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Why renaming Git’s master branch is a terrible idea

Back in May (in the inauspicious year of 2020) a thread in the Git mailing list with the tile of “rename offensive terminology (master)” was started, it lasted for more than a month, and after hundreds of replies, no clear ground was gained. The project took the path of least resistance (as you do), and the final patch to do the actual rename was sent today (November).

First things first. I’ve been a user of Git since 2005 (before 1.0), and a contributor since 2009, but I stopped being active, and only recently started to follow the mailing list again, which is why I missed the big discussion, but just today read the whole enchilada, and now I’m up-to-date.

The discussion revolved around five subjects:

  1. Adding a new configuration (init.defaultbranch)
  2. Should the name of the master branch be changed?
  3. Best alternative name for the master branch
  4. Culture war
  5. The impact to users

I already sent my objection, and my rationale as to why I think the most important point–the impact to users–was not discussed enough, and in fact barely touched.

In my opinion the whole discussion was a mess of smoke screen after smoke screen and it never touched the only really important point: users. I’m going to tackle each subject separately, leaving the most important one at the end, but first I would like to address the actual context and some of the most obvious fallacies people left at the table.

The context

It’s not a coincidence that nobody found the term problematic for 15 years, and suddenly in the height of wokeness–2020 (the year of George Floyd, BLM/ANTIFA uprising, and so on)–it magically becomes an issue. This is a solution looking for a problem, not an actual problem, and it appeared precisely at the same time the Masters Tournament received attention for its name. The Masters being more renowned than Git certainly got more attention from the press, and plenty of articles have been written (No, the masters does not need renaming, Masters Name Offensive? Who Says That?, Will Masters Be Renamed Due to BLM Movement? Odds Favor “No” at -2500, Calls for The Masters to change its name over ‘slave’ connotations at Augusta) explaining why it makes no sense to link the word “masters” to slavery in 2020 in this context (even though the tournament’s history does have some uncomfortable relationship with racism). Few are betting on The Masters actually changing its name.

For more woke debates, take a look at the 2 + 2 = 5 debate (also in 2020).

The obvious fallacies

The most obvious fallacy is “others are doing it”. Does it have to be said? Just because all your friends are jumping off a cliff doesn’t mean you should too. Yes, other projects are doing it, that doesn’t mean they don’t have bad reasons for it. This is the bandwagon fallacy (argumentum ad populum).

The second one comes straight out of the title “offensive terminology”. This is a rhetorical technique called loaded language; “what kind of person has to deny beating his wife?”, or “why do you object to the USA bringing democracy to Iraq?”. Before the debate even begins you have already poisoned the well (another fallacy), and now it’s an uphill battle for your opponents (if they don’t notice what you are doing). It’s trying to smuggle a premise in the argument without anyone noticing.

Most people in the thread started arguing why it’s not offensive, while the onus was on the other side to prove that it was offensive. They had the burden of proof, and they inconspicuously shifted it.

If somebody starts a debate accusing you of racism, you already lost, especially if you try to defend yourself.

Sorry progressives, the word “master” is not “offensive terminology”. That’s what you have to prove. “What kind of project defends offensive terminology?” Is not an argument.

Adding a new configuration

This one is easy. There was no valid reason not to add a new configuration. In fact, people already had configurations that changed the default branch. Choice is good, this configuration was about making it easier to do what people were already doing.

The curious thing is that the only places in the thread where the configuration was brought up was as a diversion tactic called motte and bailey.

What they started with was a change of the default branch, a proposition that was hard to defend (bailey), and when opponents put enough pressure they retreated to the most defensible one (motte): “why are you against a configuration?”

No, nobody was against adding a new configuration, what people were against was changing the default configuration.

Should the name of the master branch be changed?

This was the crux of the matter, so it makes sense that this is where most of the time debating was spent. Except it wasn’t.

People immediately jumped to the next point, which is what is a good name for the default branch, but first it should be determined that changing the default is something desirable, which was never established.

You don’t just start discussing with your partner what color of apartment to choose. First, your girlfriend (or whatever) has to agree to live together!

Virtually any decision has to be weighted in with pros and cons, and they never considered the cons, nor established any real pro.

Pro

If the word “master” is indeed offensive, then it would be something positive to change it. But this was never established to be the case, it was just assumed so. Some arguments were indeed presented, but they were never truly discussed.

The argument was that in the past (when slavery was a thing), masters were a bad thing, because they owned slaves, and the word still has that bad connotation.

That’s it. This is barely an argument.

Not only is very tenuously relevant in the present moment, but it’s not actually necessarily true. Slavery was an institution, and masters simply played a role, they were not inherently good or bad. Just because George Washington was a slave owner, that doesn’t mean he was a monster, nor does it mean the word “master” had any negative connotation back then. It is an assumption we are making in the present, which, even if true; it’s still an assumption.

This is called presentism. It’s really hard to us to imagine the past because we didn’t live it. When we judge it we usually judge it wrong because we have a modern bias. How good or bad masters were really viewed by their subjects is a matter for debate, but not in a software project.

Note: A lot of people misunderstood this point. To make it crystal clear: slavery was bad. The meaning of the word “master” back then is a different issue.

Supposing that “master” was really a bad word in times of slavery (something that hasn’t been established), with no other meaning (which we know it isn’t true) this has no bearing in the modern world.

Prescriptivism

A misunderstanding many people have of language, is the difference between prescriptive and descriptive language. In prescriptivism words are dictated (how they ought to be used). In descriptivism words are simply described (how they are actually used). Dictionaries can be found on both camps, but they are mainly on the descriptive side (especially the good ones).

This misunderstanding is the reason why many people think (wrongly) that the word “literally” should not mean “virtually” (even though many people use it this way today). This is prescriptiveness, and it doesn’t work. Words change meaning. For example, the word “cute” meant “sharp” in the past, but it slowly changed meaning, much to the dismay of prescriptivists. It does not matter how much prescriptives kick and scream; the masses are the ones that dictate the meaning of words.

So it does not matter what you–or anyone–thinks, today the word “literally” means “virtually”. Good dictionaries simply describe the current use, they don’t fight it (i.e. prescribe against it).

You can choose how you use words (if you think literally should not mean virtually, you are free to not use it that way). But you cannot choose how others use language (others decide how they use it). In other words; you cannot prescribe language, it doesn’t matter how hard you try; you can’t fight everyone.

Language evolves on its own, and like democracy; it’s dictated by the masses.

So, what do the masses say about the word “master”? According to my favorite dictionary (Merriam-Webster):

  1. A male teacher
  2. A person holding an academic degree higher than a bachelor’s but
    lower than a doctor’s
  3. The degree itself (of above)
  4. A revered religious leader
  5. A worker or artisan qualified to teach apprentices
  6. An artist, performer, or player of consummate skill
  7. A great figure of the past whose work serves as a model or ideal
  8. One having authority over another
  9. One that conquers or masters
  10. One having control
  11. An owner especially of a slave or animal
  12. The employer especially of a servant
  13. A presiding officer in an institution or society
  14. Any of several officers of court appointed to assist a judge
  15. A master mechanism or device
  16. An original from which copies can be made

These are not all the meanings, just the noun meanings I found relevant to today, and the world in general.

Yes, there is one meaning which has a negative connotation, but so does the word “shit”, and being Mexican, I don’t get offended when somebody says “Mexico is the shit”.

So no, there’s nothing inherently bad about the word “master” in the present. Like all words; it depends on the context.

By following this rationale the word “get” can be offensive too; one of the definitions is “to leave immediately”. If you shout “get!” to a subordinate, that might be considered offensive (and with good reason)–especially if this person is a discriminated minority. Does that mean we should ban the word “get” completely? No, that would be absurd.

Also, there’s another close word that can be considered offensive: git.

Prescriptives would not care how the word is actually used today, all they care about is to dictate how the word should be used (in their opinion).

But as we saw above; that’s not how language works.

People will decide how they want to use the word “master”. And thanks to the new configuration “init.defaultbranch”, they can decide how not to use that word.

If and when the masses of Git users decide (democratically) to shift away from the word “master”, that’s when the Git project should consider changing the default, not before, and certainly not in a prescriptive way.

Moreover, today the term is used in a variety of contexts that are unlikely to change any time soon (regardless of how much prescriptives complain):

  1. An important room (master bedroom)
  2. An important key (master key)
  3. Recording (master record)
  4. An expert in a skill (a chess master)
  5. The process of becoming an expert (mastering German)
  6. An academic degree (Master of Economics)
  7. A largely useless thing (Master of Business Administration [MBA])
  8. Golf tournaments (Masters Tournament [The Masters])
  9. Famous classes by famous experts (MasterClass Online Classes)
  10. Online tournament (Intel Extreme Masters [IEM])
  11. US Navy rank (Master-at-Arms [MA])
  12. Senior member of a university (Master of Trinity College)
  13. Official host of a ceremony (master of ceremonies [MC])
  14. Popular characters (Jedi Master Yoda)
  15. A title in a popular game (Dungeon Master)
  16. An important order (Grand Master)
  17. Vague term (Zen master)
  18. Stephen Hawking (Master of the Universe)

And many, many more.

All these are current uses of the word, not to mention the popular BDSM context, where having a master is not a bad thing at all.

Subjectiveness

Even if we suppose that the word is “bad” (which is not), changing it does not solve the problem, it merely shuffles it around. This notion is called language creep (also concept creep). First there’s the n-word (which I don’t feel comfortable repeating, for obvious reasons), then there was another variation (which ends in ‘o’, I can’t repeat either), then there was plain “black”, but even that was offensive, so they invented the bullshit term African-American (even for people that are neither African, nor American, like British blacks). It never ends.

This is very well exemplified in the show Orange Is The New Black where a guard corrects another guard for using the term “bitches”, since that term is derogatory towards women. The politically correct term now is “poochies”, he argues, and the proceeds to say: “these fucking poochies”.

Words are neither good or bad, is how you use them that make it so.

You can say “I love you bitches” in a positive way, and “these fucking women make me vomit” in a completely derogatory way.

George Carlin became famous in 1972 for simply stating seven words he was forbidden from using, and he did so in a completely positive way.

So no. Even if the word “master” was “bad”, that doesn’t mean it’s always bad.

But supposing it’s always bad, who are the victims of this language crime? Presumably it’s black people, possibly descended from slaves, who actually had masters. Do all black people find this word offensive? No.

I’m Mexican, do I get offended when somebody uses the word “beaner”? No. Being offended is a choice. Just like nobody can make you angry, it’s you the one that gets angry, nobody inflicts offense on other people, it’s the choice of the recipients. There’s people with all the reason in the world, who don’t get offended, and people that have no reason, and yet they get easily offended. It’s all subjective.

Steve Hughes has a great bit explaining why nothing happens when you get offended. So what? Be offended. Being offended is part of living in a society. Every time you go out the door you risk being offended, and if you can’t deal with that, then don’t interact with other people. It’s that simple.

Collective Munchausen by proxy

But fine, let’s say for the sake of argument that “master” is a bad word, even on modern times, in any context, and the people that get offended by it have all the justification in the world (none of which is true). How many of these concerned offended users participated in the discussion?

Zero.

That’s right. Not one single person of African descent (or whatever term you want to use) complained.

What we got instead were complainers by proxy; people who get offended on behalf of other (possibly non-existent) people.

Gad Saad coined a term Collective Munchausen by proxy that explains the irrationality of modern times. He borrows from the established disorder called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

So you see, Munchausen is when you feign illness to gain attention. Munchausen by proxy is when you feign the illness of somebody else to gain attention towards you. Collective Munchausen is when a group of people feign illness. And collective Munchausen by proxy is when a group of people feign the illness of another group of people.

If you check the mugshots of BLM activists arrested, most of them are actually white. Just like the people pushing for the rename (all white), they are being offended by proxy.

Black people did not ask for this (the master rename (but probably many don’t appreciate the destruction of their businesses in riots either)).

Another example is the huge backlash J. K. Rowling received for some supposedly transphobic remarks, but the people that complained were not transphobic, they were professional complainers that did so by proxy. What many people in the actual transgender community said–like Blair White–is that this was not a real issue.

So why on Earth would a group of people complain about an issue that doesn’t affect them directly, but according to them it affects another group of people? Well, we know it has nothing to do with the supposed target victim: black people, and everything to do with themselves: they want to win progressive points, and are desperate to be “on the right side of history”.

It’s all about them.

The careful observer probably has already noticed this: there are no pros.

Cons

Let’s start with the obvious one: it’s a lot of work. This is the first thing proponents of the change noticed, but it wasn’t such a big issue since they themselves offered to do the work. However, I don’t think they gauged the magnitude of the task, since just changing the relevant line of code basically breaks all the tests.

The tests are done now, but all the documentation still needs to be updated. Not only the documentation of the project, but the online documentation too, and the Pro Git book, and plenty of documentation scattered around the web, etc. Sure, a lot of this doesn’t fall under the purview of Git developers, but it’s something that somebody has to do.

Then we have the people that are not subscribed to the mailing list and are completely unaware that this change is coming, and from one day to the next they update Git and they find out there’s no master branch when they create a new repository.

I call these the “silent majority”. The vast majority of Git users could not tell you the last Release Notes they read (probably because they haven’t read any). All they care about is that Git continues to work today as it did yesterday.

The silent majority doesn’t say anything when Git does what it’s supposed to do, but oh boy do they complain when it doesn’t.

This is precisely what happened in 2008, when Git 1.6.0 was released, and suddenly all the git-foo commands disappeared. Not only did end-users complained, but so did administrators in big companies, and distribution maintainers.

This is something any project committed to its user-base should try to avoid.

And this is a limited list, there’s a lot more than could go wrong, like scripts being broken, automated testing on other projects, and many many more.

So, on one side of the balance we have a ton of problems, and in other: zero benefits. Oh boy, such a tough choice.

Best alternative name for the master branch

Since people didn’t really discuss the previous subject, and went straight to the choice of name, this is where they spent a lot of the time, but this is also the part where I paid less attention, since I don’t think it’s interesting.

Initially I thought “main” was a fine replacement for “master”. If you had to choose a new name, “main” makes more sense, since “master” has a lot of implications other than the most important branch.

But then I started to read the arguments about different names, and really think about it, and I changed my mind.

If you think in terms of a single repository, then “main” certainly makes sense; it’s just the principal branch. However, the point of Git is that it’s distributed, there’s always many repositories with multiple branches, and you can’t have multiple “main” branches.

In theory every repository is as important as another, but in practice that’s not what happens. Humans–like pretty much all social animals–organize themselves in hierarchies, and in hierarchies there’s always someone at the top. My repository is not as important as the one of Junio (the maintainer).

So what happens is that my master branch continuously keeps track of Junio’s master branch, and I’d venture to say the same happens for pretty much all developers.

The crucial thing is what happens at the start of the development; you clone a repository. If somebody made a clone of you, I doubt you would consider your clone just as important as you. No, you are the original, you are the reference, you are the master copy.

The specific meaning in this context is:

an original from which copies can be made

Merriam-Webster

In this context it has absolutely nothing to do with master/slaves. The opposite of a master branch is either a descendant (most branches), or an orphan (in rare cases).

The word “main” may describe correctly a special branch among a bunch of flat branches, but not the hierarchical nature of branches and distributed repositories of clones of clones.

The name “master” fits like a glove.

Culture war

This was the other topic where a lot of time was spent on.

I don’t want to spend too much time on this topic myself–even though it’s the one I’m most familiar with–because I think it’s something in 2020 most people are faced with already in their own work, family, or even romantic relationships. So I’d venture to say most people are tired of it.

All I want to say is that in this war I see three clear factions. The progressives, who are in favor of ANTIFA, BLM, inclusive language, have he/him in bio, use terms like anti-racism, or intersectional feminism, and want to be “on the right side of history”. The anti-progressives, who are pretty much against the progressives in all shapes or forms, usually conservatives, but not necessarily so. But finally we have the vast majority of people who don’t care about these things.

The problem is that the progressives are trying to push society into really unhealthy directions, such as blasphemy laws, essentially destroying the most fundamental values of modern western society, like freedom of speech.

The vast majority of people remain silent, because they don’t want to deal with this obvious nonsense, but eventually they will have to speak up, because these dangerous ideologies are creeping up everywhere.

For more about the subject I can’t recommend enough the new book of Gad Saad: The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas Are Killing Common Sense.

It really is a parasitic mindset, and sensible people must put a stop to it.

Update: The topic has been so controversial that as a result of this post reddit’s r/git decided to ban the topic completely, and remove the post. Hacker News also banned this post.

The impact to users

I already touched on this on the cons of the name change, but what I didn’t address are the mitigation strategies that could be employed.

For any change there’s good and bad ways of going about it.

Even if the change from “master” to “main’ was good and desirable (which it isn’t), simply jumping to it in the next version (Git 2.30) is the absolute worst way of doing it.

And this is precisely what the current patch is advancing.

I already briefly explained what happened in 2008 with the v1.6.0 release, but what I find most interesting is that looking back at those threads many of the arguments of how not to do a big change, apply exactly in the same way.

Back then what most people complained about was not the change itself (from git-foo to “git foo”) (which they considered to be arbitrary), but mainly the manner in which the change was done.

The main thing is that there was no deprecation period, and no clear warning. This lesson was learned, and the jump to Git 2.0 was much smoother precisely because of the warnings and period of adjustment, along with clear communication from the development team about what to expect.

This is not what is being done for the master branch rename.

I also find what I told Linus Torvalds very relevant:

What other projects do is make very visible when something is deprecated, like a big, annoying, unbearable warning. Next time you deprecated a command it might be a good idea to add the warning each time the command is used, and obsolete it later on.

Also, if it’s a big change like this git- stuff, then do a major version bump.

If you had marked 1.6 as 2.0, and added warnings when you deprecated the git-foo stuff then the users would have no excuse. It would have been obvious and this huge thread would have been avoided.

I doubt anyone listened to my suggestion, but they did this for 2.0, and it worked.

I like to refer to a panel Linus Torvalds participated in regarding the importance of users (educating Lennart Poettering). I consider this an explanation of the first principles of software: the main purpose of software is that it’s useful to users, and that it continues to be useful as it moves forward.

“Any time a program breaks the user experience, to me that is the
absolute worst failure that a software project can make.”

Linus Torvalds

Now it’s the same mistake of not warning the users of the upcoming change, except this time it’s much worse, since there’s absolutely no good reason for the change.

The Git project is simply another victim of the parasitic mindset that is infecting our culture. It’s being held hostage by a tiny amount of people pushing for a change nobody else wants, would benefit no one, would affect negatively everyone, and they want to do it in a way that maximizes the potential harm.

If I was a betting man, my money would be on the users complaining about this change when it hits them on the face with no previous warning.

Categories
Culture Random Truth

The amount fallacy

Finding a new star nobody has found before is rare, but it happens—the same goes for fallacies. Errors in reasoning happen all the time, and most of those times people don’t bother looking up the specific name of that error; identifying it as an error suffices. When an error is too common, somebody eventually bothers to name it and thus a fallacy is born. It’s convenient to name fallacies because it saves time trying to disentangle the logic; you can just google the fallacy, and soon enough you will find examples and explanations.

I believe I have found a new fallacy, but unlike most new fallacies, this one has been under our nose for god knows how long.

I’ve decided to coin it the “amount fallacy”, although a close second was “toxic fallacy”, and also “sweet spot fallacy”. This concept is far from new, but it doesn’t seem to have a name. It has already been spread around in toxicology for at least four centuries with the aphorism “the dose makes the poison”. The idea is simple: everything is toxic. Yes, even water can be toxic, it all depends on the amount.

This concept applies absolutely everywhere, which is perhaps why nobody has bothered to name it. Is hot water good or bad? It depends on what precisely you mean by “hot”; it can be 40°C, 60°C, 1000°C, or just about any amount. Since language is often imprecise, the fallacy can sneak by very inconspicuously.

It can be spotted much more easily by realizing sweet spots; too little or too much of something is bad. Water above a certain temperature is bad, but so is water below certain temperature. A similar notion is the Goldilocks principle.

As obvious as this fallacy is, it’s committed all the time, even by very intelligent people.

Take for example income inequality. The debate about inequality is still raging in 2020, perhaps more than ever, and the positions are very clear: one side argues it’s possible for income inequality to be “too high” (and in fact it already is), the other side argues income inequality is inevitable (and in fact desirable). These two positions don’t contradict each other; all you have to do is accept that there is a sweet spot. It’s that simple.

Income inequality for different Gini coefficients

Surely it cannot be that easy. Surely people must have realized this obvious fallacy while discussing income inequality. Of course they have! But they also haven’t named it. This makes it so people fall into the same fallacy over and over, and it has to be explained why it’s a fallacy over and over.

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!

William Shakespeare

People often aggrandize the intellectual capabilities of the human mind, so they assume intelligent people surely can’t be making fallacies this ludicrous, and if they do; surely they would realize when somebody points that out, and if they don’t; surely somebody would record this kind of fallacy so others don’t fall for it. But remember that it took thousands of years after the invention of the wheel before humans came up with the brilliant idea of putting them on luggage (around 50 years ago). So don’t be too quick to assume the grandioseness of the human mind.

Here’s another example: immigration. One side argues immigration enriches the culture of a country, the other side argues immigration dilutes the national identity. Perhaps there’s an amount of immigration which isn’t too much or too little? Yes, there’s some people that argue precisely this, except without naming the fallacy.

Another example: exposure to germs. Too many germs can certainly overwhelm any immune system, but too little weakens it. The immune system requires constant training, and in fact there’s a theory that the current allergy epidemic is due to children’s underexposure to germs (hygiene hypothesis).

A more recent example: epidemic mitigation measures. Many people argue that masks must be compulsory, because not wearing them “kills people”, this is of course very likely true. But what part is missing in the argument? The amount. Everything kills people. Just driving a car increases the probability that you will kill somebody. Driving cars kill people; that’s a fact. But how many? Richard Dawkins—a famous evolutionary biologist, and author—recently made precisely this fallacy in a popular tweet.

The same applies to anything antifragile, but the examples are countless: recreation, safety, criticism, politeness, solitude, trust, spending, studying, exercise, thinking, planning, working, management, circumlocution, sun exposure, child play, child discipline, vitamin consumption, etc.

Technically this falls into the category of hasty generalization fallacies; the fact that some rich people are greedy doesn’t mean all rich people are greedy. In particular it’s an imprecision fallacy, similar to the apex/nadir fallacies, except in terms of amounts.

The form is:

  • 1. Some amounts of X are bad
  • 2. Some amounts of X don’t represent all amounts of X (ignored)
  • ∴ All amounts of X are bad

The amount fallacy happens because premise 2 is ignored. An exception could be cheating: a small amount of cheating is bad, even more so a large amount; the amount of cheating doesn’t change its desirability.

Perhaps this fallacy already has a name, but I don’t think so; I’ve looked extensively. Even if it’s too obvious, it needs to have a name, because people commit it all the time.

So there you have it. Any time somebody says something is bad (or good) because some amount of it is bad, be on your guard; that doesn’t mean any amount of it is bad.

Categories
Planet Science Social World

What does “flatten the curve” really mean?

One of the most common phrases we hear of late when discussing about the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is that we must try our best to flatten the curve. While this is true, many people don’t understand the reason why. It is important to manage our expectations about where we are, and what’s coming, and that’s what I will try to show in this article.

I will try to show that:

  1. We need to flatten the curve
  2. Most of us are going to get infected anyway

The curve

This is the curve many have seen:

I wrote a simulation using real data from USA as of today (SIR model). And as you can see it resembles the “flatten the curve” graphs you might have seen before.

USA model simulation

However, what you don’t see are the magnitudes; 12,000,000 people in the worst case scenario, and 3,000,000 people in the best. This Y axis is the number of active cases at any given day, provided that 50% of the cases are not noticeable, and only 15% might need hospitalization.

The total number of active cases would be 164,000,000 in the worst scenario, and 40,000,000 in the best.

And the time span is one year. The peak of the worst scenario would be at day 78, and in the best case scenario that day there would be 30,000, so sure; 30,000 is better than 12,000,000, but the true objective of flattening the curve is to delay the peak, which would happen at day 240 instead of 78.

So yes, it’s good to delay the peak from day 78 to day 240, and to reduce the active cases that need hospitalization from 12,000,000 to 4,000,000, so social distancing is good, but that will not be enough; the healthcare system will still be overwhelmed, and people will die as a result.

Healthcare limit

The totals

However, one thing is the number of active cases, which doesn’t look very good, another is the total number of cases.

Active cases
Total cases

In the worst case scenario there would be 326,000,000 cases, and in the best case 250,000,000. So to think that you will not get infected if everyone performs social distancing is delusional.

This is why experts say 70%-80% of the population will get infected (76% in this case) (even in the best case scenario).

So this is the actual curve people should keep in mind:

Active vs. total cases

The numbers

The difference in my model between the worst case scenario and the best, is the growth factor (worst: 1.2, best: 1.04), but what does that number mean?

If yesterday the total number of active cases was 32,859, and today they are 43,112 (as of 2020-03-23), that means dividing today by yesterday you get 1.312 (32,859 * 1.312 = 43,111). Is this good or bad?

Right now South Korea is 0.98, and Italy is 1.07, so yeah, 1.312 is pretty bad, so bad in fact that it’s 10% worse than my worst case scenario, and the worst case scenario is 15% worse than the best. When the growth factor is 1.0 that means the curve is at its peak; South Korea presumably has passed it already.

When people say “flatten the curve” what they really mean is reduce the growth factor; when you reach 0.0 the curve is flat.

Imagine you are in a car, and the accelerator pedal is stuck; not only will you be moving forward, you will be moving forward with an ever increasing speed. Surely you wouldn’t feel safe until the accelerator is unstuck, and that is the inflection point; the point in which the velocity stops increasing.

It’s easier to see the two points by visualizing the new cases per day (velocity); the point in magenta is the inflection point (deacceleration), the blue one is the top of the curve.

When you visualize the total number of cases the inflection point is different, and when reached you should expect the total number of cases to be twice as they are at that point.

The important thing to note here is that as long as no inflection point is reached, the growth is exponential, and there may be many orders of magnitude to go, so basically there’s no end in sight.

Where are we?

Have we reached an inflection point? The short answer is: we can’t say yet. There’s too much day-to-day volatility, and conditions in every country are drastically different.

USA growth factor rolling average

As you can see USA not only is in bad shape, but it’s getting worse; the graph should be moving closer to 1.0, not away.

Growth factor rolling average

Fortunately not every country is in the situation of USA; some countries are getting significantly closer to 1.0, even though not quite there yet.

World growth factor rolling average (except China)

Worldwide we are all over the place.

I think it’s safe to say we are nowhere near any inflection point.

But wait

Say that somehow miraculously we reach an inflection point and we are on our way to a perfectly flat curve. Can we be content now?

Well, no, the virus can make a comeback, depending on the seasons, or even mutations. The Spanish flu of 1918 did in fact do so; the second wave was much deadlier than the first, and it wasn’t the last one.

Spanish flu waves

Even in the most ideal of situations like in South Korea, the nature of a pandemic makes it so not any country is “safe” until the whole world is safe; the virus can be reintroduced into the country, in fact, many times over.

As a simplification you can think of the world as a neighborhood. You can choose to stay home and delay the inevitable, but if everyone else is infected you will eventually be too, unless you stay inside for years.

The solution

The only realistic solution (other than let things run their natural course) is vaccination, but as of today no vaccine is expected in less than 18 months.

So we can try to delay the worst by social distancing, closing airports, and pretty much everything you can think of, and we may be able to delay the worst (reduce the growth factor to less than 1.04), but even so it might not buy us enough time for the vaccine.

Conclusion

It’s too soon to tell where we are and where we are heading. Many of the parameters needed to make reasonable predictions are not known with any real confidence. The model I used is one of the simplest models, and the growth factors I used are pretty much guessed. Even so we know something for certain: it can be really bad, even if we try our best.

So yeah, you should still perform social distancing in order to help others, particularly those that are more susceptible such as the elderly; by reducing the growth factor we give breathing room to the healthcare system.

But you will get infected, or at least you should operate under that assumption, it’s only a matter of when.

To keep track of the number of cases per country in real time you can use this graph I developed. I will publish more graphs as I have them.

Categories
Culture Planet

How a modern troll argues

Traditionally an Internet troll is a person who starts quarrels or upsets people on the Internet to distract and sow discord, whether for the troll’s amusement, or a specific gain. The classical lone troll wasn’t hard to deal with, once identified all you had to do is follow the classical response: “do not feed the troll”. This worked well in the past, but times have changed.

Nowadays there’s more than one kind of troll.

We have brigading trolls (such as Chapo Trap House trolls), who bad together pushing the same kind of inflammatory commentary; the community might ignore one or two, but if a band of users say the same thing that might give credence to their claims, and a good actor might be fooled into giving a response, thinking there might be some valid criticism there.

Then there’s concern trolls who act pretty much as good actors, except their advice to the group would cause harm rather than good. They use sockpuppet accounts to hide their true agenda; for example a Republican might create an account faking to be a Democrat, and then propose a witch hunt to identify the “true” Democrats, and thus in effect dividing and weaking the group. The usual advice to ignore the trolls doesn’t work because concern trolls are almost indistinguishable from good actors.

And finally there’s professional trolls; which as their name suggest, they are being paid by a corporation, a political entity, or special-interest group to achieve specific goals. There have been many studies that prove these kinds of trolls exist, the most famous group being Russia’s Internet Research Agency. The tactics and goals of these groups vary, sometimes from day to day, but in general their tactics include: flip the narrative, cancel, position, counter-offend, and oppress usually with the goal of polarizing a community. Therefore it wouldn’t be unusual to play both sides of the fence; have both alt-right and far-left sock puppets in order to get the real users to fight between themselves.

The community

Recently I became a moderator (mod) in an online community in reddit (called a “sub”) about the author and public intellectual Sam Harris. I wasn’t paying close attention to this sub, but yet I noticed a steady stream of irrelevant content, I complained about it, and thus I learned I was merely one of many to do so.

When I became a mod I started receiving a lot of feedback about the dire status of this online community. It turns out it was so bad that a group of users decided to create an alternate community in order to get away from toxic behavior and a sea of irrelevance. Also, there were sister and related communities that recognized the problem, and the need to solve it.

I had my work cut out for me, but what I didn’t know at the time was the amount of pushback I would receive by every little attempt to improve the community. Right away I received complaints merely by removing content about what I considered to be clearly irrelevant topics; topics Sam Harris barely had talked about, and in my opinion didn’t belong in the sub.

Virtually all the users that complained about the moderation decisions shared a similar style of arguing. At the time I couldn’t deal with the sheer amount of comments, but slowly and steadily I discussed the issues with each and every user, and while doing so I realized many of them were dishonest. I would say A, and they would claim I said B and run with it. For example I would say “In my opinion the detractors that are engaging in bad faith shouldn’t be welcome”, and they would say I wanted to ban all detractors (what I said, what they say I said).

A misunderstanding here and there is to be expected, but not so many misunderstandings from so many sources, constantly. More importantly; these users didn’t seem to be interested in the least in being corrected. It looked like they knew what they truth was, they were just not interested in accepting it.

So in order to keep my sanity and avoid wasting time I arrived to a rule of thumb; the moment a user makes it clear he/she isn’t interested in what I am actually saying; I end the conversation, and I avoid future ones. Generally I give people the benefit of the doubt, but when it is clear they are not interested in what I say, they are merely interested in what they can claim I said, there’s no point in discussing with that person. So I labeled these people as intellectually dishonest, and moved on.

This is of course the traditional approach—ignore the trolls—and it worked for me, but not for the community, because these trolls kept spreading lies, even if I didn’t engage with them, and they kept derailing conversations, and sowing discord.

Something had to be done about these trolls, I just didn’t know what. I didn’t even want to accept these were trolls.

The setup

I asked for advice in different communities—there’s even a community of moderators—and I received good advice, however, most if it couldn’t be applied to our particular community because we have a strong commitment to freedom of speech (in the spirit of Sam Harris and others in the Intellectual Dark Web).

So how could we both hold on to our strong commitment to freedom of speech, and at the same time stop the trolls from destroying the community? If a user is obviously acting in bad faith, the solution is easy; ban that user. But many of these trolls would do everything in their power to appear as good actors. So even if a moderator is pretty sure a user is engaging in bad faith, he/she can never be sure. The fact that a user appears to be a troll is not enough.

I roamed the Internet for inspiration, and I encountered tips to actively deal with trolls, mostly in the form of trolling the trolls. However, I didn’t want to reduce myself to their level. I tried different tactics, mostly engaging with the trolls, but not as if I was dealing with real people, and then I saw the light.

Trolls have a major disadvantage, that any good actor engaging in good faith doesn’t have; they don’t care. Their interest in any particular subject is manufactured, it isn’t real. So if you spend time writing a really good argument they would not be able to counter it; they don’t have the intellectual tools, nor the interest in doing so. What they will do is go to their troll toolkit, and pick any of their well-practiced tactics to deviate the conversation. The most common one is the smoke screen.

A good actor might inadvertently use a smoke screen, but a troll will use it over and over, to the point that the times he avoids an argument are more than the times he engages in it. This is not an accident, this is deliberate.

After engaging with trolls in this matter I realized how ridiculously often they do this. All you have to do is ignore all the red herrings they throw, all the ad hominems attacks, don’t drink from the poisoned well, ignore the smoke screen, and concentrate on the argument. Don’t say anything extra they might reply to, don’t ask any follow up questions, don’t answer their irrelevant questions; stay on point.

Any person acting in good faith will reply to your questions, even if it might mean losing the argument. A troll will not.

So when I realized this trend, I decided to engage with a suspected troll to see how far the rabbit hole could go, and I honestly didn’t expect a nonsensical discussion of such epic proportions.

The discussion

The context of the discussion is a little tricky. First, there was a discussion between Sam Harris and Eric Weinstein in Weinstein’s relatively new podcast: The Portal. In this discussion they touched on the lack of effort some people make to try to understand people they disagree with, and they mentioned examples such as Sam Seder, and David Pakman. Funnily enough, both Seder and Pakman replied about these comments in their respective podcasts, and their conclusions couldn’t be more different.

The ironic part is that Pakman was mentioned as an example of a person who does make an effort to understand what his opponent is saying, and he did understood what was being said by Weinstein and Harris. On the other hand Seder was brought up as an example of a person that does not make an effort, and lo and behold in his podcast he did indeed misrepresent what Weinstein and Harris said.

This was the topic of the post I made to reddit’s Sam Harris community: Good and bad faith actors behaved in predictable ways that Sam Harris & Eric Weinstein accurately described.

In my post I made it crystal clear what was in my opinion the argument Weinstein made:

Let’s get the premise right; the premise is that some people would rather mock a straw man, than get correctly the actual gist of what is being said. That’s it.

This is the argument. This is what Harris and Weinstein are talking about, this is what Pakman replies to, and this is what Seder is attempting to address. This argument for brevity and analysis purposes I’m going to call argument W.

Right off the bat user BloodsVsCrips starts with this attack:

If you rank Tim Pool as a 4 out of 5 your definition of “good faith” becomes useless.

This is in reference to another discussion in which users were supposed to rank political commentators, and I did rank Tim Pool with an overall grade of 4/5. This of course has absolutely nothing to do with the argument at hand; neither what Weinstein said, nor what Seder said about what Weinstein said. So this is a smokescreen, an ad hominem, a genetic fallacy, and poisoning the well. The thing he didn’t do is address argument W.

I mocked his obvious attempt at not addressing the argument, mrsamsa accused me of not addressing the argument, I asked what was BloodsVsCrips supposed argument, and mrsamsa replies:

That people with a demonstrably bad barometer for determining good and bad faith might be inaccurately judging the people described in the OP.

Now, this is not an accurate representation of BloodsVsCrips’s argument, and yet it commits the same fallacies. I chose to concentrate on the genetic fallacy, which has this form:

  • X said Y is true
  • X is a bad source
  • ∴ Y is false

Of course X is me, but Y is a little bit tricky, because mrsamsa’s argument is also a smoke screen, so he wants to change Y from the original topic (argument W) to “Sam Seder acts in bad faith”. To be clear, I did say Sam Seder acted in bad faith, but I did so with an argument:

Sam Seder didn’t show any signs of understanding Eric Weinstein’s argument, therefore he misrepresented Eric Weinstein’s argument.

We can call this argument F, which depends on argument W.

In fairness to mrsamsa if Y is in fact “Sam Seder acts in bad faith”, then his argument wouldn’t be a genetic fallacy, but we know I did provide an argument (argument F) for my claim, to ignore that would be falling into his smoke screen.

So the syllogism would be:

  • felipec did put forward argument F
  • felipec is a bad source
  • Argument F is false

That is an obvious genetic fallacy.

It should not matter what did or didn’t say about Tim Pool, it shouldn’t matter how good I am at representing anybody’s good faith, it doesn’t matter who I am at all. The only thing that matters is; what was Weinstein’s argument? (argument W), and did Sam Seder represent Weinstein’s argument correctly or not? (argument F).

Is mrsamsa going to focus on the argument, like any good actor would do? Or is he going to do something else?

Dancing around the genetic fallacy

So the first thing I tried to do is nail down the definition of a genetic fallacy; I asked mrsamsa two direct questions, and he evaded them both:

Answer these questions.

(1) Is this a genetic fallacy?
> P1: X said Y is true
> P2: X is a bad source
> C: Y is false

(2) Is this a genetic fallacy?
> P1: felipec said Sam Seder is a bad faith actor
> P2: felipec doesn’t have good judgement
> C: Sam Seder is not a bad faith actor

mrsamsa:

If you’re just asking hypothetically then yes, presenting it as a proof can be fallacious but that’s obviously not what happened…

Notice he is responding in terms of yes, argument X can be fallacious, but he doesn’t want to say it is. I insisted I am not interested in him saying if it can be, but if it actually is:

mrsamsa:

…I did answer, yes it can be fallacious…

This continues:

mrsamsa:

I’ve already answered above. Now stop with this bad faith nonsense and continue with the discussion.

Then he tries to throw smoke screen:

mrsamsa:

Because you don’t understand the topic very well (as evidenced by thinking the genetic fallacy wasn’t an informal fallacy) your response is to misconstrue my answer, rather than to realise “that makes sense”.

Unfortunately I made a mistake of categorizing the genetic fallacy as a formal fallacy, and we’ll see later he will use this as a smoke screen, and an ad hominem.

In addition, he continues taunting the “can be”.

mrsamsa:

Again, someone who believes that the genetic fallacy isn’t an in informal fallacy is unlikely to teach me anything about logic.

It can be, certainly.

More of the same:

mrsamsa:

Do one easy thing right now: admit you made an error by claiming that the genetic fallacy isn’t an informal fallacy.

I can’t change my answer though, I can’t forget everything I know about fallacies and logic and pretend the answer is “yes” even though such a response is nonsensical…

It should be a very easy (1) yes, (2) yes. Why on Earth would any good actor avoid such obvious questions? Maybe mrsamsa does indeed possess a superior knowledge of logic, and the textbook example of a genetic fallacy doesn’t indeed contain a genetic fallacy, but if that is the case why isn’t he enlightening us? Why isn’t he explaining in which cases argument (1) can’t be a genetic fallacy?

The answer is simple; he doesn’t care. In the best case scenario, just like a hostile witness he is simply not answering the question, nor venturing any useful information; he is wasting our time. In the worst case scenario, he is a troll who doesn’t have a good answer for our questions, and is also wasting our time.

And that of course doesn’t translate to argument (2), because that is a specific argument; it either has a genetic fallacy, or it doesn’t. No can, if, then, or buts.

Now, this is just a taste, because the amount of times he applies the same tactic over and over, not just to me, but anyone trying to have a rational discussion is just mind blowing.

Argument within an argument

I wasn’t the only one engaging with him; DwightVSJim unfortunately also got caught in his web of nonsense. He also avoided to answer any of DwightVSJim’s criticisms, but the amount of nonsense is too much to summarize, so I’ll just make a list of comments:

  • mrsamsa: A liar is more likely to lie than someone who doesn’t lie.
  • mrsamsa: You can’t be serious..
  • mrsamsa: Come on, just think a little bit about this.
  • mrsamsa: Yes, if I said something different then it would be different.
  • mrsamsa: I don’t know what this is supposed to mean.
  • mrsamsa: Keep up.
  • mrsamsa: It can be, definitely.
  • mrsamsa: Perfectly valid argument, no fallacy.
  • mrsamsa: Remember that arguments are about judging the persuasiveness of the support for a conclusion…
  • mrsamsa: You’ve just proved yourself wrong there.
  • mrsamsa: You’ve just said that my argument based on the origin of the claim isn’t fallacious.
  • mrsamsa: I’m showing that an argument based on the origin of the claim can reject the conclusion while not being fallacious.
  • mrsamsa: The origin of the claim is Ham, not me.
  • mrsamsa: I am, using Ken Ham as the origin.
  • mrsamsa: The fact that I’m making the argument is obviously irrelevant to whether something is or isn’t a fallacy.
  • mrsamsa: No, the origin in my argument is Ken Ham.
  • mrsamsa: I’m arguing that.
  • mrsamsa: Please just take two seconds to realise how stupid this argument is.
  • mrsamsa: C Felipec is probably wrong about Seder acting in bad faith.

Of course, while avoiding anything presented to him, he didn’t stop making snarky remarks. And at no point in time does mrsamsa addresses the actual arguments: argument F and argument W. He just goes on an on inventing new irrelevant arguments such as a fake argument from Ken Ham.

Finally, I arrive to save DwightVSJim from mrsamsa’s black hole. I point out if in “felipec says Y”, Y is an argument itself, there’s no need to even check if there’s a genetic fallacy:

felipec:

We also have logical argument X which can be evaluated on it’s own. So if logical argument X is:

  • All men are mortal
  • All Greeks are men
  • ∴ All Greeks are mortal

We know logical argument X is valid, so it’s irrelevant if “felipec is probably wrong about logical argument X”, because we can look at logical argument X and see that it is valid. It’s like getting two 6 dices and somebody else is saying; “I don’t need to look at the dices, because I know getting two 6s is very unlikely”.

This destroys mrsamsa’s red herrings, because it forces us to look into the actual argument X (argument F), and not run around irrelevant probabilities of “me” being right.

Miraculously, mrsamsa agrees:

mrsamsa:

All you’ve argued is that there is another way to challenge the conclusion of X. Okay sure, yeah there are. That doesn’t make it fallacious.

So he finally accepted one thing, but in doing so I got him, because there’s an easy way to demonstrate the smoke screen fallacy:

felipec:

Which one would be better to tackle if we want to discern the truth of the conclusion of X? [Argument X, or argument Y?]

All he has to do is say “X”, and he would be admitting that in this whole thread we should be looking at argument F, not my bona fides. You can guess what happened.

mrsamsa:

As for which is better, it depends on the specific claim and the strength of the evidence for each argument.

What a surprise. He is backed into a corner, he has two specific options, and instead of choosing X or Y, he throws another smoke screen and say “it depends”. I didn’t let him go that easily, and I insist he gives an answer:

felipec:

X, or Y?

He goes back his usual cop out:

mrsamsa:

And I said we can say your proposal.

This is the point where I decided to end the discussion, because I thought I had gathered more than enough evidence. Note however that I’m not going through the threads in the order they happened.

After dozens of comments on this particular subject, mrsamsa hasn’t answered a single important question directly. He always avoided the topic, specially when he was backed into a corner. Any good actor would have to answer my question honestly, and say “X”, but that’s not what he did.

Can’t own mistakes

We also got completely derailed when mrsamsa failed to convert one of his fake “arguments” to a syllogism, and then failed to accept his mistakes.

First, mrsamsa provided this example of a supposedly valid argument:

“I doubt Ken Ham is accurately describing that principle of evolution because he has history of misrepresenting and misunderstanding them”

It was pointed out to him the many reasons why this “argument” is essentially useless, but mrsamsa kept defending it, and provided a supposed syllogism for it:

mrsamsa:

P1 Ken Ham thinks X about evolution

P2 Ken Ham has a history of misrepresenting and misunderstanding claims about evolution

P3 we should doubt claims made by people with a history of misrepresenting and misunderstanding claims

C we should doubt Ken Ham’s claim X about evolution.

This was in fact not a “perfect” argument nor an accurate mapping from his original argument. I pointed out the many issues this argument has:

  1. He used different verbs in the premises: thinks vs. claims
  2. A similar “valid” argument can be made with the premise “we should doubt claims made by people with a mustache”
  3. Changed “I doubt X” to “we should doubt X”
  4. It’s a red herring trying to distract us away from argument W

So I destroyed the notion that this was in any way a “perfect”, along with getting us out of the black hole of ignoring argument F. I made an analogy of an embedded argument and his Ken Ham “argument” to arrive to the following syllogism that puts a nail in his coffin:

felipec:

And since we obviously can’t trust you to put a correct syllogism, it would be like:

  • P1: Ken Ham made argument A about evolution
  • P2: Ken Ham has a history of misrepresenting and misunderstanding claims about evolution
  • C: Argument A about evolution is unsound

This “argument” has a genetic fallacy.

What mrsamsa does do is everything, but acknowledge the fact that he made two different arguments, and that an argument can be embedded in another argument, and we should talk about the original embedded argument, not the outer one:

mrsamsa:

Holy shit, pedantry through the charts.
Yes, let’s act like normal human beings, se how that works out for you.
How is that a “correct” syllogism? It’s an invalid argument.
You’re the embodiment of dunning-Kruger.

The rest of the responses keep evading the issue:

  • mrsamsa: Of course I didn’t address the argument that has a conclusion that’s irrelevant to my argument.
  • mrsamsa: What are you talking about?
  • mrsamsa: Semantics aren’t the damning blow that you seem to think they are.
  • mrsamsa: I mean, you keep pretending you can’t see my argument so why should I engage with your strawman of my argument?

Until finally:

mrsamsa:

I’ll take that as a “I’m going to continue to troll rather than engage in any kind of meaningful discussion”.

Very classy.


I take the conclusion reached in this subthread that is pretty hidden by now, and repeat it on the main thread:

felipec:

Hmm. “We should doubt X” versus “I doubt X”. Somebody isn’t reading his own arguments.

Of course he handled it very graciously:

mrsamsa:

Don’t get hung up on semantics and try to address the argument itself.

Another user, SailOfIgnorance, came to mrsamsa’s rescue and made the argument that there’s no distinction between “I doubt X” and “we should doubt X”, but if course there is, and I answered the challenge:

felipec:

You want me to state the distinction between (1) “we should doubt X” and (2) “I doubt X”? Easy, (1) requires reasoning, (2) doesn’t.

This explanation was addressed in perfect faith by mrsamsa:

mrsamsa:

Easy, /u/sailofignorance. I assume that clears up any confusion you may have had!

mrsamsa:

Oh. Maybe meditate more?

I event went to the trouble of providing different syllogisms to show the pointlessness of “I doubt X”. Essentially conclusions like “I believe X”, or “I doubt X” are pointless, because they don’t require reasoning, so you don’t need any argument, or any other premises.

When SailOfIgnorance challenged this notion, I explained it to him:

felipec:

> Give me an example where “I doubt X” doesn’t require reasoning

Easy: “I doubt I’ll have eggs on my breakfast”.

SailOfIgnorance did eventually acknowledge this difference, but did mrsamsa? No.

Why can’t he just accept that he made a mistake? (multiple ones actually) Why doesn’t he want to acknowledge any of the main arguments? (argument F, or argument W). This tendency should be clear by now, and we are only just getting started.

Nonsense of origin

In another thread with DwightVSJim, mrsamsa to spin and spin around the same issue:

  • mrsamsa: That honestly makes no sense and is a bizarre interpretation of the genetic fallacy…
  • mrsamsa: The genetic fallacy is a fallacy of irrelevance…
  • mrsamsa: Both attack the origin, but only one is fallacious.
  • mrsamsa: Shooting the paper boy for the contents of the paper would be an error, shooting the editor/ journalist would not.
  • mrsamsa: No they don’t need to bring it as well.
  • mrsamsa: Obviously the only relevant person to the genetic fallacy would be the person making the original claim…
  • mrsamsa: You understand that your understanding means that unless someone makes an argument that they themselves are a biased source to reject the conclusion they’re arguing for, a genetic fallacy is impossible, right?
  • mrsamsa: That’s literally what you’re arguing.
  • mrsamsa: So you’re not saying that I is the “origin” that’s relevant to the genetic fallacy?
  • mrsamsa: But if you’re not saying that I is the “origin” that’s relevant to the genetic fallacy then what was your argument?
  • mrsamsa: When I make an argument that dismisses a claim made by Bob because it came from Bob, I’m pointing out that you seem to believe that I is the “origin” relevant to the genetic fallacy rather than Bob.
  • mrsamsa: I just summarized it there and we’ve gone over it in detail above, address whichever is easier for you.
  • mrsamsa: Just highlight what is the origin that would be relevant when assessing if it commits the genetic fallacy.
  • mrsamsa: So you’re now agreeing with my characterization of your position that you think the arguer is the origin that the genetic fallacy refers to?
  • mrsamsa: Jesus, this is such an insane view.
  • mrsamsa: Except remember that the genetic fallacy is a fallacy of irrelevance so this is only true when we’re rejecting it because it’s coming from Bob for irrelevant reasons.

This is what happens when a good actor tries to engage honestly as if the troll is a real person. If nobody challenges his bullshit, the troll can go on and on about irrelevant stuff.

When I show up to this thread I end by showing to mrsamsa exactly in which kind of arguments the source of a claim matters, and where it doesn’t, by providing different unquestionable examples:

felipec:

No, you don’t understand. The genetic fallacy occurs when we accept or reject a claim. Normally I would ask you for syllogism explaining when the truthfulness of claim is relevant, and when it’s irrelevant, but we all know you are going to botch it, and it will take us 50 comments for you to not accept that you did, so let me do that for you:

  • Bob says X
  • People that say X are racist
  • ∴ Bob is a racist

Here’s another example:

  • Bob says X
  • If anybody say X we drink
  • ∴ We drink

In both these cases the conclusion has nothing to do with the X being true or false, and the other premise relies on Bob’s claim (regardless if it’s true).

Now let’s make it a fallacy:

  • Bob says X
  • Bob usually lies
  • If anybody says a lie we drink
  • ∴ We drink

Why is this a fallacy? Because we assuming the truthfulness of a claim based on its source, if we reject X because Bob said it we are committing the genetic fallacy. It’s irrelevant who said X; we need to find out if X is true or not.

Tell me /u/mrsamsa, how is this not the case? Do we or do we not need to know if X is true before accepting that conclusion?

This destroys all the irrelevant nonsense about who is the origin of what that mrsamsa kept going on and on about. He replied dozens of times to DwightVSJim when it was easy to avoid the actual issue, but when I make it difficult for him to ignore what actually is a genetic fallacy, what does he do?

He didn’t bother to reply.

Words don’t matter

In yet another thread mrsamsa argued that the names of fallacies don’t matter, instead, we should point out the errors in reasoning themselves, and he did so in his usual classy manner:

  • mrsamsa: Trust me, don’t try to explain to dwight how fallacies work and what they mean.
  • mrsamsa: Yeah that’s exactly how I see it now.
  • mrsamsa: Bringing up the names of fallacies is indeed a troll talking point.
  • mrsamsa: Non trolls realise that the names of fallacies are pointless in themselves because it doesn’t help describe your position or highlight the supposed problem in the argument you’re replying to.
  • mrsamsa: Fallacies have nothing to do with the conclusions…
  • mrsamsa: Of course it does, fallacies aren’t about whether a conclusion is true or not…
  • mrsamsa: Tell me what you think a fallacy is.
  • mrsamsa: Very good.
  • mrsamsa: Fallacies are only related to the structure of the reasoning, they don’t determine the truth or falsity of the conclusion.
  • mrsamsa: You can’t be serious?
  • mrsamsa: Why are you dodging your false claim that I corrected in my post above?

I can’t help but notice the sweet irony of mrsamsa lecturing us in how non-trolls argue, but unfortunately he managed to one again derail the discussion away from the arguments (argument F and argument W) into purse nonsense.

When I jump into the discussion his tone changes:

felipec:

The guy who says the names of fallacies are irrelevant is claiming the categories of fallacies matter. Makes sense.

mrsamsa:

I assume you’re trolling rather than intentionally being so blatantly dishonest here, but if you’re genuinely confused, the names of fallacies are less important in a debate than actually explaining what you think the flawed reasoning is.

This whole argument that the names of fallacies don’t matter is obviously self-defeating, since words are basically the only thing we have to communicate, there is a reason we don’t explain what a napkin is every time we want one. So obviously there’s a reason why common fallacies have names.

felipec:

> I assume you’re trolling rather than intentionally being so blatantly dishonest here, but if you’re genuinely confused, the names of fallacies are less important in a debate than actually explaining what you think the flawed reasoning is.

And what is the quickest way to explain that there’s a flaw in reasoning?

> If someone says “it’s spelt “ab hominid” not “ad hominem” loser!” then while the names of fallacies still aren’t useful in a debate, it’s still worthwhile pointing out that the person isn’t right.

If I say “to say that a person didn’t finish high-school therefore his argument is invalid; it’s an X fallacy”.

1. ab hominid
2. hasty generalization fallacy

What do you think is closer to the truth? Which one do you think is more worth correcting?

I ask mrsamsa two questions. Care to venture how many he will answer?

mrsamsa:

> And what is the quickest way to explain that there’s a flaw in reasoning?

Not by using the name of a fallacy as that doesn’t explain the flaw in reasoning in the person’s argument.

> What do you think is closer to the truth? Which one do you think is more worth correcting?

I don’t really understand how this is relevant, both need to be corrected. Fortunately we can do two things and aren’t limited to one.

This is nonsense. Obviously saying “argument X has flaw Y” is explaining the flaw in reasoning, even if Y is misspelled. But if he answers my questions he would have to concede, so he just doesn’t.

The rest of the discussion is more of the same; mrsamsa evading questions, derailing, and smoke screening:

  • mrsamsa: Hey, you answer a single question I’ve posed to you in this thread and then I’ll take your tantrums more seriously. Otherwise it just looks like bad faith trolling.
  • mrsamsa: You’re the definition of bad faith troll.
  • mrsamsa: How does this relate to anything I’ve said?
  • mrsamsa: And how does that relate to my argument?
  • mrsamsa: I explained why naming a fallacy doesn’t help you identify the specific flaw in an argument. And you replied that naming the fallacy is identifying the flaw.

I didn’t let him get away with such obvious smoke screening. I tried to force him to address the argument, but of course he didn’t.

felipec:

Your argument was that the name of a fallacy doesn’t help you find out the flaw in an argument, I just showed you it does.

If you can’t see that there’s no more reason to discuss. Good bye.

Why are we even discussing this? Of course we can say “argument X has a genetic fallacy”, and the words “genetic fallacy” are useful to identify the flaw in reasoning. If mrsamsa’s wasn’t intentionally derailing the conversation why does he keep bringing red herrings, and always avoiding not only the main arguments (argument F, and argument W), but he avoids any arguments he himself brings up.

This is meta-arguing; mrsamsa is arguing about arguing, and he is derailing the very same tangent he has put us on.

The actual argument

There’s only one point in the whole discussion where mrsamsa actually tried to engage with the actual argument:

mrsamsa:

Seder is responding to Weinstein’s metaphor of the IDW doing maths and how people like Seder are ignorant of alternative forms of maths so jump to ridicule and thinking people are crazy.

Seder is criticizing the idea that when people mock others who seriously propose race realism etc that really what’s happening is that the race realist is privy to some kind of information that Seder is unaware of, and what appears to be crazy is in fact just an evidence based position that could be uncovered by a serious investigation rather than dismissal.

His criticism is essentially of the idea: a) that it’s appropriate to compare things like race realism to the factual nature of maths, and b) that Seder thinks it’s crazy because he’s unaware of the logic behind race realism, rather than the fact that they’re wrong.

This is obviously a misrepresentation of Weinstein’s argument (argument W), in fact, he didn’t say what was the argument, he just mentioned a “metaphor”, so I ask him to at least make an attempt:

felipec:

> Seder is responding to Weinstein’s metaphor of the IDW doing maths

That’s not what Eric Weinstein did. Can you do at least a poor man’s job of a steel man?

Will mrsamsa finally answer a direct question? You already know the answer, don’t you?

mrsamsa:

Use your words buddy, if you disagree with something then explain it.

Why do you think Weinstein wasn’t using a maths analogy?

felipec:

I’m not going to fall for that. Can you make a steel man argument for Eric Weinstein or not?

mrsamsa:

You’re not going to fall for engaging in a productive good faith discussion?

So there it is. When it was time to actually address the argument that mattered, he didn’t even make an attempt to explain it with his own words.

My bad

I don’t want to be a locus of attention; I want to focus on what mrsamsa did, but I’ve had to rely on my comments, since they are directly related to many of mrsamsa’s comments.

And even if I made argument F, and I brought up argument W; I want the focus of the discussion to be on those arguments, not me.

Unfortunately I made a mistake in saying that the genetic fallacy was a formal fallacy. In my defense I probably had more than a few beers when I made that comment, I did a quick Google search and found no evidence that the genetic fallacy was informal.

But if it’s true that I made such mistake, it doesn’t matter in the discussion if the genetic fallacy is formal or informal; it’s still a fallacy. In retrospect I shouldn’t have fell in such an obvious bait, but I did; I did respond to a red herring.

Now, a good actor would simply say: “you made a mistake” and move on. In fact mrsamsa made many of such mistakes, and I didn’t punish him eternally for them. But that’s not what a troll does.

What a troll does is hold on to this trivial mistakes as evidence that a person is “bad at logic”. This troll tactic is another fallacy called poisoning the well. Since I made one mistake, that means that forever and ever any argument I make is flawed. Indeed, after I accepted the mistake mrsamsa and other possible trolls have weaponized this mistake and brought it up in other threads.

Even after I ended the conversation, mrsamsa piled on with other users on the formal fallacy mistake:

mrsamsa:

But to him, I think he views it all as some grand conspiracy to derail the sub, so he seems to view it as a moral duty to not give an inch on anything…

mrsamsa:

These people are so unaware of how little they know about a topic that they’re practically incapable of even understanding how little they know about the topic. It becomes a black hole where trying to explain it to them fails because they lack any foundation to even make sense of the possibility that other people might know more than them, and worse still, those people might think they’re wrong.

mrsamsa:

But the genetic fallacy not being an informal fallacy claim is just a really easy thing to put your hand up over, especially as it doesn’t affect his argument or position at all. It’s just a “whoops, yeah, don’t know why I said that, of course it isn’t. Let’s move on now” moment that doesn’t need to be a big deal.

mrsamsa:

If it wasn’t abundantly clear, he’s barely read the wiki page on the topic nevermind an actual textbook.

mrsamsa:

And coming from the guy whose ego is too big to even accept that they didn’t know the genetic fallacy was an informal fallacy, that insult falls flat.

And of course, I did accept I made a mistake later on:

felipec:

> Will you admit you were mistaken?

Yes, I made a mistake. Not that it matters, because the category of this fallacy is completely irrelevant, and focusing on this is a red herring.

As expected other users used this as ammunition:

zemir0n:

But it is relevant. Your knowledge or lack thereof of logical fallacies is definitely relevant when it comes to talking about logical fallacies.

Did mrsamsa praise what he supposedly wanted me to do in good faith? You know the answer:

mrsamsa:

Replying to comments is a fallacy.

Beating on a dead horse

As I said, once I thought I gathered enough evidence to convince any rational person that mrsamsa was in fact a troll, I ended the conversation. This was taken by mrsamsa and his allies a “victory”.

It doesn’t have to be said that they took this “victory” graciously:

mrsamsa:

So I mean… a win? Even if for the most bizarre reason.

mrsamsa:

That was probably one of the most cringey things I’ve ever seen on the internet. It wouldn’t have been quite so bad if, as you point out, the entire essay long argument didn’t boil down to this bizarre point based entirely on semantics.

Once again bringing up the informal fallacy red herring:

mrsamsa:

It definitely makes sense in light of him being unaware that the genetic fallacy is an informal fallacy, which is fine if it’s a slip of the tongue but egregious as a genuine error.

And he goes on and on:

mrsamsa:

He doesn’t seem to know about a lot of things.

But instead of just listening to the other person he seems to scan posts for any little thing that he can pinpoint and say “Ah ha! You said “doubt” instead of “reject”, therefore you’re making two completely different arguments and I can’t take you seriously any more!”.

We already explored why “I doubt X” is different than “we should doubt X”, he exploiting the fact that a casual observer might have missed the difference and then claiming I just did a “gotcha!” “just semantics” comment. No, there was a difference, the difference has been explained, and he is framing the narrative to make it seem otherwise.

This is dishonest behavior.

mrsamsa:

Being on the receiving end, it’s definitely [extremely boring and frustrating].

mrsamsa:

I feel like he’s got this caricature of what it means to be a “rational person”, and he’s confused being pedantic with being rational. It’s like someone who’s idea of how to be a lawyer comes from TV and so they just yell “objection!” at everything.

mrsamsa:

Destroyed!

mic drop

Is this the way a good actor treats a “win”?

Other conversations

Not content with derailing this conversation with his genetic fallacy nonsense, he sprang up a discussion about the same nonsense in a completely unrelated post. In order to protect the sanity of the reader, I’m not going to go in detail through those, but there have been several dozens of such comments.

In a post titled: Full Subscription Model and Amount of Hatred Sam Receives on this Site:

  • mrsamsa: I followed it fine, you were simply wrong for all the reasons I explained to you.
  • mrsamsa: I’m happy if you agree now but you explicitly argued before that BvC was the origin of the claim subject to the genetic fallacy.
  • mrsamsa: You called me dishonest for saying that, and then repeated what I just said…
  • mrsamsa: What’s not a genetic fallacy?
  • mrsamsa: Take a step back and read what I’m writing.
  • mrsamsa: Why do you think I “take pride in pissing people off”?
  • mrsamsa: The arguer is irrelevant to assessing whether a genetic fallacy occurred.
  • mrsamsa: But if you mean the origin of the argument then you accept that who is arguing that “Bob is a liar” is irrelevant, right?
  • mrsamsa: We’re trying to figure out what you mean by “origin”, that’s all.
  • mrsamsa: I don’t have a problem with the concept of the genetic fallacy, we’re debating your interpretation of it that isn’t consistent with how it’s actually understood.
  • mrsamsa: So when is the person making the argument ever the issue?
  • mrsamsa: Do you need me to dig up our past conversation where you explicitly told me the opposite?
  • mrsamsa: When you argued that BvC was relevant to assessing if his argument was a genetic fallacy.
  • mrsamsa: So, in your view, the arguer is the source that the genetic fallacy refers to.
  • mrsamsa: Of the issue yes, not the arguer.
  • mrsamsa: I don’t know how I can make it any simpler.
  • mrsamsa: Where did I claim that you believed it was always the case?
  • mrsamsa: The arguer isn’t relevant to the genetic fallacy. That’s what you’re struggling to understand.
  • mrsamsa: I’ve told you a million times that you’re wrong but I don’t imagine that you’d agree that it’s bad faith for you to not accept that.
  • mrsamsa: The person making the argument (eg BvC in this case) is irrelevant and is never the origin of the issue that matters.
  • mrsamsa: Stop being evasive and wasting time.
  • mrsamsa: The issue is the claim being debated, ie felipecs ability to judge bad faith.
  • mrsamsa: Present your evidence, no more evasion and smokescreens.
  • mrsamsa: Yes great, link me to a source that supports your interpretation.
  • mrsamsa: The idea in BvCs argument is felipecs barometer.
  • mrsamsa: What part of his argument would we analyze to determine whether it’s based on dismissing a source or not?
  • mrsamsa: He’s dismissing an argument of felipecs.
  • mrsamsa: His argument about judging bad faith. That’s why he appealed to his barometer, as that was a criticism of the argument.
  • mrsamsa: He’s trying to convince us of his methods for judging bad faith, that’s the argument.
  • mrsamsa: Read his OP, it spells it all out in detail.
  • mrsamsa: What part are you pretending not to understand?What part are you pretending not to understand?
  • mrsamsa: What part of his OP did you not understand?
  • mrsamsa: Stop fucking evading, make your argument and stop throwing up smokescreens.
  • mrsamsa: Read the OP and tell me specifically what you don’t understand.
  • mrsamsa: Instead of constantly demanding people to answer your questions, show some good faith and do so in return.
  • mrsamsa: Answer the question or stop responding. That’s the end of the conversation.
  • mrsamsa: You’ve just proven yourself wrong with your own timeline.
  • mrsamsa: Holy shit this is getting ridiculous.
  • mrsamsa: Jesus christ. If you’d stop with the mental gymnastics these conversations would go so much easier.
  • mrsamsa: It’s not, because it’s only fallacious when the appeal to the origin is irrelevant.

In yet another post: Why is Felipec even a mod? Who made him a mod?

  • mrsamsa: Semantics won’t save you or felipec here.
  • mrsamsa: So for it to be a genetic fallacy, BvC would need to reject his own argument based on his own history.
  • mrsamsa: Careful, felipec bans people for not saying yes or no to that question.
  • mrsamsa: Why are you trying to turn it into a deductive proof?
  • mrsamsa: Why not just answer my question?
  • mrsamsa: I am rather cynically assuming that the reason you keep pretending not to be able to read my position every time I spell it out for you though is because you realise that you can’t actually refute it, and you don’t want to admit that after all this fucking bullshit I was actually right.
  • mrsamsa: If we’re in agreement that reaching a conclusion that felipec is probably wrong about a claim because he has a history of being wrong on that topic isn’t fallacious then good, I’m happy with that outcome.
  • mrsamsa: No, saying felipec is probably wrong because of his history is coming from him, he’s the origin referred to in the argument.
  • mrsamsa: As I say in my other comment, using the word “doubt” here confuses the comparison a little bit.
  • mrsamsa: It doesn’t change the origin. The origin is “felipec’s history of judging bad faith”.
  • mrsamsa: It’s a fine argument, there’s nothing fallacious about it and it wouldn’t require evidence to avoid being a fallacy.
  • mrsamsa: It’s a little confusing to use the first one as a general argument and then to use a specific example in the second.
  • mrsamsa: Now do you agree that the “origin” that would be relevant to the genetic fallacy is premise 2 in both those arguments?
  • mrsamsa: And just to be clear, this is a hypothetical, right?
  • mrsamsa: The point wasn’t about Tim Pool, the point was about Felipec’s ability to judge bad faith actors in this sub.
  • mrsamsa: I’m probably jumping ahead, continue.
  • mrsamsa: I’ll have to see why he thinks changing the conclusion from “probably wrong” to “definitely wrong” changes the origin.
  • mrsamsa: That’s not particularly relevant for the genetic fallacy.
  • mrsamsa: Remember that to dismiss a claim we don’t need to state it in absolute terms.
  • mrsamsa: If I say that creationism is probably false, I am claiming that it’s untrue.
  • mrsamsa: If I say felipec’s argument is 99.9999% likely to be false, are you saying “Well… that’s not a dismissal of his argument, he’s saying he could be right!”?
  • mrsamsa: How can someone argue that something is probably untrue without arguing it’s untrue?
  • mrsamsa: If argued as definitely then yes, if probably then no. Agreed.
  • mrsamsa: Both are arguing it’s untrue. One says it’s probably untrue, the other definitely untrue.
  • mrsamsa: Saying something is probably untrue is a dismissal of a claim.
  • mrsamsa: We’re talking about the concept of untrue, not definitely untrue. You’re conflating the two.
  • mrsamsa: It means that something is probably true or false, since truth isn’t binary.
  • mrsamsa: Wait… are you saying arguments with the conclusion of “probably” aren’t even arguments?…
  • mrsamsa: I think you’re going to have to support some of these claims, I can’t see what you’re possibly basing them on.
  • mrsamsa: Can you give me an example of an argument that bases its conclusion on a probability?
  • mrsamsa: So when scientists say that creationists are probably wrong, they aren’t dismissing their claims as true or false?
  • mrsamsa: I’m not sure how this relates to my question.
  • mrsamsa: Since truth is binary in your view, if they aren’t fully dismissing of creationism, and they aren’t fully accepting of evolution, then surely they’re both in the same position of being “neither true or false”?
  • mrsamsa: You’ve just said that if an argument concludes that something is “probably wrong/false/untrue/etc” then they aren’t dismissing that claim.
  • mrsamsa: You explicitly said that people can’t dismiss claims as true or false if they’re talking in a probabilistic way.
  • mrsamsa: I don’t see how any of this addresses my question.
  • mrsamsa: And yet clearly I ended up being correct.
  • mrsamsa: I think you’ve misspoken there – a sound conclusion can’t be false.

Can you imagine trying to argue with him? Such a joy.

Notice that this is just the genetic fallacy argument he is using to derail other conversations. He does a similar style of arguing with other arguments, but I’m not going to bother going into more trouble trying to understand what can’t be understood.

The ban

In my opinion, there’s more than enough evidence than mrsamsa is most likely a troll, as so I decided to temporarily ban him for a month. There are some considerations that must be pondered before banning somebody, depending on the sub, it might be perfectly fine to ban somebody that we can’t be 100% sure is a troll.

Part of this analysis was sent to the mod team for a second opinion, but since no strong opinions against the ban were voiced I decided to go ahead with it.

Unfortunately due to some internal issues, his ban got reverted. I would attribute this as a mistake, and miscommunication, but it is quite telling what has been mrsamsa’s behavior after the ban.

He has been consistently lying about the reason why he was banned, and why he was subsequently unbanned:

mrsamsa:

Yeah because felipec banned me for disagreeing with him, and the other mods overturned it because that’s not against the rules.

This is a lie. He knows what was the rationale behind the ban, since part of this analysis was sent to him, so to attribute the rationale to a “disagreement” is disingenuous at best. He was banned because he engaged in bad faith, and that’s against the rules.

It is also a lie that the other mods decred he didn’t violate the rules. For starters only one mod did engage with the situation.

mrsamsa:

It’s pretty crazy that being wrong (in the eyes of the mod) is now an instant bannable offence. I assume the other mods must have thought there were others reason that justify the ban, otherwise hopefully it’s hashed out between them and the user.

He is lying about the reason why he was banned; it wasn’t because he was “wrong”, and he knows that.

mrsamsa:

What do you think of him banning me for “not answering questions” to his satisfaction (where he wanted a yes or no answer to a question I explained didn’t have a yes or no response? Or for “snarky” remarks like “keep up”, “think about it” and “this is a stupid argument”?

As you can see in this analysis, he wasn’t banned because of that; it was because he didn’t answer virtually any question directly. It is his behavior in aggregate that shows this.

mrsamsa:

Yeah he said the same thing about my ban which turned out to be him asking another mod and then banning me before they replied. So I don’t know, but the mods seemed fair in dealing with me so I assume they’ll look at both sides of the issue there.

That’s yet another lie. Some back and forth happened before the ban was applied.

mrsamsa:

Felipec banned me for disagreeing with him, I appealed it and the other mods agreed that there didn’t seem to be any basis to it and overruled him.

Another lie, and knows it. He saw the discussion that lead to him been unbanned, and no point did anyone say there wasn’t any basis.

Suspect

If his behavior in conversations wasn’t enough evidence, there’s also reason to believe that he has more than one user, who also engage in these discussions. In addition his comments constantly get more than five upvotes, which is extremely rare in deep discussions. This suggests that he is tricking the system. But not only that, but he gets upvotes on comments on old threads that are supposed to be invisible for other users. This means there’s practically zero doubt he is gaming the system.

I am also in contact with at least three users that have noticed the same behavior; each time they discuss with mrsamsa their comments are always voted down, and the ones of mrsamsa up. Not to mention the endless discussions in which mrsamsa never addresses an actual point.

The weird thing to find would be a productive discussion with him.

Conclusion

Let’s summarize what user mrsamsa did:

  • Didn’t talk about Eric Weinstein’s argument (argument W)
  • Didn’t address my argument about Sam Seder (argument F)
  • Didn’t accept a textbook definition of a genetic fallacy
  • Didn’t accept that focusing on the argument X, is better than Y
  • Didn’t accept that he provided two different arguments “I doubt X” vs “We should doubt X”
  • Didn’t accept that “I doubt X” arguments are useless
  • Wasted everyone’s time
  • Rehashed the same discussion in other conversations
  • Lied about the reasons of his ban

Regardless of what the actual motives of mrsamsa are, it’s fair to say this is not the kind of behavior anyone should accept in their online community.

This kind of behavior is not easy to see unless one is engaging in the actual discussion, and not simply avoiding it following the traditional advice “don’t feed the troll”.

Moderators most likely would never see the obvious tricks being used over and over, because they don’t typical engage with the trolls, and looking at any individual comment there’s always the possibility to be taken in good faith. But in aggregate there shouldn’t be any doubt.

Modern trolls rely on these man-power limitations, exploit the good faith of moderators and users, specially in communities that value freedom of speech. They hide in plain sight, and constantly derail conversations claiming to be good actors.

What they don’t expect is somebody keeping track of the amount of times they engage in troll tactics, such a smoke screens, ad hominems, and poisoning the well. So that’s precisely what we should do; actively deal with them.

Categories
Mexico Planet

First principles of income distribution

Anyone attempting to live well within a society must have a concept of fairness; there’s a limit to how much debasement you should tolerate. You wouldn’t just let somebody cut in line in front of you, not only because you would have to wait longer, but it’s a matter of principle: it’s not fair. This isn’t unique to humans, even monkeys wouldn’t do the same job another monkey is doing, if the other monkey is receiving a grape, while he a cucumber slice. I wouldn’t do it either; I prefer grapes too.

If your potatoes are as good as the neighbor’s potatoes, but he sells them at $20, while you can only sell them at $10, either he is doing something right, you are doing something wrong, or your view of the world is incorrect, and your potatoes are not as good as you thought. It is a puzzle that must be solved, because those extra $10 might be the difference between survival, attracting a potential mate, or death.

You might not be able to solve every mystery of life and the universe, but surely you should be able to sell your potatoes at $20, and so you must.

This is the simplest explanation why we are hard-wired for fairness, and we refuse to be part of a system that exploits us. We might not understand every aspect of an extremely complex socio-economic system, but we recognize we should be paid the same amount as other cogs in the machine of the same level, at least.

Inequality

We understand we can’t all have the same wealth, we can see people that work less than we do, or have less ability, so we should be paid more than them. If follows that other people provide more value than us, therefore certain level of inequality might be tolerated, if not even favored.

Many staunch capitalists shrug at the question of inequality. “You want everyone to have the same wealth?” they belch. Few things in this world are black-and-white, and inequality is no exception. The question is not “equality vs. inequality”, the question is “how much inequality?”.

It should not be surprising that high levels of inequality create social instability; large masses of people don’t like to be screwed over. If high levels of inequality are not rectified: crime increases, and eventually revolutions erupt. Ask Marine Antoinette if leveling the playing field a bit more wouldn’t have been a good policy, or rather–ask her detached head.

Therefore it should not be surprising either that elites pay close attention to inequality metrics as it stands to reason that nobody is fond of surprise revolutions. But more pressing than inequality metrics, are perceptions of inequality, because it doesn’t matter if large masses of people are being screwed over… If they don’t know it.

However, extremely high levels of inequality can’t be ignored forever, and eventually society descends into chaos. But what is that level? How much is way way too much?

Morality

The first thing a right-wing capitalist would tell you is that “it doesn’t matter”. It doesn’t matter how much money your neighbor is making selling potatoes, as long as you are making good money. This feels wrong, just like it feels wrong to receive a cucumber slice instead of a grape, but perhaps it is our base instincts at play, and in fact there is nothing inherently wrong.

The phrase they often use is “a rising tide lifts all boats”. The idea is that rich people are the ones that provide the most value to the economy, so if they have a lot of profit, they will know how to use that money best, and therefore the whole economy would benefit, including you. This is also called trickle-down economics; the earnings of the rich trickle down to the poor.

However, it doesn’t take a genius to find a caveat: what if the rich hedge 100% of the earnings? How much do you get in that case? Well, nothing. Right-wing governments have tried time and time again to decrease the taxes for the rich, in order to incentivize the supposed “job-creators”, increase the economy, and receive more total taxes as a result. The latest instance is Trump’s Tax Reform. It has never worked.

What many dogmatic capitalists seem to forget is the first principle of economics: resources are limited. So therefore naturally there’s a limit to how many resources the rich may hedge before the poor classes start to starve.

There is no magic bullet: there is a limit to the amount of value an economy can create. And how you distribute the fruits of that value does matter, and that is the distribution of income.

Numbers

So we start with two premises a) too much inequality is bad, and b) income is finite. We have to find a number to express how much inequality there is, that is certain, and anybody that lives in the real world understands you can’t give to four people half the pie each (4/2 ≠ 100%) (staunch capitalists seem to forget that).

I can tell that a nation has a R/P 10% of 23.05, a Gini of 48.86, or a top 1% share of 13.5, but what does that really say? I would have to explain what each metric means, and you would still not get a good picture. I could show the Lorenz curve as well, but I would have to explain it, and it still would be hard to see what is the problem, if there is any.

Example 1

Let’s say there’s an economy of two people, a total of value created of $100,000 (it doesn’t matter the units), and we divide that total evenly ($50,000, $50,000). This is perfect equality, or no inequality, something nobody is advocating for, or even possible. The Gini index is 0, but we’ll see later how to get that number in a more realistic example.

Example 1 (Gini: 0.0).
Median: $50,000 – Richest: $50,000 – R/M: 1.0

Example 2

A slightly more realistic example divides the value unevenly ($20,000, $80,000). In this case there is inequality, but how much?

Example 2 (Gini: 30.0).
Median: $20,000 – Richest: $80,000 – R/M: 4.0

The Gini index is often referred as a representation of the Lorenz curve of an income distribution, but we don’t need extra layers of complexity to understand what the value means. Another way to define Gini is in terms of the relative mean absolute difference: we find all the relative differences, and divide by n.

The total is $100,000, x₁ is $20,000, x₂ is $80,000, so: |x₁x₂| / total →|$20,000 – $80,000| / $100,000 →$60,000 / $100,000 → 60%. The relative difference of x₁ and x₂ is 60%, and the other way around (x₂x₁) is the same, so the sum is 120%, we divide that by n (2), and the result is 60%. The Gini index is half of the RMAD, so: 30.

So when you see a Gini index of 30, you can picture the above distribution (20, 80), but is that a fair distribution? Well, 30 or above is considered medium inequality (30 < x < 50), but I leave it to you to decide if it actually is.

Example 3

Let’s move to a more complicated example ($7,000, $13,000, $20,000, $60,000):

Example 3 (Gini: 41.5).
Median: $13,000 – Richest: $60,000 – R/M: 4.6

At first this looks like it has more inequality, but in fact the economy follows the same distribution as the previous example, except with more granularity: x₁ + x₂ = $20,000, x₃ + x₄ = $80,000.

It’s much more tedious to calculate the Gini mathematically by hand, just the first element would be: (|x₁x₁| + |x₁x₂| + |x₁x₃| + |x₁x₄|) / total → ($0 + $6,000 + $13,000 + $53,000) / $100,000 → $72,000 / $100,000 → 72%. The whole RMAD is (72% + 60% + 60% + 140%) / 4 → 332% / 4 → 83%. So the Gini is 41.5.

But wait a second! Why is the Gini higher in this case, if the distribution is the same? Well, that’s the first caveat of the Gini index: it depends entirely on the number of samples of the population: the more samples, the more precise it is.

But that’s not the only caveat. If you have been paying attention, you might have deduced already that there’s more than one set of four numbers whose relative absolute difference equals to 332%. Which means there’s many income distributions that result in the same Gini index, and there are:

Alt 1 (Gini: 41.5).
Median: $17,000 – Richest: $54,000 – R/M: 3.2
Alt 2 (Gini: 41.5).
Median: $11,000 – Richest: $46,000 – R/M: 4.2
Alt 3 (Gini: 41.5).
Median: $12,000 – Richest: $51,000 – R/M: 4.2
Alt 4 (Gini: 41.5).
Median: $11,000 – Richest: $64,000 – R/M: 5.8

So that’s the second caveat: a single Gini index cannot represent entirely a distribution of income. It is by far the best way to represent the economic inequality in a single number, but it cannot give you the whole picture.

The last example is particularly interesting, as the richest person earns 5.8 times more income than the average person, yet the Gini is exactly the same because the bottom 75% is quite homogeneous.

Example 4

Finally we arrive to the most realistic example ($2,000, $3,000, $4,000, $5,000, $6,000, $7,000, $8,000, $11,000, $15,000, $39,000):

Example 4 (Gini: 46.2).
Median: $6,000 – Richest: $39,000 – R/M: 6.5

This again follows the same distribution of the previous examples: add up the first five elements and it will give you $20,000, add the rest and it will give you $80,000. But the granularity makes the inequality more visible, the Gini index is increasing, and so is the ratio between the richest and the average person.

At this point I must confess that this is not an entirely fake economy; this is in fact a simplification of the economy of Mexico, and each example follows exactly the distribution of income in Mexico, which has a Gini of 48.86. As the granularity increases, the Gini index gets closer to the real value. Unfortunately even official sources list the Gini index as 47.13, but that’s because the economy has been simplified to ten values, when the real Gini is 48.86 (if you use the whole surveyed sample).

So we actually have reached the limit of official sources and we are going beyond.

Real numbers

It’s time to move away from fake numbers to real ones, instead of sets of 4 or 10, to hundreds or millions. Values are adjusted to have a mean of $10,000, but the proportions are the same.

Real 10

If we divide the real sample into 10 values, we get a graph closely following our fake example #4 (these numbers are not rounded):

Real 10 (Gini: 47.1).
Median: $5,791 – Richest: $39,476 – R/M: 6.8

Real 100

Dividing the real sample into 100 values we start to see how the inequality shapes up. Also, the Gini index is very close to the real value.

Real 100 (Gini: 48.8).
Median: $6,259 – Richest: $134,956 – R/M: 21.6

If you pay attention to the richest person you would see his income keeps increasing as we add more samples. At this point he receives 21.6 times more income than the average person.

Real

Finally, if we plot the real sample as it is (122,643,890 weighted values), we get the following graph:

Real (Gini: 48.9).
Median: $6,313 – Richest: $4,406,353 – R/M: 698

Does that graph looks remotely similar to a fair distribution of income? The richest person has an income of $4,400,000; 700 times what the average person gets. That doesn’t even reach the 50 index needed to be considered high inequality. 48.9 is still considered medium. And yes; this is real.

There is a final caveat to income surveys: the richest of the rich are extremely underrepresented. The richest person in Mexico doesn’t receive an income of $4,400,000, it’s closer to $4,000,000,000 (400,000 times the media), but the chances of interviewing that person in a random survey are virtually zero. The real number of entries in the survey are 70,000, with a mean household size of 3.6, so you can’t say much about the top 0.001%, except: they have an insane amount of income.

At which point does an economy becomes ridiculously unfair? Well, apparently it’s not with a Gini of 48.9 (or at least this distribution), because Mexico has not exploded into a revolution, although that might be due to ignorance. Perhaps if the population of Mexico knew how unfair the distribution of income is, they would do something about it. But at the moment it seems a Gini index of 50 is manageable.

Conclusion

Hopefully after reading this article you have a better understanding of what the Gini index is, and why it’s a good measure of inequality, although not a perfect one. And what a distribution of income with a Gini of 50 looks like.

This article only scratches the surface of income distribution measurements. There are many ways to stratify the data: by area, by urban vs. rural areas, by number of habitants, by age, by work status (full-time vs. part-time), by sex, etc. The per capita income can be recalculated through equivalization, which increases it dramatically. And the top incomes can be calculated through other means. Plus, there are confidence intervals to take into consideration.

And we didn’t even mention wealth and income dynamics. The income distribution is the number that is more easily obtained, but what is most important is how that number changes, and increases the wealth of each individual. The distribution of wealth is a much more complicated subject, but suffice to say: it’s much more unequal than the distribution of income.

But all this doesn’t change the fact that an inequality in the distribution of income can be measured and visualized. Personally I think anyone with a pair of working eyes can say with confidence: yes, some distributions of income are unfair.

Categories
Future Planet Politics Social

The power of words

Quite often in a discussion I’ve heard the phrase “semantics”, as if the meaning of words didn’t really matter in a discussion. Words are the building blocks of complex ideas, and if we don’t have a solid agreement on what they mean, then how can we hope of ever transmitting our message? We might not need to use a specific meaning offered by a dictionary, we might not even need to use a real word, but we need the idea to be packaged in a neat container–a word–which we can send back and forth multiple times in a conversation.

Words do more than simply package ideas in a singular conversation; they can serve as Eureka moments; the first time an idea is not only realized, but packaged, captured like an exotic Pokémon. People might have had Eureka moments before the word “Eureka” was widely used, but it wasn’t until the coinage of the idea that our collective minds became fully aware of such phenomenon.

Have you noticed that when you learn a new word, it suddenly appears everywhere? You probably saw and heard such word many times before in your life, but you never paid any attention to it. It’s called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, which maybe you have never heard of before, but now that you have; ironically–it will pop up everywhere 🙂

It’s hard to explain how our minds work (or the current scientific understanding of it); but if I attempt to summarize; it’s all about recognizing patterns, and feedback loops. That’s why the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon makes so much sense: we can’t recognize a pattern we haven’t seen before, but once we identify it; our brain will try to see the world through different lenses in order to check if the pattern applies, if it does; the feedback loop will reinforce the idea so we can recognize the pattern better in the future.

So it makes sense to think that language affects our worldview, which is the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis. Imagine we didn’t have a word for “thought”, how would you describe a thought? It’s hard to describe a mind if you don’t have the word “thought”, so it is to describe “believe”, “remember”, “forget”, and dozens of other ideas related to thoughts.

This is not merely a theory (or rather; a hypothesis); we know it happened in Nicaragua in the Seventies because there were no schools for deaf people. When the first school was established dozens of people without language gathered, and they slowly created their own sign language. However, their language was very rudimentary. The second generation of kids learned the language from the first generation, but they added new words. These new words did not merely amplify their vocabulary; they changed the way they thought. The first generation merely focused on describing events, the second generation talked about feelings, thoughts, ideas. They got better at thinking about thinking, in one generation, simply because of language.

There is an test called the Sally-Anne test; it is used to measure the ability of a person to attribute false beliefs of another; something that cannot be done without theory of mind. The test goes as follows:

Sally takes a marble and hides it in her basket. She then “leaves” the room and goes for a walk. While she is away, Anne takes the marble out of Sally’s basket and puts it in her own box. Sally is then reintroduced and the child is asked the key question, the Belief Question: “Where will Sally look for her marble?”

Fully functioning adult persons know the answer: Sally would look in her basket. But young children answer differently: Sally would look in Anne’s box. They don’t understand that Sally’s worldview is different than their own; they don’t understand that each person has a different worldview, a mind different of their own. The ability to understand that each person has a different mind is called theory of mind; something so incredibly simple most people take for granted, is actually a gift that young children don’t have, neither do most animals. And it turns out the first generation of Nicaraguan kids didn’t have this ability either, even after they became adults, even in their fifties. Language is the tool that helps us understand other people’s minds; it is words like “belief”, “mind”, “point-of-view”. The second generation of Nicaraguan kids had these words, and with them they easily acquired theory of mind.

Imagine the first time somebody used the word “empathy“. Surely the concept of empathy existed long before the word was coined. However, like many patterns; it was elusive, hard to explain, and thus hard to identify, discuss, mold, evolve. How can I say “the most basic level of empathy arrives with theory-of-mind” if I don’t have the word “empathy” at my disposal, and for that matter, the word “theory-of-mind”?

The word “economy” wasn’t widely used until after the 19th century, and again; surely people understood the concept of economy long before the word, but they couldn’t exactly discuss it. How would you say “the economy is bad lately”? How would you discuss different economic models, like capitalism, or communism? How would you measure something that doesn’t have a name, like using the GDP? The answer is: you couldn’t, and they didn’t. It was the word that gave people such power, in a way the word “economy” changed the world. Certainly there were many other factors revolving the industrial revolution, but the coinage of the word “economy” was instrumental.

A more recent example is the word “meme“. Again; memes existed long before the word, in fact; words themselves are memes; they spread around society like viruses. Curiously enough the word “meme” wasn’t coined until the word “virus” sank into wide use, which could only happen after viruses were discovered, at the end of the 19th century. It is no coincidence that the word “meme” was coined by an evolutionary biologist–quite familiar with viruses.

But words do more than expand our understanding of the world, they change it, shatter it, shift it. Consider the word “gender“. Previously the word “gender” was fixed to the word “sex”, so a male is masculine, and a female feminine. Today we’ve been forced to change that notion, mainly due to transgenders. So a transgender man might have been born with a female biological sex, but considers himself to have a masculine gender as far as society is concerned. This paradigm shift hasn’t settled still with many people, which consider both gender and sex to be the same thing. Inevitable society will have to change its worldview, otherwise transgender people couldn’t fit, and they must.

An even more dramatic shift happens with the word “person“. The concept of personhood has changed dramatically through history, in many cases excluding certain races, or considering one sex less of a person than the other. Today we accept that all people regardless of sex or race should be considered full persons, and the people that don’t accept that are considered bigots; sexists, or racists. So grand of us, isn’t it?

But that’s still not enough. Consider a human being so psychologically disturbed that he lacks any consideration towards other beings, incapable of empathy, even without theory of mind… Is he a person? How about a dog that truly loves his human companion, cares for him, would risk his life if the need arises, and would miss him to death if he was gone.. Isn’t he a person? Indeed; many dog lovers would attest that their dogs are better beings that many humans, and they might be right. A dog doesn’t care for race or sex, and in that sense he might be better than many family members that gather at your typical Thanksgiving.

dog-tilt-crop

Personally, I see empathy as the essence of person; if you can’t feel another person’s suffering, then what good are you in a society? Every dog owner has seen the expression of tilting the head to one side; it’s an attempt dogs make in order to understand humans’ emotions (probably because they have trouble seeing our mouths due to their snout), they do this because they are empathic; they understand their human might be sad, even if they themselves feel happy. Contrast this with a human infant, who is barely able to see anything beyond his own hunger, and certainly doesn’t have a theory of mind. Who is more of a person? Why should the word “person” be fixed to the word “human” then?

When you see from this vantage point, you realize that if it’s hard to say a human infant is truly a person, then it’s even harder to call a human fetus a person, which is barely distinguishable from a chicken embryo–both in terms of physiology and mental processes. Certainly less of a person than a fully functional adult woman, whose life might get ruined by abortion laws.

Thus the importance of thinking about the meaning of words, specially important ones like “person”, regardless of how firm you think you have your grasp on it. Because of the way minds work; it’s much more difficult to change the meaning of a word, than it is to learn a new one; it’s much easier to recognize a new pattern than it is to change an engraved one, thanks to feedback loops–much like a drop of water falling on a rock millions of times–the damage is already done. But if you don’t do that paradigm shift, you might end up in the wrong side of history, just like your bigoted, racist and sexist ancestors, you might end up being the bigoted family member in a future Thanksgiving, facing your son’s spouse which might be–let’s go for a long shot–an artificial intelligence; not a human, but still a person, as worthy of our respect as any other.

Categories
Politics Social World

Being honest about Islam

The typical leftist has the idea that everyone should be respected, and every idea as well. That we shall all live in an inclusive world where every faith is tolerated, and all cultures are valued equally. It sounds lovely, an utopia we all should thrive for.

One of the latest examples is Khizr Khan’s speech at the US Democratic convention; the father of a muslim American soldier. Of course the media celebrated this event as an example of their culture inclusiveness. One more step toward the multiculturalism utopia. How progressive of us to accept cannon fodder of all faiths.

There is one caveat with this inclusiveness notion, and I’m going to show it with a single word, but first, it shouldn’t be hard to see that there’s a problem with inclusiveness; our body can’t ingest any substance. There are such things as toxic substances, things that just don’t belong inside our body–that are actively harmful. Similarly, there are certain ideas that are harmful, and can’t be included in a modern society that thrives to progress. If you have trouble thinking of one, here is an example: Nazism.

Now, the word Nazism is often overused, to the point that it has become a joke, but in this case it’s a good analogy; it’s an ideology that is toxic to modern values, and even the most inclusive societies must reject such ideology, we all agree on that. However, Islam is not Nazism, it’s a religion, it can’t be toxic, after all, we often hear it’s a religion of peace, right?

But is it a religion of peace? Let’s convert some of the common Muslim memes to Nazism to perhaps remove the veil: Nazism is an ideology of peace, not all Nazis are extremists, you are a Naziphobic.

So, if you follow the previous statements you might start to see a couple of issues. First of all, saying “Islam is a religion of peace” is worthless, you have to actually prove that it is (which I will try to explore in this post, it’s as worthless as saying “Nazism is an ideology of peace”). Second, when an ideology is toxic, it doesn’t matter if you are moderate or extreme; you are still toxic. And third, using a trump word like Islamophobic against all critics is not fair; the word implies an irrational fear against that ideology, but is it irrational? Plenty of Islam critics have been murdered, so would it be irrational for say, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, to fear for her life when her life has actually been threatened plenty of times?

A religion of peace

We often hear that Islam is a religion of peace, and that the terrorist attacks are an aberration of the faith. Sounds very reasonable, but is it true?

Christians often assume that Muhammad was like Jesus; peaceful, benevolent, surely Muhammad said something similar to turn to them the other cheek when you are hit. But that couldn’t be further from the truth: Muhammad was warlord, he spread the religion through the sword, many people had to die for his religion to be established.

Let’s see some verses from the Qur’an, to see how peaceful this religion is:

Quran (2:191-193) – “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out…”

Quran (8:39)“And fight with them until there is no more fitna (disorder, unbelief) and religion is all for Allah alone.”

Quran (9:123)“O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness.”

And there’s many more.

Very peaceful indeed! You might be tempted to justify this on Christian terms and say; “the Bible also has violent verses, but that’s the Old Testament”, or something along those lines. However, even the Old Testament wasn’t so violent as to encourage killing all unbelievers, and also, a key difference between the Bible and the Qur’an is that the later has the principle of abrogation: when verses conflict, the earlier is discarded. So, you might see a benevolent verse in the Qur’an about how to treat unbelievers, but that’s superseded by a later verse. The earlier parts of the Qur’an are more benevolent, and the later more violent. So there is significantly less room for interpretation.

So, when an ISIS fighter kills an unbeliever, is he really distorting the faith? The Qur’an is pretty much telling him to do so, without room for interpretation.

Islam is a violent religion. In fact, when people say “Muslim extremists” are the violent ones, that is pretty much conceding the point; they take their violent religion too seriously. Contrast that with Jane extremists, which are extremely peaceful, since Jainism is a truly peaceful religion.

Moderate Muslims

So maybe the religion itself is violent, but fortunately not all Muslims take the religion too seriously, and we shouldn’t worry about the vast majority of Muslims.

islam

Let’s start with a number from a Pew poll: 36% of Muslims (around 580 million) want the death penalty for leaving Islam. So if you have ten Muslim friends, and one of them leaves the religion, four of them would want him to be executed. And they are the moderates.

68% of Muslims think Sharia law should rule. Another reason why Islam is different than other religions, like Christianity, is that it is more than just a religion; it also comes with a legal framework, and other ways to run the society. In modern inclusive societies we follow the principle of secularism, so that all faiths are accepted, or at least, the ones compatible with modern values. Unfortunately, Islam is not one of such; it wants  to subvert the society’s legal framework, and impose its own; it’s incompatible.

So yeah, not all Muslims are extremists, not all Muslims want the death penalty for apostates, and not all Muslims want Sharia law, but dangerously high numbers of them do. So we have to be honest about their views and values; we know we don’t want extremists, but we don’t want Islamists either.

The only real difference between an extremist and an Islamist, is that the Islamist doesn’t kill people, they want to implement Sharia law through political means, so they disagree on the method, but they want the same goal.

Hear it from the mouth of one:

Now, take the example of Belgium; it accepted large number of Muslim immigrants (5%-7%), and now it is suffering the consequences, not just from terrorist attacks from the extreme minority (a minority of a large number of people is still an issue), but from the “moderate” Muslims who don’t agree with the attacks themselves, but they do agree the objective; the Belgium society must change to be more in accordance with the Qur’an, and they will not rest, through political movements or otherwise, until it does happen.

Islam is not compatible with modern secular societies, it is toxic, and there is a direct correlation between the amount of the Muslim population in a country, and the violence and terrorist attacks in such country.

Even moderate Muslims are a problem.

Denial

Let’s jump to the real issue with Islam; denial. As violent and dangerous as the ideology is, the real problem the denial of it. Just like the public health problem of tobacco smoking was exacerbated by the denial that happened in the sixties. Just like prominent doctors made quite a bit of money denying the link from tobacco smoking to lung cancer, so is people like Reza Aslan profiting by telling multiculturalist leftists what they want to hear; that there is no link between Islam and terrorist attacks. But the reality is very different.

To exemplify the extent of the denial I will use the case of the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, in particular I want to use the speech that president Obama made.

While it’s true that U.S.A. has an issue with gun control, and mental public health, the motivation of the killer was clearly religious, however, due to political correctness, and fear of Islamophobia Obama didn’t even mention the word “Islam”. Sure, he probably wanted to use this incident as a political tool to promote his anti-gun agenda, but to avoid the word completely is astonishing.

The media, again, in the name of multiculturalism, denied the link between Islam and the hate of homosexuals. But is there really no link?

For starters we have an Imam in Orlando, just before the attack saying that death is the sentence for homosexuality.

Maybe that’s just one crazy leader, and the majority of Muslims don’t share his views. So let’s see what the polls about homosexuality in different countries say:

gsi2-chp3-6

There is essentially no acceptance for homosexuality in the Muslim world, in fact it’s punishable by death in many Muslim countries. And it’s not that different in western countries like the U.K. where not even 1% of Muslims agreed homosexuality was morally acceptable in a recent poll.

The Qur’an is also clear (this is just one example):

Quran (7:80-84)“…For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds…. And we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone)”

So there is absolutely no reason to think that Muslims are O.K. with homosexuality, and yet when a Muslim person with links to terrorist Muslim groups, throws a terrorist attack in a gay nightclub the media denies any link between his ideology and the attack, and the president doesn’t even mention the word “Islam”.

How hard must reality hit us in the face before we accept it?

The victims and the heroes

Although the western world has seen the tip of the iceberg that is the horrific doctrine of Islam, the real victims are Muslims, in Muslim countries, since they suffer the bulk of the violence, predominantly for believing in the wrong flavor of Islam. And the heroes are Muslims, or ex-Muslims, who recognize the threat that nominal Islam is, and want to reform it, risking their own lives in doing so.

Many religions, including Christianity, had to change, to evolve, in order to be compatible with modern liberal values. Currently there is no religion that needs it more than Islam, and many Muslims recognize that reality. Unfortunately they are the minority.

Our job as defenders of liberal values should be to empower these reformist Muslims, like Maajid Nawaz (an ex-radical), who want to transform their religion into a version that is compatible with modern secular societies. Unfortunately we do the opposite; Maajid is constantly criticized by popular media, and denied a platform, in fact, he is called an Islamophobe (even though he is Muslim).

The current, nominal, version of Islam is incompatible, it is toxic, it is a cancer in modern society, and it is openly at war with us. Tolerating an intolerant ideology is a recipe for disaster. And the more time we deny the link between Islam and terrorism, the more people will suffer, both Muslims and non-Muslims. I wonder how many more Muslim terrorists attacks will have to happen before we as a society realize the truth; they will not stop until we do something about it.

Categories
Planet Random Truth

Basics in rational discussion

Lately I’ve been having deep discussions that get so abstract we reach deep into the nature of reality. One might think that in the 21st century we would at least have gotten that right, we could agree on some fundamentals, and move on to more important stuff–after all, philosophy is taught in high school (last I checked)–sadly, that’s not the case.

Nature of reality

The first thing we have to agree is the nature of reality. For example, it’s possible that there are multiple realities, maybe your reality is different than mine. Maybe I see an apple as red, and you see the apple as yellow, both our perceptions are correct, but the realities are different; you take a picture, and it’s yellow, I take a picture, and it’s red.

If this was the case, it would be useless to discuss reality; what does it matter if I see the apple as red and you as yellow? In fact, it’s pointless to discuss about anything; does she loves you? Or is she using you? Maybe there’s two versions of her, and if that’s the case, the discussion is over. It gets even more hypothetical than that: maybe I’m alive in my reality, but dead in everybody else’s.

This is where philosophy enters the picture, and more specifically; epistemology–the study of knowledge. We, rational people, have decided that we need to assume there’s only one reality, which is objective. It makes sense if we want to discuss about anything. What makes the apple look red to me, and yellow to you, is our subjective experience of the objective reality. Experience can be subjective, but reality is not.

So if somebody tells you there’s many realities, or that reality is subjective; end the discussion. Just say: fine, your reality is different, whatever it is, we would never know. Look for other rational people willing to discuss about the real reality we all live in.

Discerning reality

We have agreed that there’s one objective reality, but, can we really know it? If I’m thirsty can I really know that drinking water will help me? We can’t know for sure, but we have to assume reality is discernable. If I don’t drink water and I die, well, we know that drinking water would probably have helped me.

There really is no alternative; if there’s no way to know if water will help, then there’s no point in discussing anything.

But what if the first time a human being drinks water it helps, but the second one it doesn’t? What if reality is constantly changing, including the laws of physics? If that was the case it would be quite tricky to discern reality, and again; there would be no point in discussing.

Here enters science–the method to build and organize knowledge. Science assumes uniformitarianism; the basic laws of nature are the same everywhere, have always been, and would continue to be. It’s only with this assumption that we can even begin to attempt to recognize reality.

Now we have to decide the method. We can go with dogma, tradition, or even feelings, however, the only method that has reliably produced results through history is science. Science has taken us to the Moon, and improved dramatically our way of living–precisely by recognizing reality correctly. Science has proven dogma and tradition wrong, many times, and never has any of these methods proved science wrong. To put it simply; science works.

So, again, if somebody tells you reality can’t be known, just move on, and if he tells you he doesn’t believe in science, well, he isn’t interested the real reality.

Basic tips

After we have aligned all our necessary assumptions, and agreed on a method to find out reality, we can start the real discussion. In the process of doing this for centuries, we have identified a bunch of common mistakes in reasoning, and we call them fallacies.

Our minds are faulty, but what’s even worse; bad at recognizing our own faults. Fortunately we have given names to many of our faults in reasoning, in the hope that it will make it easier to recognize them.

However, not many people are interested in their faults in reasoning. Again, if somebody tells you he isn’t interested in fallacies, move on; it will be quite unlikely that you will be able to show him when his reasoning is faulty.

fallaciesposterhigherres

Summary

So to engage in a rational discussion we need to agree on:

  • Objective reality
  • Reality is knowable
  • Uniformitarianism
  • Science is the best method
  • Fallacies should be avoided

If anybody disagrees, you should be free to end the discussion immediately. Perhaps you can point that person to this post, so you don’t have to explain why yourself 🙂

Categories
Politics Random

The vanguard in the war of ideas

Language is interesting; it tells you about what’s going on inside somebody’s mind, but also; it tells you what’s going on inside the minds of a society.

At some point somebody came with the word “thought”, which changed the way we communicate forever. Same with many other words, like “racism”. There was a point where “racism” wasn’t a thing, and it’s essentially impossible to fight a concept for which you have no word.

“Racism” and “bigotry” are easy enough (although we don’t even have a word for “bigotry” in Spanish), but with them come more complicated notions, like “affirmative action”, and “the soft bigotry of low expectations”, both real things we should worry about.

I like “the soft bigotry of low expectations”, because it gives a name to an idea I adhere to; do not forgive a person that wronged you just because you are “morally superior”; hold other people to the same ethical and moral standards you hold yourself to, and you want others to hold you. It’s part of the golden rule, and it’s something the left doesn’t do with other cultures; we give them a free pass in the name of multiculturalism. It’s an issue.

But progressives don’t stop; while society catches on with ideas like “the soft bigotry of low expectations”, there’s even more novel ones, like “the regressive left” (also a real issue), which was coined only recently.

There’s a constant war of ideas, and it feels good when an issue finally gets identified and named, because all of us who felt the same way can rally and say; “yes! I feel the same way you do: the regressive left is an issue”. It feels good to be on the vanguard on the war of ideas, it feels good to know you are on the right side of history, just as I imagine the first people that said “racism is an issue” must have felt.

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Planet Politics Social

Social justice warriors and feminism, poster boys of the regressive liberals

A new term has been coined; the “regressive left” (or liberal), which perfectly describes a kind of thought that has become more and more prevalent of late, and it’s a real danger to real liberals, or “progressive” liberals, in fact, a danger to society in general.

Liberalism vs. conservatism

First of all, we have to define what a liberal person is. In it’s essence it’s the opposite of a conservative, a conservative is a person that doesn’t embrace change, that wants things to remain the same, because if it has been the same way for decades, centuries, or even millennia, it must be good, right? A liberal believes the opposite: we need to move forward, away from barbaric and backwards behaviors and thinking, that’s the way we progress as a species. A more appropriate term might be “progressive”, because, well, we want progress.

However, the crux of the matter is to find such things that need to be changed in order to progress. It might seem obvious to a rational person, but it turns out most liberals don’t realize this simple fact: not all change is good. Do we really need to even discuss about this? Apparently we do, as we will later see in this blog post; many liberals do not realize that just because a change is proposed, we must embrace it. Obviously just because we’ve frowned upon stealing for thousands of years, does it mean it’s time to change it? No.

So that is the key point: is the change progress or regress? Liberals tend to think change means progress, conservative that it’s regress. More often than not, liberals are right, and they end up being on “the right side of history“. Studies have shown that liberals tend to be smarter and better educated than conservatives, they tend to attend university and travel more, etc. However, society needs conservatives as much as liberals, in order to make sure that changes are going in the right direction. Sure, we need change in order to progress, but we also need devil’s advocates in order to make sure it’s progress, and not the opposite. Change for the sake of change is not good, and sometimes things are better the way they are, sometimes conservatives are right (although not often).

One of the best examples of progress in society was the abolition of slavery. In general, liberals were on the right side of history (as they often are), however, some conservative arguments did actually make sense, for example: some black people ended up worst being free that being slaves. We have moved ahead since those times, but still, in the United States black people fill their prisons and thus provide a good chunk of essentially free labor. Perhaps conservatives were right that you “can’t just abolish slavery”, maybe USA should have done it differently. Sometimes resisting change is a good thing, not just to make sure the change is in fact progress, but if change must be made, to find the best way to go about it, and not just go balls to the wall about it.

So it should now be clear what a “regressive liberal” is; a person that advocates change for the sake of change, and is in reality moving society towards the wrong direction; regressing.

Regression and reality

Lately there has been a tendency for liberals to act in an irrational manner, something that has historically not been the case. That is one of the problems with being right so often; you sometimes forget you can be wrong.

There are numerous examples of this way of thinking, too many to explore them all in dept, but I’ll mention a few.

Vegetarianism today is viewed as a liberal tendency; most vegetarians are liberal, many of them see it as a moral statement, some think we all should be vegetarians, and even go as far as saying that humans are vegetarian in nature. It’s the latter argument I want to tackle. I don’t have a problem if you are a vegetarian and say you do it for moral reasons, or health, or even push it to the rest of society for economic reasons, those are all valid arguments, and I might disagree, but the jury is still out.

The problem comes when people deny reality. It is very obvious to everyone that humans are not herbivores: first of all; we can eat meat, herbivores can’t. You give meat to a deer, and it will die of starvation. The opposite is true of carnivores as well. But we humans are in neither of these categories, we are omnivores, like dogs, and bears. We eat everything. It’s also very obvious from our physiology; we don’t have the stomachs of herbivores, nor the teeth. Since we have the technology and resources to gather vegetables from all over the world, we might be able to sustain a vegetable-only diet and be healthy, although it’s probably not economically feasible, not to mention that many vegetarians have health issues, precisely because it’s not easy to find all the nutrients with such diet (not impossible, it can be done, but it’s certainly not easy). The fact of the matter is that through most of the history of our species we have been omnivores; we are omnivores, we can eat both meat and vegetables in large amounts, and that’s an uncontroversial and undeniable scientific fact.

Yet there are some people–liberals, who deny those facts, who deny science, and claim that humans are vegetarians by nature. Things would be much easier if we were vegetarians, perhaps it would be ideal, but we are just not. When you deny reality, and reject facts in order to fit your ideal of how things should be, you are engaged in what is called wishful thinking. Reality doesn’t care about your ideals, things just are the way they are, it might not be fair, it might not be nice, but it just is. Is it fair–or ideal–for the female praying mantis to eat the head of the male during sex? Probably not, but that’s nature, that’s reality, we have to accept that such is the case.

A more controversial example is the whole idea that “Islam is a religion of peace”. In order to explore this topic I’m going to use many of Sam Harris’ arguments, which has done a superb job of shining light on the issue.

First of all, we have to understand that religions are different, that’s why there are so many of them, and they are not interchangeable. Religions are different, in the same way that sports are different; you can’t compare rugby with golf, and you can’t compare Jainism with Christianity; they are way too different to make any meaningful comparison. And you can’t generalize either; say that all sports are violent, or that all religions are peaceful. Different religions are different, and their differences matter.

Second, religions are ideologies, ideologies affect the behavior of people, and while it’s true that ideologies can be twisted to the point of breaking their core principles (at which point it can be argued you are not really following that ideology), the ideology itself remains having certain ideas, independently of how people interpret them. For example, a nazi that doesn’t consider the aryan race superior can’t really be considered a nazi, a nazi that adores the state can be said to be perfectly within the ideology. A Jainism follower that advocates violence is not really a Jane (violates the core principles), but one that is vegetarian is perfectly within.

The question then becomes; can a violent person be called a Muslim? By extension; does the ideology condone violence? There’s many verses on the Qur’an about violence, for example: (8:12) “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”. It’s pretty clear to anyone reading the Qur’an that it not only condones violence, it advocates it.

So it’s that simple: Jainism doesn’t condone violence, Islam does; Jainism is a religion of peace, Islam is not. Yet some people, liberals, like Reza Aslan, claim that all religions are exactly the same, and their holy books interpreted in any way, the problem is not the ideologies, but the people, the followers of the ideologies. We know this not to be true with ideologies like nazism, Islam is no different; we have to look at the ideology in order to decide if it’s peaceful or not, and just because an ideology happens to be a religion, that doesn’t mean it’s inherently peaceful.

It would be nice if what Reza Aslan said was true; all religions are equally peaceful and/or violent, all religions are faces of the same prism through which we see the same truth. But just because something is nice doesn’t mean it’s true; that is wishful thinking. However, many liberals drink this Kool-Aid, precisely because of that; it would be nice if it was true, therefore it must be true. The evidence is clear; not all religions are equal, Islam is a violent religion, the Qur’an endorses violence, as much as we would want it to be otherwise, we shouldn’t deny reality, the praying mantis is the way it is, and the Qur’an is the way it is.

Now, there’s a difference between is and ought. One thing is to recognize human nature, another is accept it as desired behavior. We humans have a tendency to crave sugar, does that mean we ought to eat a lot of sugar? No. In order for humans to progress, we first must recognize our nature, in order to reject it and actively fight against it. If science demonstrates humans are xenophobic by nature (which seems to be the case), the answer is not to close our ears to the evidence, the answer is to accept it, and find ways to fight against our nature.

By rejecting evidence, and thus denying reality, liberals are doing a disservice to society, and pushing for changes that might as well be moving us backwards. If liberals push for vegetarianism because humans are herbivores, that’s wrong. If liberals want to label every criticism of Islam as islamophobe, on the basis that it’s a peaceful religion, like any other religion, that’s also wrong. Both liberals and conservatives must seek to be in contact with reality, even if reality is not nice.

Third wave feminism

This is the definition of feminism:

1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
2: organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests

Once upon a time, not long ago, women did not have the same rights nor opportunities as men, so a movement was needed to achieve equality between the sexes by pushing for women’s rights, and that was perfectly fine, that was feminism.

Today, the world is different (at least the western modern world ), and women have as many rights as men, if not more, women have as many opportunities as men, some argue even more. Today, the need to push exclusively for women’s rights is just not as urgent as before, and perhaps even not necessary.

Today the discourse about sexism and gender issues has advanced tremendously, in part thanks to the first wave feminists, and that’s why today we recognize that actually men have gender issues as well, like being raped in prisons, be victims of domestic violence, much more likely to commit suicide, and die earlier than women from disease. Males are also raped, but society doesn’t want to hear about it, even ridicules them, that’s an issue, why are feminists who supposedly fight for the “equality” of sexes not fighting to change this? Why is Emma Watson’s movement called “he for she”? What happened to “she for he”?

The fact of the matter is that feminism was never about male issues, we all know that, even the name itself implies which gender was the focus of the movement. That might have been necessary in the first wave of feminists, but now?

Some people argue that in fact, women are the privileged gender today, and with good reason, yet third wave feminists continue to push to privilege women even more. Society is catching up to the fact that perhaps liberals pushed way too hard and we are in effect moving backwards in terms of gender equality.

These third wave feminists want still more change, as liberals that’s expected, but they are doing so denying plenty of evidence that goes against their agenda.

One particularly worrying aspect is that many deny that men and women are in effect different. We all know we are different from our anecdotal evidence, we have always been different since the dawn of time, and plenty of parents of boys and girls see this obvious fact. Yet these “sameness” feminists deny that fact and argue that it’s all due to culture, even though it has happened in all cultures in history.

Differences in men and women are not just obvious, they are scientifically proven. Sexual dimorphism happens through all the animal kingdom, why would humans be the exception? Yes, some differences can be explained by culture, like blue for boys, pink for girls, but certainly not all of them.

Let’s keep in mind that being different doesn’t mean one is better than the other, just different. Women seem to be better at some things, men at others, there’s nothing wrong with that. But more importantly; if our understanding of human nature advances to the point where we find that in truth, men are better than women (in general), what does that mean? Nothing. That’s just reality. But fortunately for us, no gender seems to have a leg up, and even if it did, it probably wouldn’t be by much, and evolution is always happening anyway, so things might flip in the future.

Let’s look at a very concrete example: chess. Men dominate the competitive chess scene, even though women have been given every opportunity, and many women have become indeed pretty good at chess; they haven’t reached the top positions. Why is that? “Sameness” feminists would argue that it’s all because of culture; women are discouraged from such endeavors, the culture of chess is toxic, women feel inferior, therefore they act inferior. While all of that might be true to some extent, there are always exceptions, and there are strong women who don’t give a damn about society’s expectations of them, or the culture around an activity, and that’s why many women through history have achieved great things despite the fact that they were not supposed to. Still, no woman has become a chess world champion, even come close to that, even with all the help from feminists to “empower” them in such activities.

IQ might be a controversial way to measure general intelligence, but certainly not the intelligence needed to play chess; if you are good at chess, you have high IQ, if you have high IQ, you have potential to be a good chess player. So, is men’s IQ higher than women’s?

IQ

The answer is; not likely, but this graph shows the distribution is different. You are likely to find a good amount of really stupid men, but also, really intelligent ones, on the other hand, the average woman is smarter than the average man. Does this not match to pretty much everyone’s experience? Most of the women I know are pretty smart, smarter than most men, yet, the smartest people I know, are men. And that’s why we don’t see women in the top chess competitions; exceptional men are more exceptional than exceptional women, at the same time stupid men are more stupid than the stupidest woman. It’s just a matter of distribution.

Why would we want to change that? It’s just chess. Plenty of men are bad at chess, the vast majority of men are bad at many disciplines that require exceptional people. Women are better at plenty of other things that men, and that’s fine.

The more science finds about the nature of the human brain, the more we find that there are plenty of inherent differences between the genders, that’s just a fact, that’s reality, and there’s still plenty more to find.

Why can’t we embrace and accept our differences? One example scientists have found is that a region of the brain called the corpus callosum tends to be bigger in women, what does that mean? It means women in general are more likely to associate seemingly unrelated ideas, which is very useful in the arts in general, so is it really a surprise that women are more artsy than men? Plenty of men have complained that when discussing with their partners, women often bring issues of the past, issues that–in the opinion of men–are not related at all. Why can’t we just accept this and say: “I’m sorry honey, but I just don’t see what X has to do with Y, I’m a man, remember?”? It’s not an excuse for us men, but it’s an explanation, and a reason for us to try harder.

It’s not sexist to say that praying mantises females eat the males’ heads, that’s just a fact, so if science proves that men and women are different in certain aspect, that’s not sexist either, just reality. Yet “sameness” feminists insist–and will keep insisting–that we are the same, and to argue otherwise is sexist. I don’t see a better recipe for unhappiness than denying our human nature.

In fact, studies have shown that women have become unhappier of late, in a pretty significant way, and this trend started–unsurprisingly–when feminism started. Maybe women really like to feel protected, maybe demonizing stay-at-home moms was not such a great idea, maybe there was nothing wrong with women being feminine. I personally don’t know, but what seems to be clear is that the feminist movement doesn’t seem to be moving us forward as a society any more.

Every indication seems to suggest that third wave feminism might be the first liberal movement that is actually on the wrong side of history (as far as I know). Society, especially millennials, are starting to turn away from this bitter form of feminism, and people are realizing that maybe there’s nothing wrong with masculinity. Polls suggest that the feminist movement is collapsing, and in a couple of years the amount of women that identify themselves as feminists have decreased from 28% to 18% in the US (source). Given the fact that feminism has never pushed for men’s rights, and has no intention of doing so, and really have failed completely to try to understand the male position, and discover the reality of gender differences, it seems that such backlash is well deserved. Perhaps it’s time to stop talking about feminism, and start talking about equalism.

True equality

Richard Dawkins when asked about MRAs said “I hardly know there was–is there a men’s rights movement? I mean… If there is discrimination against men, then that’s bad too. I don’t know whether there is, I haven’t heard of it”. I think that is pretty much the experience the vast majority of people, including men, and including me, until not long ago.

However, there are two possibilities: a) either there is no discrimination against men, or b) there is discrimination, but we haven’t heard of it.

There is in fact a men’s rights movement, and it is largely ignored or attacked. They do claim there are men issues, I won’t go through all of them, I’ll just focus on one: men are held financially responsible for fathering a child.

In the face of it, it seems perfectly reasonable to hold men responsible for the future of a child they bred, but let’s look at the women’s perspective. If a woman doesn’t want a child, she can just have an abortion (depending on the local laws), the father doesn’t even have a say on that, he might not even know about it, but even leaving the controversial issue of abortion aside, a woman can chose to give the baby away for adoption. Let’s look at this closely; a woman can opt out of parenthood. It also seems reasonable; a woman’s life is a woman’s choice, and the baby might not suffer at all from that choice, it might benefit him/her, and perhaps never be aware that such choice was made. Where is the man’s choice? Can a man opt out of parenthood? No. Can a man hold a woman responsible, raise the child, and demand alimony from the mother? No. Where is the equality in that? It seems to me this is a real gender issue, one that genuinely destroys many lives of men.

To be honest, I never really thought about it, but now that I’m aware of it; it’s impossible not to see the discrimination against men in this case. So, maybe it’s b): there is discrimination against men, but we just haven’t heard of it.

Well, no problem, we just have to make a social movement to bring these men’s issues to light, and surely enough society will mobilize to fix these problems, just like it happened with the women’s right movement. Wait a second, wasn’t there already a movement that claimed to advocate for the rights of both genders? I have never heard a feminist bring up this issue, in fact, I have never heard a feminist complain about any male issue.

When an educated man like Richard Dawkins is not even aware of men’s right issues, it becomes pretty clear that somebody has not been doing their job of shining a light on these issues. If feminism truly aims to advocate for men’s rights, they have done such a poor job.

We are all perfectly aware of feminism, we all know all the women’s issues, or at least the claims, some of us might not agree with all of them, or the severity of them, but we are aware of the claims.

If anybody laughed at a women’s issue, that person would be harshly criticized, but not only we can’t laugh at the issues, we can’t even criticize them. A commonly mentioned issue is the wage gap: women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns—for doing the same work. This factoid is repeated again and again by the media, politicians, celebrities, activists, you name it. In reality, it turns out to be a myth.

Wage gap

The only way this number could be true is if you ignore a variety of factors, like life and career choices, but if you take those into account, the gap essentially disappears. Yet we can’t even say the wage gap is a myth without being labeled as sexist, misogynist, patriarchal.

However, when Richard Dawkins claimed he didn’t know about men’s issues, the whole audience laughed, even more, I saw shows where people replayed this bit, and the host laughs as well. What is there to laugh about? The fact that men have gender issues too? The fact that some men complain about these issues? Wasn’t feminism supposed to advance equality for both genders? Maybe that was a joke too.

The fact of the matter is that feminism has managed to mobilize entire societies to the pursuit of wellbeing solely for women, while at the same time completely ignoring the male perspective. Men rights activists are mocked, bullied, and completely ignored. Every time somebody mentions a gender issue that affects men, they are ignored, and immediately people point out a women’s issue, because apparently, those are the only ones that truly matter.

Perhaps it is because men are privileged, and women are oppressed, but is that truly so? Maybe it was at some point in history, perhaps most of history, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case now. Yet hardcore feminists insist men are privileged, men hate women, men are patriarchal, and prefer men over women for work. None of this is really true, but I can’t provide a succinct way to prove otherwise, except for the claim that men hate women, for which I will provide an excellent comment by Karen Straughan:

I don’t think there is a universe that could exist where men, in general, hate women.

So maybe the first thing would be to stop accusing men of hating women? And to call out the women in positions of power who accuse men of hating women? And to call out the women like Quinn Norton who claim that men are raised to hate women, or Chloe Angyal of Feministing who claim that our entire society hates women?

Honestly, the Nazis hated the Jews. The Hutus hated the Tutsis. The KKK hated blacks. And yet this male dominated society, where men hold the majority of the positions of power, somehow HATES women despite not a single lynching of a woman for wronging a man, despite NOMAAS and the White Ribbon Campaign and HeForShe and a male feminist president, despite Boko Haram’s sparing of girls while burning boys in their dormitories, despite the unbelievable (and unbelievably unspoken-of) gender gap in executions and criminal sentencing in Islamic countries, despite males being the primary receptacles of violence by both males and females from infancy to old age GLOBALLY, despite not a single genocide in history that DIDN’T begin with the systematic extermination of almost exclusively men and boys.

And you think men hate women. If men hate women, then how do men feel about men? On any given day, any given male is more likely to assault a male, undermine a male, ignore a male in need, murder a male, celebrate the suffering of a male wrongdoer, hit his male child, make a decision to mutilate his male child, arrest a male, convict a male, and sentence a male to incarceration or death, than he is a female.

And yet women–yes, women–have allowed a narrative to become entrenched in all our systems and institutions that males favor other males at the expense of females. That somehow, there is a “team men” that has been oppressing, subjugating and subordinating women since the dawn of human history. That men have waged a “war on women” since we descended from the trees and first tottered on two legs on the African Savannah.

Men have bled for their women, fought to protect their women, died for their women, and admonished each other for millennia to love their virtuous women as Christ loves the Church, to treat their honorable women as queens and as jewels, to present to them the heads of the men who displease them, and to duel to the death to defend their honor. The literary canon, written primarily by men, has always lauded a masculinity that protects women–the villains identified by their willingness to harm women, and the heroes identified by their willingness to avenge those harms.

And you think men hate women?

Men have never hated women. Men will never hate women.

(complete comment)

In fact, we love women so much, that we have given them many rights and privileges without asking anything in return, so much that more and more men give up their masculine human nature, just because of the fear of being labeled as misogynistic.

We have done so much just to please women that quite honestly, it’s ridiculous.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying that men are being oppressed, but we are certainly suffering. The worst jobs are done by men (military, trash collection, construction), the most job-related injuries are suffered by men, men have a huge societal pressure to succeed, men are much more likely to commit suicide, men die at a younger age. On top of that, we can’t complain about any of these issues, because apparently we are oppressing women, and we can’t argue that either. We can’t follow our masculine nature, because doing that would be sexist, apparently now even smiling to a woman is sexist.

If a woman breaks her hand hitting a man in the face, guess who is going to jail?

Call me crazy, but this doesn’t seem to be fair towards men.

Social justice warriors

If staunch feminism wasn’t enough, we now have social justice warriors, which do exactly the same things as feminists do (most of them are feminists anyway), because well, feminism has done such great things for our society! But they do it on all aspects of it.

The modus operandi seems to be: find an ideal, make it a cause, do everything in your power to advance that ideal, ignore any evidence that it’s really not the best thing to do, and label everyone that criticizes this ideal as a backwards, close minded, bigoted person.

For example, ideally all religions should be peaceful, therefore we should tolerate all religions, some people are intolerant towards Islam, that must be changed, there is evidence that Islam is in reality not a religion of peace, ignore that, label anybody that criticizes Islam as a racist and an islamophobe, and you win.

What doesn’t seem to enter into this equation is: what if you are wrong? For some reason SJWs never entertain the possibility that they might be wrong, which is the quintessential feature of a rational person. If you don’t entertain the possibility that you might be wrong, well, you will end up being wrong plenty of times. If you are wrong with your life choices, well, so bad for you, but if you push society towards the wrong direction, that’s actually terrible.

A study showed that you only need 10% of the population to believe in an idea in order for it to spread to the rest of the population. It doesn’t matter if the idea is true or false, if 10% of the population believes in this idea wholeheartedly, it will spread. Feminists believe it’s absolutely true we live in a misogynistic society, so, we all as a society believe that. It doesn’t matter if it’s indeed true or not. Such is the danger of herd mentality, and such is the power of ideas.

Even worse, apparently universities today have a concept called “safe places”, where susceptive people can go when there’s a talk about a subject they find distressing, but even more, prevent certain talks to happen altogether. Universities are supposed to be the place where all ideas are discussed, if you can’t discuss a topic in a university, where can you? Endangering free speech because some people might find the comments offensive, especially in a university, is certainly one of the worst policies ever.

Why would SJWs act this way? Why would anybody reject evidence, reality? When you are confronted with evidence that contradicts your beliefs, you enter into a state called cognitive dissonance, which doesn’t feel good. If the objective is to better society, then you must confront your wrong beliefs, and you must risk feeling bad, and realizing you were wrong. So why don’t they do that? It seems pretty clear that their objective is actually not to better society, but to feel good about themselves, thinking they are bettering society, while in effect they might be doing the opposite.

The way forward

This is where we are today, thanks to staunch feminists, thanks to SJWs, thanks to the whole “political correctness” idea. We can’t criticize feminism, we can’t criticize Islam, we can’t criticize certain ideas, because some people find that “offensive”. It is such a recipe for disaster.

It is quite ironic that the places where most women are genuinely objectively oppressed are Islamic countries, however, even the most staunch feminists wouldn’t touch the subject, because, well, it’s not politically correct (a few feminists truly do). So the people that push for women’s rights the most around the globe, might very well be atheists (or new atheists as some people like to say). The people that prevent the women’s right to choose (pro-choice), are not actually men, or “the patriarchy”, but the ones that follow “christian values”, in fact mostly christian women.

The whole situation is incredibly depressing. Even if feminism seems to be on the way out, pretty much the same manner of dealing with social issues is spreading through liberal circles. Such an epidemic of–quite frankly–stupid liberals, deserves a name: regressive liberals.

Hopefully the majority of liberals can recognize this toxic behavior and distance themselves from these regressive liberals, otherwise we are heading to a period of pretty much no progress in society.

Feminism symbol