Middle Eastern cab driver: “I used to have a video store in Washington Heights. But the black bastard put me out of business! Can you believe it? After ten years the black bastard put me out of business! Do you now the black bastard on Dyckman? C’mon! Everybody knows the back bastard! Black bastard! Black bastard video!”
Black woman: “This here is Chelsea. It’s where all the rich homosexuals live.”
(2) A practical definition of a free society: One in which you don’t have to watch what you say.
(3) Stupid meme I saw which illustrates how liberalism ruins everything. This starts well. It’s blaringly obvious where some feminist/male feminist fuckwit decided to add something and screwed it up.
KISS HER until she sighs SPANK HER until it stings FINGER HER until she’s soaked LICK HER until she shudders FUCK HER until she screams. And always respect her.
There’s an obvious point in that in which suddenly the tone changes radically, all the heat and intensity are destroyed, and the air is let out of the tires. What the fuck? Who would add something like that to a sex meme?! Especially one that says “Spank her until it stings.” Is there anything leftists won’t ruin?
(4) Well, whaddaya know, Neurotoxin’s got a theory. In July 2020 I noted that based on a porn website’s survey of 50,000 respondents from over 150 countries the ideal woman has “straight, dark, long hair.”
This goes against the old cliche that men prefer blondes and indeed, I haven’t known many men who actually prefer blondes. Yer humble correspondent himself likes ’em dark-haired. Why? Because that is the sexually and aesthetically correct preference, of course.
But seriously, why? Here’s my theory: When people get old their hair gets white, and what color is the opposite of white? Right, black. So, dark hair signals youth, and female fertility is highly positively correlated with youth. Men who preferred dark-haired women left more descendants in successive generations, on average, than those who didn’t.
You reply, “But dude, there’s such a thing as a young blonde.” Duh. But when a blonde starts to age it’s less obvious in her hair color than it is for a raven-tressed lass. So blonde-preferring men keep happily fucking them, even though their fertility has fallen off. In contrast, black-haired chicks show it when they start to age; they’re no longer black-haired. So black-hair-preferring men are drawn to 100% reasonably young, fertile women. In contrast, blonde-preferring men are sometimes drawn to young women, sometimes to older women. The differential effect needn’t be large to have mammoth effects over many generations.
This explains the prevalence of dark hair in the human species, as the result of sexual selection. When I was in school the story we got was some bullshit story from biologists that the geographic distribution of skin and hair color has something to do with sunlight and vitamin D at various latitudes. Maybe for skin color, I don’t know, but for hair color, BULLSHIT! There is no particular relationship between latitude and prevalent hair color! (Have you ever noticed that our professional “intellectuals” don’t even try that hard? I mean, they hardly even bother to put up a front of plausibility.) Europe is simply an anomaly, that’s all. The only “pattern” there is that Europe’s weird.
Thus I have explained the scientifically observed fact that, other things being equal, dark-haired chicks are hotter.
What else do women think about? …It is dick, dick, dick, dick, dick all the time. Any time a woman opens her mouth, nothing that she says makes any sense except in relation to alpha male dick going into it. Everything a woman does is dick centric.
(6) Illinois: Sponsor of “no cash bail” plan is outraged that man who threatened him with gun only had to post $1,500 bail.
“By him being released on bail, he’s free to do this again,” [Illinois State Senator] Elgie Sims of Chicago told the State-Journal Register.
Yet just last month Sims tweeted, “money bond doesn’t guarantee public safety or someone’s appearance in court, it supports a system where freedom is based on the size of someone’s bank account.”
(7) The left doesn’t like to back down – I mean, no one likes to back down, but the left REALLY hates to. It can make them stupidly cling to positions that hurt them. Consider e.g. the entertainment industry and its insistence on hating its customers. Or the tampon company that said that some men need tampons, and when female customers objected to this mind-raping insanity, called them “self-hating misogynists” or whatever on Twitter.
Maybe we can use this to damage the left: Goad them into staking out insane positions in public, positions which they’ll resist backing down from once they’ve adopted them. Given how terrified they are of being out-flanked to the left in the holiness spiral, black-knight nudging of them shouldn’t be too hard. It might also work on politicians as well as left-converged businesses.
Here are edited-down excerpts from four articles based on interviews with current or former prosititutes. They’re quite varied in how they say that market works, and I don’t find them all equally believable. But here at Neurotoxin, we report, you decide!
(1)What It’s Like to Be a Madam for the Richest Guys in America By former Las Vegas escort and madam Jami Rodman, as told to Cheryl Wischhover, Jan 6, 2016
From the Intro: “Jami Rodman became a Las Vegas escort after getting divorced at 22. She started as a stripper, which she claims she wasn’t good at. That progressed to going out on “paid dates” with men at strip club events, which eventually led to her becoming an independent escort. She later started her own high-end escort agency, which she ran as a madam for about three years, until she was outed when an exposé revealed that former Olympic runner Suzy Favor Hamilton was an escort at the agency.” [Interesting.]
At the top of my game when I was escorting, I easily made $3,000 a day. That would be about three clients, sometimes one, sometimes four, but by the time I got to the last guy, I couldn’t remember the name of the first. That’s when it started to really feel like work and less like a fun time.
[Note that it started out as “a fun time.” Whether prostitutes are happy or not is not a function of prostitution as such; it’s a function of their particular situation. This is a theme that emerges throughout these articles, particularly the next one.]
I was escorting for maybe three years and had sugar daddies a couple years, then got into a serious relationship and pulled away from the business. I had stopped escorting and was running an art business. All of a sudden, we had the recession hit and people were not spending money on art. I started escorting again and very quickly started dating a client. He was an attorney and the escort agency was his idea [!]. He helped me start it, and drew up all the paperwork. I was running both businesses and the escorting agency shot through the roof. I didn’t escort at the time because it was very hard to run a business like that plus escort. I really had to work 24 hours a day for at least a year. I had two or three cell phones, and was always taking calls.
At the busiest point, there were 60 women in the agency. When I started it was just six or seven of my friends who had been in the industry. I did screening and marketing, but they were responsible for their own success. If they only wanted to work once a week that was fine with me. Word got around that this agency was doing really well, I was great to work for, I didn’t charge exorbitant rates, so they started coming from all over the world. There are a lot of girls who work on tour and they travel to all the big cities. If you’re a working girl and you go to Vegas, you can make money. There’s somebody looking for companionship at all hours.
It was so much different as a madam because I was running a business, which means I was paying taxes. I paid an assistant, and I paid for photo shoots every month, and anywhere from 40 percent of your income goes to marketing. When clients were not happy, we offered a discount because that’s customer service. If I was in business for money, I never would have run an escort agency. [Wait, what? I think you’re doing it wrong.] I was making connections and making the industry safer for both sides of it. [So you did this as a charity and for “making connections”? Seriously, the best way for you to make connections was to run a whorehouse?! I don’t believe this story for a picosecond. Maybe she actually was in it to make money but it turned out harder than she thought it would be.]
The girls really did charge their own rates. Some were $500 per hour, some $600 or $1,000.
[A thousand bucks per hour!? Whoa!]
When I ran the agency, I was working all day, everyday, and getting phone calls in the middle of dates, in the middle of having sex. I was a horrible partner. As an escort, if I’m having sex all day with clients, the last thing I want to do is go home and have crazy, wild sex with my boyfriend. Maybe I am very sexual in one part of my life, but there’s a sacrifice and that is when I’m in my downtime, I just want to chill. It’s tricky to find someone who first of all is not intimidated by past experiences…
[“Intimidated.” In other words, turned off by the fact that you’re an (ex?) whore. “Intimidated,” snort. So if you decline to bang a pussy that’s had a thousand cocks in it, it must be because you’re scared. Come to think of it, it would be quite reasonable to be scared of catching an STD, but obviously that’s not what she means.
I’ve noticed that women have two main ways of trying to manipulate men (aside from getting other people involved to apply pressure): One is the implicit promise of sex, of course, and the other is some variation on “Bawk, bawk, you’re chicken! If you don’t do what I want you to do, it’s because you’re skeeeeeeered!” Don’t want to marry a prostitute? Ha, coward!]
In this article, Cosmo interviews three “sex worker” women. Here’s a sample of the questions and answers:
What kind of sex work do/did you do?
Woman A: I currently perform in porn, and I used to do all sorts of other sex work — professional domination, camming, escorting, phone sex, hands-on sex education, erotic modeling, and live sex shows.
Woman B: I was a hooker.
Woman C: First and foremost, sex work is an inaccurate description. The terms “sex work” and “sex worker” sanitize the harms in prostitution. Sex is not work; it is exploitation and denial of human rights based on vulnerabilities and power imbalances between the oppressor and the oppressed. For me, stripping and survival sex were gateways to prostitution resulting from vulnerabilities including economic inequality, substance abuse, and the need for survival.
[Wow, a burst of Dworkinite rhetoric that could have been produced by a feminist random word generator. Was Woman C ever really a prostitute? She sounds like a Women’s Studies major who decided to strike a blow against the Patriarchy or whatever by responding to Cosmo’s call for interviewees.]
Woman A: After working three jobs at a mall that an hour and a half walk away, working for an hour to make the same amount seemed obvious. Sex work was a way to see firsthand how diverse human sexuality was while also being paid for it. [It was really just anthropology fieldwork, you see.] Later, when I began escorting specifically, it was because I felt ethically better about it than I did working in marketing for a large corporation that employed sweatshop labor. I particularly worked with people who had disabilities and women who had dealt with sexual trauma, helping them rediscover their bodies…
[Jeez, the self-justifying rationalizations! I doubt this woman is a serious lefty like Woman C, but note how she uses lefty rhetoric: blah corporation blah sweatshop. And you gotta love the random veering comparison to a completely irrelevant alternative: “Why were you a whore? “Better than something something sweatshop!” Reminds me of this exchange from The Tao of Steve: Dex : Doing stuff is overrated. Like Hitler. He did a lot. But don’t we all wish he woulda just stayed home and gotten stoned? Syd : Oh, I see. So your only options are to get stoned or commit genocide? By the way, The Tao of Steve is a great red-pill movie, until the end, when the playah gets one-itis for one chick.]
Woman C: Childhood issues from mental health and alcoholism in my family groomed me for prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation. Substance abuse, homelessness, date rape, teen dating violence, gang rape, and police brutality were some experiences in my youth that groomed me for sexual exploitation.
[So summarizing: I was a homeless druggie (OK, I can believe this I guess) and rape, rape, and more rape caused me to become a prostitute. Wait, you skipped a step. How does being multiple raped apparently twice per day and thrice on Saturdays cause you to become a prostitute? Also, what does police brutality have to do with turning you into a prostitute? A cop beat you up, therefore you had to quit journalism school (see below) and become a prostitute?]
Who are your clients? What do you think brings them to you?
Woman A: My clients are, for the most part, a mixture of curious couples, shy women, and men who have social anxiety or a physical disability. I think it’s because my profile is approachable, but it’s also not the standard “I’m the woman of your fantasies” type of marketing. I present a good sense of humor and affirming language, as well as an awareness of social justice politics, [WHAT THE FUCK?!] and I think the sort of clients I get are attracted to that.
[Okay, I was wrong about Woman A; she is a lefty, just not as foaming-at-the-mouth as Woman C. Also, it’s amazing that she thinks displaying “ an awareness of social justice politics” is an attractive feature in a prostitute. How insane are leftists? Imagine a guy goes to a whore for a blowjob and she gives him a “Racism is evil” speech. Or better still, a “Women are oppressed by prostitution” speech.]
Woman C: A variety of sex buyers purchased me for sex [actually they rented you], including politicians and workers in large corporations in the tech industry. The demographics of sex buyers are broad, but they all operate on their inherent need to be in control, exert power, act out violence and other acts on a prostituted person.
And how do you feel about your clients?
Woman A: Well, how do you feel about your coworkers or your boss? Sometimes they’re lovely, sometimes they’re wearing on your last nerve. For the most part, I feel genuine affection for my clients; they’re really lovely people and respect me as well as my time and boundaries.
Woman B: Some of them were nice enough guys. Sometimes they’d buy me supper first, almost like it was a date, which was sweet. Those guys tended to be kind and respectful, and I’d happily go back to sex work in a heartbeat if I could only see those guys. Some of them were real creepers though…
Woman C: The buyers of sex are not clients — they are rapists. I felt repulsed and disgusted by them. Not one sex buyer was anything other than disgusting, degrading, dehumanizing, and harmful to my body, mind, and soul.
What do/did you enjoy about your job?
Woman A: The time flexibility. I could manage my schedule and fit clients in around my other whims and responsibilities. For example, when I was escorting, I could focus my time off work on my activism and my education, which was very important to me.
Woman B: I enjoyed the relative autonomy, and that it wasn’t, generally speaking, terribly difficult, especially for the pay. I liked some of the clients, and it was sort of validating for me — I’d grown up believing that I was ugly, and as a young teenager I had an eating disorder. That part of me liked feeling like I was showing up the people who’d told me that I wasn’t good enough.
Woman C: Not one thing. The life of prostitution is a horrific form of violence against (largely) women. It was nowhere near enjoyable.
How much money do/did you make doing sex work?
Woman A: I adjusted my lifestyle so that I could work one or two days a month [!] and pay rent as well as groceries, so while I didn’t make bank the way others can, I preferred to work less and have more time to pursue my other interests… I’m a bit of a gutter punk at heart so don’t need a lot to feel satisfied.
[She supported herself working one or two days a month? Holy crap!]
Do/did you have other jobs at the same time? If so, did your coworkers know, or were you worried they’d find out you do sex work?
Woman C: Yes, I worked in journalism industry for a short period of time simultaneously. However, it quickly became impossible to uphold two different lifestyles and the money didn’t compare.
[Whoops, she forgot to keep her story straight. First it was “I was forced into it by date rape and violent cops,” but now it’s “The money was better.” Also, she said in an earlier passage I elided, “The exchange of currency doesn’t change the fact that it is rape, because you don’t want to be there and wouldn’t be there except for your economic need.” Now she’s saying, “Actually I didn’t have economic need because I had another job, but whoring paid better, so…”
Also, undoubtedly the ethics of whoring are better than the ethics of modern journalism.]
What are the biggest misconceptions people have about sex workers and sex work?
Woman A: That sex workers are all doing it to fund a drug addiction, that we’re doing sex work because we either don’t have any other option, that we’re uneducated… All of those may be true for some people and is completely untrue for others … like if you substituted “retail” for “sex work.”
Woman B: One of the big ones — and one that really bugs me — is the idea that no one would choose to do sex work, or that all sex workers are being exploited (which often comes with the implication that they’re not smart enough to realize it). It strikes me as very paternalistic — sort of, “if you’re not doing what I think you should do, it’s because you’re not smart enough to realize that I’m right.” But many women choose sex work — it pays relatively well, allows flexibility, and allows some control over what you’re doing. Sex workers aren’t stupid. They might not be making the choices that you would make, but they might be making the best choices for themselves.
Woman C: That there is a choice. Individuals don’t willingly enter exploitation; it comes from a myriad of vulnerabilities. For example, in a nine country study, 89 percent of exploited women wanted to exit but had no other means for survival.
“A safe and happy childhood eluded Jenny; who only managed to escape her sexually abusive stepfather by running away from home as a teenager. Things didn’t get any easier, though — from the time she was 16 well into her 30s, she managed to date assholes: guys who hit her, scammed her, abused her, and robbed her.”
[Yes, by some unfortunate coincidence, all the guys she dated for twenty years just happened to be abusers! What a run of bad luck!]
There’s a lot less sex than you’d think
Once upon a time, Jenny arranged for three women to accompany three wealthy men for a three-day weekend in the Caribbean. That’s two overnight stays in the same hotel room. No sex happened that she knows of. Each girl collected $2,000 a night, plus made extensive use of the resort’s room service and spa to ring up a five-figure bill.
“You probably already know this, but most stripping and hooking isn’t really about sex,” Jenny said. “It’s about companionship, being made to feel important. For the worst clients, it’s about enforcing power. You can do a lot of those things with your clothes on. For some things, it’s easier without the sex.” Over the course of her time as a madame, Jenny guesses only about 75% of her paying clients actually had actual sex… and that number would go to about half if you only counted penetration to orgasm as “actual sex.”
…a surprising number of Jenny’s workers simply gave back rubs and basic spa treatments.
‘Dark red, you know the one, like blood. I forget the name. Anyway, he wants that on your toes. Light-pink manicure – fresh, innocent. So what’s next? Underwear, yes. He wants you in La Perla, off-white. Corsetry. Nothing whorish.’ Lauren (All names have been changed.), 31, is mimicking her madam, putting on a breathy Parisian accent, adding a few Gallic gestures for effect. ‘He’s a nice guy, veeery discreet. Remember: act like you know him. Packing, let’s see: a cocktail dress – black, whips, lube…’ She laughs, returning to her own voice, which has a faint Scandinavian lilt. ‘And that was my life for 10 years. I was a high-class hooker. Call me a courtesan, call girl, escort, whatever you want. But basically I was a hooker. Just very well paid.’ She looks at her ring, an enormous pear-shaped diamond, and adjusts it. ‘Very well paid.’
On condition of anonymity (‘I don’t want my legs broken’), Lauren has agreed to talk about her life as a high-class prostitute. She earned £10,000 a night – at her peak £20,000, and £40,000 for a weekend. (‘No one earns that money now,’ she says. ‘Prices have gone down in the last five years. Changing times.’) [Prices fell after the world economy recovered from the Great Recession?! (The article is from 2014.) Uh, no, honey, you aged out so you can’t command as high a price.]
She travelled aboard private jets and yachts to Monaco, St Tropez, St Barth’s, Barbados and Malibu… the Cannes Film Festival, the Miami Art Basel, the Met Ball, the Monaco Grand Prix. ‘Our clients were on the Forbes list. Men who owned countries, private islands, people who were huge in property, big-scale retail, international industry and oil. I’ve had dinner with royalty and major politicians. If you knew who! These clients were – are – powerful, powerful men.’
Aristocrats? ‘No. They don’t pay. It’s new money. Having a hooker for them is nothing – like having butter on their bread. Sometimes their wives knew and turned a blind eye, sometimes they didn’t [know].’
We are in Lauren’s house in Chelsea. She lives with her husband, who was not a client – ‘I got lucky’ – and who disapproves of her talking about her past.
She says her look – extraordinary pale hair, gas-blue eyes, peachy skin – ‘was the look everyone wanted. They don’t want skinny models, they want a little bit of…’ She plumps her cleavage. ‘But nothing fake.’ Like others girls in her earnings bracket, Lauren is clever. She speaks several languages (Swedish, French, English). She used to read the Financial Times and The Economist to stay abreast of world events, as well as fashion magazines ‘for style’. ‘These clients want someone who can hold a conversation at a cocktail party or dinner. You can’t be like [she puts on a thick Slavic accent], “Er, my name is Svetlana. My father work in factory.” Although some girls do come from that background.’
Lauren says there are two ‘major’ madams in London right now, both women, and that they supply girls all over Europe and to the States. One is English, ‘but her background is not English. Big woman. Looks like a frog.’ Lauren’s was French, ‘in her 50s, very elegant’, lives in north-west London and has dominated the industry for 20 years. She has ‘the best, best girls. She has the top 10 girls right now. They are seriously beautiful. They look like models.’
How does her madam recruit? ‘She has scouts, who work like model scouts, trawling hot clubs and bars and model parties. And girls find her. Some come through contacts. Mostly they are models, strippers or dancers. Or students. They are smart and pretty, pretty. There are young actresses too. Sometimes recognisable faces.’
Lauren’s madam worked with a man who was ‘friendly with all the top model agencies. He’d pretend to be a Saudi prince and sleep with models. Then he’d tell them they could earn £10,000 a night and they’d say, “Oh really? Here’s my number.'” At other times, he might proposition a pretty girl by offering large amounts of money for sex. ‘Ninety-nine per cent of the time she’ll tell him where to go. But the seed is planted. Next time she sees him, she might say, “OK, tell me more.'”
There’s also a place in Paris she’ll send top girls to learn about sex, all the tricks. Paris is unbelievable for that stuff.’ Are the girls nervous? She laughs. ‘You can’t have nerves! These girls are tough. And there’s a numbness – it’s work. We don’t care about clients. A lot [of girls] come from not-great backgrounds.’ She trails off. ‘Let’s just say there’s a reason why they’re doing what they’re doing.’
‘The very least you’ll be paying is £1,000 a night – those are the get-’em-in, get-’em-out service girls.’ They’re booked for events like ‘the big weekend shoots’, or to sit in a nightclub, ‘making some sleazy guy look good’. She continues: ‘The mid-range are the majority – £5,000 a night up. A lot of Russians. They’re usually exceptionally beautiful but maybe didn’t cut it modelling. Most of the mid-range guys aren’t mega-mega – they’re wealthy-banker league.’
Girls are sent ‘to etiquette classes, to learn how to sit, eat, which knife, fork, which glass for the white, for the red. It can’t be obvious to the other dinner guests that she’s a prostitute.’ It sounds very My Fair Lady – albeit a pornographic version. [Actually it sounds like a naive fabulist’s idea of what “high-class courtesan” training is like, gleaned from cheesy movies. I half expected her to say that the training includes several martial arts and knife fighting.] ‘But not all the girls are badly educated,’ she adds. ‘There are students, girls with private school backgrounds rebelling against Daddy.’ She tells of a girl from a fabulous background who fell in love with a client. ‘And the client left his wife and three children for her.’ Do many girls marry out of the game? ‘Not as many as you’d think,’ she says. ‘It’s not Pretty Woman. But then again, a lot of society women started out this way.’
What makes a £10,000-£20,000 girl? ‘Looks and training. We were professionals. We’d need to be funny, a laugh, party all night. Or cool and clever, discreet and well-mannered. You could never be fazed by power or mega money – or what you were asked to do.’ She says the top girls are ‘healthy’ – they go to the gym. ‘They don’t do drugs, smoke or drink. Sometimes you’re up all night, you need to look after yourself.’
‘An absolutely stunning girl might not be so bright, or her English isn’t good. She’ll go to Arab clients. They want a beautiful girl they can lock in a room and bang, bang, bang.’ She pauses. ‘But they pay well.’
Does that mean other clients treat girls well? ‘Yes, but…’ She takes a deep breath. ‘A lot of these guys are seriously fucked up. If they’re married, their wives don’t do what they want. No woman in her sane mind would do half of it.’ She describes unprintable scenes and remembers being put in ‘an exceptionally expensive outfit so that the client could [urinate] on it’. One European royal ‘who has hookers all the time’ is so rough that Lauren’s madam refuses to send her best girls. A famous film director offered to make Lauren famous ‘if I didn’t use a condom’. She refused. ‘And one guy – you definitely know his name – wanted to be a baby girl dressed as a ballerina. We had to smack him and put things up his bum.’
In addition to their fees (which were paid to the madam – ‘no money changes hands with the girl’), clients would take them shopping for tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of clothes. Retirement age is 28, ‘latest 30’, Lauren says. ‘They need to earn enough to send home, or to put away for their future.’ (Lauren invested in property.) She says there’s an upper echelon of exclusive prostitutes, the famous ex-models, It girls and actresses, who charge for their celebrity premium. ‘They have a longer shelf life.’ Lauren cites six, including a former Victoria’s Secret model, who charged ‘£25,000 an hour. That’s a lot of money, so good for her.’
Through Lauren, I meet Anna, 24, who is currently working as a prostitute. She’s braless under her white T-shirt but it doesn’t look tarty – it looks hip, unbothered, sexy. She has a loose sweep of caramel-blonde hair, parted roughly in the middle – the kind of girl you might see hoicking her modelling portfolio around Paris. She remembers the ‘cheap fake-fur coat’ she was wearing when she stepped off the plane five years ago from Russia. Her modelling career failed because ‘there were a million Eastern European girls like me at the agency. I couldn’t earn proper money.’
Anna refuses to discuss her madam (or ‘agent’, as she calls her), but says she was introduced by another model. Most of her clients are financiers – ‘hedgefunders, CEOs, rich businessmen who like to travel. I can make £5,000 a night. Sometimes £10,000 or £15,000 for a weekend.’ She says the other girls ‘are nice, we’re often booked in groups’.
I ask Anna how she sees her future. ‘Maybe I’ll marry a rich man,’ she says. ‘If not, I’ll start my own business.’ Does she think she’ll ever fall in love? Have children? Have a normal life? ‘Maybe. I hope.’ She shrugs. ‘It’s hard to think about it. Right now, I just want to make money.’
The Paris Sex School Lessons: Knowledge of all sexual positions, including the unusual (eg, reverse cowgirl). How to perform the world’s best oral sex. Including how to relax your throat muscles and how to incorporate other male parts. Light bondage (how to be dominant, rope tying, light spanking and whips). Exercises to develop core muscles (internal grip), thigh muscles and balance – crucial for domination. How to use your fingers and tongue to best effect, and when. Grooming and cleanliness (eg, no hair around bikini line and ensuring there are no unsightly ‘accidents’). How to look as if you’re enjoying it as much as they are (eye contact, appearing to take your time, faking orgasm). How, when and where to use a vibrator. Three or moresomes – how to work together in order to maximise pleasure. Business. Keep him satisfied; ensure repeat custom.
The anthropic principle per Wikipedia is the “philosophical consideration that any data we collect about the universe is filtered by the fact that, in order for it to be observable in the first place, it must be compatible with the conscious and sapient life that observes it.” In popular discourse, this notion often manifests something like this: “How is the outrageously unlikely fact of our existence explained? Well, if the universe weren’t consistent with human life, we wouldn’t be here to ask that question!” I have beaten this formulation with a big heavy stick before (see the foregoing link) and I’ve now figured out how to frame the issue in a different but equally clear way.
First note that probabilities from your point of view depend on how much you know. For example, there’s probability that it will rain on any random day in Boston, given no other information. Then there’s there’s probability that it will rain today in Boston, given that it rained yesterday. These are generally going to be different probabilities.
Stat folks say “conditional on” instead of “given that.” E.g. where a normal person would say “the probability that it will rain today, given that it rained yesterday,” a Stat person would say “the probability that it will rain today, conditional on the fact that it rained yesterday.” And the probability that it will rain on any random day, given no other information, is called the unconditional probability.
On the “anthropic principle”: When people ask things like, “How is the outrageously unlikely fact of our existence explained?” they are interested in the unconditional probability that the universe has properties that can support human life (and that human life actually did evolve, but let’s just stick with the first part). Whereas the “anthropic principle” answers the completely trivial question, “What is the probability that the universe can support human life, conditional on the observation that human life actually exists?” The answer to that utterly trivial question is 100%, obviously.
Literally no human being ever, in the history of the world, meant to ask, “What’s the probability that the universe can support human life, given that it actually does support human life?” Yet that is the question that the so-called “anthropic principle” answers. Seriously, here’s the Wikipedia formulation again: The anthropic principle is the “philosophical consideration that any data we collect about the universe is filtered by the fact that, in order for it to be observable in the first place, it must be compatible with the conscious and sapient life that observes it.” That is literally saying, “The probability that the universe can support life, given that there is life to observe it, is 1.”
So much for the “anthropic principle.”
So what’s the honest answer to the unconditional question? I don’t see how anyone could know, because to answer this we’d need to know the probability distribution from which the actual universe was drawn. We don’t know that. Of course one can put forth if-then propositions about it. A common one is, “Suppose all universes which are physically possible exist. (The many worlds hypothesis.) Then the probability of any particular universe existing (including ones with humans) is 1.” Sure. But we don’t know whether the many worlds hypothesis is true.
I vaguely recall a blog in which people were debating the role of self-confidence in pickup. (I forget whether it was a Game blog or a “rationalist” blog.) One person in the comments made the well-known point, a la Heartiste, that it’s better to be irrationally self-confident than rationally pessimistic, because with confidence you’ll do better with chicks.
Some doofus disputed this, saying it’s not good, because then “you’ll have beliefs that are demonstrably false.” Who cares, doofus? I’d rather have the false belief that I’ll score with 99% of chicks, which self-confidence leads me to score with say 20% of them, than have the belief that I’ll only score with 1%, if that pessimism would be a self-fulfilling prophecy and lead me to score with 1% of them. Or even worse, what if you had the belief that you’d score with zero chicks, and that became a self-fulfilling prophecy?!
The second commenter missed that while having true beliefs is good, there are other things that are also good. Like sex, for example.
Nietzsche: “Knowledge for its own sake”—that is the last snare laid by morality: we are thereby completely entangled in morals once more. The opening sections of Beyond Good and Evil engage with this in more depth. Old Fred was an interesting guy.
I could just stop right there, but I want to springboard from here to make a broader point about beliefs and outcomes. Consider general situations in which beliefs affect reality. For example self-fulfilling prophecies (SFPs) are common in economics, e.g. if enough people think a recession is coming, that can make them freak out and behave in ways— cutting back on consumer spending, laying off workers— that bring on a recession.
You can also have the opposite of an SFP. Example: I hear tell that chicks don’t like wearing the same dress as other chicks. Let’s suppose that every chick who’s going to a certain party tonight believes that lots of other chicks will be wearing a certain off-the-rack dress. Since they hate wearing what other chicks are wearing, none of them wears that dress. So the belief prevents itself from coming true.
In general beliefs can affect reality in ways more complex than self-fulfilling prophecies or self-blocking prophecies.
Here is my main point: In situations in which beliefs matter, it’s not at all obvious that there always even exist equilibrium beliefs, that is, beliefs that are both true and game-theoretically stable.
In math-speak, the item of interest is the mapping between beliefs and reality and the question is, Does that mapping even have a fixed point? That is, are there any beliefs that are self-confirming? It’s far from obvious whether the answer is always Yes.
(In the pickup example, a fixed point would be any SFP about your success rate. E.g. if you think you’ll score with 60% of chicks and that level of confidence causes you to indeed score with 60% of chicks.)
It’s possible that there are kinds of interactions in which any given belief is like the dress belief, in the sense that any particular belief will prevent itself from being true. In this kind of situation, hectoring someone because he has beliefs “which are demonstrably false” is even more idiotic, because it’s not even possible to have beliefs which won’t be demonstrably false!
(In theory an external observer— someone who’s not going to the party, in the dress example— could make correct predictions about the situation, but my focus here is the beliefs of people involved in the situation, e.g. you’re a guy going to a bar to try to pick up a chick and that’s what you’re forming beliefs about. By the way, even an external observer can’t form correct predictions without knowing all participants’ beliefs. That would require reading people’s minds, so no.)
On this claim that equilibrium beliefs may not be possible, people familiar with game theory may say “Ha! Nash’s Theorem, bitch!” But of course Nash’s Theorem makes certain assumptions about the environment, and uses a fixed-point theorem to prove the existence of equilibrium. If the mapping from beliefs to outcomes isn’t continuous, standard fixed point theorems don’t apply so that kind of proof doesn’t work.
(Note to nerdlingers: Nash’s Theorem deals with the continuity problem by letting agents’ moves be chosen probabilistically; this makes the relevant strategy sets continuous. But here, an agent’s “move” is his belief. The beliefs are about probabilities, but the beliefs are not themselves chosen probabilistically. There is a difference between (A) believing that a certain coin has a 0.5 probability of coming up heads, and (B) randomly switching between believing that it has a 100% probability and a 0% probability of coming up heads. If agents change their beliefs randomly, Nash’s Theorem might apply, but that’s not what we mean when we talk about beliefs, and certainly not rational beliefs. Changing your behavior with a random component can be rational, in adversarial games where you don’t want to be predictable, but changing your beliefs at random is not rational.)
The relevant mapping doesn’t even necessarily fill up the entire space. (Nerds: The mapping needn’t even be a surjective, i.e. “onto” mapping.) Indeed, there’s no man in the world who can be guaranteed to score with every woman in the world if he tries. Doesn’t matter if you believe you’ll have a 100% success rate; you won’t. So not all success probabilities are even in the range of the mapping.
“Damn it, Neuropoison; you’re really ass-raping my attention span here!” Okay sugar-tits, look at the pretty picture:
The diagram has the same variable on both axes, probabilities in [0,1]. Thus the entire admissible space is a 1 x 1 square, though I prefer to call it a “2-dimensional hypercube” as that helps me to score with intellectual chicks. Any point on the identity line is a fixed point, a self-confirming belief about the probability of some event. The issue is that the mapping from beliefs to reality is not continuous, so there isn’t a fixed point. That is, there are no self-confirming beliefs.
Just eye-balling it, it looks like if your belief is 100%, the reality is about 60%, and that’s as high as it gets. If this described your F-close rate with chicks, your best belief (if you could choose your beliefs purposefully) would be that you’d score with 100% of chicks you hit on, which would lead to a success rate of 60%. Obviously I just pulled these numbers out of my ass, but the point is, anyone who says, “Your beliefs are demonstrably false” should be given a wedgie for various reasons, among them there are no beliefs which will self-confirm as demonstrably true anyway.
Now that I’ve finished writing this I’m wondering whether it’s mathematically robust. It seems to be, but did I miss something? Is there some way to do a Nash on this and guarantee that everything is actually continuous in the relevant way, thus guaranteeing at least one fixed point? If not, it’s unsettling, as it illustrates that there can be situations in which having correct beliefs is not even theoretically possible.
UPDATE a few days later: It turns out I was right. Nerdlinger explanation: The reason you can’t “do a Nash” on this is that Nash’s theorem applies to game theory, in which all players are best responding to other players’ moves. (From now on I’m going to write playahs because that amuses me.) That is, each playah’s move is his best option given the other playahs’ moves. And “best responding” means optimizing, which (with other features of Nash’s setup) allows the Theorem of the Maximum to be applied. And that theorem implies the continuity of best-response mappings, which in turn implies the existence of at least one fixed point. But here, there is no optimization/best responding. You believe some probability, then cause and effect kicks in and results in some actual probability. There’s no other playah who is choosing the actual probabilities to optimize some goal function. Therefore, nothing prevents the relevant mapping from being discontinuous, so there is not necessarily a fixed point.
“I’m increasingly uncertain that confirmation bias can be separated from normal reasoning.
Suppose that one of my friends says she saw a coyote walk by her house I know there are coyotes in the hills outside Berkeley, so I am not too surprised; I believe her.
Now suppose that same friend says she saw a polar bear walk by her house. I assume she is mistaken, lying, or hallucinating.
Is this confirmation bias? It sure sounds like it. When someone says something that confirms my preexisting beliefs (eg ‘coyotes live in this area, but not polar bears’), I believe it. If that same person provides the same evidence for something that challenges my preexisting beliefs, I reject it.”
No, you’re not wrong to do this; you’re using your beliefs for their proper purpose: making judgments about the world. The whole reason you have a belief that polar bears are extremely rare or non-existent in Berkeley is so that if you think you see a polar bear, you’ll look again more carefully, or that if your friend says “Polar bear!” you’ll consider that she might be playing a joke on you, etc.
The point of having beliefs is not just to have them. It’s to use them to guide yourself through the world. You use them to, e.g. make judgments about how likely it is that your friend is lying or playing a joke on you, etc.
Furthermore, it’s a known fact that people sometimes joke, lie, are mistaken, etc. What entitles you to dismiss that fact? If you believe your friend, you’re abandoning your well-founded belief that people sometimes say false things AND your well-founded belief that there are no polar bears in Berkeley. That’s a weird decision to make.
If you disbelieve your friend, you are retaining your well-founded beliefs that people sometimes say false things and that there are no polar bears in Berkeley. That seems sensible, given the monstrously large number of times humans are observed to say false things, and the large number of times you’ve failed to observe any polar bears in Berkeley.
If I said I saw gnomes dancing on my roof, what would you actually do? Slightly raise your probability that there are gnomes, or significantly raise your probability that I’m a jokester?
Unless I’m wrong, and you know how to solve it, in which case let me know in the comments. I’m curious. Or get it published in an Economics journal, and get the Nobel prize.
Consider this scenario: Vinny the Loan Shark, whom you owe $50,000, came up to you at 9:00 this morning and said, “Gimmee my fifty back by 5:00 tonight or I’ll break both your legs.” Vinny is a very direct guy. Isn’t it great to get away from stuffy circumlocutions?
Fortunately, you own a house worth $100,000. No problem! You’ll just sell it by 5:00 this evening, and you’ll have enough money to pay Vinny back and then some. You and your legs will be fine. What’s that? You can’t liquidate your house that quickly? Or dear, you do have a problem. I hope your health insurance is paid up.
Before you censure Vinny too harshly, grok this: When it comes to banking, you and I are Vinny.
See, we all want banks to offer checking accounts so we can use them to pay for stuff. Obviously this only works if you can spend the money in those accounts any time you want. So, from your point of view, the funds in that account are a zero-maturity asset. From the bank’s point of view, since they have to make payment whenever a check is cleared, those funds are a zero-maturity liability.
The problem, of course, is that most of the bank’s assets are in rather illiquid forms like 10-year loans they made to businesses, 30-year mortgage loans they made to families to buy houses, etc. They can’t liquidate all that instantly. So if a bunch of checking account owners – Vinnies – come up to them at once and say, “We all want our money back right now,” the bank can’t comply.
This is called a bank run and leads to that exciting scene in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life in which the bank where the hero works suffers a run and he has to deal with the emergency. It also leads to the same thing happening in real life, which is more exciting but less entertaining.
“OK,” you say, “just prohibit banks from holding very much of their assets in 10-year business loans, 30-year mortgage loans, etc.” Alas, that won’t work, because you and I demand that banks provide mortgage loans so we can buy houses. And businesses need loans for various purposes, etc.
So here’s the problem: You and I, the public, demand that banks borrow money from us with zero-maturity checking accounts and lend to us with 30-year mortgage loans. This is called “maturity mismatch,” for obvious reasons, and it’s not just an unfortunate accident that banks are set up this way. The public demands that they be set up this way. How are we supposed to square this circle?
I don’t know. So far, no one else knows, either.
Deposit insurance has greatly reduced the problem of bank runs, but as the crisis of 2007-2009 showed, we are far from Eden.
I once heard an economist say that he thinks the current system— riven though it is with occasional banking panics, waves of failures, etc.— may actually be the best that can be achieved! It was much worse in the bad old days. At the start of the Great Depression, there was a banking crisis that forced about 30% of the nation’s banks to shut their doors! Believe me, the regulators are very aware of the maturity mismatch problem. We’ve been tinkering away with banking policy in the last 80 years and seem to have improved things, but certainly haven’t achieved perfection.
So: If you know how to totally fix banking, send a quick email to Jerome Powell. He’ll appreciate it.
“No room for blue pilled men, which is to say, they are free to join in on other topics, but if they start spouting off bs about women, they are put in place. See Neurotoxin.”
Jesus, you’re still butt-hurt about losing a debate that ended more than a week ago. If it bugs you that much, don’t engage in debates.
Most readers of this blog won’t know or care what this is about; it’s in reference to some horseshit from another forum where my posts are likely to be deleted. Just getting some stuff on the record. I regret that this clutter is necessary. Regular posts resume next time.
You (you who know who you are): “I demand examples!”
Me: “OK, here.”
You: “That’s not an example of what I’m talking about! Provide examples!”
Me: “Yes, it is. Also here’s another example.”
You: “No it’s not! Also, where’s your argument? I demand that you make an argument.”
Me: “The argument is (etc.)”
You: “Hey, stop rambling for screen after screen.”
Cute. This kind of behavior is characteristic of malignant narcissists. Caught.
Funny, I thought I’d feel regret exiting that forum. Instead I feel this flood of relief.
The sometimes perceptive, sometimes bizarre, but usually interesting Eliezer Yudkowsky has a new set of posts up at lesserwrong.com, excerpts from his book Inadequate Equilibria. (Lesserwrong.com is the successor site, established in 2017, to the rationalist site Less Wrong.) The first post of interest is
Yudkowsky has two main topics: One is when to trust one’s own judgment, when one disagrees with experts, versus going with the experts’ opinion. The link above talks about informationally efficient and inefficient situations, where we can roughly define an informationally efficient situation as one where the experts are as right as possible given currently available information.
His second topic is the set of ways that a society can get stuck in a suboptimal equilibrium. That’s an enormous topic, which I’ll take up in a later post, but the connection is this: One example of such suboptimality is when there are insufficient incentives for the discovery and spread of information. The dissemination of information – who knows what – is obviously connected to the topic of expertise.
For me, there are two main items of interest in all this. One is random walks and their links to rational beliefs, and the other is the question of expertise itself.
A random walk is a kind of variable that often arises in informationally efficient situations. Yudkowsky uses the classic exanple of stock prices, though he doesn’t use the term “random walk.” He discusses the reasons to believe that stock markets are informationally efficient, which means that all relevant information known to market participants is already incorporated into stock prices. That in turn implies that you can’t profit by second-guessing the market, because the expected (i.e., mean) change in the price is zero. That in turn is the definition of a random walk. (If you’ve ever taken a Finance class this may sound familiar; it’s the Efficient Markets Hypothesis.)
There are good reasons to think that stock markets are pretty damn informationally efficient:
Empirically, it’s extremely difficult to beat the market – for periods of time long enough to not just be temporary luck – even with Cray big iron and a truckload of quant PhDs on staff. This empirical regularity is the real meat of the argument. But why is that the case? Several reasons, noted by Yudkowsky (but my wording here):
1. There are enormous incentives $$$!!! to uncover patterns that other market participants haven’t uncovered, so you can second-guess them and make bug bucks,
2. There are lots of people involved in attempting to do this constantly, which tends to push securities prices in the correct direction,(*)
(*) If a security is underpriced you should buy it to profit when people eventually realize it’s underpriced and the price rises. But also, the very fact of your buying it constitutes an increase in demand for it, which tends to push the price up. A symmetric phenomenon happens when you bet on a price falling in the future.
3. There is fast feedback from empirical reality telling them whether their trading strategies are successful, so fast error correction,
4. You can bet either way in the stock markets. That means that whether everybody else is too optimistic or too pessimistic, there are bets you can place to profit when the current mispricing is eventually corrected.
At the link above Yudkowsky says, somewhat floridly,
In the thickly traded parts of the stock market, where the collective power of human civilization is truly at its strongest, I doff my hat, I put aside my pride and kneel in true humility to accept the market’s beliefs as though they were my own, knowing that any impulse I feel to second-guess and every independent thought I have to argue otherwise is nothing but my own folly. If my perceptions suggest an exploitable opportunity, then my perceptions are far more likely mistaken than the markets. That is what it feels like to look upon a civilization doing something adequately.
A very important point here is that stock markets are exceptional! As points 1 – 4 explain, there are reasons to think the experts – in this case, securities trading firms – are correct on average.
But in the generic case – consider the field of history, e.g. – none of those things is true. And the whole question of who is an expert basically scuttles this attempt to say “You should often defer to experts.”
For example, Marxist historians like to say that they’re experts on history – they’ve figured out its ineluctable laws! – but they’re actually a bunch of ideological fuckwits who can’t think themselves out of a paper bag. But they’re also professors at many a US university (all the universities, I think). They’ll tell you they’re experts, man. It says so right here on the label, “I’m an expert.”
So is that a reason to regard them as experts?
Plainly not. Well, but we don’t have to trust them on this; after all, they’re hired by universities! Universities must be unbiased; it says so right on the label! Right? No, actually universities (outside of STEM fields, and increasingly even there) are also largely a bunch of ideological fuckwits.
Or so I claim. Am I right or wrong? Before you respond, I claim that I’m an expert on this topic. Hmmmm, we’d need to assess their degree of ideological fuckwittery empirically, wouldn’t we?
Or are we going to count heads? Whose heads? The historians’? But they’re the ones whose very credibility is being questioned, so that would be going in a circle.
How about the average person? Well, the Marxists lose that one, since most people aren’t Marxists. More to the point, if we’re asking people other than soi-disant “experts,” we’ve already departed from the dictum “trust experts.”
(By the way, should we trust the pollsters who are doing the head counting? Are their polling methods unbiased? Are they competent polling experts? How do you know?)
Furthermore, there are no particular incentives to be correct in this area. Your fellow historians are largely leftists who will grant you tenure for saying, in various ways, “Socialism is nice. Capitalism is bad.” You are not betting your own money or your life by predicting that next time – in China… Cuba… Venezuela! – socialism is sure to work.
Marxism is not intended to factually describe reality anyway. It’s an ideology of power, a convenient pre-made language for people who want to seize power, and realize they need a veneer of justice to help them gain adherents, put their opposition on the defensive, etc. Or as Marx himself put it, more discreetly: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”
Once it’s recognized that you can’t just trust anyone who says “I’m an expert” – anyone can say that – the whole epistemic question returns to the forefront. How are you going to judge who’s an expert? Hmmm, maybe we need some standards regarding the use of evidence. (Frequentist? Bayesian?) Also some procedures, like whether testable empirical claims are being made, whether they’re replicable and actually replicated, etc.
You see the problem: In order to judge who’s an expert, you have to be damn far along the trajectory of knowledge in the relevant subject, far enough along that you’d be a jack-leg expert yourself on the topic. You might as well just assess the evidence for yourself, ignoring the purported “experts.”
What I do, and I hope everyone does, is try to identify areas in which there don’t seem to be monetary or ideological incentives to be biased, and provisionally trust the experts in those areas, and ignore experts in areas where the incentives are bad. This is far from foolproof, of course. (I’m perpetually surprised by how politicized nutrition science is.) But given the impossibility of becoming experts ourselves in all topics, we use heuristics, imperfect though they are, to try to avoid getting scammed by fraudulent “experts.”
There are many reasons, not just malign intent, that this instinct to mistrust “experts” is sound. Yudkowsky mentions some and I will mention others in my next post.
Here’s a teaser: In my next post I will cite a paper by two game theorists on the topic of expertise. This paper was published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, which is a top Economics journal in the world. A major conclusion of the paper: In general, the equilibrium outcome is that experts will deliberately not inform you perfectly. Now here’s my question for anyone who says “trust experts”: Do you trust the conclusion of these two game theory experts?
Scott Alexander at the Slate Star Codex blog has reviewed Inadequate Equilibria by Eliezer Yudkowsky. I’ve read substantial excerpts from the book (on the new Less Wrong site, lesserwrong.com), and the book will be interesting to anyone interested in epistemology and/or game theory, in particular, Pareto-suboptimal Nash Equilibria and how to escape them. More about that in future posts.
One of the topics in SSC’s review is epistemology, particularly how evolutionists (that includes me) can judge that their belief in evolution is better-founded than creationists’ belief in creationism. SSC grapples (as does the book) with something called the Outside View. Briefly, this is when you try to look at your judgments as if you were an objective third party, from a distance. E.g., you may think you’re a better-than-average driver, but apparently most people do, so maybe you’re just biased. After all, it’s a fact that a significant proportion of people who think they’re better-than-average drivers are wrong. Maybe you’re one of them.
But if you think in terms of the outside view you can get yourself all knotted up. SSC goes off the rails here:
I believe in evolution. But about half of Americans believe in creation. So either way, half of people are wrong about the evolution-creation debate. Since I know I’m in a category, half of whom are wrong, I should assume there’s a 50-50 chance I’m wrong about evolution.
SSC admits this is a “pathological” application of the Outside View. Yes, it is, but why? Because there has been no evidence put forward.
But surely the situation isn’t symmetrical? After all, the evolution side includes all the best biologists, all the most educated people, all the people with the highest IQ. The problem is, the true Outside Viewer can say “Ah, yes, but a creationist would say that their side is better, because it includes all the best fundamentalist preachers, all the world’s most pious people, and all the people with the most exhaustive knowledge of Genesis. So you’re in a group of people, the Group Who Believe That Their Side Is Better Qualified To Judge The Evolution-Creation Debate, and 50% of the people in that group are wrong. So this doesn’t break the fundamental symmetry of the situation.
But fundamentalist preachers and pious people are not evidence about the world, nor is Genesis. Evolution is about the world. Any given book may or may not be about the world. What is evidence about the world? The world! This is really just obvious. Now I guess someone could respond with, “Oooooh, no it’s not!” But note that kind of rejection of evidence rejects everything. If I can’t trust what my eyes tell me about the world, then I can’t trust what they tell me the words are in the Bible, either. I also can’t trust them when they tell me that this dude has a degree in Theology hanging on his wall. And I can’t trust my ears when creationists tell me, “All the most pious Genesis scholars are on our side,” etc. See, the fantastic thing about bullshit is that if you push it hard enough, it destroys itself.
SSC mentions a true psychological case study known as the Three Christs Of Ypsilanti, in which three men in a mental hospital all thought they were Jesus:
…imagine that when Schizophrenic A was confronted with the other Christs, he protested that he had special evidence it was truly him. In particular, the Archangel Gabriel had spoken to him and told him he was Jesus. Meanwhile, Schizophrenic B had seen a vision where the Holy Spirit descended into him in the form of a dove. Schizophrenic A laughs. “Anyone can hallucinate a dove. But archangels are perfectly trustworthy.” Schizophrenic B scoffs. “Hearing voices is a common schizophrenic symptom, but I actually saw the Spirit”. Clearly they still are not doing Outside View right.
But if you can’t trust your senses, you can’t trust anything. This gets us to radical skepticism a la Rene Descartes and David Hume, etc. See above remarks on pious Genesis scholars, etc. (Note: Phil Collins was their drummer. Har!)
And in particular, if you can’t trust your senses, you have no reason to believe that there are two other people hanging around near you who also think they’re Jesus. So you have no need to engage with the intellectual problem they pose. There is no intellectual problem they pose.
(I’ve included more on the Three Christs Of Ypsilanti at the end of this post.)
So overall, when SSC worries,
…half of people are wrong about the evolution-creation debate. Since I know I’m in a category, half of whom are wrong, I should assume there’s a 50-50 chance I’m wrong about evolution
…he’s fretting for no reason. Creationists have basically no evidence on their side. If they really are saying “People who are pious accept creationism” as evidence for creationism – I’ve never heard that one before – just point out that a person’s adherence to a religion has nothing to do with the soundness of their judgments about the factual topic of evolution. Things like junk DNA, the blind spot in the human eye, and bacteria developing antibiotic resistance are relevant evidence. Creationists’ opinions about these things are not evidence. Evolutionists’ opinions aren’t evidence either. Why even discuss people’s opinions as if they’re evidence?
It’s as if SSC is saying, “I am wearing a green sweater. But there’s a creationist wearing a green sweater too. So either way, half of all the people wearing green sweaters are wrong about creationism vs. evolution!” Um… what? This isn’t even a thing. And it’s just as relevant as saying, “A lot of creationists feel subjectively certain about creationism, just as I feel subjectively certain about evolution. So there’s a 50% chance that I’m wrong!” Dude, NO. Your evidence for evolution is not that you feel pretty certain about it. Your evidence is the fossil record, etc.
Indeed, this totally puts the cart before the horse. We feel pretty certain about evolution because of the evidence for it. The feeling of near-certainty is not itself the evidence!
In this sense, I think the Ypsilanti Jesus example, where all the evidence is “I just know,” really has drawn people off on a tangent about the outside view. It’s an unfortunate side detour, that has wasted the time of people like SSC and not really produced much else, other than that one semi-amusing blog post on LiveJournal.
More on the Three Christs Of Ypsilanti:
Another SSC quote:
The Three Christs Of Ypsilanti is a story about three schizophrenics who thought they were Jesus all ending up on the same psych ward. Each schizophrenic agreed that the other two were obviously delusional. But none of them could take the next step and agree they were delusional too… They should have said “At least 66% of people in this psych hospital who believe they’re Jesus are delusional. This suggests there’s a strong bias, like a psychotic illness, that pushes people to think they’re Jesus. I have no more or less evidence for my Jesus-ness than those people, so I should discount my apparent evidence – my strong feeling that I am Him – and go back to my prior that almost nobody is Jesus.”
Note it’s important that each one’s “evidence” for his being Jesus was entirely a mystic feeling that he was Jesus. But that’s not evidence. More on that in a second.
The idea, if you don’t want to click through, is that Satan doesn’t bother trying to tempt Jesus with worldly power or whatever. He just says, “Look, dude, of all the people who think they’re Jesus, what are the odds that you’re actually Him?” I don’t buy this argument, because the entire assumption is that Jesus has some divine epistemological uber-magic that is a source of complete certainty. But anyway, in the story Jesus doesn’t fall for it; he just pushes Satan off a cliff. LOL. (Also, Jesus could simply work a miracle – say, levitating a mountain or whatever – to reassure Himself that he’s Him, granting the weird assumption that He’d need to re-assure Himself. And how could there be thousands of dudes thinking they’re Jesus while Jesus’s life is still going on? He has to enter the historical record first. Satan claims he’s showing Jesus the future, but why believe the Father of Lies? All right, whatever, getting off topic.) The point is, whatever you think of this story, a fundamental point within it is that Jesus’s only evidence for being Jesus is that he feels subjectively certain that he is. That’s also the case for the Three Christs of Ypsilanti; it is fundamental to both that the only evidence for Jesus-ness is “I have a special feeling.”
But DUDE. Our evidence for evolution is not that we have a special feeling about it. It’s the fossil record, etc., etc., etc.