What is moral foundation theory good for?

post by novalis · 2012-08-12T05:03:29.457Z · score: 12 (42 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 300 comments

I've seen Jonathan Haidt mentioned on Less Wrong a few times, and so when I saw an article about (in part) Haidt's new book elsewhere, I thought it would be an interesting read. It was, but not for the reasons I expected. Perhaps it is unfair to judge Haidt before I have read the book, but the quotes in the article reveal some seriously sloppy thinking.

Haidt believes that there are at least six sources of moral values; the first five are harm/caring, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity/disgust. Liberty was recently added to the list, but doesn't seem to have made it into this article. He claims that liberals (in the American sense), care mostly (or only) only about the harm and fairness values, while conservatives care about all five. I myself am a one-foundation person, since I consider unfairness either a special case of harm, or a good heuristic for where harm is likely to occur; my views are apparently so rare that they haven't come up on Haidt's survey, and I haven't met anyone else who has reported a score like mine.

While Haidt describes himself as a "centrist", he argues that "you need loyalty, authority and sanctity to run a decent society." There are at least three ways that this claim can be read:

(1) Haidt's personal moral foundations actually include all five bases, so this is a tautology; of course someone who thinks loyalty is fundamental will think a society without loyalty is not decent. From the tenor of the article, this is at least psychologically plausible.

(2) The three non-universal values can be justified in terms of the common values. This is the interpretation that seems to be supported by some parts of the article, but it has its own issues.

(3) Haidt cannot tell the difference between (1) and (2). Most of the article makes this claim entirely plausible.

Here's one example of Haidt's moral confusion:

"In India, where he performed field studies early in his professional career, he encountered a society in some ways patriarchal, sexist and illiberal. Yet it worked and the people were lovely."

First, was Haidt surprised to find people with different politics than his to be personable? Had he literally never met a conservative before?

Second, what does it mean to say that the society "worked", or that the people were "lovely"? Indian society privileges men and certain castes over women and other castes. I say this not to denigrate India specifically, since there's no society in which women are treated equally to men, but to explain that India does have serious problems. Literacy rates among women are 68% of that of men, to pick a random statistic. And, of course, violence against women is endemic. Haidt reports that he "dined with men whose wives silently served us and then retreated to the kitchen." What does he suppose would have happened if one day one of those women refused to serve, or even, after serving, sat down at the table to join the discussion?

Of course, even this is an upper-class concern; lower class Indian women are far more likely to work outside the home, in order to survive. Apparently in some parts of India, public toilets charge women (who can ill afford it) but not men. And I can only assume that the situation was worse when Haidt was there, at least a decade ago.

Haidt rationalizes this by saying, "I was able to see a moral world in which families, not individuals, are the basic unit of society...". Perhaps this is the story that they tell (and perhaps they even believe it). But history shows that when women can find alternatives, they don't choose to live like this. So there is both a harm and a fairness concern here. Haidt, having seen the loyalty/authority story, comes to ignore the harm/fairness story. He follows this by an anecdote focusing on the harm caused by individualism, since he is apparently incapable of justifying the non-universal foundations on their own terms.

Here's another case of this confusion. Haidt claimed that among street children in Brazil, the "most dangerous person in the world is mom's boyfriend. When women have a succession of men coming through, their daughters will get raped," he says. "The right is right to be sounding the alarm about the decline of marriage, and the left is wrong to say, 'Oh, any kind of family is OK.' It's not OK."

In this instance, Haidt is switching the goalposts. His moral foundation test is designed to isolate the five foundations. But here, there is clearly harm in addition to any violation of tradition. He doesn't exactly say which non-harm foundation he wants to invoke here -- that is, what the mothers' violation is. Impurity is the only plausible choice. This, of course, brings to the front one of the most common real effects of the "purity" foundation: to disempower women.

I should add that there is no citation on this data; it also doesn't seem to appear in the book (at least, not that I could find via Google Books). A quick glance through Google does not reveal a plausible source for this. So where did he get it from? Probably not via direct observation (how would he have observed these rapes?). He must have heard it from Brazilians. Well, if that's true, then these Brazilian women must know it. And since nobody wants their daughter to get raped, this must mean that they have a very good reason for inviting these men in -- maybe the alternative is starvation. Recall that we're talking about "street children" here. I just can't imagine a woman saying, "yeah, he's going to rape my daughter, but I really love him!" But I think it's actually more likely that this is just the sort of rumor that the Catholic Church would want to spread, to combat unmarried cohabitation. It gets its memetic strength from blame-shifting/just-worldism: "If you didn't want your daughter to get raped, why did you shack (literally?) up with this guy?"

It's true that there are dangers from non-related men, as Sarah Blaffer Hrdy discusses in _Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species; there are also potential benefits. Hrdy's book (which I haven't finished reading yet) discusses both, and also vastly complicates the view of what "traditional" family is. She presents multiple equilibria, some more common among farmers and others more common among foragers (to use Robin Hanson's language). A Brazilian shantytown doesn't really fit well into either framework, so it's unclear whether norms adapted for either would be effective.

So does Haidt believe that nontraditional families are wrong because they violate purity? Or because they're harmful? The standard conservative reply to this is that our traditions evolved because they were useful (i.e. prevented harm), and to erase the traditions without understanding the value that they provided is an mistake. This is put in a delightfully patronizing way by Chesterton -- notice how he will "allow" you to clear away a tradition as though it were his decision to make.

And it is in fact relatively easy to come up with evolutionary psychology just-so stories as reasons for why loyalty, authority, and purity would have been useful in the ancestral environment. (The same is true of fairness). Authority, for instance, might help with collective decision making. Maybe it's best for the tribe to go take the left fork, and it might be better to take the right fork. But it is almost always better for them all to take the same fork, than it is to split up. If there's one tribal leader, then they can make that decision and have others agree with it. This isn't a case of group selection; every individual of the group benefits from coordination. I describe this as a "just-so story" here because it would be extremely difficult to find evidence for whether in fact a specific moral intuition evolved for a specific reason. Haidt's book apparently presents some of these arguments in the context of group selection, but in this particular example, group selection (or even kin selection or reciprocal altruism) isn't a necessary part of the hypothesis; treating groups as part of the environment (rather than as the unit of evolution) is sufficient.

Moral foundations theory is perhaps useful descriptively, in that, if it were shown to be something beyond a just-so story, it would explain why there are five (or six, or more) foundations as opposed to one or two. It is, however, missing a piece: why are there people who don't share all five foundations? The evolutionary argument is not useful prescriptively, because evolution only cares about harm (and only certain kinds of harm), and once we decide to see moral questions in terms of harm, then questions of actual harm can screen off the other evolved heuristics. Yes, humans are Adaptation-Executers, not Fitness-Maximizers. So there are lots of cases where we follow our evolved intuitions rather than the pressures that selected for those intuitions. But we are also apparently adapted to contemplate moral philosophy. So when we find ourselves justifying an evolved intuition A in terms of another evolved intuition B, we might consider B more fundamental. And if there are cases where A isn't explainable in terms of B, five-foundation people just get stuck. This, perhaps does explain the one- or two-foundation view; it's what happens when you ask "why?" once, and throw out everything that doesn't actually have an answer. When you ask a second time, you're getting into the realm of meta-ethics.  Instrumental five-foundation people (such as Haidt, probably), wouldn't get stuck -- but they would fall back to harm.

Maybe there's another argument for the three non-universal foundations, but Haidt doesn't make it. Does he feel that, by defining something as a "foundation", it doesn't need an argument? But if so, why does he keep reaching for harm as an explanation?

As a descriptive theory, Haidt's moral foundation framework helps explain some of the differing moral values people have. Haidt seems to wrongly interpret it as a useful prescriptive tool. However he has not presented any reason to think that it is, in fact, useful prescriptively, and has presented several reasons to doubt it.  

[Added later:]

None of this is to say that there are no reasons to be conservative.  You could be conservative instrumentally (as Haidt seems to be), or you could be conservative because you really do consider all five bases to be inherently valuable (you could also do both at once, but that should make you slightly suspicious that you're rationalizing).  There's no inherent problem with either of those.  Haidt's problem is that he wants to have it both ways; he want to present the non-universal foundations as inherently valuable, but all his actual arguments are about their instrumental value.

300 comments

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comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-08-13T17:30:41.933Z · score: 22 (36 votes) · LW · GW

So exactly what was the point of this article? Boo conservative values, yay liberal values? I am sure we need more like this on LessConservative!

Sure, a conservative mindkilled person may fail to notice that women in conservative societies can be opressed and battered by their husbands, in the name of sacred family. Just like a liberal mindkilled person may fail to notice that some women don't mind their daughters raped by their sexy alpha boyfriends, in the name of sacred sexual freedom. What a coincidence -- biased people not noticing their biases!

However, liberal biases are OK, because liberal people say so; both here and in academy. On the other hand we should remove all topics that could offend... ahem... people other than conservatives. For example, discussions about "pick-up arts" -- their strawman versions could make women feel unwelcome. A "pick-up artist" would probably not make the same mistake as author of this article; but for our rationality, it is better if they take their evidence elsewhere. If my opinions are right, I want to believe my opinions are right; and if my opinions are wrong, I want to believe your opinions are harmful.

Seriously -- we all have many different values and opinions; but saying that some of some kinds of biases are not so harmful, and then writing and upvoting an article that more or less celebrates this attitude... that's not the LessWrong I imagine. Liberal biases are harmful for the same reasons like any other biases; they prevent us from seeing the territory correctly.

In other words -- trying to use a language a liberal might understand better -- articles like this make me feel unwelcome.

comment by GLaDOS · 2012-08-13T18:08:33.313Z · score: 6 (14 votes) · LW · GW

In other words -- trying to use a language a liberal might understand better -- articles like this make me feel unwelcome.

I'm also starting to feel unwelcome here.

I've been seeing more and more sings of an intellectual chilling in the past few months and a shrinking of acceptable ingroup political variation.

Things like users commenting on there being concerned about there being "insufficient liberal spin". Now obviously the no mind-killer norm kept the concern unpopular and a well worded post calling it out was written... but still what concerns me is that I don't recall things like this happening at all before.

Remember LessWrong is 3% conservative and ~30% socialist and another ~30% "Liberal"! People say "Wow" when they see someone being socially conservative. Do we really need majority ideological biases and group feelings reinforced and further privileged?

Not cool.

comment by J_Taylor · 2012-08-14T01:47:54.071Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Things like users commenting on there being concerned about there being "insufficient liberal spin".

Multiheaded is a delightfully unusual case with delightfully unusual posting goals, who I assumed was rather unlike any other poster here. Was your usage of the plural 'users' solely for aesthetic concerns, or are there other users who have complained about "insufficient liberal bias"?

comment by CarlShulman · 2012-08-14T02:03:35.072Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

delightfully unusual posting goals

???

comment by J_Taylor · 2012-08-14T02:19:04.190Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

To use terminology I do not wager Multiheaded would object to, he takes the threat of certain right-wing political philosophies very seriously. Perhaps goal is the not the best term, however. See here for a glimpse of what I mean.

In a nontrivial number of his posts, one could say that a specter is haunting Multiheaded, the specter of fascism. As such, a good bit of his output consists of left-wing ghost-busting.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-19T13:16:06.963Z · score: 7 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed, your terminology is OK with me. (Just one qualification: "certain modern right-wing political philosophies") However, you forgot to mention my roguish charm, my irresistable allure and my gorgeous looks.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-08-14T22:29:42.461Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Multiheaded is basically Barron the Green.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-19T13:04:14.342Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

No way, I'm not! I mean, yes, I'm certainly mind-killed (and flattered when my mind-killedness is described in dramatic language like above, thanks!) - but at least... how to put it.. I'm mind-killed about the mind!

That is, I fret and read and (sometimes) post about social psychology and cultural processes and human ethics and stuff like that - which is, in the end, self-referential and self-fulfilling/negating to a degree.
If e.g. everyone in known history thought that economic equality was massively evil and alien and harmful and undesirable - why, societies would simply increase wealth divergence without ever worrying whether it's practical or moral to - like, in real life, we feel and act the same about starvation, even when we let its victims die in other ways.
If in 1936 or so 90% of Europeans got the idea that Hitler had unspeakably evil plans, he'd never be able to carry out those plans. {1}

Therefore, if someone, like me, fervently believes that [religion name]/[ideology name] is (in its worldview and revealed preferences, not its description of reality) an enormous priority to pursue OR avoid, more important than even lives or happiness - and that humanity is blind to that urgent matter, then they're slightly better off than someone who fervently believes that e.g. Mars has a breathable atmosphere.
The more people share the first "delusion", the less of a "delusion" it is internally and the more implementable it is in practice. Yes, of course some ev-psych facts - like selfishness, love of authority or envy - limit the phase space of working societies, but those realities can be stretched or hacked around, given how plastic our minds potentially are.
The second one remains a delusion no matter how large and committed a group tries to live up to it; a lone atheist and a million good Catholics following a papal edict would choke with equal speed on Mars. "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, does not go away."

Barron might hate the universe and feel that it hates him in return; I only hate some particular, and passing, arrangements in the universe, and resent the fact that most people insist on propping up those arrangements (by e.g. thinking that material welfare is the only real measure of political systems).

{1} Yes, yes, I'm aware of the Functionalist argument and find it rather credible; that bit was just rhetorical.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-08-20T19:26:42.393Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, of course some ev-psych facts - like selfishness, love of authority or envy - limit the phase space of working societies, but those realities can be stretched or hacked around, given how plastic our minds potentially are.

So how did the Soviet Union's attempt to create the "New Soviet Man" turn out?

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-20T22:54:51.999Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

There was some serious work in that direction in the 1920s, but with Stalin's ascent to power, left-wing education and indoctrination were in fact stamped out, to be replaced with Russian crypto-nationalism, imperial and militarist sentiment, and most notably an Asian-style cult of the god-king.
In fact, by the end of his life Stalin had uprooted or completely subverted virtually every institution that the 1920s' Old Bolshevik leaders introduced (with the sole exception of the repression apparatus, which he expanded while purging most personnel) - from the "New Economic Policy" and legal free abortion (!) to the avant-garde artists' organizations and the Comintern.
I'm not necessarily saying that those institutions were good (although the NEP objectively worked well enough); I'm saying that, since around 1930 and until the end, Soviet leadership only paid lip service to genuine radical indoctrination/reeducation, preferring the old staples of nationalism, feudal loyalty and leader-worship.

Later, in the Brezhnev era, an official cargo cult of sorts was formed around Marxist phraseology and such, but no-one gave a shit whether, say, the "Marxism-Leninism" classes at universities were even functioning as propaganda.
In fact, it was rather counter-productive as propaganda, as people began to mock even the several objective, verified achievements that it trumpeted - like the space program or the considerable infrastructure investment. The system became too stagnant even to attempt self-replication through indoctrination.

So there. The USSR was mostly an ineffective (if somewhat orderly) conservative regime that would have shat its collective pants if a New Soviet Man suddenly appeared in flesh.
And hey, a handful did appear, more or less by accident; e.g. Andrei Sinyavsky, Yuli Daniel, Vasily Grossman (Socialist Realist writers!), Sakharov, the Strugatsky brothers, numerous other good people who advocated left-wing ideas and got suppressed by an ostensibly socialist system. Oh, well, for the wider Warsaw Pact, I guess Zizek also counts as a New Soviet Man :)

P.S.: lengthy quote incoming! Orwell's praise of left-wing indoctrination in Homage to Catalonia.

In practice the democratic 'revolutionary' type of discipline is more reliable than might be expected. In a workers' army discipline is theoretically voluntary. It is based on class-loyalty, whereas the discipline of a bourgeois conscript army is based ultimately on fear. (The Popular Army that replaced the militias was midway between the two types.) In the militias the bullying and abuse that go on in an ordinary army would never have been tolerated for a moment. The normal military punishments existed, but they were only invoked for very serious offences. When a man refused to obey an order you did not immediately get him punished; you first appealed to him in the name of comradeship.

Cynical people with no experience of handling men will say instantly that this would never 'work', but as a matter of fact it does 'work' in the long run. The discipline of even the worst drafts of militia visibly improved as time went on. In January the job of keeping a dozen raw recruits up to the mark almost turned my hair grey. In May for a short while I was acting-lieutenant in command of about thirty men, English and Spanish. We had all been under fire for months, and I never had the slightest difficulty in getting an order obeyed or in getting men to volunteer for a dangerous job. 'Revolutionary' discipline depends on political consciousness--on an understanding of why orders must be obeyed; it takes time to diffuse this, but it also takes time to drill a man into an automaton on the barrack-square.

The journalists who sneered at the militia-system seldom remembered that the militias had to hold the line while the Popular Army was training in the rear. And it is a tribute to the strength of 'revolutionary' discipline that the militias stayed in the field-at all. For until about June 1937 there was nothing to keep them there, except class loyalty. Individual deserters could be shot-- were shot, occasionally--but if a thousand men had decided to walk out of the line together there was no force to stop them. A conscript army in the same circumstances--with its battle-police removed--would have melted away. Yet the militias held the line, though God knows they won very few victories, and even individual desertions were not common.

comment by prase · 2013-01-17T01:14:46.705Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hadn't NEP originally been conceived as a temporary policy for the interim when the society was going to be slowly transformed into communism, after radical immediate implementation of communist economics attempted in the first years after the revolution visibly failed?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-08-21T18:50:57.819Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There was some serious work in that direction in the 1920s, but with Stalin's ascent to power, left-wing education and indoctrination were in fact stamped out, to be replaced with Russian crypto-nationalism, imperial and militarist sentiment,

Well, the many far left movements had a militarist element (directed against the bourgeois) to them from the very beginning. Also the nationalism didn't start going until WWII, and only after it became clear that appealing to people to fight for communist ideals wasn't working.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-21T19:29:07.319Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, the many far left movements had a militarist element (directed against the bourgeois) to them from the very beginning.

They sure had a culture of violence, as in street fighting and insurgency etc, but under Stalin it turned into proper militarism, as in: approval of army hierarchy and officer-caste ethics as not merely necessary but laudable; formal expressions of loyalty turning organization-based rather than class-based; displaying the expected World Revolution (in films, lectures, etc) as being in essense a conventional war, with near-identical armies facing off and some aid from working-class sympathizers - rather then the preceding image of a massive popular rebellion... A somewhat-revisionist Russian historian, Mark Solonin, describes how the massive military build-up was accompanied by this gradual shift in propaganda from "revolutionary violence" to "Red militarism".

Also the nationalism didn't start going until WWII

Believe me, it did! It was crypto-nationalism in the 30s, but back then Stalinist propaganda already began to lionize the historical achievements and the "properly" anti-feudal, anti-bourgeois sentiment of the Russian Volk. It appropriated 19th century authors like Pushkin who were previously fashionable to reject as retrograde.
There's a sharp contrast between the 1920s' propaganda line on Imperial Russia (backward, miserable, completely lost but for the Communist guidance), the lambasting of "Russian chauvinism" as a right-wing deviation and the insistence that all Soviet nationalities should harmoniously melt into a purely political whole - and the 1930s' quiet suppression of all that, with Old Russia called less a benighted rural wilderness and more a supremely talented nation, naturally predisposed towards communism, that only needed to overthrow Tsarism to assume its rightful place of world leadership.
I've read a few Russian studies about the relationship between Stalinism, Soviet culture and propaganda; they offer a far more nuanced view than the one you cite.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-08-25T09:25:28.230Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The lesson is probably that when you create a culture of violence, it tends to get out of the hand and go towards its own attractors.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-25T09:41:40.409Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sounds reasonable.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T19:44:43.497Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do you feel that the entire article is a problem, or are there specific bits that bother you?

comment by GLaDOS · 2012-08-13T20:05:37.000Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Just a few minor political digs in it, otherwise it is an appropriate critique of H's work. I was more concerned with the overall LW climate as I tried to show with my cited example.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T20:13:12.087Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you mean the bit about Catholics, or another bit? I think I'm going to remove that bit. [edit] I did.

(I'm asking because I would like to improve the article, not to start an argument)

(Although I didn't read that comment at the time, I am also boggled by the "liberal spin" bit, for what that's worth).

comment by prase · 2012-08-13T22:35:31.388Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

How does the article celebrate the attitude that some biases are less harmful? There is a recognisable liberal (American meaning) undertone in the article but it can't see any definite attitude towards biases.

comment by mrglwrf · 2012-08-24T23:06:07.835Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Religious variants of social conservatism aside, this site has traditionally been very sympathetic to the far right. There has been little or no Stalinism or Maoism advocated here, but quite a bit of the right wing equivalent. If the site becoming somewhat less welcoming to Neo-Birchers, PC-Paranoiacs, and other Reverse-Leninists upsets you, perhaps you might consider how the past political climate has been perceived by those left of center, or even those only slightly right of it.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-08-25T09:34:45.939Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

this site has traditionally been very sympathetic to the far right

Could you please taboo "far right", and give specific details of what is LW sympathetic to? E.g. quotations from high-karma articles and comments (bonus points for being written by Eliezer or Luke or some other local celebrity).

I am aware that this site is more sympathetic to ideas like "markets are good heuristic for maximizing utility" than to ideas like "we could make the world a better place by killing all people we consider evil, and brainwashing the rest". But I don't think this is because the typical correlations with 'left' and 'right', but because of the ideas themselves.

comment by mrglwrf · 2012-08-25T17:27:18.717Z · score: 1 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Disingenuous racism ("race realism" or "human biodiversity" or whatever euphemism it hides behinds currently). Libertarianism. Chest-beating displays towards right-wing boogeymen like political correctness and the media-academia complex. Multiple apparently respected posters taking "Heartiste" seriously, even though his entire shtick is gay-bashing and misogyny, and despite the fact that he's a grown-ass man who calls himself "Heartiste." And oh yeah, Mencius Moldbug. Is there a left-wing writer of similar obscurity and extremism so widely and approvingly quoted on LessWrong?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-29T05:28:01.739Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

And oh yeah, Mencius Moldbug. Is there a left-wing writer of similar obscurity and extremism so widely and approvingly quoted on LessWrong?

Well there are left-writers of similar extremism quoted approvingly on LessWrong. They just happen not to be as obscure as their right wing counterparts. Basically any far left position you can think of (say Stalinism ) has some unobscure figure arguing for it. But I can see why you'd mind Moldbug, he's just some dude with a blog, which he himself emphasises.

What I don't see is Heartiste/Roissy. He's one of several pick up artists that's name dropped and discussed when the subject of romance or sex comes up and while the online scene itself is somewhat obscure anyone who is at all familiar with it also knows about him. If PUA in general is your complaint why didn't you just say so? Our sister site Overcoming Bias does directly link to Heartiste's blog (under its old name of Roissy in DC) so maybe he is overrepresented in PUA discussions, but I'd argue a larger part of why he is overrepresented is that he makes a good target to straw man PUA.

Libertarianism.

Wait libertarianism is scary far right now?

Well ok I guess a third of LessWrong is now far right. I'm not even going to mentioning Robin Hanson's writings. Also LWs founder is a shady figure who occasionally writes on dangerous far right sites, wants to live forever and his day job is mostly founded by a another rich far right figure who's evil knows no bounds. Thiel pays kids not to go to college, doesn't like democracy and wants to settle the seas to escape bad government! Where have he heard that before!

comment by mrglwrf · 2012-08-29T19:11:27.456Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

A libertarian who is also a fan of Moldbug and PUAs is in my estimation almost certain to be some way out on the non-religious branch of the right. Obviously my views are not unbiased, and I hope I have not claimed them to be. Your last paragraph is good snark, but I think it's pretty close to how a fair portion of those on the political left would see it. Anyone who identifies as liberal is likely to see Peter Thiel and Robin Hanson as far-right nutcases (assuming they've heard of them). Yudkowsky, as I see it, is libertarian by upbringing but generally indifferent to politics, so he can only be far-right by association. All of his really far-out opinions are elsewhere.

Our sister site Overcoming Bias does directly link to Heartiste's blog (under its old name of Roissy in DC) so maybe he is overrepresented in PUA discussions, but I'd argue a larger part of why he is overrepresented is that he makes a good target to straw man PUA.

He is a good target to straw man PUAs! I'm glad we found something we can agree on! Naming himself Heartiste was the greatest gift any man could give to snarky enemies of the PUA movement. But he also writes some truly messed up stuff (no links because I don't want to vomit right now), and he is linked to by Hanson, so I don't think criticizing him is unfair.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-29T19:22:35.081Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Your last paragraph is good snark

Good, I was aiming for snark.

But yes I'm fully aware people really do think like that. Check out the link I put in "evil knows no bounds". I've seen hysterical diatribes elsewhere online of how utterly vile and wicked it is of Thiel to pay exceptional young people not to go to college since it RUINS THEIR FUTURE FOREVER. Contrary to all the data we have on what education actually does, which shows they will likely be fine since college is probably mostly signaling.

What I think you will have to admit, is that people like Thiel are also the kind of people who are more likely than average to take things like encouraging social or technological innovation, curing ageing, cryonic and existential risk seriously. Just inspecting the sources of funding of such efforts should give you overwhelming of evidence of this.

If you take away Robin Hanson and other people from that cluster away, cease to tolerate them, preciously little original synthesis and though beyond what academia already did would remain. I would go as far as to say that applied rationality and self-improvement that actually works is indeed a strong attractor in the context of their memeplex. One could argue that they where and still are the intellectually and socially invested backbone of the community that formed around Overcoming Bias and LessWrong!

Anyone who identifies as liberal is likely to see Peter Thiel and Robin Hanson as far-right nutcases (assuming they've heard of them).

They will just have to get over that though.

And those that can't... "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet."

I'm sure many conservatives can't get over what kind of people the atheism filter tends to select either and don't join us because of it. And unlike conservatives, "liberals" and "socialists" hold a supermajority here, is it really so terrible they make up just 60%+ of the site rather than 95%+?

Looking at the history of the important issues and positions I mentioned hold in society it seems pretty clear that It isn't that this particular cluster of "far right" people is wickedly hogging them, clutching them with their slimy low status tentacles from the reach of what would otherwise be an enthusiastic mainstream.

It is precisely the traits that attracted them to their cluster that make them more likely to endorse and build upon LW-style rationality.

comment by mrglwrf · 2012-08-30T14:49:57.603Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

One could argue that they where and still are the intellectually and socially invested backbone of the community that formed around Overcoming Bias and LessWrong!

That's the argument I wanted to make, so I think I'll steal it. The intellectually and socially invested backbone of the community was and is distinctly right-leaning. Hence, the site is in many ways unwelcoming to people on the political left, much as was earlier claimed that the site is unwelcoming to some on the right.

They will just have to get over that though.

Right. And I think this applies equally to the right-wing readers and commenters who feel the site isn't sufficiently sympathetic to their political views. Obviously I do not think that the political right deserves special treatment on account of somehow being innately more rational than the other tribes.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-30T15:08:06.674Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Obviously I do not think that the political right deserves special treatment

I hope I didn't imply this.

comment by CronoDAS · 2012-08-25T21:55:18.782Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Regardless of what you think of his opinions, Mencius Moldbug is, if nothing else, eloquent.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-08-25T19:00:21.636Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I strongly disagree connotationally, but thank you for the explanation.

I think that you are selecting only a part of the story. For example, the official boogeyman here is the religion. (By the way, it happens to be associated with political right, at least today in USA.) Yet somehow, quotes from Chesterton often get many upvotes in "Rationality Quotes". Does it mean that LW is secretly very sympathetic to religion? Or just that we are able to appreciate a decent quote even from people with whom we disagree on other topics? Could the second explanation possibly apply also to Heartiste or Moldbug? If you found a good rationality quote from Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Che Guevara, or Fidel Castro, would it also get upvotes? You can try, if you want.

With regard to political correctness, to me it seems that the current situation is unsatisfactory to both sides. Forbidden topics get mentioned, then they are verbally opposed and the discussion is stopped; later they are mentioned again, and then the discussion is stopped again; ad infinitum. This is what neither side wants. Some people would prefer to never see those topics reopened again. Other people would prefer to have an open discussion now and then, without being told to stop by people who don't want to participate. Both sides take this as a proof that the other side is winning.

comment by mrglwrf · 2012-08-25T21:21:11.815Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think that you are selecting only a part of the story. For example, the official boogeyman here is the religion. (By the way, it happens to be associated with political right, at least today in USA.)

Definitely. But there are groups associated with the US political right that are non- or anti-religious. Objectivists are an obvious example. Unsurprisingly, these groups are overrepresented on the internet (though this is becoming less and less the case over the years). My impression is that LW has traditionally skewed toward this branch of the right.

Yet somehow, quotes from Chesterton often get many upvotes in "Rationality Quotes". Does it mean that LW is secretly very sympathetic to religion? Or just that we are able to appreciate a decent quote even from people with whom we disagree on other topics? Could the second explanation possibly apply also to Heartiste or Moldbug?

Yes, but "possible" is a low bar. I do not believe it could entirely, or even in large part explain the frequency of references to Heartiste and Moldbug, or their reception. Chesterton is less famous and less respected than, say, George Orwell, but he is nonetheless a well-known and often quoted political writer in the English speaking world. Heartiste and Moldbug are not. They are so obscure that even having heard of them requires an unusual degree of familiarity with the fringes of the blogosphere.

Your description of political correctness makes it sound a lot like the "Politics is the Mindkiller" gag-rule. The Boogeyman version of political correctness is more like a hybrid of the Cheka and the Inquisition.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-08-25T22:25:46.986Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It is interesting to see Ayn Rand, Heartiste, and Chesterton as examples of "the right". Makes me thinking what exactly does this concept mean; what exactly do these three have in common... which they don't share with George Orwell.

Your description of political correctness makes it sound a lot like the "Politics is the Mindkiller" gag-rule.

To me it seems more like a "Blue Politics is the Mindkiller" rule.

comment by mrglwrf · 2012-08-27T20:40:12.483Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It is interesting to see Ayn Rand, Heartiste, and Chesterton as examples of "the right". Makes me thinking what exactly does this concept mean; what exactly do these three have in common... which they don't share with George Orwell.

Not being avowed socialists. Anyway, the fact that "the right" is an incredibly broad and imprecise category doesn't make the concept meaningless. It is empirically true that most politically aware Americans vote unerringly for one of two parties based on their identification with a broad and imprecisely defined category, even if you think they ought not to behave that way. A private citizen's specific policy opinions are of far less practical significance than their identification with "the right" or "the left."

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-08-28T21:14:06.112Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Funny thing that we agree on this, because when I was writing it, "not being socialist" was the only thing that came to my mind -- but I didn't write it in hope that you will tell me something else that I missed. So perhaps there is nothing else.

But in the light of this explanation, your complaint seems to translate as "LW has traditionally been very sympathetic to some non-socialists". Do you think that is a wrong thing? I feel like I'm making a strawman version of your arguments here.

comment by mrglwrf · 2012-08-29T19:29:35.336Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In the lifetimes of Rand, Chesterton, and Orwell, socialist vs. anti-socialist was possibly the dividing line in the world of politics, so it's not a minor difference. I think a slightly better translation might be "LW has traditionally been very sympathetic to non-religious anti-socialists". I wouldn't call it a wrong thing, because I don't perceive this issue as having that much moral weight. I disagree on the facts with a particular assessment of site-wide political bias.

comment by Patrick · 2012-08-28T19:09:37.984Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

To give a flattering explanation for such activity (I cringe at the thought of being thought as far right) I can only think of the value placed by this community on tolerance of ideas. As Paul Graham says " If a statement is false, that's the worst thing you can say about it. You don't need to say that it's heretical. And if it isn't false, it shouldn't be suppressed." You could interpret people quoting reactionaries like Moldbug as an attempt to shock people and show how tolerant they are by seriously entertaining the ideas. The closest analogue I can think of is Salvador Dali saying he admires Hitler in the movie "Surrealissimo". Link to Dali here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SM9E9O9tEHs

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-25T21:04:50.388Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

For example, the official boogeyman here is the religion.

Really? I doubt I'm the only one who thinks that religious faith is a cheap target for critiques of irrationality. It is the example that people fall back on when they don't have a better one, because it is so obvious.

But religion isn't taken as much of a threat or a cause for outrage here. There are communities where it is — New Atheists, skeptics, and science educators concerned about creationism all come to mind.

comment by J_Taylor · 2012-08-31T00:28:38.221Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Really? I doubt I'm the only one who thinks that religious faith is a cheap target for critiques of irrationality. It is the example that people fall back on when they don't have a better one, because it is so obvious.

Astrology, alternative medicine, alien abductions, etc. are the usual targets attacked by entry-level skeptics. However, I do agree that in mainstream Western culture, religion is easy to attack.

comment by beoShaffer · 2012-08-29T19:47:51.851Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I will point out that LW is extremely sexually liberal - lots of polygamists, heavily pro-gay and relatively trans friendly.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-29T05:25:33.756Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There has been little or no Stalinism or Maoism advocated here

Yeah you might want to reconsider that:

Stalin saved far more lives than he took. In fact, Czarism was three times more deadly on a per capita basis than the average for the Stalin years. Plus, Stalin set a world record for the fastest doubling of life expectancy in any land. This amazing feat was only broken by Mao in 1976. Therefore, based on those records, I hold that Stalin and Mao were two of the greatest humanitarians that the world has ever known.

When I stumbled upon this it was at 3 karma, though I'm not sure where it will be now. I would argue what LessWrong traditionally likes is metacontrarianism of any kind. As more evidence of this I'd like to point out that metacontrarian left wing arguments by users like Multiheaded are well liked too.

I think you are wrong on this. The argument in this thread was about making mainstream conservatives unwelcome not the cobbled together right-y ideologies people here come up with. To quote GLaDOS on why I think the distinction matters:

Even many of our libertarians are probably left libertarians and nearly all of our high quality right wing thinkers are somewhat eclectic, eccentric and often aren't really conservative in the small c sense of the word. Examples include machinations like Anarcho-Capitalism, Moldbuggian Progressivism-curing Rationalist Uberfact, Eugenic Aristocratic Monarchies or Multi-universe spanning TDT zombie computational theocracies (something like that! ^_~ ).

She's not making any of that up I swear. That isn't far right, that's weird right.

Intellectual hipsters indeed. I'm not sure such fun ideas cooked up by a handful of enthusiastic rationalists really help us offset the bias, rather than just adding their own dose of political craziness to the mix.

Standing where we do as a community, means that our bias against ideas and arguments because of their tribal affiliation will not feel like being unfair or irrational from the inside. I have little idea how to fix this or even if it is wise to fix it considering how the mysterious but probably real w-force continues to do its magic over time. It may hurt our status bad enough to stop us from "Refining the art of human rationality" (yay! ^_^) in other ways.

comment by mrglwrf · 2012-08-29T18:33:01.670Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My head feels funny, and I can't tell whether I have trouble expressing my thoughts clearly or if they're hopelessly disorganized to begin with. But I feel compelled to attempt sensible replies to your comments, so here goes(Jetzt Mit Bulletpoints!)...

  • mainstream conservatives feeling unwelcome

In the US context, I would take mainstream to mean religious. In that case, LW is an atheist site, which is only attractive to atheists and religious eccentrics who enjoy arguing with atheists. US demographics being what they are, LW won't be welcoming to mainstream anyone, though the right end of the political spectrum will be most affected by this.

  • eclectic, eccentric, and weird right vs. far right

I think the overlap between "weird right" and "far right" (and "weird left" and "far left") is extensive, to the point that it's rare to have one without the other. Political intellectuals almost always espouse eclectic and eccentric views, and are almost always on the fringes compared to the political rank-and-file. A politically centrist intellectual is a politically apathetic intellectual. My point here, assuming I have one, is that "he's weird-whatever" isn't a rebuttal to "he's far-whatever."

  • meta-contrarianism

I agree with your general point. The difference in my take is that I think LW, especially in earlier times, has tended to express meta-contrarian views that align with the general politics of the techie-right. A rough description of what I'd consider the techie-right cluster: pro-libertarian, anti-gun-control, anti-religion, anti-environmentalist, pro-hard-sciences, pro-evopsych, pro-mainstream-economics, anti-the-rest-of-academia.

  • That Stalinist Guy

Uh, yeah, well...exception that proves the rule, that was central to my point, but I equivocated "few or no" etc...nah OK, you got me there. I even remembered TGP's endorsement and still had that obvious hole in my argument. Didn't know he had ever posted here though.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-29T19:10:05.393Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think the overlap between "weird right" and "far right" (and "weird left" and "far left") is extensive, to the point that it's rare to have one without the other. Political intellectuals almost always espouse eclectic and eccentric views, and are almost always on the fringes compared to the political rank-and-file. A politically centrist intellectual is a politically apathetic intellectual. My point here, assuming I have one, is that "he's weird-whatever" isn't a rebuttal to "he's far-whatever."

I kind of have to concede this point. I do still think the connotations of the kind of far and weird positions you are likely to see on LW are better matched by the weird left/right rather than the far right/left.

"Even if utterly disagree with them they practically define themselves into demographic irrelevancy and are very unlikely to cause any damage. "

vs.

"Aggh this is memeticall virulent! Must stomp on their face with my boot for forever!"

Maybe this is because I'm European. In Slovenia calling someone far right is usually always calling that person a dangerous nationalist or even a crypto-fascist. The implied context is that they should be suppressed or arrested since we don't have free speech. A dope smoking libertarian isn't called Far Right but a capitalist lap dog. ;)

I agree with your general point. The difference in my take is that I think LW, especially in earlier times, has tended to express meta-contrarian views that align with the general politics of the techie-right. A rough description of what I'd consider the techie-right cluster: pro-libertarian, anti-gun-control, anti-religion, anti-environmentalist, pro-hard-sciences, pro-evopsych, pro-mainstream-economics, anti-the-rest-of-academia.

This seems like a good description and I agree LW is friendly to such stances. I think the main reason for this is that this cluster is disproportionately present among programmers and transhumanists. Many prominent early posters (I can't help but think of Michael Vassar) obviously fir into that frame as does Eliezer himself to a moderate extent.

comment by mrglwrf · 2012-08-29T19:53:54.937Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe this is because I'm European. In Slovenia calling someone far right is usually always calling that person a dangerous nationalist or even a crypto-fascist. The implied context is that they should be suppressed or arrested since we don't have free speech. A dope smoking libertarian isn't called Far Right but a capitalist lap dog. ;)

Yeah, that's a very different context from the US. I don't have much direct experience of Slovenia, but I do have some familiarity with Serbia (my Mom's from there), so I hope you aren't too offended if my mental model of Slovenia is a smaller, richer, much less screwed up Serbia. In the US, capitalist lap dogs are generally lumped in with dangerous nationalists and crypto-fascists. It doesn't work the same when you've got some experience with really dangerous nationalists, like in 90's former Yugoslavia.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T18:28:30.002Z · score: 1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think this comment has anything to do with the actual article.

The central question of the article is about how Haidt interprets the five foundations. I point out that his interpretation is somewhat incoherent and question-begging. The article doesn't celebrate biases in any way.

And, as I noted above, there is still no citation on the Brazil claims.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-08-14T13:52:36.874Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think this comment has anything to do with the actual article.

It is a summary reaction to both this article and your comments in Admitting to Bias. I have read both these articles with discussions in a short time, and my mindkilling alarm started ringing. So I posted my comment here, because unlike in the other thread, here you received upvotes, which to me means that community standards (of avoiding politically motivated thinking) are in danger.

If I'd read only this article without any other context, I probably wouldn't write the same kind of reaction. So I guess a large part of my comment was "object connotationally".

Specifically, you are right in saying that if Haidt shows five foundations of morality, and then defends one of them by saying that violating this foundation causes harm, then this value is probably a heuristics for minimizing harm. Although you and Haidt may use different definition of "foundation" -- since you explicitly provided neither, I don't know. For you it may be "something that cannot be reduced to other values", and for Haidt "something directly percieved emotionally". In which case both of you could be right within your own definitions; "foundation" X has evolved as emotional heuristics for avoiding harm, but our emotions of X are not exactly emotions of harm-avoidance.

And, as I noted above, there is still no citation on the Brazil claims.

I believe the essence of the claim is not Brazil-specific. I don't have a reference here; it was years ago when I participated in child abuse prevention. I remember the statistics of child abuse divided by type of abuse and gender of perpetrator. In most cases, the different type of abuse is about equally done by men and women; except in the "sexual abuse" category, majority of perpetrators were men. And we were explained that most people, when seeing this statistics, think that the given man is father (or other male relative), but that actually most often it is the mother's boyfriend.

I trust these data, because they seem to match with what other people told me personally. (Two data points in my social circle. In both cases the given girl was not raped, but mother's boyfriend was gradually pushing towards higher physical intimacy, and mother offered no protection, so it seemed like a question of time. The situation was solved by boyfriend somehow losing opportunity of further contact with given girl; I will not provide more details.)

(What could be specific for Brazil -- but I am only guessing here -- is possibly a higher base rate of "mother with daughter and a boyfriend in the same house" situations, or a higher amount of criminal-type boyfriends which instead of carefully scanning the terrain progress faster. Or some combination of both, such as more divorces or higher acceptance of extramarital cohabitation in lower social classes, where criminality is more frequent and economical reasons may press the mother and boyfriend to share the same house.)

Please note that your objection against these data seems based on a premise: "if that's true, then these Brazilian women must know it" and the consecutive modus tollens. This apparent contradiction is solved by the fact that in each such specific situation there are two women: the mother and the daughter. Their degree of "knowing" may be different -- daughter may believe that mother's boyfriend is going to rape her, based on his previous behavior; but mother may believe (strongly motivated cognition) that her daughter is exaggerating or lying, e.g. because she does not like her boyfriend, because she wants attention or revenge, because she is jealous, etc.

But you are quick to conclude that it's "more likely that this is just the sort of rumor that the Catholic Church would want to spread". A logical conclusion... if you build your model on filtered evidence. And in the other thread, you defended this filtering! We should not discuss e.g. data on female sexual behavior on LW, because it might offend some women. But because the world is connected, this will lead to conclusions that information about mother's boyfriend being the greatest danger for daughter is just a rumor, that Haidt is just spreading rumors and his real goal is to disempower women. -- You missed an opportunity to notice your confusion, because you were focused on fighting a political enemy.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-14T16:44:07.298Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Although you and Haidt may use different definition of "foundation" -- since you explicitly provided neither, I don't know. For you it may be "something that cannot be reduced to other values", and for Haidt "something directly percieved emotionally". In which case both of you could be right within your own definitions; "foundation" X has evolved as emotional heuristics for avoiding harm, but our emotions of X are not exactly emotions of harm-avoidance.

I don't think that gets Haidt off the hook prescriptively, since when he defends non-harm foundations, he doesn't do so by pointing to his emotions. And as I noted, it's just fine as a descriptive theory.

. Their degree of "knowing" may be different -- daughter may believe that mother's boyfriend is going to rape her, based on his previous behavior; but mother may believe (strongly motivated cognition) that her daughter is exaggerating or lying, e.g. because she does not like her boyfriend, because she wants attention or revenge, because she is jealous, etc.

I'm not talking about any specific situation, where that indeed might happen. I'm talking about whether "When women have a succession of men coming through, their daughters will get raped" [emphasis in original]. That's the claim that I object to. If P(abuse|boyfriend) were even 0.3, it would be harder for mothers to deny what's going on, because their prior for it would be so much higher. When people see rape as rare, they are a lot less likely to believe any individual who claims to have been raped.

I believe the essence of the claim is not Brazil-specific. I don't have a reference here; it was years ago when I participated in child abuse prevention. I remember the statistics of child abuse divided by type of abuse and gender of perpetrator. In most cases, the different type of abuse is about equally done by men and women; except in the "sexual abuse" category, majority of perpetrators were men. And we were explained that most people, when seeing this statistics, think that the given man is father (or other male relative), but that actually most often it is the mother's boyfriend.

I think that's actually very likely. But the question is not P(boyfriend|abuse), but P(abuse|boyfriend).

But you are quick to conclude that it's "more likely that this is just the sort of rumor that the Catholic Church would want to spread".

Another reason I don't think much of Haidt's non-data, which I couldn't fit into the article, is that "street children", by definition, don't live in houses with their parents.

A logical conclusion... if you build your model on filtered evidence. And in the other thread, you defended this filtering! We should not discuss e.g. data on female sexual behavior on LW, because it might offend some women.

I didn't propose not discussing data on female sexual behavior. I suggested not linking to a site which has nothing but bad things to say about people of color, which is really quite different. VDARE is a political site; they do sometimes post articles by real scientists, but they would be unlikely to do so if those articles contradicted their basic premise. I also noted that I was trying to avoid filtering, by actually having women and people of color on Less Wrong.

My article did link to a book which mentions womens' boyfriends killing (but not, in the parts that I have read so far, raping) their infant children. So I'm certainly not opposed to data.

If I'd read only this article without any other context, I probably wouldn't write the same kind of reaction. So I guess a large part of my comment was "object connotationally".

I appreciate your concern for the community's health. I did make one change to the article to remove a bit which was more specifically political (a bit about the Catholic church), and I think it was an error to put that in there in the first place. I think you might be pattern matching my comments in the other thread, rather than reading them. The typical liberal thing to do is to oppose "racism" and "sexism" (rather than actually opposing racism and sexism), on emotional purity grounds. That's because many liberals (as noted elsewhere) do think of these things in terms of purity instead of harm. That's also why a lot of radical feminists (for instance) reject liberalism; because it's focused on the symbol not the substance. But I don't identify as a liberal. And I genuinely do believe that there's a real harm to linking to sites like VDARE. It's not political, for me, but moral. And if ethics is the mind-killer, well, we've got more serious problems.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-08-14T19:36:48.862Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

And I genuinely do believe that there's a real harm to linking to sites like VDARE.

There is, in my opinion, but a different kind of harm. Accusations of racism, whether based on fact or not, are contagious. Being social species, we cannot afford to ignore the questions of status.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-14T20:00:57.708Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

That's why I never call anyone a racist. We all fuck up and say racist things sometimes. But if we can't call each other on it, we'll never stop doing it. For a group of people who aim to be "Less Wrong" to say that we can't call something racism because we've been too mind-killed, or because our status would suffer, would be sad indeed.

When you say "a different kind of harm", can you be a bit more explicit?

comment by BarbaraB · 2012-08-15T09:30:10.341Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Another reason I don't think much of Haidt's non-data, which I couldn't fit into the article, is that "street children", by definition, don't live in houses with their parents<

I imagine Brazil "street children" occassionally return to the homes of their parents, but do not feel particularly wellcome, missed, or protected, so they spend most nights somewhere else.

If it helps, I have recently seen a TV document on Brazil. The document mentioned, that the major source of street children are the families, where widowed or divorced mother has a new partner. And that boyfriends / new husbands tend to discourage such mothers from taking care of their children, they rather want to have new on their own. Raping was not mentioned, but clearly Brazilian culture puts a surprisingly low emphasis on duty and responsibility of a mother to take care and protect their own kids.

After contradicting novalis (for searching ways how to dissmiss the data), I will now say something in his support. I thing there is still too long a step from situations, where women do not live in celibacy after leaving (or burrying) their first partner, to situations, when they fail to protect their children. I think the point is addressed by having a social moral norm, that women should protect their kids no matter what, rather than having a moral norm, that women should not have new sexual adventures after leaving the first partner. So the "avoiding harm / provide care" value is sufficient, you do not need purity and sanctity and whatever...

Or is it actualy the sanctity of motherhood I am trying to advocate ??? Perhaps the confusion is the terminology. After reading several specific examples from the book, we would understand better what the author means by "harm/caring, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity/disgust". So far, I did not read the book, nor did the author of this blogpost.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-15T15:37:58.703Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

After contradicting novalis (for searching ways how to dismiss the data)

I was actually searching for data either way -- if it's true, I want to believe it's true, and if it's false, I want to believe it's false. I searched for papers on Google Scholar, and I couldn't find any. I want to find some, because I want to actually know the truth.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-12T06:53:44.147Z · score: 21 (23 votes) · LW · GW

It is, however, missing a piece: why are there people who don't share all five foundations?

You are right that Haidt is missing that piece, although judging by his recent writings, he might be slowly converging towards the answer. Namely, the answer is that, contrary to Haidt's model of contemporary ideologies, there are in fact no such people.

What does exist are people whose ideology says that harm and (maybe) fairness are the only rational and reasonable moral foundations, while the other ones are only due to ignorance, stupidity, backwardness, malice, etc. Nevertheless, these same people have their own strong norms of sacredness, purity, authority, and in-group loyalty, for which they however invent ideologically motivated rationalizations in terms of harm and fairness. These rationalizations are usually very flimsy, and often they amount to little more than an instinctive emotional urge to dismiss anyone who asks unpleasant questions as crazy or malicious. Yet, given the high status and institutional dominance of such ideologies, their adherents generally do manage to create a public image of themselves as concerned only with the "rational" foundations (and thus superior intellectually and morally to their ideological opponents).

As for the claim that "you need loyalty, authority and sanctity to run a decent society," I would actually go further and say that they are necessary for any sort of organized human society. In fact, the claim can be stated even more strongly: since humans are social beings who can live and reproduce only within organized societies, these things simply will exist wherever there are humans. Therefore, if you are concerned with harm, the only reasonable question you can ask is about the practical consequences of the (necessarily multi-foundational) social norms in different societies on whatever metric you use to evaluate harm. And here you will find that, even in terms of a purely utilitarian metric, an accurate analysis of the social role of the norms based on these "irrational" foundations will give you very different answers from those given by the pseudo-rational ideologies that claim to reject these foundations.

comment by Lightwave · 2012-08-12T08:41:49.452Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I would actually go further and say that they are necessary for any sort of organized human society.

While they are likely necessary for organized human society, I think the argument is that their purpose is purely instrumental. It's sort of like how in the prisoner's dilemma, the concept of 'trust' ('tit for tat with forgiveness' variants) is an instrumentally useful strategy for winning points in a group of a certain kind of agents. Even if humans have loyalty, authority and sanctity built-in, they can still recognize their instrumental role and can only instrumentally optimize for those.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-12T19:18:50.262Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Even if humans have loyalty, authority and sanctity built-in, they can still recognize their instrumental role and can only instrumentally optimize for those.

The trouble is, absent certain unusually favorable circumstances, attempts at such optimization run into insurmountable practical problems. For start, such analysis would be tremendously difficult even for a superhumanly unbiased intellect. And then there is the even worse problem that realistic humans will be under an almost irresistible temptation to bias their analysis in favor of their own particular authority, sanctity, and in-group norms.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-12T16:59:11.567Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder if the topic of "moral foundations" would better be considered as "human universals that sometimes contribute to some of the things that get labeled 'morality'." Because plenty of the time, the instrumental ones also contribute to things that get labeled "immorality". The purity universal includes the sexual jealousy of the abusive spouse; the loyalty universal includes Milgram's subjects; and so on. We recognize that these are morally significant, but in a negative sense: the abuser is not merely pursuing a positive purity ideal in ill-chosen ways, and Milgram did not find people longing for something to be loyal to, but people who responded with obedience even in situations where doing so was immoral.

comment by GLaDOS · 2012-08-12T17:10:18.934Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder if the topic of "moral foundations" would better be considered as "human universals that sometimes contribute to some of the things that get labeled 'morality'." Because plenty of the time, the instrumental ones also contribute to things that get labeled "immorality".

Don't forget pathological altruism for the harm equality foundation.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-08-13T15:29:35.927Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps fairness could also be interpreted as a sacred value, and a useful heuristics to reduce harm.

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2012-08-14T02:08:44.102Z · score: 7 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Fallacy of gray? Arguably no one has completely removed all minor unconscious belief in purity/sanctity/authority based values, but I think endorsing harm/fairness values at least correlates with holding fewer values based on P/S/A, even secretly.

I am also not clear whether you're saying only that mainstream large liberal parties like UK Labor or US Democrats secretly have many P/S/A values, or whether you would say the same is true of people like Peter Singer or the more pragmatic/less ideological strains of libertarian. I think the gradient from the Pope to Nancy Pelosi to Peter Singer is quite clear, even if the last might still have some P/S/A values lurking somewhere.

If you disagree, can you name a few purity, sanctity, or authority based values you expect intelligent liberals or libertarians on LW to endorse?

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-14T03:54:38.738Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Fallacy of gray? Arguably no one has completely removed all minor unconscious belief in purity/sanctity/authority based values, but I think endorsing harm/fairness values at least correlates with holding fewer values based on P/S/A, even secretly.

There are two distinct questions here:

  1. Are the standard liberal ideological positions (in the American sense of the word) really as low on the sacredness/authority/in-group values as Haidt would claim?

  2. Are there, generally speaking, significant numbers of people (perhaps weighted by their influence) whose ideological positions are truly low on the sacredness/authority/in-group values? (Whatever their overlap with the standard liberal positions might be.)

I believe that the answer to (1) is decisively no. And here I don't have in mind some minor holdovers, but some of the very central tenets of the ideology of modern liberalism -- which are largely liberal innovations, and not just unexamined baggage from the past. So even if I'm committing fallacies here, they're not fallacies of gray. In this thread and the linked older comments, I have already elaborated on one significant example where the standard liberal positions are heavy on sacredness (the sacralization of individual autonomy in sex-related matters). I could also give examples of liberal authority and in-group values, some of which I've already mentioned in passing. Unfortunately, you can probably see why such topics are, practically by definition, inordinately likely to inflame passions and destroy the discourse.

As for (2), clearly, if you look for outliers hard enough, you'll find them, and there is some variability even among people closer to the mainstream. But I think that you are greatly underestimating how much of the entire utilitarianism shtick in the contemporary ideological debates is just a convenient framework for rationalizations of views and intuitions held for completely different reasons. (And it's not very different for egalitarian and other arguments that leverage the fairness intuitions.)

Even when it comes to bullet-biters who will be convinced by utilitarian (or egalitarian etc.) arguments to adopt odd and extreme positions on some issues, it's a mistake to conclude from this that they have done an equally consistent scrutiny of all their beliefs, or even the majority of them. I think this is a good description of someone like Singer (with the caveat that I haven't read anything close to a large and representative sample of his work, so that my view of his particular case might be biased).

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2012-08-14T05:19:07.755Z · score: 14 (24 votes) · LW · GW

I think my problem with your responses on this thread so far has been that you've taken various liberal positions, said "Obviously this a sacredness value, liberals say it's about harm but they are lying", and not justified this. Or else "Some people say they are utilitarians, but obviously they are lying and have sacredness and purity and authority values just like everyone else" and not justified that either.

For example, where exactly is this liberal sacredness around sexual autonomy? The place I see liberals really get worked up about this is tolerance of homosexuality, but the standard liberal mantra in this case, that it's okay because it "doesn't harm anyone", seems to me to be entirely correct - it's throwing out a conservative purity-based value in favor of a genuinely harm-based value. Liberals are pretty happy to oppose clear-cut cases of harm in sexual relations like rape or lying about STDs, not to mention that most of them oppose pedophilia and prostitution.

In order to demonstrate that liberal sexual values are sacredness rather than harm based, you'd need to point out some specific sexual practice that was harmless but which liberals still violently opposed (arranged marriage? Do liberals have a strong opinion on this?) or harmful but which liberals supported (maybe no-fault divorce? But this is far from universally-supported among liberals, it's far from clear that it's harmful, and I don't think most liberals who do support it refer to a principle of sexual autonomy or have the fervor that tends to characterize sacred values.)

Overall I think liberal support for sexual autonomy, insofar as it's a useful idea at all, to be mostly based around autonomy values (obviously), harm values (as the liberals themselves say), and maybe an overreaction to really disliking conservative values around things like homosexuality or sexual "prudery". I think you have further to go in demonstrating that there's really a strong foundation of sacredness there, although I understand if you don't want to turn this thread into a debate on sex mores.

I agree that certain liberal values are based on sacredness (diversity and anti-racism) or purity (environmentalism), although I have yet to hear any good argument that liberals explicitly value authority. But two examples, both of which are polluted with confounders (racism really is really harmful), hardly seem like enough to say they are just as interested in these values as conservatives and totally deceiving themselves when they say they aren't.

And I have the same objections to your comments on libertarians and utilitarians. Yeah, only a few percent of the population is either (although it's more in places where people are genuinely interested in philosophical and political issues and likely to think for themselves, and only about 20% of Americans self-identify as "liberal" anyway). But libertarians for example seem ruthlessly consistent in opposing government intervention into any area (except maybe defense and policing), and I have a higher opinion of utilitarians than you do. Once Peter Singer says he can't really see any problems with infanticide because it doesn't harm anyone, the hypothesis that he still is secretly trying to uphold sacredness values just as much as everyone else becomes pretty hard to support.

Similarly, not every case of hypocrisy is a case of secretly having sacredness or purity values. I don't fail at efficient charity because I secretly believe that inefficient charity is sacred. I fail at efficient charity because utilitarianism is really hard.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-14T07:47:12.096Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I think my problem with your responses on this thread so far has been that you've taken various liberal positions, said "Obviously this a sacredness value, liberals say it's about harm but they are lying", and not justified this.

"Lying" is not the right word, since it suggests conscious deception. The term I have used consistently is rationalization.

In order to demonstrate that liberal sexual values are sacredness rather than harm based, you'd need to point out some specific practice that was harmless but which liberals still violently opposed [...] or harmful but which liberals supported [...]

Arguing against liberal positions on such matters is very difficult because they tend to be backed by a vast arsenal of rationalizations based on purportedly rational considerations of harm or fairness, often coming from prestigious and accredited intellectual institutions where liberals predominate. This is of course in addition to the dense minefield of "boo lights" where an argument, whatever its real merits, will trigger such outrage in a liberal audience that the discourse will be destroyed and the speaker discredited.

So, while I can readily point out concrete examples of the sort you're asking, unfortunately in many of them, crossing the inferential distances would be an uphill battle, or there would be immediate unpleasantness that I'd rather avoid. Therefore I'll limit myself to a few more vague and general points:

  • Laissez-faire in sex leads to all kinds of expensive negative-sum signaling and other games. Why not crack down on those, which would lead to a clear improvement by any utilitarian metric?

  • If it's OK for the government to ban smoking and other activities harmful for public health, why not extend such treatment to sexual activities that have obvious and drastic public health implications?

  • If the alleged vast inequality of wealth is a legitimate complaint against economic laissez-faire, why is it not legitimate to complain about the vast inequality of sexual and romantic opportunities (and of the related social status) under sexual laissez-faire? (The problem is by no means limited to men, of course.)

  • Why the automatic hostility towards the idea that under sexual laissez-faire, a huge segment of the population, which lacks sufficient prudence and self-control, will make disastrous and self-destructive choices, so that restrictive traditional sexual norms may amount to a net harm reduction? Especially since liberals make analogous arguments in favor of paternalistic regulation of practically everything else.

There are many other examples too, but these are the best ones I can think of without either running into enormous inferential distances or sounding too provocative. It really seems to me that liberal norms change suddenly and dramatically towards laissez-faire once sexual matters come under consideration, and I don't see how this could be because their regular considerations of harm and fairness just happen to entail laissez-faire in this particular area and nowhere else.

I agree that certain liberal values are based on sacredness (diversity and anti-racism) or purity (environmentalism), although I have yet to hear any good argument that liberals explicitly value authority.

Explicitly, certainly not often. But in many of their observed views and behaviors, I detect strong authority-based intuitions, even though they will invariably be rationalized as something else. The typical way is to present authority as some kind of neutral and objective expertise, even in areas where this makes no sense.

Once Peter Singer says he can't really see any problems with infanticide because it doesn't harm anyone, the hypothesis that he still is secretly trying to uphold sacredness values just as much as everyone else becomes pretty hard to support.

As I said, I'm not an expert on Singer in particular, and I don't deny the possibility that he might be an outlier in this regard. (Although I do remember reading things from him that seemed to me like a clear case of rationalizing fundamentally non-utilitarian liberal positions.) Also, I agree that someone's serious utilitarian bullet-biting on some issues provides some evidence that he is overall less dedicated to the values of sacredness etc. I do think, however, that you underestimate how often such serious bullet-biters can be inconsistent on other issues.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2012-08-14T23:39:36.178Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

So, while I can readily point out concrete examples of the sort you're asking, unfortunately in many of them, crossing the inferential distances would be an uphill battle, or there would be immediate unpleasantness that I'd rather avoid. Therefore I'll limit myself to a few more vague and general points:

I've often seen you say this kind of thing in your comments. Do you participate in another forum where you do describe the details? Or alternatively, are you preparing us to eventually be ready to hear the details by giving these vague and general points?

I think there is a good chance that many of your ideas are wrong and you are probably more confident about them than you should be. (Nothing personal, I just think most new ideas are wrong and their proponents overconfident.) I could argue against the vague and general points that you offer, but it feels pointless since presumably you have stronger arguments that you're not sharing so I have no way of convincing you or bystanders that you are wrong, nor is it likely that you can convince me that you are right (without sharing those details). I imagine other potential critics probably feel the same and also stay silent as a result. In the meantime, readers may see your comments stand uncriticized and form an incorrect idea of what other LWers think of your views (i.e., that we're less skeptical of them than we actually are).

I thought I'd draw your attention to this issue in case it hadn't occurred to you already. Perhaps it might spur you to form or speed up a plan to make public your detailed ideas and arguments?

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-15T01:11:42.271Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that this is a valid concern, but I don't think your evaluation of the situation is entirely fair. Namely, I almost never open any controversial and inflammatory topics on this forum. (And I definitely haven't done so in a very long time, nor do I intend to do it in the future.) I make comments on such topics only when I see that others have already opened them and I believe that what has been written is seriously flawed. (In fact, usually I don't react even then.)

Therefore, while I certainly accept that my incomplete arguments may cause the problems you describe, you must take into account that the alternative is a situation where other people's arguments stand unchallenged even though they are, in my opinion, seriously flawed. In such situations, leaving them unanswered would create a problem similar to the one you point out with regards to my comments, i.e. a misleading impression that there is a more agreement with them that there actually is. (This even aside from the problem that, if I am correct, it would mean wrong arguments standing unchallenged.)

In these situations, I take my arguments as far as I believe I can take them without causing so much controversy that the discourse breaks down. This is a sort of situation where there is no good outcome, and I believe that often the least bad option is to make it known that there is some disagreement and voice it as far as it can be done. (In the sense that this outcome, whatever its problems, still makes the best out of the unfavorable trade-offs that unavoidably appear whenever some controversial and inflammatory topic is opened.)

Of course, there are many ways in which I could be wrong. Maybe the arguments I see as flawed are in fact usually correct and I'm just creating confusion and misleading people by parading my mistaken contrary beliefs this way. Maybe these topics are so unimportant that it's always better to ignore them than to raise any amount of fuss. Maybe my comments, however careful and diplomatic I try to make them, still serve as a catalyst for too much bad discourse by other posters. Relevant to your comment, maybe the confusion and misleading impressions left by my comments end up worse than the alternative outcome in case I stay silent. I recognize all these possibilities, but nevertheless, I think the concrete objection from your comment fails to recognize the relevant concerns I outlined above.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2012-08-15T02:02:46.930Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I think the concrete objection from your comment fails to recognize the relevant concerns I outlined above.

Yes, it's quite possible that you've thought through these issues more thoroughly than I have. But one thing that makes me more skeptical than usual is that you're the only person I know who often makes claims like "I privately have better arguments but I can't share them because they would be too inflammatory". If your arguments and conclusions are actually correct, why haven't other people discovered them independently and either made them public (due to less concern about causing controversy) or made similar claims (about having private arguments)? Do you have an explanation why you seem to be in such an uncommon epistemic position? (For example do you have certain cognitive strengths that make it easier for you to see certain insights?)

If I were you, I would be rather anxious to see if my arguments stand up under independent scrutiny, and would find a place where they can be discussed without causing excessive harm. I asked earlier whether you discuss your ideas in other forums or have plans to make them public eventually. You didn't answer explicitly which I guess means the answers to both are "no"? Can you explain why?

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-15T16:32:16.485Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, I composed the above comment in a rush, and forgot to address the other questions you asked because I focused on the main objection.

Regarding other forums, the problem is that they offer only predictable feedback based on the ideological positions of the owners and participants. Depending on where I go, I can get either outrage and bewilderment or admiring applause, and while this can be fun and vanity-pleasing, it offers no useful feedback. So while I do engage in ideological rants and scuffles for fun from time to time on other forums, I've never bothered with making my writing there systematic and precise enough to be worth your time.

Regarding other thinkers, I actually don't think that much of my thinking is original. In fact, my views on most questions are mostly cobbled together from insights I got from various other authors, with only some additional synthesis and expansion on my part. I don't think I have any unusual epistemic skills except for unusually broad curiosity and the ability to take arguments seriously even if their source and ultimate conclusion are low-status, unpleasant, ideologically hostile to my values and preferences, etc. (Of course, neither of these characteristics is an unalloyed good even from a purely epistemic perspective, and they certainly cause many problems, possibly more than benefits, for me in practical life.)

The problem, however, is that on controversial topics, good insight typically comes from authors whose other beliefs and statements are mistaken and biased in various ways, and whose overall image, demeanor, and affiliation is often problematic. And while people are generally apt to misinterpret agreement on a particular point as a full endorsement of someone, and to attack a particular argument based on the author's mistakes and biases on other questions, I think LW has some particularly bad problems in this regard. This is because on LW, people tend to assign a supposed general level of "rationality" to individuals and dismiss them if sufficient red flags of supposedly general irrationality are raised.

Whereas in reality, on controversial and ideologically charged questions, there is much less consistency within individuals, and people whose rationality is sterling as judged by the LW public opinion (often not without good reason) typically have at least some horribly naive and biased views, while much good insight comes from people whom LW would judge (also often with good reason) as overall hugely biased and irrational. (The only people who maintain high standards across the board are those who limit themselves to technical questions and venture into controversial non-technical topics only rarely and cautiously, if at all.) So that on many questions, saying "I think X has good insight on topic Y" would be just a way to discredit myself. (When I think it isn't, I do provide references with the appropriate caveats.)

comment by Wei_Dai · 2012-08-15T19:15:11.487Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think I have any unusual epistemic skills except for unusually broad curiosity and the ability to take arguments seriously even if their source and ultimate conclusion are low-status, unpleasant, ideologically hostile to my values and preferences, etc.

Considering the source of the arguments, they most likely have not been seriously evaluated by many other careful thinkers, so you must have very high confidence in your ability to distinguish between good and bad arguments from object-level considerations alone. If you can actually, on your own, synthesize a wide-ranging contrarian theory from such diverse and not pre-filtered (and hence low in average quality) sources that is also correct, I would say that you have extremely unusual epistemic skills.

Whereas in reality, on controversial and ideologically charged questions, there is much less consistency within individuals, and people whose rationality is sterling as judged by the LW public opinion (often not without good reason) typically have at least some horribly naive and biased views, while much good insight comes from people whom LW would judge (also often with good reason) as overall hugely biased and irrational.

I agree with your assessment of this as a problem and an opportunity. But instead of trying, by oneself, to gather such good insights from otherwise biased and irrational people, it would be a better idea to do it as a community. If it seems too difficult or dangerous to try to change LW's community norms to be more receptive to your mode of investigation, you should build your own community of like-minded people. (From Konkvistador's not entirely clear description in the parallel thread, it sounds like you've already tried it via a mailing list, but you can probably try harder?)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-15T20:05:00.496Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(From Konkvistador's not entirely clear description in the parallel thread, it sounds like you've already tried it via a mailing list, but you can probably try harder?)

I guess I should clarify, I organized a mindkiller discussion mailing list with interested thinkers from LessWrong, that was active for some time. Anyone who was invited was also invited to propose new members, we tried to get a mix of people with differing ideological sympathies who liked discussing mind killing issues and where good rationalists. The vast majority of people contacted responded, the end result was about 30 LWers. I don't feel comfortable disclosing who opted to join. I think I did send you a PM with an invitation to join.

More information here.

The reason I thought such a mailing list might be a good idea was partially because I've had very interesting email correspondences with several LWers in the past (this includes Vladimir_M).

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-15T09:36:28.855Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

"I privately have better arguments but I can't share them because they would be too inflammatory".

I have privately discussed the arguments and found them convincing enough to move my position over the past year much more in his direction.

The best course of action is perhaps a correspondence with assured privacy? The problem is that one to one correspondences are time consuming and have their own weaknesses as a means to approaching truth seeking. I tried to get more open discussion of such arguments on a mailing list but as your probably know most didn't participate or write enough material to make reasoning explicit in ways they do in regular correspondence.

Also I felt this important enough to say to break my one month streak of staying off LW, I will now (hopefully) resume it.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2012-08-15T12:54:42.299Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I have privately discussed the arguments and found them convincing enough to move my position over the past year much more in his direction.

Thank you for this data point, but it doesn't move me as much as you may have expected. I think many flawed arguments are flawed in subtle enough ways that it takes "many eyes" to detect the flaws (or can even survive such scrutiny for many years, see some of the flawed security proofs in cryptography for important commonly used algorithms and protocols as evidence). I personally would not update very much even if I saw the arguments for myself and found them convincing, unless I knew that many others with a diversity of expertise and cognitive styles have reviewed and had a chance to discuss the arguments and I've looked over those discussions as well.

Typically the first thing I do after finding a new idea is to look for other people's discussions of it. I'm concerned that many are like me in this regard, but when they come to Vladimir_M's "vague and general" arguments, they see them highly upvoted without much criticism, and wrongly conclude that many people have reviewed these "vague and general" arguments and found nothing wrong with them when it's more of a problem with potential critics lacking sufficient incentive to attack them. Even worse, if Vladimir_M's conclusions become commonly accepted (or appear to be commonly accepted) on LW due to such dynamics, it sets up a potentially bad precedent. Others may be tempted (not necessarily consciously) to overestimate how inflammatory some of their arguments are in order to gain an edge in getting their ideas accepted.

(As I mentioned, Vladimir_M may well have already thought through these issues more thoroughly than I have, but I wanted to bring up some possible downsides that he may have overlooked.)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-15T13:20:58.794Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for this data point, but it doesn't move me as much as you may have expected.

Oh I didn't expect it to, its not like I'm a particularly trustworthy authority or anything and your many eyes argument is a good one, I just wanted to share an anecdote.

I was actually hoping readers would take more notice of the other anecdote, the one about the attempt to create an alternative for rationalists to discuss and update on such topics (a mailing list) that was tried and failed. To describe the failure in more detail I think inactivity despite some interesting discussion in the first month or so captures it best.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2012-08-15T18:02:59.585Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I was confused by your description of the mailing list so I put it aside and then forgot to ask you to clarify it. Can you tell us a bit more? How many people were on the list? Was it open or by invitation only? Was it an existing mailing list or created just for this purpose? How did you recruit members? Why do you think it failed to be active after the first month? Why did you say "as you probably know"?

I have been on several highly active mailing lists, both open and closed, so my guess is that you failed to recruit enough members. (Another possibility is that people didn't find the topic interesting but that seems less likely.) Why not try to recruit more members?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-15T20:14:35.259Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Before I saw this reply I already talked about it more here since I saw it needed to be clarified. Now to answer all your questions.

Can you tell us a bit more?

I'll do better I will share the introductory description sent via PM. To give context, a little before this there was an extensive discussion on the pros and cons of various approaches to discovering truth and gaining sanity on mind-killing issues. I think it was in one of the many sub-threads to lukeprogs rational romance article.

I was mostly convinced by arguments against an official mindkiller discussion mailing list, yet I was wondering, would you consider participating in a more informal discussion with a few more people from LessWrong?

A few people that are currently on the list or have been received invitations: [20 or so names]

I've sent similar messages to all of them a few weeks back when starting the list. I am still open to suggestions on who else might be both interested and unlikely to go tribal in their thinking (many people on the previous list where added from suggestions). I'm also open to confidential criticism of the choice for the initial list of people (including myself ).I want to emphasise the usefulness of criticism, since most people so far seem to respond just by adding names not suggesting which should be taken away. As a result the list is a bit bloated.

If you are interested in following or participating please include an email address in your response. Also if you choose to join the group please read the temporary guidelines.

My adress is: [my email address]

Cheers, Konkvistador

Also to again emphasise a key point I fear might be misunderstood I'll quote from the temporary guidelines:

Please don't ever present this or the later the mailing list as anything official or semi-official. It is not. It is just some people from LW talking about stuff.

Now to answer your specific questions.

How many people were on the list?

About 20 to 30.

Was it open or by invitation only?

Invitation only. With people having to agree to new members being added. No proposals where shot down, however people didn't suggest many names.

Was it an existing mailing list or created just for this purpose?

Newly created.

How did you recruit members?

PMs to people on LessWrong with contact info.

Why do you think it failed to be active after the first month

I'm not sure, my best guess was not enough people. Perhaps people where also reluctant to open new topics since privacy protection was pretty much paper thin. My cynical side said it was because the list had too many contrarians who weren't motivated to write because they lacked a non-contrarian audience, and going metacontrarian one more step would require too muhc legwork. :)

Why did you say "as you probably know"?

I thought you where a member of the list. I've now checked, you where invited but you never replied.

I have been on several highly active mailing lists, both open and closed, so my guess is that you failed to recruit enough members.

Most likely explanation.

Why not try to recruit more members?

It has been inactive for some time. Still some discussion did take place, so potentially harmful material may be in the archives, I wouldn't be ok sending new invitations unless the old members agreed.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-08-18T15:13:51.746Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's possible that the mailing list would be in better shape if you posted more. I used to be in amateur press associations-- what people did before they had the internet-- and I'm pretty sure that the successful ones had substantial contributions by the people running them.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-18T15:44:03.413Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That sounds like good advice. But I honestly wasn't sure people where interested in my contributions at all, there where lots of excellent rationalist there, that's a pretty intimidating audience!

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-08-18T15:54:26.255Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

that's a pretty intimidating audience!

That's why someone has to go first. I nominate you.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2012-08-15T20:55:01.030Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I must have been busy with something at the time and then later forgot about the invitation. Can you PM me the details of how to join so I can take a look at the archives?

Lack of a big audience would definitely also contribute to inactivity, especially if there's not even a feeling that one's contributions might eventually be synthesized into something that will be seen or used by many others. Maybe you can try a different format? Make the forum public but encourage people to use fresh pseudonyms for privacy, and be ready to ban people who are disruptive?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-16T05:43:53.675Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I must have been busy with something at the time and then later forgot about the invitation. Can you PM me the details of how to join so I can take a look at the archives?

Yes you where on the original list people agreed to so there is I think no problem with you taking a look at the archives. I'll send you a PM.

Maybe you can try a different format? Make the forum public but encourage people to use fresh pseudonyms for privacy, and be ready to ban people who are disruptive?

Perhaps this would be a better approach. I don't think I have the time for this right now and not for at least a month or two, so if anyone else is feeling motivated...

comment by siodine · 2012-08-15T13:59:07.927Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

an alternative for rationalists to discuss and update on such topics

I think you're proposing an alternative because you're a C.I.A. agent trying to infiltrate LW and divide the community for your government's nefarious purposes -- which will remain unspoken lest they become memetic and drive the world towards the edge of insanity.

/devil's advocate

And, seriously, when was the last time anyone was punished on LW for posting their contrarian thought? The gestalt I'm getting is that LWers so desperately want to be accepting of contrarians that they'll take the most insane and unsupported propositions more seriously than they deserve (e.g. Will Newsome).

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-15T14:27:50.176Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Contrarian =/= Mindkilling =/= Hurts the community if discussed =/= Something LW can't productively discuss

Though there is obviously some overlap. Consider the exercises in frustration and mutual incomprehension that result when we talk about PUA/gender/sexuality. It is I would argue not that mindkilling a subject, there is little wild contrarianism, yet it is a debate I'd rather not see relaunched because of the fail that has consistently accompanied it on LW/OB for years.

Also Will Newsome is a bit of a straw man no? I would argue he is seen by most posters as firmly in the people in Pittsburgh are ten feet tall territory.

comment by siodine · 2012-08-15T15:17:00.123Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Contrarian =/= Mindkilling =/= Hurts the community if discussed =/= Something LW can't productively discuss

Though there is obviously some overlap

What is contrarian (for this community and re anything outside of AI) is what is typically considered mindkilling and what is mindkilling is what is typically thought of as hurting the community. When I use 'contrarian' in this context, I'm just putting a word to what you're referring to in your previous comment.

Consider the exercises in frustration and mutual incomprehension that result when we talk about PUA/gender/sexuality.

What I generally see is people assuming conclusions based on flimsy science (e.g., a lot of the science brought in to support preexisting conclusions within the PUA community), and then assuming the push-back is entirely or mostly because of the offense caused (no doubt that offense is motivating for entering discussion, though).

Also Will Newsome is a bit of a straw man no?

Yes and no. He is partly in the 2+2=5 territory in the context of the community as a whole, but then there are people who take him seriously (just saying he supports X gets him karma). In this thread, Vladimir_M is another example.

eta: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/9kf/ive_had_it_with_those_dark_rumours_about_our/

comment by sam0345 · 2012-08-17T04:00:51.978Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

And, seriously, when was the last time anyone was punished on LW for posting their contrarian thought

Plainly expressed contrarian posts are downvoted, or silently and furtively deleted. The likelihood of silent and furtive deletion discourages people from posting.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-17T06:45:51.605Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

In case you weren't aware, your "deleted" posts are available for anyone who'd care to browse them on your user page. You can check — go back a page or two and click on the permalinks, you'll see those posts are "deleted" from the perspective of the threads they were part of. Maybe this is a bug in the LW code, but personally I think it's kinda useful, because folks can verify the nature of your contributions and thereby the veracity of your claims here.

Folks can draw their own conclusions of your work — but I was particularly impressed by your claims that stepfathers typically rape boys, while "girls without a natural father are apt to become whores"; and that "allowing blacks, mestizos, women, white males who have not been raised by their biological fathers, and homosexuals into the power structure has produced a general collapse of trust and trustworthiness in the ruling elite [...] because members of these groups are commonly less trustworthy"; as well as your assertion that the design intent of cervical-cancer prevention programs is to cover up for the evils of male homosexuality.

Despite the fact that your claims are extraordinary and therefore in need of evidence to raise them to any probability worth consideration, you do not cite evidence for your claims. Instead you assert that your beliefs are themselves "evidence" and "fact" — that your map is the territory — and that people who cite evidence that disagrees with your claims are "pious" "PC" censors.

It seems that you are operating what the Wikipedia folks call a "single-purpose account". You do not participate in discussions on AI, x-rationality, cognitive science, game theory, timeless ethics, self-improvement, or any of the other subjects commonly discussed here; except insofar as you can turn these topics to your own unusual breed of far-right politics. This politics appears to be almost exclusively concerned with the moral and cultural significance of other people's sexual conduct and racial heritage — and with demeaning anyone who disagrees with you.

Since Less Wrong is not primarily about politics of any stripe, and since people are rather fond of evidence around here, it is unsurprising that you have received a chilly reception. I suggest that your views would be better aired in a different forum.

comment by sam0345 · 2012-08-17T09:07:56.088Z · score: -2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Despite the fact that your claims are extraordinary and therefore in need of evidence to raise them to any probability worth consideration, you do not cite evidence for your claims.

Liar.

For example I never asserted that "that the design intent of cervical-cancer prevention programs is to cover up for the evils of male homosexuality."

Rather, I produced evidence that might incline some people to draw the conclusion that was a factor in the design, without ever suggesting that conclusion myself.

So far from making an assertion without evidence, I have been producing evidence without assertions and letting that evidence speak for itself.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2012-08-15T18:17:03.015Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If your arguments and conclusions are actually correct, why haven't other people discovered them independently and either made them public (due to less concern about causing controversy) or made similar claims (about having private arguments)?

To offer another data point in addition to Konkvistador's, HughRistik made similar claims to me. We had a brief private exchange, the contents of which I promised to keep private. However, I think that I can say, without breach of promise, that the examples he offered in private did not seem to me to be as poisonous to public discourse as he believed.

On the other hand, I could see that the arguments he gave where for controversial positions, and anyone arguing for those positions would have to make some cognitively demanding efforts to word their arguments so as to avoid poisoning the discourse. I can see that someone might want to avoid this effort. But, on the whole, the level of effort that would be required didn't seem to me to be that high. I think that it would be easy enough (not easy, but easy enough) for Vladimir_M to make these arguments publicly and productively that he should want to do this for the reasons you give.

(I'll also add that the evidence HughRistik offered was serious and deserved respectful consideration, but it did not move me much from my previous mainstream-liberal views on the issues in question.)

comment by sam0345 · 2012-08-17T03:11:50.773Z · score: 3 (11 votes) · LW · GW

anyone arguing for those positions would have to make some cognitively demanding efforts to word their arguments so as to avoid poisoning the discourse.

Merely expressing certain thoughts in a clear way is deemed to poison the discourse on this forum, whereas expressing certain other thoughts, no matter how rudely, aggressively, childishly, and offensively, is not deemed to poison the discourse. The only way to get away with expressing these thoughts on this forum is to express them as Vlad does, in code that is largely impenetrable except to those that already share those ideas.

And as evidence for this proposition, observe that no one does express these thoughts plainly on this forum, not even me, while they are routinely expressed on other forums.

Lots of people argue that we are heading not for a technological singularity, but for a left political singularity, that will likely result in the collapse of western civilization. You could not possibly argue that on this forum.

Indeed it is arguably inadvisable to argue that even on a website located on a server within the USA or Europe, though Mencius Moldbug did.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-17T10:27:00.530Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This post doesn't deserve the down votes it got. Up voted.

And as evidence for this proposition, observe that no one does express these thoughts plainly on this forum, not even me, while they are routinely expressed on other forums.

Urban Future is a rather interesting blog, just read his Dark Enlightenment series and found it a good overview and synthesis of recent reactionary thought. I also liked some of his technology and transhumanist posts.

Lots of people argue that we are heading not for a technological singularity, but for a left political singularity, that will likely result in the collapse of western civilization. You could not possibly argue that on this forum.

It is probably true that we couldn't discuss this regardless of how much evidence existed for it. Ever since I've started my investigation of how and why values change, the process we've decided to label "moral progress" in the last 250 years, I've been concerned about social phenomena like the one described in the post seriously harming mankind. To quote my comment on the blog post:

I sometimes wonder whether that is an illusion. What if we are that lucky branch of the multiverse where, looking just at it it looks like a Maxwell’s demon is putting society back into working order?

This would also explain the Fermi Paradox. If all intelligent life in our universe tends to eventually spirals into perfect leftism as described in the OP… if so building self-improving AI designed to extrapolate human ethics like the folks at SIAI hope to do may be an incredibly bad idea.

“If it did not end, the final outcome, infinite leftism in finite time, would be that everyone is tortured to death for insufficient leftism…”

I hope this model of the universe is as unlikely as I think it is!

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-19T13:42:39.967Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'd rather you refer to Three Worlds Collide than discuss such morbid fantasies! (I've read Land and he makes H.L. Mencken look kind and cheerful by comparison.)

One (overly narrow) ideology-related interpretation possible is that of a Space-Liberal humanity having Space Liberalism forcefully imposed on the Babyeaters but resisting the imposition of Space Communism upon itself, despite the relative positions being identical in both cases. In which case... was the Normal Ending really so awful? :)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-19T15:43:23.963Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Space Communism is infinite sex with everything? People are right space makes everything better.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-19T16:03:19.394Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

No, but seriously. Consider it. I mean, the Superhappies are a highly egalitarian, collectivist, expansionist, technology-focused, peace- and compromise-loving culture with universalist ideals that they want to spread everywhere.

Aside from the different biology, that sounds like the Communist sci-fi utopias I've read of, like Banks' Culture and the Strugatsky brothers' Noon Universe. All three are a proper subset of "Near-Maximum Leftism" in my opinion. And I would hardly be terrified if offered to live in either one - or even a downgraded version of one, with a little Space Bureaucracy. Frankly, I wouldn't even mind a Space Brezhnev, as long as he behaved. I can name a dozen much worse (non-socialist) rulers than the real Brezhnev!

(Can you imagine tentacle sex being plagued by bureaucracy? "Sorry, comrade, you'll need a stamp before I can give you an orgasm, and the stamp window doesn't work today.")

comment by sam0345 · 2012-08-17T01:59:24.936Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

But one thing that makes me more skeptical than usual is that you're the only person I know who often makes claims like ...

Observe that one of my previous replies to you have been silently deleted.

The reason you don't see Vlad's arguments is that you don't hang out in the kind of forums where people such as Vlad are allowed to plainly state their arguments.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-19T13:49:27.200Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I've browsed Stormfront a few times (rather extensively). That is certainly a forum where people like Vlad would be allowed to plainly state their arguments, and might even reasonably get some cheering. However, there is a slight problem; I haven't seen any actual people like Vlad there, and that is understandable, since people like Vlad have some self-respect and probably wouldn't be caught dead posting at such crackpot shitholes.

(I certainly saw some people like Vlad in the comments on UR, but even there about every third comment is useless angry noise.)

comment by Bakkot · 2012-08-19T06:13:26.076Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW
comment by sam0345 · 2012-08-15T05:02:02.724Z · score: -2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

"I privately have better arguments but I can't share them because they would be too inflammatory".

Someone ask Vlad, "such as?"

He makes no real reply.

I reply "Such as, for example ..."

Observe what happens.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-19T13:52:04.067Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Someone ask Vlad, "such as?"

He makes no real reply.

I reply "Such as, for example, N-GGER N-GGER N-GGER JEW"

Observe what happens.

Fixed in accordance with reality.

(Retract: I really ought to know better...)

comment by siodine · 2012-08-15T13:07:03.879Z · score: 6 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Comments like yours - where people hide behind unspecified claims of inferential difference, mindkilling, and unspoken reasoning - piss me off more than the most hateful comments I've seen on the internet. That's probably a failing, but an understandable one. Manipulating and teasing my curiosity with the intent of having me take you more seriously than you deserve is something I really don't appreciate. I dislike you.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-17T10:17:37.456Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Have you considered ever just privately. ... you know .... asking him about details? He's always obliged when I did so.

I also dislike your dislike because there clearly are things that are counter-productive to discuss on LW.

comment by pianoforte611 · 2013-02-07T03:15:12.685Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Vlad didn't reply to my request. I don't suppose you would mind summarizing one or two of his more salient arguments?

comment by siodine · 2012-08-17T15:05:11.280Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Have you considered ever just privately. ... you know .... asking him about details? He's always obliged when I did so.

Really? That seems self-defeating; I would happily tell everyone the details if he gave them to me. If that's how he wishes to communicate, by creating a veil for which you have to volunteer to get past, then why doesn't he just use rot13 prefixed with a disclaimer -- that seems more efficient.

there clearly are things that are counter-productive to discuss on LW.

Like what? Give me something that's true, "counter-productive", and relevant to LW. (I recognize that the third criteria - relevant - makes it easy to dismiss a lot of what might seem "counter-productive" because generally those thoughts are more relevant in discussion threads like this one. Also, some things are simply irrelevant no matter what, like how to decorate your house.)

I think the people complaining about these topics are expecting their conclusions to go over as easily as other conclusions more in line with LW consensus. But when you tell someone that their belief is wrong (especially when it's far from the edge of their beliefs as sorted by the date it was last modified), you should expect more opposition because those beliefs have survived the long onslaught of posteriors thereby making new conflicting and contrary evidence more suspicious. For example, "Kahneman-style rationality" is considered a worthwhile aspiration by LW consensus, and people like Vladimir and Will Newsome apparently disagree with that.

And how do Vladimir and Will Newsome try to counteract that consensus? They post comments with unspoken or obfuscated (WN) reasoning. I think they're afraid of putting their conclusions out there in a more complete and graspable form because of the significant possibility for being wrong and "losing status" (especially WN). Or perhaps they're just too lazy to do the hard work necessarily involved and want to fuck with people.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-17T15:18:39.209Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If that's how he wishes to communicate, by creating a veil for which you have to volunteer to get past, then why doesn't he just use rot13 prefixed with a disclaimer -- that seems more efficient.

Those who contact someone for information will be on average I think more genuinely curious about the answer than a casual reader.

Furthermore optimizing when writing for the public is different than optimizing for private correspondence. More can be said not just because it eliminates all sorts of bothersome social posturing but because the participants can agree to things like Crocker's Rules.

How do they try to counteract that consensus? They post comments with unspoken or obfuscated (WN) reasoning. I think they're afraid of putting their conclusions out there in a more complete and graspable form because of the significant possibility for being wrong and "losing status" (especially WN).

Are we discussing Vladimir M or Will Newsome? Why mix up these two different users? Just because one has cited the other as a favourite poster? I happen to think Multiheaded has turned out an interesting poster worth reading and like him a lot, but one would be gravely mistaken to use one of our positions as a proxy for those of the other.

I have respect for both posters, but they not only do they have quite different views but very different approaches. WN is very much playing the trickster deity, the fool, many of his arguments are educational trolls and should be taken as invitations to Socratic Dialogue. Vladimir_M is more the worldly mysterious man at the back of the tavern who tends to be right when you coax advice out of him, but who you won't manage to get out of retirement since he with a tired heart judges your quest folly.

comment by siodine · 2012-08-17T15:39:32.598Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You significantly edited your comment after I replied to it.

not only do they have quite different views but very different approaches.

Not in the context in which they try to counteract the aforementioned consensus -- which is by "[posting] comments with unspoken or obfuscated (WN) reasoning". Which all fits within the weird, fawning description of their approaches you gave.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-17T15:43:36.148Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You significantly edited your comment after I replied to it.

I apologize that sometimes happens to me. I often post a comment find it unsatisfactory and then immediately edit it. Most of the time conversations proceed at a slow enough pace for this to not be a problem.

comment by siodine · 2012-08-17T15:45:30.076Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't care, I just needed to point that out as a reason for creating a second reply. I actually do the same thing.

comment by siodine · 2012-08-17T15:27:02.309Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Those who contact someone for information will be on average I think more genuinely curious about the answer than a casual reader.

People willing to do a rot13 should also be more curious than average; that shits a pain in the ass. Or just make the process even more painful (Actually I think this is what WN does at times, but it also has the added benefit of plausible deniability).

More can be said not just because it eliminates all sorts of bothersome social posturing but because the participants can agree to things like Crocker's Rules.

Social posturing is exactly what I see when people are too afraid to put their thoughts on the line (I mentioned this). I don't think it's healthy in a community trying to be less wrong.

Are we discussing Vladimir_M or Will Newsome? I have respect for both posters, but they have quite different views.

Both in the context of how they try to counteract the aforementioned consensus.

comment by DaFranker · 2012-08-17T15:13:50.989Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Like what? Give me something that's true, "counter-productive", and relevant to LW.

"I greatly hate your post because it makes me irrationally infer things about your nature despite my knowledge of relevant biases, which makes me hate your post and you even more, which is irrational. Now let's all discuss this because I don't want to make the effort to go read up and train myself to become stronger."

...seems like a decent enough fictive example. It's true (within the context of the thought experiment), it's directly relevant to LW (it's about the user's rationality), and starting a large discussion about it is very counter-productive since the user in question should just read and practice rationality skills, as that would be much more efficient and productive, and the discussion might slow down other people trying to improve themselves and generate lots of noise.

comment by siodine · 2012-08-17T15:22:45.996Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You're not using "counter-productive" in the same sense Konkvistador is (at least I think so). I.e., true and useful information for LWers but too outside of LW consensus for being productive.

Also, I gave my comment as feedback for why I downvoted Vladimir and as a way for other people to also show why they downvoted Vladimir (or didn't like his actions). I did not give it with the intent of starting a discussion. I'm also not a robot in that I want to spend all my time reading and practicing rationality skills. I'm happy to make comments like these even knowing I could be doing something better with my time.

(fictive example? don't be a coward.)

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-17T08:57:52.224Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe my comments, however careful and diplomatic I try to make them, still serve as a catalyst for too much bad discourse by other posters.

I'd say that it's their very tone - diplomatic, refined and signaling broad knowledge and wisdom - that adds to the provocative value. After all, nobody would get very stirred up over a usual internet comment like "Your soooo dumb, all atheists and fagz will go 2 hell 4 destroying teh White Man!!" I do not suggest that you deliberately decrease your writing quality, of course.

comment by sam0345 · 2012-08-15T04:35:40.004Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I just think most new ideas are wrong and their proponents overconfident.

Then presumably you think that the entire progressive agenda must be wrong, seeing as for the last two thousand years it would have been perceived as evil and insane, seeing as pretty much every taken for granted progressive verity was, before it became an article of faith, dismissed by progressives as a slippery slope argument.

For example, until the mid nineteenth century, everyone knew that female sexuality was so powerful, irrational, destructive, and self destructive that women needed their sex lives supervised for their own good, and everyone else's good. Everyone knew that democracy was stupid and evil because the masses would eventually try to vote themselves rich, and end up electing Caesar. Everyone knew that if you tried to tax more than five or ten percent, it would hose the economy, and you would wind up with less tax revenue. Everyone knew ...

I expect you to agree with me that we went of the rails when we emancipated women and gave the vote to every adult male.

comment by Multiheaded · 2012-08-19T13:55:13.926Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Then presumably you think that the entire progressive agenda must be wrong, seeing as for the last two thousand years it would have been perceived as evil and insane

Oh, really? I was not aware that, say, Galatians 3:28 was a passage censored or denounced by the entirety of medieval clergy. Perhaps you're, ah, slightly exaggerating?

"The last two thousand years" is the most hilarious bit of the above for me, given my view that the "progressive agenda" as broadly understood (or not understood at all, if you happen to be sam0345) basically appeared with Christianity, as its key part that was quite involved in its growth. See Robert Nisbet's History of the Idea of Progress for a conservative-progressive account, or Zizek's works on Christianity (The Fragile Absolute, The Puppet and The Dwarf, etc) for a communist one.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-19T23:26:39.358Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

the "progressive agenda" as broadly understood [...] basically appeared with Christianity

One of the curious things about early Christianity is that it is a religion of converts. For the first few generations, Christians were not the children of Christians, and they were not people who had converted under threat of violence as was common later on. They were adults who had converted from the religions of Judea, Greece, Rome, or Persia. The idea of conversion may have descended from the idea of initiation, found in Mithraism and in Greco-Egyptian mystery cults.

Christianity rather readily incorporated ideas from Greek philosophy, Jewish mysticism (of John the Baptist and the Essenes), and Mithraist mythology (the idea of a resurrected savior who was the son of God, which is not found in Jewish messianic beliefs). It opposed itself explicitly to Jewish legalism (the Pharisees, progenitors of Rabbinic Judaism) and nationalism (the Zealots / Sicarii / Iscariots).

If anything new — such as "the progressive agenda" or specifically the universalism and tolerance expressed in Galatians 3:28 — did appear with Christianity, we might ask, how did this new thing emerge from Christianity's antecedents and influences? We can be pretty sure that despite their mathematical advances, the ancient Greeks did not have a formal basis for morality, for instance ....

comment by [deleted] · 2012-09-07T14:40:05.989Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I expect you to agree with me that we went of the rails when we emancipated women and gave the vote to every adult male.

Well I do.

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2012-08-15T05:19:38.848Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW · GW

You're right, I shouldn't have used the word "lying". That mistake bothers me when other people do it, and I'm sorry for doing it myself.

But other than that...I'm afraid the whole point of my last post was to ask for examples, that we have different standards of what constitutes an example, and that I'm still not happy. For me, "Liberals have strong norms around equality" is not an example; I'm thinking something more along the lines of "You know how liberals are pro-choice? That's irrational for reasons X and Y and Z."

Laissez-faire in sex leads to all kinds of expensive negative-sum signaling and other games. Why not crack down on those, which would lead to a clear improvement by any utilitarian metric?

Can you give an example of a specific laissez-faire sexual policy that causes expensive negative-sum signaling games, and a practically workable less laissez-faire policy that would solve those negative-sum signaling games?

If it's OK for the government to ban smoking and other activities harmful for public health, why not extend such treatment to sexual activities that have obvious and drastic public health implications?

Can you give an example of a sexual activity that has such obvious and drastic public health implications that it should be banned?

If the alleged vast inequality of wealth is a legitimate complaint against economic laissez-faire, why is it not legitimate to complain about the vast inequality of sexual and romantic opportunities (and of the related social status) under sexual laissez-faire?

It doesn't seem illegitimate to complain about it. What particular policies are you recommending?

Why the automatic hostility towards the idea that under sexual laissez-faire, a huge segment of the population, which lacks sufficient prudence and self-control, will make disastrous and self-destructive choices, so that restrictive traditional sexual norms may amount to a net harm reduction?

You're assuming the conclusion when you say "automatic hostility". If you gave examples of a traditional norm that solved this problem, I would have be able to form more of an opinion on whether that traditional norm was genuinely harm-reducing.

Explicitly, certainly not often. But in many of their observed views and behaviors, I detect strong authority-based intuitions, even though they will invariably be rationalized as something else. The typical way is to present authority as some kind of neutral and objective expertise, even in areas where this makes no sense.

Can you give an example of a liberal intuition which is authority-based but gets rationalized away to something else?

I do think, however, that you underestimate how often such serious bullet-biters can be inconsistent on other issues.

Can you give an example of a serious bullet-biter being inconsistent on other issues?

I hate to sound like a broken record here, it's just that anyone supporting any position at all can say "All my opponents really hold their positions for terrible reasons, and all their seemingly-good arguments are really just rationalizations". In the absence of specific evidence, this is just an assertion, and not an uncommon one.

Even though I have some pretty good guesses what you mean by some of these, I don't want to find myself straw-manning you by accident just because it's easy for me to come up with examples I can refute.

I understand if you don't want to start a brouhaha by posting controversial positions publicly. If you want to private message me an example or two, I'm usually pretty hard to offend, and I promise not to share it without your permission.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-15T19:36:45.939Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

OK, if you want to delve into a concrete example with all the inflammatory details, PM me your email address. (I find the PM interface on this site very annoying.) If the discussion produces any interesting results, maybe we can publish it later suitably edited.

I'll also post a further reply later today, addressing some of your points that I think can be answered satisfactorily without going into too much controversy.

comment by Alejandro1 · 2012-08-15T00:31:50.220Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Laissez-faire in sex leads to all kinds of expensive negative-sum signaling and other games. Why not crack down on those, which would lead to a clear improvement by any utilitarian metric?

Are there liberals who try to crack down on commercial advertising wars? As far as I know, some liberals may grumble about the social waste of Coca-Cola and Pepsi spending millions to expand their relative share in a zero-sum competition, but they don't actually try to suppress it.

If it's OK for the government to ban smoking and other activities harmful for public health, why not extend such treatment to sexual activities that have obvious and drastic public health implications?

Smoking bans are not absolute, just in closed public places where the smoking affects nonconsenting third parties. Liberals tend to favor legalization of recreational drug use when no third parties are affected. They also would, I think, support criminalizing having unprotected sex if you knowingly have a STD and you don't tell your partner, which is the closest analogue I can imagine to smoking bans. So I don't see the inconsistency.

If the alleged vast inequality of wealth is a legitimate complaint against economic laissez-faire, why is it not legitimate to complain about the vast inequality of sexual and romantic opportunities (and of the related social status) under sexual laissez-faire? (The problem is by no means limited to men, of course.)

This is difficult to argue for or against unless you specify what concrete government measures to alleviate sexual and romantic inequality you think liberals should support. If prostitution was legal (and many liberals support that, especially if there are regulations to avoid coercion and exploitation) the "purely sexual" chunk of the problem would be subsumed under economic inequality, which liberals are concerned about.

Why the automatic hostility towards the idea that under sexual laissez-faire, a huge segment of the population, which lacks sufficient prudence and self-control, will make disastrous and self-destructive choices, so that restrictive traditional sexual norms may amount to a net harm reduction? Especially since liberals make analogous arguments in favor of paternalistic regulation of practically everything else.

You could make the same argument about many other things than sex. E.g. if people are free to choose where to live, they might make self-destructive choices (like buying a big house and then being crippled by mortgage payments and not being able to take vacations or enjoy life; or deciding to live in a "bad" neighborhood because it is cheap without considering the impact on their children, etc). Or you could argue that people should not be able to choose their jobs, their college degrees, etc.

The fact is, liberals do not support paternalistic regulations of "virtually everything else". It is quite likely that the pattern of which regulations they support and which they do not is not logical, nor based entirely in harm/fairness considerations, but based instead on a mixture of harm/fairness considerations, autonomy considerations, status quo bias, path dependence effects on which causes are suitable for political action, tribalism (opposing things conservatives like and vice versa), and some sanctity/purity impulses. But I don't see a reason to single out sexual autonomy as an area and ascribe to liberals a strong sanctity foundation on it, at least not in the arguments you have provided.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-14T18:56:12.483Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Why the automatic hostility towards the idea that under sexual laissez-faire, a huge segment of the population, which lacks sufficient prudence and self-control, will make disastrous and self-destructive choices, so that restrictive traditional sexual norms may amount to a net harm reduction?

"Traditional sexual norms" (and the power relations they entail) did not arise through a process that optimized for harm reduction; they arose through a process of cultural evolution. At various points in time, patriarchal societies — by treating women as baby factories and men as killing machines — could outbreed and conquer less-patriarchal ones. That's when and why those "traditional sexual norms" arose.

It would be remarkable if this process had arrived at even a local minimum for harm, for the same reasons that it would be remarkable if biological evolution had arrived at a maximum for intelligence, happiness, or any other trait that we individually find desirable. (Heck, "traditional sexual norms" are optimized for sending excess boys to go kill other tribes' men and rape their virgin daughters. We call it "warfare" and it even today involves quite a lot of rape.)

So proposing "traditional sexual norms" as a harm reduction appears to be some combination of naturalistic fallacy and privileging the hypothesis; we have no reason to bring this particular set of norms to mind when we think of strategies for harm reduction, since it was selected for other goals.

But we can also ask, "For what reasons would it come to certain people's minds to politically advocate 'traditional sexual norms' if they don't actually want the things that 'traditional sexual norms' are optimized for, namely lots of conquest and rape?" Since we know about self-serving bias and privilege denial, we may suspect that at least some such advocates do it because it would serve their personal interests at the expense of others. That said, this runs the risk of fundamental attribution error. It is more likely the case that certain people find themselves in situations where they feel personally challenged by sexual laissez-faire, and respond by claiming the morality of traditional sexual norms, than that they do so because they are fundamentally misogynistic people.

comment by J_Taylor · 2012-08-14T23:35:52.343Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

When Vladimir_M uses the phrase "traditional sexual norms", he probably is not referring to those norms which you are referring to in your post. Rather, he is probably speaking of a certain subset of Western norms, likely lifelong heterosexual monogamy. This is extremely unoptimized for "lots of conquest and rape".

comment by wedrifid · 2012-08-14T11:00:04.254Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Why the automatic hostility towards the idea that under sexual laissez-faire, a huge segment of the population, which lacks sufficient prudence and self-control, will make disastrous and self-destructive choices, so that restrictive traditional sexual norms may amount to a net harm reduction? Especially since liberals make analogous arguments in favor of paternalistic regulation of practically everything else.

I don't know about automatic (and I am not presenting my own position) but it is certainly legitimate for a person to be hostile to being coerced into a worse situation because someone else believes (even correctly) that other people will benefit from said coercion. Similarly, it is hardly unreasonable for the one person who is being tortured for fifty years to be hostile to his own torture, even if that torture is a net benefit to the population.

If you want to do harm to people (whether paternalistic control or counterfactual torture) you should expect them to fight back if they can. Martyrdom is occasionally noble but it is never obligatory.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-14T15:19:23.725Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have any significant disagreement here, except that I'm not sure if you believe that people's ideological views tend to be actually motivated by this kind of self-interest. I certainly don't think this is the case -- to me it seems like a very implausible model of how people think about ideological issues even just from common-sense observation, and it's also disproved by the systematic evidence against the self-interested voter hypothesis.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-14T23:30:40.312Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Laissez-faire in sex leads to all kinds of expensive negative-sum signaling and other games.

Not completely sure they're actually negative sum. They might look like that from a purely materialistic perspective ("lotteries are bad because the expectation value of how much money you'll have if you play is less than if you don't play" -- it is, but that also applies to going to the cinema), but if you factor in Fun Theory aspects...

Why not crack down on those, which would lead to a clear improvement by any utilitarian metric? If it's OK for the government to ban smoking and other activities harmful for public health, why not extend such treatment to sexual activities that have obvious and drastic public health implications?

I can't think of a way to achieve that (without large costs/risks/drawbacks).

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-15T23:01:04.831Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If this was downvoted for disagreement: Why do you think signalling is negative-sum? How you think a ban on certain sexual practices could feasibly (costs not outweighing benefits) be enforced?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-08-14T20:39:40.847Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Liberals are pretty happy to oppose clear-cut cases of harm in sexual relations like rape

I'm not sure this case is as clear cut as you think. In any case I'd imagine you were around for the debates on this topic precipitated by Eliezer's Three Worlds Collide.

comment by sam0345 · 2012-08-14T20:16:25.054Z · score: 0 (12 votes) · LW · GW

For example, where exactly is this liberal sacredness around sexual autonomy?

Providing that which was specifically requested, concrete examples of liberals sacrificing human lives to sacredness in the particular matter of sexuality, will of course result in this post being marked down, and were I to point to examples of the more obvious and extreme examples of sacrificing lives for sacredness, such as the environment, it would be marked down even more.

But here goes:

Let us suppose a capitalist was doing something that frequently caused harm to others and himself, for example operating a car battery recycling center where he dumped acid containing lead sulphates in on the ground, in drains, in a nearby stream, etc. Then he would be strongly regulated and supervised.

But female sexuality frequently results in harm to their children, their husbands, and themselves, and it is pretty much unthinkable to restrict it, even in the case of a married woman with children. Similarly, the response to the AIDs epidemic was to invent an imaginary heterosexual aids epidemic, rather than shut down the bathhouses. I am pretty sure that if Chuck E Cheese's cheese was killing vast numbers of people due the frequent presence of dangerous molds in the cheese, it would be shut down very rapidly without anyone worrying about restricting the liberty of cheese eaters to eat as much cheese as they liked, in any form they liked, any place they liked.

Similarly, vaccination against certain sexually transmitted diseases. They want to vaccinate vast numbers of people that are unlikely to need it at considerable expense, and possible risk of harm, in order that those that do need don't suffer possible stigma by having to request it. If you actually wanted to provide herd immunity, you would vaccinate the main disease reservoir, which is adult male homosexuals, not schoolgirls. If this was, say, an expensive rabies vaccine, people would get it on the basis of potential exposure, and animals would get it on the basis of being a potential disease reservoir. Instead it is being targeted at those least likely to benefit, and least likely to cause risk for others, because targeting it where it might actually be most useful might stigmatize the recipients. No one seems to worry that Chuck E Cheese might be stigmatized by visits from the health inspector, and they would worry even less if some customers were dying because their cheeses had the wrong molds growing in them. On the contrary, they would think it a damned good thing if they got stigmatized for harms that they indirectly or carelessly caused.

We face a vast pile of very restrictive regulation to prevent harm to that which liberals consider sacred, on the basis of vague, small, questionable, and nebulous externalities, yet if women fail to express their sexuality in what used to be the approved channels, or express their sexuality in what used to be unapproved channels, this is apt to cause massive externalities, particularly to children. And if female sexual autonomy is sacred, unlike Chuck E Cheese's cheese, male homosexual autonomy is ten times as sacred, as we saw in the AIDS epidemic.

Cheese gets aggressively regulated for a vague, slight, and quite possibly nonexistent risk of harm. Sexual misconduct does not, despite major and alarming harm, and not only is it not regulated, but aggressively protected from social disapproval.

If someone wants to sell homemade sauerkraut at a farmer's market, they need to first hire a team of lawyers and consultants to shepherd them through the bureaucracy, lest they somehow cause inadvertent harm to their customers, but if a woman feels that sex with her husband is insufficiently fulfilling and starts banging a pimp from time to time, because the pimp is so much edgier and cooler than her husband, the entire apparatus of state is not only not going to do anything to restrain her, it is going to use violence against her husband and children to prevent them from reacting negatively to this development.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-14T20:48:14.483Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Similarly, vaccination against certain sexually transmitted diseases. They want to vaccinate vast numbers of people that are unlikely to need it at considerable expense, and possible risk of harm, in order that those that do need don't suffer possible stigma by having to request it. If you actually wanted to provide herd immunity, you would vaccinate the main disease reservoir, which is adult male homosexuals, not schoolgirls.

The controversy over vaccination of young women for "certain sexually transmitted diseases" was over HPV, which is the predominant cause of cervical cancer in the U.S. and does not have any particular connection with "adult male homosexuals" any more than with other groups. HPV does cause other cancers (anal, penile, oral, etc.) but these are much more rare than HPV-caused cervical cancer.

According to the CDC, every year in the U.S. there are 16700 new cases of HPV-related genital or anal cancers in women, predominantly cervical cancer; while there are only 1900 new cases of HPV-related genital or anal cancers in men — including both gay and straight men.

In other words, vaccinating young women for HPV can be expected to directly and selectively help those young women — the specific young women who receive the vaccination, via individual rather than herd immunity. It secondarily helps their (male and female) sexual partners, although HPV-caused penile cancer is much rarer than HPV-caused cervical cancer. It does not appreciably help male homosexuals — who are, after all, a population not noted for having sexual contact with young women.

Sources:

comment by sam0345 · 2012-08-14T22:48:59.038Z · score: -5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

The controversy over vaccination of young women for "certain sexually transmitted diseases" was over HPV, which is the predominant cause of cervical cancer in the U.S. and does not have any particular connection with "adult male homosexuals"

Where do women catch it from?

They catch it, of course, from males. And males, mostly, catch it from males.

HPV causes the most deaths among heterosexual women, but is most common among males who engage in sex with males. Among women, it is a heterosexual disease. Among men, where it is considerably less deadly, it is primarily a homosexual disease. Homosexuals are the primary reservoir for HPV, just as bats and foxes are the primary reservoir for rabies.

The reason for free or compulsory vaccination is herd immunity, the externality of preventing people from harming others. If you are worried about unvaccinated people harming others, you should be targeting male homosexuals for free HPV vaccination. But that of course would stigmatize them.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-14T23:42:47.953Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

If you are worried about unvaccinated people harming others, you should be targeting male homosexuals for free HPV vaccination. But that of course would stigmatize them.

Actually, it's more that the current vaccine doesn't work as well for adults -- at least according to the CDC, but who knows, maybe they're in on it:

CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for all boys ages 11 or 12, and for males through age 21, who have not already received all three doses. The vaccine is also recommended for gay and bisexual men (or any man who has sex with men), and men with compromised immune systems (including HIV) through age 26, if they did not get fully vaccinated when they were younger. The vaccine is safe for all men through age 26, but it is most effective when given at younger ages.

Oh, so they are targeting male homosexuals. So much for that conspiracy theory.

comment by CarlShulman · 2012-08-14T23:03:18.597Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Citation, please.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-15T00:40:56.926Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm ... it seems to me that if I wanted to invent a homophobic conspiracy theory to explain the HPV vaccination strategy, it would be like this:

"The vaccinators clearly do not want to make gay men healthier, because if they did, they'd promote the vaccine heavily for boys. As every good homophobe knows, gay men 'convert' little boys, who then grow up to be gay men. Instead, the vaccinators promote it for girls. This means they only want to help women, both lesbian and heterosexual women. Therefore, they are anti-male radical feminists."

This explains the facts at least as well as your conspiracy theory, and possibly better.

Of course, what would explain the facts even better is that medical ethics generally entail recommending a slightly-risky treatment most heavily for those who can suffer the worst from the disease; in this case, women.

comment by Unnamed · 2012-08-15T00:29:41.014Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Stigmatization is a concern with social norms about male homosexuality because gay men have, in fact, been heavily shunned/persecuted/stigmatized based on their sexuality. This has had large negative consequences in the lives of gay men, both for men who have faced stigma/shunning and for men who were prevented from having fulfilling romantic lives. There is no parallel concern with pizza parlors.

Antagonistic sexual politics also make it harder to promote public health. It is generally extremely difficult to enforce restrictions against sexual activities, so it helps a lot to have buy-in from the affected community. That is unlikely to happen if "public health" efforts are seen as coming from the persecutors, which makes it important for public health officials to disassociate themselves from the generalized disapproval of men who have sex with men.

But public health-motivated regulation of sexual activities does happen. After the AIDS epidemic hit the US in the early 1980s, many bathhouses were, in fact, shut down or heavily regulated. In San Francisco, for example:

In 1984, however, fear of AIDS caused the San Francisco Health Department, with the support of some gay activists, and against the opposition of other gay activists, to ask the courts to close gay bathhouses in the city. The court, under Judge Roy Wonder, instead issued a court order that limited sexual practices and disallowed renting of private rooms in bathhouses, so that sexual activity could be monitored, as a public health measure. Some of the bathhouses tried to live within the strict rules of this court order, but many of them felt they could not easily do business under the new rules and closed. Eventually, the few remaining actual bathhouses succumbed to either economic pressures or the continuing legal pressures of the city and finally closed. Several sex clubs, which were not officially bathhouses, continued to operate indefinitely and operate to this day, though following strict rules under the court order and city regulations.

comment by sam0345 · 2012-08-15T03:40:44.778Z · score: 5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Stigmatization is a concern with social norms about male homosexuality because gay men have, in fact, been heavily shunned/persecuted/stigmatized based on their sexuality.

Husbands, fathers, and capitalists, are either demonized or ridiculed on every television show. This is clearly having undesirable effects - less capital formation, less family formation, and less enterprise formation. Why is some people's stigmatization horrid, shocking, and in fact sacrilegious, while other people's stigmatization is no problem at all?

Imagine a public health campaign that told us that certain sexual behaviors were literally dirty, in that one was apt to catch a wide variety of diseases, and that people who engaged in these practices were apt to spread disease even to people who do not engage in them, so that people who engaged in these practices tended to be literally dirty..

Sacrilege

Now substitute "production" for "sex", and perhaps "pollution" for "disease". Absolutely no problem at all. In fact such a campaign would be pious, even if those condemned were plausibly innocent. Even if the campaign was totally untrue, it would be deemed truthy.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-14T23:40:37.836Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

OK, let's put the Rawlsian veil of ignorance down. So I don't know who I'm going to be. I'd still prefer a few parts-per-thousand probability of getting AIDS than a 10% probability of having a sexual orientation for a gender with whom I'm forbidden from having sex with.

(OTOH, a monogamous relationship, incl. marriage, is more-or-less-implicitly a contract where you agree --among other things-- not to have sex with anyone else, so I do agree that the behaviour of “the entire apparatus of state” you describe in the second part of the last paragraph is wrong.)

EDIT: Retracted -- numbers are way off (see below).

They want to vaccinate vast numbers of people that are unlikely to need it at considerable expense

How much?

comment by CarlShulman · 2012-08-15T00:28:21.088Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

a 10% probability of having a sexual orientation for a gender with whom I'm forbidden from having sex with.

Wikipedia indicates that this number is substantially too high. Random representative samples seem to give results of a few percent or less, with higher figures coming from non-representative samples such as prisons, urban areas which concentrate the gay population from surrounding regions, and unscientific polls by condom manufacturers.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-15T22:17:09.691Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I had also underestimated the probability of fatal STDs by an order of magnitude: AIDS alone caused 4.87% of all deaths in 2002. (OTOH, the fact that there are quite a few countries with a two-digit prevalence of HIV makes me seriously doubt sam0345's claim that “the main disease reservoir” “is adult male homosexuals”. There's no way gay men comprise a major part of 26% of Swaziland's population.)

comment by sam0345 · 2012-08-16T02:02:27.784Z · score: -4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

quite a few countries with a two-digit prevalence of HIV makes me seriously doubt sam0345's claim that “the main disease reservoir” “is adult male homosexuals”. There's no way gay men comprise a major part of 26% of Swaziland's population.)

AIDS in Africa is not spread by homosexuals, but by foreign aid: More precisely, by needle reuse in health facilities supported by foreign aid.

In the west, AIDS is, in its pattern of affliction and causation, wrath of God disease. In Africa, AIDS is, in its pattern of affliction and causation, wrath of progressivism disease.

The more AIDS patients you have, the more money you get, so no incentive to sterilize needles. And everyone feels a pleasant glow of progressive holiness and piety at the sight of non homosexuals and non drug users getting AIDS, so no one really wants to halt this display of holiness and sacredness.

The typical African AIDS victim is the faithful wife of a faithful husband who catches the disease because she attends a foreign aid funded clinic while pregnant. That will teach them to be married and faithful.

comment by CarlShulman · 2012-08-17T09:17:01.091Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

An article in New Scientist from a decade ago talking about a "controversial new analysis," without any follow-up in subsequent years is a pretty weak source. Here is Robin Hanson's post, arguing for the same claim with more recent and better sources, although still unconvincing.

comment by sam0345 · 2012-08-15T04:01:39.279Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

They want to vaccinate vast numbers of people that are unlikely to need it at considerable expense

How much?

Last I heard, $400 for a course, $100 for a dose. If this did not involve sex, such a vaccine would be targeted at at risk populations.

A ten pack of combined tetanus and diptheria vaccine costs $20 and everyone is at roughly comparable risk, so it is reasonable to give the tet/dipth vaccine out like lollipops or McDonald's toys. Maybe the HPV vaccination should be handed out free at the sex clinic, but it seems to me that the reason that they want to give it to schoolgirls is because they do not want to give it out free at the sex clinic.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-15T22:57:34.249Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The mistakes you're posting have already been corrected by myself and paper-machine over in this branch of the thread. You are entitled to your own opinions (values), but you are not entitled to your own facts. Please do some research on the subject from medical sources; and do bear in mind that mainstream scientific sources bear a much higher probability of being right (and not merely a much higher status) than fringe or speculative sources. If we lived in a world where fringe political columnists were an accurate source for medical facts and doctors were not, then we would all go to John Derbyshire to treat our diseases. We don't. Why not?

comment by sam0345 · 2012-08-16T03:01:15.663Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The mistakes you're posting have already been corrected by myself and paper-machine over in this branch of the thread.

Your "correction" is that the purpose of the vaccination is not herd immunity, but individual and personal benefit - but the claim justifying compulsory and/or free vaccination is always herd immunity. If no substantial externality, no justification for compulsion and/or subsidy.

In fact, of course, the reason for compulsory HPV vaccination is to avoid stigmatization. If girls get to individually choose whether they want a vaccination against a sexually transmitted disease, those who so choose might be stigmatized.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-08-15T00:54:07.890Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

OTOH, a monogamous relationship, incl. marriage, is more-or-less-implicitly a contract where you agree --among other things-- not to have sex with anyone else

Cheating is quite common; about 20% of married people have affairs and the rate is higher in putatively-monogamous unmarried partnerships. Around 3% of children are the result of affairs.

I'm not sure what other sorts of "contracts" have a 20% chance of default. I don't think banks would offer you a loan if they thought there was a 20% chance you wouldn't pay up. Even Florida's foreclosure rate isn't that bad!

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-17T20:38:06.825Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

End-user licence agreements of commercial software?

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2012-08-15T17:48:36.415Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I have already elaborated on one significant example where the standard liberal positions are heavy on sacredness (the sacralization of individual autonomy in sex-related matters).

If you can reduce autonomy to sacredness in this general sense, I wonder if you're employing a fully general counterargument. If someone says, "My values aren't based on sacredness; they're based on X!", you could always reply, "Well, if X is the basis of your values, then you've elevated X to such a high level of importance that it's basically sacred to you. So, you see, your values turn out to be based on sacredness after all."

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-16T02:10:00.193Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That would indeed be a fully general counterargument, but it's not the sort of argument that I'm making. My theory is not that liberals elevate harm and fairness so much that they should be called "sacred" for them. Rather, my theory is that they have their own peculiar moral intuitions of sacredness -- which is evidenced by the fact that if these intuitions are challenged by arguments based on harm or fairness analogous to those they accept in other cases, they react with emotions and rationalizations in a manner typical of people brought into dissonance by an attempt to elicit conflicting moral intuitions.

Of course, my view may be wrong, but I don't think it can be dismissed as a fully general counterargument.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2012-08-16T18:22:02.958Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That would indeed be a fully general counterargument, but it's not the sort of argument that I'm making. My theory is not that liberals elevate harm and fairness so much that they should be called "sacred" for them.

Right. And, to be clear, I did not mean to accuse you of that. I did not mean that you were using the fully general counterargument to say that liberals don't care about harm and fairness. I was only considering the possibility that you were using the fully general counterargument to say that concern for sexual autonomy is really about sacredness. You seemed to be alluding to different arguments regarding harm and fairness, which you hesitate to give in full detail.

I haven't read Haidt, so I don't know how he accounts for "concern for autonomy" under his system. Does he reduce it to fairness and harm somehow? Or does it arise incidentally out of diminished concern for authority?

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-18T03:22:21.065Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't read Haidt, so I don't know how he accounts for "concern for autonomy" under his system. Does he reduce it to fairness and harm somehow? Or does it arise incidentally out of diminished concern for authority?

I've read Haidt's book, and I'd say he skirts around the topic of autonomy (sexual and otherwise) in liberal thinking, never giving it a satisfactory treatment, and avoiding issues where it would unavoidably come to the fore. For example, as a notable and glaring omission, the book doesn't address the controversies over abortion at all. (Thus putting Haidt in a very odd position where he purports to have a general theory of moral psychology that explains the contemporary American ideological rifts, but nonchalantly refuses to apply it to the single most ideologically charged moral issue in the U.S. today.)

Now, as you probably guess, I would hypothesize that he avoids autonomy-centered topics because they tend to contradict his theory of liberals as low on sacredness. But whether or not one agrees with this view, it seems clear that his treatment of such topics is incomplete and unsatisfactory.

comment by Unnamed · 2012-08-18T06:56:13.224Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would taboo the word "autonomy" in this context, or at least give a clear definition, because there are at least 2 different things that it could refer to.

In Haidt's six foundations theory, the closest thing to "autonomy" as it is being used in this discussion is probably the liberty/oppression foundation (the 6th foundation to be added):

Liberty/oppression: This foundation is about the feelings of reactance and resentment people feel toward those who dominate them and restrict their liberty. Its intuitions are often in tension with those of the authority foundation. The hatred of bullies and dominators motivates people to come together, in solidarity, to oppose or take down the oppressor.

The liberty/oppression foundation is somewhat underdeveloped in Haidt's book, and discussed separately from the other foundations in a way that's organized a bit strangely, probably because the book was already in progress when he decided to count liberty/oppression as a sixth foundation. Haidt does not seem to have any published papers yet on the liberty/oppression foundation, but he does have one under review which focuses on libertarians.

In Richard Shweder's three-area theory, which was the original basis for Haidt's theory, "autonomy" has a different meaning. It is one of the three ethics - "autonomy" is the blanket label given to the individualistic/liberal approach to morality which involves harm, rights, and justice. The ethic of autonomy is contrasted with the ethic of community (ingroup and hierarchy) and the ethic of divinity (purity and sacredness). In one of Haidt's earlier papers, which used Shweder's system, experimental participants were given this definition of autonomy:

The ethics of Autonomy Individual freedom/rights violations. In these cases an action is wrong because it directly hurts another person, or infringes upon his/her rights or freedoms as an individual. To decide if an action is wrong, you think about things like harm, rights, justice, freedom, fairness, individualism, and the importance of individual choice and liberty.

If you look at that definition and think "but that's all of morality, mushed together in one big category" then congratulations, you're WEIRD. In Shweder's approach, being obsessed with autonomy is precisely what is distinctive about liberals. The utilitarian, who applies cost-benefit analysis to everything and is willing to make any tradeoff, is just one member of the autonomy-obsessed family of moral perspectives. People who rigidly apply concepts of rights, liberty, or justice are part of that same family. The grand Kant-Bentham debate is just a factional squabble which is happening in one corner of the moral triangle.

Haidt's six-foundation approach can be considered a refinement of this view, which keeps Divinity, splits Community in two (ingroup & hierarchy), and divides Autonomy in three (harm, fairness, and liberty). Although there are some complications (fairness is somewhat Community-tinged, and liberty might be too).

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-18T23:54:52.913Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Most of the points relevant to your comment are covered in this reply to Tyrrell McAllister, so to avoid redundancy, please follow up on that comment if you think it's not an adequate answer.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-08-18T15:29:00.572Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Frankly, utilitarianism is also community tinged, specifically the whole "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one" aspect of it.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2012-08-18T05:04:30.817Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Now, as you probably guess, I would hypothesize that he avoids autonomy-centered topics because they tend to contradict his theory of liberals as low on sacredness.

How do you reduce autonomy to sacredness? I think of sacredness as something that inheres in some single object of veneration towards which a group of people can genuflect, such as a family shrine, a flag, a saint, or (for the left) "the environment". I would also extend the notion of a "single object" to slightly more abstract things, such as a single holy text (which might exist in multiple copies) or a single ritual way of eating (which might be enacted on multiple occasions).

In other words, sacredness should have some close connection to group cohesion. While I haven't read any of Haidt's books, I've listened to a couple of interviews with him, and he seemed to be very interested in the "groupish" qualities of the values in his system. In his BloggingHeads.tv interview, he even seemed to go so far as to suggest that group selection explained how some of these values evolved.

Autonomy doesn't seem like it would fit into such a notion of sacredness. "Individual autonomy" is a "single thing" at only a very abstract level. Every individual has his or her own autonomy. Unlike a shrine or a holy text, there is no one autonomy that we all can worship at once.

In principle, we could all gather together as a community to worship the one idea that we are each autonomous — the Platonic form of autonomy, if you will. But I don't get the sense that most people have a sufficiently concrete notion of the general idea of autonomy to be able to hold it sacred. For example, they would lack the confidence that everyone else is thinking of precisely the same idea of autonomy. Something can't serve as an object of community worship if the community members aren't sure that they're all worshiping the same thing.

People might have a sufficiently concrete conception of "my autonomy" or "your autonomy" or "her autonomy". These are things that we can easily latch onto as values. But then we're talking about a bunch of different "autonomies", which lack the unity that a sacred object seems to require.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-18T23:39:37.322Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

How do you reduce autonomy to sacredness? I think of sacredness as something that inheres in some single object of veneration towards which a group of people can genuflect, such as a family shrine, a flag, a saint, or (for the left) "the environment". I would also extend the notion of a "single object" to slightly more abstract things, such as a single holy text (which might exist in multiple copies) or a single ritual way of eating (which might be enacted on multiple occasions).

One way in which sacredness commonly manifests itself is through sacred boundaries that serve as strong Schelling points. In fact, I am convinced that any large-scale human social organization depends to a significant degree on Schelling points whose power and stability rests on the fact that the thought of their violation arouses strong moral intuitions of sacrilege. (Even though this might be non-obvious from their stated rationale.)

Take for example the ancient Roman pomerium, the boundary of the city of Rome that was explicitly held as sacred. In particular, bearing arms within the pomerium was considered as sacrilege, and this norm was taken very seriously during the Republican period. Of course, a norm like this can easily be given a practical rationale (preventing coups, assassinations, etc.), and it seems plausible that it indeed had a practical effect of this sort, contributing to the long-standing stability and competitive success of the republican institutions. However, it was in fact the sacredness aspect that gave the norm its power, since a consequentialist rationale for any norm can always be rationalized away, thus making it a weak Schelling point, easily pushed down a slippery slope. And indeed, when the reverence for this traditional norm of sacredness started fading in the late Republic (along with many others), it was a good sign that the Republic had indeed gone to the dogs, and soon the state was torn by constant civil wars between competing generals who had no problem finding justifications and support for their plans to conquer Rome and seize power by armed force.

Similarly, intuitions of sacrilege can be associated with non-physical boundaries. Take for example the modern norms against euthanasia, even in cases where it's voluntary and in fact strongly desired by the patient, and the alternative is nothing but a prolonged suffering. People are horrified by the thought of euthanasia because it violates the perceived sacredness of human life. And again, one can make a cogent Schelling point/slippery slope argument in favor of such norms, but this is not what gives them their power.

Now, it seems quite plausible to me that this is in fact a common state of affairs for all sorts of norms that deal with the prohibition of crossing certain boundaries. Not all such norms are based on sacredness intuitions, of course -- they can also rest on a basis of fairness, harm, liberty, or some mix of those -- but in that case, their violation causes different and lesser kinds of outrage, and it's also easy to convince people to make exceptions based on concerns for fairness, harm, or liberty. For example, the norms about private property rights seem to be typically in this category: their violation causes nothing similar to the visceral feelings of sacrilege, and it's easy to convince people that some violations and curtailing of property rights are OK if you can convince them that it reduces harm and increases fairness or liberty.

With this in mind, I think it should be reasonable to ask whether the liberal intuitions of personal (and particularly sexual) autonomy are in fact a sort of pomerium backed by moral intuitions of sacrilege triggered by the perceived violations of this autonomy. (Whether or not we end up agreeing on the answer to this question.)

comment by Unnamed · 2012-08-20T07:03:08.937Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

How much would someone have to pay you for you to be willing to slap your father in the face (with his permission) as part of a comedy skit? $ ___

People tend to give high numbers for this question (or aren't willing to accept any amount), much moreso than if they are asked about their willingness to slap a friend. It is a violation that crosses some important boundary which one might label "sacred".

But in moral foundations theory, it is not a violation of the purity/sanctity foundation. It's a violation of the authority foundation.

Conclusion: "sacredness" (in this sense of a special-feeling boundary which people feel a strong aversion to crossing) is not limited to the purity foundation. It can apply to other foundations as well.

There are many more examples of taboo actions, for all five foundations, here. This collection is from a paper by Graham & Haidt (2011), Sacred values and evil adversaries: A Moral Foundations approach; many of the examples were developed in Haidt's earlier research.

Graham and Haidt say that the examples from all five foundations are violations of sacred values (even the ones that do not involve purity/degradation). They define "sacredness" separately from the purity foundation:

Sacredness refers to the human tendency to invest people, places, times, and ideas with importance far beyond the utility they possess. Tradeoffs or compromises involving what is sacralized are resisted or refused. In prototypical cases these investments tie individuals to larger groups with shared identities and ennobling projects, and so tradeoffs or compromises are felt to be acts of betrayal, even in non-prototypical cases in which no group is implicated.

It's worth checking out the table at the end of the Graham & Haidt paper where they put together the pieces for a moral narrative based on each of the five foundations, including what people, things, and ideas that have become "sacred objects" and what evil they need to be protected from. For the Harm foundation, sacred values are "nurturance, care, peace", sacred objects are "innocent victims, nonviolent leaders (Gandhi, M. L. King)", evil is represented by "cruel and violent people", and examples of idealistic violence are "killing of abortion doctors, Weather Underground bombings". (Killing abortion doctors is also classified under Purity.)

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2012-08-27T21:37:01.225Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

With this in mind, I think it should be reasonable to ask whether the liberal intuitions of personal (and particularly sexual) autonomy are in fact a sort of pomerium backed by moral intuitions of sacrilege triggered by the perceived violations of this autonomy. (Whether or not we end up agreeing on the answer to this question.)

I'm having trouble distinguishing your notion of "sacred" from the very broad notion of "deserves respect". Is there something more to your meaning of "sacred" besides "deserves respect"?

I agree that liberals believe that lots of things deserve respect. I agree that, typically, every individual's sexual autonomy is among these things. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of liberals added sexual autonomy to their list of things-that-deserve-respect because of some sort of Schelling-point-type phenomenon.

Are you saying something beyond this?

There's no denying that liberals use the language of respect a lot. Furthermore, I doubt that many liberals would want to deny it. So, in that sense, you could say that liberals appeal to sacredness a lot. But I thought that Haidt was using "sacred" in a different sense. How is your disagreement with him here more than semantics?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-08-18T15:39:19.542Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In other words, sacredness should have some close connection to group cohesion.

I don't think sacredness/purity is just about group cohesion. Some purity rituals (from an evolutionary point of view) are clearly about avoiding contagious diseases. Other sacredness taboos are about not doing things that have short term benefits but cause long term problems, especially when the short term benefit of the action is much more obvious than the long term harm.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2012-08-18T20:36:55.324Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Right, group cohesion isn't the only reason for these rituals, but they can still serve that function (eg, kosher diets).

Can valuing autonomy be explained by valuing purity? That doesn't seem plausible to me, since people so often want to use their autonomy to violate other people's purity norms (eg, sex 'n' drugs).

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-08-18T20:59:47.775Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Can valuing autonomy be explained by valuing purity?

To me it seems that valuing autonomy is an example of avoid things that may have short term benefits but cause long term problems.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2012-08-27T22:01:21.154Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

To me it seems that valuing autonomy is an example of avoid things that may have short term benefits but cause long term problems.

That sounds more like a concern about harm ("long term problems") than about purity, at least if you are trying to describe the thought-process of someone justifying their valuing of autonomy.

If, instead, you are trying to describe the causal origin of the value, then wouldn't Haidt ascribe all of his foundational values to that cause? Doesn't he give ev-psych explanations (with a group-selectionist bent) for the origins of all of his foundational values? If I'm right about that, then he would probably argue that each of his foundational values persisted because, in the long run, it served the reproductive interests of the individual or the group. That is, the value led people to avoid short-term benefits that would cause long-term problems. Otherwise, this value would not have survived in the long run.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-08-28T02:05:23.084Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Doesn't he give ev-psych explanations (with a group-selectionist bent) for the origins of all of his foundational values?

I wouldn't know, I haven't actually read his books. What bothers me is that unlike the other values, I can't even give a definition of what constitutes purity/sacredness without appealing to a black box in my brain.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2012-08-18T04:07:08.030Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For example, as a notable and glaring omission, the book doesn't address the controversies over abortion at all. (Thus putting Haidt in a very odd position where he purports to have a general theory of moral psychology that explains the contemporary American ideological rifts, but nonchalantly refuses to apply it to the single most ideologically charged moral issue in the U.S. today.)

This blog author critiques an analysis of the abortion controversy that he or she attributes to Haidt. So Haidt evidently applies his theory to abortion somewhere.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-18T04:38:51.511Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Just in case I don't remember correctly, I've just checked The Righteous Mind's index for "abortion." It lists three pages, each of which mentions abortion only in passing as an example of a public moral controversy, without getting into any analysis whatsoever of the issue. To the best of my recollection, there is no such analysis elsewhere in the book either, nor in anything else I've read by Haidt.

As for the blog you link to, I strongly suspect that the author is in fact extrapolating from his (her?) view of what Haidt believes, not relaying an actual argument by Haidt. I might be wrong, but a few minutes of googling didn't turn up any relevant statements by Haidt.

comment by Tyrrell_McAllister · 2012-08-18T05:16:07.578Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Using Amazon's "Search Inside the Book" feature, I found some discussion of abortion (along with birth control) on page 209 of Haidt's The Happiness Hypothesis. I wonder if that book is working with an earlier version of his theory, because he talks very explicitly about the importance of autonomy to liberals on those pages.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-18T07:48:58.529Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't read The Happiness Hypothesis, but I've just read these pages on Amazon's preview. It seems to me that this was indeed an earlier phase of Haidt's thought, when he advocated a much more simplistic theory of the moral foundations and was still a partisan liberal. (I'm not just throwing around an ideological label here -- these days Haidt indeed describes himself as a "partisan liberal" in past tense.)

In these cited pages, Haidt gives some clearly biased and unrealistic statements. For example, we are told that "On issue after issue, liberals want to maximize autonomy by removing limits, barriers, and restrictions." But obviously, you only need to ask a libertarian for his opinion about this claim to realize that in fact "removing limits, barriers, and restrictions" applies only to a strictly circumscribed set of issues, and the liberal understanding of autonomy in fact has a more complex basis.

These days Haidt is far above such evident partisan biases, but I think he still hasn't come around to re-examining the issues of liberal autonomy in the light of his more recent insight, while at the same time he realizes at some level that it's incompatible even with his current view of the liberal moral foundations. I don't think he's avoiding these problematic discussions in a calculated way, so I think he simply has some sort of "ugh field" around these questions and thus fails to address them clearly and openly.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-19T00:45:09.420Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As an aside: To what degree do you agree with Haidt's analysis of religion and tradition in relation to human psychology in that interview?

I would very much like to know. Feel free to PM me a one-sentence answer instead of posting, if you wish.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-19T01:55:50.316Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Clearly it's a very complex topic, but generally speaking, I do believe that Haidt's recent work is more or less on the right track in this regard.

That said, much of his insight is not very original, and can be found in the work of other, often much older thinkers, some of whom Haidt cites. Haidt's significance is mainly that he's trying to pull off a "Nixon in China," i.e. to leverage his own liberal beliefs and credentials to formulate these insights in a way that's palatable to liberals, who would be instantly repulsed and incensed by the other authors who have presented them previously. (I'm not very optimistic about his chances, though, especially since he has to dance around some third-rail issues that might destroy his reputation instantly. Similar can be said for other modern authors who delve into social theory based on evolutionary insight, like e.g. Geoffrey Miller.)

Also, I think there are many other crucial pieces of the puzzle that Haidt is still missing completely, so he still strikes me as very naive on some issues. (For example, I don't know if he's familiar with the concept of Schelling points, but he definitely fails to recognize them on some issues where they are crucial. He also apparently fails to grasp what virtue ethics is about.)

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2012-08-27T15:14:26.660Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

He also apparently fails to grasp what virtue ethics is about.

Given that my view of virtue ethics was considerably influenced by Haidt, I'd be curious to hear how his opinion of it is wrong.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-19T03:31:52.411Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-12T16:48:06.298Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

What is the difference between an ideology and morality?

The questions Haidt ask are about what we judge to be moral. I simply don't judge disrespect for authority (for instance) as immoral in itself.

I'm also not convinced that purity is as instrumentally necessary as you say; and judging by that article, neither is Haidt. And loyalty can, at least in many cases, be replaced with the algorithm for which it is is a heuristic: reciprocal altruism.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-12T18:59:54.372Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The questions Haidt ask are about what we judge to be moral. I simply don't judge disrespect for authority (for instance) as immoral in itself.

I am not going to analyze you in particular, but what I write certainly applies to typical people who adhere to modern ideologies that claim to be concerned exclusively with harm and fairness.

These people would presumably insist that they "don't judge disrespect for authority... as immoral in itself." But what people say are rationalizations, not the real motivations for their beliefs and actions. To employ Haidt's rider-elephant metaphor, you see the rider insisting loudly that disrespect for authority is not immoral by itself, while the elephant is charging to stomp you to death, infuriated by your disrespect. Whereupon the rider, if pressed to explain what happened, invents a rationalization about how your real sin is in fact something in terms of harm (and maybe fairness), or maybe how you're simply being delusional or disingenuous. It's similar for sacredness and loyalty, of course.

I'm also not convinced that purity is as instrumentally necessary as you say;

Can you think of any functioning human society without strong norms of sacredness/purity when it comes to, say, sex or food?

(Of course, with regards to the present-day Western societies, this applies to the entire contemporary ideological spectrum. In fact, people who supposedly have a "rational" harm/fairness-based approach to these matters are, in my opinion, characterized by particularly intense fervor driven by their sacredness/purity-based norms.)

What is the difference between an ideology and morality?

Their overlap is only partial. Ideologies normally also include non-moral beliefs (although moral motivations usually lurk not very far underneath). In turn, some moral judgments are human universals, and others may be a matter of such strong consensus within a particular culture that calling them ideological would stretch the term beyond the normal variation in its meaning.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-12T21:04:01.347Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I certainly agree with the descriptive claim that people often rationalize, and that western liberals often do have their own ideas of sacredness.

But I think it's probably wrong to say that all discussion of morality is rationalization. If that were true, nobody would ever be swayed by a moral argument. In fact, people do change their views -- and they frequently do so when it is pointed out that their stated views don't match their actions.

I'm also not convinced that purity is as instrumentally necessary as you say;

Can you think of any functioning human society without strong norms of sacredness/purity when it comes to, say, sex or food?

I suspect that this will come down to a question of what is sacred. For instance, the French definitely have a very strong food culture, but I suspect that they mostly would not regard violations of that as immoral. And, of course, the particulars of which sexual arrangements are considered sacred has varied widely across human cultures. If the sacred in food and sex evolved to combat parasites, then it is at this point, in Western societies, an onion in the varnish.

Like many other cases where changes in technology have cause unprecedented social arrangements (agriculture allowing cities, for instance), purity norms in sex and food may weaken or disappear.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-12T22:03:38.985Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

But I think it's probably wrong to say that all discussion of morality is rationalization. If that were true, nobody would ever be swayed by a moral argument. In fact, people do change their views -- and they frequently do so when it is pointed out that their stated views don't match their actions.

This is a non sequitur. An argument may change people's moral beliefs and intuitions by changing the underlying tacit basis for their rationalizations, whereupon they get displaced by new ones. The most frequent way this happens is when people realize that a realignment of their moral intuitions is in their interest because it offers some gain in power, wealth, or (most commonly) status, or perhaps it will help avoid some trouble.

Moreover, pointing out that people's stated views don't match their actions is almost never an effective way to change their views. Usually it's effective only in provoking hostility and making their rationalization mechanisms work somewhat harder than usual.

If the sacred in food and sex evolved to combat parasites, then it is at this point, in Western societies, an onion in the varnish.

They have never been just about parasites, especially when it comes to the norms about sex (and the whole enormous cluster of related issues about reproduction, family, etc.). Strong norms about these matters must exist in order for any human society to function and perpetuate itself, and it seems to me that humans are hardwired to use the sacredness foundation as the fundamental basis for their moral intuitions about many of them. Even if it were possible to formulate these norms based on "rational" considerations of harm and fairness in a way that wouldn't be just a convenient rationalization for deeper intuitions -- and I don't think anything like that is possible -- such norms would probably be unworkable in practice with realistic humans.

(I could conceive more easily of a hypothetical society in which food-related norms would be free of purity/sacredness. But it still looks implausible that people wouldn't keep inventing new ones like they presently do, even if it requires ever more creative rationalizations. Plus, it seems to me that such norms can be practically useful in a variety of ways.)

comment by novalis · 2012-08-12T22:21:33.606Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Even if it were possible to formulate these norms based on "rational" considerations of harm and fairness in a way that wouldn't be just a convenient rationalization for deeper intuitions -- and I don't think anything like that is possible -- such norms would probably be unworkable in practice with realistic humans.

But isn't that precisely what the west has done (not completely, of course), and what the polyamorous community has done to a much greater degree?

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-12T22:44:29.896Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

On the contrary -- it seems to me that the modern Western societies are, by all historical standards, exceptionally obsessed with sacredness norms on sex-related issues. See my old comment I linked earlier, in which I elaborate on some particularly striking manifestations of this.

(Also, among the most amusing posts on Overcoming Bias are those where Robin Hanson elicits outrage from the respectable progressive folk by putting some sex-related issue under dispassionate scrutiny and thereby violating their sacredness intuitions.)

As for the polyamorists, I don't have any direct insight into the inner workings of these communities except for a few occasional glimpses offered by LW posts and comments. But unless they are composed of extremely unusual self-selected outliers (which might be the case given their very small size), I would suspect that they are again just rationalizing a somewhat different (and possibly even more extreme) set of sacredness norms.

comment by Unnamed · 2012-08-13T13:19:31.364Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Purity is an unusual foundation, since it can apply at the object level or the meta level. On the object level, people believe things like "don't eat pork because it's unclean" or "don't have premarital sex because it takes away your purity."

On the meta level, moral purity can apply whenever people hold firmly to a principle or policy. Republicans demand ideological purity in opposing all tax increases, and Kant gets accused of valuing his own moral purity more than another person's life for refusing to lie to the murderer at the door. More generally, any misdeed feels "dirty", so moral purity motivates people to avoid breaking any moral rule. This does seem to involve genuine feelings of purity/sanctity/contamination/disgust - witness the the large role of sin and purification in many religions, and the Lady MacBeth effect in the general populace (i.e., college sophomores). Violating a moral rule is a stain on you, which you may or may not be able to cleanse away.

Meta-level purity supplements a moral rule which has other bases. I don't think that moral values against taxes and lies are based primarily on purity, even if there is some purity thinking involved in treating them as sacred values and refusing to compromise or consider tradeoffs. Lady MacBeth may have become obsessed with washing her hands but that does not mean that the (felt) wrongness of murder is due to it being a purity violation.

The principle that the government should not interfere in people's sex lives sounds like another case where purity is operating at the meta level, where the primary foundation is something else. In this case, it's probably foundation #6, liberty/oppression, which is activated particularly strongly for liberals because sexual restrictions have been a form of oppression against women and gay people.

There are other cases where people vehemently want the government to keep its hands off (e.g. guns on the right, abortion on the left), and the common thread seems to be that the individual should have the right to control something and do with it what they want, without outside interference. The purity foundation is recruited to help make these rules absolutist (e.g., people get very suspicious of any regulation that is even loosely related). It may also play some role in determining which particular rules are the ones that became absolutist, but if it is a factor I'd guess that it comes in third (at best), after how close/personal/important the issue is to people (e.g., involving control over your own body or personal protection) and how much of a threat to autonomy there is / has been.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-08-13T20:41:32.519Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The principle that the government should not interfere in people's sex lives sounds like another case where purity is operating at the meta level, where the primary foundation is something else. In this case, it's probably foundation #6, liberty/oppression

Then why don't they apply the liberty principal to government regulation in other aspects of their lives?

comment by Unnamed · 2012-08-14T05:04:43.143Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The unsatisfying answer is that moral foundations theory doesn't explain why the foundations get applied in the ways that they do - that differs between cultures and involves a lot of path-dependence through history. But Haidt's theory does at least provide some guidance for conjecture, so I'll speculate about why sexual liberty became important to liberals based on the liberty/oppression foundation.

The way that Haidt describes it, for American liberals the liberty foundation is primarily about wanting to protect sympathetic victims from oppression. Telling the story from that point of view, sexual restrictions have been a form of oppression, involving shunning and other social punishments for victims like women who had sex outside of marriage or men who loved other men. With the sexual revolution, liberals threw off these arbitrary and oppressive restrictions, and brought us much closer to a world where no one can stop you from being yourself (holding your sexual identity openly without fear of reprisal) or from having sex with who you want to, how you want to (as long as you are consenting adults).

Government regulation in many other aspects of people's lives has not involved such obvious oppression of sympathetic victims.

Now, could someone return the favor and offer their speculation about how the purity foundation led liberals to value sexual liberty? Vladimir_M mentions that people tend to apply purity-based morality to sex, which is true, but they tend to apply purity at the object level as a reason to restrict sexual activities. Sexual liberty would be applying purity at the meta level as a reason to allow sexual activities. Sex can spread disease (the purity/contamination framework originally evolved for avoiding illness), involves the body in a way that is closely related to many elicitors of disgust, and because of its evolutionary importance people are prone to having strong intuitions & emotions about sexual activities that don't readily fit in other foundations. So it's understandable that people would tend to get squeamish about various sexual practices and want to restrict them based on purity concerns. It's not clear to me how those purity concerns jump to the meta level and reverse direction.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T00:45:35.046Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

(Let's leave aside, for now, the less thoughtful liberals and conservatives, since what they think isn't interesting).

I don't understand why you put autonomy in the category of sacredness. Haidt considers liberty an independent foundation, and I don't think it requires rationalization to consider nonconsensual sex to be a case of harm!

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-13T02:15:21.544Z · score: 23 (25 votes) · LW · GW

The thing is, what determines when autonomy is absolute and inviolable, and when it should be weighed against other concerns?

When it comes to interventions in human affairs by the state and other institutions, modern liberals pride themselves on their supposed adherence to (what they see as) rational and scientific cost-benefit analysis and common-sense notions of equality and fairness. They typically assert that their opponents are being irrational, or acting out of selfish interest, when they insist that some other principle takes precedence, like for example when conservatives insist on respecting tradition and custom, or when libertarians insist on inviolable property rights. In particular, liberals certainly see it as irrational when libertarians oppose their favored measures on the grounds of individual liberty and autonomy.

However, there are issues on which liberals themselves draw absolutist lines and lose all interest for cost-benefit analysis, as well as for concerns about equality and fairness that are perfectly analogous to those they care about greatly in other cases. Sex is the principal example. Liberals argue in favor of comprehensive intervention and regulation in nearly all areas of human life, but in contrast, people's sexual behavior is supposed to be a subject of complete laissez-faire. This despite the fact that many arguments that liberals normally use against the evils of laissez-faire and in favor of economic intervention, wealth redistribution, and paternalistic regulation, would apply with equal (or even greater) force to sex as well. Yet an attempt to argue in favor of more restrictive sexual norms on any of these grounds will be met with immediate hostility by liberals -- often so fierce that you'll be immediately dismissed as obviously crazy or malicious.

I don't think it's possible for liberals to salvage the situation by claiming that sexual laissez-faire is somehow entailed by the same considerations that, according to them, mandate complex and comprehensive regulation of almost everything else. This would be vanishingly improbable even a priori, and a casual look at the arguments in question definitely shows a glaring inconsistency here. The only plausible explanation I see here is that, just like everyone else in the human history, liberals base their sexual norms on a sacredness foundation -- except that for them, this foundation has the peculiar form of sacralizing individual autonomy, thus making a violation of this autonomy a sacrilege that no other considerations can justify.

Ironically, the sexual norms based on sacralized individual autonomy end up working very badly in practice, so that we end up with the present rather bizarre situation where we see an unprecedented amount of hand-wringing about all sorts of sex-related problems, and at the same time proud insistence that we have reached unprecedented heights of freedom, enlightenment, and moral superiority in sex-related matters. (And also a complete impossibility of discussing these topics in an open and honest manner, as witnessed by the fact that they reliably destroy the discourse even in a forum like LW.)

comment by OphilaDros · 2012-08-13T11:07:54.771Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

the sexual norms based on sacralized individual autonomy end up working very badly in practice, so that we end up with the present rather bizarre situation where we see an unprecedented amount of hand-wringing about all sorts of sex-related problems, and at the same time proud insistence that we have reached unprecedented heights of freedom, enlightenment, and moral superiority in sex-related matters.

The unprecedented amount of hand-wringing might not be indicative of an increase in the number or magnitude of sex-related problems if it turns out that previous norms also discouraged public discussions of such problems. What are the other metrics by which we can say that the current set of norms are working badly in practice? Are there fewer people having sex, are they having less enjoyable sex, or are their sexual relationships less fulfilling and of shorter duration or are these norms destabilising society in other ways?

comment by Vaniver · 2012-08-13T20:41:20.882Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

these norms destabilising society in other ways?

Quality and quantity were the only sex-related problems that came to mind?

Pregnancy, particularly pregnancy out of wedlock, and venereal disease are the traditional sex-related problems. Both of them are massively higher after sexual liberation. (Out of wedlock births are also exacerbated by welfare, which is part of a larger political discussion.)

Births out of wedlock are somewhat difficult to hide from government record-keepers in developed countries like the US, though they may be possible to hide socially (which is what most people care about anyway). Out of wedlock births among African Americans are currently at ~70%; in 1940, a full generation before the civil rights era, it was 19%.

Venereal disease is a bit harder to compare to last century (whereas we have out-of-wedlock rates going back quite a bit), and there are issues with diseases (like syphilis) becoming treatable and overall medical care (including reporting) increasing. But the impact of the Sixties on American gonorrhea rates is still clear. (It also seems likely that gay liberation contributed to the AIDS epidemic- but the primary comparison there is to Cuba, where those with AIDS were quarantined. Unsurprisingly, quarantine reduces transmission rates.)

comment by OphilaDros · 2012-08-14T10:12:46.486Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Quality and quantity were the only sex-related problems that came to mind?

Hmm? You quoted the rest of my question which talked about other things. It really was a question. :)

In any case, I must admit that unwanted pregnancies and venereal diseases (if these diseases have mostly become treatable then they're really not as much of a problem are they?) did not really spring to mind. I was thinking of effects on marriage and the impact through that on society at large.

However, even your data speaks only about a specific class of people, and not for all of America. Which suggests that certain socioeconomic groups can deal with the change in sexual norms while others can not. So the problem may not be entirely with the change in sexual norms?

Anyway, it is time for me to confess I am not American, nor familiar with the data trends on America and the effects of the sexual revolution there. I live in a country without too much sexual freedom and its own set of problems. It is interesting to see what problems are expected to happen when things get more laissez-faire around here though. And I wanted to point out the problems of a society with far lower sexual autonomy.

But this is tangential to Vladimir_M's point about some sort of double standards among liberals vis-a-vis sexual norms. For what its worth I don't consider autonomy as absolute and inviolable, and although I do place a high value on individual autonomy in sexual matters, I am not averse to a cost-benefit analysis either.

Since we're on the topic, I'll link one analysis that I'd found interesting:

the very tendencies which make adherence to traditional norms somewhat discomforting on an individual level are necessary in other contexts. Love is an inconvenience when it comes to arranging marriages for your offspring optimally on a social dimension, but it may be necessary for men and women to invest in their offspring due to the love they feel for them so that they live and flourish. In other words, psychological impulses which were inconvenient in one domain were necessary and adaptive on others. Phenotypically I’m implying that there was functional constraint, and genetically it would manifest as pleiotropy. I suspect that a strong tendency toward developing loving bonds with children is a much more important characteristic in these elite lineages than dampening the initial discomfort that may occur when one is paired off with someone with whom one is not particularly enamoured. In a social and biological evolutionary sense romantic love is less important than we might think in our individualist age. But, romantic love remains hard-wired within us because it is biologically impossible to suppress its manifestation so long as we need the emotion of love more importantly to bind us together with children.

Finally, let’s go back to Johnson’s treatment of the disjunction between idealized polyamory and realized polygyny in the ancient environment (at least to a mild extent). By this, he points to the reality that some of the Y chromosomal data point to a reproductive skew, where a few males tend to give rise to a disproportionate number in the next generation. In extreme polygyny you have a Genghis Khan situation, where males of one narrow lineage have an enormous reproductive advantage. The scenario sketched out in Johnson’s post is that females may have had relationships with several males (and the inverse), but there was a tendency toward favoring reproduction with one focal male or female. This does not seem to negate the reality of jealousy and drama. We see this among common chimpanzees, who have a classic mating system in the extreme sense outlined by Johnson (this species has huge testicles to generate viscous sperm the competition is so extreme). And modern polygamorists who have formal relationships all tell tales of enormous time investments necessary to maintain proper relationship equilibrium. This is I think the reason that elite lineages in mass agricultural societies turned toward simpler relationship networks. The older model was simply not sufficiently stable for the purposes of maintaining the social and cultural systems necessary for the proper functioning of the older Malthusian civilizations. This is evident when conflicts within elite lineages are often rooted in questions of paternity and maternity (half siblings; Charles Martel was the bastard son of his father, who superseded the legitimate line), or accusations of false paternity (the first Chinese Emperor was subject to this rumors due to his bad reputation in later generations).

From Gene Expression

comment by novalis · 2012-08-15T03:25:33.351Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(It also seems likely that gay liberation contributed to the AIDS epidemic- but the primary comparison there is to Cuba, where those with AIDS were quarantined. Unsurprisingly, quarantine reduces transmission rates.)

What about Africa? Sure, there are all sorts of problems making that comparison, but it shows that anti-gay attitudes aren't particularly protective. Also, of course, attitudes were much more conservative in late-15th and 16th century Europe, but syphilis did pretty well. Looking at the rates of HIV infection by state, Cook's PVI only accounts for about 6% of the variance, about the same as urban density (the two are themselves somewhat more correlated). If we take PVI as a rough proxy for conservative attitudes about sexuality, it seems like conservatism isn't particularly protective.

That's probably because illiberal attitudes towards homosexuality probably don't reduce homosexual sex all that much. They just drive it underground. That makes epidemics harder to trace and harder to stop. Also, these attitudes tend to preclude education about condoms and STDs (since it's hard to teach "don't do this but if you do, be safe"). Sex ed actually does seem to increase condom use, and thus reduce the spread of HIV.

comment by jacoblyles · 2012-08-15T22:54:07.234Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Out of wedlock birth rates have exploded with sexual freedom:

-http://www.familyfacts.org/charts/205/four-in-10-children-are-born-to-unwed-mothers

Marriage is way down:

-http://www.familyfacts.org/charts/105/the-annual-marriage-rate-has-declined-significantly-in-the-past-generation

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-08-17T07:59:44.714Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Give your listeners the facts—the Family Facts from the experts at The Heritage Foundation." I'm completely reassured.

comment by jacoblyles · 2012-08-17T18:40:37.415Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure they are sourced from census data. I check the footnotes on websites like that.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2012-08-13T06:51:53.492Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

This is probably the most insightful comment that I've seen on LW in a long time.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-08-13T07:37:12.460Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Read his entire comment history. (FWIW Vladimir_M is I think my second favorite LW commenter.)

comment by GLaDOS · 2012-08-13T10:49:07.648Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I endorse this recommendation, but I can't help but wonder who is your favourite? (^_^)

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-08-13T21:23:48.927Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Rayhawk, largely because he talks about more important things than does Vladimir_M. I sorta wish Vladimir_M would do more speculative reasoning outside the spheres of game theory, social psychology, economics, politics, and so on—I would trust him to be less biased than most when considering strange ideas, e.g. the Singularity Institute's mission.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-08-14T21:01:34.736Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would trust him to be less biased than most when considering strange ideas, e.g. the Singularity Institute's mission.

You can get a good idea of which ideas Vladimir_M considers important, by looking at where he chooses to spend his time.

comment by GLaDOS · 2012-08-15T10:15:27.301Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure that is a good heuristic, spending a lot of time in somewhere might mean he considers the ideas or at least debating them fun, which is not quite the same as important. If someone was studying my online habits they'd be better off assuming I optimize for fun rather than impact. (^_^')

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-08-15T21:13:04.149Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My mental model of Vladimir_M has this not being the case.

comment by siodine · 2012-08-15T13:23:51.367Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This is like having the Grand Wizard of the KKK endorse your foreign policy as a political candidate.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-08-15T21:09:46.365Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

More like an endorsement of a campaign for mayorhood of a Floridian city circa 1920. Remember that the Klan had five million members not too long ago.

I like the institution of comparing people to Hitler, Lenin, &c., so long as people know just how reasonable and well-intentioned those people were. Hypocrites, cast out the beams in your own eyes before assessing the damage caused by the motes in theirs.

comment by siodine · 2012-08-15T21:53:09.560Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Did Jesus tell you to be purposefully stupid and incoherent?

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-08-15T23:36:11.003Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Also, you're trolling wrong; but maybe that's just meta-trolling, i.e., you're trying to troll me by being apparently incompetent at trolling. I doubt it.

comment by siodine · 2012-08-15T23:38:45.737Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Are you trying to troll me by pretending that I was trolling you? This will get convoluted very quickly.

comment by gwern · 2012-08-15T23:54:34.058Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You are actually Will Newsome himself, and I claim my £5.

comment by metatroll · 2012-08-16T01:46:50.440Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I confess, it was me all along.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-08-15T23:57:48.646Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

...I wonder if this "accuse Will Newsome of sockpuppeting" thing is some sort of LessWrong tradition now. You should know that the last time someone bet I was a sockpuppet, specifically AspiringKnitter, they nominally lost a hundred bucks.

comment by siodine · 2012-08-16T00:03:55.530Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm actually Will Newsome's disembodied prefrontal cortex speaking from beyond the meta.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-08-16T02:50:08.888Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

beyond the meta

Liar, there is no such place. The other half of your claim is sorta plausible though.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-08-16T00:01:29.209Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(Also under the most straightforward interpretation you're implicitly saying siodine is "purposefully stupid and incoherent" by his own lights, and that's kinda mean.)

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-08-15T23:53:51.516Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Under the most straightforward interpretation I think the convolution is only growing linearly? ...Maybe someone should write a paper on the time complexity of meta-trolling in various fora as a gauge of the intellectual worthwhileness of said fora.

comment by metatroll · 2012-08-19T03:55:45.690Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

See my article "'I Never Met A Troll I Didn't': A Meta-Analysis of Meta-Troll Meta-Data in the Metaverse".

comment by siodine · 2012-08-16T00:03:30.210Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Since when do we mention the straightforward interpretation?

comment by Will_Newsome · 2012-08-15T23:35:15.022Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Not explicitly at least, but it's possible he somehow implied it, or said it as the Holy Ghost working within Paul.

comment by Unnamed · 2012-08-14T08:59:04.654Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

'Using the purity foundation' =/= 'Unable to think about it rationally and genuinely consider both benefits and costs.'

The purity foundation involves specific patterns of thought & feeling including the emotion of disgust and modeling the world in terms of purity and contamination, or elevation and degradation. People can be absolutist and unwilling to consider tradeoffs for moral views that come from any of the foundations (including harm/care, e.g. not wanting to torture a child no matter how big the benefit).

Liberals argue in favor of comprehensive intervention and regulation in nearly all areas of human life, but in contrast, people's sexual behavior is supposed to be a subject of complete laissez-faire.

This is a wild exaggeration. There are large domains of life where liberals favor a large amount of freedom. See the 1st amendment, for instance. The standard distinction puts liberals higher on social liberty but lower on economic liberty; Haidt has used the term "lifestyle liberty" to describe the kind of liberty that liberals support. Liberals are relatively consistently opposed to legal restrictions on self-expression, for example, and they generally have social norms encouraging it (with some exceptions where it runs afoul of other norms).

The only plausible explanation I see here is that, just like everyone else in the human history, liberals base their sexual norms on a sacredness foundation

I don't see a very plausible story of how the purity pattern of thinking would form the basis for norms of sexual permissiveness (maybe you could fill in some of the details?). The simplest explanation that I see is that sexual restrictions became tagged, in liberals' minds (and in liberal culture) as traditionalist/oppressive/sexist/bad. (Because a lot of sexual restrictions did fit that pattern.) So, by pattern matching, now any proposed sexual restriction sounds bad, like something they support and we oppose. There are various particular psychological and cultural mechanisms that contributed to making this stick. For instance, it probably helped that sex can fit within the social/lifestyle/self-expressive category where liberals tend to be more laissez-faire. And it helps that they (the people who want to restrict human sexuality based on their retrograde puritanism) continue to exist (rather prominently, in many liberals' minds), because that makes it easy to associate proposed sexual restrictions with them and to be suspicious of people who propose such restrictions.

comment by bryjnar · 2012-08-13T11:24:23.501Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

we see an unprecedented amount of hand-wringing about all sorts of sex-related problems, and at the same time proud insistence that we have reached unprecedented heights of freedom, enlightenment, and moral superiority in sex-related matters.

Do we actually see this hand-wringing from liberals, though? I'm not really sure what you're talking about, unless it's gay marriage, in which case most liberals don't seem to be hand-wringing so much as pushing forward along the same path as ever: towards more sexual freedom. There's hand-wringing from conservatives, but I don't see how this is relevant to your point.

comment by Emile · 2012-08-13T12:22:09.233Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I would guess - things like "less desirable" men not being able to find a mate, teenage pregnancy, single motherhood, STDs, rape ...

But yes, those don't seem to be things liberals complain about more than conservatives; I'm not sure if Vladimir was implying they did, or talking about something else.

(Personally, I can't tell if there really is "unprecedented amount of hand-wringing" or if it's just availability bias - it's easier to think of examples of people complaining now than of people complaining 50 years ago)

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T04:47:31.901Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think you and I must know very different liberals.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-13T05:08:32.704Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Looking back at my comment, I did perhaps use a very broad brush at certain points, which is unfortunately hard to avoid if one wishes to keep one's comments at reasonable length. However, I'd still be curious to hear where exactly you think my description diverges from reality.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T06:27:15.600Z · score: 7 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I think part of the difference between my experience and your statement, is that the liberals I know tend towards the libertarian end of the spectrum. At least on the drug issue, this might be a function of age.

The liberal argument against libertarianism is not that it is irrational to have a preference for liberty, but that (a) liberty is a more complicated concept than libertarians say it is (see Amartya Sen, for instance), (b) that libertarians often equivocated between the moral and practical arguments for libertarianism (see Yvain's non-libertarian FAQ, for instance), and (c) that the practical benefits are often not as-claimed (ibid).

Similarly, many liberals are in favor of certain sorts of regulations on sexual autonomy -- many oppose prostitution and traditional polygyny, for instance (there are, of course, a number of complications here, as well as variance among liberals). Some liberals also oppose the burqa and would criminalize clitoridectomy (this is more of a live issue in Europe). Finally, liberals tend to favor regulations against sexual harassment, which, defined broadly, could include some consensual conduct such as a consensual boss-subordinate relationship. In each of these cases, their arguments in these cases are similar to their arguments in the other cases where they favor regulation.

It's true that liberals often oppose regulations on sex which are either (a) based more-or-less solely on tradition, or (b) which affect only consensual conduct (I recognized that consent is a complex issue). I don't think case (a) is really an argument for liberal hypocrisy, because it is rare to find other cases where liberals support laws based solely on tradition (historical preservation districts might be one, although I have no idea whether liberals on average actually support them). Case (b) is the important one, and I can think of a couple of other cases where liberal views are similar to their views on sex. The first is drugs, where liberals are far more likely than conservatives (though of course less likely than libertarians) to want to reduce or remove regulations; the second is freedom of speech (although this varies dramatically by country, and liberal views on laws differ from their views on institutional rules). Some liberals also oppose most regulations on immigration.

Which supposedly-liberal arguments in favor of regulation do you think apply to which proposed regulation of sex?

And what particular bad effects do you see from the individual autonomy view of sex?

comment by Aleksei_Riikonen · 2012-08-13T13:48:58.261Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

In response to your final questions:

Liberals (myself included) tend to very much like the idea of using regulation to transfer some wealth from the strongest players to the weakest in society. We like to try to set up the rules of the game so that nobody would be economically very poor, and so that things in general were fair and equitable.

In the case of sex and relationships, the argument could also be made for regulation that would transfer "sexual wealth" and "relationship wealth" from the strongest players to those who are not so well off. In fact, it seems to me that very many traditional conservative societies have tried to do just that, by strongly promoting e.g. such values that one should have only one sexual partner (along with marriage) during one's life. Rock stars and other sorts of alpha males who take many hot girls for themselves would be strongly disapproved of by typical traditional conservative societies. The underlying reason may be that traditional monogamy produces a sexually more equal society, and that this has been one contributing factor why societies with such values have been so successful throughout much of human history.

Most liberals, however, would be unwilling to engage in a rational discussion and cost-benefit analysis of whether conservative sexual morals (or some modified version thereof) would in fact create a more equal and strong society. Liberals are ok with the strongest players amassing as much sexual wealth as they can, at the expense of the weaker competitors, which strongly contrasts with their ideas about regulating economic activity and limitless acquisition of monetary wealth.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T15:28:15.581Z · score: -3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

[edit: removed pointless sniping]

Serial monogomy, rather than polygyny, constitutes the vast majority of all Western relationships. So I just don't think it's true that there's unequal access.

I should also reiterate that "traditional" covers a wide range of practices, including polygyny and non-monogamy (the latter particularly among non-agricultural societies).

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-08-13T17:11:00.785Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

One might uncharitably describe this as the "nerds whining about not having a girlfriend" argument.

I know! Its like those icky poor people whining about material inequality.

Serial monogomy, rather than polygyny, constitutes the vast majority of all Western relationships. So I just don't think it's true that there's unequal access.

This might shatter your brains, serial monogamy in practice basically is soft polygamy. You badly need to read some of Roissy's writing on how sexual attraction seems to work if your own IRL observations haven't sufficed. Once there do a search for "hypergamy".

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T17:26:37.170Z · score: 3 (11 votes) · LW · GW

One might uncharitably describe this as the "nerds whining about not having a girlfriend" argument.

I know! Its like those icky poor people whining about material inequality.

The difference, of course, is that there is in fact no shortage of available partners. (Also, I am a nerd myself -- it's just that this particular argument tends to descend rather quickly into Nice-Guyism).

This might shatter your brains, serial monogamy in practice basically is soft polygamy. Sexually 5 minutes of alpha is worth 5 years of beta.

Serial monogamy is not equivalent to polygamy, because at any time, there are in fact plenty of partners to go around. I have no idea why you would think there is any similarity at all.

Also, of course, the term "alpha" does not in any way describe human behavior in Western society.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-08-13T17:27:37.722Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

The difference, of course, is that there is in fact no shortage of available partners.

There is no shortage of available wealth either! I don't know why those Africans go on starving when we clearly have enough food for everyone on the planet. I mean all they have to do is arrange to get hired by someone and then buying some food!

There is in fact no shortage of people employing desirable employees.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T17:32:00.279Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The argument that there is a shortage of available women (as though women were a commodity) relies on assumptions that just aren't true. In a mostly-monogamous (including serial monogamy), mostly-straight society, for every man who does not have a partner, there is a woman who does not have a partner.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-08-13T17:37:53.510Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

You are missing the point.

There is no shortage of available employers either!

A man being desired by other women is intrinsically sexy to women. Consider what this means if you take a laissez-faire approach to the sexual marketplace.

comment by OrphanWilde · 2012-08-13T18:17:34.479Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

CharlieSheen is making a bad case for what he's making a case for.

Simply because the distribution of men and women without partners is equivalent between the genders doesn't mean the history of men and women is equivalent. Every child must have a male and a female parent, generally speaking; it doesn't follow that parentage is equally distributed among men and women. Every woman could have one child and 80% of men could have none, simply if the 20% of men have on average five children. Similarly, it doesn't follow from "Men and women lack partners in equal number" that "Men and women have equal relationship opportunity." The median man could have 1 relationship in his entire life, and the median woman could have 5, at the same time; the means/averages must be the same, but the distribution doesn't.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T18:33:19.084Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, I see. You and CharlieSheen think that the unit is one relationship, while I think the unit is one relationship-hour.

comment by OrphanWilde · 2012-08-13T18:43:49.280Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

That doesn't resolve the issue; relationship hours can be unevenly distributed as well. Take five men and five women; one man can have ten relationship-hours, four can have zero, and all five women can have two.

The idea of hypergamy can be loosely summed up thus: Women have higher expectations than men.

Which implies, in a more connotation heavy manner, that the average man is less attractive to the average woman than the average woman is to the average man.

I'm not sure that hypergamy is strictly necessary, even presuming the phenomenon (uneven romantic/sexual opportunity distribution) it attempts to explain. Men having higher variability of attractiveness would produce the same phenomenon.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T18:50:07.643Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, relationship hours are of course unevenly distributed -- but in this case, there would still be forty available female relationship-hours, to the forty available male relationship-hours.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2012-08-14T08:30:12.680Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This sounds like saying that wealth is of course unevenly distributed, but the set of people whose height in inches is an even number has the same amount of wealth as the set of people whose height in inches is an odd number. Which is probably true, but also completely irrelevant for any discussion about inequality of wealth. You can always define two groups using some criteria that makes them come out the same, but the point isn't to compare arbitrarily defined groups, it's to compare indviduals.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-14T16:50:51.630Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The complaint is typically phrased in terms of mens' sexual access to women. If you missed the bit where CharlieSheen mentioned the PUA community, well, I guess I'll agree with him that you should read Roissy. You'll find it very enlightening about what that community thinks.

As an individual problem, as I note elsewhere, it just doesn't seem to be much of a problem in practice, and in the sorts of cases where it is a problem (traditional polygyny; places with sex-selective abortion), liberals do tend to object.

comment by OrphanWilde · 2012-08-13T18:52:50.172Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

His claim, since you seem to have missed it, is precisely that they are unevenly distributed; that the distribution is closer to the "One man with 10 hours, four with 0, five with 2" than to "Five men and women each with two hours."

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T19:14:00.742Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

In fact, however, marriage (and other monogamous relationships) are quite common, so the distribution is not really much like that.

And even though it was claimed that liberals don't have a problem with some males getting an unfair amount of the relationship-hours, it seems that liberals really strongly dislike PUAs. There are a number of reasons for this, but in many cases, the underlying reason is probably actually a fairness concern (in the "why don't I get any?" sense, rather than the abstract sense). And if PUAs are correct that nonconsensual touching is a competitive advantage, then indeed liberals are consistent in that they attempt to regulate this.

Finally, as noted, liberals tend to oppose traditional polygyny, which is another case of uneven distribution.

comment by OrphanWilde · 2012-08-13T19:22:49.783Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Marriage is getting less common. I don't know the statistics for monogamous relationships in general over the last thirty years, but in the 1960's and 1970's, the trend definitely shifted to more relationships, which permits Charlie's position, although it obviously doesn't prove it. (Searching "mean relationships men women" didn't provide any useful evidence as to whether his position holds.)

I don't particularly care to get into the color politics. I wasn't attempting to prove anything, I was trying to explain what Charlie's position was, because you didn't seem to be catching it.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-08-14T05:25:25.788Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Marriage is getting less common.

Marriage rates have basically collapsed among lower SES African Americans in the US and dropped significantly for all other classes as well. In addition to this the number of relationship hours one can expect from a marriage is that the average age of marriage is getting higher and higher for women.. In addition to this divorce rates are high and mostly driven by women, for example:

Evidence is given that among college-educated couples, the percentages of divorces initiated by women is approximately 90%.

Both also speak of a probably lower quality of relationship hours as does a lower satisfaction with marriage than in the past.

comment by Mitchell_Porter · 2012-08-14T05:47:41.198Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Marriage rats

They have animal models of everything now!

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T19:27:08.351Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the explanation.

I'm also not particularly into color politics; as noted, I don't fit easily into Haidt's dichotomy, and I suspect that most of Less Wrong also doesn't.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-08-13T17:34:45.040Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Again in the modern marketplace every desirable employee has an employer who would love to hire them!

comment by wedrifid · 2012-08-13T17:36:18.330Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Also, of course, the term "alpha" does not in any way describe human behavior in Western society.

There are social groups within which there is a one clear, overwhelmingly dominant individual. That individual is referred to as the 'alpha'. Describing that kind of group/tribe/pack role is what the letter was adopted for in the first place.

(I would agree that alpha and especially beta are being misused in the grandparent.)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-13T17:45:21.796Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do these terms have a scientific meaning in PUA to begin with? I always thought they were just used as shorthand for vague (often self-contradictory) categories of behavior.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-08-13T18:00:21.641Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do these terms have a scientific meaning in PUA to begin with?

Yes, a misleading one that diverged rather significantly from the term) they originally adopted and still refer to. (It is all too often used for any kind of dominance, including groups who think of themselves as all alpha males---which can't make sense.)

I always thought they were just used as shorthand for vague (often self-contradictory) categories of behavior.

Disagreement among users or communities, perhaps. Different (jargonised) usage to the scientific one? Often. Self-contradictory? Not especially. The models of reality being described seem for most part to be internally coherent.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-13T18:31:49.746Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The models of reality being described seem for most part to be internally coherent.

Under what evidence?

comment by wedrifid · 2012-08-13T18:45:09.353Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Under what evidence?

Your move is rejected. (Almost all demands for evidence by one party attempting to debate another are logically rude and I tend to reject this kind of tactic in general.)

You made an assertion. I just made a counter assertion. Not only do I reject games of forcing 'burden of proofs' on the other side you are demanding evidence of a negative, which is typically much harder. What evidence are you expecting? Perhaps:

The following is a list of all the examples I have seen of popular PUA resources that match paper-machine's claim that the usage of alpha is self-contradictory:

If this is something that occurs often then I can reasonably expect to have seen it at least once, given my level of exposure, specific irritation at misuse of alpha and beta jargon and general sensitivity to self-contradicting claims. "I looked. What you said was there was not actually there." is sufficient reason to deny a claim that a thing is there.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-13T18:56:32.545Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This wasn't a "tactic," nor was it a "debate." This was an honest request for information that you've somehow pattern-matched as logical rudeness. "Disagreement among users or communities" was all I meant by "self-contradictory."

My interest in PUA is purely academic, because as far as I can tell little work has been done to make it work in my demographic. I've asked other people in the community before what the link was between the meaning of alpha/beta in the biological sciences and the meaning of alpha/beta in PUA, but so far no luck.

EDIT: Also, I would really like to know why I triggered such a hostile response, because I would like to not trigger such responses in the future.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-08-13T19:14:24.188Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This was an honest request for information that you've somehow pattern-matched as logical rudeness.

I maintain the grandparent, with particular emphasis on the plausibility of finding the kind of evidence that demonstrates the negation of the kind of claim in question. It isn't something I would expect to find a detailed analysis of lying around and so lack of observations of the claimed thing is all that can be expected---and is already implied by denying the claim.

"Disagreement among users or communities" was all I meant by "self-contradictory."

That matches my observations. Violent agreement.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T17:42:49.833Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In animal groups, alphas control mating (which is what this whole discussion is about). That is rarely true in Western human groups.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-08-13T17:34:18.374Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Serial monogamy is not equivalent to polygamy, because at any time, there are in fact plenty of partners to go around. I have no idea why you would think there is any similarity at all

Also, of course, the term "alpha" does not in any way describe human behavior in Western society.

Run rationalization hamster run!

Just in case there is a misunderstanding I was using PUA terminology.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T17:42:07.707Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Run rationalization hamster run!

Quite an impressive argument there.

I wasn't familiar with the PUA term. Googling reveals some variance of usage, but I don't think any definition does anything to improve your argument.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-08-13T17:46:31.433Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

You get the kinds of arguments you deserve brah. But I know it kind of sucks, its like when someone sneaks in an ad hominem or something like that.

One might uncharitably describe this as the "nerds whining about not having a girlfriend" argument..

At this rate I don't think I'll be able to cure your brain today.

My condolences.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-08-13T19:00:06.989Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Charlie, your argument style in this conversation started insightful and tactfully expressed. It has become lax and contemptuous. While the contempt happens to be warranted by the context it nevertheless serves to give the casual reader a negative impression of what you are saying, can cede some of the 'high ground' to the person you are arguing with and potentially changes what arguments will be accepted.

I would very much appreciate it if you would quit while you are (or were) ahead. Your early points were excellent and I really don't want them to be undermined just because you are disgusted by the rebuttal attempts. They were what I would have said if I got there first (or so my hindsight tells me!)

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-08-13T20:09:42.270Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Charlie, your argument style in this conversation started insightful and tactfully expressed. It has become lax and contemptuous.

I can see that now, I was tired and went emotional. Sent an apology to novalis and I'll retract the ones that now seem inappropriate.

comment by Vaniver · 2012-08-13T21:03:12.913Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was tired and went emotional.

Insufficient tiger blood?

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T18:02:49.060Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I've since edited that out, and I regret posting it. But if you're not interested in making an argument, and you would rather just snipe, there's not much anyone can do about that.

BTW, I later noticed that you had edited a previous post to point out rape-apologist Roissy. I happen to prefer his many deleted posts, since they're more psychologically honest. Also, if you want to talk about ad hominems, that seems to be almost the entirety of Roissy's writing.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-08-13T18:31:19.873Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The link was there since before your responded. All I was saying that if you don't see my argument yet I won't be bothering with you further today since people are wrong on the internet all the time and I'm unfortunately mortal. Maybe I will write up a post in response tomorrow or maybe someone else can pick up where I ended.

I might have had more patience with you if you hadn't so clearly displayed tribal feeling in the OP btw. Thought I must admit once you threw around "rape apologist" that made me laugh hard enough to forgive you.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-08-13T17:44:47.445Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Serial monogomy, rather than polygyny, constitutes the vast majority of all Western relationships.

It constitutes the vast majority of significant, formal, mid to long term Western relationships. It does not constitute the majority of sexual relations that can be described as "It's Complicated" or "Single (but not celibate)".

So I just don't think it's true that there's unequal access.

I don't think that word means what you think it means.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-13T23:46:18.441Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'd still wager that most (i.e., more than 50%) of the sexual intercourses happening today (i.e. 13 August 2012 from 00:00 to 24:00 UTC) in the Western world (let's define that as NATO countries, for the sake of definiteness, though it's not a particularly natural category) are within monogamous relationships (defined as couples who have --explicitly or implicitly-- promised each other not to have sex with anyone else until the relationship lasts).

Huh, how could such a bet be settled?

(No, let's make that "this year". I think people are less monogamous in August than they usually are.)

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T18:10:30.202Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Even if serial means "one night at a time", so long as each man is only going home with one woman per night, there will still be an equal number of unattached women and men.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-08-13T18:20:05.571Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Even if serial means "one night at a time", so long as each man is only going home with one woman per night, there will still be an equal number of unattached women and men.

If all people were forced to be copulating at all times then your conclusion regarding equal access would follow. An acceptable weirdtopia!

All people being obliged to copulate at, and only at, specific times would also lead to the conclusion. A less acceptable weirdtopia.

As it happens it is possible for some males with exceptional attractiveness, skills and motivation to mate with a different female every day while some females do not mate every day. This allows for the possibility that there is not equal access to mates among all members of the population in question.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T18:40:29.228Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Right, and the women who are not mating that day, are available to mate with someone else.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-08-13T20:54:36.462Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Yet, somehow that doesn't seem to happen in practice.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T21:13:56.208Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Nearly 3/4 of American adults are in relatively stable monogamous (in theory, of course) cohabiting relationships including marriage. And that's not counting non-cohabiting relationships or casual sex at all.

Extremely promiscuous straight men are a tiny, tiny fraction of the population, and the extent to which they monopolize female attention is vastly exaggerated. If you look at India and China, where there's a genuine difference in the number of men and women in the population, you'll see all sorts of weird social effects that we just don't have in the US. True, some of that is due to general attitudes towards women, but some of it isn't.

comment by Vaniver · 2012-08-13T21:01:16.559Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

mate with a different male every day

Typo?

comment by wedrifid · 2012-08-13T21:05:20.638Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Typo?

Well, I suppose if we take that into account there is arbitrary amounts of access for everyone if they look hard enough.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-13T23:36:59.744Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

True on any given night; but it might well be the case that the unattached men are always the same ones, whereas each woman is unattached on certain nights but not on others. ETA: e.g., on Monday, Albert sleeps with Alice while Bob, Charles, Betty and Cathy stay unattached; on Tuesday, Albert sleeps with Betty while Alice, Bob, Charles and Cathy stay unattached; on Wednesday, Albert sleeps with Cathy while Alice, Bob, Betty and Charles stay unattached.

comment by Roxton · 2012-08-14T11:52:11.621Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I believe you misframe the liberal position.

Liberalism can be meaningfully defined as the erosion of the presumption of a privileged ontology. Rational debate is possible, to the extent that it serves to undermine privileged ontologies.*

When somebody raises a proposal, the argument that might follow typically involves participants inferring and teasing out the relevant premises, and then arguing them.

In contrast, Liberalism tries to identify the ontologies underpinning the premises, and then encourages you to recognize that ontology as arbitrary, have the self-awareness to treat that ontology as a rationalization for your motivations, and decide whether you're willing to be a bully and acknowledge yourself as such. (I suppose OCPD creates its own motivations, allowing elegant and/or simpler models to dominate for some people.)

In the end, the policies adopted by liberals can't be argued for. They just can't be argued against effectively, except in a creative gut context informed by predictive models and evidence.

*(or creatively flesh out and validate/invalidate predictive models)

I would end the comment here, but I can't resist quibbling on one point. I believe you are confusing liberalism's erasure of the old regime with a rejection of regulation. Sex is more policed now than ever, in a state enforcement context, a social coregulation context, and a support system context – all this with dramatic consequences.

"Sacredness" is a word we use to create moral models around feelings. If liberals choose to "make way" for those feelings, does that mean they've bought into a sacralizing mentality? No.

comment by Roxton · 2012-08-14T13:17:04.969Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I feel like I'm getting a communal "No. Just.... no." here.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2012-08-14T13:42:28.689Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Quite. The "erosion of the presumption of a privileged ontology" sounds more like postmodernism, and "a creative gut context informed by predictive models and evidence", when decoded, seems to mean "inventing the conclusion you want and selecting theories and evidence to fit it".

In contrast, Liberalism tries to identify the ontologies underpinning the premises, and then encourages you to recognize that ontology as arbitrary, have the self-awareness to treat that ontology as a rationalization for your motivations, and decide whether you're willing to be a bully and acknowledge yourself as such.

This is an excellent example of the sort of bullying that constitutes postmodern discourse.

You don't even say whether you agree with any of this or not, but it doesn't seem intended satirically.

comment by Roxton · 2012-08-14T18:05:41.398Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Cogently put.

The "erosion of the presumption of a privileged ontology" sounds more like postmodernism,

An accurate characterization, although I don't share your negative associations with the term.

and "a creative gut context informed by predictive models and evidence", when decoded, seems to mean "inventing the conclusion you want and selecting theories and evidence to fit it".

A reasonable decoding, which means I conveyed the point poorly. The core idea is that you recognize no particular framing as "special." Selecting theories and evidence to fit it would contradict that.

There are a thousand framings in which to consider menial subjects like... food, plastics production, coffee consumption, pain, sexuality, population growth. These framings must be arrived at creatively. To illustrate the complexity, I will add that these framings are, in turn, framed in the context of whether people care about them; how it relates to individual experiences.

These framings often present metrics. Mapping these metrics to a decision is not a deterministic process without arbitrarily privileging one or more framings.

An example of a framing is the old LW yarn comparing torture and minor eye irritants.

Where does evidence fit into this?

Evidence is the one thing, the only thing, that can be privileged without allegations of arbitrariness. (That said, evidence of how people experience things is still evidence.)

So, under this framing, a liberal is anyone who tries to capture all these framings (impossible!) and holding that massive ball of contradiction to their aesthetic eye, makes "educated" decisions pertaining to action or inaction, probably following the lessons of rational instrumentality.

So here's a crazy contention – people who do this tend to, in aggregate, make the same determinations. That's actually not surprising, given ev. psych.

Is it "correct"? No. There is no "correct." But it's a weird thing to argue against, because you'd have to privilege a frame to do it. For example, you could argue for embracing the naturalistic fallacy, because it works, thus, without thought or conscience, privileging your frame over all the anti-rape framings.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2012-08-14T13:43:55.543Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How many people that self-identify as liberal would agree that liberalism is "the erosion of the presumption of a privileged ontology"? I would guess < 1%. Also, in what way does the Ten Commandments rely on a "privileged ontology" that human rights does not?

comment by Roxton · 2012-08-14T18:29:28.835Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How many people that self-identify as liberal would agree that liberalism is "the erosion of the presumption of a privileged ontology"?

<1%. And that must be accepted as a criticism. However, I would contend that individual liberal battles can readily be perceived as fitting comfortably in this framing.

Also, in what way does the Ten Commandments rely on a "privileged ontology" that human rights does not?

I imagine you will agree that the concept of "putting presumptions under erasure" is not something that expresses itself well in dialog. You will notice that a hallmark of the occupy movement and human rights is that they are generally used vaguely.

This is because they "happen to categorize" the kinds of policies that are advocated when the rationalization of the status quo is put under erasure.

Now, I'll acknowledge that this framing fails because clearly powerful international organizations are asserting definitions of human rights.

I will suggest that this is a tool in the service of the paradigm mentioned, and then I'll acknowledge that this is a fully general counterargument.

And while I've explicitly lost the argument, allow me to ask you to hang onto it, because its corpse is still quite useful.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2012-08-15T06:51:42.206Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I imagine you will agree that the concept of "putting presumptions under erasure" is not something that expresses itself well in dialog.

It appears to me that you are not someone who expresses themselves well in dialog.

I shall refrain from imagining that anyone agrees with me.

comment by Roxton · 2012-08-15T13:44:24.492Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Except you totally do so imagine, because you could only get away with such dickish social signaling if my communication style was unacceptable in a group context.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-08-15T20:16:47.999Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I shall refrain from imagining that anyone agrees with me.

Well, I for one agree with you.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-08-12T22:58:15.523Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

what the polyamorous community has done to a much greater degree?

It remains to be seen whether the polyamorous community can deal with the complex issues regarding raising children and passing their memes onto them. Judging by what happened to previous attempts my guess is that they'll fail.

comment by duckduckMOO · 2012-08-13T02:01:56.823Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Namely, the answer is that, contrary to Haidt's model of contemporary ideologies, there are in fact no such people."

This seems to be obviously untrue. Unless "no such people" has finally become a synonym for "very few such people percentagewise" Even if you replace "morality" with "instinct" this is almost certainly untrue. Sincere utilitarians, labelled as such or not, do in fact exist. There are also people who naturally lack some or all such instincts altogether.

"As for the claim that "you need loyalty, authority and sanctity to run a decent society," I would actually go further and say that they are necessary for any sort of organized human society. In fact, the claim can be stated even more strongly: since humans are social beings who can live and reproduce only within organized societies""

Humans can reproduce and live outside of organized societies (unless you define a pair as a society). Authority is a word that adds nothing to a neutral description other than a means for demonstrating deference. Perhaps some kind of policing type people are necessarry but calling it an authority isn't. Not all humans are social beings.

"What does exist are people whose ideology says that harm and (maybe) fairness are the only rational and reasonable moral foundations, while the other ones are only due to ignorance, stupidity, backwardness, malice, etc. Nevertheless, these same people have their own strong norms of sacredness, purity, authority, and in-group loyalty, for which they however invent ideologically motivated rationalizations in terms of harm and fairness."

Who are you talking about? (some group I assume) This doesn't sound implausbible. The vast majority of humans are hypocrites barring significant cost, or amoral enough enough in the first place to be incapable of hypocrisy (not that this is a bad way to be if you're optimising for politics.)There would have to be a hell of a selection effect for any group to not be made up of a majority of such people. How would you know the difference between someone who was actually motivated purely by harm and fairness and someone who merely claimed to be or wrongly believed they were? Bearing in mind the oppurtunity cost of examining everyone who claims to be utilitarian and the minimal or even negative payoff from identifying such a person as such do you think you'd be aware of such people if they did exist?

"And here you will find that, even in terms of a purely utilitarian metric, an accurate analysis of the social role of the norms based on these "irrational" foundations will give you very different answers from those given by the pseudo-rational ideologies that claim to reject these foundations."

I presume you mean that the answer will be that these things are necessarry for any society. If so, what makes you think the status quo is a necessity? Why would the way things tend to be, be the only way things can be? What role (which actually needs to be filled) do any of these things play that can't be filled some other way?

Also, as I don't want to wait for my post to drop off most recent 5 before I can post again I'll mention here that this, from the OP: "I just can't imagine a woman saying, "yeah, he's going to rape my daughter, but I really love him!"" does actually happen, but instead of saying "he's going to rape my daughter" they usually just don't think about or refuse to admit that bit, or simply don't believe it happened. Unless all the people claiming that happened to them are lying, which seems unlikely. Obviously it also happens inside marriages.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-08-13T10:00:42.936Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I just can't imagine a woman saying, "yeah, he's going to rape my daughter, but I really love him!"

You have a very limited imagination and limited experience in moving outside middle our upper class social circles or you are being dishonest. Go out and meet some young people in your nearest underclass neighbourhood. Or if that is too scary read up on the sociology papers on such communities.

Even outside of that, women find dark triad traits sexually attractive in men. Getting away with violence is also sexy. Now pause to consider in addition to thins things like Stockholm syndrome and do the math.

Also to add mere anecdotal evidence a good friend of mine in primary school was routinely beaten up by the trashy boyfriends his mother dragged home so I have very little patience for "oh noble mothers never make bad decisions for their kids in order to follow their romantic or sexual preferences!" sacredness signalling.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-08-13T15:48:21.153Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

The whole article is mindkilling, and this is one of the reasons I downvoted it.

I personally know at least two girls (now women) whose mothers didn't mind too much the risk of their daughters being raped by their boyfriends. To be precise, their reasoning wasn't exactly like "he's going to rape my daughter, but I really love him", but more like "I love him, so I am going to ignore all the evidence that he is trying to rape my daughter, including my daughter's complaints".

Meta: How likely is it that author's political orientation made it more difficult to believe in existence of this kind of female behavior?

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2012-08-13T12:38:31.623Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I once read an account of a person writing about the sexual abuse he (I think it was a he) had to undergo as a child, where his stepfather would routinely rape him if there was an opportunity for it. His mother was aware of this and considered it an annoying chore to try to ensure that the two wouldn't end up alone with each other, one that she would rather not have bothered with.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T16:38:21.088Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough.

Still, it would be nice to see some actual numbers from Brazil, which nobody seems to have.

comment by shminux · 2012-08-12T21:00:49.325Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

Haidt believes that there are at least six sources of moral values; the first five are harm/caring, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity/disgust.

I distrust any long list of plausible-sounding but arbitrary entries (7 habits of..., 8 simple rules...)

comment by Unnamed · 2012-08-14T04:12:42.804Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Haidt doesn't have a fixed number in mind. He started with Richard Shweder's list of three moral foundations which seem to have a firm grounding in psychology, evolutionary biology, and anthropology, and then went looking for more. At one point he even offered prize money to people who suggested a promising new foundation. The sixth foundation that he added, liberty/oppression, was based on the suggestion of a prize winner (the psychologist John Jost, who has his own theory of political psychology and has been one of Haidt's harsher critics).

comment by roystgnr · 2012-08-13T20:25:59.396Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

9 Peano axioms, 3 types of radioactive decay, 8 planets (are dwarf planets "arbitrary"?)...

I have an a priori distrust for social science theories, but only because of the heuristic, "there are far more ways to be incorrect than correct", not because "ways to be correct don't come in list form".

In particular, prepending the list cardinality with "at least" shows at least a bit of self-awareness.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-08-13T21:03:56.283Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

9 Peano axioms, 3 types of radioactive decay, 8 planets (are dwarf planets "arbitrary"?)...

Yes, you lost me at planets. I don't know which group of people it was that collected enough status to declare that Pluto is not a planet (or more precisely to alter the rules by which planets are defined) but the list is arbitrary on approximately the same level as the categories of moral values---based on something that does exists in the world but sliced into fuzzy categories based on convention or authority.

comment by roystgnr · 2012-08-14T05:39:17.227Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Stipulating agreement: aren't fuzzy categories better than no categories at all? Who was the first ape classifiable as homo erectus, and how distinguishable was he from his homo habilis parents?

comment by wedrifid · 2012-08-14T06:22:22.296Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Stipulating agreement: aren't fuzzy categories better than no categories at all? Who was the first ape classifiable as homo erectus, and how distinguishable was he from his homo habilis parents?

Oh, I agree with your conclusion---arbitrary categories are great. I'd go as far as to say indefensible (for us, at least).

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2012-08-13T17:49:48.236Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Spoken like a true physicist!

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2012-08-12T15:50:14.855Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

(1) Haidt's personal moral foundations actually include all five bases, so this is a tautology; of course someone who thinks loyalty is fundamental will think a society without loyalty is not decent. From the tenor of the article, this is at least psychologically plausible.

(2) The three non-universal values can be justified in terms of the common values. This is the interpretation that seems to be supported by some parts of the article, but it has its own issues.

(3) Haidt cannot tell the difference between (1) and (2). Most of the article makes this claim entirely plausible.

I only glanced at the article, but from the book, it's obvious that (2) is correct. Near the end, Haidt recounts that after he had developed moral foundations theory, he thought that it explained conservative morality. But he still thought that conservatives were the enemy, and that judging by liberal moral foundations (which he shared), they were in the wrong. However, he was eventually shocked to run into convincing conservative intellectuals who sought to show that conservative policies would turn out as the best ones, even if they were judged using liberal criteria.

He is also explicit about conservative policies still having lots of bad sides if taken to an extreme, for all the usual reasons liberals disagree with conservative policies.

Excerpts:

As a lifelong liberal, I had assumed that conservatism = orthodoxy = religion = faith = rejection of science. It followed, therefore, that as an atheist and a scientist, I was obligated to be a liberal. But Muller asserted that modern conservatism is really about creating the best possible society, the one that brings about the greatest happiness given local circumstances. Could it be? Was there a kind of conservatism that could compete against liberalism in the court of social science? Might conservatives have a better formula for how to create a healthy, happy society?

I kept reading. Muller went through a series of claims about human nature and institutions, which he said are the core beliefs of conservatism. Conservatives believe that people are inherently imperfect and are prone to act badly when all constraints and accountability are removed (yes, I thought; see Glaucon, Tetlock, and Ariely in chapter 4). Our reasoning is flawed and prone to overconfidence, so it’s dangerous to construct theories based on pure reason, unconstrained by intuition and historical experience (yes; see Hume in chapter 2 and Baron-Cohen on systemizing in chapter 6). Institutions emerge gradually as social facts, which we then respect and even sacralize, but if we strip these institutions of authority and treat them as arbitrary contrivances that exist only for our benefit, we render them less effective. We then expose ourselves to increased anomie and social disorder (yes; see Durkheim in chapters 8 and 11).

Based on my own research, I had no choice but to agree with these conservative claims. As I continued to read the writings of conservative intellectuals, from Edmund Burke in the eighteenth century through Friedrich Hayek and Thomas Sowell in the twentieth, I began to see that they had attained a crucial insight into the sociology of morality that I had never encountered before. They understood the importance of what I’ll call moral capital. (Please note that I am praising conservative intellectuals, not the Republican Party.) [...]

Everyone loves social capital. Whether you’re left, right, or center, who could fail to see the value of being able to trust and rely upon others? But now let’s broaden our focus beyond firms trying to produce goods and let’s think about a school, a commune, a corporation, or even a whole nation that wants to improve moral behavior. Let’s set aside problems of moral diversity and just specify the goal as increasing the “output” of prosocial behaviors and decreasing the “output” of antisocial behaviors, however the group defines those terms. To achieve almost any moral vision, you’d probably want high levels of social capital. (It’s hard to imagine how anomie and distrust could be beneficial.) But will linking people together into healthy, trusting relationships be enough to improve the ethical profile of the group? [...]

If you believe that people are inherently good, and that they flourish when constraints and divisions are removed, then yes, that may be sufficient. But conservatives generally take a very different view of human nature. They believe that people need external structures or constraints in order to behave well, cooperate, and thrive. These external constraints include laws, institutions, customs, traditions, nations, and religions. People who hold this “constrained”41 view are therefore very concerned about the health and integrity of these “outside-the-mind” coordination devices. Without them, they believe, people will begin to cheat and behave selfishly. Without them, social capital will rapidly decay. [...]

Looking at a bunch of outside-the-mind factors and at how well they mesh with inside-the-mind moral psychology brings us right back to the definition of moral systems that I gave in the last chapter. In fact, we can define moral capital as the resources that sustain a moral community.42 More specifically, moral capital refers to

the degree to which a community possesses interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, and technologies that mesh well with evolved psychological mechanisms and thereby enable the community to suppress or regulate selfishness and make cooperation possible. [...]

In the last chapter, I said that belief in gods and costly religious rituals turned out to be crucial ingredients of success. But let’s put religion aside and look at other kinds of outside-the-mind stuff. Let’s assume that each commune started off with a clear list of values and virtues that it printed on posters and displayed throughout the commune. A commune that valued self-expression over conformity and that prized the virtue of tolerance over the virtue of loyalty might be more attractive to outsiders, and this could indeed be an advantage in recruiting new members, but it would have lower moral capital than a commune that valued conformity and loyalty. The stricter commune would be better able to suppress or regulate selfishness, and would therefore be more likely to endure. [...]

Let me state clearly that moral capital is not always an unalloyed good. Moral capital leads automatically to the suppression of free riders, but it does not lead automatically to other forms of fairness such as equality of opportunity. And while high moral capital helps a community to function efficiently, the community can use that efficiency to inflict harm on other communities. High moral capital can be obtained within a cult or a fascist nation, as long as most people truly accept the prevailing moral matrix.

Nonetheless, if you are trying to change an organization or a society and you do not consider the effects of your changes on moral capital, you’re asking for trouble. This, I believe, is the fundamental blind spot of the left. It explains why liberal reforms so often backfire,43 and why communist revolutions usually end up in despotism. It is the reason I believe that liberalism—which has done so much to bring about freedom and equal opportunity—is not sufficient as a governing philosophy. It tends to overreach, change too many things too quickly, and reduce the stock of moral capital inadvertently. Conversely, while conservatives do a better job of preserving moral capital, they often fail to notice certain classes of victims, fail to limit the predations of certain powerful interests, and fail to see the need to change or update institutions as times change.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-08-12T19:24:04.341Z · score: 10 (18 votes) · LW · GW

And, of course, violence against women is endemic. Haidt reports that he "dined with men whose wives silently served us and then retreated to the kitchen." What does he suppose would have happened if one day one of those women refused to serve, or even, after serving, sat down at the table to join the discussion?

What would happen in a western country if someone say refused to pay their taxes? My point is that the implicit threat of violence underlies all societies so, yes, you can make any society look bad by selectively pointing this out.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-12T20:25:58.301Z · score: 16 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Or to take an even more poignant example, what will happen if you refuse to be humble and obedient when you get pulled over by a cop? Historically, in many places and times, this example would have had similarly great emotional power as those employed by the author of the original post.

(In fact, I find it fascinating that present-day Americans would see it as a creepy totalitarian idea if you proposed that cops should be authorized to stop and detain pedestrians for random paper checks, even though the same thing is considered a normal and unremarkable fact of life for drivers. This example demonstrates especially clearly how random and incoherent human intuitions are when it comes to feelings of outrage at a perceived lack of freedom or equality.)

comment by OphilaDros · 2012-08-13T10:47:12.818Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

The number of instances that a typical American will need to be 'humble and obedient' - such as while getting pulled over by a cop, are possibly far fewer than the number of instances a woman in a traditional society such as the one described by Haidt is required to do so.

Possibly by an order of magnitude.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2012-08-13T17:55:13.552Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

AN order of magnitude? Several. I get pulled over every few years...

comment by Lightwave · 2012-08-13T09:40:21.401Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Isn't randomly stopping vehicles a result of some cost-benefit analysis, e.g. if cops didn't stop drivers, more people would drive without a driver's license, while drunk, with a faulty vehicle, etc? Given that cars are fairly dangerous things (cause of many deaths), it makes sense to have stricter control than of pedestrians.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-13T12:44:18.194Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

(In fact, I find it fascinating that present-day Americans would see it as a creepy totalitarian idea if you proposed that cops should be authorized to stop and detain pedestrians for random paper checks, even though the same thing is considered a normal and unremarkable fact of life for drivers. This example demonstrates especially clearly how random and incoherent human intuitions are when it comes to feelings of outrage at a perceived lack of freedom or equality.)

Well... driving a car is much more dangerous (especially for others) than walking, so requiring a licence to do the former but no special requisite to do the latter doesn't seem that arbitrary to me.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T16:44:51.504Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In the US, traffic stops are quite often not at all about driving, but about drugs. See, for instance, Jay Z's "99 Problems"

comment by Prismattic · 2012-08-13T03:58:48.014Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think you are seriously underestimating how negative US sentiment toward random vehicle stops is. This is quite distinct from being stopped for a traffic violation.

comment by Vladimir_M · 2012-08-13T05:07:16.869Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, yes, but that's basically a rationalization for the glaring inconsistency, which in fact exists as a sheer historical accident. Americans would be bothered by explicitly random traffic stops. But in reality, cops have the de facto authority to pull over whomever they want, and you have no right to defy them even if they decide to do it purely on a whim.

Note that it's irrelevant for my point that you can get tickets and charges suppressed later if you somehow manage to convince the judge that you were pulled over without reasonable suspicion. I'm focusing purely on the interaction between you and the cop on the spot.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-12T21:10:42.663Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The issue I have in this case is not specifically the threat of violence -- it's the unequal treatment of women. Of course, women are more vulnerable to violence as well, so the two are not entirely disconnected.

Also, of course, it's not really possible (yet?) to have a functioning society in which people don't pay their taxes. It is perfectly possible to have a functioning society in which women are more than mere servants.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-08-12T22:16:25.332Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The issue I have in this case is not specifically the threat of violence -- it's the unequal treatment of women

Taxes aren't equal either for example it seems that many politically connected people pay less taxes despite having a higher income then me.

Also, we're you claiming in another thread that an analogous complaint about Islam was the fundamental attribution error?

comment by novalis · 2012-08-12T22:32:47.230Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Taxes aren't equal either for example it seems that many politically connected people pay less taxes despite having a higher income then me.

That certainly sounds like a problem to me!

Also, we're you claiming in another thread that an analogous complaint about Islam was the fundamental attribution error?

Can you make this clearer? I have no idea what comparison you are drawing.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-08-12T21:04:16.249Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What would happen in a western country if someone say refused to pay their taxes?

If the western country is Italy, most likely nothing. (There are regions where the majority of the population evade the television licence, for example.) :-(

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-08-13T01:53:53.682Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's good for modeling moral attitudes.

From what I've seen, Haidt has found a model of moral behavior with statistical validity - that people are clustered in state space for the moral modalities they find most compelling, and that these cluster correlate with observed political correlations.

To my mind, he's starting scientific analysis of morality as it actually exists, and identified particular pattern matching algorithms that form some of the components of morality.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-13T16:42:44.080Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't want to get into the statistical validity bit in the article, but I am somewhat skeptical of this. Haidt started with a theory of the sorts of moral judgments people make, and developed questions to isolate the foundations he was looking for.

The correct way to do this sort of research would be to ask a vast range of questions and see what clusters emerge, and then attempt to characterize or pin down those clusters. That would have avoided missing the liberty foundation, and might have given a broader version of the sacredness framework which includes things that liberals consider sacred.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-08-13T23:51:39.160Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's easy to ask a vast range of questions - a lot harder to get them all answered. Data isn't free. He targeted his data acquisition to modalities he had some evidence for. I haven't followed his work in detail, but I'd guess that he had other trial modalities that didn't pan out.

Anyone know anything about other candidate modalities he looked at?

I didn't mean to imply that he has totally characterized all the pattern matching involved in morality, and I doubt he has claimed that either. When confronted with new evidence - likely some squawking from libertarians - he updated his model. I'd expect him to do the same if someone came up with evidence for another moral modality.

He's started the reductionist enterprise on morality as it exists. It's about time someone did.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-14T01:04:14.060Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The impression I get from reading his research is that he came at it from an anthropological background (his advisor, IIRC, was an anthropologist).

My worry is that he is making the same error that early personality tests (Myers-Briggs, for instance) made; yes, they tested something, but not necessarily what they thought they were testing. Statistical tools are more powerful now, but I'm not sure they protect against this sort of error. As others have pointed out, liberals do have a strong sense of the sacred (in the environmental, and in food in particular); Haidt's test doesn't measure this and doesn't have any way of detecting that this is missing.

comment by OphilaDros · 2012-08-13T10:59:12.685Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Apparently in some parts of India, public toilets charge women (who can ill afford it) but not men.

Heh, was just about to post that I as an Indian woman who has done a fair bit of travelling around the country have NEVER ever seen this, but decided to google just in case. And found a New York Times article agreeing with the claim. Upper class privilege indeed. :)

In any case this doesn't look like an institutional policy, just petty corruption against those who are the least powerless to stop it. Which is sort of your point.

comment by Unnamed · 2012-08-13T00:43:45.723Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Moral foundations theory is a descriptive theory about human psychology, backed by research, which has tried to identify some of the main forms of thinking which underlie people's moral beliefs. People evolved with tendencies to think about moral topics in certain ways, including not just in their explicit reasoning but in their emotions and implicit theories. For instance, people often apply a purity/contamination model to social & moral subject matter, which is facilitated by the emotion of disgust. Different cultures build different sets of moral views out of these building blocks. For example, different cultures have different views about what must be kept pure (and from what potential contaminants, and how, and whether/how it can be re-purified, etc.). Most cultures make use of all of the moral foundations, but WEIRD cultures (including American liberals and libertarians) draw primarily from a limited set of these foundations. That's the descriptive side, his moral/political psychology.

The prescriptive side: Once you understand the descriptive side, it seems like that will have some implications for moral/political philosophy. How humans think about morality and social/political issues is probably relevant to how to create a thriving society of humans. In Haidt's case, he started as a fairly standard American liberal and found that his psychology research led him to become more receptive to some conservative/traditionalist arguments, and to identify some things which he believes that traditionalist societies have gotten right (and which liberals tend to get wrong). He thinks that many liberals have the blind spots that he used to have, and that learning moral foundations theory would help them to reach similar insights about how to build a thriving society.

Haidt makes some efforts to keep these two sides separate, and generally does a better job of it in his own writings than he does in other media. I recommend trying to focus on the descriptive side first.

comment by Unnamed · 2012-08-15T03:29:03.450Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

More from Haidt & Graham (2009) on how two-foundation people appeared:

Wealth, mobility, technology, education, and cultural diversity – all of these factors weaken the historical interdependence of people within a longstanding community, and free individuals to construct lives for themselves guided by their own preferences. As that happens, the relative importance of the five foundations shifts.
Moral foundations theory says that people in all cultures are born with the capacity to cultivate virtues based on all five foundations. Furthermore, people in all cultures do cultivate virtues based on the first two foundations: Harm/care and Fairness/reciprocity (See Brown, 1991, and Hauser, 2006, on moral universals) . But as a society becomes more modern and more individualistic, the first two foundations become ever more important in daily life and in moral and political philosophy, while the last three become less important.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-08-12T19:32:38.433Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I should add that there is no citation on this data; it also doesn't seem to appear in the book (at least, not that I could find via Google Books). A quick glance through Google does not reveal a plausible source for this. So where did he get it from? Probably not via direct observation (how would he have observed these rapes?). He must have heard it from Brazilians. Well, if that's true, then these Brazilian women must know it.

Not necessarily. Or rather they might believe that, yes, some men are dangerous but my current boyfriend is an exception. Humans are remarkably good at this kind of self-deception.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-08-13T10:45:49.450Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Or rather they might believe that, yes, some men are dangerous but my current boyfriend is an exception.

We have evidence precisely this is happening.

Ovulating women perceive that sexy cads would be good fathers to their own children but not to the children of other women.

Strongly recommend people follow the link to read K's comments on it as well as the original paper.

comment by curtd59 · 2015-08-25T09:16:44.831Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've written quite a bit about Haidt in my work on Propertarianism. Perhaps I can move the discussion out of the psychological and often pseudoscientific (preferential experience) and into the legal and often scientific (necessary cooperation)

1) Haidt's Moral foundations are reducible to descriptions of those instincts necessary for the preservation of the disproportionately high rewards of cooperation through the various prohibitions on 'cheating' which disincentives and undermines that cooperation. He describes his work by referencing evolutionary theory. He does not take cooperation further into economics (productivity). Nor does he discuss the evolution of the family structure and property rights in parallel to our evolution of production.

2) The different weights of our biases reflect differences in reproductive strategy between the male and the female: the males operate as a collection of brothers defending a reproductive resource, and they attempt to ensure the strength of the tribe as a vehicle for their genes and are conscious of MERIT (costs/return). Females and seek to bear children at will and place the cost of their upkeep upon the tribe, and then seek to ensure the success of their offspring in competition with those of other females regardless of the child's MERITS since her genes must persist. In large groups this difference in reproductive strategy is adopted by different classes as well as genders. (See Haidt's Bibliography)

3) These moral biases also express themselves as biases in perception, cognition, knowledge, advocacy and labor, where progressives (feminine) favor consumption in the short term, libertarians (neutral) favor production in the medium term, and conservatives (masculine) favor accumulation of all forms of capital (especially genetic and normative) in the long term. Each of us specializes in a temporal division of perception, cognition, knowledge, advocacy, and labor: progressive short consumption regardless of merit, medium production, and long term defense. And we tend to be be morally blind to the other members of the division of perception.

See: http://www.propertarianism.com/2014/04/27/we-are-morally-blind-limited-in-our-perceptions-and-memory-and-severely-in-our-reason-the-last-thing-we-should-do-is-construct-large-risk-prone-intentionally-managed-states/

4) Just as prices function as an information system for the production of goods and services, voluntary cooperation functions as an information system across the reproductive division of labor. Such that cooperation between each of the specializations provides the optimum 'game' outcome for all even if none is able to achieve it's desired state of perfection. This follows monogamous reproduction which is the best for all even if not the best for some.

5) As such, the moral foundations are reducible to statements of property rights necessary for the construction of a state of natural law, and provide us with the scientific (necessary and parsimonious) basis for law: the preservation of cooperation.

SEE: http://www.propertarianism.com/2014/09/28/moral-foundations-as-property-rights/

I have become very skeptical of any ethical, moral, economic, and political philosophy that is not expressed as decidable law strictly constructed from the first principle of cooperation: non-parasitism. Because that use of law was the anglo-law, natural-law, then jeffersonian model, and avoiding that constraint, is how the postmodernists (neo-puritans), neocons, socialists and libertines (cosmopolitan libertarians) managed to use empty verbalisms and justificationary rationalism to confuse the academic and popular discourse.

Curt Doolittle The Propertarian Institute Kiev, Ukraine

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2012-08-16T02:16:01.623Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I should add that there is no citation on this data; it also doesn't seem to appear in the book (at least, not that I could find via Google Books). A quick glance through Google does not reveal a plausible source for this. So where did he get it from? Probably not via direct observation (how would he have observed these rapes?). He must have heard it from Brazilians. Well, if that's true, then these Brazilian women must know it. And since nobody wants their daughter to get raped, this must mean that they have a very good reason for inviting these men in -- maybe the alternative is starvation. Recall that we're talking about "street children" here. I just can't imagine a woman saying, "yeah, he's going to rape my daughter, but I really love him!" But I think it's actually more likely that this is just the sort of rumor that the Catholic Church would want to spread, to combat unmarried cohabitation. It gets its memetic strength from blame-shifting/just-worldism: "If you didn't want your daughter to get raped, why did you shack (literally?) up with this guy?"

I couldn't find it either, but it is plausible assuming rape is similar to homicide in this respect. For instance,

Examining a variety of different data sets of this kind, Daly and Wilson (2008) found that the risk of a preschool-aged child being killed ranged from forty to one hundred times higher for stepchildren than for children living with two genetic parents.

Buss, David. Evolutionary psychology : the new science of the mind. Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon, 2012.

comment by novalis · 2012-08-18T04:41:23.380Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is discussed in Blaffer as well; the reason that Blaffer gives is that younger children compete with the boyfriend for attention. She notes that only very young children have an instinctive response to strange males (bearded males especially). If that were Haidt's claim, I would say, yeah, there's definitely evidence for it.

Note also that the alternatives to a boyfriend are often not two genetic parents, but one.