter how many people lose their home to fire and flood, most of them will keep replacing them with the same old traditional but needlessly vulnerable and energetically wasteful system. Let the trees return to their natural ecosystems and participate in the carbon cycle the way they evolved. Personally I think we should do more earth sheltering to reduce our footprint on our various ecosystems.

Paul SB said...

The hexayurt idea looks good for some purposes, but likely not a great option for permanent housing. It would be an improvement over tarps or tents for both disaster relief and improving the lives of the homeless. However, they are rather flimsy constructions that allow both sound and burglars easy access. There are a lot of environments where the flimsiness of the walls would prevent occupants from getting much sleep, which is a major hazard to recovery from either situation, and no one who owns anything of value would want to leave it in a building that even a casual thief can push their way into with ease. They are also not bad at keeping pout the desert heat but the occupants would become popsicles in a Midwestern winter. But it's still a great idea for temporary housing - more expensive than cheapy tests or tarps but more sturdy where you may have refugees there for months to years.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

You have good points about the semantics of diversity. One of the problems with big, important ideas is that they don't fit onto campaign signs very well, nor onto easily-chanted mantras. This is also a point I would have to differ with Alfred on. Yes, humans have tribal tendencies, but humans also have frontal lobes and the ability to broaden their horizons - including horizons of inclusion. Many people see tribalism as inevitable and unstoppable because they are immersed in it themselves, but when you get to the bottom line, the only color that matters is the color of money. If a black Welsh lesbian can do the job better than anyone else, the smart money is on that hire, rather than the old, fat white klansman who insists that diversity is a government plot to destroy their racial dignity (a.k.a. arrogance). As long as there are leaders who gain by convincing fools to work against their own interests tribalism will continue to be a problem, of course. As long as we have smarter people pointing this stuff out, the problem will continue to lessen. The pseudonymous invertebrate who keeps bringing this up is only demonstrating his own troglodyte depravity in obsessing over his presumed superiority.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or is DB sounding more like another DB
Dr Bronner!

just the cadence, mind you- not the content

Anonymous said...

Would it be right to impose democracy by force in countries like Pakistan, where factions fight to the death?

Breakfast time

Winter7

Anonymous said...

FACT CHECK: Science contradicts EPA warming memo:

https://phys.org/news/2018-03-fact-science-contradicts-epa-memo.html

locumranch said...


We appear to be contemporaries as I, too, watched the Moon landing on an old black & white lobotomy box. I also agree with Alfred's 'terms of engagement', the problem being that scientific argument is useless when it comes to differentiating between (and/or ranking) alternative forms of personal preference, aka 'scientism'.

Alfred argues that Hayek, as a matter of example, is an old-school liberal who is opposed to whatever socialism is, even though Hayek himself is ardent supporter of government welfare programs, arguing (as Hayek does) that it is the State's role to provide security for & alleviate the deprivation of the lower classes, aka 'socialism'.

Paul_SB adds that the term 'diversity' would be better defined as a form of 'inclusion', arguing (as he does) that inclusion makes socioeconomic sense if & when "a black Welsh lesbian can do the job better than anyone else", the problem being that 'if & when', whereas EXCLUSION would be the better course of socioeconomic action if & when said individual outlier became a liability rather than an asset, aka 'HRC's desire to EXCLUDE the deplorable class & Trump's desire to exclude illegal immigrants'.

In a much later interview, Hayek clarifies that he was NOT opposed to welfare socialism (which he defines as 'altruism') per se, but only to the national, centralised or socialised ownership of the means of production.*

Thus, we have have at least three examples of people who say something very different (the opposite, even) of what they mean:

(1) Alfred implies that scientific argument can help resolve non-scientific distinctions in personal preference;

(2) Hayek opposes what he defines as 'socialism' but supports government welfare socialism; and

(3) Paul_SB defines diversity as 'inclusion' while celebrating the exclusion of the dispreferred other.

Best
____
*Hayek absolutes HATES David's conception of the 'fair-equal-level playing field, btw, because that would require that the government treat 'unequal people unequally in order to try to make them equal'.

Deuxglass said...

Usually by this trime Dr. Brin is saying onward.....onward! I would hazard to guess that he is on a well-deserved break from it all somewhere. My vote is that he is in the Côte d'Azur perhaps sipping rosé wine in Nice, Cannes or Esterel. Where do you think he is?

LarryHart said...

@Deuxglass,

His last post mentioned the Arctic, and I remember him saying he would be in Russia some time soon.

Paul SB said...

My guess is he's investing some of his income beach-front property on the Arctic so his grandchildren will be able to open a tropical resort.

It looks like our little buddy Loci is slipping. The complete absence of sense is typical, but his white sheet is starting to show. There are very good reasons to exclude groups like Al Queada or Boko Haram. Even those members who have not committed atrocities themselves are guilty of aiding and abetting those who do. How is KKK membership any different?

I wonder if the fact that he is attributing Larry's comments to me means that I have the privilege of being a more-favored target? I wouldn't want to steal that honor from Larry. He works at it much harder than I do and deserves the honor of being locum's most hated more than I do.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

There are very good reasons to exclude groups like Al Queada or Boko Haram. Even those members who have not committed atrocities themselves are guilty of aiding and abetting those who do. How is KKK membership any different?


Ah, but you realize that you're arguing fer his point, not again' it. We admit that we try to exclude clear and present dangers to ourselves. So why are they not allowed to also exclude those who are different from them?


I wouldn't want to steal that honor from Larry


Hey, go with God. I've been detoxing for Lent anyway.

locumranch said...


Heh. With the level of scrutiny Paul_SB gives to the colour of my bedding, you'd think that this teacher to children imagines me to be a prepubescent pupil suitable for a predatory rogering.

Sorry, no: The colour of my bedding is blue.

Note also that it is Paul_SB who promotes the specific application of race, gender & sexual orientation as social inclusion criteria, like the -ist that he is, being likewise guilty of aiding and abetting those who discriminate against a designated other, even when scrupulously honoring the terms of his parole.

People like this represent a clear & present danger to polite Baseball & Apple Pie society everywhere, so we must dehumanise them, disemploy them, tar them with guilt by association & cast them out as the scum bellies they are, until they think as we do.

Turnabout is Fair Play

Best

Paul SB said...

Larry,

Where you said:

"Ah, but you realize that you're arguing fer his point, not again' it. We admit that we try to exclude clear and present dangers to ourselves. So why are they not allowed to also exclude those who are different from them?"

I have to point out that different does not mean dangerous, it only means different. Nazis were not bad because they were German, or because they were Caucasian, but because the were evil. Al Queada do not deserve to be hated because they Muslim or Middle Eastern, but because they are evil. Likewise the KKK is not hated because they are American or Caucasian. The majority of Americans, Caucasian or otherwise, hate the KKK.It is not being different that makes them bad, it is doing evil things that makes them bad. Loci wants you to think that there is an equivalence between accepting people generally and accepting evil people - those proud "deplorables" who are not merely Caucasian, or conservative or rural or whatever, but are truly deplorable individuals.

On top of that, little loci is simply using a well-worn persuasion technique sometimes referred to as wedging. He has been doing this as long as I have been here (and he was a complete ass from day 1, so his claim of turnabout is bogus - he was implying that I am some kind of child molester long before I brought up the sheet in his closet). He tries to come up with statements that most people will agree with, then uses that agreement to try to win agreement for increasingly twisted, absurd and atrocious statements. As is usually the case, these statements are such oversimplifications that to people who are young and naive they might seem reasonable. Abortion is an obvious example here. Pretty much everyone would agree that killing babies is wrong. That's an easy statement to get agreement on. Then they extend the definition of baby to include fetus, then embryo, then blastula, then egg, and come back to the first statement: killing babies is wrong. Most people understand that the issue is not that black-and-white. There are complications and extenuating circumstances.

Personally I don't agree with the idea of abortion as birth control as a general rule. But there are places where women are brainwashed, beaten and raped by their own families and the idea of saddling a battered person who is probably not very mentally stable because of how they have been treated is a horrible injustice to both the mother and the baby. I will make exceptions for deformities that make a baby unlikely to live and would only bankrupt the family trying to keep them alive, or cases where the developing fetus is likely to kill the mother. The problem is that simple-minded fools who are way down on the Kohlberg scale think a rule is a rule is a rule. They have a level of inflexibility that leads to barbaric treatment of undeserving people.

As to detoxing for Lent, if you are referring to alcohol, it's a good idea. I read an article recently that identified alcohol as the #1 risk factor for dementia. I haven't touched the stuff for almost two decades.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

As to detoxing for Lent, if you are referring to alcohol, it's a good idea.


I was referring to ignoring posts by deplorables, which was an even better idea. :)


I read an article recently that identified alcohol as the #1 risk factor for dementia. I haven't touched the stuff for almost two decades.


I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but my late father hardly drank at all, and you don't want to linger before death the way he did.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

I'm very sorry about your father, as I am about all human suffering. I wouldn't even wish that on lying ranch, here. However, you are doing just what our host rails about - using a single anecdote to argue against statistics. There are many risk factors, and there are genetic factors that we are only just beginning to understand. He could have had one of those genetic predispositions, he might have abstained from alcohol but did something else or was exposed to something else that increased his chances, or maybe he just got very, very unlucky.

Happy Easter, everybody!

LarryHart said...

@Paul,

Well, my dad's been gone many years now, so it's not a fresh wound.

I didn't mean his example disproves the theory--just that abstaining might not save you.

LarryHart said...

...oh, and "ditto" with the Happy Easter.

And Passover too, if you swing that way.

Paul451 said...

Winter7,
"Would it be right to impose democracy by force in countries like Pakistan"

How? "By force" implies you've eliminated self-rule, which pre-emptively eliminates democracy, since people aren't voting on their government. So what would you be forcing them to vote on?

Paul SB said...

It has been quite awhile since Dr. Brin has checked in - makes me a little nervous...

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB,

These posts don't have datestamps on them, and I don't remember when he posted last, but the text of his most recent post explicitly says:

Been too busy in the Arctic to participate. But:...


At this point, I take him at his word. Because really, what else can we do?

Paul SB said...

Indeed, without any other method of contact, all we can do is worry - or not.

I just realized that I forgot about the discussion of scientism that was going on previously. It's probably very easy to confuse the scientism with pseudoscience, which Alfred brought up in reference to Troll Ranch. The difference between the two is that pseudoscience refers to studies that are not scientific by their very nature, while scientism is real science that is being done badly. Anyone who does astrology is guilty of pseudoscience, because there is absolutely no credible evidence to support any of their assertions about the relative positions of stars and planets affecting the live son people on Earth. Scientism is a little more specific. When I had Psych 101 the professor mentioned a psychologist who would walk into college classes dressed in a lab coat with a stethoscope around his neck, walk down the aisles and tilt a paper cup toward random students, enjoining them to eat bugs. He noted that most of his subjects would make disgusted noises, but even while doing so they were reaching toward the opening of the cup (filled with rubber insects, not the genuine article). Pseudoscience is taking advantage of the human reflex to obey authority figures - specifically scientific authority figures - which some people take advantage by presenting themselves as if they were said authority figures. They do science badly or not at all but attempt to convince people of their correctness by appealing to their authority as experts.

I don't think what our troll rancher does can fits into either definition. If he claimed to be an authority on economics because his medical training makes him an unassailable expert on human nature, he would be guilty of scientism. This is what Dr. Laura does. She has a degree in physiology, yet claims that she is an expert in pretty much anything she wants to talk about, relying on the title "Dr." to sway her audience. Alfred might have a point about the ludicrous economics he spouts, but economics is at least something akin to science in the same way psychology is, so it might not really count as pseudoscience. Certainly that cyclical history bunk would count as pseudoscience, as history itself is not a science at all, but I thought that was more the sapling's schtick. No, what Troll Ranch does is simply lie and use underhanded tactics to try to prove that the tiny tribe he thinks he is a part of are right about everything while all others deserve to be scapegoats for all the world's ills. His recent redefining of socialism, for example, is nothing but the low tactic of trying to create guilt by association by reducing a concept that has a specific definition to a simplistic caricature - in other words, a straw man. That is neither scientism nor pseudoscience. If there is a specific name for this besides dishonesty and ignorance, I'm not aware of the term.

Howard Brazee said...

I'm wondering what kinds of alternatives we can have to feudalism with the direction our economy is going - with automation making labor less valuable. Universal medical care and basic income will have to come, with most of us working arts and crafts jobs. But Big Money will be with companies that don't use much labor.

LarryHart said...

A few weeks back, I perused some of the archived posts on this blog. Back in November 2011, there was an Ayn Rand-related post that reached 314 posts in the comment section. As far as I know, that's the all-time record.

If Dr Brin stays away, we might break through this time around.

Alfred Differ said...

Paul SB | …but humans also have frontal lobes and the ability to broaden their horizons

Yes. I still hesitate to use the term ‘strength’ in a serious sense. I prefer “Diversity is an advantage in times of change” or something like that. I look at this in an evolutionary sense where diversity is variation. Not that important if the environment is stable and terribly important when the environment changes… if the species is to survive. No doubt I’d qualify as a ‘jerk’ if I worked in the field. 8)

Ultimately, I think the people who call it strength are making a preference statement (with which I agree) and not a science statement. Getting everyone to adopt the same preference is a futile exercise. Getting them to recognize it as useful on occasion isn’t if the audience will listen to evidence-based arguments.

For example, I think it is VERY clear that the enrichment of the world (diversion from the old social attractor) occurred because of diversity. An odd idea took hold among the Dutch who made themselves wealthy using it. Not just a few Dutch did this. MANY of them did it. That’s not remotely how the old attractor worked. Now there are 7500 million of us (~10x growth) and the vast majority of us aren’t starving. Is that the result of ‘strength’? Hmm… I’d argue we are stronger now, but I’d also argue diversity is much broader now than then. We’ve run with the idea so far we are willing to contemplate chimps and dolphins as people. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

winter7 | I'm with Paul451 on the notion of forcing democracy on people. On top of the logical paradox, though, I'd add that I think such an effort would be immoral.

Teach.
Don't coerce.

Oddly enough, the simplest way to teach this stuff is to trade with them fairly and avoid trading with those among them who would oppress them. It becomes very clear what the lesson is when one does that.

Of course, that's not what we in the US are doing very often.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Oddly enough, the simplest way to teach this stuff is to trade with them fairly and avoid trading with those among them who would oppress them. It becomes very clear what the lesson is when one does that.


Just be ready with a rejoinder when you're accused of oppressing the oppressors, and they assert their right to vengeance. While you might say "Turnabout is fair play", that's exactly the line they invoke against you, and with no sense of irony.

Stand your ground. :)

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | scientific argument is useless when it comes to differentiating between (and/or ranking) alternative forms of personal preference

Agreed. Let’s skip the term ‘scientism’ for now, though, as there seems to be some debate as to what it means. My definition is pretty close to Hayek which doesn’t match what some of the progressives use here. Instead, we can use a more long-winded description. There is a decent chance you and I use different definitions too, so this will help prevent muddying the water between us.

Hayek himself is ardent supporter of government welfare programs

No. In ‘The Constitution of Liberty’ (1960) the last third of the book was an exploration of what might be reasonably considered the reasonable duties of government. It was based on the first two-thirds of the book where he was laying out principles. By the early 70’s, he argued in the follow-on triplet of books [Law, Legislation, and Liberty] (really should be treated as a single sequel, but the publisher wanted to split it up) that governments had proven they could NOT do some of what he thought they might. By 1980, he had retreated further and was using terms like ‘conceit’ when it came to our beliefs about what government could actually do.

Through all that, the principles sections of his writings held steady. Like a good classical liberal, he held to a core belief and was willing to see if real life worked that way in particular applications. He theorized early about some of what government might be able to do and learned when real life demonstrated otherwise. For example, when Thatcher referred to him and his 1960 book, the people who knew him knew he felt she obviously didn’t understand him. He felt he was being used. She wasn’t the only person to do that in the years since.

Hayek’s argument against socialism was against the state-directed version being supported by the academics in the 20’s and 30’s. After WWII, the variation in favor was a little softer, but still impossibly framed. His association with the Mont Pelerin society was to give a voice to the older liberal order so the ideas would not die out academically, but his work went in a more philosophical direction to the roots of liberalism.

Alfred implies that scientific argument can help resolve non-scientific distinctions in personal preference;

No. At best, science arguments can inform distinctions in personal preference.

*Hayek absolutes HATES David's conception of the 'fair-equal-level playing field, btw, because that would require that the government treat 'unequal people unequally in order to try to make them equal'.

You have a way of finishing up your posts with an addendum that either addresses some other topic or makes a hash of what you say earlier. You might want to consider stopping at ‘Best’ before you undermine yourself.

Hayek makes it quite clear what he believed at the level of his principles in that essay I keep pointing out to you. Remember that one you misquoted a while back and I challenged you to provide context? That one makes it VERY clear how Hayek saw ‘fair-equal-level’. It is obvious we are, in fact, not equal when it comes to capabilities. It is this fact that enables government to treat us as if we were because we will sort ourselves… without their help thank you very much!

I have no doubt Hayek would pick at David’s arguments in interesting ways, but you aren’t even close. Between the two of you, I think David has a better understanding of Hayek’s perspective.

Finally, I shall assume you and I are essentially the same age from now on. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | If I was in Russia, I wouldn’t be posting from their either. I wouldn’t be using any account that required I reveal authentication credentials to their middle-men.

(I'd also buy a new phone for use there if I had the need and leave all my other electronics at home.)

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | Turnabout is fair play

Heh. Sure thing. My axe is pretty sharp. It's the kind that can be thrown if need be. 8)


I like the 'avoid trading' argument because it shows how to apply a kind of force that isn't coercion. It is the kind of force that gets applied by a fluid against a surface when there is a vacuum on the other side.

It sucks to be the one left out in an active, fair market. 8)

locumranch said...


Alfred makes very good points and, no doubt, Hayek was probably quite vague in in regard to the 'fair-level-equal' playing field motif in his writings. However, Hayek was quite SPECIFIC about his opinion during this end-of-life interview with William F. Buckley:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uaxnIqm0mQ

Skip to the last few minutes of the interview in order to hear Hayek say that the progressive attempt to treat 'unequal people unequally in order to try to make them equal' is absolute madness.

I also look forward to David's return, hoping that he has thoroughly enjoyed producing scads of CO2 & dining on Polar Bear steaks while despoiling the pristine Arctic Environment during his fossil fuel dependent vacation, yet I'm filled with unease about the nature of his new Trumpian 'relationship' with Putin's Russia.

I hope David can PROVE that he has never been (or, is not now) a Russian Agent, an Enemy of Democracy or a deviant victim of pee-pee type blackmail.

And, how does anyone like David or Trump prove a NEGATIVE like that?

I'm sure the details of his trip are absolutely sordid!!


Best

LarryHart said...

@locumranch,

I promised to turn over a new leaf after Easter and engage those I disagree with without a presumption of bad faith. I'm willing to discuss and argue facts and conclusions without invective if you are. Alfred Differ is my hero in this regard.

#InTheSpiritOfHolyWeek :)


I hope David can PROVE that he has never been (or, is not now) a Russian Agent, an Enemy of Democracy or a deviant victim of pee-pee type blackmail.

And, how does anyone like David or Trump prove a NEGATIVE like that?


The point is that Dr Brin doesn't have to prove it, because no one has any serious reason to suspect that anything like that is true for him. You can rhetorically pretend to suspect such perfidy on Dr Brin's part, but I don't believe that even you actually suspect that such things are true.

With Donald Trump, whether or not one can prove he engaged in deviant sexual behavior and was recorded doing so, it's almost impossible to believe that it didn't happen. We're talking about two things--one: Trump engaging in such deeds, and two: Russia encouraging such behavior and clandestinely recording it in order to have something to blackmail him with. Both are so specifically in character as to require convincing evidence that they didn't take place.

You are correct that no mathematically-sound proof exists in both cases, but for this sort of thing, proof is not the point. Arguments are about plausibility. Is the story that Russia has tape of prostitutes peeing on Donald Trump credible? Is anything remotely similar concerning our host credible? Arguments outside of scientific inquiry rarely prove anything in the pure sense--what they do is convince people. Dr Brin doesn't have to convince me of anything of the sort. Donald Trump or his supporters do.

Reputation matters.


Alfred Differ said...

locumranch | Well... making unequal people equal IS madness. I don't know anyone here who would deny that.

What we are all likely to do is disagree on how much of what appears to be 'unequal' is because we choose to treat them as unequal. Treating someone as an equal isn't the same as making them that way, so I don't see much of a problem here. What evidence we DO have is that much of what we see as inequality appears to be related to how we choose to behave. Raise someone on a piss-poor diet and they won't be the equal of someone raised with decent nutrition.

You really need to expand your attention beyond the easy videos, though. If you want to distinguish properly between the liberals and progressives, you won't succeed by watching modern videos. If you want to understand properly the roots of your own belief system, you'll have to crack open a book or ten.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | When I used to teach astronomy at the JC level, my first lecture opened with a discussion about what science is. Astronomy is ancient and for most of its history was performed as a mix of what we would call pseudo-science and good scholarly work. It is a wonderful example of how the grand intellectual projects have changed over the centuries. I didn’t want to get too technical with my students as one might by delving into Popper’s definition. I wanted them to see the rigor the natural philosophers had adopted as a way to settle certain arguments about what was untrue. We all still argued about what IS, but at least we could try for agreement on what ISN’T. From there we segued into why people do it and then into some of the historical egos who did astronomy. With that foundation, it was easier to explain why many of the early scholars were both astronomers and astrologers since there really wasn’t much of a difference in their days.

The best way I came up with a simplified description of science was to produce a ‘working definition’. Just start with example subjects and categorize them as a start. Psychology was usually the subject where the students couldn’t agree on which way to label it. Science/Not A Science? We usually split the field into pieces and that got easier. That also led to questions of what the scholars were doing in one field and not in another.

Altogether, I treated every subject with a scholarly approach as a valid subject area. Whether they were sciences or not said nothing about their value to humanity. If they weren’t of value, many students were willing to say pseudo-science whether the subject appeared, superficially, to be a science. So the top level split into categories was ‘scholarly subject/not scholarly subject’. Within ‘scholarly’ some of the subjects were sciences, but most weren’t.

The way I was taught to think of ‘scientism’ was as a scholarly subject area where the scholars were trying to treat their subject as a science and in the effort, they were destroying the value they otherwise added to humanity. Economics is NOT a science in the sense Popper used, but it IS a scholarly field and deserves a great deal of respect. What it does not deserve is scholars trying to make it what it can never be. So, the only people I tend to accuse of scientism are the scholars themselves when they commit this error. Everyone else outside their field who does damage gets a different label.

I don’t expect everyone will use the term my way. I’m probably out of touch with the modern definition, so I’ll bow, step aside, and use long-winded descriptions of the scholars who do the damage they do through envy. They grossly oversimplify their otherwise useful subject area. Economics for example, belongs among the social studies as it focuses mostly on what humans do when faced with decisions governed largely by prudence. Outside that strict domain, one is still dealing with humans making decisions, but as the behavioral economists have noted, prudence isn’t all that matters. They think we behave irrationally, but it’s probably just that the prudence simplification doesn’t always apply. Spherical cows are a decent approximation for questions regarding their calorie/energy balance, but terrible when asking how many fit in a barn.

David Brin said...

Glad you fellows have been having fun. Clearly the secret to breaking 250 comments is to post less often.

We've just returned from more than two weeks on the road… first in Finnish Lapland, north of the Arctic Circle, guiding an aurora expedition, then in Russia (St. Petersburg & Moscow) for the Russian national science fiction convention. Made lots of friends! More on that soon.

Hope to blog tamale. If exhaustion allows... and that implant the Oprichina inserted while I was asleep there lets me.

locumranch said...


By pointing out the insincere nature of my tongue-in-cheek accusations against our fine host, Larry_H aids & abets my narrative quite well.

Yes indeed, there is no way to disprove a negative, just as there is no way to prove intent & 'know what evil lurks in the hearts of men', unless you possess the magical telepathic abilities of Larry_H, MSNBC, the Shadow or Santy Claus.

Yet, Larry_H knows all he needs to know about Trump's alleged perfidy & David's blamelessness because 'no reason' except what other people say about these two distinct individuals(aka 'reputation'), just like Eli Wiesel & all those nice investors just KNEW 'deep in their hearts' that Bernie Madoff could be trusted with their retirement funds.

But seriously, if David spends even one ruble on the Russian Economy, then he is aiding & abetting Putin in a direct fashion because, quite literally, there is NO appreciable difference between the Russian Mob & the Russian Government.

Of course, Trump admits to aiding & abetting the Russian Mob (and/or Government) by virtue of their mutual business dealing which means that he is just as guilty as every other EU country that 'does business' with Gazprom (owned & operated by the Russian Mob) to heat their homes & power their western economies, regardless of the so-called intent of the EU.

In other words, pretty much any psychic assumption about human intent & reputation is bull-flop! 100% grade A self-delusional baseless bull-flop!

Furthermore, the Law of Inadvertent Consequence states that it is possible for evildoers to do good & the good to do evil, as well as everything in between, regardless of intent.

Intent = Bull-flop.

Best
_____
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits as their professed intent is immaterial.

David Brin said...

Blah blah blah-de-blah drivel. He admits his side is corrupt-insane-treasonous-stupid.... and hence all of humanity and civilization must be. No we're not. You are.

LarryHart said...

@locumranch,

I hoped you'd accept a sincere offer to start fresh with debating facts and conclusions rather than ad-hominem attacks. Hoped, but didn't expect. A consolation prize is the knowledge that I have an accurate assessment of the universe.

For the record, I don't "know all I need to know" about either Trump or Dr Brin. I'm open to evidence either way. What I said was that, absent additional evidence, I have certain expectations based upon the known character of both men. What Geordi LaForge called "filling in with your gut" when you don't have sufficient facts yet. I'm also not relying on third party assessments. Unless you want to argue that Dr Brin's postings here and Donald Trump's tweets are faked, I've heard both men speak for their own selves. Over and over again. Nothing that comes to light about either of them is a surprise.

You're the one who treats insufficient evidence equally with "no evidence, and no possibility of evidence", making all beliefs equally valid. Will the sun come up tomorrow? Will gravity fail? Who knows? We can't have definitive proof either way, so any belief is as good as any other. We don't know for sure the exact shape of the earth, so it's just as accurate to suppose it to be a cube or a pyramid as a sphere. Either answer is equally wrong. No wonder you think you need God or a dictator to tell you what to believe.

I'm not religiously required to skip your posts any longer, but I'll leave it to Alfred to engage you logically. Life is to goddamn short.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Clearly the secret to breaking 250 comments is to post less often.


We've still got a way to go to beat the 314 comments on your Ayn Rand column (Nov 2011).


Hope to blog tamale. If exhaustion allows...


I'm not sure what time zone your body thinks it's on now, but if it's any consolation, I found it much easier to adjust to the return from Europe than to the trip out there.

Paul SB said...

Engaging him logically is less than useless. All he does is twist everyone else's words to mean whatever he wants them to mean. The ad hominem is not going to stop, and neither are the straw men, false equivalencies - that stream of endless fallacious motivated reasoning, until his heart stops. He is so accustomed to sophistry he doesn't even seem to recognize it when he does it. And you know he doesn't believe in relativism, he just argues that to try to shoot down what anyone else thinks. It's part of that wedge strategy. If he can get people to doubt what they know, then he might be able to substitute his own beliefs with enough ad nauseam. The world is an irregular oblate spheroid, a term that is general enough to capture its essence without having to map out every millimeter of difference between that and one of Kepler's Perfect Shapes. Our president is a raging, irresponsible megalomaniac, which is also close enough without mapping out every single nuance of his personality. We don't need satellites with laser range-finders to know this. His behavior is easily enough diagnosed, as is Lying Ranch's. Arguing with the sicko just helps him refine his own sophistry, which he no doubt uses elsewhere to sway other, less observant people. This blog is a gathering of minds, a lot of pretty are ones, but what he gets (besides his smug-superiority dopamine rush) he can use in much smaller settings, like the corner bar or café. Logic is meaningless except as a word he can use as a banner to rally the uncritical to his side.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

My daughter has recently gotten very much into mycoremediation - using fungi to clean up toxic wastes maybe her years of being a Miyazaki fan is manifesting in an odd career path). If I had known you were going to Lapland she might have asked you to bring back some exotic mushrooms. The place is famous for them. What's really cool are the ones that can absorb heavy metals and other toxins and are so good at converting them to neutral chemical forms that you can add them to your favorite recipes safely. Maybe a topic for some near-future fiction?

"Hope to blog tamale."
- Did your travels lead you to a science fiction cookbook? I've always wanted to know how to make those amazing Venusian tamales. They have a real electric tingle...

" If exhaustion allows... and that implant the Oprichina inserted while I was asleep there lets me."
- Vlad the Imputin emulating Ivan the Terrible. No surprise there, and yet another case where our red fellow citizens show amazing naïveté about our genuine enemies while loudly proclaiming that the blues are stupid (isn't it funny that the fake rancher claimed to have blue bedsheets when I called out the white one in his closet?).

Darrell E said...

Alfred Differ, just out of curiosity, do I seem like a progressive to you? I know I don't post very often so you don't have much to go on, but I'm curious about how others perceive me.

I have never been fond of joining groups, self identifying as a "_______." It has always seemed to me that often when people choose a group or ideology to identify with the "official party line" of the group, which often evolves towards the more extreme, then becomes the defining force in shaping the individual's values. The individual ends up supporting ideas that they previously would not have simply because their group does rather than because they've otherwise evaluated the idea as having some worth. Sort of a version of the tail wagging the dog.

LarryHart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/02/opinion/trumpland-economy-polarization.html

And when it comes to national politics, let’s face it: Trumpland is in effect voting for its own impoverishment. New Deal programs and public investment played a significant role in the great postwar convergence; conservative efforts to downsize government will hurt people all across America, but it will disproportionately hurt the very regions that put the G.O.P. in power.


I say, let 'em burn.

("Bad liberal! Bad!")

LarryHart said...

PaulSB:

Engaging him logically is less than useless.
...
He is so accustomed to sophistry he doesn't even seem to recognize it when he does it.


I believe that loc thinks the game is about mathematically-certain proof when what we're playing for is plausibility and convincing. If I say something like "The sun will rise tomorrow," he can make a string of words which leads to a different conclusion, such as "Past performance is no guarantee of future results." And since neither of us can prove our conclusion to be true, either argument is just as valid. Without God (or der Fuhrer) to arbitrate, it's just as foolish to believe either one as to believe the other.

Whereas, I'm not claiming mathematically-certain proof. I'm claiming enough evidence to believe a thing that I'm not going to spend brain time and effort concerning myself with whether or not I'm wrong. About that particular thing, I mean (before someone jumps in with "Larry_H thinks he's always right about everything.")

A religious conservative on the old "Cerebus" list claimed that, since past performance is no guarantee of future results, atheists could never be sure that something like gravity will keep working. My counter-argument was that the exact opposite is the case. Religionists who ascribe physical laws to God have to believe that God could decide on a whim (or for a very good reason) to not do gravity today. OTOH, my secular belief-- which is not arbitrary but borne of experience at how the world works--is that gravity really is a thing, and it's not worth any time or effort worrying about what I might need to do if it stops.

If my dad were still alive and in the condition he was in the last several years of life, that paragraph would freak him out, and he'd spend much wasted time and energy worrying about what to do if God were to turn off the gravity. It's not clear to me whether loc truly worries that such things are as likely as not, or if he's just making s### up. As Khan said to Kirk, "I no longer care to try."

locumranch said...


It's just as I have argued, as represented by Larry_H's recent partisan conclusion, proving that the typical progressive agenda differs not a whit from my own rather regressive one, the targeted elimination of the ideological opposition:

"I say, let 'em burn", he says and I agree wholeheartedly, differing only in our choice of fuel for the pending bone-fire of the vanities.

The time to hesitate is through
No time to wallow in the mire
Try now we can only lose...

And something something something, since only the fool contends with a man who has nothing to lose.

Best

LarryHart said...

"Aha, he fell for my little trap."

@loc, if you're saying that you're just as willing to let liberals destroy ourselves as I am to let conservatives do so, then fine. We agree on that. May the best philosophy win in the Court of Darwin.

If you're accusing me of advocating the active taking up of arms against you, then you're wrong about that. I didn't say I want to burn you. I said that if my murderers are willingly setting themselves on fire, there comes a point where I don't feel bad enough about it to stop them.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

And something something something, since only the fool contends with a man who has nothing to lose.


Are you sure you want to go there? Since wealthy conservatives and their armed thugs are the ones who make a point of contending with those who have nothing to lose, you're revealing more about your own self than you probably wanted to. Much like Li'l Abner responding to "As any fool can plainly see," with "Ah can plainly see."


The time to hesitate is through
No time to wallow in the mire
Try now we can only lose...

And something something something, ...


Are you coming on to me? Help me, Jesus.

matthew said...

Someone has been listening to the Doc.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/commentisfree/2018/apr/03/public-registries-shell-panama-papers

"After publishing the Panama Papers, we have heard a lot of promises from politicians around the world. They have talked about the need for transparency, and while the discussion is warm, the details are complicated: a multilateral exchange of information and stronger anti-money laundering regulations are as difficult to implement and control as they sound.

But why bother? There is a far less bureaucratic and more powerful measure: public beneficial ownership registries. Databases in which citizens can easily access and explore the owners of companies. Not the nominee director, not the fake shareholder – the real owner. The person at the center of the matryoshka-like corporate structures, or, as experts refer to them: the ultimate beneficial owner of a company.

A database of actual owners would enable companies to check with whom they are actually doing business. It would enable activists, journalists and skeptical citizens to investigate the individuals running dubious companies which earn millions in alleged “consulting contracts”, which are in many cases nothing more than concealed payments of corruption money. It would also give prosecutors the opportunity to follow dark money without having to rely on nerve-racking, time-consuming legal maneuvers with foreign governments."

David Brin said...

Jiminy. Privileged white-educated high-income males who whine they have "nothing left to lose" really really need comparative perspective. Life has always sucked for most humans. You can gripe about it in an air conditioned cave, plush with comforts, tasty food n' beer. The gym awaits, if you care to improve your lokis, health and mood chemistry. And volunteer work does wonder for the soul. Really it does. Getting thanked is a tonic. Earn some thanks and it might even get addictive.

Stop expecting positive feedback from whimpering. Jeez someone did a number on you, during youth, that you actually expect whining to help.

and now the long delayed... onward.

Paul451 said...

Larry,
"Is the story that Russia has tape of prostitutes peeing on Donald Trump credible?"

Actually, it was supposedly having them pee on each other while he masturbated. His alleged germphobia would prevent him from being the direct recipient.



[Didn't want this to be the first comment on the new post...]

LarryHart said...

@Paul451,

Ok, there's a scene in a 1980s "Jon Sable, Freelance" comic in which the protagonist is testing out a new gun--a really honking powerful one like a .357 Magnum. He points the thing at a target and blows about 3/4 of the face away. "Pulls a little to the left," he says. Then looking at the target again, he continues, "Doesn't seem to matter, though."

That's the only commentary I can come up with on the distinction you make about the peep-pee tape above. :)

Also, I guess the 314 comment record will still stand!


Dr Brin has moved...onward!

onward!

David Brin said...

Ahem... well... onward.

Unknown said...

Of Cambridge Analytica

The effect of Cambridge Analytica on the 2016 election was a straightforward application of big data and big social science. I'm mostly ashamed that the right discovered these techniques first. Meanwhile, the Democrats were working with Lakoff on rhetoric in a post-rational democratic arena.

Liberalism (at least liberal capitalism) may be able to survive post-modernity and the information age. It is an open question whether liberal democracy can survive post-modernity and the information age.

Unknown said...

Why wouldn't Libertarianism, particularly when wed to Randian Positivism, Nietzscheism, or social Darwinism have a strong tendency to produce a kind of plutocratic feudalism?

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