The Quakers Tolerated Themselves Out Of Existence

But by 1750, the Quakers were kind of on their way out; by 1750, they were a demographic minority in Pennsylvania, and by 1773 they were a minority in its legislature as well. In 1750 Quakerism was the third-largest religion in the US; by 1820 it was the ninth-largest, and by 1981 it was the sixty-sixth largest. What happened? The Quakers basically tolerated themselves out of existence. They were so welcoming to religious minorities and immigrants that all these groups took up shop in Pennsylvania and ended its status as a uniquely Quaker society. At the same time, the Quakers themselves became more “fanatical” and many dropped out of politics believing it to be too worldly a concern for them; this was obviously fatal to their political domination. The most famous Pennsylvanian statesman of the Revolutionary era, Benjamin Franklin, was not a Quaker at all but a first-generation immigrant from New England. Finally, Quakerism was naturally extra-susceptible to that thing where Christian denominations become indistinguishable from liberal modernity and fade into the secular background.

Source: Book Review of Albion’s Seed by Slate Star Codex

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Why Wasn’t I Consulted?

(Greatly condensed from the original, which you should read in its entirety; all emphasis in original.)

I like to think about media in terms of questions answered.

Like other media (the web) has a question that it answers better than any other. That question is:

Why wasn’t I consulted?

“Why wasn’t I consulted,” which I abbreviate as WWIC, is the fundamental question of the web. It is the rule from which other rules are derived. Humans have a fundamental need to be consulted, engaged, to exercise their knowledge (and thus power), and no other medium that came before has been able to tap into that as effectively.

WWIC is the thing people talk about when they talk about nicer-sounding things like “the wisdom of crowds” or “cognitive surplus.” It has become the first thing I think about when I think about the web. I start by asking: “How do we deal with the WWIC problem?” Everything else comes after.

The obvious example of WWIC at work is Wikipedia, created for free by unpaid labor. It tapped into the basic human need to be consulted and never looked back.

Once you see [thumbs-up/thumbs-down icons so that you can rank the comments], a website is complete. You’re down to the bedrock. A boolean or integer value is the digital equivalent of a grunt. You can’t get any more basic than a like, or a thumbs-up, or a favorite.

Source: The Web Is a Customer Service Medium (Ftrain.com)

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Rebellion Against The Credentialed Clerics

What we are seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30y of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, microeconomic papers wrong 40% of the time, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating only 1/5th of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers with a better track record than these policymaking goons.

Indeed one can see that these academico-bureaucrats wanting to run our lives aren’t even rigorous, whether in medical statistics or policymaking. I have shown that most of what Cass-Sunstein-Richard Thaler types call “rational” or “irrational” comes from misunderstanding of probability theory.

Source: Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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The Mind of the Left From an Insider

The victim narrative of the Left is very infectious. You are always the victim and you are always owed something. The wealthy are always evil, while you are always good and wholesome. Converts are often more intense than those born into it. My father, raised a leftist, eventually mellowed and began to question some leftist beliefs. My mother, not raised a leftist, but having become one, never mellowed.

The victim narrative was in every conversation.

The class struggle/oppressed victim narrative is part of daily life on the Left. As a child, I would listen to adults talking. With friends and co-workers, with mothers chatting over tea, it was part of every conversation. They would talk about the weather, their kids, television, but before parting, one of them would always say something relating to the greedy oppression of the rich — and the other had to agree. To not agree was social suicide.

While there were differences between working-class and middle-class leftists, certain attitudes were universal:When a leftist has never worked, they feel very generous toward anyone who claims to need help, who fits the narrative. They are generous with their emotions.

Emphasis in original. Source: The Mind of the Left From an Insider | Frontpage Mag

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The Quran’s deadly role in inspiring Belgian slaughter

Muhammad’s message featured violence with increasing intensity, culminating in surah 9, chronologically the last major chapter of the Quran, and its most expansively violent teaching. Throughout history, Muslim theologians have understood and taught this progression, that the message of the Quran culminates in its ninth chapter.

Surah 9 is a command to disavow all treaties with polytheists and to subjugate Jews and Christians (9.29) so that Islam may “prevail over all religions” (9.33). It is fair to wonder whether any non-Muslims in the world are immune from being attacked, subdued or assimilated under this command. Muslims must fight, according to this final chapter of the Quran, and if they do not, then their faith is called into question and they are counted among the hypocrites (9.44-45). If they do fight, they are promised one of two rewards, either spoils of war or heaven through martyrdom. Allah has made a bargain with the mujahid who obeys: Kill or be killed in battle, and paradise awaits (9.111).

Muslim thought leaders agree that the Quran promotes such violence. Maajid Nawaz, co-founder of the Quilliam Foundation in the United Kingdom, has said, “We Muslims must admit there are challenging Koranic passages that require reinterpretation today. … Only by rejecting vacuous literalism are we able to condemn, in principle, ISIS-style slavery, beheading, lashing, amputation & other medieval practices forever (all of which are in the Quran). … Reformers either win, and get religion-neutral politics, or lose, and get ISIL-style theocracy.” In other words, Muslims must depart from the literal reading of the Quran in order to create a jihad-free Islamic world.

This is not at all to say that most Muslims are violent. The vast majority of Muslims do not live their lives based on chapter 9 of the Quran or on the books of jihad in the hadith. My point is not to question the faith of such Muslims nor to imply that radical Muslims are the true Muslims. Rather, I simply want to make clear that while ISIL may lure youth through a variety of methods, it radicalizes them primarily by urging them to follow the literal teachings of the Quran and the hadith, interpreted consistently and in light of the violent trajectory of early Islam. As long as the Islamic world focuses on its foundational texts, we will continue to see violent jihadi movements.

Source: The Quran’s deadly role in inspiring Belgian slaughter: Column

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In Praise Of Meritocracy, With Caveats

I want the clever, hard-working children of those in the bottom half of income distribution to move up, and the less able children of those in the top half to move down.

In other words, I think the answer is more meritocracy. I approve of the principle for the same reason my father disapproved of it, because it helps to secure people’s consent to the inequalities that are the inevitable consequence of limited government. It does this by (a) allocating wealth and prestige in a way that appears to be fair; and (b) creating opportunities for those born on the wrong side of the tracks, so if you start with very little that doesn’t mean you’ll end up with very little, or that your children will. If you think a free society is preferable to one dominated by the state, and the unequal distribution of wealth is an inevitable consequence of reining in state power, then you should embrace the principle of meritocracy for making limited government sustainable.

This sentence also appears: “If the history of the twentieth century teaches us anything, it is that the dream of creating a socialist utopia often leads to the suppression of free speech, the imprisonment of a significant percentage of the population and, in some extreme cases, state-organised mass murder.”

Source: The Fall of the Meritocracy — Quadrant Online

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How To Think Real Good

Via http://meaningness.com/metablog/how-to-think. All of the following are quotes from the article that, in general, appeal to my priors. All emphasis in original, which you should read in its entirety.


The implicit assumption is that the problem Bayesianism solves is most of rationality, and if I’m unimpressed with Bayesianism, I must advocate some other solution to that problem. I do have technical doubts about Bayesianism, but that’s not my point. Rather, I think that the problem Bayesianism addresses is a small and easy one.

– Bayesianism is a theory of probability.

– Probability is only a small part of epistemology.

– Probability is only a small part of rationality.

– Probability is a solved problem. It’s easy. The remaining controversies in the field are arcane and rarely have any practical consequence.

My answer to “If not Bayesianism, then what?” is: all of human intellectual effort.

* * *

Understanding informal reasoning is probably more important than understanding technical methods.

* * *

Many of the heuristics I collected for “How to think real good” were about how to take an unstructured, vague problem domain and get it to the point where formal methods become applicable. … Finding a good formulation for a problem is often most of the work of solving it.

* * *

Suppose you want to understand the cause of manic depression. For every grain of sand in the universe, there is the hypothesis that this particular grain of sand is the sole cause of manic depression. Finding evidence to rule out each one individually is impractical. … [T]here is an infinite list of logically possible causes. … We can’t even imagine them all, much less evaluate the evidence for them. So:

Before applying any technical method, you have to already have a pretty good idea of what the form of the answer will be.

* * *

Choosing a good vocabulary, at the right level of description, is usually key to understanding.

* * *

1. A successful problem formulation has to make the distinctions that are used in the problem solution.

2. A successful problem formulation has to make the problem small enough that it’s easy to solve.

* * *

It’s important to understand that problem formulations are never right or wrong.

Truth does not apply to problem formulations; what matters is usefulness.

In fact,

All problem formulations are “false,” because they abstract away details of reality.

* * *

[I]f you don’t know the solution to a problem, how do you know whether your vocabulary makes the distinctions it needs? The answer is: you can’t be sure; but there are many heuristics that make finding a good formulation more likely. Here are two very general ones:

Work through several specific examples before trying to solve the general case. Looking at specific real-world details often gives an intuitive sense for what the relevant distinctions are.

Problem formulation and problem solution are mutually-recursive processes.

You need to go back and forth between trying to formulate the problem and trying to solve it.

* * *

If a problem seems too hard, the formulation is probably wrong. Drop your formal problem statement, go back to reality, and observe what is going on.

* * *

Learn from fields very different from your own. They each have ways of thinking that can be useful at surprising times. Just learning to think like an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a philosopher will beneficially stretch your mind.

If you only know one formal method of reasoning, you’ll try to apply it in places it doesn’t work.

* * *

– Figuring stuff out is way hard.

– There is no general method.

– Selecting and formulating problems is as important as solving them; these each require different cognitive skills.

– Problem formulation (vocabulary selection) requires careful, non-formal observation of the real world.

– A good problem formulation includes the relevant distinctions, and abstracts away irrelevant ones. This makes problem solution easy.

– Little formal tricks (like Bayesian statistics) may be useful, but any one of them is only a tiny part of what you need.

– Progress usually requires applying several methods. Learn as many different ones as possible.

– Meta-level knowledge of how a field works—which methods to apply to which sorts of problems, and how and why—is critical (and harder to get).


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Stop Fighting ISIS, Start Fighting Saudi Arabia

But ISIS is only a symptom of the larger disease, which is the spread of fundamentalist Wahhabist Islam from Saudi Arabia all over the world. This has become such a problem that even Germany — which has precipitated the current “migrant” crisis in central and western Europe — has publicly warned the Saudis against their fifth-column work. …

Until Saudi Arabia is forcefully and directly confronted over its international financing of extremism, events like Paris and San Bernardino will continue and multiply.

Also, “The United States is not a nation-state in the sense the European countries are; it is not a country of blood relations, but of fealty to a document of western, Enlightenment principles regarding the relationship of citizen and state.” Source: End the War on ISIS Now.

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Why They Sent Ahmed To Juvie

Multiculturalism eliminates any shared sense of rules beyond an ever increasing tangle of bureaucratic doctrines. The administrators who sent him to a detention center were almost certainly following strict rules about how to respond to students bringing unidentifiable electronic devices into school — those rules having been created by hysterical liberals terrified by the acts of terror committed by youths addled by prescription drugs and seeking a glorious death with huge media attention.

In order to make room for Ahmed, Jamal, J’miriquoi, Running Bear, Jorge, and Moonbeam, we subject all of them — including lil’ Johnny the racist cracker — to the same set of regulations, because we see all of them as potential malefactors to be treated uniformly by a blind system.

Source: Why They Sent Ahmed To Juvie – Henry Dampier

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