Welcome to The Community


I’m a long-time lurker. I prefer to sit back and skim through comment sections, passively absorbing, and over the years I’ve seen a fair number. After a while, you start to get a feel for their dynamics. Typically, a blog post plays out something like this:

  1. Blog author posts something.
  2. Long-time commenters pop by with their two cents.
  3. Their chatter starts to wander off topic.
  4. Someone pops by with a strong opinion that’s vaguely off-topic.
  5. This kicks up an argument, which gets ugly and spirals away from what the original post discussed.

There are exceptions, of course; endless threads have no topic to wander off of, and if the thread is obscure and the topic well-defined the comments can stay topical indefinitely. The comment community plays a large role in this, too. A small band of thoughtful regulars are a blogger’s dream, while a large number of over-opinionated randos can (and often do) ruin any thread. If acrimony starts to trump argument, even a small community can turn dysfunctional.

It doesn’t help that our tools are few, blunt and prone to breaking. Voting systems can be gamed, while banning users or keywords is an all-or-nothing affair that barely works. Allowing comments for a limited window sounds great, but it doesn’t allow the regulars to build up much of a conversation. Banning all comments kills off the local community.

Aaaaand that’s about the extent of it. Maybe someday I’ll create a browser plugin that provides a personal ranking system, which automatically mutes or even hides users based on how you’ve rated their prior comments, but that’s low in my queue.

How am I going to encourage that small, thoughtful community to form? Here’s my current plan:

  • Regular blog posts don’t allow comments, unless justified by the contents. This prevents comment threads from spiraling away.
  • The “Community” post is an endless thread. Only one of them is active at a time.
  • To provide a little structure, links to the regular blog posts will get dropped into the Community post as they go public. These can be ignored.
  • The Community post will be linked somewhere along the side menu, but it won’t otherwise be advertised. This should keep the randos to a minimum, but without throwing out regulars too.
  • The top of the Community post will outline the moderation rules in play. Those rules stay consistent over the lifetime of the Community post. If I want a significant change, the current Community post is locked and a new one is created. The new will link to the old, and vice-versa.

The first Community post is the one you’re reading right now.

The initial mod rules are fairly ill-defined and flexible, to keep the rules lawyers at bay. My guiding principle is to maximize information; it takes time and energy to read a comment, so you should try to convey as much as possible, as clearly as possible, in the least space. Critiques beat opinions, evidence wins over assertion. Strict enforcement of that doesn’t work with endless threads, but it’s still the ideal you should keep in the back of your mind.

The corollary is another matter, though: quit it with the oppressive language. If you lack the creativity to think up an alternative to “crazy,” you shouldn’t be posting here. Violence in any form is a no-no, and both stalking and harassment are low-grade forms of violence.

Speaking of which, I’d like to swipe an idea from football. They have a carding system to handle misconduct, which I think works in this context too. If you’re handed a yellow card, that’s a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct. A red card gets you banned from this thread, though not the entire blog. A black card is a permanent ban.

Got it? Then game on!

Comments

  1. says

    Interesting. I love comments, on everything. If I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t bother, because it would seem pointless to me. It’s a little difficult for me to squish my head around to another view. I just have one rule, don’t be an asshole. Works fairly well for me, I hope yours works great for you.

  2. besomyka says

    Hey, it finally let me log in! Been trying to say ‘hi’ to all the new bloggers for a while now. Welcome to that end of things!

  3. oolon says

    Hey! You splitter, did Marian let you run off and join the FTBullies 😉

  4. Hj Hornbeck says

    Caine @1:
    Time will tell. This is a bit of an experiment, so failure should be considered the default.

    besomyka @2:
    Thanks! Hopefully we’ll see a lot more comments out of you.

    Brony @3:
    I think it strikes a good balance between the “no comments” and “ALL THE COMMENTS!!” philosophies. I can’t think of an easy way to game it, either, I reckon it’s more likely this thread withers away on the vine.

    oolon @4:
    I asked nicely and everything! 😀 It was inevitable I’d end up over here, anyway, given my angry shouty tendencies.

  5. StevoR says

    Speaking of which, I’d like to swipe an idea from football. They have a carding system to handle misconduct, which I think works in this context too. If you’re handed a yellow card, that’s a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct. A red card gets you banned from this thread, though not the entire blog. A black card is a permanent ban.

    I like that system and idea. I have just the one suggestion to make and that’s that permanent bans could perhaps be shortened to say a year or three instead in case people change their views over time as I have done? Okay, that may be rare – but it can happen.

  6. StevoR says

    From the previous Sex, Donald Trump, and Videotape thread just read :

    I’m not an expert here, I’ll admit, but the only way I know of to prevent Trump from becoming President is if he agrees to step down first.

    Not an expert either but could Trump be arrested now and charged with a felony such as rape* and, if so, could / would that prevent him from becoming POTUS? (I know, problem is that’d put Pence in charge.)

    I really wish the last US election could simply be declared null and void on the basis of excessive foreign (specifically Russian) interference / manipulation although I very much doubt that will happen. This Aussie** really hopes that the United States political system could have some major reforms including preferential voting, elimination of voter suppression tactics and the abolition of the electoral college which, I gather***, gives Wyoming voters over three times the power of Californian among other voters.

    * Such as one of these cases? http://fusion.net/story/328522/donald-trump-accused-rape-sexual-assault/

    ** Australia’s future – like the rest of the globe’s – is so strongly influenced by the United States of America and what it does and what examples it sets. When the POTUS metaphorically says “Jump!” Aussie PMs tend to say “how high!” sometimes even before the word is out the POTUS’s lips. I think Trump’s election is a global tragedy that will gravely harm & threaten everyone on this pale blue dot. So, yes, not my nation or election but one that so heavily matters still for me.

    *** See : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-petrocelli/its-time-to-end-the-electoral-college_b_12891764.html among other places.

  7. Hj Hornbeck says

    Brian Pansky @6:
    Snerk, I’m quite predictable, aren’t I?

    Stevor:

    I dunno, I’m of the opinion that posting comments is a privilege instead of a right. There are plenty of other blogs to comment on, so I’m not silencing anyone via a ban. The cost of losing the rare reformed voice is fairly small next to the benefit of losing those that carry on carrying on.

    Having said that, this is very much an experiment. The odds are pretty good that if a banned person shapes up I’ll see it reflected in their comments elsewhere. If the case is strong enough, I might revoke the Black Card.

    Now, I am a Canadian, which means I’m pretty knowledgeable on the American political process (and hum the lyrics to our anthem). I don’t know of a single thing that could prevent Trump from taking office. He’s been voted in by the electoral college, and once he takes the oath he picks up the powers of the presidency. Any trial would take months, or probably longer as Trump is likely to drag his heels. Toss him in jail, and it’s likely a Republican would sneak in and let him give the oath or Pence will use his temporary presidental powers to spring Trump.

    Oh, and that sexual assault case was dropped when the accuser was flooded with threats. Nobody has accused Trump of a criminal offense, that I can find, so Trump won’t face anything worse than a writing a cheque.

    We have a saying here: when the US sneezes, Canada catches a cold. We have just a fraction of the population, yet occupy more land. Economic shocks down there have big effects up here (though we fared well during the last major recession). Our army cannot defend against the US, and should Russia launch nukes they’ll probably hit Canada to take out the US’s primary oil supplier. Our heartthrob-in-chief is sending some positive signals, but he’s a centrist who’s been slow to deliver on his promises. We’re in roughly the same boat.

    Substantial electoral reform can’t happen until 2020, thanks to the timing of the Census. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact needs 105 additional electoral votes, which means convincing at least one “red state” to flip sides, as no Republican has won the popular vote in something like 30 years.

  8. says

    Nice new digs you have, HJ!

    Bearing the 25th amendment in mind I think the only hypothetical possibility that could prevent Trump from taking office (besides untimely death) would be an implied disqualification by Article II, Section 4: hypothetically, had the President-elect been speedily impeached and convicted of treason or some other ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanours’ then subsequently taking the oath might have no legal effect if the person taking it is already an acknowledged, convicted traitor. However that was never likely to occur in US jurisprudence even if some of the numerous cases against Trump had reached the courts sooner last year, rather than being delayed or dropped. Trump will take office at noon this Saturday.

    (Here in Australia we have one benefit of having written our constitution a little bit after the US’s (and Canada’s); section 44 specifies methods for disqualifying our parliamentarians which are currently in high usage – two of our most-recently elected senators are bankrupts which is a disqualification under sub-section (iii), while the foreign allegiance/citizenship or treason/crime disqualifications appear under (i) and (ii) respectively. It is hard to feel too smug about our constitution which is showing its age as much as the US and Canadian examples and in dire need of overhaul; just in different ways.)

    Trump’s election highlights major points of failure in the American federal system: states can gerrymander their electorates, and recent legislation and judicial decisions have gutted voting rights, allowing them to disenfranchise their citizens willy-nilly; the electoral college itself represents a geographical gerrymandering of the states but is too well-entrenched to be easily abolished and replaced; first-past-the-post voting is an inadequate system that entrenches a two-party system; auditing of election results by each states’ electoral authority is haphazard and prone to manipulation by the parties and the courts; and donation reform is about the last item on the agenda of either major party. Add to that the weird cultural problems that have allowed a maverick like Trump to waltz in and decimate any reasonable opposition from the contenders for the Republican nomination (and saying that, in the last electoral cycle there wasn’t much that was reasonable) … in spite of which, the Republicans in charge of both houses of the Congress seem to believe there is nothing wrong with the current state of affairs and they can do whatever they want. The damage from this election and this presidency will undoubtedly be extensive and long lasting, but we don’t know what form it will take.

    It could be that whoever seeks to take out Trump via the impeachment route does more damage to themselves and their party’s chances than they achieve any good. I don’t see Trump getting to November 2020 without major difficulties along the way.

  9. Hj Hornbeck says

    Nice, Canada is a lot more loosey-goosey. Our Prime Minister isn’t recognized in the constitution, they’re more of a long-standing tradition. They don’t even have to hold elected office! The ruling party or coalition nominates them, and they’re removed if A) the party/coalition says so, or B) the government is defeated in a non confidence measure, and the party/coalition loses the resulting election. That’s it.

    One thing we do nail is elections. They’re governed by an independent organization, Elections Canada. Electoral districts are drawn by another independent panel, and while in theory they could be stacked (2 of 3 members are appointed by the Speaker of the House, a politician), I can’t find any evidence of it happening.

    I thought we had the youngest constitution, but you appear to beat us by four years (1982 vs. 1986). Ah well.

  10. Hj Hornbeck says

    Remember that book I promised to serialize? I have a preamble up that puts it in context. All future posts will be under this tag, with a Table of Contents on the way. Oh, and I forgot to mention: I don’t have any plans to edit it, beyond the bare minimum.

  11. says

    /s/Satur/Fri

    I was taking Canada’s constitution as having originated in 1867 in the form of the first of those British North America Acts, rather than taking it as having magically come into existence at the patriation date of 1982. For some odd reason the Australian constitution is still printed with the preamble for it to be enacted as a schedule to a 1900 Act of the British Parliament. You are right that the Australia Act of 1986 finally severed that Gordian knot, but the vast majority of the constitution was scoped out in the 1890s (taking the best bits from the US and Canadian examples).

    Here, the Australian Electoral Commission is almost completely at arms length from the government of the day in being politically neutral, except that of necessity it is funded by the Department of Finance and has to report to the Special Minister of State; and redistributions of electorates are handled relatively transparently with a public hearing, suggestions and objections process, by the Commission.

    Welcome news that among the pardons and commutations of sentence, President Obama has commuted Chelsea Manning’s 35 year sentence, and pardoned Oscar López Rivera; both are to finish their incarcerations on 17 May.

  12. chigau (ever-elliptical) says

    In Canada, all the people who the PM appoints to PositionsOfPower,
    were elected by their … constituents.
    right?

  13. Hj Hornbeck says

    Xanthë:

    Yay for Chelsea Manning! I already chimed in with a blog post. As for constitutions, I dunno. As a pup I’d been told that Canada replaced their constitution in 1982, which now seems oversimplified. If you look into the technical details you find the Constitution Act of 1982 added a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, plus a system for amending the constitution. Conversely, most of the articles I tracked down for Australia said your Australia Act wasn’t a new constitution, but I did eventually track down a book that disagreed.

    This turns into a philosophical debate: if you amend the constitution, is it a modification or a new thing entirely? Given how sharp rights are handled, the latter view isn’t without merit.

    chigau:
    Nope!

    Choosing a Cabinet in Canada requires considerable artfulness on the part of the Prime Minister, who must try to ensure that it represents the country’s regional, linguistic and ethnic diversity. When a victorious party fails to elect MPs in certain regions, a prime minister often resorts to the Senate to fill out the Cabinet. The number of women in Cabinet, the number of francophones, and a role for Aboriginal politicians and members of other minority groups, are all important considerations.

    In Canada, senators only need to own land and live in the district they’re appointed to. I can’t find any specific examples at the moment, but the Canadian Encyclopedia seems reliable enough.

    As for Preview, I tried to. Searched the menus, asked Google for advice, and nothing came up. If you know how, please lemmie know!

  14. hjhornbeck says

    Lessie… the book is progressing nicely. The next three excerpts cover the introduction, and tease the conclusion.

    I had big plans for creating my header image this weekend, plans which I didn’t have time for. Please accept the hastily thrown-together substitute at the top of this page for now.

    And this comment box is all funny. I seem to be the only blogger who has WordPress-controlled comment box, and no-one appears to know why. It’s annoying, because I’d love to offer comment previews in lieu of comment editing.

  15. says

    The Australia Act is not a constitution. It is however concerned with a few amendments to state constitutions, to completely rule out any possibility of appeals to the Privy Council, and to terminate the power of the parliament of the UK to legislate for Australia or Australian states, without upsetting the status of the Australian constitution or the bits of the Statue of Westminster that we’ve adopted (some of which are no longer needed and were repealed by this act). Our constitution already possessed an amendment clause which requires a popular referendum to achieve a double majority (s. 128) – a majority of voters in a majority of states, which has proved quite difficult to achieve more than 18% of the time. We’ve done fairly well without a bill of rights, although there are some freedoms sneakily inserted into the middle of the document. And ministers must be members of parliament – if they aren’t, they can only hold office for three months unless they become a member of the House or the Senate. We frequently hear of the ‘Senate envy’ that Canadian politicians have for our Senate compared to your own!

    Testing this comment box again… *crosses fingers and toes*

  16. hjhornbeck says

    Seems to be fine! I can believe it, your rules around Senators sound saner than ours.

    Anyway, a lot has happened around here. The first chapter of Proof of God is up, with the section on Cosmological coming up. The latter is missing some diagrams, in this case because I gave up writing the thing before completing them.

    It looks like there was a technical snafu, and comments were temporarily enabled on my posts. That’s been fixed, but not before Marcus Ranum posted an excellent one over here.

    Also, my heavy workload keeps getting pushed aside by events down in the USofA. After declaring a full Constitutional crisis, I’ve gradually slipped into a full-on freakout. As best as I can tell, one of the US’s three branches has been disabled and the second is complacent in the face of a takeover. Trump is a functional dictator, currently without any check on his power.

  17. Rob Grigjanis says

    If I type nine or more lines here, the “Post Comment” button disappears, with no apparent way to access it.

  18. hjhornbeck says

    Rob Grigjanis @22:

    That ones’ been bugging me for a while. I finally had a look myself, and the problem appears to be JetPack Comments. It throws the comment box into an iframe with a fixed height of 315 pixels and no scroll bars.

    I’ve disabled Jetpack Comments, and in a Private browsing window I now see the boring ol’ FtB comment box. Can you check from your end?

  19. hjhornbeck says

    And while I think of it, I’ve re-checked the “you must be registered to comment here” box. Let me know if your commenting problems come back, Xanthë.

  20. Rob Grigjanis says

    And so…

    A couple quibbles with part of the Proof of God: The Cosmological Proof (2) post.

    You write;

    Back in 1905, Albert Einstein published his theory of Special Relativity. In this landmark paper, he proposed that space and time are actually the same thing, differing only in what direction you look, and that both of these are warped by gravity.

    The 1905 Special Relativity papers (here and here) say nothing about gravity. Einstein’s first foray into gravity was not until 1907, with the formulation of the equivalence principle, and it wasn’t until 1915 that he published his gravitational field equations (i.e. general relativity).

    Also, space and time are not “the same thing”. Yes, they form a 4D spacetime, and one observer’s space is a mixture of another observer’s space and time coordinates (likewise for the first observer’s time). But there is still a clear distinction between spacelike and timelike (and null) paths through this spacetime. Massive bodies can only follow timelike paths, with speeds less than c. Massless bodies can only follow null paths, with speed c. And anything on a spacelike path must be travelling FTL.

  21. chigau (ever-elliptical) says

    yeah, well
    I’ll be dead soon
    at least *Preview* is sorted

  22. hjhornbeck says

    Pffft, no. Too bad about your death, though. I assume some Trumpery is in play?

    Rob Grigjanis @26:
    Excellent point! I’m not sure how my past self missed that, but I’m guessing it was led astray by Einstein’s Relativity, written after GR, and simply forgot about the struggle to understand Minkowski spaces between 1905 and 1915.

    I’m not going to re-write that section, but I don’t want to promote falsehoods either. I think I’ll add your comment in as a footnote.

  23. anat says

    Re: Transgender children: Possible overlap of being transgender and being on the autism spectrum – might matter on the individual level if, for instance, things one did to help the child deal with one condition impacted on the other. Not that I know if that is true or even could be true.

    I am interested in this topic because my son is transgender (started questioning around age 16) and in his younger years was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Nowadays he doesn’t really show strong autistic symptoms except for a bit of social naivete (that may have come from avoiding some aspects of social life as a child).

    There is the issue of the gender skew of diagnosis of autism. Why are there more diagnoses of autism in AMAB children? Is the reason social (there are plenty of AFAB autistic children, but they are not discovered because of gender expectations or are in social contexts that bypass the problems) or biological (something in the pathway to some aspects of maleness predisposes to autism)? So this could shed light on the causes of autism – if true – and that is a very big if.

  24. hjhornbeck says

    anat @31:

    Possible overlap of being transgender and being on the autism spectrum – might matter on the individual level if, for instance, things one did to help the child deal with one condition impacted on the other. Not that I know if that is true or even could be true.

    I don’t find it likely, though given the correlation between gender and autism I can’t rule it out completely. Even if there is an overlap in care, it shouldn’t matter. If people need help coping with something they had no ability to avoid, we should grant it to them.

    There is the issue of the gender skew of diagnosis of autism. Why are there more diagnoses of autism in AMAB children?

    Jones [2012] saw more diagnoses with AFAB adults, Pasterski [2014] saw no difference between AMAB and AFAB adults, and Strang [2013] saw no statistically significant difference in children. de Vries [2010] did find more diagnoses in AMAB children, but there’s no reason to think it refutes every other study. The science hasn’t even established a skew exists, let alone gotten to a stage where it can fish for causation.

  25. says

    So, I am a geek about ontological arguments. I would disagree with your approach to them, although if it were me I’d write something completely inaccessible, so who am I to criticize. But I do feel the need to correct technical errors when I spot them.

    If you’ve read my take on the Cosmological proof, this should twig an alarm bell. I demonstrated that a container of things is not automatically a thing itself. If the “God-like” property is a property, then it was already in P and thus assigning an object the “God-like” property means that it must already have the “God-like” property to begin with! We could also define a “God-God” property, which requires every property in P including “God-like,” a “God-God-God” property via similar means, and so on.

    I would first criticize this as being unclear, so you’ll have to tell me if I misinterpreted you. You appear to be arguing that assigning “god-like” to an object assumes the ontological argument’s conclusion. While you are correct, Godel does not make such an assumption. Definition 1 says “G(x) iff [stuff]” and that is a perfectly valid statement even if the antecedent, G(x), is always false. One can define “unicorn” even though unicorns don’t exist.

    Second, you seem to misunderstand the construction of “God-like”. It’s basically the union of all properties in P. If we were to construct a “God-God” property which were the union of all properties in P along with the “God-like” property, then”God-God” would just be the same as “God-like”. It’s useful to think of P in terms of a set of sets of numbers. For instance, if P = {{1,2},{2,3}}, then G is {1,2,3} and G-G is still also {1,2,3}. Note that G is not necessarily in P itself, which is why Godel has to add an assumption for that. And yes, the assumption is highly dubious, but it is not inconsistent.

  26. hjhornbeck says

    Correct away!

    You appear to be arguing that assigning “god-like” to an object assumes the ontological argument’s conclusion.

    Not quite, ontological arguments try to prove existence via some Three-Card Monte involving logic and properties. Merely labeling something as “god-like” isn’t sufficient, you also have to label it as “existent.” This specific argument goes for a lemma, the very way a “god-like” property is defined. Toast that support, and the entire structure collapses.

    I’m not questioning Def. 1 in that specific argument, I’m pointing out that it opens the door for a Barber Paradox by being overly inclusive. It’s a bit embarrassing for Gödel, as he knew of Russell’s work in avoiding that paradox.

    If we were to construct a “God-God” property which were the union of all properties in P along with the “God-like” property, then”God-God” would just be the same as “God-like”.

    It wouldn’t. Gödel explicitly defines “god-like” as a property, which means it may be contained by P. But if it can be contained by P, we can derive another property from P the same way Gödel derives “god-like.” This new property is a superset of all properties, and so it cannot be identical to them. What’s missing in your analogy is that G is not just {1,2,3}, it’s also 3 (or at least one of those numbers) thanks to Axiom 3.

  27. Rob Grigjanis says

    Sorry, more physics quibbles.

    Regarding Proof of God: The Cosmological Proof (3);

    What’s creating the Casimir Effect is likely virtual particles popping out of empty space unevenly.

    No, there’s nothing “popping” anywhere. A common pop-sci trope is that “vacuum fluctuations” means there’s some time-dependent stuff going on. All it really means is that the variance of some quantity (an observable) is non-zero. Anyway, Jaffe demonstrates (IMO) that the Casimir effect isn’t about vacuum fluctuations at all.

    In fact, not only must it [the vacuum] contain some energy, but that energy must fluctuate too lest it be known with certainty.

    No, energy is absolutely conserved in quantum mechanics. There is no fundamental uncertainty principle for energy and time. I can go into that in more depth if you like. You can derive an energy-time uncertainty relation for varying or unstable physical states (e.g. natural line width versus lifetime for an excited atomic state), but you can’t just apply it to the vacuum.

  28. says

    @hjhornbeck #34,
    Does latex work in the comments? I’m guessing not.

    Given your explanation of “God-God”, I would define it formally as follows: GG(x) iff for all properties F, [(P(F) or F=G) implies F(x)]. Using this definition, you can absolutely prove that GG(x) is equivalent to G(x). If you had another definition in mind, it is unclear to me.

    I agree that Godel has some sort of trick going on, but I think you’ve already missed it by the time you get to the definition of “God-like”. Most of the work is already done in the pathological definition of P. It is very odd that you can prove all properties in P are possible–definitions aren’t supposed to let you prove facts about the world. Consider if I were a determinist (meaning I believe we live in the only possible world), I would be forced to conclude that either a unicorn exists, or else unicorns are “negative”.

  29. hjhornbeck says

    Rob Grigjanis @35:

    No, there’s nothing “popping” anywhere. A common pop-sci trope is that “vacuum fluctuations” means there’s some time-dependent stuff going on. All it really means is that the variance of some quantity (an observable) is non-zero.

    Gah, you’re right. I’ve been leaning away from dualist thinking in the subatomic realm, so it’s kind of jarring to read myself endorsing a solid difference between wave fluctuations and particles. That one might be worth correcting.

    Anyway, Jaffe demonstrates (IMO) that the Casimir effect isn’t about vacuum fluctuations at all.

    I had a quick skim of ArXiv, and I can find papers endorsing Jaffe’s relativistic electromagnetism and others endorsing zero-point energy. A decade on, it doesn’t sound like physicists have reached a consensus on what causes the Casimir effect, though that may be due to inertia rather than solid argument.

    No, energy is absolutely conserved in quantum mechanics. There is no fundamental uncertainty principle for energy and time. I can go into that in more depth if you like.

    I think that one was poorly phrased on my part, it’s the “measurements” of energy that are uncertain rather than the energy itself. More depth would be useful, though; while I have taken a few university physics courses, none touched on QM in detail, so I’m relying more on extrapolation and careful reading in this area.

    More worrying for that section is the recent pushback on the dark energy. It may not exist after all, which if true would defeat my “something from nothing” example. I don’t think it’s fatal, as at best I could just switch to the Lamb effect or get into the weeds on mass, and at worst just drop it and rely on the other arguments.

  30. hjhornbeck says

    Siggy @34:

    GG(x) iff for all properties F, [(P(F) or F=G) implies F(x)]. Using this definition, you can absolutely prove that GG(x) is equivalent to G(x).

    I don’t see how that’s true. Let’s check that via a simple rewrite.

    G(x) iff for all properties F, [(P(F) or F=G) implies F(x)].

    The problem is that bolded bit, the definition relies on having a definition for the thing being defined in order to define itself. That’s circular.

    Most of the work is already done in the pathological definition of P. It is very odd that you can prove all properties in P are possible–definitions aren’t supposed to let you prove facts about the world. Consider if I were a determinist (meaning I believe we live in the only possible world), I would be forced to conclude that either a unicorn exists, or else unicorns are “negative”.

    I agree with you there, I bring up some of the same objections in part 3. Gödel’s proof is sunk several ways over before we even begin debating if “GG(x) = G(x)” is true.

  31. says

    hjhornbeck @38
    If I were to say “A bachelor is an unmarried man”, you could substitute “bachelor” for “unmarried man” and construct the circular definition, “a bachelor is a bachelor”. But so what? My point is that “GG(x) iff G(x)” is a tautology, and you can often construct circular (ie tautologous) definitions from tautologies.

    In reference to #37,
    I wouldn’t take much away from the linked story on dark energy. It’s still safe to use dark energy as an example, until such a time that scientists make a stronger case against it.

  32. hjhornbeck says

    My point is that “GG(x) iff G(x)” is a tautology

    It is, if G(x) has a definition equivalent to GG(x) and one which makes logical sense. I cannot see how “for all properties F, [(P(F) or F=G) implies F(x)]” satisfies the latter requirement for G(x).

  33. says

    I can sketch a proof of “GG(x) iff G(x)”. I found it easier to work with the negations of G and GG, which I’ll denote with exclamation points. !G(x) means “There exists some F such that !P(F) and F(x)”. !GG(x) means “There exists some F such that !P(F) and F != G and F(x)”. In order to prove these are equivalent, you just take the F from one statement and show that it also satisfies the other statement. In order to go from !G(x) to !GG(x), you can show that F != G from F(x) and !G(x). The other direction from !GG(x) to !G(x) is trivial–just conjunction elimination.

  34. brucegee1962 says

    I have a question about the “Proof from Intelligence” (1) post.

    There are two ideas hidden behind this proof. Homo Sapiens Sapiens[35] has intelligence, while other species don’t, so we must be special. And since intelligence couldn’t possibly have evolved via small steps, it can only have come from god.

    I can imagine a world with two intelligent species able to communicate with one another, or four, or sixteen. And in such a world, wouldn’t all sixteen species be going around saying that their intelligence was a gift from their deity?

    Or, to use another example — you seem to imply that, if we encounter intelligent aliens, that might act as a disproof of this particular proof of god. But wouldn’t those believers just say “Well, they must have been gifted by god with intelligence also”?

    Basically, I can’t imagine any configuration of a universe where an intelligent species wouldn’t be able to use this “proof” — which seems to make it pretty meaningless if not indefensible.

  35. Rob Grigjanis says

    hjhornbeck: The energy-time thing.

    In nonrelativistic quantum mechanics, position, momentum and energy are considered as operators which act on the states of a system. Position and momentum are complementary, which roughly speaking means that if a state has definite position, it can’t have a definite momentum, and vice versa. This means the operators don’t commute;

    [x,p] ≡ xppx ≠ 0

    It turns out the equality is iℏ, where ℏ is the reduced Planck constant. From this relationship, you can derive the uncertainty relation for x and p.

    Now, energy and time are also complementary quantities, and there is an operator associated with the energy, usually denoted H (for Hamiltonian). But if you postulate a time operator satisfying a commutation relation

    [t,H] = iℏ

    you run into major problems. In a nutshell, it implies that all energy values are allowed, and that there is no state of minimum energy. This is obviously not true for any realistic systems. So no time operator; time is just a parameter of the theory. Therefore no fundamental energy-time uncertainty relation. But, as I mentioned above, you can derive a sort of energy-time relation for specific physical states.

  36. hjhornbeck says

    Siggy @41:

    I can sketch a proof of “GG(x) iff G(x)”. I found it easier to work with the negations of G and GG, which I’ll denote with exclamation points.

    I can’t even get that far. Let me break it down this way:

    1. An object has the “God-like” property if, and only if, that object has every property in P.
    2. The “God-like” property is in P.
    3. From 1. and 2., it follows that an object has the “God-like” property if, and only if, that object has the “God-like” property.

    That’s circular, but on the surface it’s easily fixed: drop point two, which corresponds to Gödel’s Axiom 3. Unfortunately, Gödel defines P to contain “positive, morally aesthetic properties,” and it takes little imagination to believe the “God-like” property qualifies. Even if P did not contain “God-like,” we could easily form a superset P’ which contains “God-like” but which cannot be used to define “God-like.” It could be used to define a “God-God” property without invoking circular logic, and thus cannot be identical to the definition of the “God-like” property.

    So if you’re correct that GG(x) and G(x) are equivalent, you must be saying that circular logic isn’t a problem. You are saying that “a person is a bachelor if, and only if, they are single, male, and a bachelor” is valid logic.

  37. hjhornbeck says

    brucegee1962 @42:

    Basically, I can’t imagine any configuration of a universe where an intelligent species wouldn’t be able to use this “proof” — which seems to make it pretty meaningless if not indefensible.

    “Proof of God” effectively prevented me from becoming religious. Every religious proof that I sat down with was “meaningless” and “indefensible,” and if that was the best religion could offer after many millenia then I could safely say they were all bullshit in the same way I can say “the sun will rise above the horizon tomorrow.”

    And yet, religious people still trot out intelligence as a proof of a god’s existence. For instance:

    Thus we can deduce the existence of God from the existence of intelligence. Intelligence is in itself a proof of the existence of God.

    One way to understand this is by realizing that intelligence in its sane condition, reasons according to the laws of logic. Acceptance of the laws of logic are programmed into the intelligence from our birth (and before). But the laws of logic could not exist without God. The laws of logic are, for all practical purposes, objective, changeless, universal and eternal. They are made of thought-stuff, not of perceivable matter. Thus they require a personal God (one with the ability to think) for their existence and continued maintenance.

    That sounds like a stock Christian Presuppositionalist, but it was actually written by a Hare Krishna. As silly as the argument sounds, it is a legit “proof” used as an apologetic by people of faith. It had to have a place in “Proof of God.”

  38. hjhornbeck says

    Rob Grigjanis @43:
    I think I grok that. I may have been confused by Emmy Noether’s famous theorems, though. The first ties conservation laws to symmetries, and in particular shows that time invariance implies the conservation of energy. That only establishes that time and energy have a relation, however, it doesn’t say this relation is complimentary.

  39. Rob Grigjanis says

    hjhornbeck @46: Yeah, conservation of energy (guaranteed by Noether’s first theorem for a wide class of theories exhibiting time translation invariance) is really a separate issue from energy uncertainty in a particular situation. So, an excited atomic state is not a state of definite energy (not an eigenstate of the Hamiltonian, in jargon). That’s why such states have natural line widths. But the underlying theory is still time-translation invariant.

    If you haven’t read it, Noether’s ground-breaking 1918 paper (with both theorems) is worth a look.

  40. hjhornbeck says

    Time for a “State of the Blog,” methinks.

    I’ve had a brief flurry of activity over the last week, which probably won’t last. Most notably, my final contribution to Siobhan’s series on that BBC documentary is up.

    Proof of God is midway through chapter 4. I’ve also posted the first of several statistics-related posts from my time at Sinmantyx; this won’t be done as regularly as Proof of God, if only because some of them are over-stuffed with images and I haven’t found an automated way to transfer those over.

  41. says

    HJ @44,
    I feel like I have to set aside any arguments about gods, because your entire treatment of circular definitions doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense. Could you say *why* circular definitions are wrong?

    Suppose I say “A iff A”. Is that a circular definition? It is, if it’s intended to be a definition of A. But what if I was stating it as a theorem, for a particular A that I had previously defined? Or what if it werea theorem that was true for all propositions A? By falsely pattern-matching it to a circular definition, you’ve managed to fool youself into rejecting theorems.

    Also, if A is defined by B, does that mean that everywhere A is mentioned, you can substitute B? Or what if we have the theorem “A iff B”, can we now perform the substitution? Yes, by using this substitution, we will always transform one true statement into another. But you can also transform non-circular definitions into circular ones. So I find your use of substitution to be fundamentally flawed.

  42. says

    BTW, statements where substitutions are disallowed are called “intensional statement forms” on Wikipedia.

  43. hjhornbeck says

    Siggy @50:

    I feel like I have to set aside any arguments about gods, because your entire treatment of circular definitions doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense. Could you say *why* circular definitions are wrong?

    They’re not wrong, merely useless. The Wikipedia page on circular definitions has a good example: what do you learn about circular definitions from the definition “a definition that is circular?” Nothing, because one is just a restatement of the other. So if we were to encounter a logic proof which contained circular logic, then at minimum that portion can contribute nothing towards the truthhood of the overall definition, and at worst it invalidates the entire proof.

    Suppose I say “A iff A”. Is that a circular definition? It is, if it’s intended to be a definition of A. But what if I was stating it as a theorem, for a particular A that I had previously defined? Or what if it werea theorem that was true for all propositions A? By falsely pattern-matching it to a circular definition, you’ve managed to fool youself into rejecting theorems.

    That has nothing to do with Godel’s Ontological argument. He’s not stating a theorem, he’s asserting a definition. Not only is there no need to prove the latter there is no way to do so.

    Is G a member of the set of all morally-good properties? It is, if G contains all morally-good properties. But if G contains all morally-good properties, G must be a member of it. If G contains itself as an element, then it must be strictly larger than that element because it also contains members which are not itself, in addition to all the properties that member-G contains. Ergo, the number of elements in G is strictly larger than the number of elements in G. This looks a lot like someone else’s proof that a set cannot contain itself, though much more narrowly focused. And while there are some subtleties to this, in practice they don’t apply to Godel’s formulation.

    There’s another way to think about it. Suppose I had a computer program which told you whether or not a morally-good property was equivalent to G. It’s pretty easy to determine if it isn’t, simply feed each property it contains into P() and see if one of them is absent. What if properties contain properties, however? Well then we have to feed each sub-property in as well, because we know they’re also in this set (that’s Godel’s Axiom 2). This isn’t a problem if we “bottom-out” at some point and stop recursing, but if one of the properties we feed into P is G then we’re duty-bound to test all properties it contains. If it contains G, and by definition it must, then we must evaluate all the properties that property contains. If that contains G, and by definition it must, then we… and so on. Our program will never terminate if at any point it encounters G, and therefore whether or not a morally-good property is equivalent to G is not computable.

    Maybe I was wrong to use the word “circular,” though. “Infinitely recursive” seems to fit better. Try doing substitution with “G = {A, B, G}” and you’ll see what I mean.

  44. Owlmirror says

    A minor note: The current standard in biological nomenclature is that the genus name is capitalized, and species (and subspecies) are written all lowercase. Therefore, our biological genus and species should be written “Homo sapiens sapiens“.

  45. hjhornbeck says

    Interesting. I remember agonizing over that part of Proof of God, because I badly wanted to write Homo sapiens sapiens instead of Homo sapiens, because it feed into the overarching theme of “we’re not special.” In the end, I was able to convince myself that the odds of scientists finding a sub-species of Homo were high enough to allow it. I’m surprised I didn’t stumble on the proper capitalization of species names during that period, but my mind may have been elsewhere.

  46. says

    HJ Hornbeck @52
    I think my disagreements with what you are saying is strictly increasing over time. For example, G is not a set that contains all good predicates, it’s a predicate that entails all good predicates. Sets cannot contain themselves, but predicates always entail themselves.

    But anyway, I don’t want to take up your open thread. I enjoyed your article on double-dipping data sets.

  47. hjhornbeck says

    Meh, I don’t mind the argument. Thanks for the compliment, though; I was struggling a bit to properly explain the difference between multiple hypotheses and multiple comparisons, and I’m glad the results worked.

  48. hjhornbeck says

    I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! You’re supposed to go towards it, right?

    Geez, Proof of God is about to hit blog post #29 later today. So far, I’ve covered Cosmological, Ontological, Intelligence, Logic/Dualism, and Morality. The chapter coming up is one of my favorites, my take on the proof from Design. If I had to point to one chapter that I’d most like to share, it’d be the Introduction and Conclusion, but the Design chapter is a solid third place. It’s also VERY image intensive, so it’ll be a challenge to translate into blog form.

    My next few posts are probably going to very science-y, as there’s an number of topics I want to cover. First up will probably be a 5,000 word epic I’ve been nursing along for a month. As a palate cleanser, though, have some art.

    The first four simplexes.

  49. chigau (違う) says

    I think “Table 5 from Ellis” is very pretty.
    It reminded me of 60s surfing music.

  50. says

    Re: Gimmie that old-time breeding

    Last time I looked at an evopsych paper, it was this review on “argumentative theory”. It was terrible, because they spent the whole time making observations about cognitive biases, and did not provide a single shred of evidence in favor of their particular adaptative hypothesis, and did not consider other adaptative or even non-adaptive hypotheses. I thought maybe it could be some obscure and shoddy corner of evopsych, but nope! Almost 1000 citations right now. That was when I concluded that critics were right, evopsych is systematically awful, possibly a pseudoscience.

  51. hjhornbeck says

    chigau (違う) @58:
    That brings back memories, I had a brief love of surf music.

    Thanks, that diagram was a bit of a pain. You’re looking at the third iteration: the first was supposed to look like the previous one, the second was a non-stacked version of the same. The first couldn’t cope with the number of categories nor the per-group scaling, the second was too busy and too horizontal. I still worry that people will read too much into where the peaks are (summing prior values throws them off, plus correlations don’t add as you’d expect), but I’m at a loss for improving it.

    Siggy @59:
    I’ve noticed that too, and it drives me up the wall. I thought falsification and epistemic humility were hammered into every scientist’s head, yet time and again I read EvoPsych researchers blithely claiming that everyone else is wrong and ignoring confounding factors. Here’s my rationale for saying it is a pseudo-science on that basis, rather than possibly may be:

    Naturopaths are trained in modern medicine as well as pseudo-medicine. It’s possible to find a naturopath who only uses the crackpot stuff as a placebo, and I suspect that even those who think acupuncture is legit wouldn’t hesitate to refer someone with a heart condition to a specialist instead. From this, is it fair to say naturopathy is a valid branch of medicine? I’d argue not; if the foundation of the field is based on false assumptions, if the typical naturopath buys into bullshit, then I think I have enough justification to write off the entire field.

    Likewise, the foundational assumptions of EvoPsych are false. Most of the EvoPsych research I’ve read is significantly worse than most of the non-EvoPsych research I’ve read, containing poor reasoning and controls. Even if there is some excellent EvoPsych research floating out there, I can still call the entire field a pseudo-science.

  52. says

    HJ @60,

    One thing that made hesitate in labeling evopsych as pseudoscience is that it’s (afaik) established within the same research institutions as other scientific fields (whereas I am not sure how naturopathy institutions work). Of course nowadays being in research, it is entirely plausible to me that there are pockets of scientists all barking up the wrong tree, and evopsych seems to be a very large such pocket. But man, I feel bad for the grad students who get stuck doing that.

  53. hjhornbeck says

    That stinks, hope you get better chigau.

    Mmmm, while I’m in this thread: a while ago, I spotted an interesting article by Libby Anne on how presuppositionalism was gaining traction in creationist circles. It made me curious how I’d covered presuppositionalism in Proof of God.

    I gave it eight paragraphs in the last chapter. If memory serves, I agonized a bit over whether to expand presuppositionalism into a full chapter, before brushing the idea off. It seemed like an especially weak argument, which I’d subtly chipped away at in several places such as the introduction and the proof from logic/dualism, and I hadn’t heard it used out of Christian circles. Even within those circles, it didn’t get much respect.

    It’s been nearly a decade, however. If the trends in creationism mirror the overall trend in Christianity, presuppositionalism may be getting more popular, and if that’s true it may start bleeding into other religions. Whattya think, should I whip up a “Proof from Proofs” chapter?

  54. hjhornbeck says

    Siobhan @64:

    But after everything he’s done, haven’t we just observed the threshold you have to cross to upset the Republican base?

    Yep. Republicans may voice concern for their fellow person but, on the whole, they don’t put that into practice. What gets them angry is the revocation of a “privilege” they hold dear, in this case their health care.

  55. Hj Hornbeck says

    Blew my mind, to be honest. It’s easy to play up the good side, however; Brexit is still inevitable, and Britain’s in a worse position to negotiate, so the cheers sound a bit hollow.

    Still, given the options, it was about the best result we could hope for.

  56. Siobhan says

    But I didn’t point you to the article just because it pokes holes in TERF ideology; there are excellent observations about the overlap between the trans* and intersex communities, with suggestions for improvement. No spoilers, though, you’ll have to read those for yourself. Cary Costello’s article deserves a second shout-out.

    I have to admit that I previously only ever encountered criticisms of cis/trans terminology in the context of gender identity (and gender dysphoria) denialists. Dr. Costello gave me one of those really exciting “oooooooh” moments when they pointed out that the concept is a bit messy with intersex folks and actually made a solid case for that argument. It’s like I’m legitimately surprised to encounter persuasive criticism, though given whose rhetoric I study I guess that’s to be expected.

  57. Hj Hornbeck says

    Dr. Costello gave me one of those really exciting “oooooooh” moments when they pointed out that the concept is a bit messy with intersex folks and actually made a solid case for that argument.

    The section on sex education near the end gave me something similar. Misinformation seems to be causing some friction between the intersex and trans* communities, when both’s reliance on medical interventions should make them natural allies. (Also, intersex people seek many of the same medical interventions? Wild, I had no idea).

    It’s like I’m legitimately surprised to encounter persuasive criticism, though given whose rhetoric I study I guess that’s to be expected.

    *snerk*. I’m not as widely-read on the topic as you, but that was my impression as well. The TERF writing I’ve seen is rather boring, peel back their attempts at obfuscation and they really don’t venture far from sex essentialism and a fear of penises.

  58. chigau (違う) says

    re: cups
    Try discussing “pint” when you order your beer.

  59. says

    Re: Elections, voting paradoxes, etc.

    Here’s a comment I made about the meaning of these “paradoxes” on another great youtube video on the subject.

    Also, I ran into someone eccentric at the Calgary Civic Tech first meeting. He claimed it’s been “mathematically proven” that, for electronic voting, you have to either sacrifice voter anonymity, or else preserve anonymity but get some other bad thing (maybe auditability or something, I forget). He seemed really worried about this, and was very explicitly opposed to electronic voting.

    Anyways, I pointed out that we’re kind of inching towards lack of anonymity anyways. Because of the internet. Since voting is just a measurement of personal views and preference, then you can already see what someone will vote if you know their preferences, and the internet is making this info more widely available.

    And then, of course, I speculated that if info is so available and trustworthy, it could be the vote. You won’t vote anymore as a discrete event (it would be an outdated measurement technology). The data about the population’s preference will just be consulted any time it needs to be.

    And of course I’ve got ideas for how to deal with the issue of trust.

  60. Siobhan says

    When asked if they had ever felt physically unsafe in their current position, more women than men reported that they felt unsafe as a result of their gender (30% versus 2%, p < 0.001).

    NOTHING TO SEE HERE, FOLKS

  61. Siobhan says

    Content Notice: TERF bollocks

    Feminists know that men with sexual fetishes like to declare that they have a gender identity and therefore have a right to expose themselves in women’s locker rooms

    And the Whiplash Non-Sequitur award goes to…

  62. Hj Hornbeck says

    Bah! I’ve been neglecting this thread. And Proof of God, come to think of it, as I haven’t updated it in weeks. I’ve got plans to get back to that tonight, but (as always) we’ll see.

    Brian Pansky @71:

    I speculated that if info is so available and trustworthy, it could be the vote. You won’t vote anymore as a discrete event (it would be an outdated measurement technology). The data about the population’s preference will just be consulted any time it needs to be.

    I’ve thought of this too. It helps overcome the problem of biased information (eg. a minority of people identify as pro-choice yet a majority hold pro-choice views) or activist voting (Prop 8 in California). The problem is one of transparency: at no point do you ever say “I support X,” instead it is indirectly inferred from other things. What if the inference is poor or biased, though, like what happened with Google Flu Trends? The only way we can remove these biases is by continually calibrating it against an actual vote, which defeats the purpose of using them in the first place.

    He claimed it’s been “mathematically proven” that, for electronic voting, you have to either sacrifice voter anonymity, or else preserve anonymity but get some other bad thing (maybe auditability or something, I forget). He seemed really worried about this, and was very explicitly opposed to electronic voting.

    I dunno, there are some really sophisticated electronic voting systems out there. Du-Vote relies on a personal token, but claims to be functional even on malware-infested machines. I also see a system involving block chains, which means that so long as your private key is kept private you’ll get both partial anonymity and auditability (time-based deanonymization would probably still work). I’m not too familiar with those systems, though, so I might be missing something.

  63. Hj Hornbeck says

    Siobhan @73:

    The p-value was especially amusing. But geez, that should set off klaxons instead of warning bells in policy makers. This is a systemic problem that needs cleaning, STAT.

    @74:

    Story-time: During my first gender studies class, the teacher played a short video of Camille Paglia sounding off on something (can’t remember what). The class went deathly silent for a bit, until I raised my hand and called Paglia out for combating sexism with more sexism. I get the same vibe off TERFs; they quite clearly have some basic knowledge of feminism, but they mash it together in such a muddled way that the result is quite sexist. Feminists “know” that? Really?! Is this like how Christians “know” that the Earth is 6000 years old, or abortion is murder and therefore oppose it? If there was any more projection, the author would work at an IMAX theatre. 😛

  64. Siobhan says

    Since you’ve now criticized a conventionally attractive cis white feminist, allow me to provide you a complementary torch and pitchfork to prepare you for the inevitable cries of “witch hunting.”

    Also +1,000,000,000 cool points for using a Veronica Mars .gif.

  65. Hj Hornbeck says

    Nice! I should build a display case, I’ve had a few gifted to me. But you should withhold at least half those cool points, as I’ve never seen a single episode of Veronica Mars. I just saw the GIF elsewhere, and thought it was perfect for the occasion.

  66. Siobhan says

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/reprobate/2017/07/20/who-watches-the-social-justice-activists/

    For the most part, I learned there was one specific area where authority was more likely to lie than others, and that’s on how necessary the authority is. I know some people have atrocious educations but I consider mine pretty good, with one notable exception: I still wasn’t taught to question authority. I wasn’t taught to examine how it currently works and the vulnerabilities to abuse it still possesses. I wasn’t taught to question how it could be structured differently. And I definitely wasn’t taught to consider what happens when authority is possessed by someone who flouts the principles on which that authority is founded.

    I suspect Green started in a similar situation, but hasn’t clued in yet that authority is not synonymous with trustworthy. At this point, I’d consider it a badge of honour to have a file in CSIS.

  67. Siobhan says

    An addendum to your Laci Green addendum

    While much of their effect happens during fetal development and puberty, not all of it does; bumping up your testosterone will stimulate muscle and hair growth (though it may also lead to baldness), while boosting up your estrogen will smooth out your skin and trigger hot flashes much as you’d see during menopause. And if men can experience hot flashes, why not some of the symptoms associated with menstruation? Doctors probably haven’t noticed this because until recently few people have been on estrogen, and as being a trans* woman still carries significant stigma they would be disinclined to bring it up with said doctors.

    Another detail that should be mentioned: feminising HRT is sometimes administered cyclically. The rationale as to why is that even cis women do not have full blast estrogen all the time, and high estrogen levels have been linked to breast cancer and a host of other problems. Administering a feminising HRT regime with a one week break every month hypothetically would bring that risk to normative levels (I don’t think a longitudinal study has been conducted yet, but it’s a pretty logical guess). Assuming any of the symptoms are triggered by a sudden spike in hormones, then trans women on these cyclical routines would be simulating that as well.

    And to add to Riedel’s inquiries, I get them too. Fevers, fatigue, cramps, excessive sensory sensitivity (which is probably a migraine on some level but I’m not feeling the pain in my head) are a brief but semi-regular occurrence for me since I started my HRT and typically crop up a few days before I’m due to resume estrogen. I personally wouldn’t call them menstrual cramps specifically (as I am not menstruating), just menstrual-like. But all TERFs have is a hammer, so that little detail is naturally missed.

    This bit amused me greatly (content notice TERF nonsense)

    “Transwomen do not experience period or period-like symptoms because they lack every biological asset necessary for a period,” one wrote. “[N]o uterus to contract, no ovaries to ache, no eggs to be released, no lining to be shed, no vaginal canal to carry the fluid outside the body.”

    TERF: Women are more than their genitals!
    Trans woman: Yes I agree
    TERF: NOT U

  68. says

    @HJ

    The problem is one of transparency: at no point do you ever say “I support X,” instead it is indirectly inferred from other things.

    huh? Why wouldn’t you say “I support X”? Maybe your ideas were different from mine. That’s why I said “data about the populations preferences“.

    Also, voting for people basically has this same defect, leading to broken promises and “mixed bags” and “lesser of two evils” and so on. Unconstrained precise and articulate expression of personal preference would be superior.

  69. Siobhan says

    It’s how he behaves that bothers her. “He’s trying to move the country in the right direction, but his personality is getting in the way,” she said, calling out his use of Twitter in particular. “He’s a bright man, and I believe he has great ideas for getting the country back on track, but his approach needs some polish.”

    Still, Pieper says, she’d vote for him again today.

    Trump is looting the White House and gallivanting over the chance to murder hundreds of thousands of disabled and chronically ill Americans but by gosh could he maybe be a little more polite about it?

    People like Pieper are why I’m a consequentialist.

  70. Hj Hornbeck says

    Siobhan @80:

    Another detail that should be mentioned: feminising HRT is sometimes administered cyclically.

    Ack! That explains a lot. Menstruation has a huge range of side effects, from “Feeling tired” to “Upset stomach” to “Headache or backache” to “Joint or muscle pain.” Menstruation is one of the few biological events which occur on a cycle, though. So if estrogens are administered on the same basic cycle, and taking estrogens carries side effects that are vaguely similar to the huge range found with menstruation, then some trans* women are going to report feeling menstruation-like symptoms even if the biological pathways are completely different to those found in most cis women. This makes the rejection of menstruation-like symptoms in trans* women the absurd claim, and at best demonstrates a basic ignorance of biology.

    TERF: Women are more than their genitals!
    Trans woman: Yes I agree
    TERF: NOT U

    Funny story: back when I was writing “How to Spot a TERF,” I struggled a bit to come up with any commonality to their beliefs beyond the obvious, but eventually I did spot one: “it’s more important to look for incoherence [in their sex model].” I think the contradictions you and others keep spotting are not a side-effect of being a TERF, they’re inherent to the label and probably the best signal of TERF-dom.

  71. Hj Hornbeck says

    Brian Pansky @81:

    huh? Why wouldn’t you say “I support X”? Maybe your ideas were different from mine. That’s why I said “data about the populations preferences“.

    Whoops, we’re not quite on the same wavelength here. I was discussing the general case: you can poll people’s support for when abortion should be legal, for instance, and conclude that the majority of people are pro-choice even though only half of the population would agree to the statement “I am pro-choice.” When it comes to matters of consent, we want a crystal clear signal like “I support X” as opposed to “because you support Y and Z, you must support X,” and since crystal-clear consent is critical to any financial or legal matters we’re stuck with directly asking people rather than inferring their preferences.

    Also, voting for people basically has this same defect, leading to broken promises and “mixed bags” and “lesser of two evils” and so on. Unconstrained precise and articulate expression of personal preference would be superior.

    The state is a very complex beast. The Republicans have actually passed a fair bit of legislation during the first six months of Trump’s presidency, but all the bills have titles like “A Joint Resolution Providing for the Reappointment of Steve Case as a Citizen Regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution.” This is tedious work that doesn’t have any direct benefit to the people, but it’s work that must be done. Removing political representatives means that we’d have to poll the US public on all these low-level details; most people would tune out, leaving these tasks vulnerable to manipulation by passionate activists (for good or ill).

    This of course is on top of the value of having dedicated professionals manage the state, as opposed to public amateurs. I haven’t thought of a good way around this problem, so for now I view voting for people as a necessity.

  72. anat says

    Re: Stat of the Union post: What kind of positions are captured by the second dimension? In what ways were the Democrats social right-wingers in the 1960s and what caused them to move leftwards?

  73. says

    @HJ

    I’m in favor of explicit expressions of preference. Not just giving the the government the info it needs, but for informing anyone about any preference.

    Ideally, I think, individuals could basically do it the way they wanted to. They could choose which domains they would defer to other people of their choice, which things/domains they would decide for themselves, etc.

  74. Siobhan says

    The Dutch Protocols showed that trans patients who had full access to their medical options and social support still exhibited higher rates of anxiety. Not anywhere near as catastrophic as the American rates, but Laci Green’s claim that gender dysphoria is mostly external stress is unsupported, and conflates minority stress with GD. The actual outcomes (esp. for Americans) is a combination of the psychiatric effects of dysphoria and abuse by society at large. If GD was well and truly harmless, there’d be no impulse for treatment, but even the subjects of the Dutch Protocols experienced large increases in quality of life, including the elimination of the comorbid anxiety, when they completed the options they needed. And that was in the absence of legislated assault. I honed in on that claim because it is a misapprehension of the research that has been used in previous arguments to eliminate transition healthcare (i.e. to push for that mythical “gender” free society TERFs natter about). A gender-role-free society would reduce a lot of stress for trans folk, certainly, but there’s nothing in the research to suggest the etiology would vanish in a puff of smoke.

  75. Hj Hornbeck says

    anat @85:

    What kind of positions are captured by the second dimension? In what ways were the Democrats social right-wingers in the 1960s and what caused them to move leftwards?

    According to Wikipedia,

    The first dimension (horizontal or x-axis) is the familiar left-right (or liberal-conservative) spectrum on economic matters. The second dimension (vertical or y-axis) picks up attitudes on cross-cutting, salient issues of the day (which include or have included slavery, bimetallism, civil rights, regional, and social/lifestyle issues). For the most part, congressional voting is uni-dimensional, with most of the variation in voting patterns explained by placement along the liberal-conservative first dimension.

    But I found that really unsatisfying; how exactly are they labelling legislation? I’ve dug up a better explanation of DW-NOMINATE, and I find it unsettling. Emphasis mine.

    To recall, these dimensions are purely formal. This is exceptionally important because it means that every possible substantive issue “loads” (in the language of factor analysis) onto one or the other of the two dimensions. […]

    How can it be that there are only two, truly basic issue dimensions in U.S. politics? The Poole and Rosenthal answer is, in effect, “surprising, but altogether true.” They fit a model with one dimension, to see how successfully that captured legislative behavior. Then they fit two dimensions, to see how much that improved the model’s performance, then three dimensions, and so on. […]

    What is – and was — the content of these dimensions? This part of their analysis was interpretive. Poole and Rosenthal concluded that, over time, the first dimension was always socio-economic – state banks vs. a national bank, at one time, currency expansion vs. currency restriction, at another, high tariffs vs. low tariffs at a third, social spending vs. spending restraint in a fourth, and so on. From reading their political history and looking at the specific content of the roll calls associated with the second dimension, they concluded that it was a “racial” dimension, or more precisely, a racerelations
    (often sectional) dimension.

    In sum, there is no coding of votes in DW-NOMINATE. Instead, each bit of legislation or amendment or procedural voting is thought to occupy a point in a multi-dimensional space, as do legislators, and a legislators’ vote is based on where they sit relative to the issue’s location and some centre line. Where all these points are isn’t known beforehand, but by creating a likelihood function and demanding the results must maximise its output, a placement of points eventually pops out of the mix.

    But how certain are we of this specific placement? Even if there is some global maximum in the parameter space, there might be local maxima which are nearly as likely. If the output remains consistent over time, then maybe there truly is a global maxima, but all it takes is a rule like “new results must be close to prior results” or “we’ll use the old results as a starting point” to create an illusion of consistency.

    Those problems can be solved, and given NOMINATE’s age I’m assuming they have, but there’s still the interpretation of what each dimension means. Poole and Rosenthal are assuming it maps to something we can easily understand, such as economic or social matters, but there’s no constraint in the system to guarantee that. Given the way their system is set up, it’s more accurate to call these dimensions “primary partisanship dimension,” “secondary partisanship dimension,” and so on. The reason why they somewhat map to economic or social issues is that throughout history the two major US parties have defined partisanship along those dimensions, and being human they had difficulty coming up with more divisions. Should social issues become more divisive than economic ones in future, these dimensions will muddy up then flip as vote tallies stream in. Should we limit the time window of input votes, the meaning of the dimensions will change and isn’t guaranteed to mean the same thing for different time windows.

    Ironically, while I was wrong to assign “Left” and “Right” labels to those dimensions, they’re still measures of partisanship. It’s still legit to say Democrats haven’t moved very much within this phase space since the 1960’s, while Republicans have shifted substantially. What that means beyond partisanship is up for debate.

  76. Hj Hornbeck says

    Brian Pansky @86:

    Ideally, I think, individuals could basically do it the way they wanted to. They could choose which domains they would defer to other people of their choice, which things/domains they would decide for themselves, etc.

    This could work quite well, if only because it puts people in charge of their own data. Picture an “opt-out” scenario where people are allowed to skip explicitly voting on a referendum, in favor of having their vote inferred from their behavior in prior referendums or a questionnaire of core values. So long as the inferential algorithm is open-source and well-studied, they have the option of seeing how it predicts they would vote (and why!), and can opt back in at any time, this could put a lot of power back in the hands of the people.

  77. Hj Hornbeck says

    Siobhan @87:

    Laci Green’s claim that gender dysphoria is mostly external stress is unsupported, and conflates minority stress with GD. The actual outcomes (esp. for Americans) is a combination of the psychiatric effects of dysphoria and abuse by society at large. If GD was well and truly harmless, there’d be no impulse for treatment, but even the subjects of the Dutch Protocols experienced large increases in quality of life, including the elimination of the comorbid anxiety, when they completed the options they needed.

    Good catch! I’d actually made a similar point during our series on that nasty BBC documentary, and even backed it up with a citation, but for some reason that didn’t pop back into my head when I read Green’s Tweet. Privilege blindness strikes again. 😛

  78. colinday says

    On your 8/4 post about p-values, could part of the problem be that the underlying assumptions of hypothesis testing do not obtain in medical experiments?

  79. Hj Hornbeck says

    colinday @91:

    could part of the problem be that the underlying assumptions of hypothesis testing do not obtain in medical experiments?

    Probably not. Null hypothesis significance testing is supposed to be agnostic to the details of the hypothesis. Just feed in data, turn the crank, and get a result.

    Having said that, it may be possible that medical experiments prefer one form of significance test (say a signed-rank test ) while other branches use different tests (like a random-effects ANOVA), and these tests have different power levels. I don’t think this is terribly likely, but still.

  80. Hj Hornbeck says

    colinday @92:

    Emacs vs. Vi isn’t a debate, it’s a flame war.

    Only because those Emacs blowhards won’t concede they’ve lost the battle! 😉

    More seriously, I’m finding Emacs is better for editing long LaTeX docs on the terminal. I still do most of my coding in vim, but nowadays both editors have roughly the same cost/benefit analysis. And neither of them are terribly popular today, I see a lot more people using NotePad++ or Eclipse or Visual Studio or Gedit.

  81. colinday says

    LaTeX in Eclipse or Visual Studio? Hmm. And is Notepad++ even available in the Debian repositories? As for not conceding the battle, I may be worse than the Lost Causers.

  82. colinday says

    #93

    I mean, what if independence among subjects fails to hold? What if there are other differences between the treatment and control groups (besides the treatment)?

  83. colinday says

    George Washington owned slaves, but the British were not really trying to free them (the British abolished slavery in the Empire in 1834)

  84. Hj Hornbeck says

    colinday @95:

    LaTeX in Eclipse or Visual Studio? Hmm.

    Mmmhm. I can’t recommend using either, but it’s at least possible.

    And is Notepad++ even available in the Debian repositories?

    It’s Windows-only. Seems to be popular over there, though, so I thought I’d include it.

  85. Hj Hornbeck says

    colinday @96:

    I mean, what if independence among subjects fails to hold? What if there are other differences between the treatment and control groups (besides the treatment)?

    Then the correlation will be weaker, and you’ll need more data to boost the signal above the noise. Certainly there’s a loose connection between a branch of science and the size of the typical dataset, but that isn’t an intrinsic flaw of that branch.

  86. chigau (違う) says

    re: ECLIPSE!!!
    My location was at about 70% and the reduction in light was barely noticable.
    The birds and squirrels didn’t pay any attention.
    Me, I had pin-holes, binoculars, colanders, potato ricers and the leaves on the trees.
    I don’t think I’d travel but if another eclipse comes to me, I will play ALL the games.

  87. Hj Hornbeck says

    I found using my hands in place of a colander was super convenient for checking the eclipse progress, as my eclipse glasses were acting as a solar filter for the camera.

    Too bad about the 70%, even 99% doesn’t come close to the experience of full-on totality. Hopefully the 2024 one is better suited to your location. The East Coast is in for a treat, I see Montreal, Hamilton, Kingston, Sherbrooke, Fredricton, Buffalo, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Dallas, Austin, Monclova, Torreon, Durango, and Mazadan will all experience totality.

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