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Small-Scale Question Sunday for June 9, 2024

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

This is your opportunity to ask questions. No question too simple or too silly.

Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.

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Dante Labs does a whole genome sequencing package with much more coverage and many more reports than 23andme or AncestryDNA, etc. It is considerably more pricey, of course.

A few years ago I read an article on Quillette called "My Misspent Years of Conspiracism", in which the author describes how he was taken in by Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK which alleges a conspiracy to assassinate John F. Kennedy, and how he subsequently came around to the idea that the Warren Commission's conclusions were accurate: JFK was killed by two rounds fired from the Texas school book depository by Lee Harvey Oswald, who acted alone. He explained the turning point in disabusing him of his misconceptions about the assassination was the TV documentary The Kennedy Assassination: Beyond Conspiracy. Not being especially well-versed in the various conspiracies surrounding the JFK assassination, I was persuaded by this article, and by its assertion that pretty much everything in the film JFK (which I haven't seen) is nonsense.

Today I've been reading some of the Wikipedia articles about the assassination, including the master article and the article about the assorted conspiracy theories (there's also one about the Dictabelt recording and the single-bullet theory, which I haven't gotten to yet). I'm currently watching the Beyond Conspiracy documentary mentioned in the article and it's fascinating (available here, but you need a Vimeo account). I was intrigued by this paragraph from the master article:

All remaining assassination-related records were scheduled to be released by October 2017, with the exception of documents certified for continued postponement by succeeding presidents due to "identifiable harm... to the military, defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations... of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure." President Donald Trump said in October 2017 that he would not block the release of documents, but in April 2018—the deadline he set to release all JFK records—Trump blocked the release of some records until October 2021. President Joe Biden, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, delayed the release further, before releasing 13,173 unredacted documents in 2022. A second group of files were unsealed in June 2023, at which point 99 percent of documents had been made public.

Two questions:

  1. Did the documents released since 2017 contain any bombshells? Have any conspiracies (or any components of conspiracies) been vindicated by the release of these documents?
  2. Even if the film JFK is a load of tripe, is it entertaining enough to be worth a watch? Or can you only get any enjoyment out of it if you're a true believer? Speaking as someone with decidedly mixed feelings on Stone as both a director and a screenwriter: Platoon was okay, Wall Street is trash, Alexander dragged on for bloody years, Natural Born Killers was eh (although I was probably about twelve years old when I saw it and perhaps too young to really get it), Midnight Express was somewhat entertaining but also the most unabashedly racist Hollywood film I've ever seen - come to think of it, the only film in which Stone had any involvement which I can say I love without qualification is Scarface.
  1. There’s some interesting new stuff in there, like new information on Oswald’s activities and movements in the months leading up to the assassination. There are no bombshells. Even if Kennedy had been killed by a conspiracy, I highly doubt any of that would end up written down.
  2. It’s pretty good and worth a watch. Even if you just take it as fiction, it’s a fairly well constructed thriller. As someone interested in the JFK assassination I find it a little annoying since I’m constantly trying to parse actual historical stuff (of which to be fair there is a lot) from things Oliver Stone added. Additionally a lot of it is based on Jim Garrison’s theories, and Jim Garrison was in some ways kind of a loon.

I personally think the circumstances around Kennedy’s assassination stink like hell. I would go off at length here, but I would rather eventually put it all together in an effort post.

I wonder why they would bother with not releasing these latest documents if they all amount to a nothingburger.

I also wonder if the last 1% of documents is something that the CIA/DoD did which wouldn't reflect well on the US. Like some sort of reprisal or dirty tricks against the soviets.

Ostensibly it’s to protect “sources and methods.” For example, that would include tradecraft techniques for contacting moles, or bugging and trailing sources. Technology changes, but a lot of those methods might be just as useful today as they were in 1963. Or documents might mention agents embedded in hostile foreign countries like Cuba who are still alive and might be subject to arrest and execution if their names are revealed. Conspiratorially, even if there’s nothing damning in the files, there could be evidence that might be linked to shady business, or small details that contradict the Warren Report, or possibly obvious holes in the investigative methodology that points to an after the fact cover-up.

I'd love to see that effort post. Love the username by the way.

How do I interact with women like coworkers and family members without struggling not to reply to everything with: maybe you should go to the bear with that?

You don't really know if random women brought it up or not right? So you risk alienating those women who might think the bear thing is stupid. If you heard them do it in a non joking way, they I suppose it's fair game, even though why would you go down to their level anyways?

But I think it's really bad form bringing that up at work or amongt family members. Any woman who unironically brings it up in any context other than taking the piss among friends is a retard.


Edit - This is the first time I actually thought in detail about the man vs bear "debate".

But holy cow, are people stupid. Like absolutely moronically fucking stupid. The thought of sharing a society with people who own mouths that generate those sequences of tokens makes me feel dizzy, lol.

Good reminder why I don't peruse normie internet, bunch of glue sniffers and crayon eaters.

The manbear question is funny because the female response is so ridiculously confirmatory of stereotypes about women that you honestly couldn't make it up. Literally hundreds of women freely outing themselves as neurotic brittle narcissists by tweeting "at least the bear doesn't demean my intelligence or forget my birthday". It's beyond parody.

There's much discourse about the effect of a lack of role models on young men. But I think this points to a malaise among young women as well that slips under the radar. No aunts or grandma to tell the girls they are just being silly.


The stupid thing is, I get it. Retarded as I am, even I can tell they don't really care about the mechanics of "man vs bear", charitably they just want to talk about how "they feel unsafe around men", and uncharitably just dunk on men. But should we even be entertaining this bullshit? If a dude came up to me with a similar set of tokens, the only appropriate response is "quit being a retard".

I have no confirmation that they would even know wtf I'm talking about. I don't even know whether it's been a thing in the local social media. And because I don't want to alienate them, I haven't said anything like that, but how do I stop wanting to?

Sometimes you've just got to get off the internet man, or at least the shittier corners of it. Don't let the brain-melting stupidity of the worst internet feminists convince you that a significant number of women in real life actually think like that.

Understand that the bear debate is not even remotely interesting without severe levels of brainrot and feel ashamed about yourself.

I'm not ashamed of my hostility towards women, but I'm ashamed about several things simultaneously every waking second, and it does nothing, so even if I could or wanted to induce shame about this issue, it wouldn't work.

Can't help you, because I've just started saying it once they've said something similar a few times first. (Keeping a mental note of who does this is a surprise tool that will help us later)

Turns out it's a lot of fun, can see why feminists have been doing it to us for years.

just bear with it

Does anyone like or "get" monotype printing?

I have some equipment for making and teaching mono prints with charming little presses and gel plates, but whenever I look into resources about it, the professional art is not inspiring at all. Lots of kind of boring stencils of elephants or birds, lots of leaves, mandala looking stencils, dots that look kind of like packing materials, all in acrylic, which is a huge pain to clean up. I do like plate and woodblock printing, but am not going to set that up, it's a whole different tool set. The most interesting gel plate pieces I've seen included using the gel print as a background and drawing over it in chalk pastel, but then it has to be framed behind glass because of the pastel.

At a quick glance it seems like the constraints usually don't add anything interesting to the results. The glass transfer process is a fair bit of work but also too clean. Wood block printing adds an interesting texture.

However Kevork Mourad's work looks kind of neat to me.

https://www.artsy.net/artist/kevork-mourad https://www.kevorkmourad.com/portfolio/immortal-city-2018/

The usual consensus is that VP picks don't meaningfully alter the likelihood of a given candidate winning the US general election. There are some widely recognised exceptions, like Sarah Palin hurting John McCain's chances in 2008 (although he was facing an uphill battle anyway), and Biden picking Kamala Harris in 2020 to appeal to black voters. But the accepted wisdom is that they don't matter.

With both candidates being so old this time around, are people likelier this time to take therunning mates into account when voting in November? Do there exist a non-negligible number of voters who would vote for Donald Trump to avoid Kamala Harris? Or e.g. people who might be inclined to vote for Trump but dislike his VP pick so much they don't want to risk being saddled with them after a year or two?

I don't think people will care much about Kamala Harris, but I could see a small amount of people being affected by who Trump chooses, what it reflects on what he's trying to do. I think Pence probably helped him shore up support among more Christian types concerned about his sexual ethics and overall character in 2016. I'm not sure what would be most useful to him in 2024, though.

I'm not sure what would be most useful to him in 2024, though.

A 10 foot tall space marine who only sports Warhammer 40k quotes

I am disappointed the page doesn't contain the best quote of the game: SSSINDRIII!!!

Actually, Trump would make a convincing Lord Bale.

Even Captain Titus could surely win the election. As Trump’s VP or as Biden’s.

I'd disagree on both counts. Kamala Harris was cleverly picked by Biden because she was unpopular enough that party insiders couldn't try to force him to resign, while at the same time they can't block or force out the first black woman VP. Imagine if Spiro Agnew couldn't have been removed. Nixon would have finished his term.

Sarah Palin was viciously attacked because she was the only thing propping up McCain's lacklustre campaign and potentially blocking the first black president. If McCain had picked someone like Paul Ryan then Obama would have won by ten points.

If somehow the VP candidates are Gavin Newsom and Tim Scott I'd bet money against either Trump or Biden being president by 2026.

I have a tough time imagining someone who opposes Kamala Harris that much who would vote for someone as obviously senile as Joe Biden anyways, considering the default problem someone would have with her is that she's a bimbo.

Random shower thought- does low fertility select for a higher percentage of multiple births/twins? People can’t exactly control when they have twins so it’s reasonable to think that a multiple birth meaningfully raises fertility compared to the counter factual, and this is a bigger advantage comparatively when the population average is 1.5 than a historically normal birthrate. Anecdotally every family I’ve known to have multiple births, both religious and secular, proceeded to have the number of pregnancies they would have had if they were all single births.

Yes, but I think that that would be the case when fertility is high, as well, wouldn't it, if twins don't affect pregnancy count?

This would only affect fraternal twins, as I believe only that is heritable.

Probably a bit, but proportionally it’s a bigger difference when tfr is 1.5 than when it’s 3.0.

Is it? When you measure per 1000 births rather than per family I think it wouldn't be?

Multiple births are less affected by family planning decisions. Or so it seems to me.

does low fertility select for a higher percentage of multiple births/twins?

If their fertility is low enough to warrant IVF, then yes, absolutely, the incidence of multiple pregnancy for those undergoing it approaches 30%. Which is great, it's an expensive procedure, so who ought to complain at the chance to get twice the bang/baby for the buck?

I think there's equivocation here on fertility—you mean something like "ability to have children," which while it is what fertility means in common parlance, is, I believe, in technical terminology, fecundity, and hydroacetylene means something like "tendency of the overall population to have children," which is fertility in its technical sense, like the F in TFR.

Why in the world, with the two major parties bickering back and forth at each other like immature children, would I want to vote in this upcoming election? I have to be honest, I'm completely dissolutioned from voting now with the way politicians talk to each other and disrespect each other and their opposing constituents. I just can't support a political system that caters to extreme ends of platforms, where civil discourse is completely thrown out the window, where activists and politicians alike no longer listen to understand but to respond, and that really only caters to corporate interests. I live in a solidly blue state in every level of office, so I feel like my vote (and my voice) don't matter.

Like, for the presidential election, who in their right mind would want to choose between two 80-something year old white men with the only difference being one is a convicted felon? And I know that's a huge generalization, but I can't be the only one who feels that way.

Well, what do you care about in politics, more generally? What policies would you want? What should the country be doing?

Is there any level of office where your vote would matter (like maybe local government)?

When there isn't, in the races where your vote truly doesn't matter, maybe go with a protest vote, voting for candidates that have no chance but at least seem better (but still, preferably, are prominent enough that they'll get a decent number of votes—you want your protest to be heard).

Well, what do you care about in politics, more generally? What policies would you want? What should the country be doing?

In general, I care about

-Ensuring that the wealthy in this country pay their fair share in taxes -Ending our nation's contributions to the military industrial complex (I am a strict pacifist) -Immigration reform -Enshrining abortion rights in federal law -Universal healthcare -Gun control reform -Improving access to social services -Adding more options for public transportation -Promoting transparency in government -Increasing the supply of affordable housing -Implenting ranked choice voting for every level of public office

Is there any level of office where your vote would matter (like maybe local government)?

I used to think that it mattered up to at least my state government, but with how much politics have generally devolved into bickering about polar opposite positions on issues, and to ad-homs and name-calling, I've lost interest even there.

Let me put it this way; it would take a very large change in our political system and in our politicians' characters for me to be motivated to vote. And I know that people will tell me, "If you don't vote, the bad guys will win." Yes, probably, but if all of my choices are bought by the wealthy and special interest groups, or have such horrible values or ideologies, I am going to choose every time not to participate. Further, if the system at-large is only designed to be self-serving, why would I participate in it?

Well, most of those things seem like democrats would satisfy more of those. I'm not going to try hard to convince you to vote for them, as I dislike democrats more, and think most of those policies are not worth doing. Is it all the woke things that you see as horrible among the democrats?

(If you like, just say the word, and I'd be happy to give my opinions on those policies in more depth, but no pressure, there's no need to argue over all your political beliefs if you don't want to.)

No, I'm not against wokeness. I'm aware that my positions align with those of the DNC, but I'm not interested in supporting partisanship. I'm more interested in getting shit done, and I don't think that either party is willing to act with any sense of urgency towards the issues I mentioned. My perception is that they're far more concerned with keeping themselves in office by any means -- courting lobbyists, the wealthy, the influential, the elite, and then using demeaning and insulting rhetoric against their opponents.

Yeah, that's probably fair.

Primary elections are worth voting in, at least, then.

If I was in a swing state I would care. Of course I'm not given the few major cities my employers choose to build offices in. My vote truly doesn't count.

I'll vote down ballot. Libertarian candidate is worse than usual so I'm not sure who I'm going to vote for president. But it doesn't matter.

Just as a reminder, the 2016 election had a very real consequence. Donald Trump was able to install 3 conservative justices on the Supreme Court, which in turn allowed them to overturn Roe V Wade. Abortion is now illegal in about a dozen states and de facto illegal in about ten more.

Whether you think this is a big deal is your call. But I can assure you it is a huge deal for lower middle-class and poor women living in those states. So this is a reminder that elections do have consequences, even if both parties/candidates suck.

Which was the correct call, Roe v Wade was obviously a forced reading of the constitution.

But I can assure you it is a huge deal for lower middle-class and poor women living in those states.

Hahaha.

But seriously; the fixation on abortion rights is notably not a feature of the poor and working class.

It's not a fixation. There are women who get pregnant who want/need to have an abortion who no longer can. That is a direct consequence of selecting Trump for president in 2016. This shouldn't be a controversial/questionable statement.

Texas and Oklahoma banned abortion before Dobbs, and were probably going to be joined by another dozen or so states even without it.

And, to my point- abortion rights as a top priority is more of a wealthy woman thing than a poor woman thing. This is because avoiding unwanted pregnancies is A) kind of the default anyways B) already a good idea and C) obviates any desire for abortion. Poor women have actual problems to worry about, ones not the result of their own bad decisions. The PMC feminist obsession with abortion rights is mostly feminist signaling.

Well, I didn't vote for Trump in 2016 or 2020, and the candidates I did vote for didn't receive any electoral votes, so I can't say that my vote contributed to said consequence.

Right, but your last paragraph says there is no difference between the two candidates except one is a convicted felon. So I’m pointing out that that line of thinking is not correct.

Well, that's it. It's not correct, but I'm so strongly convicted in not voting that neither candidate appeals to me.

Voting for RFK Jr or minor candidates better conveys dissatisfaction. They won't win, but the major parties do pay attention to that vote. Typically they respond by making it harder to get on the ballot, but at least you've needled them.

Also it's easier to make a difference than you think. Most people do nothing. If you consistently do a weekly podcast complaining about specific things local politicians have done you'll probably get their attention.

Another thing is that you can take advantage of information asymmetry. If you print out 100 flyers and drop them off at houses along the street the politician lives on and where some of their sr staffers live they will assume it was a major city wide literature drop.

IIRC in the 2020 election, and possibly various times before, there were more ballots cast without a choice for president than the margin of victory in several important swing states. To me, at least, that seems a powerful message to politicians: I vote, but you don't have my vote, and you should do better. It also gives you a chance to vote on down ballot issues which your vote generally has more sway on anyway.

I won't even bother voting for the presidential election. Only reason I might vote is if there are ballot proposals I want to weigh in on.

Which sort of state are you in? If it's one that could go either way, I'd hold my nose and vote for the least-bad option with a chance. If elsewhere, I'd vote for the best protest who will get non-negligible votes. Signaling a protest vote at least helps display your dissatisfaction to the parties.

I live in Colorado, so the election could go either way in my state. But the thing is, I think both Biden and Trump are equally horrible. I don't want either of them in office. I could vote for a third party, but there's no chance (thanks to people buying into the myth that a third party is "wasting your vote") that they will win. So I am extremely unlikely to vote for President because no matter what I do, someone I hate will be in office.

That said, Colorado does have a really nice system of putting proposals on the ballot to be voted on by people directly. Those are often worth one's time, so I may vote just to weigh in on those.

thanks to people buying into the myth that a third party is "wasting your vote"

And Duverger's Law.

It could be worth voting for your preferred third party just as a protest. Colorado's one-sided enough that it isn't vital that you vote for someone with a chance—even if it could still go either way, it'll probably only go red if the election overall is in a best-case scenario for Trump, I imagine.

I'm considering casting a completely blank ballot on Election Day. I'm fed up with it all.

Voting is pointless because political power is 90% divorced from the formal constitution, and your vote would not be decisive anyway. But I don't relate to anything you said.

a political system that caters to extreme ends of platforms

American political parties cater to an incredibly narrow ideological window. The Trump movement represents the most radical deviation from a ten millimeter band at the center of the overton window in my lifetime, and it amounts to "actually enforce immigration laws on the books". And I guess Current Year Democrats espouse similarly deviant beliefs about one and exactly one topic (trans kids).

the two major parties bickering back and forth at each other like immature children, would I want to vote in this upcoming election? I have to be honest, I'm completely dissolutioned from voting now with the way politicians talk to each other and disrespect each other and their opposing constituents.

This is an odd perspective I get a lot from boomers. They seem to care an awful lot about the decorum of politicians and their being harmonious and "statesmanlike". To me, the lack of heated argument between candidates suggests there's no significant difference between the two. That would make voting even more pointless.

If voting in this election is worthless, voting in every election in your life has been worthless. This time there is at least a black swan chance of a constitutional crisis or illegal political purge.

This is an odd perspective I get a lot from boomers. They seem to care an awful lot about the decorum of politicians and their being harmonious and "statesmanlike". To me, the lack of heated argument between candidates suggests there's no significant difference between the two. That would make voting even more pointless.

Why do you think that it's odd? The way I see it, the character of a candidate is equally, if not more, important than their positions. If a candidate uses dehumanizing language to explain their positions, I'm most likely not voting for them even if I agree with their positons. I'm not suggesting that candidates need to agree, but I am most certainly of the opinion that they ought to respect one another's basic humanity.

If voting in this election is worthless, voting in every election in your life has been worthless. This time there is at least a black swan chance of a constitutional crisis or illegal political purge.

You're right, I agree. The first election I was able to vote in was 2012, when I didn't find our country's politics nearly as polarizing. 12 years later, I want nothing to do with politics.

What year did blockbuster movie and primetime tv casting in Hollywood peak in terms of racial accuracy of casting?

I was thinking about it. Just as we reached the point where we wouldn't use scotch tape to create Asians, we hit the point where we randomly cast characters as the wrong race for fun.

I'd say between 1995 - 2005. Just based on vibes. Seems that identity casting starting ramping up mid 2000s and has gone off the rails since then.

Is anyone planning to write something on the European Parliamentary election? I would have no idea what I was talking about if I tried. It looks like France just dissolved government and called snap elections as a result, so that, at least, is of note.

So, what are you reading?

I’m still on The Future Does Not Compute. Also trying to catch up on my Shakespeare with The Tempest.

I've decided that undrrstanding Lacanian psychoanalysis will be my next intellectual venture, so right now I am reading Sigmund Freud by Pamela Thurschwell, and A Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis by Bruce Fink.

The Freud book is to familiarize myself with some of the foundational concepts of psychoanalysis. It seems like a pretty straightforward historical account of Freud's life and an overview of his ideas.

The Fink book has been really fascinating so far. I am coming at this as someone who has no experience with psychoanalysis or therapy in general, and the book provides a lot of insight on the actual theraputic techniques of psychoanalysis, rather than the philosophical ideas behind it. I started inteoducing myself to Lacan by listening to some podcasts on basic concepts, but they still felt like they were avoiding the heart of everything. This book is grounding, which is refreshing.

Just finished the original Planet of the Apes novel. The best scene was a flashback to some human characters when the apes were first taking over the planet. (spoilers) It's different from the movie, instead of the humans wiping themselves out with nukes they just evolved to become lazy and docile over time and the apes stepped in to become the dominant species. Personally I think that's a more interesting idea than the Statue of Liberty on the beach which feels dated now that the cold war is over. It was short and breezy, worth the time if you enjoy 60s scifi.

I learned it's the same author as Bridge over the River Kwai so I might pick that up next.

Hyperion, Men At Arms (Pratchett), the exchange between the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch and the Lutheran theologians in the 1570s (in Latin and Greek, since that's what's free online, so it's slow going), Fear and Trembling.

Popper and After: Four Modern Irrationalists by David Stove. It's pretty crazy how everyone just sort of nodded along as Popper's falsificationism became the dominant idea in philosophy of science, but hardly any scientists act as though they actually believe in it, because it's absurd.

I'd love if you could elaborate on that sentence, I'm curious.

The fatal premise of falsificationism is the denial that inductive reasoning can be a basis of true knowledge. A theory can never be "confirmed", it can only fail to be falsified. Falsificationism preserves the veneer that science can be based on deductive reasoning alone. A theory that has been falsified is logically impossible to be true*. So one can attempt to define science in a crude way as the set of tested falsifiable theories that have not been falsified.

The cost of this is the denial of objective scientific truth. If general relativity were falsified tomorrow, would you feel comfortable walking out of a fifth-story window? Everybody knows gravity is real. It's obvious. Inductive reasoning works. We now have stronger theoretical justifications for induction than Popper did, but the damage is done.

*Kuhn does a good job of poking holes in this assumption. It's a shame he goes even further off the deep end of denying objective truth.

The cost of this is the denial of objective scientific truth. If general relativity were falsified tomorrow, would you feel comfortable walking out of a fifth-story window?

I think this is false. (heh)

If general relativity were falsified tomorrow, I wouldn't walk out of a fifth story window because I'd still be aware of the obvious phenomenon of falling from heights. Intellectually, however, I might think "I wonder why I fall? That whole General Relativity thing seemed to offer a pretty good explanation, but ever since Quantumfreakonomics falsified it, I guess I just don't know why this whole "falling" things actually happens."

Moreover, I think you may have pulled a fast one by slipping in "objective scientific truth" into your sentence. Popper's problem of demarcation (with falsifiability following from it) are designed as ways to differentiate between science and non-science (especially metaphysics). Falsifiability has to do with logical falsification, less than experimental falsification (although Popper did say it would still retain its validity to some extent within experimentation). All of this phrased differently; falsifiability isn't about being the truth finding tool, rather, it's about evaluating the proposed routes to truth for their scientific (really, logical) validity.

So, your assertion that "The fatal premise of falsificationism is the denial that inductive reasoning can be a basis of true knowledge" I think isn't quite playing nice. "True knowledge" can come from a variety of sources; metaphysics, theoretical physics, pure math, the scientific method, some (including me!) would also add in faith. Popper, I think, would call many of these things non-science but not non-valuable.

And I think this is very important because if we're fighting over what is or is not "science" it follows to ask why defining "science" is so imporant to which it is often responded "science is the only way we can find the capital-T Truth!" which really gets my ears perked up because that's how we, eventually, get coerced into "Following The Science" (what Taleb would call "scientism") and then we end up veering steeply away from Truth.

Finished Isherwood's Berlin Stories. It's fascinating how much his writing improves over the course of the volume, Norris is such a rudimentary character, Sally Bowles is electric and iconic, and Otto Nowak is fascinating. Throughout the book you can feel him improving.

This week I'm hoping to finish War and Peace before I leave for a trip, where I'll try to finish Path Lit By Lightning and maybe start something else.

I finally finished the Flynn autobiography. I had begun an effort post about it though that may never be completed. Worth reading (the book).

What's the books title

My Wicked, Wicked Ways: The Autobiography of Errol Flynn

Do you think he was telling the truth about his life? It seems nearly too adventurous to believe, though that may be owing to my shelteredness.

The reviewers say he was overly self critical in the early part (there is no record of his murder trial) and, later, told more accurate truths because his later life was rather more a matter of public record. I dunno. I do think it does not strain credulity to imagine he did live most of it One wouldn't make up indulging in slavery or sex slaves, I imagine. Or maybe one would.

I started reading House To House by David Bellavia. It's a personal account by US Army Staff Sergeant David Bellavia of the battle to re-take Fallujah in 2004 during operation Iraqi Freedom. Reminds me a lot of JTarrou's posts on Violent Class. It's very heavy on the details of the combat that his unit engaged in, not much discussion of any sort of grand strategy, politics, etc. That's clearly the actual experience of the guys on the sharp edge. The kind of thing you don't see written about much.

I noted that the book has a listed co-author, John R. Bruning, who, going by his listed bio, is actually a professional author and journalist. Did he do most of the actual work to transform this into a well-written story? I don't know, but Mr. Bellavia appears to be no slouch in the writing department himself - according to the Amazon bio, he has also been published in "The Philadelphia Inquirer, National Review, The Weekly Standard, and other publications". So I guess him and JTarrou are part of a relatively small number of people who are actual combat veterans and can also write about it in a highly articulate and insightful way.

I'm only about a third of the way through the book so far. The Amazon summary is all about some truly heroic badass feats that SSG Bellavia pulled off which earned him the Medal of Honor, but I haven't reached that part yet. The first part is more about the daily life of a Staff Sergeant, which is more about looking after the men in your unit, keeping them safe, well-equipped, and well prepared for the fighting to come. Stuff like evaluating who's good at what, putting the right guys in the right positions, making sure they have a good plan for the fight to come and everyone actually knows what it is.

He doesn't seem to have the generalized disdain towards officers. Some are seen as and portrayed as being useless douchenozzles. Others are, or have grown into, being decent quality combat leaders.

I do see portrayed here the notion that many actual soldiers, even highly skilled and experienced soldiers who volunteered to be in the infantry and have been promoted multiple times, are still a little bit reluctant to actually shoot the enemy sometimes. There's a passage near the beginning of the book where SSG Bellavia is on a rooftop during a battle, sees a presumed enemy on a nearby rooftop before they see him, gets him in his sights, but hesitates to fire. He has what sounds like an anxious feeling that the soldier he sees might actually be one of their Iraqi allied forces. He writes of watching the guy spot him, turn to face him, and start raising his own rifle towards him, all while he's dead on in Bellavia's rifle sights. He writes of thinking for a moment that the guy might actually be an ally who is trying to help him by shooting an unseen other enemy that's actually behind him, of wishing he'd just set down the rifle and go back inside. He does in the end manage to shoot the guy before the guy tries to shoot him.

So @FCfromSSC, you've stated that you consider a lack of aliens, a lack of AGI, and a lack of Read/Write Consciousness upload ability to be proof that humans are divine and that God exists. If we find alien life, create AGI, and can scan a human brain and make a copy, would that be proof for you that God doesn't exist? Would any of those events change you mind?

If we find alien life, create AGI, and can scan a human brain and make a copy, would that be proof for you that God doesn't exist?

Pretty much, yeah.

you've stated that you consider a lack of aliens, a lack of AGI, and a lack of Read/Write Consciousness upload ability to be proof that humans are divine and that God exists.

You have misunderstood the argument. Any of those three existing means that I'm wrong. Any or even all of those three not existing isn't proof that I'm right, nor even evidence that I'm right.

Also, I have no idea what "humans are divine" is supposed to mean, or where you got it from.

Why would alien life be a problem?

As far as I understand it, the Catholic church is relatively agnostic about the possibility of alien life - it's not explicitly forbidden.

Also, would microbes be a problem, or only intelligent life?

Say we come across aliens in spaceships. Do the aliens have sin and desire salvation from it, isomorphic to Christianity? Any answer to that question would have profound implications, and either way you answer it doesn't fit into my model of God.

If they have their own copy of Christianity already, that would be pretty good proof that the Christian God exists. My understanding is that He is not interested in providing that proof.

If they have no copy of Christianity, but were sufficiently similar in psychological makeup that they could be converted, that would be merely extremely surprising. This version might not break my understanding, depending on how the implications play out. I suppose the argument would become that minds necessarily converge to a specific structure due to physical constraints, etc, etc, and maybe it could be papered over, but predicting in advance it would still be deeply weird, and seems like it would converge on proof of God.

If they're different enough that conversion is impossible, then you have a group of beings apparently outside the Christian God's described order, and that breaks all sorts of theological assumptions.

The above isn't thought out in detail, but... if you think of faith as bets, which I do, and if you think that betting intelligently is possible, which I also do, then your bets shouldn't be contradictory. I'm betting that God exists, and betting that aliens exist would be contradictory, so I bet that they don't.

Maybe not the best way to describe it, but hopefully that gets across something of the thought process.

In his essay “Religion and Rocketry” C.S. Lewis laid out 5 criteria for the discovery of aliens to be a problem for Christianity:

  1. Do alien animals exist? (Plants or microbes are no issue)
  2. Are they rational? (Squirrels or trout are no issue, we discover new non-rational species all the time)
  3. Are they fallen? (Unfallen aliens are no problem, that’s basically what angels are)
  4. If they are fallen, have they been denied salvation through Jesus Christ? (Christian aliens are no problem, we’re used to being missionaries to strange new peoples)
  5. If we know 1-4 and the answer is yes, are we sure that Jesus dying on the cross the only mode of Redemption possible? (Maybe God has a different way for alien being then he does for humans)

What's the Lewis theodicy for pre-Christian-contact humans? Jews (and people exposed to Jewish missionaries? but AFAIK they were never exactly an evangelical religion...) I assume get the "Redemption ... a different way" loophole in (5). Maybe you could also argue that e.g. the Tang dynasty might have had some kind of missionary contact, though the likely tiny ratio of hypothetical-missionary to local-established-belief-systems exposure seems pretty unfair to people required to pick the former. But the further you go from the Middle East in space or the further back you go in time, the more of a stretch it gets. In the most archetypal case of the problem, the Native Americans hit points (1) through (4) so hard that people invented entire religions to try to provide a solution.

But on the other hand, Christianity didn't collapse in 1493, so clearly there's some theodicies that make Christians happy enough. Even not knowing exactly what they are it feels like they ought to apply to extraterrestrial aliens as easily as extracontinental ones.

Lewis believed in the old Christian concept of the “Harrowing of Hell”. In summary, he did believe that Jesus saved even those who came before he was born.

As far as people who never realistically could have heard the Gospel, Lewis believed salvation through Christ was still possible.

Is it not frightfully unfair that this new life should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.

We can see this in his final Narnia book, The Last Battle, when a Calorman who worshipped Tash all his life get to go to heaven. When the man asks how this is possible Aslan replies

I take to me the services which thou hast done to him, for I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.

Your flair fits.

Anyway, I would agree that 1-3 don't really matter that much. Less clear on 4-5. I don't think it's inherently wrong for them not to be saved, because I don't think God had to save us. But I am generally convinced that a propitiatory sacrifice was necessary, and that it was for this reason that Christ became incarnate. Would that require another incarnation?

His Chronicles of Narnia and Sci-Fi Trilogy also give hypothetical answers for the problem of the existence of nonhuman sapients in a God-created world, which is a variety of theodicy.

He portrays in Narnia a multiversal God the Son who may incarnate as a different representative of sapience in any universe created for sapients, in a multiverse where Jesus of Nazareth had already been wrongly crucified as an innocent as a sacrifice for the fallen and resurrected three days later.

In the SF Trilogy, he posits that Satan may be ruler of this world for a time, but that Adversary might be limited to one planet by divine fiat.

My own take is that each sapient species is given a prime metaphor for their relationship with God; for humans, it’s the husband/wife/offspring paradigm, thus how every sin against fruitfulness and multiplying is considered abominable. God may give aliens another prime metaphor entirely.

Thank you for the clear response and lines in the sand so to speak.

He explicitly stated that if we could Read/Write minds then he’d change his mind.

Demonstrate mind reading and mind control, and I'll agree that Determinism appears to be correct. In the meantime, I'll continue to point out that confident assertions are not evidence.

We kind of are getting there, though. As an example, there is a growing class of proposals to make the blind sighted again by introducing optogenetic actuators - proteins that modify cellular activity in response to light - into neurons via transfection, and then using patterns of light to induce vision. If that's not an attempt to Write to minds, I don't know what is.

This has also found a good amount of success in practice - this paper describes a patient that was blind and who was given an injection containing a viral vector that encoded for the channelrhodopsin protein ChrimsonR in his retinal ganglia. He was then provided a pair of light-stimulating goggles that translated visual stimuli into a form processable by him and subjected to some visual tests, and when wearing the goggles he could actually attempt to engage with objects in front of him. Of course, stimulation of the retina won't work for other issues such as glaucoma or trauma, so there have also been attempts to stimulate the V1 visual cortex directly, and on that front there are primate experiments showing that stimulating the visual cortex through optogenetics induces perception of visuals (see this paper and this paper).

DARPA has even funded such research in their NESD (Neural Engineering System Design) program, with some of their funding going to a Dr Ehud Isacoff whose goal is to stimulate neurons via optogenetics to encode perceptions into the human cortex. It's certainly in its infancy, but already there is a good amount of evidence that manipulating the mind is very, very possible.

We kind of are getting there, though.

You are describing the USB port. I am talking about the hard drive. Read Consciousness is isomorphic to mind reading. Write Consciousness is isomorphic to mind control.

If you think that the capabilities you're pointing to are actually the precursors to mind reading and mind control, then would you agree that my prediction, if correct, would be significant?

I think we need to talk about definitions of mind control here before we discuss that.

Don't get me wrong, I certainly do think the ability to exact full control over someone's mind would be significant (and terrifying, both philosophically and practically), but I'm also not sure if I see a clear-cut distinction between something like "I can make you see whatever I please through stimulating your neurons in a predictable way" and mind control. If you have designed a system which can predictably induce certain perceptions in someone's mind, how is that not already a restricted form of mind control?

If you have designed a system which can predictably induce certain perceptions in someone's mind, how is that not already a restricted form of mind control?

You're describing a method for indirectly manipulating someone by fooling them about the state of reality, correct? And the idea would be that if you make the illusion convincing enough, you can manipulate their choices by lying to them about what those choices are? I would not call this mind control, even if you replace someone's inputs entirely and reduce them to a brain in a jar. You can already lie to and manipulate people pretty well without making them a brain in a jar, and I'm not sure what the full immersion is supposed to achieve. I'm also weakly skeptical that full immersion is possible, both from a practical standpoint and at all. It's definitely far enough away from our current capabilities that I think it deserves a "I'll believe it when I see it."

If you can directly read and write their consciousness, though, that's something different. You don't have to resort to lies or manipulation, you simply see how they are, and make them how you want them. That seems like a completely different thing to me.

I suppose you could make an argument that certain parts of the human nervous system like the retina and/or the visual cortex are deterministic enough to be controlled in this way and that other parts of the human psyche do not function deterministically and cannot be controlled so easily. I think it is somewhat on tenuous ground to state that one's world-model can be predictably influenced but one's personality cannot, the line between the two has never been a clear-cut one, but let's go with that for now and have a look at personality manipulations.

Something that bolsters the idea of consciousness as alterable and deterministic are certain types of brain damage that impact human behaviour in somewhat predictable ways, for example lesions on the periaqueductal gray can cause intentional activity to cease entirely, a condition covered in The Hidden Spring by Mark Solms.

Also covered in that book is a condition called Korsakoff psychosis, a condition characterised by amnesia and confusion caused by thiamine deficiency-related damage to the limbic system. One of the main symptoms is confabulation, where memory is disordered to an extent that the brain retrieves false memories. There was a man (Mr S) affected by this who constantly believed he was in Johannesburg and simply could not be convinced otherwise, and believed his condition was due to him missing a "memory cartridge" that could just be replaced. His false beliefs are not only indicative of a change in perception, but also in how he is, in some sense. When blind raters were brought in to evaluate the emotional content of his confabulations, Mr S's confabulations were found to substantially improve his own situation from the emotional point of view - so confabulation occurs not only because of deficits in search and source monitoring, but also release from inhibition of emotionally mediated forms of recall.

Here's another case study from The Hidden Spring: An electrode implanted in a reticular brainstem nucleus of a 65 year old woman reliably evoked a response of extreme sadness, guilt and hopelessness, where she claimed that she wanted to die and that she was scared and disgusted with life. When stimulation was stopped, the depression quickly ended and for the next five minutes she was in a hypomanic state. Stimulation at other brain sites did not elicit this response. In other words one carefully placed electrode completely rewrote her emotional state.

Urbach-Wiethe disease, calcification of the amygdala, impairs people's ability to feel fear through exteroceptive means (though they can still feel some kinds of fear, such as those induced internally via CO2 inhalation). Unilateral injury to the right cerebral hemisphere can cause hemispatial neglect, a condition where the affected person neglects the left side of their visual field; they literally have no concept or memory of vision on the neglected side and can easily read half of a clock or eat half the food on their plate without noticing that anything is missing. They do not feel the need to turn. The entire idea of there needing to be a left side of their visual field is just gone.

If there's a difference between any of that and "externally induced manipulations can greatly affect how human consciousness functions", I'm not sure what it is. Your general critique in this situation could be that these manipulations are not fine-grained enough to constitute "mind control", but the fact that our current known methods of manipulation aren't enough to craft someone into exactly how we want them does not mean that they don't provide evidence in favour of a mechanistic outlook regarding human consciousness.

I don't see that specific statement in there. Interesting discussion though. I think a more accurate phrasing would be:

If Free Will truly does not exist, it should be possible, if we were able to gather sufficiently detailed information about an individual's brain, to predict with 100% accuracy everything that person would think, say, and do, and this could be done for any individual you might choose.

The ability to read and write minds does not necessarily prove determinism or disprove free will. It does seem likely though that, if we were ever able to do such a thing, the details of how that process worked would give us considerable insight on those subjects. We can say now that it's still possible that free will doesn't really exist, but we don't have sufficient technology to gather detailed enough information about anyone's brain to fully predict their behavior. If we were able to reliably read and write minds, it would be very tough to say we just didn't have sufficient information. At that point, either we would be able to predict behavior and prove the determinists right, or we would still not be able to fully predict behavior and that would prove that free will actually does exist and the determinists are wrong.

I feel obligated to also note that pure determinism leads to some rather dark conclusions. If it were possible to scientifically prove that a person would 100% only do negative and harmful things for the rest of their life and it was not possible to change that, what else would there be to do except eliminate that person?

You are positing an ability significantly stronger than reading/writing minds. The mind is not a closed system, so 100% accurately predicting behavior would require simulating not just the brain, but all the external stimuli that brain receives, that is, their entire observable universe down to the detail level of their perception.

If it were possible to scientifically prove that a person would 100% only do negative and harmful things for the rest of their life and it was not possible to change that, what else would there be to do except eliminate that person?

Well we know that this isn't a possibility, right? The Heisenberg uncertainty principle prevents us from modelling anything with that degree of accuracy even in theory. Even if it were possible to take a fully-scanned human and simulate their future actions, it's not possible to fully scan that human in the first place.

If we did understand people that well though, I think the correct approach would be to offer the current person a choice between an ineffectual future, where they retain their current values but without the ability to harm others; and a different one, where their personality is modified just enough to not be deemed evil. This wouldn't even necessarily need physical modification--I doubt many scanned humans would remain fully resilient to an infinite variety of simulated therapies.

The Heisenberg uncertainty principle prevents us from modelling anything with that degree of accuracy even in theory

I think that we could probably generalize a bit further - long as you have NP problems in the human body there is chance for unpredictability of the human mind to hide there.

That isn't how Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle operates except in thought experiments and sci-fi episodes. The actual principle deals with the dual nature of phenomena like a photon, acting as a wave until you can pin down the location, then you lose the wave information and gain the location information. It also only operates on the most microscopic scale imaginable, your keys are always going to be where you left them.

Any object, even as small as neuron is not going to be impacted by this principle; containing 100 trillion atoms and some multiple of that I can't calculate without getting into moles for various elements in actual singular particles, it is a statistical impossibility for any quantum strangeness to impact even one brain cell. Not to mention that there are around 170 billion cells in the brain (neurons/Glial cells).

So 18 (carbon)* 100 trillion* 170 billion =3.06e+26 or 306,000,000,000,000,000,000,912,784 particles in the brain.

Even if it could impact your thought process (which it mathematically can't), then your actions would be random, not "free will", worse than deterministic I should think.

The actual principle deals with the dual nature of phenomena like a photon, acting as a wave until you can pin down the location, then you lose the wave information and gain the location information

I think this is misleading. You can't know a particle's position and momentum with certainty, period. This applies to all particles, not just photons and other particles commonly understood as wave-like, since fundamentally all particles are wavelike. We can't actually perfectly predict the behavior of a single particle, let alone an entire brain.

Any object, even as small as neuron is not going to be impacted by this principle; containing 100 trillion atoms and some multiple of that I can't calculate without getting into moles for various elements in actual singular particles, it is a statistical impossibility for any quantum strangeness to impact even one brain cell. Not to mention that there are around 170 billion cells in the brain (neurons/Glial cells).

We're talking about perfectly simulating the human brain. Anything less than perfection will lead to errors. If only a single atom in the entire brain were off in your scan by a planck length, your simulations would be inaccurate, especially over long timescales, due to the butterfly effect. But in this case every single atom in the brain will be off by more than that.

Even if it could impact your thought process (which it mathematically can't), then your actions would be random, not "free will", worse than deterministic I should think.

It's debatable whether quantum physics is actually contradictory with determinism, but aside from that, I don't see why randomness is any worse than determinism. Either way our actions are ultimately governed by external forces.

That isn't how Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle operates except in thought experiments and sci-fi episodes.

Well, this is a thought experiment after all.

"We're talking about perfectly simulating the human brain. Anything less than perfection will lead to errors. If only a single atom in the entire brain were off in your scan by a planck length, your simulations would be inaccurate, especially over long timescales, due to the butterfly effect. But in this case every single atom in the brain will be off by more than that."

That isn't how a system like a cell works, otherwise things would just disintegrate and the "simulation" that is our current intelligence wouldn't work at all, the integrity and utility and actions a cell are entirely unchanged by not knowing the exact location of each electron in their carbon atoms, we don't know them now, our brains and cells don't know or care, and we won't know them when the brain is scanned.

The carbon atoms function no differently regardless of where the electron is in the probability field. Once you add up the 100 trillion particles in a cell...well suffice it to say, even if you did have a few atoms or particles misbehaving they would have no physical impact on the neuron at all well below that number of total particles, and we aren't even above cellular level yet! There are so many steps and levels that make it impossible for the Uncertainty Principle to play any part in human cognition.

That isn't how a system like a cell works, otherwise things would just disintegrate and the "simulation" that is our current intelligence wouldn't work at all

So long as the variations are within reasonable constraints, intelligence will still work. As an analogy, a car can take many branching routes of a road leading in many different directions, but so long as it stays on the road it will continue to function.

the integrity and utility and actions a cell are entirely unchanged by not knowing the exact location of each electron in their carbon atoms, we don't know them now, our brains and cells don't know or care, and we won't know them when the brain is scanned.

We don't need to know the exact locations of atoms obviously--reality will continue to function with or without our knowledge--but a faithful simulation absolutely does.

The carbon atoms function no differently regardless of where the electron is in the probability field.

I doubt this is true, but it's unimportant regardless. The important thing is that the atom's position is unknown, and we know that atom positions can affect things.

Once you add up the 100 trillion particles in a cell...well suffice it to say, even if you did have a few atoms or particles misbehaving they would have no physical impact on the neuron at all well below that number of total particles, and we aren't even above cellular level yet!

It's not "a few atoms" misbehaving, it's literally every single atom. Many atoms in cells are free-floating, and small differences between where you think they are and where they actually are will cause enormous divergence between the simulation and reality.

For example, cancer is generally caused by mistakes made when copying dna, or damaged dna faithfully copied. Radiation famously causes cancer because it literally impacts dna and damages it. This is an interaction at a tiny scale, one which the uncertainty principle renders us powerless to predict.

If your simulation can't predict brain cancer, how do you expect it to predict regular choices? IMO it's self-evident that individual atoms impact brain function. If you want to push this point I'll look for studies to prove it.

IMO it's self-evident that individual atoms impact brain function. If you want to push this point I'll look for studies to prove it.

I can't help but note that this view must be down to the human mind not being able to properly conceptualize 100 trillion and what that means for gross probability for the item made up by those 100 trillion atoms (I typed particles in my last post by mistake) I certainly can't picture it, but it unfathomably unlikely for 100 trillion of anything to do something other than average out almost exactly. I doubt very much that such a study exists for this niche interest, but I applaud your interest.

Even DNA strand is made up of 100s of billions of atoms and considering that out of our 40 trillion or so human cells cancer caused by radiation is rare, we are exposed to radiation 24/7 365, only extremely high doses have a real chance of surely causing cancer due to the sheer number of particles you're bombarded with. You can also be killed with a bat to the head, that is also made of a lot of particles and will surely change your mind.

Regardless, radiation or bats fucking up your brain do not free will make.

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It's debatable whether quantum physics is actually contradictory with determinism, but aside from that, I don't see why randomness is any worse than determinism. Either way our actions are ultimately governed by external forces.

I think it is a fundamental misunderstanding of the materialist position to call these external forces. Your mind is the processes in your brain, these processes not violating the laws of physics doesn't make them external.

The counterargument is that your mind was created by purely external forces, so even if "you" are making decisions as of the present, you never got to choose who the "you" is that is making those decisions.

That said, I agree, I just didn't want to get into that when my point was more limited.

Well I personally agree that free will exists and so that is not a possibility. But several people in the linked thread were arguing quite vigorously that free will does not exist and individual behavior was therefore 100% deterministic. I do feel that, in addition to the more direct philosophical arguments that mostly took place in that thread, I should also point out what the natural consequences of that being true would be.

If that is true, we would be able to identify numerous specific people who we would have actual scientific proof will only contribute to society in highly negative ways, and we'll have to decide what to do with those people. Would we eliminate them? We could lock them away for life, but that's expensive, should we bother if we know they will never reform? Also our current criminal justice system in most of the first world locks people away for a pre-determined length of time when we prove they did a specific bad thing. It's rather a departure to be saying, our mind-scanning computer says you'll always be bad, so we're going to lock you away for life, or do actual brain editing on you to make you act right. Definitely can't see that one going wrong in any way.

we would be able to identify numerous specific people who we would have actual scientific proof will only contribute to society in highly negative ways, and we'll have to decide what to do with those people.

Sorry to fight the hypothetical, but I really doubt many people like this exist. Let's say you possess a computer capable of simulating the entire universe. Figuring out the future of a specific bad person based on simulations is only step one. After that there are a practically infinite number of simulation variations. What happens if he gets a concussion? If he gets put on this medication (which we can also perfectly simulate)? If all of his family members come back to life and tell him in unison to shape up?

This is godlike power we're talking about. The ability to simulate a human means the ability to simulate that human's response to any possible molecule or combination of molecules introduced in any manner. If there is even a conceptually possible medication which may help this person then this computer--which we've established can simulate the universe--will be able to find it. Ditto for any combination of events, up to and including brainwashing and wholly replacing their brain with a new brain.

The interesting question to me is not whether these people can be "saved" and made into productive citizens. In my opinion that's a foregone conclusion. The question is at what point this turns from helping someone into forcing them against their will into an outcome their previous self would consider undesirable, and whether doing so is nevertheless moral. I think not--you may as well create new people rather than modifying existing ones drastically, and do with the existing ones as you will.

Would we eliminate them? We could lock them away for life, but that's expensive, should we bother if we know they will never reform? Also our current criminal justice system in most of the first world locks people away for a pre-determined length of time when we prove they did a specific bad thing. It's rather a departure to be saying, our mind-scanning computer says you'll always be bad, so we're going to lock you away for life, or do actual brain editing on you to make you act right. Definitely can't see that one going wrong in any way.

To engage with the actual question you're asking--what do we do with people who are just innately bad?--I definitely think locking people up is fine morally. These simulations are supposed to be infallible after all. If you feel like you need some justification to lock them up, just use the simulation to contrive a scenario where they do a non-negligible amount of harm but don't actually kill someone, and then lock them up after they've done it.

You could change their brain.

Determinism, not lack of a divine creator.

Well, hopefully, if he's rational, Bayesian updating should occur.

One would hope.

It would be nice if it went the other way, and people noted that Determinism started by making strong predictions, and then retreated to weak predictions, and now has retreated to complete unfalsifiability.

Well, determinism's not incompatible with Christianity.

It's certainly incompatible with my Christianity. But the comment above doesn't reference Christianity at all, only science. From a strictly materialistic viewpoint, Determinism started out making strong predictions, had those predictions falsified, then made weak predictions, had those predictions falsified, and now makes no testable predictions at all. Its supporters claim that it obviously must be true even though all observed evidence contradicts it, and that supporting evidence will be available "someday soon", in the indeterminate future. Well, Christians can claim that every knee will bow and every tongue confess when Jesus returns in his glory "someday soon", and they can say it with an equally rational basis.

Evidence in the future is not evidence at all. Belief based on inference is not the same as belief based on observation.

I don't anticipate evidence for determinism. I think it's the case mainly for theological (and scriptural) reasons, and to a lesser extent some philosophical concerns. I agree that quantum mechanics is evidence against determinism, but not conclusively; there are deterministic interpretations, and there's always the "God decides how it collapses" option.

I don't anticipate evidence for determinism.

Then my whole argument doesn't apply. I'm arguing against Materialistic determinism, where they started with "we can prove it right now" and worked their way down to "we'll totally be able to prove it at some indeterminate point in the future", all the while continuing to insist that it's not only obviously true, but thinking anything else is evidence of irrationality.

I've been arguing that there are very clear discontinuities in the evidence for materialism, with materialistic Determinism being one of the big ones. We seem to experience free will, making choices that can't be predicted or controlled by others, but can be predicted and controlled by our selves. I think it's entirely possible that this free will is an illusion. What I don't think is possible is that we have direct empirical evidence confirming or even suggesting its illusory nature. All the direct evidence we have appears to confirm the bog-standard descriptions of free will.

Perhaps I've just never heard a coherent enough definition of free will, but if our choices can be predicted and controlled by ourselves, and if we are part of the world (and so our own state is part of its state), wouldn't our choices being a product of us then mean that determinism is correct with respect to our choices?

That is, if determinism is saying, in essence, "when stuff happens, it's based on prior stuff, and adequately explained by it," (that is, sufficient causes exist) and you are saying, "when choices happen, they're based on their agents (including their nature, will, current emotions, etc.), and adequately explained by them," isn't that saying that choices happen in a deterministic-ish way?

I myself would prefer to just say, yeah, we choose stuff (obviously), and we do that because of a combination of our own character and current situations, and that's fine, and perfectly compatible with determinism.

So, I suppose, then, what exactly is free will?

Found the Calvinist.

Of course.

(Well, that isn't necessary to be a Christian who thinks determinism is correct—Thomists and Lutherans, for example, can as well, I believe—but you're right.)

Yes it is. You can't have a model of the world in which people are automata and have no actual agency, and then apply a religion which says people will suffer eternal consequences due to their choices. In the determinism view, people don't have choices so you can't really hold them accountable.

I do think that people make meaningful choices. I don't think that conflicts with determinism being true.

Maybe I misunderstood what determinism is, but as I understand it the very premise is that we do not actually have the ability to make choices. That everything is a vastly complex clockwork mechanism, which is fully determined by the start conditions. If that is true, then Christianity would be morally abhorrent (cue Richard Dawkins saying "it already is"), because people would be held responsible for something which could not have happened and other way.

I'm sure there's equivocation on "choice" here—people who believe in libertarian free will usually have a theory of choice which I find bizarre and often incoherent. I'm not certain to what extent it's clockwork-like vs. is determined by continuous divine input, but I'll allow it for now. I don't think something clockwork-like, as you put it, is incompatible with choices. When you decide to do something, you think it through, and make decisions, with such factors influencing it as your own character and whatever circumstances are happening at the moment. You are clearly deliberating in such a way that your actions are a product of who you are, and it being deterministic doesn't change that—none of this requires things happening beyond ordinary causality. When someone is being judged, I don't think it's a problem that there's some sense in which it couldn't have happened in any other way—they still made wrong decisions and acted wickedly. Judgment was earned. Just because their decisions were part of a divine plan does not mean that they couldn't be evil in themselves. To quote Joseph, in Genesis 50:20, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today."

It seems like we're at an impasse, because to me freedom of choice is a hard requirement for moral culpability. This is a moral axiom as far as I'm concerned, so we probably simply have to agree to disagree.

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What is it about music that creates emotional resonances?

I don't mean the individual aspect whereby our own past experiences create additional meaning and influence to the music we may hear, I mean specifically the impact of playing in certain keys, registers and styles.

Basically I was listening to Children Of The Omnissiah while my kids played around me, and I noticed they had stopped to just stop and stare for a second. They're toddlers, and its not like they haven't heard non-kiddy music, since I used acoustic covers of dire straits to put them to bed, but this type of liturgical music is the first time they've stopped and just stared. It made me look stuff up and I read some stuff about some keys being 'sad' keys, and then discovered Spinal Tap wasn't bullshit.

So, smartfucks of the motte, please enlighten me if you know anything about this. Am really curious and wonder if this is cross cultural.

What is it about music that creates emotional resonances?

Your brain is a junkie that loves the high of predicting the next note/part/lyric correctly just in time. At least that was some conclusion around 2010 of some science paper that passed between my eyes back then.

Christian answer: music was created to worship God. We are creatures created to worship something. Music sets us up to fulfill a core subconscious need.

Music is core to us. Parents in across cultures pronounce certain words with the same meaning the exact same way to infants. Because we're singing to them.