I couldn’t take Gilder seriously after he decided to rename molecular biology adguacyth


Way, way back in 2004-2007, one of my prime targets for my ire was George Gilder, the pretentious twit who was one of the founders of the Discovery Institute. He was such an easy target, so full of hot air and ignorance, that it was fun to take potshots at him as he bobbed about like a zeppelin that had lost its steering. Then he faded away into backrooms where he could babble nonsensically with no one around to criticize him, and I lost track (and interest) in what he’s been doing.

But he’s back now. He came out with a shiny new book a few years ago — sorry I’m late, I didn’t care enough to notice — and he has a new hobby horse. It’s blockchain of all things. Here’s an entertaining review by David Gerard.

Gilder predicts that the Google and Silicon Valley approach — big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, not charging users per transaction — is failing to scale, and will collapse under its own contradictions.

The Silicon Valley giants will be replaced by a world built around cryptocurrency, blockchains, sound money … and the obsolescence of philosophical materialism — the theory that thought and consciousness needs only physical reality. That last one turns out to be Gilder’s main point.

Right, that’s why he was promoting Intelligent Design creationism so assiduously. No surprise here.

But Gilder never quite makes his case that blockchains are the solutions to the problems he presents — he just presents the existence of blockchains, then talks as if they’ll obviously solve everything.

Blockchains promise Gilder comfort in certainty: “The new era will move beyond Markov chains of disconnected probabilistic states to blockchain hashes of history and futurity, trust and truth,” apparently.

Pure Gilder. He loves to talk. Unfortunately, much of what he talks about is his personal fantasy about how the world should work.

There are so many beliefs Gilder has that ought to make him a figure of contempt, but what I can’t figure out is why people pay any attention to him.

Gilder despises feminism, and has described himself as “America’s number-one antifeminist.” He has written two books — Sexual Suicide, updated as Men and Marriage, and Naked Nomads — on this topic alone.

Also, per Gilder, Native American culture collapsed because it’s “a corrupt and unsuccessful culture,” as is Black culture — and not because of, e.g., massive systemic racism.

Gilder believes the biological theory of evolution is wrong. He co-founded the Discovery Institute in 1990, as an offshoot of the Hudson Institute. The Discovery Institute started out with papers on economic issues, but rapidly pivoted to promoting “intelligent design” — the claim that all living creatures were designed by “a rational agent,” and not evolved through natural processes. It’s a fancy term for creationism.

Gilder insisted for years that the Discovery Institute’s promotion of intelligent design totally wasn’t religious — even as judges ruled that intelligent design in schools was promotion of religion. Unfortunately for Gilder, we have the smoking gun documents showing that the Discovery Institute was explicitly trying to push religion into schools — the leaked Wedge Strategy document literally says: “Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”

Read the rest. It’s very thorough, and discusses Gilder’s ongoing machinations with people like Peter Thiel. Maybe I shouldn’t have let him drop off my radar, but my interest in him waned when his influence via the ID movement was discredited in the Dover trial. He’s been a cunning and influential little ratfucker since then, though!

Comments

  1. mathman85 says

    I seem to recall Gilder narrating at least one Prager U video, a fairly unremarkable (for Prager U, that is) paean to entrepreneurs specifically and capitalism in general. I don’t think I knew that he’d founded the Discotute, but it isn’t at all surprising.

  2. Akira MacKenzie says

    and the obsolescence of philosophical materialism

    Ugh! Substance dualism again? A philosophical position just as ridiculous as theism and libertarianism. It’s not enough that there is a cosmic tyrant ruling the universe, but a magical ghost living inside us that will live on after our body dies.

    We’re a species that’s split the atom and landed on the moon. When are we going to finally be rid of these filthy, primitive superstitions?

  3. birgerjohansson says

    If you look like a horror film villain, you have no business to claim the human body is intelligently designed.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    … a world built around cryptocurrency, blockchains, sound money …

    One of these is not like the others.

  5. PaulBC says

    “adguacyth” Coining idiosyncratic new names for existing disciplines is one of the hallmarks of being a crank.

  6. brettvk says

    If you’re determined to mint new language where none is needed, you should have the marketing savvy to create words that can be pronounced and aren’t aggressively ugly on the page.

  7. birgerjohansson says

    One way to recognise pseudoscience is that its practicioners tend to invent convoluted new words for things that make no sense under scrutiny..

  8. PaulBC says

    Native American culture collapsed because it’s “a corrupt and unsuccessful culture,”

    He must be using “corrupt” the way Donald Trump uses the term. Did he add it was “unfair” of them to be hogging two big continents like that?

    But yeah, if they hadn’t corruptly avoided developing immunity to Old World diseases, many more would have survived first contact with those gallant conquistadors.

  9. whywhywhy says

    #4 Ray Ceeya

    I would expect Christians to have the best investment advice because Jesus Saves!

  10. Allison says

    Also, per Gilder, Native American culture collapsed because it’s “a corrupt and unsuccessful culture,”

    I don’t suppose the fact that ~95% of the population was killed by European diseases would have anything to do with it. Nor the deliberate genocide that the Europeans started as soon as they landed and which goes on to this day.

  11. birgerjohansson says

    PaulBC@6
    I apologize, I did not see you had already made that point.

  12. robro says

    birgerjohansson @ #13 — Your link worked. That was funny. Well done, Liverpool.

    …my interest in him waned when his influence via the ID movement was discredited in the Dover trial.

    Let’s hope that you can continue to be uninterested in him, but I confess a level of concern with the current SCOTUS, which is about to overturn Roe v Wade and other long fought for rights, taking up the matter of “teaching religion in the schools”. The current cabal of robed religious kooks would clearly support giving that decision “back to the states” where GOP leaders would love to throw that bone to their evangelical constituency.

  13. ORigel says

    Why did he rename DNA adguacyth when DNA is easier to say? Even “deoxyribonucleic acid” is easier to say than “adenine guanine cytosine thymine” (which I assume adguacyth is a shorthand for).

    Oh, ego, and a contempt for biologists, of course!

  14. daved says

    Gilder also does financial newsletters, where he pushes stocks based on his seriously flawed understanding of technology. I read one bit where he was confusing the differences between LCD and LED flat-screen televisions. I actually read it twice to make sure it was as ridiculous as I first thought (it was).

  15. raven says

    Gilder is about as dumb as a person can be and not be able to cross a street without their minder. It’s at or below the Jordan Peterson level. Worth an easy laugh but not worth spending too much time on.

    1. Also, per Gilder, Native American culture collapsed because it’s “a corrupt and unsuccessful culture,” as is Black culture …

    This is just cosmically dumb.
    There is no such thing as “Native American culture”.
    There were around 1500 Native American tribes in the Americas in 1492. With a huge amount of diversity. They were doing fine until the Europeans came.

    They collapsed because of European conquest using gunpowder and bullets, lack of resistance to European diseases, and a technological level below Europeans due to a series of historical circumstances.

    2. Gilder despises feminism, and has described himself as “America’s number-one antifeminist.”

    I’m not America’s number one anti-Gilder.
    There is a long line and I’m back behind a few tens of millions of people.
    I’m not going to join his cult either.

    No wonder 2 million people leave US xianity every year. They leave in the order of best and brightest first.

  16. raven says

    He co-founded the Discovery Institute in 1990, as an offshoot of the Hudson Institute.

    That rang a bell.
    The Hudson Institute was (and is, it still exists) a shambling nightmare Zombie from our dark past. The Hudson Institute and its founder Herman Kahn developed most of our nuclear war strategy, including MAD, Mutual Assured Destruction.

    Wikipedia

    Hudson’s detailed analyses of “ladders of escalation”[19] and reports on the likely consequences of limited and unlimited nuclear exchanges, eventually published as Thinking About the Unthinkable (1962)[15] and On Escalation: Metaphors and Scenarios (1965),[20] were influential within the Kennedy administration,[21] and helped the Institute win its first major research contract from the Office of Civil Defense at the Pentagon.[22]
    and
    He became known for analyzing the likely consequences of nuclear war and recommending ways to improve survivability, making him one of the historical inspirations for the title character of Stanley Kubrick’s classic black comedy film satire Dr. Strangelove.[1] Kahn’s theories contributed heavily to the development of the nuclear strategy of the United States.

    The Hudson Institute founder, Herman Kahn is one of the models for Dr. Strangelove in the movie.

    Thanks in part to the Hudson Institute and Herman Kahn, we are once again looking at a civilization ending nuclear war. Almost every day, one Russian leader or another waves around their nuclear weapons and threatens to nuke somebody for some reason or another.
    Reminds me of my childhood when I was 5 years old.

  17. ORigel says

    @18 It’s pretty clear at this point that Russia isn’t going to use its nukes anytime soon except to defend the homeland, if a country is stupid enough to invade Russia itself.

  18. keithb says

    @20
    Every time a Russian minister comes on and says how the US’ actions are bringing us closer to nuclear war, I think to myself, “Well, don’t start one, then. The US is nowhere near to using ours.”

  19. whheydt says

    Re; ORigel @ #20 and keithb @ #21…
    A retired Russian Colonel who does military analysis now went on Russian TV and talked about the action in Ukraine not going well for Russia. BBC article speculated that this is the Kremlin trying to start letting the Russian populace down easy before they find out just how badly things have gone.

    Article: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-61484222

  20. says

    The last I heard of Gilder was around 1981, when Reaganism was fully ascendant and Gilder was smugly riding the wave of “conservative” economic “thought” becoming real-life policy. Now it seems he’s back with something else to be smug about: a crypto fad plus more newly-ascendant “conservative” “thought” — specifically, white male Christian superiority. This hack is utterly worthless, except insofar as his latest attention-grabbing stunt can be taken as a symptom of a movement that sees itself scoring some victories.

  21. PaulBC says

    Raging Bee@23

    The last I heard of Gilder was around 1981

    Yikes. Now I am wondering how he’s been off my radar all this time. I thought I knew the names of most of the supply side cranks (e.g. Kevin Hassett). He has a typical resume. No peer-reviewed research, some political speech-writing, some popular writing, and positions at “think” tanks.

    It’s interesting that he gets even qualified credit for predicting the death of television in 1990, considering that TV is alive and well and still being delivered by major networks to fixed screens in people’s homes. The screens themselves are larger than ever. Granted, the big networks are different and delivery over RF is not so important (but still exists albeit digitally encoded). “Video on demand” was already a subject of hype by the mid-90s (it took a while but it’s here). That’s not new at all. YouTube and TikTok are relatively new. However, life “after” TV presupposes TV’s demise and for a lot of people, it functions an awful lot like it has for decades.

    Keep predicting and it’ll eventually happen. Kevin Hassett even got his “Dow 36000” for a briefly, over 20 years later.

    “Life After Google”, huh? Well I worked there for 6 years and I could give you my own critique, but I don’t see them going away any time soon (Gilder published in 2018), nor “big data.” I also sort of wonder how Gilder thinks blockchain proves the need for a non-materialist understanding of reality. Does he think it works by magic?

  22. pacal says

    “Native American culture collapsed because it’s “a corrupt and unsuccessful culture,”

    Is Gilder that clueless?! There isn’t one Native American Culture but dozens. I guess Gilder’s knowledge of Native America is close to zero.

  23. raven says

    Is Gilder that clueless?! There isn’t one Native American Culture but dozens.

    More than that.
    In 1492 there were more like 1500.
    They were very diverse from the Eskimo and Inuit in the arctic, to the deserts, the Aztecs, Mayans, Inca, all the way to Tierra del Fuego.
    They didn’t collapse. They were destroyed when the Europeans showed up.

    It is interesting that Greenland was colonized by the Greenland branch of the Inuit. Then the Vikings invaded. A few centuries later, the Vikings died out. The Inuit are still there.
    Which culture was the successful one now?

  24. PaulBC says

    @25 @26 Do I really need to know any more than this?

    With his college roommate, Bruce Chapman, he wrote an attack on the anti-intellectual policies of the 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, The Party That Lost Its Head (1966). He later recanted this attack: “The far Right — the same men I dismissed as extremists in my youth — turned out to know far more than I did. At least the ‘right-wing extremists’, as I confidently called them, were right on almost every major policy issue from welfare to Vietnam to Keynesian economics and defense — while I, in my Neo-Conservative sophistication, was nearly always wrong.”

    The guy is sorry he ever criticized Barry Goldwater. After that, do I expect him to be right about anything? Sounds like his brain seized up over 50 years ago.

  25. says

    Wow; he’s not dead yet? I remember him especially from the mid-90s when Louis and Jane at Wired magazine* devoted fawning articles to his blather (they were also giving article space to Camille Paglia; an indication of how credulous they were.) In retrospect, it presaged so much of the particularly awful techbro libertarianism of Silicon Valley that metastasized in the following decades.

    (*I had a couple of Wired employees as housemates at the time, living in SF, and I befriended another Wired contributor who was soon out of favour with the management there, for being a bit too skeptical about their starry-eyed takes: Paulina Borsook, author of “Cyberselfish” and an article that annoyed a lot of techbros, “How the Internet Ruined San Francisco”, which I found actually quite restrained in its dissection of the socioeconomic forces that were swamping SF by the late 90s, and which were a major factor in my leaving.)

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