Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Personal Limitations

Engineerlite and I discussed two related phenomena this morning on our walk. When we do not easily understand or apprehend a book or parts of a book, we quickly abandon those and consider that they "must not be very important." Or not my sort of thing, not his best work, only for his die-hard fans, or such like.  I took as an example Till We Have Faces, which Lewis considered his best book, as did Tolkien, and as have many Lewis scholars.  I tried three times to get going on it and couldn't get interested.  I think I used excuses much like the above.  I finally read it as a follow-along with a podcast discussing it chapter by chapter and I got it.  It is his best work. 

This was similar to what happens to me reading poetry.  I don't much like poetry.  I tend not to get it. Yet I have found if I get just a little boost up from someone who actually knows something I can get over the wall to the other side and start enjoying.

I also relate this to when I remember events that others do not, which happens often.  When I am with friends who remember about the same amount of past events, there is no accusation if we happen to remember different things about summer studies, or working with particular doctors, or sermons that a late pastor preached. But when I remember a great deal more, there is sometimes resentment. Why do you still care about that?  I dunno.  I remember it. It's in the file cabinet, cross referenced with other stuff.

At this point Tom (engineerlite's actual name) related this to the teachings of Jesus.  If people don't seem to get it, they quickly discard it as unimportant. Or if they take in some of it, they regard those elements that they understand as the Key Elements, that everyone should know, while the other parts are...not so important. Not what I'm interested in. More for the fanatical types. I thought that was an excellent insight to make that transfer to faith understanding.

We are filled to the level of container we bring. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you."


In our discussions of Theory of Mind and Reciprocity I have tried to put the adult issues in everyday language, that it involves putting oneself in another's shoes, seeing from another perspective, whether automatically or when cued. Today I ran across a Confucian saying that I think apt.  "Imagine my heart were yours."

DEI in Academia

I finally got around to listening to Razib interview Steve Hsu, who is also on my sidebar.  IQ, Artificial Intelligence, and Academia (transcript sort of available.) I love it when that happens.  Hsu is a genetic researcher via BGI and knows a great deal about IQ and genetics. (He calls IQ a "colloquial term," which I think is a step forward. I'm going to start using that disclaimer in favor of "general intelligence factor.") He was a physics professor at Oregon, then took a job at Michigan State as Dean of Research.  He was asked to resign from that position and did, for reasons some of you may have followed and are included in the podcast. He is part both genetic and AI startups and is knowledgeable about what China is doing in both sectors and in fact, in all tech sectors.

For those of you who like real-life examples about DEI resulting in 50th-best candidates (on average) being hired in math or tenure granted to professors of color in the university, I recommend this.  He has sat at those tables, has pointed out the illegality of some practices, and vetoed or denied funding to research, hiring, or promotions that are not the best on the table.  I don't follow it much.  I tend to write academia off as a general lost cause anyway, and something I will never have much influence over. My impression is that the more focus has to be put on real victories over discrimination fifty or one hundred years ago, the more it is an admission that we are not supposed to be looking at what is happening in the present.  Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. 

But Hsu points out that in STEM, such things contribute to the US and the West in general falling behind China in important tech sectors. It is real and happening now, and it is an excellent point.

But the part that fascinated me is how Hsu, an Obama-voting liberal who has depended on Republicans in the legislature to make sure the laws are followed and the sentiments reinforced publicly, has found that they don't follow through.  Do we complain that liberals do not real diversity, only the appearance of it?  Well conservatives do not care about real victory over DEI, only the appearance of it. People and whole universities are reported and nothing is done.

Some quotes

The National Institutes of Health now blocks access to an important database if it thinks the scientist's research may enter into forbidden territory...a lot of people are griping about this and angry, but they don't know what to do.  They don't want to put a target on their back.

...they would say the following: "Oh I support you, Steve. But you know, my main goal is to push forward our understanding of dark energy in the universe.  And I can't jeopardise my big NSF grant by supporting you publicly. But I do support you." And OK, that person at least has an articulated justification for the cowardly behavior.  Fine, I respect that. Maybe I would not have been a hero in the Holocaust. But they're just go with the flow conformists who don't have an original thought in their head.

I have never had a wokester academic come at me on the facts. It's never happened.  It's never happened. They say, like* "I didn't like what you wrote in the blog post," I'm like* "Let's talk about it." They didn't. "You think this paper published by these researchers at Harvard is wrong? Tell me why you think it's wrong."
It is hard to go against the flow. I know people went to very evangelical or conservative Catholic undergrad programs, but have now gone native because the pressure starts early. For those who treasure social status, you start noticing what beliefs are the cool ones and which are the shunned ones all the way back to junior high.  And why not? People like me - or Republican legislators - can come make a big show about "You should do this. You should do that." Yet they have their life, often also in academia, and children in the local schools in a university dominant district that they have to live in every day, not just when we want to trot them out as examples. Why should they? We don't back them up. "Sure go on into the Valley of Death.  I'll be right behind you. Oh wait, I'll be delayed a couple of minutes.  Forgot my phone."

If you are absolutely certain you would not do that to them, I would ask you to cite evidence that you have actually done it. Otherwise it might be just wishful thinking on your part.

* Reminder that this "like" construction means "accurate but not exact quote."

Monday, July 15, 2024

Space Oddity

We think of this song as an eerie, effect-suffused studio piece, not a harmony piece.  But it is an illustration of something I have pointed out several times, that harmony was fairly automatic in pop music of that era. Even solo artists of the 50s, the Frank Sinatras, The Tony Bennetts, The Doris Days all had duets and harmony pieces as well. By the 60s and 70s it was even more pronounced.

I loved harmonising to this singing along in the 70s and still do.

The Moral Circle

Aporia likes to pass on older articles they think important. Here is one from 2019 that claims that liberals and conservatives differ greatly in who they extend concern to. Ideological differences in the expanse of the moral circle

The present research suggests they reflect core psychological differences such that liberals express compassion toward less structured and more encompassing entities (i.e., universalism), whereas conservatives express compassion toward more well-defined and less encompassing entities (i.e., parochialism). Here we report seven studies illustrating universalist versus parochial differences in compassion. Studies 1a-1c show that liberals, relative to conservatives, express greater moral concern toward friends relative to family, and the world relative to the nation.

The further studies show a preference of liberals to expand their circles of concern to animals, all living creatures, and the universe as a whole. 

In 2006, then Democratic Senator Barack Obama bemoaned the country’s “empathy deficit,” telling college graduates, “I hope you choose to broaden, and not contract, your ambit of concern.” In 2012, Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney said, “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”

Those quotes capture the distinction.

Heatmaps indicating highest moral allocation by ideology, Study 3a. Source data are provided as a Source Data file. Note. The highest value on the heatmap scale is 20 units for liberals, and 12 units for conservatives. Moral circle rings, from inner to outer, are described as follows: (1) all of your immediate family, (2) all of your extended family, (3) all of your closest friends, (4) all of your friends (including distant ones), (5) all of your acquaintances, (6) all people you have ever met, (7) all people in your country, (8) all people on your continent, (9) all people on all continents, (10) all mammals, (11) all amphibians, reptiles, mammals, fish, and birds, (12) all animals on earth including paramecia and amoebae, (13) all animals in the universe, including alien lifeforms, (14) all living things in the universe including plants and trees, (15) all natural things in the universe including inert entities such as rocks, (16) all things in existence

I will tell you that this looks so dramatic, so perfect that it can't be quite true. We can't be that different. Can we? It is the stereotype, certainly, but this would be a profound difference. I would have found a milder result more plausible.  But...there it is, and I am not seeing much problem with the study.  It may be that the definitions of conservative and liberal are so tight in the study, specifically to try and identify an effect, that it exaggerates what we might see between neighbors who have different yard signs.

I will tell you where my sympathies lie, if you have not already guessed. The people near at hand are the ones God has given to us and are primary.  We should try to expand out from that circle, yes. But Steve Sailer once pointed out that there is a belief among liberals that there is some moral superiority in skipping over circles in order to love The Whole World. I don't fault loving the whole world as a goal - "for God so loved the world" - I just think once you have skipped a circle you have entered the world of illusion, where kindness becomes easier because it costs little. If you think you are skipping many circles, then I think you are just showing off.

Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient's soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary. There is no good at all in inflaming his hatred of Germans if, at the same time, a pernicious habit of charity is growing up between him and his mother, his employer, and the man he meets in the train.  Uncle Screwtape to his nephew and advisee Wormwood in The Screwtape Letters, Chapter VI.  CS Lewis 1942

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Facebook and Other Comments

It is getting fevered out there, and people seem to want to get their licks in early. 

I don't see the hurry, myself. 

I suspect it is not necessarily the desire to manipulate others - though I am sure that is a partial motive for many - but the drive for narrative.  We don't like to have unexplained things out there, so we start floating what looks like the most probable explanation.  If you think of us as a tribe sitting around a fire in the evening trying to understand how some of our cattle were taken from us by surprise, you can see that the free-for-all of "I think..." and "Maybe we..." might be a beneficial automatic strategy and be perpetuated in the genes.  It has its downsides, but perhaps is better than everyone saying "I dunno. Let's talk about it in a coupla days."

France Is Bacon

I just heard this mondegreen for the first time today.  Love it.

"Knowledge is Power.  France is bacon."

Saturday, July 13, 2024

James K Hodgkinson

Early in Trump's presidency, there was an attempted assassination of numerous Republican congressmen on a baseball field in NoVa. The shooter was a Bernie Sanders campaign worker, James, K Hodgkinson. 

We forget. Austin Bay reminds us.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Mato Grosso de Sul, Brazil

So Brian Winter tells us that Mato Grosso de Sul in West-Central Brazil looks a lot like Texas, reminding him of the area around Dallas he grew up in. He finds it forward-looking rather than nostalgic like Argentina.

They have Sertanejo music. Lots of jeans, hats, belt buckles.

The churrasco there is in actual ranch country.

It is an inexpenisve place to stay and eat. I don't know if it is expensive to get there, about 600-900 miles from Rio, Brasilia, Sao Paulo. That could be an issue.

No Buc-ees yet. But it looks like a match to me.


No matter how many times you mark them as spam or unsubscribe, the Raelians claw their way back into your email.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Forced Mental Health Treatment - Improved

Thanks to Korora Cranberry for the link.

Unsurprisingly, the best Homeless Mentally Ill article I have seen to date is by Scott Alexander.  Details That You Should Include In Your Article About How We Should Do Something About the Homeless Mentally Ill

3. The patient gets committed to the hospital. The hospital makes an appointment with a judge to legally evaluate the commitment order. But realistically the appointment is 4-14 days out (depending on the state), and by then the patient may well be gone anyway, in which case the hearing can be cancelled. If it does go to trial, the judge will always defer to the psychiatrists, because they’re experts trying to do a tough and socially important job, and the defendant is represented by an overworked public defender who has devoted 0.01 minutes of thought to this case. This is part of why everyone feels comfortable making commitment decisions on vibes. (AVI note: This is one of the parts I am most familiar with.)

In practice, the government tries some combination of these things, each of which works a little. Sometimes they fiddle with the law around inpatient commitment around the edges. Sometimes they give people free houses. Sometimes they threaten them with Involuntary Outpatient Commitment orders. Sometimes they throw them in prison. Most of these things work a little. Some of them could work better with more funding.

From the outside, all problems look simple.

Monday, July 08, 2024


I am sorry to subject you to a short.  I am embarrassed that I watch shorts - this one or any one.

But I think I would like this guy. A great addition to pub night, I think.

A reminder that pub night is Thursdays if you are in southern NH. 

Good White Men

Freddie deBoer again.  Maybe I should subscribe and put him on my sidebar. The Good White Man Roster. I think I recognised the name of Will Wilkinson from somewhere in the past. I don't know the others, but I am trusting Freddie that they have some prominence.

Including this guy. I genuinely thought this was a parody when I saw it. "White supremacy gaining ground among black-passing individuals within the Mexican and Latino community is particularly troubling."  I'll bet.