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Stranger Than History

48 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 01 September 2007 06:57PM

Suppose I told you that I knew for a fact that the following statements were true:

  • If you paint yourself a certain exact color between blue and green, it will reverse the force of gravity on you and cause you to fall upward.
  • In the future, the sky will be filled by billions of floating black spheres.  Each sphere will be larger than all the zeppelins that have ever existed put together.  If you offer a sphere money, it will lower a male prostitute out of the sky on a bungee cord.
  • Your grandchildren will think it is not just foolish, but evil, to put thieves in jail instead of spanking them.

You'd think I was crazy, right?

Now suppose it were the year 1901, and you had to choose between believing those statements I have just offered, and believing statements like the following:

  • There is an absolute speed limit on how fast two objects can seem to be traveling relative to each other, which is exactly 670616629.2 miles per hour.  If you hop on board a train going almost this fast and fire a gun out the window, the fundamental units of length change around, so it looks to you like the bullet is speeding ahead of you, but other people see something different.  Oh, and time changes around too.
  • In the future, there will be a superconnected global network of billions of adding machines, each one of which has more power than all pre-1901 adding machines put together.  One of the primary uses of this network will be to transport moving pictures of lesbian sex by pretending they are made out of numbers.
  • Your grandchildren will think it is not just foolish, but evil, to say that someone should not be President of the United States because she is black.

Based on a comment of Robin's:  "I wonder if one could describe in enough detail a fictional story of an alternative reality, a reality that our ancestors could not distinguish from the truth, in order to make it very clear how surprising the truth turned out to be."

Comments (322)

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Comment author: Doug_S. 01 September 2007 09:03:14PM 1 point [-]

You can actually give a semi-plausible justification of special relativity based on what was known in 1901. Maxwell's equations are fundamentally incompatible with what I might call "Newtonian relativity." They define a fixed speed for light, which is impossible in Newtonian relativity for observers in different inertial reference frames. Magnetism is also a puzzle, as the magnetism depends on the relative velocity in a way that makes it appear to create different forces in different inertial frames. Without length contraction from special relativity, magnetism has uncomfortable implications.

Comment author: Tom_McCabe 01 September 2007 11:18:50PM 15 points [-]

"You can actually give a semi-plausible justification of special relativity based on what was known in 1901."

You can give a semi-plausible justification for anything. It was obvious at the time that our knowledge was incomplete, but the specific *way* in which our knowledge was incomplete was still a mystery. It is very easy to invent a plausible-sounding quack theory of physics; that is why we have the Crackpot Index.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 01 September 2007 11:23:52PM 7 points [-]

You can actually give a semi-plausible justification of special relativity based on what was known in 1901. Maxwell's equations are fundamentally incompatible with...

Yes, this is the chain of logic that Einstein followed in 1905. But it was followed in 1905, not 1901, despite plenty of other physicists focusing on the question.

There's a reason why I did not list the "semi-plausible justification" in my account of the Bizarre Speed Limit. People typically try to judge absurdity by surface features, without in-depth study of a topic.

Comment author: Joseph_Hertzlinger 02 September 2007 02:37:59AM 20 points [-]

It might be worthwhile to list statements about present-day society that would have seemed incredible to me at various times in the past. For example:

1. That nobody has been to the moon since 1972.

2. That the Soviet Union no longer exists and there has been no nuclear war. (One or the other would have been plausible but not both.)

3. That we're still using fossil fuels on a large scale.

4. President Ronald Reagan.

5. That there is a major communications network that is not run by any single organization.

6. That there would be a high-quality computer operating system based on free software.

Comment author: handoflixue 20 May 2011 02:04:37AM 8 points [-]

"1. That nobody has been to the moon since 1972."

Wow. I never realized it'd been that long - I grew up with that as part of my history, and never realized that it all occurred before I was born.

Comment author: Unnamed2 02 September 2007 03:10:18AM 8 points [-]

Length contraction was proposed by George FitzGerald in 1889, in response to the Michelson-Morley experiment, and it gained greater circulation in the physicist community after Hendrik Lorentz independently proposed it in 1892. I imagine that most top physicists would have been familiar with it by 1901. Lorentz's paper included the ideas that the relative motion of reference frames was important, and that funny things were going on with time (like non-simultaneity in different reference frames), and his 1899 follow-up included time dilation equations (as did a less-known 1897 paper by Joseph Larmor). I'm not sure if people familiar with this work saw c as the universal speed limit, but the length contraction equations (which imply imaginary length for v greater than c) suggest that this proposal wouldn't strike them as crazy (and they would have recognized the number as c, since estimates of the speed of light were accurate within less than 0.1% by then).

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 September 2007 03:23:00AM 5 points [-]

Unnamed, remember that the histories we read promote particular events to prominence, while all others fade into the background; but to the people alive at the time, there are plenty of distractions.

I agree that future events of the most "absurd" sort are often predicted by at least some specialists paying very close attention to the field. This does not interfere with the lesson that I personally draw from history, which is that you have to go very deep and very technical in order to evaluate the possibility of a future event - surface absurdity counts for nothing.

Comment author: Robin_Hanson2 02 September 2007 03:18:08PM 1 point [-]

Megan McArdle reposts this, though alas without a link.

Comment author: John_Bragg 02 September 2007 04:19:44PM 9 points [-]

I could believe in the spanking thing happening pretty easily. (I could believe it pretty easily. It wouldn't happen easily.) A society with a different approach to deterrence/punishment, a different view of the relative cruelty of prison vs. corporal punishment, etc. The others require violations of our concepts of physics, economics. Changing the punishment structure doesn't violate our ideas of human nature/psychology, etc.

A while back, Marvel Comics put out a "2099" group of books. The premise of the "Punisher 2099" series was that the civil tort system had replaced the criminal justice system entirely. A violent Paris Hilton type murders Punisher's entire family, and he goes vigilante.

Although, I guess it compares fairly with a black person becoming President in 1901. A few people with broad knowledge might find it possible but radically unlikely. It's a fair cop, and shame on Janegalt.net.

Comment author: John_Bragg 02 September 2007 04:19:58PM 0 points [-]

I could believe in the spanking thing happening pretty easily. (I could believe it pretty easily. It wouldn't happen easily.) A society with a different approach to deterrence/punishment, a different view of the relative cruelty of prison vs. corporal punishment, etc. The others require violations of our concepts of physics, economics. Changing the punishment structure doesn't violate our ideas of human nature/psychology, etc.

A while back, Marvel Comics put out a "2099" group of books. The premise of the "Punisher 2099" series was that the civil tort system had replaced the criminal justice system entirely. A violent Paris Hilton type murders Punisher's entire family, and he goes vigilante.

Although, I guess it compares fairly with a black person becoming President in 1901. A few people with broad knowledge might find it possible but radically unlikely. It's a fair cop, and shame on Janegalt.net.

Comment author: scott_clark 02 September 2007 04:24:09PM 4 points [-]

judging by where the commments took this discussion on Megan's blog, she may have been doing you a favor by not linking to overcomingbias.com

Comment author: Anders_Sandberg 02 September 2007 04:38:28PM 15 points [-]

I get unsolicited email offering to genetically modify rats to my specifications.

I guess this is evidence that we live in a sf novel. Thanks to spam the world's most powerful supercomputer cluster is now run by criminals: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/securityfix/2007/08/storm_worm_dwarfs_worlds_top_s_1.html Maybe it is by Vernor Vinge. Although the spam about buying Canadian steel in bulk (with extra alloys thrown in if I buy more than 150 tons) might on the other hand indicate that it is an Ayn Rand novel.

This whole issue seems to be linked to the question of how predictable the future is. Given that we get blindsided by fairly big trends the problem might not be lack of information nor the chaotic nature of the world, but just that we are bad at ignoring historical clutter. Spam is an obvious and logical result of an email system based on free email and a certain fraction of potential customers for whatever you sell. It ought to have been predictable in the earliest 90's when the non-academic Net was spreading. But at the time even making predictions about the economics of email would have been an apparently unrewarding activity, so it was ignored in favor of newsgroup management.

Maybe the strangeness of the future is just a side effect of limited attention rather than limited intelligence or prediction ability. The strangeness of the past is similarly caused by limited attention to historical facts (i.e. rational ignorance, who cares to understand the victorian moral system?), making actual historical events look odd to us (Archduke Franz Ferdinand insisted on being sewn into his clothes for a crease-free effect, which contributed to him dying and triggering WWI).

Comment author: Hopefully_Anonymous 02 September 2007 06:04:51PM 2 points [-]

Since this is overcomingbias, it might be useful that when presenting our narratives of past vs. present, it might be useful to watch out for narratives invoking an inevitability of progress.

All of Eliezer's 3 points from the past seem to touch on that: (1) new scientific knowledge, (2) improved technology, and (3) more social acceptance and opportunities for power minorities.

Comment author: Dick_King 03 September 2007 12:22:03AM 2 points [-]

"I could believe in the spanking thing happening pretty easily. "

Don't forget, Singapore's reliance on caning brings revulsion from the kind of person who thinks of prisons as cruel.

-dk

Comment author: dearieme 04 September 2007 09:48:29PM -1 points [-]

Given that WWII showed that race could be dynamite, it's surely astonishing that so many rich countries have permitted mass immigration by people who are not only of different race, but often of different religion. Even more astonishing that they've allowed some groups to keep immigrating even after the early arrivers from those groups have proved to be failures, economically or socially. Did anyone predict that 60 years ago?

Comment author: no_one 05 September 2007 11:10:37PM 1 point [-]

Some say we did elect a partly black Prez in 1920 -- Warren Harding.

Comment author: denis_bider 20 November 2007 09:25:14PM 9 points [-]

dearieme: "Given that WWII showed that race could be dynamite, it's surely astonishing that so many rich countries have permitted mass immigration by people who are not only of different race, but often of different religion. Even more astonishing that they've allowed some groups to keep immigrating even after the early arrivers from those groups have proved to be failures, economically or socially. Did anyone predict that 60 years ago?"

I thought that the excessive tolerances and the aversion to distinguish groups of people based on factual differences are traits that developed as a result of oversensitization from the events of WWII. Hitler's people engaged in cruel and unjust discrimination, so all discrimination is now cruel and unjust. Hitler's people (and others before them) engaged in cruel and gruesome eugenics experiments, so all eugenics are cruel and gruesome.

If Hitler did cruel experiments using pasta, pasta would now be known to be bad for everyone.

Comment author: brainoil 02 April 2014 01:13:17AM *  1 point [-]

Jim Crowe laws were there up until 1965, two decades after the war. If there really was such an over-sensitization, this wouldn't be the case. Clearly, they weren't sensitized enough. You'd have a hard time linking this to WWII.

What are the examples you can give of such excessive tolerances and aversion to distinguish groups of people based on factual differences without resorting to generalizing, and instead judging each individual separately? In my opinion, it's very hard to be over tolerant. It's clear as day that George Zimmerman wouldn't have shot that kid dead if he was white. Even if it is true that black men have a predisposition to violence, that doesn't mean the kid deserved the bias against him.

I think it is this thought that drives the anti-discrimination political movement. It's the idea that people are more than members of their races. More than the WWII, it's just how the rise of individuality in the Western world would go forward. This also explains why Russia is still rampantly discriminating against all sorts of people, be it women, or gays, or minorities. They were involved in the WWII too, but clearly it hasn't caused any over-sensitization.

Other than that, there's the more obvious fact that among the people who are against Affirmative Action, Immigration, Disparate Impact Doctrine etc. are people like Pat Buchanan, who clearly doesn't have the best interests of protected groups in his heart. So you can't blame people for trying to be excessively tolerant so that they can counter the people who are excessively intolerant.

Comment author: Manon_de_Gaillande 13 January 2008 03:20:14PM 0 points [-]

Actually, the last statement (about spankings instead of jails) doesn't sound foolish at all. We abolished torture and slavery, we have replaced a lot of punishments with softer ones, we are trying to make executions painless and more and more people are against death penalty, we are more and more concerned about the well-being of ever larger groups (white men, then women, then other "races", then children), we pay attention to personal freedom, we think inmates are entitled to human rights, and if we care more about preventing further misdeeds than punishing the culprit, jails may not be efficient. I doubt spanking will replace jail, but I'd bet on something along these lines.

Comment author: CarlShulman 18 July 2010 09:50:51AM *  21 points [-]

Stranger than World War II?

Let's start with the bad guys. Battalions of stormtroopers dressed in all black, check. Secret police, check. Determination to brutally kill everyone who doesn't look like them, check. Leader with a tiny villain mustache and a tendency to go into apopleptic rage when he doesn't get his way, check. All this from a country that was ordinary, believable, and dare I say it sometimes even sympathetic in previous seasons.

I wouldn't even mind the lack of originality if they weren't so heavy-handed about it. Apparently we're supposed to believe that in the middle of the war the Germans attacked their allies the Russians, starting an unwinnable conflict on two fronts, just to show how sneaky and untrustworthy they could be? And that they diverted all their resources to use in making ever bigger and scarier death camps, even in the middle of a huge war? Real people just aren't that evil. And that's not even counting the part where as soon as the plot requires it, they instantly forget about all the racism nonsense and become best buddies with the definitely non-Aryan Japanese.

HT: Volokh

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 19 July 2010 09:39:55PM *  17 points [-]

Note that Yvain is the author.

Comment author: Jiro 10 March 2014 08:52:29PM 7 points [-]

Several of those became staples of fiction because of their association with World War II, so this is sort of like complaining that Shakespeare is full of cliches. If the Nazis had eaten Jews instead of putting them in death camps, the past 70 years of fiction would have been full of cannibal stormtroopers.

Comment author: ahruman 06 November 2010 07:58:59PM 3 points [-]

I know this is entirely beside the point, but in 1901 Zeppelin’s first airship company collapsed, having built one prototype. The word wasn’t exactly a genericized trademark yet.

Comment author: army1987 13 September 2011 11:59:14AM 1 point [-]

And imperial units such as the mile weren't standardized yet across countries, nor was the metre defined in terms of c and the second, so c wasn't “exactly 670616629.2 miles per hour” according to the 1901 meaning of mile.

Comment author: army1987 13 September 2011 11:58:36AM 3 points [-]

Maybe some kind of hindsight bias is at work, but I think I would have found Statement 2' a lot less crazy than Statement 2: the latter requires there being several billion male prostitutes, which (assuming that less than 20% of all males will be prostitutes and about 50% of all people will be male) would require a world population of several tens of billions.

(One of the main reasons why I would've found Statement 1' very unlikely is the “exactly 670616629.2” part, but I'm sure that was not your point: I'm sure you would assign a much lower prior to “I (army1987) generated a random 32-bit number a few minutes ago and it was 735,416,352” than to “... and it was more than 1 billion”, but you won't be shocked to know only the former is true. So I'll pretend it said “between 600 and 700 million miles per hour” instead.) I think I would've found Statement 1 crazier than 1', too: the idea that one particular colour (within the convex hull of the set of all colours I've seen before) has quasi-magical powers but an ever-so-slightly bluer or greener one has no weird properties at all sounds pretty bizarre to me (and possibly unfalsifiable, if there exist infinitely many colours), in a way that the idea that there is a speed (several orders of magnitude larger than anybody ever experienced) such that weirder and weirder things happen the closest you get to it wouldn't.

Comment author: cassidymoon 13 November 2011 10:56:29PM 2 points [-]

You do realize that what you're saying is classic hindsight bias, right? Saying that "Weird happens when you go a certain speed" is just as crazy as saying "Weird stuff happens when you're a certain color". There's no real difference in strangeness between the statements.

Comment author: army1987 13 November 2011 11:37:21PM 4 points [-]

Read my post again. It's not a matter of speed vs colour, it's a matter of “there is a maximum possible value of [quantity], much greater than almost all values of [quantity] you experience in everyday life, and weirder and weirder things happen the closer you get to it” vs “there is one particular value of [quantity], well within the range of values of [quantity] you experience in everyday life, at which weird things happens, though nothing weird happens at even very slightly smaller or larger values of [quantity]”.

Anyway, I think the post would be more effective at getting the point across if the true statements were clearly weirder (even factoring in hindsight bias) than the false ones, whereas here the intention appears to be making them approximately equally as weird.

Comment author: Torgamous 15 November 2011 02:52:56PM 3 points [-]

Yes, if given a choice to believe one or the other, we'd all probably choose the speed one. But the person in 1901 is not being given the color option as a counterpoint, they're just being told "if you go really, really fast, reality turns into an Escher painting." I don't know about you, but had I been born in 1901, I'm pretty sure I'd sooner believe in Scientology.

Comment author: army1987 15 November 2011 06:33:19PM *  1 point [-]

(Of course, someone in 1901 would answer “Who the hell is Escher?” :-))

ETA: And “What the hell is Scientology?”, too. Jokes aside, I would probably agree if I was a randomly chosen person in 1901, but I'm not sure I would if I was a randomly chosen physics graduate student in 1901. I mean, If there's a reason why only four years later the Annalen der Physik published an article proposing special relativity but none proposing Scientology. (I'd probably still consider quantum mechanics less plausible than Scientology, though.)

Comment author: Torgamous 15 November 2011 02:39:40PM 6 points [-]

Statement 2 is more plausible than you think. Given the stated sizes of the spheres, it's highly unlikely that they exist solely as prostitute storage units. I'd suggest that they're aerial habitats, and prostitutes are just one of their many exports to the surface. They also offer really awesome bungee rides.

Alternatively, they could be organism production facilities, and the prostitutes are produced on site upon being ordered. They also offer pet velociraptors and colorful ponies.

Comment author: army1987 15 November 2011 06:32:26PM *  0 points [-]

Good points, I hadn't thought about that.

I'd still wager that there will never be more than 1,999,999,999 male prostitutes (or facilities to produce male prostitutes on demand) on Earth in the next 60 years, though. :-)

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 16 November 2011 08:59:17AM 6 points [-]

If they're not exclusively prostitutes, this just requires 2 billion males that are willing to have sex for money. We already have billions of males that are willing to have sex for free, so all this actually requires is a societal shift in which sex-for-money is considered a respectable arrangement instead of an extremely low-status one.

Alternatively they can just be consider AI generic servants, whose duties include sexual deals.

Comment author: Strange7 09 January 2012 01:23:24PM 4 points [-]

Given the color and size of the spheres, I'm guessing they use solar power and stay aloft by being mostly full of vacuum. As such, statement 2 doesn't seem particularly crazy.

People consider all sorts of wacky things evil, regardless of, or even in direct opposition to, what the previous generation thought of as evil. As such statement 3 doesn't shock me at all. There are already some pretty solid arguments circulating about how locking people up for trivial offenses and giving them little or no opportunity to socialize except with career criminals is a bad idea.

Statement 1 is on it's face inconsistent with what I know about thermodynamics, but there are some pretty big gaps in our understanding of how gravity works, so the paint could just be a way to request a lift from some orbiting tractor-beam taxi service. A stretch, but not inconceivable.

Possibly I am just numb to absurdity.

Comment author: Jiro 10 March 2014 09:03:22PM *  0 points [-]

If you were actually living in 1901 and got a bunch of future predictions made by people of the time, and chose the ones with similar absurdity to the ones described above, chances are very unlikely that you'd end up with an accurate prediction. Pointing out that an accurate description of today would have sounded silly in 1901 is hindsight bias; most things that would have sounded silly in 1901 really were silly.

Also, although it doesn't show up too much in the predictions you chose, people in 1901 had much lower levels of rationality than people from the 20th century. For instance, I'd expect someone from 1901 to think gay marriage is absurd, because beliefs about that have a heavy religious component and religion ruled people's lives in 1901 in a way that it does not now.

(And some of the items are described in a way that seem stranger to people from 1901 than necessary. What if you described the Internet as a network which controls fax machines that displays pictures so fast that they looked like flipbooks?)

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 13 March 2014 06:10:43AM 7 points [-]

Also, although it doesn't show up too much in the predictions you chose, people in 1901 had much lower levels of rationality than people from the 20th century. For instance, I'd expect someone from 1901 to think gay marriage is absurd, because beliefs about that have a heavy religious component and religion ruled people's lives in 1901 in a way that it does not now.

First even 1901 atheists would consider gay marriage absurd. Also, in order to establish that this constitutes a lower level of rationality, you need to do more then show that their beliefs differ from ours, after all they looking at us would conclude that we are being irrational for not considering it absurd. What argument would you present to them for why they are wrong?

Comment author: Jiro 13 March 2014 08:10:46AM 0 points [-]

What argument would you present to them for why they are wrong?

It only does any good to present an argument to someone for why he is wrong if he is rational. If someone believes something for non-rational reasons, there may not be any argument that you could present that would convince him.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 19 March 2014 03:54:16AM *  1 point [-]

Well, people changed their mind about this issue, and since you consider this a rational change, you presumably believe they changed their mind based an a rational argument. Or are you using "rational" as a 2-place function?

Comment author: Jiro 19 March 2014 09:59:38PM *  0 points [-]

Well, people changed their mind about this issue, and since you consider this a rational change

Hold on there. That doesn't follow. It is possible to do the same thing either for rational or irrational reasons.

Nobody who was an adult in 1901 is alive today, but for people who changed their mind and were adults many decades ago, I'd suggest that either

  1. the influence of religion on them went down, so they were susceptible to a rational argument recently, but no rational argument could have convinced them in the earlier time period, or

  2. they changed their mind about the issue for a reason that was not rational (such as their preacher telling them that God says gay marriage is okay)

  3. "many decades ago" was long enough after 1901 that there wasn't as much religious influence on them in the first place, so they were susceptible to rational argument, but only because they were not from 1901

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 21 March 2014 04:23:13AM 3 points [-]

the influence of religion on them went down, so they were susceptible to a rational argument recently, but no rational argument could have convinced them in the earlier time period,

(..)

"many decades ago" was long enough after 1901 that there wasn't as much religious influence on them in the first place, so they were susceptible to rational argument, but only because they were not from 1901

First as I explain in more detail here your claim that it was religious influence that kept people from believing gay marriage was a reasonable thing, appears highly dubious upon closer examination. Second, since you presumably believe that the arguments that convinced them to be less religious were also rational, you could presumably convince them using the rational arguments to be less religious followed by the rational arguments for gay marriage.

Comment author: Jiro 21 March 2014 04:39:39AM 0 points [-]

I do not believe that the arguments that convinced them to be less religious were rational (and probably weren't even, strictly speaking, arguments).

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 22 March 2014 01:04:10AM 0 points [-]

Then in want sense did you mean "people in 1901 had much lower levels of rationality than people from the 20th century"?

Comment author: Jiro 22 March 2014 01:56:45AM 0 points [-]

Since 1901 is in the 20th century, I think you need to be a bit more charitable and figure out that that's a typo.

Once you correct that, there are two things going on here:

  1. People from 1901 and people from the 21st century aren't the same people. The people from 1901 didn't become people from 2014 and get more rational in the process; they died off and were replaced by different people who were more rational from the start.

  2. Even limiting it to a shorter timespan, people who became rational didn't do so for rational reasons. In fact, they couldn't--it would be logically contradictory. If they became rational for rational reasons they would already be rational.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 22 March 2014 02:54:41AM 0 points [-]

So what is the basis for your claim that these changes constitute becoming more as opposed to less rational?

Comment author: army1987 30 March 2014 08:24:22AM 0 points [-]

What would it even mean for support or opposition to gay marriage to be rational or irrational? The utility function isn't up for grabs.

Comment author: Wes_W 30 March 2014 10:28:22AM 0 points [-]

It would be an odd utility function which had an explicit term for gay marriage specifically. Arguments for it tend to be based on broader principles, like fairness and the fact of its non-harmfulness to others.

An irrational opposition might be something like having a term for fairness but failing to evaluate that term in some particular case, or becoming convinced of harmfulness despite the absence of evidence for such.

Comment author: EHeller 19 March 2014 04:25:05AM -1 points [-]

First even 1901 atheists would consider gay marriage absurd.

Do you have any evidence for this?

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 19 March 2014 04:46:50AM *  6 points [-]

Read what Freud (who was an atheist) had to say about homosexuality for starters.

Also, France had a significant atheist population, no one there was proposing gay marriage.

Edit: By the 1930's there were several countries where Atheist Militants (of the priest-killing kind) either ruled or controlled large chunks of territory, none of them ever considered implementing gay marriage. So you can't even argue "the atheists actually thought gay marriage was a sane idea but didn't say so for fear of how they'd look to their religious neighbors".

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 19 March 2014 06:36:29AM *  7 points [-]

Read what Freud (who was an atheist) had to say about homosexuality for starters.

You needn't go as far back as Freud. Hell, read what Ayn Rand had to say about homosexuality (and she thought that God existing was metaphysically impossible and religion was the "negation of reason").

Comment author: Chrysophylax 24 March 2014 12:08:14AM 1 point [-]

I agree with the statements of fact but not with the inference drawn from them. While Jiro's argument is poorly expressed, I think it is reasonable to say that opposition to homosexuality would not have been the default stance of the cultures of or derived from Europe if not for Christianity being the dominant religion in previous years. While the Communists rejected religion, they did not fully update on this rejection, but rather continued in many of the beliefs that religion had caused to be part of their culture.

I am not sure that "the atheists actually thought gay marriage was a sane idea but didn't say so for fear of how they'd look to their religious neighbors" was Jiro's position, but I think that it is a straw man.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 24 March 2014 01:03:12AM 6 points [-]

...I think it is reasonable to say that opposition to homosexuality would not have been the default stance of the cultures of or derived from Europe if not for Christianity being the dominant religion in previous years. While the Communists rejected religion, they did not fully update on this rejection, but rather continued in many of the beliefs that religion had caused to be part of their culture.

Blaming lingering Christian memes for the illegality of gay marriage doesn't seem right to me, because almost all countries that currently allow it are predominantly Christian or Post-Christian. Are there any countries that allow gay marriage that don't have a longish history of Christianity?

Comment author: Chrysophylax 24 March 2014 09:43:29AM 5 points [-]

Are there any countries that allow gay marriage that don't have a longish history of Christianity?

No. There are 17 countries that allow it and 2 that allow it in some jurisdictions. A list may be found here: http://www.pewforum.org/2013/12/19/gay-marriage-around-the-world-2013/

There have been plenty of cultures where homosexuality was accepted; classical Greece and Rome, for example. Cultures where marriage is predominantly a governmental matter rather than a religious one are all, as far as I am aware, heavily influenced by the cultures of western Europe. One might also observe that all of these countries are industrial or post-industrial, and have large populations of young people with vastly more economic and sexual freedom than occured before the middle of the 20th century. One might also observe that China, Japan and South Korea seem to be the only countries at this level of economic development that were not culturally dominated by colonial states.

The fact that a history of Christianity is positively correlated with approval for gay marriage does not imply that Christian memes directly influence stances on homosexuality. Christianity spread around the world alongside other memes (such as democracy and case law). Those countries where European colonies were culturally dominant also received the industrial revolution and the immense increases in personal rights that came as a consequence of the increased economic and political power of the working class. One might also point out that thinking black people are inferior is a meme that arose from the slave trade in Christian semi-democracies.

There seems to be abundant evidence that the Abrahamic religions have strongly influenced societal views worldwide with regard to sexual morals; indeed, I cannot imagine a remotely plausible argument for this being untrue. I also wish to observe that Eastern Orthodox Christianity survived the USSR and still affects cultural values in Russia; it seems highly improbable that it did not influence Russian culture in the 1930s.

Comment author: Vaniver 24 March 2014 08:55:57PM 3 points [-]

One might also observe that China, Japan and South Korea seem to be the only countries at this level of economic development that were not culturally dominated by colonial states.

I get the impression that both China and Japan (I'm less familiar with Korea) are accepting of homosexual desire and activity, and assumed that bisexuality (of some sort) was normal, and almost all opposition to it stems from Christian influences in the 1800s. I think that none of them have gay marriage, or any sort of serious movement towards gay marriage, because of a conception of marriage as family-creating, rather than bond-creating, and under such a view obviously sterile marriages are a bad idea. (Why not just marry a woman and have a male lover?)

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 25 March 2014 02:56:58AM 0 points [-]

This was certainly the attitude of ancient Greece, to a first approximation anyway (they didn't even have a social category for gay relationships between two men of equal status).

I'm not sure how much this was the case in China. Given how fashionable it is in certain parts of academia to retroactively declare historical people gay, I'd take this claim with a grain of salt.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 25 March 2014 02:46:54AM *  1 point [-]

One might also point out that thinking black people are inferior is a meme that arose from the slave trade in Christian semi-democracies.

Read Arabian Nights, blacks are portrayed pretty negatively there as well.

Comment author: V_V 25 March 2014 05:44:59PM *  3 points [-]

Arabs had been enslaving Africans since medieval times.

Comment author: Chrysophylax 27 March 2014 12:08:04AM 1 point [-]

I've read it. Views about black people in the Islamic Golden Age were not the cause of views about black people in the nations participating in the transatlantic slave trade; a quick check of Wikipedia confirms that slavery as a formal institution had to redevelop in the English colonies, as chattel slavery had virtually disappeared after the Norman Conquest and villeinage was largely gone by the beginning of the 17th century. One might as well argue that the ethic of recipricocity in modern Europe owes its origin to Confucian ren.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 25 March 2014 03:20:01AM -1 points [-]

Cultures where marriage is predominantly a governmental matter rather than a religious one are all, as far as I am aware, heavily influenced by the cultures of western Europe.

My understanding of non-Christian cultures is that this claim is dubious. Of course the notion of a separation of religion and state is itself a modern western notion, so it's hard to say what this means for most cultures.

Comment author: V_V 25 March 2014 06:16:37PM *  4 points [-]

There have been plenty of cultures where homosexuality was accepted; classical Greece and Rome, for example.

And, as Vaniver pointed out, feudal Japan and imperial China as well. However, none of these societies allowed gay marriage, as far as I know.

Note that in all pre-modern, and in particular pre-industrial, societies, economic and military strength were constrained by population size. Also, social organization was centred around clans/extended families.
Therefore, marrying and making lots of children was considered a duty of every man and woman towards both their clan and their country.

There seem to be some exceptions to the rule: the Catholic Church attempted to bar its priests from marrying, with little success until the 11th century, possibly to avoid priests spread in a multitude of countries, over which the Church had little control, to form dynastic lines. Priests still provided valuable services to their communities, hence the loss of fertility caused by the marriage ban was tolerated.
I suppose that similar arguments can be made for Buddhist priests, but I'm not as knowledgeable of Asian history.

Comment author: Nornagest 25 March 2014 07:13:15PM *  1 point [-]

I suppose that similar arguments can be made for Buddhist priests, but I'm not as knowledgeable of Asian history.

Well, most strains of Buddhism don't formalize a role like that of Catholic priests; there are ordained monastics, some of whom are also teachers, and there are lay teachers, but there isn't a process of ordainment specifically for religious instructors. That monastic community is quite old and well-developed, though, and its members (monks, nuns) have generally been expected to be celibate.

Some strains do include variations that are less restrictive. The Dzogchen tradition in Tibet provides for noncelibate ngakpa, for example. Most Buddhist monks in Japan, and some in China and Korea, take vows that allow for marriage. Theravada traditions in Southeast Asia often encourage temporary ordination (generally for older male children).

Comment author: Lumifer 25 March 2014 08:42:13PM *  1 point [-]

However, none of these societies allowed gay marriage, as far as I know.

You have to be careful with terminology here. Let's say that in some society it's acceptable for a man and a woman to live together and have regular sex. The society calls this relationship by the word X. In the same society it is also acceptable for a man and another man to live together and have regular sex. The society calls this relationship by the word Y.

Now, X and Y are different words but by itself that does not mean that this society does not "allow gay marriage". It might mean that all it does is distinguish between two (or more) kinds of "marriage".

To figure out whether a society "allows gay marriage" you probably need to taboo the word "marriage" and define what does your question mean -- most likely in terms of a bundle of rights and obligations that comes with the declaration of some sort of a union between some people.

Comment author: Protagoras 24 March 2014 01:45:32PM 2 points [-]

The modern West treats marriage as being primarily about romantic love, which is an idea not shared by earlier cultures. A culture which does not see romantic love as the essential component of marriage would be unlikely to come up with the idea of gay marriage. There may be some convoluted connection between Christianity and the Western ideal of love-based marriage, but it seems likely that if there were a culture that had the same overriding love-marriage association without any religious objections to homosexuality, that culture would endorse gay marriage.

Comment author: brazil84 25 March 2014 09:08:59AM 6 points [-]

people in 1901 had much lower levels of rationality than people from the 20th century.

Do you have any examples of this which do not rely on measuring peoples' rationality by the extent they agree with modern progressive political views?

Comment author: Neo 25 March 2014 11:45:11AM 3 points [-]

Flynn effect, economic prosperity, increase in rate of innovation, and better educational systems and other tools are around nowadays.

I cannot provide you a video tape, but this seems to be at least some evidence for that statement in my opinion.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 25 March 2014 12:51:09PM 6 points [-]

The significance of the Flynn effect is disputed, and some claim that the course of the 20th century saw a decline in innovation. Unfortunately, the divide on these matters, at least in the lay blogosphere, aligns with a political division. Those who want to say that the world is going to hell in a handbasket point to a decline in reaction times (which are correlated with intelligence) and claim scientific stagnation, those who believe that we've never had it so good and will have it better in the future point to Flynn and the modern cornucopia. Is evidence producing worldviews or are worldviews selecting evidence?

Comment author: Neo 25 March 2014 01:16:32PM *  3 points [-]

Those who advocate that the world is going to hell, do they point to a certain era as the most rational time, and what would have caused the downturn?

EDIT: Mainly asking this question in order to find out how they measure rationality, as right now I find the point of view rather surprising.

Comment author: brazil84 25 March 2014 01:58:43PM 4 points [-]

Those who advocate that the world is going to hell, do they point to a certain era as the most rational time, and what would have caused the downturn?

I don't think the world is going to hell, but I do think that wealth and power can give you more luxury to hold irrational beliefs. So perhaps people were more rational back in the days of our noble savage ancestors and it's been downhill ever since. :)

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 26 March 2014 02:28:49AM 2 points [-]

Since holding irrational beliefs tends to result in eventually loosing one's wealth and power, this tends to work as a negative feedback effect.

Comment author: brazil84 26 March 2014 07:44:09AM 3 points [-]

Since holding irrational beliefs tends to result in eventually loosing one's wealth and power,

I'm not sure this is true because of standby-rationality mode. Also known as hypocrisy.

Comment author: Grant 26 March 2014 08:21:58AM 3 points [-]

Agreed. Powerful people (especially politicians) seem to hold plenty of irrational beliefs. Of course we can't really tell the difference between lying about irrational beliefs and hypocrisy, if there's a meaningful difference for the outside observer at all.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 28 March 2014 02:23:28AM 2 points [-]

The problem is that the politician who honestly holds a popular irrational belief (assuming said belief isn't directly related to the mechanisms of election campaigns) is better able to signal it and thus more likely to get elected than the politician who merely false claims to hold it.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 27 March 2014 12:19:57AM 1 point [-]

Standby-rationality mode isn't nearly as good as actual rational reasoning. Also hypocrisy creates cognitive dissonance (both in individuals and institutions) that tends to be resolved by actually adopting the (false) beliefs one is claiming to believe.

Comment author: brazil84 27 March 2014 07:51:47PM 0 points [-]

Standby-rationality mode isn't nearly as good as actual rational reasoning

Can you give me a couple concrete examples of this?

Also hypocrisy creates cognitive dissonance (both in individuals and institutions) that tends to be resolved by actually adopting the (false) beliefs one is claiming to believe.

Same question. TIA

Comment author: RichardKennaway 25 March 2014 02:09:48PM 4 points [-]

Those who advocate that the world is going to hell, do they point to a certain era as the most rational time, and what would have caused the downturn?

I'm referring to the reactosphere, of course, which I don't actually follow, but am aware of. Some trace the fall to the Enlightenment, some to the Reformation. Moldbug, on the other hand, has a lot of time for writers up to the 19th century, as people who knew what was what and from whose state of grace we have fallen. He has mentioned many times the persistent leftwards trend since then but the last I saw, still considered it a mystery. Others look to prehistory when men were men and women were chattels, and think that things started going downhill with the invention of agriculture, with the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the 20th century being but further headlong descent down the rings of hell.

Leftists, in contrast, read the persistent leftwards trend as the inevitable march towards truth. At least, when they aren't crying "help, help, I'm being oppressed!", which requires portraying their opposition as the ones with power.

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 25 March 2014 03:26:44PM 0 points [-]

You accept the leftard trend as fact, but the economics of the left have been abandoned, while their social policies have been accepted.

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 25 March 2014 03:56:47PM *  5 points [-]

"Leftard" :)


What do you mean by economics of the left? Do you mean state capitalism like in China, or a generous welfare state like in Sweden? Arguably both are quite successful.


I think I stopped paying attention to Moldbug somewhere around the time he said he was too cool to respond to Scott's demolishing of neoreaction.

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 25 March 2014 04:20:58PM 0 points [-]

I mean state communism, nationalization, the govt co strolling the means of production.

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 25 March 2014 05:11:16PM *  1 point [-]

How has nationalization and the government controlling the means of production been abandoned? Have you seen what Russia and China are up to?


The history of the 19th and 20th century has seen a continuous movement towards welfare and labor reforms, which are broadly "leftist" (or at least a part of the liberal project -- the neoreaction types will agree). In other words, what the heck are you talking about?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 25 March 2014 04:22:06PM 2 points [-]

You accept the leftard trend as fact

Just stating Moldbug's view, but I do think he has a point here. Compare current policies everywhere with those of 100 to 150 years ago (which is the timescale he is viewing things on).

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 25 March 2014 06:05:37PM -1 points [-]

Social or economic policies?

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 26 March 2014 02:32:17AM 0 points [-]

Either. Consider government budget as a percentage of GDP today versus 100 years ago. No, left-wing economic policies haven't been abandoned.

Comment author: brazil84 25 March 2014 01:42:58PM 5 points [-]

Unfortunately, the divide on these matters, at least in the lay blogosphere, aligns with a political division.

To an extent I agree with you, but based on my personal observations I would say that most people are pretty much irrational now and probably were also back in 1901. Gay marriage is actually a good example. Whether it's a rational belief or not, it's pretty clear to me that most people believe in it or not based on what they think a good liberal (or conservative) is supposed to believe. As opposed to any logical reasoning.

I doubt people were any better back in 1901 -- it's just human nature to believe stuff based on what serves your interests; what group you belong to; what signals you want to send; etc.

So I would say that people were pretty much irrational back in 1901 just like today. (At least in "far mode.")

Comment author: army1987 30 March 2014 08:20:20AM 0 points [-]

a decline in reaction times (which are correlated with intelligence)

I chalk it up to sleep deprivation, which was much less prevalent before the Internet/television/the light bulb became available.

Comment author: Jiro 29 March 2014 04:55:17PM 4 points [-]

That's a tricky question because modern progressive political views are opposed to religion. And religion is a large source of irrationality. So most examples are going to happen to match modern progressive political views just because of that, even though they're not measured by their agreement with modern progressive political views.

The first example that comes to mind is a decline in anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism 1) is irrational and 2) because of left-wing opposition to Israel and the West and support of third world Arab states, is not necessarily reduced by modern progressive political views.

Comment author: VAuroch 29 March 2014 07:00:12PM 3 points [-]

2) because of left-wing opposition to Israel and the West and support of third world Arab states,

This might be a good example in Europe, but both sides of mainstream US politics support Israel over its neighbors, fairly heavily. The fringes don't (on both ends), but the main body of political discourse does, and that takes away the support for your claim.

Comment author: Jiro 29 March 2014 07:07:06PM 0 points [-]

No, it still counts. If both groups support it, it still isn't specific to progressive political views.

Comment author: VAuroch 29 March 2014 11:47:50PM *  3 points [-]

The Overton Window is far more progressive than it was a century ago and that makes anti-Semitism socially unacceptable.

Also, that we no longer treat Jews as the Evil Outsiders and have replaced them with Muslims, does not speak well for the rationality of our society. A century ago we were, as a society, racist against Italians. Now we aren't; instead we're racist against Latinos, for substantially the same reasons. Neither of those looks like an improvement from where I'm standing.

Comment author: brazil84 29 March 2014 07:26:59PM 1 point [-]

That's a tricky question because modern progressive political views are opposed to religion

I'm not sure if that's correct, depending of course on how you define "religion" and "opposed."

The first example that comes to mind is a decline in anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism 1) is irrational and 2) because of left-wing opposition to Israel and the West and support of third world Arab states, is not necessarily reduced by modern progressive political views.

Let me ask you this: If you meet a person who tells you that he hates Jewish people and nothing more (and you believe him), would you guess that, generally speaking he is in agreement or disagreement with modern progressive political views?

Comment author: Jiro 29 March 2014 09:16:17PM 3 points [-]

That combines the questions of "are they anti-Semitic" and "if they are anti-Semitic, how would they phrase it". A right-wing anti-Semite is more likely to phrase it that way than a progressive one, even if they are both anti-Semites.

Comment author: brazil84 29 March 2014 09:21:26PM *  -2 points [-]

A right-wing anti-Semite is more likely to phrase it that way than a progressive one,

Well how would a progressive anti-Semite tell people he hates Jews?

Comment author: eli_sennesh 29 March 2014 10:26:10PM 3 points [-]

He'll say something along the lines of: "The Zionist lobby makes Congress send aid to Israel." If he wants to be really obvious about it, he'll endorse Gilead Atzmon.

Comment author: brazil84 29 March 2014 10:48:39PM *  1 point [-]

[ . . . ]

By the way, I don't engage with eli_sennesh due to his past dishonesty.

Comment author: army1987 30 March 2014 08:04:11AM 1 point [-]

What?

Comment author: brazil84 30 March 2014 09:39:02AM 5 points [-]

What?

:shrug: I had an exchange a while back with eli_sennesh in which he misrepresented my position, i.e. attacked a strawman, and did not retract it when I called him on it. I have a personal rule of not engaging with such posters as such tactics are both annoying and a complete waste of time. There is little chance of learning from someone who doesn't respond to what you actually say but instead pretends you said something unreasonable so that he can attack it and pretend that he has defeated you in battle, so to speak.

Comment author: eli_sennesh 30 March 2014 08:54:40AM *  2 points [-]

Sorry, what? I wasn't aware we were holy-warring. By the way, I'm not voting on anything you've said.

Comment author: brazil84 03 April 2014 07:58:57AM 1 point [-]

Since you choose not to tell me how a progressive anti-Semite would tell people he hates Jews, I assume you have no good answer for that question. The most charitable interpretation I can think of of your point is that a right-wing anti-Semite is more likely to be open about his hatred of Jewish people; that a left-wing anti-Semite is more likely to express his hatred of Jews through the three D's: delegitimization of Israel; double-standards for Israel; and demonization of Israel. He might not even be fully consciously aware that he hates Jewish people and is likely to deny it if asked. If he is asked why he criticizes Israel for some isolated misdemeanor while ignoring other countries which systematically engage in felonies, so to speak, he will not have a good answer.

So where does that get you in terms of your original point that people are more rational now than in the past, and anti-Semitism is an example of this? Well certainly people in the West are less likely to express hatred for Jews or to organize pogroms. But your example of the left-wing anti-Semite shows that there is still a good deal of irrationality in play by your own standard. So again, it seems you are assessing rationality by measuring conformance with modern progressive political views

For reasons I have expressed elsewhere, I think this is a bad idea.

Comment author: Jiro 03 April 2014 06:02:46PM -2 points [-]

But your example of the left-wing anti-Semite shows that there is still a good deal of irrationality in play by your own standard. So again, it seems you are assessing rationality by measuring conformance with modern progressive political views

What in the world are you talking about? You are aware, I hope, that "progressive" is a euphemism for "left-wing"? The example of left-wing anti-Semitism shows that a reduction in anti-Semitism is not in conformance with modern progressive political views.

Comment author: brazil84 03 April 2014 07:08:11PM 0 points [-]

What in the world are you talking about? You are aware, I hope, that "progressive" is a euphemism for "left-wing"?

Yes.

The example of left-wing anti-Semitism shows that a reduction in anti-Semitism is not in conformance with modern progressive political views.

Well how do you know there has been a reduction in anti-Semitism? You seem to agree that anti-Semitic progressives will generally not express their anti-Semitism by expressly stating they hate Jews or by engaging in pogroms. Instead they are more indirect about it.

Comment author: Jiro 03 April 2014 08:53:26PM *  0 points [-]

Well how do you know there has been a reduction in anti-Semitism?

You can observe that Jews have an easier time getting jobs in industries that used to discriminate against them, that Jews tend not to get lynched any more, etc.

Comment author: brazil84 03 April 2014 09:30:26PM 1 point [-]

You can observe that Jews have an easier time getting jobs in industries that used to discriminate against them, that Jews tend not to get lynched any more, etc.

That doesn't mean anything, since, by hypotheses, progressive anti-Semitism manifests itself in different ways.

Let me ask you this:

If someone is against policies which prohibit job discrimination on the basis of religion, would you guess that such a person generally subscribes to progressive viewpoints or not?

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 29 March 2014 07:52:10PM 1 point [-]

Another example is how a lot more people have realized that central planning doesn't work. An example where things have become less rational since the 1900's is the current irrational belief that race and gender don't correlate with anything significant.

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 29 March 2014 08:27:09PM 2 points [-]

...enough to stop treating people as individuals

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 29 March 2014 08:37:11PM 1 point [-]

Taboo "treating people as individuals".

Also, how would you count things like Affirmative Action and especially the Disparate Impact Doctrine?

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 29 March 2014 10:29:34PM *  6 points [-]

I would count them ss relevant to the US only.

Someone once told me that Obama must be dumber than GWB because he is black. That is what treating someone as an individual isn't.

Comment author: Protagoras 29 March 2014 10:40:55PM 2 points [-]

I admit that I encounter people who make a big deal of how edgy and contrarian they are for speaking out about innate differences in the face of the stifling politically correct consensus that race and sex don't matter at all. It's pretty amazing how they seem to be everywhere, given the supposedly universal consensus rejecting and supressing such edgy, contrarian views.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 29 March 2014 10:50:52PM 0 points [-]

I admit that I encounter people who make a big deal of how edgy and contrarian they are for speaking out about innate differences in the face of the stifling politically correct consensus that race and sex don't matter at all. It's pretty amazing how they seem to be everywhere, given the supposedly universal consensus rejecting and supressing such edgy, contrarian views.

Have you seen any of these people on mainstream fora? The reason these people seem so common is that you're per-filtering your internet browsing to sites that strongly value truth.

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 29 March 2014 11:46:10PM -1 points [-]

OTOH the stifling consensus isn't stifling teh Webz

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 30 March 2014 03:20:05AM 3 points [-]

Depends on which website you're talking about.

Comment author: Protagoras 30 March 2014 12:33:32AM 2 points [-]

As far as I can tell, the far left position on sex is that most of the stereotypical sex differences are exaggerated, and most of the genuine differences are more the result of socialization rather than biology. I don't encounter anyone who goes further than that; I've never encountered anyone who would replace either "most" with an "all," or who would replace the "more" with an "entirely," in the case of sex, and I encounter a lot of people who are pretty far left (being fairly far left myself these days). The situation with race is a little different; some people would replace the second "most" with an "all," and the second "more" with an "entirely." But then, the evidence is also different with respect to race. People who think there's just no difference at all in the case of sex I only encounter as straw characters in conservative rants.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 30 March 2014 03:56:34AM -1 points [-]

As far as I can tell, the far left position on sex is that most of the stereotypical sex differences are exaggerated, and most of the genuine differences are more the result of socialization rather than biology.

And anyone who suggests they might be caused by biology is an EVIL SEXIST who must be suppressed.

I don't encounter anyone who goes further than that; I've never encountered anyone who would replace either "most" with an "all," or who would replace the "more" with an "entirely," in the case of sex, and I encounter a lot of people who are pretty far left (being fairly far left myself these days).

True, in the sense that I don't think any leftists are insane enough to claim that differences in genitals and breasts are the result of socialization, but then again I don't hang out with the SJ crowd.

Comment author: EHeller 30 March 2014 04:27:58AM 1 point [-]

Have you seen any of these people on mainstream fora? The reason these people seem so common is that you're per-filtering your internet browsing to sites that strongly value truth.

I see these people in my everyday life all the time. I think that the edge internet contrarians don't realize their views are held as common sense by fairly large sections of the population.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 30 March 2014 04:40:05AM 2 points [-]

Oh, I'm sure a lot of people (or at least their system I's) have noticed the forbidden facts we describe (in part because some of them are blinkingly obvious unless one is actively trying not to see them), whether they're willing to say them anywhere semi-public is another issue.

Comment author: army1987 30 March 2014 08:24:43PM 2 points [-]

I suspect there are many fewer such people in places where said edge internet contrarians live (e.g. New England or the Bay Area) than elsewhere.

(I've never been to New England nor to the Bay Area, so take this with a huge grain of salt.)

Comment author: army1987 30 March 2014 07:56:39AM -1 points [-]

Have you seen any of these people on mainstream fora?

I see quite a lot of them on Facebook, some of whom are outraged by some ‘news’ on Italian analogues of The Onion without even realizing they're satire so they hardly “strongly value truth”.

Comment author: ChristianKl 30 March 2014 02:12:27PM 3 points [-]

The public controversy about James Watson remarks on African intelligence happened fairly recently. To me that controversy indicates that the ideas are at least a bit edgy.

Comment author: brazil84 30 March 2014 04:42:41PM 3 points [-]

I admit that I encounter people who make a big deal of how edgy and contrarian they are for speaking out about innate differences in the face of the stifling politically correct consensus that race and sex don't matter at all. It's pretty amazing how they seem to be everywhere, given the supposedly universal consensus rejecting and supressing such edgy, contrarian views.

When you say "encounter," are you talking about internet postings? Private conversations in real life? Television commentators? Newspaper op-ed pieces?

Comment author: Protagoras 30 March 2014 07:15:47PM 1 point [-]

Mostly the first two. I don't watch much TV news or read many newspapers any more.

Comment author: brazil84 30 March 2014 08:10:49PM 2 points [-]

Mostly the first two. I don't watch much TV news or read many newspapers any more.

Would you mind linking to a couple of these internet postings so I can get a better handle on what you are saying? TIA.

Comment author: brazil84 03 April 2014 07:47:09AM 0 points [-]

Since you haven't provided examples of your observations, I will add that I suspect you are subconsciously exaggerating your case quite a bit. But I'm happy to look.

Comment author: Lumifer 31 March 2014 04:16:10PM 2 points [-]

It's pretty amazing how they seem to be everywhere

Really? Does that "everywhere" includes managerial positions in companies and various institutions? Are these people responsible for hiring anyone, by any chance?

Or let's even put it this way. Given the current legal and political climate and the habits of EEOC, do you think it's a good idea for a company to promote to a position of responsibility someone who publicly asserts that sex and race differences are significant?

Comment author: private_messaging 17 April 2014 07:34:55AM *  0 points [-]

Lengths changing around is called "Lorentz transformations", and pre-dates 1901:

Main article: History of Lorentz transformations

Many physicists, including Woldemar Voigt, George FitzGerald, Joseph Larmor, and Hendrik Lorentz himself had been >discussing the physics implied by these equations since 1887.[1]

Early in 1889, Oliver Heaviside had shown from Maxwell's equations that the electric field surrounding a spherical >distribution of charge should cease to have spherical symmetry once the charge is in motion relative to the ether. >FitzGerald then conjectured that Heaviside’s distortion result might be applied to a theory of intermolecular forces. Some >months later, FitzGerald published the conjecture that bodies in motion are being contracted, in order to explain the >baffling outcome of the 1887 ether-wind experiment of Michelson and Morley. In 1892, Lorentz independently presented >the same idea in a more detailed manner, which was subsequently called FitzGerald–Lorentz contraction hypothesis.[2] >Their explanation was widely known before 1905.[3]

It took time and combined effort of many smart people to finalize the full theory complete with dynamics; the most fundamental bits such as transformations came first.

At Einstein's level, human abilities top out - it's like world's best athletes, the second best, the 100th best, they run about the same speed, for all practical purposes. Remaining variability in total distance those athletes run in their lifetime is largely due to how hard they work, and that one is also topping out. And the variability in how a layperson would attribute and misattribute discoveries has to do with quite random factors.