Coeds in Spaa…aaa…ace!

Magicians are not supposed to say how their tricks are done, and writers are always boring when they talk about their writing, but I hope I have so few readers of this blog that no one will notice if I break that rule a tiny bit.

A reviewer called Math Guy (not his real name. Er, I hope) thought it odd (perhaps sexist) that your humble author portrayed a future where the first interstellar manned expedition contained no female crew. While technically not breaking the rule against arguing with reviewers, especially kind reviews, I did in my lawyerly way inch as close to the prohibition as possible, discussing the question in the abstract and inviting readers to comment.

A reader with the tumultuous yet iatric name of Doc Rampage, says this:

In most of human civilizations since the dawn of history, a dangerous exploration mission would have been staffed only by men unless they took along disposable women slaves. There wouldn’t even have been any discussion about it.

Math guy is just a product of his school system which teaches the socialist idea of history as an upward trend where each generation is more moral and closer to the socialist ideal than the last. Count To A Trillion clearly begins with a rejection of that idea, describing a future that looks a lot like history actually suggests it will look.

In the book, the modern Western mores have clearly died with Western society, so why would you expect that one particular more, sexual egalitarianism, would survive when it (1) is controversial even today, (2) is against the instincts of the sort of men who take power in anarchy, (3) produces a relative disadvantage for the culture that embraces it due to less population growth, and (4) is difficult to maintain in poor societies where no one can pay someone to raise their children?

Still, don’t blame math guy for the propaganda he was fed in school.

My comment: Let no one think I have anything but respect for Math Guy! He was kind enough to review my book rather than ignore it.

But I also welcome any reader who wants to comment on that one odd paragraph in the review, which reveals a widespread misconception, even a parochialism, that the classical liberal values in our society can exist without the conservative values which underpin them and gave rise to them.

Maybe I was being too subtle, but Math Guy and every other reviewer, all got that the cartoon my protagonist watched when he was a kid was an optimistic upbeat STAR TREK type show, which portrayed the future as one of shining jetpacks and a Gene Roddenberry view of life — progress and Progressive politics.

Now, whether you are a fan of Progressive Startrekianism or not, my humble book quite clearly in the opening scene, indeed in the opening line, establish that the harsh postapocalyptic hardscrabble existence of 23rd century Texas is not that.

The promises of science fiction were not kept.

Ergo the first interstellar expedition is not a comfy ship like the Enterprise, complete with good-looking astronautrices in miniskirts, but something more like a cramped submarine crossed with a meatlocker for storing meat-popsickles. Worse, the expedition ends in disaster and mutiny — whether the mutiny was justified or not I leave as an exercise for the reader to decide.

I will at this point add an entirely gratuitous shot of a good-looking she-astronaut:

Good Looking Astronautrix named Park

Make that two gratuitous shots:

Another Good Looking Astronautrix, also named Park

In the interests of space-fairness and balance, I should add a photo or two of a real she-astronaut, just to demonstrate that the real ones are a good looking as the make believe ones.

Yet Another Good Looking Astronautrix, this one named Naoko Yamazaki

Yet Another Good Looking Astronautrix, named Yi So Yeon

You have probably noticed something odd about the above pictures of astronauts! Yes, it is true that in the future, all spacemen will be good looking and trim. Fat people and tall will cost too much in fuel mass to lift into orbit. Also, no guys will be allowed in space. We are too smelly and we litter, which is deadly in space. The innate male desire to cook outdoors turns deadly in a vacuum.

What? Were you only thinking of the race of the young women pictured here? Don’t be so PC, racist swine! Learn to judge people by the content of their character like Americans do!

(I should write a yarn where, in time to come, the orientals may provide the overwhelming majority of spacemen in years to come in much the same way that the overwhelming majority of brewers are German (or haven’t you notice that beers are named things like Stroh, Schlitz, Schlitz, Pabst, Blatz, and Miller?) without there being any sinister systematic oppression at work. And I bet I would still be called a racist by the PCniks if I wrote that story, because PCniks cannot help but attribute their bizarre race hate to others; more-so if I used clear and traditional word like ‘oriental’ instead of using a jabberwocky like ‘Asian American’ to describe a character who is a Nisei from Alice Springs or Equatorial Guinea.)

Back to the topic:

So, now matter how odd it seems to modern eyes to have a space expedition not be coed, surely it would have been more odd, given the grim theme of the space yarn, to assume the progress made by suffragettes and feminists would stay in place during the Hegemony of the West waned, an after a world war, the jihad, a plague, a dieback, global freezing, and a little Dark Ages?

The idea I want to emphasize as false and dangerous is the idea that egalitarianism can exist without republicanism or without some Abrahamic faith that all men are created equally as Son of Jehovah or equally Slaves of Allah (the same equality Christianity preaches, it gets from Judaism, and donates to Islam.) But even this idea is beside the point of the book, even trivial. The point of the book is that we are not going to have flying cars, not now, not ever, unless…

Ah! Unless what? What is required for the future to be better than the past? What is the source of progress? Maybe free energy is the key, or a world government that would outlaw wars. So I portray both those things, and yet, the price seems (at least to my viewpoint cowpoke gunslinger with the big nose) to be too high. Maybe high intelligence is the key, downloading the brain into a computer matrix whose intelligence can be expanded infinitely! So I portray two different forms of high intelligence, or even three, and yet the price, at least to the cowpoke gunslinger with the big nose, seems even higher. Perhaps, taking a page from Arthur C Clarke, the Monolith of Tycho can help us! Perhaps we can be Uplifted to become the Starchild! And so Rania by hook or by crook gets the resources she needs to go confront the ultimate intelligences beyond the galaxy. However that turns out, the cowboy is not happy with that price either. How will it turn out? Stayed tuned for the sequel, Eschaton fans! Things get worse before they get better.

I am hoping kindly readers will root for my (perhaps somewhat unlikable) hero, if for no other reason than he is not willing to let the optimism of the Startrekian future die off, merely because it has not happened yet. Indeed, he is willing to bet his sanity on his dream. I don’t know if that comes across to the reader in the book or not.

He thinks that the future is an adventure without an end.


  1. Comment by Jordan179:

    This has always struck me as one of the oddest assumptions that most modern writers on both sides of the political spectrum make — that sexual egalitarianism will necessarily survive the collapse of the societies which have created it, that this egalitarianism is “natural” and will be universal despite the facts that it has only been in the last 50-100 years that it has existed, and furthermore that it is even today ony in the West and strongly Western-influenced countries that anything like it exists.

    Now, I could make an argument that the competitive advantage of educating both sexes extensively is paramount once one gets modern medicine enabling women to expect to survive childbirth. Ok, perhaps, but this isn’t what happens today in the Muslim world despite this medicine’s availability, and nowhere save in the most Western countries do we see women serving in active military roles. Heck, even today in America they don’t serve on nuclear submarines.

    So yes, I agree with you on this.

    • Comment by Alan Silverman:

      Most people, it seems, tend to think of the culture they are mired in as “normal”, and extrapolate (falsely) that unless told otherwise, everyone else has the same culture. Kind of a false consensus effect, I think may be the technical name of it.

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        The technical name is parochialism, I think.

        Of course, you also have to write for the readers who read you, and any issue you don’t want to take the time to make sound different from their assumptions yet sound reasonable, it is easier to go along with their assumptions, even if you are aware that men of other cultures, not your readers, might not share them.

        That is an awkward way of saying, sometimes it is pragmatic craftsmanship to write a book from your own culture’s point of view, rather than laziness or parochialism.

        • Comment by Ed Pie:

          I can offer little critique to your experiences or the observations of your other readers, but I can’t shake the possibility that Math Guy might not be tone deaf to the places where political correctness takes a left turn from reality, as much as he’s just so accustomed to reading books or seeing shows where the author follows an imprudent trope that modern readers expect, that when you did otherwise, while leaving no evidence of irony or substantial bigotry, without having written a period piece where we could forgive any lack of enlightment, or made it a gratuitous jab at the New Guard the way Stargate:Universe was a gratuitous jab at the Old; that he could not help but observe that it was indefinably “odd.”

        • Comment by Alan Silverman:

          Based on the psychological literature on the subject, there is a “false consensus effect”, though it appears to be defined on an individual basis.

          I am not, however, speaking to the practicalities of writing a book. When attempting to sell anything, concessions must be made somewhere.

          • Comment by John C Wright:

            Myself, I tend to believe the psychological literature on the subject is produce by a false consciousness effect among the psychologists, and exists in their minds only.

            • Comment by Alan Silverman:

              That is an interesting response. Why do you think that?

              • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                Quite simple, really. We cannot, at this point, read other people’s minds. So the only mind you can really observe is your own. Now, evidence must be observed. So if a “Doctor” has found evidence of a “False Consensus Effect”, it is because he is suffering from it.

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  LOL and hear, hear. A wise comment wittily put.

                • Comment by Alan Silverman:

                  I am not sure I understand what mind-reading has to do with anything. I am referring to a well-documented behavioral phenomenon that Mr. Wright also appears to have agreed to exist. I am merely referencing the existing literature of people who have attempted to understand it better, and confirming that I correctly remembered its name from my logic and rhetoric classes in college.

              • Comment by John C Wright:

                Because if it were true, it is true for the psychologists making the theory as well for everyone else, in which case it is not true.

                • Comment by Alan Silverman:

                  Are you arguing, therefore, that people do not, in fact, misjudge how much other people agree with their opinions/culture? That is, using your verbiage, that parochialism does not actually exist?

                  • Comment by John C Wright:

                    No. I am arguing that if you want to understand how common people actually think, you are better off reading romance novels and boy’s adventure stories and THE LEVIATHAN of Thomas Hobbes than reading every scholarly paper ever written. I am arguing that intellectuals are snobs whose snobbery is absurd, because they know even less of how common people actually think than common people do. I am arguing that a healthy mistrust or a healthy belly laugh is the healthy reaction when the one group — intellectuals and scholars — the most prone to parochialism starts to analyze what causes parochialism in others. I am a member of this group, an intellectual and a scholar, and so the only group I am qualified to judge is my own. I am arguing that I should remove the beam from my own eye before I remove the mote from my brothers.

                    • Comment by Alan Silverman:

                      I do not speak of how accurate or vain their attempts to figure out why people act that way. I am merely stating that it is the term used by such investigators. Which was, of course, what was I was stating in the first place.

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      I have no objection to the use of the term. I was making a joke, which apparently fell flat. I meant not to offend. Of course, the ordinary terms as ‘prejudice’ or ‘parochialism’ serve as well for my humble needs.

                • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                  That would only follow if the fact were alleged to be universal and inescapable. Since in fact it is a tendency, a bias, not true in every case and avoidable by mental effort that is not usually exercised, the psychologist may reasonably state that he has taken steps to avoid it in making this particular statement, but it is nonetheless true in general. You apply the rules of Aristotelian logic to a case of statistics and tendency, and consequently draw mistaken conclusions.

                  • Comment by Mary:

                    But why on earth should we believe him?

                    Especially since it has been long noted that “he that accuses all mankind of corruption ought to remember that he is sure to convict only one.”

                    • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                      If I say, “Subject X reported his belief that 66 of the other 99 subjects would agree with him; but in fact only 40 of the other subjects did so agree”; what reason do you have to disbelieve me?

                      I also note that “Humans are prone to overestimate the extent to which others agree with them” is not in fact a self-indicting statement; that is, it does not undermine itself. If I say “all humans are liars” then you have reason to disbelieve my statement. But if I say “All humans, including myself, overestimate the agreement of others”, then that is not itself a statement about how many others are likely to agree with me. I myself presumably do exhibit that pattern, but this is not relevant to the truth of this particular statement: I have not said anything about how many others will agree with it.

                  • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                    Ah, no. There can be no metrics of such things until we can read minds. So, you can say that some believe there is a bias, but you cannot state as a fact that such a condition exists. It is particularly problematic when dealing with “hidden bias”, which is what the “Doctors” are talking about. “How did you find the subject’s hidden bias? The one he doesn’t know about? We asked him….”.

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      I suppose a truly self consistent materialist would believe that one can locate the location in time and space and measure the mass and dimensions not only of symbols and brain atoms representing and reflecting abstract concepts, but the concepts themselves, including all their imponderable properties, such as their truth value, degree of sarcasm, courtesy, ambiguity, assonance, beauty, accuracy, eccentricity of self-absorption, logical coherence, as well as emergent properties such as their color value.

                      Of course, since all his beliefs are firmly grounded in empirical evidence and nothing but, our theoretical materialist can repeat the peer reviewed and independent experiments and observations upon which all these factual statements (which are not flights of fancy) are based.

                      So to discover the hidden bias in a subconscious for him is merely a matter of inserting a probe into the victim’s ear, reaching a location called the subconscious, and finding the magnetic particle properties that define bias.

                    • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                      If I ask someone, “What is the speed of the ball”, and he says, let’s say, “20 km/hour”, but in fact the speed is 30 km/hour; then what information do I require about his state of mind to conclude that his judgement of speed is biased?

                      Likewise, if I ask someone, “Of these 100 people, how many are materialists?”, and he says, “50 or so, including myself”, and the true number is 5, then what information about his state of mind do I need to conclude that he is biased? I cannot fathom why you think that mind-reading is required. If you want to know what someone is thinking, you ask them.

                    • Comment by Mary:

                      What you need is knowledge that it really is 30 km/hour.

                      Not in your judgment. Some way to establish it clearly and openly, to all people.

                      Psychologists generally go for the rule that what they say is what is really true. Gets notably silly.

                    • Comment by Foxfier:

                      What you need is that it really is 30 km/hour.



                      Social scientists have a bad habit– more so than other scientists, but not to their exclusion– of going form “you say X, my tests say Y” to “it IS Y.”

                      This is a problem because it falsely assumes their results are Truth, rather than test results.
                      (I beat this to death because I didn’t have classic logic until I chose the course as an adult, and paid good money for it. A freaky classical logic course would be a VERY good prereq for most social sciences– not because they are wrong, incorrect or irrational, but because the basis of science is largely in classic logic, and the format is very important to learn. It removes sense from the equation– both common and misplaced.)

                    • Comment by Alan Silverman:

                      Both a class in classical logic and a class in basic statistics would be very good for anyone who is pursuing an education, in my estimation. It would also be nice if we had more opportunities for people to learn basic rhetoric, but that ends up being a lot trickier.

                  • Comment by Patrick:

                    I think you’re right, in any case. The scientists here aren’t reading minds so much as pinning a label on a behavior they have observed and counted. You may not like the label or contest the description, but they aren’t mind-reading their subjects, just counting.

                    Also, shouldn’t we expect that hypotheses like these started from self-observation?

                    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                      Did they just observe it, or did they create it in a “Clever Hans” fashion? Given how wrong their own consensus has been in the past (for example, the idiot idea of “Subliminal Advertising”) and the fact that they have yet to move past “Probability clouds”, you would think the “Social Scientists” would be more circumspect about creating derogatory terms…..

                    • Comment by Alan Silverman:

                      In the case of the False Consensus Effect, an experiment is fairly trivially reproducible. I found one person who did it on their own blog. Anecdotal evidence, along with the existence of other words for it in languages (“parochialism”, for instance), would seem to all conclude the same thing: People tend to think that their opinions are shared among a greater percentage of the population than they actually are.

                    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                      Note the weasel word “tend”. The Bernoulli effect. The Venturi effect. The False Consensus effect. One of these does not belong in our set. PV=NRT vs. “people tend to do this”. The first is predictable and useful, the second is not predictable and is probably harmful. Especially in the case of “The False Consensus Effect”, which assumes that we can actually know what the opinion of the population is. “Dewey Wins!”, don’t you know……

                    • Comment by Alan Silverman:

                      Yes, we make the presumption that when we ask the opinion of people, they tell us the truth.

                      Are you arguing that it is not the case that people tend to misjudge how much other people share their opinions?

                    • Comment by Foxfier:

                      There’s a small problem in this discussion, from a scientific POV….

                      If we ask someone what percent of folks will agree with him, and he gives a number that is way too high when applied to those we sampled, we’ve only proved that he gave a too-high estimate according to our estimate.

                      It hasn’t proven bias, lying, bad math skills, a poorly designed sample on the testers’ part or anything else. It has just shown that when asked to estimate the prevalence of a position they hold, people offer an estimate that is higher than the number of people who will state they hold the same position.

                      One possible bias point could be what I call the volunteer effect.
                      If you ask a large group of people “do you think X, not Y?” and then ask “do you think Y, not X?” the total that raise their hand will generally be well below 100%… even in cases where some people raised their hands both times.

                      Depending on how a question is asked and what the thing being spoken of is, you might run into the “nobody really does that” thing– one of the banes of my existence, since it seems I can’t go three weeks without being informed that “nobody” actually does something I, in fact, do. (Usually translates pretty accurately as “I do this and I don’t want to feel guilty, so I’m going to imply that everyone who says they do otherwise of lying.”)

                    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                      The “False Consensus Effect” you are defending claims that they don’t, hmmm? As to the Truth of the concept, I have no idea. I do know it’s not Science, and can make no predictions with any useful degree of accuracy. Again, given the great difficulty we have knowing the actual consensus, I would be very careful before using the term to describe someone. “Dewey Wins!”.

                    • Comment by Alan Silverman:

                      Well. And here I always thought that it was a behavior that most people had observed and could agree existed. I guess I overestimated the number of people who shared my opinion.

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      Everyone agrees on the behavior. It has been known since the dawn of time. It is called parochialism. It is the twin brother of the sense of isolation that happens when you underestimate how many people agree with you, and think the world around you is your enemy. I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but what I found comical about your comment was that I saw no point in giving it a fancy name, and not point in assuming one needs to be a psychologist to notice it happening, rather than, say, a grandmother. My jest was that it probably happens to psychologists more than to common people, because of their ivory-tower approach to life.

                    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                      Of course it happens. You have fallen prey to it here, have you not? What’s going on here, I think, is that we are talking past each other. You are using scientific language to describe people’s behavior, and this is a right leaning blog. Those of us on the Right get very touchy about that, because the Left has used “Science” to attack Conservatives for years (Such as the physiologists who smeared Goldwater). Psychology is more Alchemy then Science at this point, and it has been abused enough times by it’s practitioners that this argument to Authority is going to be seen with the greatest of suspicion. Again, I don’t think anyone here is saying it doesn’t happen, we are saying it’s not “Science!”…..

                    • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                      What definition of science are you using, such that the observation “People overestimate the degree to which others agree with them” is excluded? As Mr Wright points out, this is not difficult to observe. (Some other time I may pontificate on the hindsight effect which makes people overly contemptuous of results which “agree with common sense”, but that’s a separate point.) It seems to me that the studies being referenced are scientific in each of the following senses: There is a specific procedure involving counting publicly-observable events; there is a specific prediction, and a set of results specified beforehand that would invalidate the hypothesis; and the experiment can be done by anyone with a bit of time, some volunteers, and pencil and paper. (Indeed in this last sense the result is more scientific than my own thesis, which for replication would require a huge particle accelerator and very sophisticated detector.) If the objection is only that the result is “mere common sense”, well, that can’t be helped; you cannot very well decide on which experiments to do based on what your common sense predicts for the result. If you do you’ll never be surprised, which is the essence of science. As with investing, you have to accept the bad (results which just confirm what you thought you knew) with the good (surprises); in fact you get a lot more bad than good.

    • Comment by Mary:

      You find it all over the place for all sorts of things from the most trivial to the most profound: authors do not think and reach for what is most familiar to them as the natural and automatic thing.

      This is one reason why I recommend reading widely in primary sources to all aspiring writers. It’s not the stuff you pick up. It’s the way it knocks your block off. I knew I had succeeded when I got a crit on a story that asked what sort of society does something that happened in my story, and I thought — a normal one.

      Not that the habit doesn’t sneak out now and again, which I ramble on about here:

    • Comment by Mrmandias:

      Science fiction has lots and lots of wish fulfillment in it. Male readers don’t have lots of fantasies of being cooped up in a space submarine with a lot of other nasty guys. Neither do female readers.

      QED, the future is coed.

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        Just between you and me, the only reason my starship was all male was so that I could have it be a mystery how they got a baby aboard. I too think the future will be coed, if for no other reason than a high tech society cannot afford to waste the mind power of half the human race. I just think that marriage will never go out of style, because broken families or kids without parents creates a race something like the Green Martians described in A PRINCESS OF MARS.

  2. Comment by Mary:

    Oddly enough I was reading (and reviewing) After Doomsday by Poul Anderson recently. It features two ships, one entirely manned by men, the other by women.

  3. Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

    I think it’s a perverse fallout from “Affirmative Action”. By putting people into elite institutions they are not ready for, because of their race, we are causing them to fail, of course. But we are also training the “elites” they failed in front of to see them as inferior. But “being racist” is going to end any hope of social climbing. Instead, they displace those thoughts onto Republicans and otherwise suppress them, save for terrible “pop outs”, like Tom Hanks’s Blackface moment, and the awful, racist cake, etc. No challenge to the Dogma can be allowed, lest something slip out. Since this is not one of your sins, I don’t think you understand the pain your book and others like it cause them. Much like Reagan’s “Evil Empire” comment caused the Soviets to burn with hate and shame…..

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      But my book neither affirms nor challenged any of those policies or assumptions. It does not deal with those issues at all, one way or the other. It is a take off on Arthur C Clarke’s 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY, except my monument is round rather than square, and my aliens a little more cynical and realistic.

      You see, the problem is, that the progressives in my case were utterly and entirely successful. I was raised on post. In the military, the only color is olive. Everyone wears his rank on his sleeve, so there is no guesswork about status, and everyone is promoted by merit (until they lowered the standards to let the distaff half of the race pretend to be as successful at soldiering as the spear half).

      So I literally cannot see it. I have a black friend. At least, he says he is black. I cannot tell. I did not realized he was adopted into his white family, because when I met his family, they all looked normal to me. I did not notice their skin color any more than I noticed their hair color. I have another friend who shocked me once when he told me, and this was after I had known him for several years, that his mother was oriental. Once he mentioned it, I could puzzle out the fact that his eyes had the epicanthic eye fold. I suppose to a Leftist, he would look like a Yellow Man. I cannot see it.

      I have a friend at work who no different than I am skin-color wise, but who constantly, constantly, constantly refers to himself as “a brown man” and jokingly says people are prejudiced against him. As far as I can tell, he is Caucasian, and is no more “a brown man” than Socrates or Caesar or Xerxes. This is a guy who never shuts up about being a minority, and even when I am staring right at him, I cannot tell what he is talking about, or which minority he means. His last name is Torrez, so he may be Spanish or French or Portuguese or Californian.

      I am not saying I am so noble that I do not notice race differences. I am saying that I am unable to see them. Perhaps this is due to not being observant. I suspect it has to do with being raised in an environment where everyone was judged on their merits, not on trivialities.

      Now, when the internet suddenly allowed all these vile Leftists to crawl out of their stinking fever swamps and make comments to me while staying carefully out of saber range, and carefully anonymous, one of the first comments I came across was people calling me a racist. Their reasoning for saying so, as best I can tell, is that I am unconvinced that Leftists like science as much as they pretend — they will not discuss differences between intelligence between races to anyone who happens, like John Derbyshire, to think that is exists, for they will merely shout him down by calling him a racist, even though he is married to a Chinese woman. This is true even for arguments easy to win on other grounds, such as by pointing out that the median difference in IQ test scores (whatever they allegedly measure) between whites and blacks (assuming these classifications represent anything in reality) is less than the standard deviation between identical twins.

      But no. Merely objecting to calling people racist is racist. When my wife objected to a black young woman making racist comments about whites, and called on all parties to judge people according to the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, she was haughtily and insultingly and scathingly told that only whites enjoy white privilege, and that to NOT notice skin color was a sign of this white privilege, and was therefore racist, because the poor blacks are so entirely oppressed by the goose stepping Teutons that they can never for an instant be unaware of being black.

      So for these reasons, I am particularly outraged by this foolish line of attack by the PC crowd, and deeply, deeply embittered by their treason. I exactly confirm to their ideal man in every particular. Through no fault of my own, I am actually colorblind when it comes to race. I am as unracist and antiractist as it is conceivably possible to be. And what do I get as a reward? The vermin spit in the face of myself and my wife, because we do not support race quotas and race based victimology nonsense.

      The argument is that only whites can be colorblind because their white privilege allows them not to notice race. So NOT noticing race is now a sign of racism. It is now racist not to be racist. Only racists are non-racists. A is not A. Not A is A.

      No, I have said nothing in this book which could cause anyone, sane or PC, honest or Leftist, the least trouble on racial issues. Race never comes up, except when Montrose says he is not an Anglo. Even the factions in the mankind are not race based but language based. Captain Grimaldi, born in France and white of skin, is an ‘Indosphere’ because he is a Brahmin, for example.

      On the other hand, my treatment of female characters should heap coals upon the heads of Feminists. Feminists hate romance, and I am a romantic. I believe in True Love, and that is the one thing they hate and cannot stand. They believe in abortion because it is the utter opposite of love — treating your own child growing in your own womb, sharing your own blood and bone and life like an external parasite or a mere clump of cells. Nothing is more unlike love that treating a loved one like a clump, not even giving him the dignity of a pet or of livestock. Disgusting.

      • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

        You said it yourself. Your book supposes that the soft socialism of the PC crowd is not the End of History. They care very much for their modern “Tower of Babel”, and you attack it’s foundation just by imagining another way. That makes you an enemy, and so their racism is projected onto you.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Frightening, if true.

          But why are any of these folk reading science fiction? Gene Roddenberry’s STAR TREK contains the elements of soft socialism, but precious few other famous SF works do. STAR WARS is not that way, nor is STARSHIP TROOPERS, nor is the Galactic Empire of FOUNDATION (unless the PCniks are seeing themselves in the role of Psychohistorians) nor is the Interstellar Empire of DUNE, nor is the Solar System Empire of Isher in WEAPON SHOPS OF ISHER, nor the overcrowded megalopolis of STAND ON ZANZIBAR (albeit this last could be a warning about the evils that will befall if we do not submit ourselves to the ministrations of out Psychohistorian Overlords.)

          I cannot imagine a genre less prone to political correctness than science fiction, unless it is perhaps the regency romance novel or the Western, because PC is based on the idea that their parochial post-Western post-rational Summer of Woodstock world view of editorial board of the New York Times is the only view there is, whereas the premise of all good science fiction is that society changes as technology changes.

          On the other hand, science fiction might be the great daydream and escape value of these frustrated soft Marxists, because the Marxist cloudcuckooland of Cockaigne, where the laws of supply and demand have softly and silently vanished away like a snark-hunter, such a utopia cannot exist in the here and now, nor in the past, and so could only exist in an SF background albeit an unconvincing one.

          • Comment by Jordan179:

            I cannot imagine a genre less prone to political correctness than science fiction, unless it is perhaps the regency romance novel or the Western, because PC is based on the idea that their parochial post-Western post-rational Summer of Woodstock world view of editorial board of the New York Times is the only view there is, whereas the premise of all good science fiction is that society changes as technology changes.

            (*nods*) Part of the reason why I love and read science fiction is that it describes places, people and societies which are in important respects different from the world of today. It is the same reason why I love fantasy, horror and historical fiction, and find most here-and-now fiction boring unless it contains a significant supernatural, science-fictional or historiacl element. The excitement of science fiction lies in the challenge of its possibility and the implicit scientific/futurlogical debate going on in the field.

            To the modern Left, it is almost a point of religious dogma with them that their reforms are immutable and eternal; that they cannot be changed save to progress further in their thematic direction. This is inherently against the grain of history: change is eternal, and if one wants to keep a feature of society which one considers to be good, one must actively and constantly struggle to preserve it from dissolution by contrary forces.

            The Old Left once tried to create a science of history — the concept that directly inspired Isaac Asimov to imagine “psychohistory” — to figure out the reasons why changes did or did not come to pass. When the Marxist project crashed upon the reefs of reality, in the forms of Lenin, Stalin and Mao taking advantage of the tendency of any totalitarian system to become tyrannical, the Left became demoralized. To the New Left, there are no reasons why anything happens in history — they explicitly reject evolutionary selective and other deep-causational models in favor of a mysterious impulse which, channelled by Heroic Leaders, leads everything to become more Leftist over time (*)

            So, for instance, patriarchial domination could not be viewed as a culturally-adaptive response to a particular problem (civilizations need specialists, specialists need long and expensive training, but women have a high chance of dying in childbirth making all that expensive training a waste of resources) — a theory which has the merit of actually EXPLAINING why every pre-industrial civilization was terribly sexist by modern standards. Nope. It just was that way, until Heroic Feminist Leaders appeared and demanded women’s rights.

            Which didn’t happen because of another culturally-adaptive response to a changing situation (improved medicine mean women now have only a low chance of dying in childbirth, so one is not wasting resources training women as specialists, so one is wasting resources by not training smart women to be specialists the same way one trains smart men to be specialists). See, if one look at it that way — a way which also explains why most industrial civilizations began to increase the status of women with a tendency toward functional equality with men — then the Heroic Feminist Leaders aren’t quite as world-bestriding: yes, they did something good, but it was something that somebody was bound to do anyway.

            The really ironic thing is that the cultural-evolutionary explanation was the way in which the Old Left would have reasoned. In order to hang on to their illusions about murderous tyrants, the Left has abandoned one of its traits which was actually valuable — the cultural-evolutionary view of history which Marx in part pioneered.

            You get a falling Empire — with no Foundation.


            (*) In part this was an attempt by the Western Left to deal with the reality that all the socialist societies they saw emerging fell under the control under charismatic (or wannabe charismatic) dictators. Instead of admitting that this represented an inability of freedom to survive under socialism because in part of the human tendency to look to single strong leaders rather than systems and the lack of checks against executive power in a system where the State is All, they tried to take these dictators at the dictators’ own estimation as Heroic Leaders and representatives of the Hegelian World-Spirit

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              “You get a falling Empire — with no Foundation.”


              With respect, I do not agree the cultural-evolution thinking of Marx or his epigones has any value whatsoever. To be quite blunt, I regard it as worse than an unproved and unproveable theory and a just-so story, I regard it as a pack of lies.

              Even in your own example, you attribute a philosophical desire for equality, which was at the root of both the liberty needed to produce the industrial revolution and the yearning for liberty of the suffragettes, to a merely mechanical cause, rather than referring to the free will and conviction of thought which the people of that period in history decided to accept.

              • Comment by Jordan179:

                Oh, I don’t think that cultural evolution is completely random nor is it completely deterministic. It’s more a matter of the economic and technological bases of a society determining which changes are likely to stick. Women wanted equality under the law before the suffragettes emerged; it’s just that there were strong technologically-determined economic pressures selecting against such equality.

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  Agreed. Certain things in society can act like barriers or channels to encourage or discourage certain tendencies in society. We would not make laws otherwise, particularly laws to encourage virtue and discourage vice if it were not so (and, yes, Leftists do this as much as anyone else, they merely deny that they do it, because they categorize moral vices as good and unfashionable thoughts as hate speech).

                  I was over-reacting, because I am so disgusted by the notion of a Marxist science of history based on Marxist misreading of Darwin. Even finding the mechanical cause of an event, does not tell you why the people involved did what they did.

            • Comment by Mary:

              civilizations need specialists, specialists need long and expensive training, but women have a high chance of dying in childbirth making all that expensive training a waste of resources

              Dying in childbirth is an implausible explanation, if only because no one had a low chance of dying. Including all those specialist because of their occupations. Which is another reason why — polygyny can keep the birthrate up, but polyandry can’t.

              But more likely is that many of the specialists carry out actions that are not easily compatible with nursing and pregnancy. Since an average woman would spend her adult life doing both, specialist training could really be a waste of time.

          • Comment by Mary:

            I’ve stumbled across a good number. Like Melissa Scott’s Shadow Man, in which FTL travel has turned out to have the effect of vastly increasing the number of intersexuals and vastly decreasing human fertility.

            She invents a whole sequence of sexual orientations according to which of these “five sexes” you’d attracted to, but nothing in the whole society is oriented toward ensuring population replacement — she never even mentions whether intersexuals are fertile

      • Comment by Foxfier:

        *salute* Sir, there are times you remind me why I blog.

  4. Comment by docrampage:

    I wrote a near-future story that included the idea that most astronauts were chosen for small size because it is cheaper to launch them and move them around. Not only is their body weight smaller, but also the weight of food, water, and living space is smaller. In this universe, the majority of astronauts were Philippino but there was a major character who was an African pigmy. There was also a high percentage of women because women tend to be smaller than men.

    There are several issues that are interesting to explore in such a scenario. Standard accommodations would be too small for larger people, so larger people would need special accommodations, making it even more expensive to send them into space. Eventually, space might become a place where only small people can practically go. Some sort of status inversion is likely to occur, so that shorter men have larger status, at least in certain communities. Assuming the pay for astronauts is high, some parents might try to deliberately stunt the grown of their children.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Horse jockeys have a similar high status and small size, at least in the days when racing was the national sport. The Pygmies in Space idea is a good sciencefictional speculation, because it is both logical and unexpected.

      A more grim take on the same idea is that amputees missing one or more legs–and organ not necessarily of any use in space, might be the caste of cosmonauts. There was a British pilot in WWII who was legless and kept flying, because the RAF was so desperate. It was discover that without his legs for his blood to flow into during high-gee turns, he blacked out less from gee forces than his hale and ambulatory comrades. What is healthy on Earth may be unhealthy in space.

      Another take, more amusing, would be to find some despised and hated minority, such as Christians or White Men or Tobacco smokers or West Virginians (we Virginians still crave to reunite with our severed brethren one of the tyranny of Lincoln passes away!) and set a story in a universe where they and they alone have the genetic quirk needed to never suffer space-vertigo or some side effect of faster than light drive.

      • Comment by docrampage:

        I am flattered beyond expression that the noted science fiction author and fanboy John C. Wright thinks one of my story ideas was good :).

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Don’t be too flattered. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Only the execution counts.

          • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

            No wonder you’re so free with yours!

            Funnily enough, I loved every moment reading your Trillion ideas. Ironically, the only ones I didn’t like (programmed gun battles?) were those essential to the plot. For the record, your “watering hole trap set by space-sheepdogs” and “the insanity of superintelligence” were both brilliant and well-executed.

          • Comment by docrampage:

            Sorry. I refuse to become unflattered.

            How about this one? It’s 2100 AD and the Pinko Chinese have allied with the Japanese against the US in a titanic war of intelligent tanks and aircraft and power armor (US) against massed genetically-enhanced troops and 20-foot human-form piloted mechs that shoot rockets out of their hands (Sinojap). The US is in a bad way, so when the the Sinojap emperor offers us a deal where the US sends their best soldier to fight him mano-a-mano in his gigantic titanium-platinum mech, winner take all, the US is desperate to find a champion, but the US doesn’t have any mechs, and a single man in power armor is no match for even a standard mech, so what to do?

            Their only hope comes from the Sinojap emperor’s own daughter, Fei Wei, who was raised in a space station (making her a space princes) and although she is a beautiful Asian woman, she has blonde hair as an unforeseen side effect of certain genetic enhancements (this is an essential plot point). Fei Wei has defected to the US side because she opposes her father’s imperialism and she, being one of the Sinojap empire’s top cybernetic specialists has brought the US all of the Sinojap military cybernetics secrets.

            Of course these secrets are of little use to the US which puts it soldiers in superior power armor anyway, but it turns out that the body of King Kong was frozen for scientific study back in the 1920’s and its still there waiting to be revived and enhanced with super-size cybernetic enhancements by Fei Wei for the epic battle with her father.

            Unfortunately, after the titanic struggle, Cyber Kong grabs Fei Wei and tries to carry her up the outside of the space elevator but is shot down by the intelligent military plane that has also fallen in lover with her.

            You know, when I started, I thought this was original, but as I developed it, I began to wonder if I was working from vague memories of one of the fancies that you have written on your blog. But if so, I don’t mind stealing ideas.

  5. Comment by Patrick:

    “Did they just observe it, or did they create it in a “Clever Hans” fashion?”

    Well, the ‘Clever Hans’ thing was a stunt for some gain; I’m not sure that (discounting the hyperbole which is the custom of the castle here) Joe Social Scientist has any reason to put his time into ‘creating’ an ‘observation’ that, when the absence of a foundation is inevitably discovered by friends and peers, discredits him.

    There’s a difference between being wrong, being wrong-headed, and being deceptive that charity obliges us to respect.

    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

      You have taken the wrong lesson from “Clever Hans”. The reason it worked was because the horse had figured out the “tells” of the people asking, and thus was able to stop at the right answer despite knowing no math. No con, no malice required.

      Now, if a horse can notice, by body language, the “right” answer, don’t you think it’s possible that people can? I am not claiming deception, I just think that if you know the answer you are looking for, people will respond to that. Remember “Cold Fusion”? Those guys were not trying to rip anyone off. They really thought they had something. Experiments by others proved them wrong. I can’t help but think the problem is a lot worse in the “Social Sciences”, where none of the experiments can be uniformly duplicated…..

      • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

        Maybe you ought to read the actual papers, then, and check up on their experimental procedure. Perhaps you would find that answers were gotten by interview-style proceedings vulnerable to the effect you describe; or alternatively perhaps you would find that things were done fully blinded, with surveys being filled out in closed cubicles where no researcher went, and gathered up by illiterate autistic dumb-mutes unable to communicate anything, much less the desired answer. It is certainly possible to accidentally create the effect you’re looking for, which is why every scientific field except medicine has a tradition devoted to methods of blinding and to determining statistical power. But to just accuse someone of such a thing out of the blue, on the mere grounds that they work in a field you disapprove of, is silly. It also ignores fifty years of learning about, precisely, these problems; you would certainly have had grounds to worry about a study done in the fifties, but science has moved on. That is its nature. I suggest that you need to update your image of how social scientists work; you appear to be at least two academic generations out of date.

        • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

          “Sinful pride has rule inside, aye, mightier then my own.”. That you can say that after all the “Scientific” frauds and hoaxes that have been exposed these last few years! Well, it just warms my heart. Alas, “Science!” cannot move on. It doesn’t really exist. There’s just people, trying (sometimes) to follow rules. And people have not changed…..

          And I don’t disprove of the field, I mock it for putting on airs, pretending a competence it does not yet possess. Many of us do. Now, if it was a Science, they could fix that……

          • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

            I am of course required by guild rules to look down on social scientists; but nevertheless I feel you are being rather unfair to them. (And incidentally, “He thought of Holy Charity, but he thought of his own good Name.”) Again, would you like to read the actual paper and see if you have specific criticisms of their experimental setup, rather than merely dismissing it because it is, horror of horrors, social science? As well might you be uncritically accepting of cold fusion because that was, after all, Holy Physics, done by Real Scientists ™.

            And while it’s true that people have not changed, the corporate knowledge embodied in their brains *has*. There was a time when physicists knew not the value of blinding; look up Feynman’s account of the Millikan oil-drop value sometime. Then we learned better, and now blinding techniques are taught in undergrad lab classes. You can’t do any better than people trying to follow the rules; but you can improve the rules, and we have.

            • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

              Ah, they were unfair to me and mine first. The Social Scientists beclowned themselves, allowed themselves to be used as a weapon to attack Conservatives (See Goldwater, etc), and there is a price to be paid for that. Distrust of their “studies” is part of that. I am not worried about how the “study” was done. They have yet to move past the Natural Philosophy stage.

              So? Rules don’t matter if people don’t follow them. We teach everyone to wash their hands. Hospitals are cesspools of disease because Doctors and Nurses will not reliably do so.

              • Comment by Alan Silverman:

                Hospitals are cesspools of disease because Doctors and Nurses will not reliably [wash their hands].

                Do you have a source on this? I would love to get some actual statistics for it.

                  • Comment by Alan Silverman:

                    Good to know. I am, however, mildly surprised that a government-funded, pro-contraception organization like the CDC would be considered a valid source for medical information by many of the commentators in this space.

                    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                      Why? Arguing against interest is a real good tell that the truth is being told.

                    • Comment by Alan Silverman:

                      I was merely in jest noting that “Some social scientists did an unethical thing related to their field, therefore all things social scientists publish is bunk” and “Some CDC members are doing an unethical thing relating to their field, therefore all things CDC members publish is bunk” sound (at least superficially) to have the same logical form.

                      Though, the CDC being a government-funded, pro-contraceptive organization, I imagine it is not particularly cared for by Mr. Wright, at the least.

                      [I personally find the CDC to be a quite adequate and reliable resource in terms of medical studies; I am not contesting that paper in the slightest. I actually find it quite interesting.]

                      Mr. Andreassen is doing a much better job of arguing from a position fairly similar to my own than I seem to be capable of–so I have no particular further argument from me at this time.

              • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                Come now sir. I have say many specific things. I brought up Natural Philosophy, pointing out that “Social Science” can observe but cannot yet explain, which is why the best they can do is “tend”. I brought up the Goldwater fiasco, where Psychologists smeared Goldwater, claiming he was unfit for office, without actually meeting the man. Such a violation of Professional and Scientific ethics should have seen a backlash in the field. No such backlash occurred, giving me the conclusion that ethical people are not in charge of “Social Sciences”. Do you think you can have Science without ethical people who’s first and only goal is the Truth? They have failed that test. I brought up “Clever Hans”, which you poo pooed, pretending that people could not divine the tester’s bias by reading the questions. I pointed out the seemingly endless number of scientific frauds that the age has seen. I have been quite specific. You are the one who preached empty boilerplate. “Double Blind”. “It’s all under control, we have Rules!”. I was specific in responding to the “Rules” thing too, bringing up the difficulty in getting Doctors and Nurses to wash their hands. People are dying because of this sloppiness, yet you would have us believe that a bunch of unsupervised, underpaid, disgruntled grad students with little hope for the future are going to be meticulous with “experiments” that cannot be duplicated save in the fuzziest of ways? Sure.

                • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                  I brought up the Goldwater fiasco, where Psychologists smeared Goldwater, claiming he was unfit for office, without actually meeting the man.

                  Ok, this is in some sense specific, yes. It also happened 50 years ago. Like, literally. Goldwater was up for election in 1964. 2012-1964=48. Whoever committed this sin is long dead or retired; the relevance to studies published in this millennium by a completely different set of people is, to say the least, a bit obscure. Perhaps it is time you let this grudge go?

                  I pointed out the seemingly endless number of scientific frauds that the age has seen. I have been quite specific.

                  No, in fact you haven’t. You literally say “There have been many hoaxes”. This is not specific. It might appear in a textbook as the definition of vagueness and generality.

                  Do you think you can have Science without ethical people whose first and only goal is the Truth? They have failed that test.

                  Who, specifically, has failed that test? You cannot accuse all social scientists in this manner. The study we are discussing was done by specific men, who may be good or bad but cannot be held responsible for all the historical failures of other men in their field. You say that someone or other, fifty years ago, gave Goldwater a psychological diagnosis without meeting the man, which is certainly not very bright; and then on these grounds you dismiss a study done by different men at a different time and using other methods. Come now! Is this justice?

                  cannot be duplicated

                  How do you know it cannot be duplicated?

                  pretending that people could not divine the tester’s bias by reading the questions.

                  Look: The question is, let’s say, “Are you a Democrat or a Republican?”, and therewith, “How many others in this study are Democrats/Republicans?” Now it is certainly possible to guess that the experimenter, being an academic, leans left. But that will not in fact affect the result here, because we aren’t measuring how many Democrats are in the sample. We’re measuring whether self-reported Democrats over-estimate the number of other Democrats. And then the result is the same for Republicans. When both sides of a political question overestimate the number of people that agree with them in the sample, how can it be due to experimenter bias? Is he supposed to be biased both ways?

                  Again, let us please hear a specific criticism of the experimental setup. Not vague noises about horses. Please observe that most scientists, even the ones who had to go into inferior non-physics fields, are not actually stupid. If you can think of an objection, they probably thought of it too and took steps to deal with it. Still, nobody is infallible. It is possible that you’ll think of some disastrous flaw that nobody else spotted. If so, let’s hear it! Thus is science advanced. But to wave your hands and say “Clever Hans!” as though you were expressing some brilliant insight that nobody had before, this is not the way. It’s just undirected, uncritical skepticism, as useless as complete credulity.

                  you would have us believe that a bunch of unsupervised, underpaid, disgruntled grad students with little hope for the future

                  I have been such a grad student myself; and yes, I do believe my colleagues, even the not-as-smart ones who had to take up psychology instead of a hard science, are careful and honest. Why would you believe otherwise? Do you have some reason to think they are dishonest or careless?

                  I am not worried about how the “study” was done.

                  Indeed. Because it was done by those Untouchables, the scoial scientists; such pariahs certainly cannot have considered their methods carefully and produced something worth even looking at. Are you really going to sit there and tell me that you are judging a paper without even looking at it, on the basis of what you “know” about the field as a whole, and then you call this approach scientific? If this is really your procedure, on what grounds did you throw out the cold fusion results, produced by scientists in a field you presumably trust?

                  This is not scientific debate; it is the merest status posturing.

                  • Comment by Foxfier:

                    Whoever committed this sin is long dead or retired; the relevance to studies published in this millennium by a completely different set of people is, to say the least, a bit obscure. Perhaps it is time you let this grudge go?

                    Probably he keeps talking about it because it was a famous first? It’s not like the whole attack-the-right-using-psychological-clubs thing has gone away. At once a year or two, a new study makes headlines proving that conservatives are the way they are because they’re easily grossed out, were whiny brats as kids, are that way because they’re narrow minded, because conservatives are intellectually lazy….

                    You can probably get a better list by going to google, typing in conservatives study and clicking on the news timeline feature.

                    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                      Got it in one sir, thank you. I would also point out John Ray’s Dissecting Leftism site for many, many examples of Leftist thought masquerading as “Social Science”.

                    • Comment by Foxfier:

                      Hm, my nesting thing is funky….
                      But, Mr. Mitchell, if your 12:46 was to me– thank you, and I’m a ma’am. ;^p

                    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                      Hello, Foxfier! Yes, the nesting seems out of whack but I was thanking you. As to the other thing, it’s not clear by your name, and who would be so crude as to ask?

                    • Comment by Foxfier:

                      Not the first to go with the default, and I do the “default to male” option myself– I put a female icon up, but it’s so tiny that I don’t think it helps here….

                  • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                    Ah, sir, you seem quite practiced at moving the goalposts. But not matter. First, the Goldwater thing is not a “grudge”. It was Fraud, and a very public one, one thousands of psychiatrists were a part of. They were not punished in any way, nor did “social scientists” to anything to prevent such a thing from happening again. Your only response is to tell me to let it go, they haven’t been caught lately? Good thing we haven’t seen this sort of Fraud spread to other sciences, like say, Climate Science. Man, you would look really stupid……

                    I did not think I needed to re-list them, since you are a regular here. Again, Scientific fraud is not a small or hidden problem.

                    Ah, no. The only one here with status on the line is you. I don’t care about the study because it’s pointless. People are ignorant about other people they don’t know. Gosh! This explains so much!

                    Of course I can. They are professionals, and that’s part of what it means to be a professional. Professions are expected to police their own, and the “Social Scientists” didn’t. They liked the status that comes with being a professional, but didn’t live up to the Responsibility that comes with it. Epic fail.

                    Can’t be. To be duplicated, you would have different scientists doing the experiment with the same elements, and that includes the people. But people have memories, and would remember the previous experiment. Until you have a memory erasing ray, good luck. Wouldn’t be such an issue if you could get 100% of the people to act in predictable ways, but even they admit they can’t do it. The best they can do is “Tends”.

                    Science is not advanced by fraud.

                    Well, yes. I gave the example of Doctors and Nurses not washing their hands, killing people. Given that the system is “Publish or Perish”, and that no one is rewarded for reading the publications, I think sloppy work and fraud is rampant, as the Sokal affair shows. I missed the part where they fixed the problem.

                    • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                      Can’t be. To be duplicated, you would have different scientists doing the experiment with the same elements, and that includes the people.

                      Speaking of moving the goalposts, this appears to be more like making them up. Suppose I test my new medicine on 100 people with the dreaded disease X. I find that 40 of my 50 real subjects recover, as against only 25 in the control group. (And then I publish this non-significant result with great fanfare, because ‘doctors’ in medicine aren’t taught statistics, but never mind – that’s not the point I’m making.) Are you really asserting that, to confirm this result, another scientist would have to run it on the same people? By this standard how can anything whatsoever be confirmed? If I wanted to check Edmonton’s transit-of-Venus results, would I need a time machine to travel to 1919? If I want to redo Rutherford’s gold foil experiment, do I need to procure the same gold foil and, absent gods help us, the same alpha particles he used?

                      This is ridiculous.

                    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                      Ridiculous? Not at all. I note that all of your examples are from the material sciences. People are not gas molecules, and thinking on them as such has lead to such fiascoes as the Butter/Margarine silliness. We can’t predict the weather pass a few days, and a person is far more complex. Then there’s the real world issues with replicating experiments and of course, the stunning problem with retracted studies,

                    • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                      Perhaps you’d like to explain how studies can be replicated in medicine, without using the same patients. Or is medicine also a pseudoscience?

                      I, too, believe in free will. But it just does not follow that people cannot be statistically predictable. You set up a false dichotomy and draw wrong conclusions from it.

                    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                      Can studies be replicated in medicine? And I never called “Social Science” a pseudoscience. I called it Natural Philosophy, and I would put Medicine in the same category. The only actual “Science” I remember being done in Medicine in the last hundred years would be the guy who proved that stomach ulcers were caused by bacteria. Note, in that case, the lack of “tends” and “studies show”. He observed, came up with a theorem, came up with a test that could be falsified, and confirmed it. The grave difficulty he had in getting anyone in the Medical field to listen to him and try to recreate the experiment, shows how far Medicine has to go before I can consider it “Science”.

                      Perhaps, but it is statistically predictable that bad statistics drive out good statistics, which is why we still have the elections……

                    • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                      It is of course a universal tendency that the reply mechanism of a blog will start doing strange things while the owner is away on a trip and has limited opportunities to fix it. I’m not sure whether that’s science, natural philosophy, or theology, but at any rate I’m sure it’s true. :D

                      That said: Could you define your categories of natural philosophy and science? What is the difference? And since you seem to classify medicine as natural philosophy, while presumably believing that modern medicine is more advanced, believes more truths and fewer falsehoods, than older medicine, it does not seem that you can simply say “natural philosophy, not science” and thus dismiss the actual truth of a finding. If both natural philosophy and science are able to find truths, then you cannot conclude that the finding of parochialism is false merely because psychology is not science. So then what is your actual objection to the study?

                    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                      My reply bumped up to #7.

                    • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                      My reply became number 8.

                    • Comment by Alan Silverman:

                      Do you think that the Law of Large Numbers (which, in a colloquial explanation, can use the word “tends”) is true?

                    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                      For N? Yes. Are people N? I don’t think so. I believe in Free Will, and there is nothing in the Law of Large Numbers to account for that. “Social Scientists”, far as I can tell, deal with this by assuming that given enough people, Free Will can be treated like Brownian Motion. I think that is an error, and one that treats people with contempt. Reinforced by the amount of “Social Scientists” that are Leftists.

                    • Comment by Alan Silverman:

                      My point is just that if you’re going to complain about the use of the word “tends” in a colloquial description of something, then you have to object to its use in the Law of Large Numbers just as much as its use in anything else.

                      Also, the argument that it is an error to think that people in aggregate follow patterns sounds very much like Mr. Wright’s point a few posts back that the reason science failed to develop in non-Christian contexts is because they thought it was an error to think that nature in aggregate follows patterns.

                    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                      Hello, Mr. Silverman. My response got bounced up to #6. No idea how.

                • Comment by Patrick:

                  ” I brought up “Clever Hans”, which you poo pooed, pretending that people could not divine the tester’s bias by reading the questions.”

                  Why should ‘people’ care what testers think?

                  That’s a hypothesis in and of itself, of course. Did you have some meta-analysis in mind here, or is this condescension?

  6. Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

    Ah, no. The use of “tends” in Social Science is not a colloquial description, it is the actual usage.

    Of course people in aggregate can follow patterns. We have known about mobs for a long, long time. But Nature is not deliberately contrary, people are. I don’t think “Social Scientists” are close to knowing what they are doing, and I think they are doing a lot of damage with their “cupping and bloodletting”.

    • Comment by Alan Silverman:

      Ah, no. The use of “tends” in Social Science is not a colloquial description, it is the actual usage.

      The paper whose abstract I cited earlier neglects to use it; can you provide citations of social science papers where their actual usage (and not a colloquial explanation of their results) uses the word “tends”?

  7. Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

    Perhaps the difference between Alchemy and Chemistry. Both found Truths. But Chemistry has a working framework to explain those truths. Alchemy did not.

    I don’t believe at any point I’ve dismissed the actual truth of a finding. I have mocked the Hubris and Pride of those who act like they’ve found the answer key and Know what the actual truth is. “The False Consensus Effect” is a lot of bloviating for what is, at it’s core, a truism. “People aren’t very accurate about what strangers know”. Gosh. There is still so much we have to learn about how people work, and “studies” are just the foothills of that mountain. Acting like we have found the Actual Truth by surveying a few hundred people and date mining the results has hurt a lot of people. For example, the millions of people who went on “Low Salt” diets because studies showed Salt caused Heart Attacks. I know of several people who were sickly for years because of that incorrect understanding.

  8. Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

    I don’t believe at any point I’ve dismissed the actual truth of a finding.

    Did you not? Then I must say that you have a rather forceful way of expressing your agreement with “what is, at its core, a truism”:

    So, you can say that some believe there is a bias, but you cannot state as a fact that such a condition exists.

    Well, is it a truism or is it something that “some believe exists”?

    As to the Truth of the concept, I have no idea. I do know it’s not Science, and can make no predictions with any useful degree of accuracy.

    Again, is it a truism or is it something whose truth you have no idea about?

    Perhaps the difference between Alchemy and Chemistry. Both found Truths. But Chemistry has a working framework to explain those truths. Alchemy did not.

    It seems to me that modern psychology does have a framework, namely evolutionary biology. But apart from that, you would presumably not have objected to an alchemist who described in detail the useful trick of preparing sulfuric acid; why then the objection to the psychologist who quantifies the false consensus effect and tells you in what circumstances it is strongest? What is the thing you hope to accomplish with all your scorn; what change would you make in the world, if you had your druthers on this subject?

  9. Comment by Nostreculsus:

    Suppose I test my new medicine on 100 people with the dreaded disease X. I find that 40 of my 50 real subjects recover, as against only 25 in the control group. (And then I publish this non-significant result with great fanfare, because ‘doctors’ in medicine aren’t taught statistics…)


    Huh? The proportion of cures in the treatment group is .8; in the control, it is .5. This gives a p of .0033, (using Yates’ correction). Did you use proportions of .40 and .25, perchance? (p=.1653)

    It is the mark of an instructed mind to rest assured with that degree of precision that the nature of the subject admits, and not to seek exactness when only an approximation of the truth is possible.


    • Comment by Alan Silverman:

      I’d be curious to obtain the original Greek on that Aristotle quote; happen to have a reference?

    • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

      Huh? The proportion of cures in the treatment group is .8; in the control, it is .5. This gives a p of .0033, (using Yates’ correction). Did you use proportions of .40 and .25, perchance? (p=.1653)

      Assuming a Poisson distribution: The square root of 25 is 5; of 40 is a little more than 6. Adding in quadrature we get 8. Thus the difference between the two groups is of size (40-25)/8 = 1.88 sigma. The probability of such a result is a bit in excess of 6%. And, I note, with the number of experiments being done in medicine today, taking p=0.05 as the significance barrier is ridiculous. In particle physics, if you get a result of 1.88 sigma you publish it as “search for X” and quote an upper limit on the size of the process, because you didn’t find anything.

      • Comment by Nostreculsus:

        This restores my faith in you. Very nice estimate. Now let’s just run through the analogous thing for deaths. That should give a very similar result. Assume a Poisson distribution. The square root of 25 is 5; of 10 is a little more than 3. Adding in quadrature we get about 6. Thus, the difference between the two groups is roughly of size (25-10)/6 = 2.5 sigma.

        That’s strange.

        Let’s try Pearson’s chi. There are apps on the internet that will calculate this for you. Here’s one. Enter the numbers…Ah! p=.0017.The null hypothesis that the two samples are similar is rejected.

        A cure for dread disease X! I want to be in the group where 4 out of five are cured and not in the group where 1 out of 2 die. Here, doctor. Take all my money, just give me the pill.

        • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

          Fair enough: If you assume that those who weren’t cured die, then binomial statistics are appropriate and the result is significant. I was assuming that they would continue to have itches in embarrassing places, in which case Poisson statistics on the number of cures in some amount of time is correct and the result is not significant. Clearly I should have given more information about the dreaded disease X. :)

          • Comment by Nostreculsus:

            Sadly, the curative pill destroys all one’s ability to perform algebra. That is so ironic, considering that the pill treats Disease X. Why, I can’t even solve this simple multiple choice question.

            If you choose an answer to this problem at random, what is the chance that you will be correct?
            A) 25%
            B) 50%
            C) 0%
            D) 25%

  10. Comment by Nostreculsus:

    Aha! A pattern! My reply (to #18) is at #9! I predict this response (to # 30) will bump up to #10.

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