## Donate to protect women’s rights: a call to my fellow creepy, gross, misogynist nerdbros

So, I’d been planning a fun post for today about the DALL-E image-generating AI model, and in particular, a brief new preprint about DALL-E’s capabilities by Ernest Davis, Gary Marcus, and myself. We wrote this preprint as a sort of “adversarial collaboration”: Ernie and Gary started out deeply skeptical of DALL-E, while I was impressed bordering on awestruck. I was pleasantly surprised that we nevertheless managed to produce a text that we all agreed on.

Not for the first time, though, world events have derailed my plans. The most important part of today’s post is this:

For the next week, I, Scott Aaronson, will personally match all reader donations to Fund Texas Choice—a group that helps women in Texas travel to out-of-state health clinics, for reasons that are neither your business nor mine—up to a total of $5,000. To show my seriousness, I’ve already donated$1,000. Just let me know how much you’ve donated in the comments section!

The first reason for this donation drive is that, perhaps like many of you, I stayed up hours last night reading Alito’s leaked decision in a state of abject terror. I saw how the logic of the decision, consistent and impeccable on its own terms, is one by which the Supreme Court’s five theocrats could now proceed to unravel the whole of modernity. I saw how this court, unchecked by our broken democratic system, can now permanently enshrine the will of a radical minority, perhaps unless and until the United States is plunged into a second Civil War.

Anyway, that’s the first reason for the donation drive. The second reason is to thank Shtetl-Optimized‘s commenters for their … err, consistently generous and thought-provoking contributions. Let’s take, for example, this comment on last week’s admittedly rather silly post, from an anonymous individual who calls herself “Feminist Bitch,” and who was enraged that it took me a full day to process one of the great political cataclysms of our lifetimes and publicly react to it:

OF COURSE. Not a word about Roe v. Wade being overturned, but we get a pseudo-intellectual rationalist-tier rant about whatever’s bumping around Scott’s mind right now. Women’s most basic reproductive rights are being curtailed AS WE SPEAK and not a peep from Scott, eh? Even though in our state (Texas) there are already laws ON THE BOOKS that will criminalize abortion as soon as the alt-right fascists in our Supreme Court give the go-ahead. If you cared one lick about your female students and colleagues, Scott, you’d be posting about the Supreme Court and helping feminist causes, not posting your “memes.” But we all know Scott doesn’t give a shit about women. He’d rather stand up for creepy nerdbros and their right to harass women than women’s right to control their own fucking bodies. Typical Scott.

If you want, you can read all of Feminist Bitch’s further thoughts about my failings, with my every attempt to explain and justify myself met with further contempt. No doubt my well-meaning friends of both sexes would counsel me to ignore her. Alas, from my infamous ordeal of late 2014, I know that with her every word, Feminist Bitch speaks for thousands, and the knowledge eats at me day and night.

It’s often said that “the right looks for converts, while the left looks only for heretics.” Has Feminist Bitch ever stopped to think about how our civilization reached its current terrifying predicament—how Trump won in 2016, how the Supreme Court got packed with extremists who represent a mere 25% of the country, how Putin and Erdogan and Orban and Bolsonaro and all the rest consolidated their power? Does she think it happened because wokeists like herself reached out too much, made too many inroads among fellow citizens who share some but not all of their values? Would Feminist Bitch say that, if the Democrats want to capitalize on the coming tsunami of outrage about the death of Roe and the shameless lies that enabled it, if they want to sweep to victory in the midterms and enshrine abortion rights into federal law … then their best strategy would be to double down on their condemnations of gross, creepy, smelly, white male nerdbros who all the girls, like, totally hate?

(until, thank God, some of them don’t)

I continue to think that the majority of my readers, of all races and sexes and backgrounds, are reasonable and sane. I continue to think the majority of you recoil against hatred and dehumanization of anyone—whether that means women seeking abortions, gays, trans folks, or (gasp!) even white male techbros. In this sad twilight for the United States and for liberal democracy around the world, we the reasonable and sane, we the fans of the Enlightenment, we the Party of Psychological Complexity, have decades of work cut out for us. For now I’ll simply say: I don’t hear from you nearly enough in the comments.

### 212 Responses to “Donate to protect women’s rights: a call to my fellow creepy, gross, misogynist nerdbros”

1. Palvolgyi Domotor Says:

I don’t think that Bolsonaro has consolidated his power at all, see https://www.betfair.com/exchange/plus/en/politics/brazil-general-election/brazil-general-election-2022/president-after-2022-election-betting-1.180434883

2. Shachar Says:

“For now I’ll simply say: I don’t hear from you nearly enough in the comments.” – We are here.

3. Clump of Cells Says:

Would you recoil against the dehumanization of a human foetus?

Anyway, I’m off to knit something (with a fractal pattern, naturally) for a charity that supports young women who’ve found themselves unexpectedly pregnant. This isn’t something new for me, by the way; I’ve been doing it for years now.

4. Shmi Says:

I rarely comment here anymore, but since you invited those who identify as

> the reasonable and sane, we the fans of the Enlightenment, we the Party of Psychological Complexity

to comment more, here goes…

First, sorry to see people like FB on your blog, they embody most of what is wrong with the left these days. It is usually the case that radicals are the real enemy of the moderates, since they fracture the cause and present a convenient caricature for the other side.

RBG was well documented to be not a fan of Roe vs Wade:

because it “tried to do too much, too fast”. And prophetically, it is being proven “unstable”. The only way out I see that would make a pro-choice law stable is at least partially bipartisan legislation. Sadly, given the current US political state, this is a pipe dream, thanks to another old SCOTUS decision, from 1984, against the FCC fairness doctrine, where the majority opinion stated, rather ironically, that “that expanding sources of communication had made the fairness doctrine’s limits unnecessary”.

So a course of action that is likely to have a long-term success would be to work toward making echo-chamber bubbles be less impenetrable. Until then pregnant people who do not want or are unable to carry to term for one reason or another will be stuck with long travel to safe states, back alley procedures, forced poverty, criminal prosecution and, in some cases, death.

5. Scott Says:

Shmi #4: Yes, that was precisely the terrible bargain of Roe v. Wade. It enshrined the right to abortion, which is a major part of the modern secular conception of liberty, and supported in some form by ~3/4 of the public, in such a way that the right could be rescinded only by its opponents figuring out some way to neuter democracy itself and entrench themselves in a permanent minority rule. So now, 50 years later, that’s exactly what the opponents have done.

6. George Says:

You are on the right side, Scott. In the end its an issue of promoting love and cooperation, or hate and demonisation. FB obviously has personal problems she is taking out on you. Don’t let it get you down.

7. Scott Says:

Clump of Cells #3:

Would you recoil against the dehumanization of a human foetus?

I suppose we all have our nightmares about what we’re going to be called to account for in the afterlife. Pro-lifers presumably imagine being confronted with row after row of tiny aborted embryos that will cry out: “why didn’t you do more to protect us? why didn’t you let us live?”

But I confess that that particular scenario never much moved me. It’s like: if I’m going to imagine that, then why not go further, and picture the sperm and egg cells similarly crying out, that I let them remain mere potentialities? There’s as much consciousness and intelligence in the one as there is in the other.

On the other hand, a crowd of angelic women pointing their fingers at me outside the pearly gates, screaming: “creep! misogynist! sexist pig! incel! loser! objectifier!”—“no, no, you’ve got me all wrong, please let me explain!”—“aha, then mansplainer too!”—yeah, now that’s the sort of thing that could haunt my nightmares for as long as I live.

> Would you recoil against the dehumanization of a human foetus?

No-one is forced to donate their organs against their will to save other people’s lives after those people are born; indeed, all the same groups that fight against the right to abort would fight tooth and nail to prevent any change to this status quo. Even after you die, your corpse cannot be used in these ways unless you left explicit permission for this.

What, then, can the justification be for forcing actual living women to against their will donate their bodies to save hypothetical lives of people who have not yet been born?

9. Matty Wacksen Says:

> in a state of abject terror. I saw how the logic of the decision, consistent and impeccable on its own terms, is one by which the Supreme Court’s five theocrats could now proceed to unravel the whole of modernity.

I’m familiar with having feelings of terror, but they are usually misguided. Life always goes on, and the worst-case scenarios we imagine are often unrealistic. In this case, the thing leaked was not a decision, but just a draft. Modern democracies don’t have single points of failure, things that are opposed by 3/4 of the population will get fixed by the median voter theorem.

> It enshrined the right to abortion, which is a major part of the modern secular conception of liberty,

Yeah so I’m not convinced this is true unless you take a very US-centric definition of “modern secular conception of liberty”. First of all, the “right to abortion” is absent from most legal systems, and tends to be “patched in” via privacy rights in many countries in the West. In most Western states, abortions are allowed only in a very limited timeframe, and allowing them seems to more of a “least evil” approach and less of a “fundamental right”, see e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_Portugal . I don’t think the “right” to abortion is any more fundamental than the “right” to take drugs, and I challenge anyone to give me a coherent argument to the contrary.

10. Art Says:

I’m kinda shocked you were so high up the reading list for FB. Like, they checked for your hot take within the first day. There are lots of other blogs. Surely this suggests something.

Granted, I shouldn’t judge. I find this blog a useful news filter too. Probably not the most responsible choice.

Fingers crossed that the court ends up somewhere more sane in the final ruling. Failing that, that the state houses get filled with better people this year…

11. Mitchell Porter Says:

I wonder what GPT3 has to say on this topic. It strikes me as one of those topics where its masters will want to invisibly modulate its output so it doesn’t say anything upsetting.

12. 1Zer0 Says:

I think the generated images in the different styles shown in the preprint look pretty neat and the statements on the limitations spot on. What is generated if “junk” data is given as input like “A four dimensional mother holding it’s two dimensional son” ?
What a shame that GPT-3 isn’t open source.

13. Boaz Barak Says:

Just donated $100 A request from a long time reader: please block FB and similar trolls. They are not worth a second of your or our time. 14. X Says: I’m skeptical that funding internal refugees to flee to civilized subsections of the country is an effective or scalable way to fight the encroaching blight of religious law. This is sort of a “buying slaves” approach to abolitionism. Normally, I would fund the ACLU, but what’s the point when SCotUS is no longer feigning interest in the rule of secular law? 15. roystgnr Says: > It’s often said that “the right looks for converts, while the left looks only for heretics.” Is it? I’d have said the opposite in the 1990s, back when “free speech” was still left-coded and the right was still pushing for prayer-in-schools loopholes that could make it past the Supreme Court. The mainstream left seems to have gotten picky only since it became quite clear they were winning, and the right got flexible only once it became clear they were losing. Perhaps this is just what the consequences of the Median Voter Theorem feel like from the inside? Shedding a few heretics lets winners make their platform and their primary elections less moderate, so they can win a bigger rather than a smaller victory? Trying to pick up those confused heretics as converts lets losers limit how far that process can go without it threatening to let them win again? 16. Nick Drozd Says: I just donated$100, and my mother donated another $100. There’s an “In honor of ____” field, which I filled in with “Scott Aaronson”. I don’t know if that’s quite the right sentiment, but there it is. Just a reminder in case anyone forgot: as a teenager, Brett Kavanaugh once attempted to gang-rape a girl. His opinions about women’s bodily autonomy are exactly what you would expect them to be. He was nominated by Trump, who definitely raped underage sex-trafficked girls at Jeffrey Epstein’s parties. Again, his opinions about women’s bodily autonomy are exactly what you would expect them to be. 17. The Pachyderminator Says: I realize that you’ve experienced your share of unfair attacks from leftists, Scott, but “Feminist Bitch” doesn’t ring true to me. Consider that, by confessing vulnerability to attacks from lefty Twitter, Sneerclub, etc., you may also leave yourself open to trolls who just want to yank your chain. 18. Philip Says: I definitely “recoil against the dehumanization of anyone”. Particularly those least able to defend themselves. Particularly those unable to speak for themselves. 19. Physpostdoc Says: Scott, I am an avid reader of your blog, a fellow researcher enthralled by the beauties and complexities of quantum information processing, and a proud women. I have never commented before but the last line of your post, combined with the vitriolic attack by someone who unfortunately identifies herself a “feminist”, is making me type this comment. I am really sorry over the hounding you have received/continue to receive at the hands of the fringe left. In my opinion, their obsession to erase the concept of womanhood in the name of misguided and manic treatment of a delicate issue of transgender rights, has collectively done more damage to reverse all the hard-earned gains of 20th century feminism than the male chauvinists could ever hope to achieve in their wildest dreams. Amazingly, and sadly, there is no space left (even) for women to advocate their own rights; hence the pseudonym. Please keep your posts coming, especially on QC. Physics is the only safe space and sane refuge left for people like me (we are very much here, just silenced by all the cacaphony) — and your insights and well-thought out opinions (even when we disagree) continue to be a source of optimism that rationality is not dead (yet!) in public discourse. 20. Jamie Radcliffe Says:$100

21. Gerard Says:

> I saw how this court, unchecked by our broken democratic system, can now permanently enshrine the will of a radical minority, perhaps unless and until the United States is plunged into a second Civil War.

It’s looking more and more like the North lost the Civil War by winning it.

There’s a huge amount of overlap between the map of today’s red states and the Confederacy.

The CSA is finally succeeding in blocking and soon reversing the societal progress it so abhors.

I suspect a North American Union that excluded the red states and which might include all or part of Canada and Mexico would be a better place to live than the country we currently have.

22. clayton Says:

I donated $100 23. Jay L Gischer Says: For what its worth, my understanding of the draft is that it is quite something other than “consistent and impeccable on its own terms”. For instance, while he claims the decision doesn’t touch Griswold or Loving, the logic he uses, which is basically originalist or a vague “tradition” for which 50 years standing doesn’t count, could easily apply to them to, as well as to Heller (I’m betting he didn’t realize that because he’s a hack, who doesn’t belong on the Court. I’ve long held this opinion of Thomas, I’m adding Alito to the list. Kavanaugh is a political maneuverer, but I don’t think he’s this ignorant.) Now, I hold a kind of wild guess that the leaker of the document was Alito, who is salty about the fact that nobody would join said opinion, because it’s garbage which would open a giant can of worms. But as to the question of Feminist Bitch. I think that she is responding to trauma that women have received from men, either hers or vicariously. This is a thing that happens as we are all aware of. She is taking it out on you because you are convenient and safe. This is neither healthy for her, or good for you. She, and her cause, would be better served by more directly engaging with that trauma, but of course, that’s not easy. However, I think it might help you to know that regardless of how it might seem, it really isn’t about you. 24. jmf Says: Donated$6.28.

It looks like Manchin continues to support the filibuster. (A part of me wonders if he’s right to do so — after all, the GOP will control the Senate most of the time. Still, I bet they’d be more reluctant to pass a law banning it than sit around and do nothing, and more to the point, we don’t live in a democracy if the legislature can’t ever pass laws. Seems like most of what they do anymore is approve new Republican justices and loudly refuse to approve new Democratic justices.)

My sense is that the current Court is unwilling to rollback gay rights. (After all, Gorsuch did vote to expand them not too long ago, and it would face much more backlash.) If that falls, and the GOP successfully stops that from becoming law too with their minority rule… I don’t even know how we could move forward from there.

___

I agree with The Pachyderminator #17; something about the word choice and attack pattern of “Feminist Bitch” feels very off — like an imperfect imitation of the real thing. I don’t quite believe he or she sincerely believes what they wrote. Not sure that makes much of a difference, I guess. Eg, my best guess is it’s not a right-wing troll trying to push you right or something — I think it’s a SC-type troll who knows perfectly well what they’re saying is nonsense, and indeed is deliberately making what they say nonsensical to make it more outrageous, and is just trying to make you upset.

25. Ernie Davis Says:

$100. It’s hard to know whether money is better spent on this kind of amelioration of the evil or on political action, but at least here one can be reasonably confident that _some_ good comes of it. 26. Aaron Denney Says: Matty Wacksen > I don’t think the “right” to abortion is any more fundamental than the “right” to take drugs, and I challenge anyone to give me a coherent argument to the contrary. I think that the right to take drugs is indeed fundamental, though sadly unrecognized by the current legal regime. 27. Cerastes Says: Art #10 > I’m kinda shocked you were so high up the reading list for FB. Like, they checked for your hot take within the first day. There are lots of other blogs. Surely this suggests something. In the woke community, being the first person with a “hot take” on a topic or a callout of someone/something confers significant social status to that person. Given the community size and the number of eyeballs, the odds of being first are near-zero unless you specifically look for under-observed areas. It’s basically the same pressure that leads to ecological specialization – you can avoid competition and get tons of gains if you exploit a new niche rather that competing with current species in filled niches. Stir your gene pool over simmering natural selection for a few million years and you’ve got a 100 lb mammal with a face like a banana that only eats ants. 28. Scott Says: Matty Wacksen #9: Modern democracies don’t have single points of failure, things that are opposed by 3/4 of the population will get fixed by the median voter theorem. I wish I believed that! It’s about to be directly tested. What percentage of the country do you think wants a regime where, not only is abortion illegal in half the states, with no exceptions for rape or incest, but women are even prevented from travelling out-of-state or abroad for abortions? 20%? Alas, because of the Electoral College, combined with gerrymandering, combined with the Senate’s rural bias, combined with voter suppression, combined with the bald-faced abandonment of norms to stack the Supreme Court, combined with a half-century of tireless effort, this is exactly what now seems inevitable. With a Republican president and Congress, we might even get a national abortion ban as well. In most Western states, abortions are allowed only in a very limited timeframe, and allowing them seems to more of a “least evil” approach and less of a “fundamental right”… Personally, I’d say that the “fundamental right” is for a woman to procure an abortion expeditiously after she reasonably could’ve realized that she’s pregnant, and before the fetus has a functioning brain … or later, if it’s only learned later that the fetus has serious abnormalities or poses a serious threat to her health. Beyond that, it’s all tradeoffs and gray areas. So in particular, I’d say that the stricter abortion regimes of most Western countries are broadly compatible with this right, and a 15-week ban with limited exceptions could be compatible with it, but a total abortion ban or a 6-week ban are not. Alas, rather than moving toward any sort of compromise that might uphold this condition, the pro-lifers have just gotten more and more extreme, for example refusing even to entertain any rape exception. 29. Ernie Davis Says: By the way, I don’t think it’s wise to use FB as any part of the justification for the donation drive. They may say to themselves, “Well, at least I succeeded in guilt-tripping that *** Aaronson and his *** readers into making a donation to Texas Choice.” 30. Scott Says: X #14: I’m skeptical that funding internal refugees to flee to civilized subsections of the country is an effective or scalable way to fight the encroaching blight of religious law. This is sort of a “buying slaves” approach to abolitionism. Isn’t it a lot more like the Underground Railroad? Wouldn’t the “buying slaves” approach be more like, I dunno, bribing pro-life officials to allow abortions in specific cases? 31. Gerard Says: I’ve honestly never been able to understand the logic of forcing people who obviously don’t share the same values to live together in one nation. Of course a big problem with splitting up the US is that views are only partially correlated with geography. Perhaps the truly humane solution would be to facilitate migration so that people and their families could move to the states that best represent their values, with financial support for those for whom moving would represent a major financial burden. 32. Scott Says: roystgnr #15: The mainstream left seems to have gotten picky only since it became quite clear they were winning, and the right got flexible only once it became clear they were losing. I agree that that’s what we’d game-theoretically expect and I agree that we see a lot of it! The interesting and distinctive thing about the far left, I’d say, is that it’s obsessed with casting out heretics even when it’s losing. (Then again, maybe embattled far-right fundamentalist sects are the same way?) 33. Scott Says: The Pachyderminator #17: I realize that you’ve experienced your share of unfair attacks from leftists, Scott, but “Feminist Bitch” doesn’t ring true to me. jmf #24: I agree with The Pachyderminator #17; something about the word choice and attack pattern of “Feminist Bitch” feels very off — like an imperfect imitation of the real thing. Of course I considered the possibility that FB was secretly a right-wing troll—or simply a “lulz”-seeking troll. (And multiple friends and colleagues speculated the same thing, on my Facebook or in private.) But FB’s responses to my followup comments simply seemed too sincere in their searing contempt for me and everyone like me, and too reminiscent of what I endured from thousands of wokeists seven years ago. If it is an act, then consider my Ideological Turing Test passed. 34. Andrew Certain Says: X #14: > I’m skeptical that funding internal refugees to flee to civilized subsections of the country is an effective or scalable way to fight the encroaching blight of religious law. No, but it’s an effective way to help real women, right now. If you don’t want to help, just say that (of course, saying nothing is always a choice). The argument of “well, I don’t think this solves the underlying problem” has been an excuse for not helping since well before the slavery example you give. Nobody’s forcing you to help, but don’t try to dress it up as nobility. We already donate monthly to Fund Texas Choice, and I’d encourage anybody inspired by Scott’s call to action to think about doing it monthly (even if it’s something small). Andrew 35. Scott Says: Physpostdoc #19: Thank you so much! Your support, not to mention your enthusiasm for the QC posts, means a lot to me. 36. Scott Says: Gerard #21: It’s looking more and more like the North lost the Civil War by winning it. Some days I think that. Other days I think that, if Lincoln had let the South secede, the North and South would’ve soon ended up fighting a war anyway, for instance over the fugitive slave question, so why not get it over with? More relevantly to today, it would be rather a shame to lose all the outposts of Blue America in red states, like Atlanta, St. Louis, New Orleans, Raleigh-Durham, and (ahem) Austin. 37. Ernie Davis Says: Scott quoted a saying ““the right looks for converts, while the left looks only for heretics” and that’s been pursued further in some of the back and forth. I don’t see that that’s at all true of the current right, at least in its Trump side. On the contrary, anyone who deviates at all from the true doctrine of the Big Steal and so on is immediately dubbed a RINO. I don’t at all approve of looking for heretics, but I’m not sure it’s strategically ineffective. The Christian Church in much of the period where it was dominant, the Bolsheviks and their successors, Mao and his successors, all used it very effectively. In particular, the Communists used it _before_ gaining power; a large part of the Communist Manifesto consists of denouncing the wrong kind of Socialists. 38. Matt H Says: Donated$500. Please email me if you’d like verification.

39. Ernie Davis Says:

Gerard wrote: It’s looking more and more like the North lost the Civil War by winning it.
Scott responded: More relevantly to today, it would be rather a shame to lose all the outposts of Blue America in red states, like Atlanta, St. Louis, New Orleans, Raleigh-Durham, and (ahem) Austin.

Come on, let’s not lose track of reality. No one is proposing to repeal the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendment. Georgia is not a red state any longer; in 2020 it voted for Biden and elected two Democratic senators, one of them Black. There are only 3 Black Senators at the moment, not counting the VP; one is Warnock, from Georgia, and a second is Tim Scott from South Carolina. Virginia went for Biden by 10 points. North Carolina went for Obama in 2008 and was very close in 2012 and 2020.

40. Scott Says:

Ernie Davis #29:

By the way, I don’t think it’s wise to use FB as any part of the justification for the donation drive. They may say to themselves, “Well, at least I succeeded in guilt-tripping that *** Aaronson and his *** readers into making a donation to Texas Choice.”

I thought of that, of course, but it presumes that FB actually cares more about her stated values than about virtue-signaling. Isn’t she just as likely to seethe with anger that Aaronson, the misogynist nerdbro, the figure of contempt to her, is now plausibly doing more to help women who desperately need abortions than she ever has?

41. Scott Says:

Ernie Davis #37: On reflection, you’re right. The MAGAheads, to take an obvious example, are every bit as purity-obsessed as the wokeists ever were. So I should revise the claim to one specific to the experience of a liberal Enlightenment center-leftist like myself. While there are exceptions, and while things are much better offline than on, I’ve generally found that those to my right have sought (unsuccessfully) to convert me, while those to my left have sought to impress each other by condemning me.

42. Ernie Davis Says:

Edit to my last comment on now-blue Confederate states: Conversely, Indiana, which sent 200,000 soldiers to the Union Army in the Civil War, is now deeply red; Trump won it by 19 points in 2016 and 16 points in 2020.

43. Harvey Friedman Says:

Scott’s #41 actually resonates with me extremely well and coincides with my experience. I have found a few to the right of me and yes they try to convert me, not usually successfully.

But I “don’t” understand the hysteria about Roe (of course I do). Ever since the USA came into conception there has been the issue of what should be decided for all States uniformly, and what should be decentralized and decided in each State individually.

There are several well known philosophies here, and the cleanest intellectually is of course the idea that if it isn’t “explicitly in the Constitution” then it goes to the States. And of course to Congress for new legislation. And then the issue is just what do we mean by “explicitly in the Constitution”. But this at least comes under the realm or could come under the realm of hard nosed philosophy and logic, not politics.

I don’t agree with Scott that making abortion law in the States individually, moves us to Civil War. When the manufactured hysteria calms down – needed to gin up voters in the upcoming election – people will notice no major difference. And no doubt some billionaires are going to provide transportation for the needy (and the not so needy fakes) if they need to move States, to help Scott out with his admirable charitable giving.

Pundits now say that only 0-3 states would get rid of abortion entirely. The rest restrict it somewhat like it is now, with a very few allowing it up to the moment of birth.

So what? This is a non event. The only significance for lefties is that the right wanted this. That is the most noxious thing about it as far as they are concerned.

I assume Scott isn’t really so upset that he will vocally support packing SCOTUS?

PS: The next time I become pregnant I will be able to get an abortion in Ohio from my retirement.

44. Gerard Says:

Ernie Davis #39

> Come on, let’s not lose track of reality. No one is proposing to repeal the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendment.

There won’t be a return to literal slavery or apartheid but millions of Americans are subject to economic slavery despite living in the richest large country in the world. Most progress towards basic human decency in economic affairs and individual liberty has been halted for the past 50 years and the most significant progressive accomplishment of that half-century, whose logic could and should have formed the basis for an expansion of the rights of the individual to include a right to consume the substances of their choosing as well as an effective and unfettered right to self-termination, is on the point of being overturned.

Moreover voting rights are already under attack and with this reversion to 1973 will reversal of the civil rights gains of the 60’s be far behind ?

45. techcel Says:

Why should I care?

Explain to me why I should care. At all. About “abortion rights.”

To be totally honest, I just don’t give a shit. I don’t care about women’s rights. It sounds harsh, but it’s just the honest truth. Women have treated me like shit my entire life and I’m inclined to return the favor.

I’m 26 years old and I’m still a kissless fucking virgin. Imagine being me. Imagine seeing so many beautiful, laughing, happy young women, imagine the aching desire in your heart, and knowing you probably shouldn’t even talk to them because you’re an awkward creepy nerd and you just know your desire will be construed as creepiness and harassment. Imagine seeing Chads acting like fucking neanderthals with a fraction of your IQ effortlessly chat up and pick up these beautiful young women and do things with them you can’t even imagine. The few times you ever managed to act on your ever aching desire the girls went all “ewwwwwwww” and you just KNOW they thought you were a creepy harasser and were trying to get away from you as fast as possible but these fucking CHADS can do whatever they want because they’re stupid fucking animals. God I hate women. And after you see these achingly beautiful laughing young women, who would call you a creepy harasser if you ever talked to them, I return to my miserable lonely life of programming deep learning nets. Oh and the few beautiful young women in my office, I shouldn’t talk to them either because we know how fanatical about sexual harassment HR is in [insert FAANG tech company here]!

I am an incel. I’m not afraid to admit it. And THE WORLD FUCKING HATES US.

I am so fucking frustrated and lonely and achingly in need of love and sex and affection and fucking neanderthals ger everything while I’m labeled a creepy fucking harasser for my troubles. Just because I want a basic human need. I’m suffering so much and nobody fucking cares.

And now you want me to donate money to SUPPORT WOMEN’S RIGHTS???? What about my fucking rights? I’m an incel and the entire world is at war with me basically just for existing. Incels are the most demonized group in America or anywhere. Where the FUCK is our fundraiser???? Where the fuck are our marches????

“Abortion rights.” What an absolute joke. So Stacey who never even gave me the time of day gets knocked up by some fucking Chad she hooked up with at a party while I was alone in my miserable room programming in TensorFlow. And now she wants to kill her babyyy. Boo fucking hoo. I don’t give a shit. It’s such a fucking joke and this entire thing makes me so fucling angry.

46. Gerard Says:

Here’s an interesting quote from the President:

> Biden said that if the final opinion was issued along the lines of the leaked draft, it would imply nobody has rights unless granted by the federal government.

> “This is about a lot more than abortion,” the President said.

I think he’s exactly right.

47. Martin Mertens Says:

Harvey Friedman (43): “Pundits now say that only 0-3 states would get rid of abortion entirely. The rest restrict it somewhat like it is now, with a very few allowing it up to the moment of birth.

So what? This is a non event.”

1-3 states would be a huge event so I assume you’re predicting 0. Do you really think women in states where there is popular support for banning abortion have nothing to worry about from the repeal of Roe v Wade? That seems very optimistic.

“The only significance for lefties is that the right wanted this.”

Why do the “righties” want this if it would have no consequences? I suppose you’ll say it’s simply because the left is against it…

48. Scott Says:

Harvey Friedman #43: Here in Texas, thousands of poor women have been in a desperate situation, needing to plan out-of-state trips that they can’t afford to get abortions (in many cases to Oklahoma, although Oklahoma has now moved to cut that off). Meanwhile, state legislatures are already introducing and passing bills that would jail people for helping women get out-of-state abortions. One bill claims jurisdiction if the baby “could have been conceived” within the state (!). And there seems to be little doubt that, as soon as the Republicans once again have unified control of the federal government, they’ll push through a national ban on abortion, imposing theocratic values on California and Connecticut and all the rest. Finally, while Alito pretends this decision is only about abortion, the fact is that he scathingly dissented from Obergefell v. Hodges with much the same language. So I think the burden of proof is anyone who claims that this court won’t proceed to overturn Obergefell, maybe even annul most of the same-sex marriages that already exist, maybe even overturn Lawrence v. Texas and let states re-criminalize homosexual conduct. After that, it’s anyone’s guess how far back in time we’re going to go. And our system is set up in such a way that it could take 50 years to undo this, just like it took 50 years to get to where we are now. That’s why this is a huge deal, one of the biggest political cataclysms of most of our lifetimes.

49. Matty Wacksen Says:

Scott #28:
> I wish I believed that! It’s about to be directly tested. What percentage of the country do you think wants a regime where, not only is abortion illegal in half the states, with no exceptions for rape or incest, but women are even prevented from travelling out-of-state or abroad for abortions? 20%?

I don’t know if you notice this, but you’re really engaging in hyperbole here. Even a full repeal of Roe vs Wade a la Alito’s draft would not have the stated effect. Even Texas’s highly restrictive SB8 bill allows abortion prior to about week 6 (compare here for some European contries https://i.imgur.com/Vhtfg17h.jpg, though the picture is a bit misleading because it looks at ‘on demand’ abortion ). Texas is not “half the states”, and if 80% are opposed to something they will vote that way. I suspect that the median voter in Texas doesn’t support abortion after week 6 all that much. There’s a big difference between “abortion is illegal” and “abortion is allowed until week 6”. Here is a graph of abortions by gestation age https://www.motherjones.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/blog_abortions_gestational_age-1.gif .

>Beyond that, it’s all tradeoffs and gray areas.

I’d say it’s reasonable to believe in tradeoffs and gray areas even beyond what you’re mentioning; I mean your suggested week 15 is already beyond what plenty of Western countries have right now.

> Alas, rather than moving toward any sort of compromise that might uphold this condition, the pro-lifers have just gotten more and more extreme, for example refusing even to entertain any rape exception.

You could also tell a story where the liberals are the ones who refuse to compromise away from beyond the already-extremely-liberal-beyond-almost-the-whole-rest-of-the-world Roe vs Wade for the past 50 years… but I don’t really care who is “right”, given that “the other side is bad and doesn’t compromise” doesn’t fix anything.

50. Topologist Guy Says:

How am I supposed to take any of these “pro-choicers” seriously when they want to hold me down and force a dangerous experimental vaccine into my body. Where’s the consistency. You can’t claim to support bodily autonomy and also support forcing experimental vaccines on people. Like honestly. What’s the difference? The left is such an absolute joke.

51. Last Comment Here Says:

Comment #45, #48, & #50 from the last thread prompted some of the framing of this post,
a discussion of how hurt and frustrated you feel by those accusations, and your understandable complaints about how extreme the left has become in the way it engages in dialogue.

Will comment #45 on this thread also prompt a new post from you? Or are its opinions / language / framing / direction of anger more acceptable for some reason? Does it make you think the right or anti-feminists also engage in a similar form of extreme, rude dialogue that you should call out (or maybe that’s already obvious, and you’ve already called it out)?

Sorry if this comment is too mean-spirited or feels like a bunch of leading questions.

It’s just my response to seeing a lot of discussion here that’s a rehash of the “problem with feminists and woke ideology” this blog engages every once in a while, this time in response to anger from #45 in the last thread about someone who felt like you weren’t doing enough to support women’s safety, and then immediately getting hit by the vitriol of #45 in this thread, which is a rant about how become of someone’s personal experiences they’d like women to be less safe.

Logically, it feels like we should take more offense at #45 in this thread than #45 from last thread, given the positions they’re respectively taking about safety and harm to people (although both are very angry and rude). I’m not sure if that will actually happen though.

52. Harvey Friedman Says:

I believe that having the States and Congress decide issues not addressed in the Constitution is the best way to go for a number of reasons, and that would include some matters beyond abortion like expansion of the notion of marriage.

However, the other hair-raising items in Scott’s #43 are in a different category. I did not know anything about them. I would reflexively assume that such bills cannot possibly pass, and even if they did, Abbott would veto them, or they would suffer a quick injunction and be ruled Unconstitutional.

I think Scott wants to argue that the States might do this or that and that we need SCOTUS to restrain States from behaving badly. This seems rather unlikely to me, and just because some fringe group wants to push some wacky nonsense, that is no reason to be alarmist.

For instance, there are definitely people who want to make it an act of domestic terrorism to deny that the 2020 Presidential election was legitimate. (Sort of like Holocaust denial in Europe). One can rely on common sense and the Court system to make sure that that doesn’t happen, even if it can be argued that the Biden Administration would like to do that.

Realistically, talking to knowledgeable sensible people in the know, what do you think Texas is going to come up with in the abortion arena?

More reasonable is the simple economic argument that poor people are going to want abortions that are not permitted under prospective Texas law, and do not have the resources to get to more abortion friendly States. I have no doubt that the billionaires and charitable organizations will fund very cost effective transportation for this.

The overall problem I have with Scott’s position (as I understand it) is that many States are evil and need to be controlled by a stronger authority. This did arguably happen under slavery. But what about the obvious remedy through the Congress? Wouldn’t you trust Congress to correct the kind of hair raising scenarios you raise?

53. Scott Says:

Topologist Guy #50:

(1) The mRNA vaccines actually work to cut serious illnesses and death from covid by a factor of about 20, with side effects that are trivial by comparison. They’re scientific wonders. This is true, and I refuse to discuss the issue in an enforced epistemic vacuum where we pretend we don’t know if it’s true.

(2) Particularly because the vaccines are much more effective at preventing serious illness than at preventing mild illness or infectiousness, I’ve been consistent in my view that no one should be forced to take them. And indeed, to my knowledge, no one besides young children has been held down and forced to take the vaccine. On the other hand, I’m totally, 100% fine with restaurants, airlines, employers, etc. instituting vax requirements if they think it’s the right tradeoff for them. Not to allow that would infringe on their liberty.

(3) Just like the vaccines are extremely safe and effective for preventing severe covid, so abortion is extremely safe and effective for ending early pregnancies. My position is pretty consistent: both should be widely available, neither should be mandatory.

54. matt Says:

The quoted comment reads to me as either parody or trolling. Obviously I could be wrong, but I think you should consider Poe’s law here, and also the possibility of political shenanigans. I know you get some genuinely awful comments from the left, but you also have some right-wing readers who would be willing to use deception to try to drive a bigger wedge between you and the left.

55. Joseph Shipman Says:

Scott #48:
This is a huge deal, I agree, but I have followed the court for decades and am familiar with the reasoning of all the Justices, and I strongly believe that there is no chance the court would ever uphold a woman being punished in in one state for having an abortion in another. Only someone who regards Alito et al as “theocrats” rather than as judges with a coherent legal philosophy would doubt that; but since you do seem to be calling them “theocrats”, there isn’t much that can be said to persuade you otherwise.
I agree that the legislators pushing bills to try to criminalize traveling out of state for an abortion are deeply wrong about the Constitution, but it’s unfortunate that even though I think the court can be relied on to eventually uphold the Constitution (as they would be doing by reversing Roe v Wade, however unpleasant the policy implications are in some states), it can take years for that to happen. There’s reason to hope that if such a law does pass, a federal judge will immediately halt enforcement and we will have battling injunctions that will fast-track things back up to SCOTUS.

56. Scott Says:

Last Comment Here #51: FB’s comments and the comment by techcel #45 both violate my policy against “hatred of groups of people.” In both cases, I let them through anyway because (for somewhat different reasons) I felt a sort of moral duty to respond. techcel’s problem is extremely familiar to me, and I might have an unusual ability to help him out—and by extension, any readers who might face a similar problem. And if I can, then it seems like I should. I’ll try to do so later tonight, when I have time to devote to it.

57. pete Says:

I donated $100. I wonder about the staff – aren’t they subject to many, many$10,000 lawsuits?

Unfortunately, our country is not really democratic. The senate election rules in particular allow stacking the Supreme Court with extremist nuts and it is not going to get any better.

Can the states really ban travel for an abortion? I would think that would be unconstitutional.

58. Ilio Says:

+1 Boaz Barak. Dealing with the FB or the techcel of this world requieres training and a solid mental health. Why inflict that on your readers? Why inflict that on yourself?

(written before #56)

59. Shmi Says:

Just in time for this debate, “People dislike their political opponents for views that most don’t actually hold”:

And, as Scott’s experience shows time and again, they refuse to accept that they might be wrong even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

60. clayton Says:

Scott, feel free to delete this response to the 45th comment if you feel like it does more harm than good, but I’d like to say that being a “kissless virgin” is not something that any _particular person_ owes it to commenter 45 (or anyone else) to fix — and, at the end of the day, _particular people_ (and not “all women”) are the ones doing the kissing.

Commenter 45: you sound unhappy and resentful, and that can harm your ability to earn the attention you want. Talk to the people you think you want kisses from, and listen to them! You owe that to them before you’ll get anything in return.

61. feminist liberal arts type Says:

Hi Scott. I’m one of those feminist sjw types you don’t like very much. And, I admit, I said mean things about you in private messages on a gaming forum once. I find nerdy guys with your specific take on being a nerdy guy to be super frustrating and a major inspiration for self-inflicted hair loss.

But, you know, we’re not [i]morons[/i]. Honestly. Scott, you’re a rich people problem. I dearly wished I lived in a world where my most serious concern is “people who are edge cases on my personal circle of social comfort”.

This is a life-or-death problem. And I deeply appreciate you showing up and pulling for Team Good. Thank you for doing a heroism and contributing more money than I’ll ever be able to contribute to anything. And, just so you know, some of us feminist liberal arts types are huge fans of Enlightenment rationality too. In fact, I happen to think modernity’s worth dying for.

And the trouble is, throwing money at it can’t fix this problem. After Roe, there goes Obergefell, Lawrence, Griswold… and then the Christian fascists start [i]really[/i] getting creative. And to do those things, they’re already having to control interstate travel, institute surveillance and snitch networks, and tomorrow there’s the post, the schools, social services, the medical system…. Meanwhile, gerrymandering and voter suppression have already instituted one-party regimes in 40% of American states, and it’s only a matter of time before the GOP accomplishes state capture at the federal level. And then we’re talking the most powerful nation-state on Earth as a fascist dictatorship, on a planet with only authoritarian great powers.

I don’t think this is a “send money” problem. i think this is a “when in the course of human events” problem.

And I, for one, am quite seriously ready to die fighting side by side with a (reads) “creepy, gross, misogynist nerdbro”.

62. Anon93 Says:

The Republican Party doing what it can to make sure that I vote third-party in 2024. This, and potentially nominating Trump. Blake Masters once said in an interview that he supports having a national compromise at some number of weeks. He supports IVF. I would really happily vote for the Republicans if they didn’t nominate Trump and supported abortion out to 12 weeks or something. I think I support 15-20 weeks or so. Definitely the first trimester should be OK. I mean, come on. It’s clearly not a person then, clump of cells that barely has a heartbeat. No brain function. Don’t force people to carry them to term. Banning abortion is likely going to be dysgenic and bring us one step closer to idiocracy, more educated people will be afraid to have more kids, less educated people will have unprotected sex anyway. This is not good. While some Republicans like Masters are great (his pro-Trump attitude and his hardline stance on *legal* immigration are a bit off-putting, but overall he is good), the party still remains a party of total morons. I think they are still preferable to the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party pushed eternal masking, pushes puberty blockers for 10 year olds, critical race theory in public schools, more concern about the ~10 black people killed by police than the thousands extra people of all races murdered, $15/hr minimum wage and other leftist economic policies, and censorship on Twitter and Spotify. The fringe also pushed the cancellation of Steve Hsu, James Damore, Richard Stallman, and Joshua Katz, and also BDS. The whole party pushes explicit racial discrimination in university admissions including giving Asians lower personality scores the same way they used to Jews, Title IX and other anti-male sexist bureaucracies, general demonization of whites and males, etcetera. They are the greater evil. By far. There is no comparison between the two parties anymore. The Democrats also removed Eric Lander from his position for no reason. They are huge proponents of affirmative action, *in medicine*, where people can die from it. But I’ll still vote libertarian in 2024 at this rate. 63. Qwerty Says: I’m so clueless that I thought people were being alarmist when they anticipated this. I also didn’t see it when the recent Supreme Court justices were nominated. I said so what if they’re very religious Christians? I only saw it coming when I read about Clarence Thomas’ wife who was in the news recently. She is in the Q, clearly, whose agenda is making it to the top!! Yikes. 64. Also female and feminist Says: To the handle called “Feminist …” cited with an excerpt in the post : Scott is one of the kindest people I know. If anything, he is too nice. He does not have to prove this, and demands asking him to do so should be ignored. Why is there so much pure nastiness in the world?! It is not justified here, at all. Please be nice. 65. Rich Peterson Says: Topologist Guy 50: “How am I supposed to take any of these “pro-choicers” seriously when they want to hold me down and force a dangerous experimental vaccine into my body. Where’s the consistency. You can’t claim to support bodily autonomy and also support forcing experimental vaccines on people. Like honestly. What’s the difference? The left is such an absolute joke.” Just as the United States justly has the power to draft citizens as soldiers to defend the nation from attack, in which the soldiers will get shot at(“experiments” confirm that getting shot at is often fatal), so, justly, the US should have the power to require its citizens take shots to protect itself from another common enemy: Covid-19. I expect any honest and patriotic American, who is healthy and has no known vulnerabilities to inoculation, to be glad to take the small risk of taking a shot of a(highly tested in experiments) vaccine in the arm, far safer than being shot at. 66. Topologist Guy Says: Scott, I know I comment on every post of yours to yap at you about vaccines. I’ve never actually fully articulated my position to you, or the evidence I’ve seen that makes me fearful of the mRNA vaccination program. In fact, I’ve got good reason to believe that it could literally be the most dangerous experiment ever performed in human history. This comment will be a little long/technical, but I really want you to bear with me so that you can understand my perspective, as someone who’s actually been following the vaccine program since its inception in March 2020 and is aware of most of the technical hurdles which complicated it. I’ll say at the outset that we fall at opposite ends of the spectrum of opinion on the vaccine program. I’m fanatically anti-(COVID) vaccine. I’m not an anti-vaxxer, but for reasons I’ll articulate here, the mRNA vaccine technology, the way it’s being deployed globally, and the nature of the pandemic it’s designed to fight, make it inherently more problematic than other vaccines which were developed using more established technologies and tested and approved along the usual timeline. Your position on the vaccine program *also* lies far outside the mainstream spectrum of opinions on the vaccine, but in the *other* direction—that is, as you’ve expressed here on the blog several times, you feel that the vaccines should have been manufactured and rolled out in 2020, with limited/no FDA testing whatsoever. I do understand your perspective. You imagine that the FDA procedures for approving the vaccine (for EUA) were essentially bureaucratic red tape that, for no real reason, cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of lives from delaying global rollout of the vaccines. What I’m going to try to explain here—again, as someone who’s followed the vaccine research program from March 2020 and was aware of all the technical hurdles it’s had to overcome—is that this narrative is completely untrue. That is, there were genuine and plausible fears about the safety and efficacy of an mRNA COVID vaccine. My position is that the timeline for approving and distributing the vaccines was still too accelerated, in that certain of these fears could not be ruled out in Phase II clinical trials. I understand that it will be quite difficult for me to convert you to my position (unless I am an exceptionally skilled debater 😃). Nonetheless, I will consider myself to have won this little debate if I convince you of the following *intermediate* proposition: namely, that your proposal of rolling out the vaccines and distributing them globally, with limited/no FDA approval process, would have been a *monumentally* stupid and dangerous idea, and that the bureaucratic red tape existed for very real, scientific reasons. Firstly, before I discuss the technical problems that plagued development of a SARS, and then SARS-COV-2, vaccine, I want to dispell a misconception about vaccine safety/efficacy that I imagine you and many other commentators have. You probably have this image in your mind of vaccine efficacy as a “slider” that can take values anywhere from 0% to 100%. Perhaps there are a couple different such sliders—for example, antibody neutralization, which can prevent infection, and T-cell immunity, which can prevent severe disease and death. For instance, effectiveness of (two doses of) Moderna and Pfizer against *infection* with SARS-COV-2 is very poor against variants like Omicron, while they still hold up against hospitalization and death, depending on who you get your data from. Crucially, the “worst case scenario” in your mind is that vaccine efficacy drops to zero, in which case you’re no worse off than when you started (which is to say, you have “nothing to lose” in terms of COVID immunity by getting vaccinated). But the reality is, in certain circumstances—and crucially, as I’ll explain, we have reason to believe that SARS-COV-2 might present such a circumstance—vaccines can actually *weaken* immunity against a virus. In fact, getting vaccinated against certain viral strains, and then encountering the virus in the wild, can *worsen* your risk of severe disease and death. The classic example of this phenomenon, which is called *antibody-dependent enhancement*, is Dengue fever. There are four endemic strains of the Dengue virus. Getting a vaccine against one such strain of Dengue virus can actually weaken your immunity against each of the remaining three endemic strains. For this reason, the Dengue virus vaccine is generally not recommended. This is because the presence of *suboptimal* (as opposed to neutralizing) antibodies can actually *enhance* viral replication and disease, through the ADE mechanism. Crucially for our discussion, ADE was observed in several preclinical trials for SARS-COV-1 (the 2003 virus) vaccines. Here’s an excellent review article summarizing these findings: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41577-020-0321-6. In several of the SARS-COV-1 preclinical trials, antibody-mediated immune enhancement was noted, in which the presence of *non*-neutralizing antibodies, upon challenge with the virus, results in immunopathology. Here’s what the Nature article says about antibody-mediated immune enhancement: “In antibody-mediated immune enhancement, low quality, low quantity, non-neutralizing antibodies bind to virus particles. Upon engagement by the Fc domains on antibodies, activating FcRs with ITAMs initiate signalling to upregulate pro-inflammatory cytokines and downregulate anti-inflammatory cytokines. Immune complexes and viral RNA in the endosomes can signal through Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3), TLR7 and/or TLR8 to activate host cells, resulting in immunopathology.” Let me note here that cytokine storms are deadliest in young people with stronger immune responses. Thus, it’s quite possible that a vaccine inducing antibody-dependent immune enhancement could skew the mortality profile of disease towards the younger side. Also from the Nature article: “Although antibodies are generally protective and beneficial, the ADE phenomenon is documented for dengue virus and other viruses. In SARS-CoV infection, ADE is mediated by the engagement of Fc receptors (FcRs) expressed on different immune cells, including monocytes, macrophages and B cells5,6. Pre-existing SARS-CoV-specific antibodies may thus promote viral entry into FcR-expressing cells … Internalization of virus–antibody immune complexes can promote inflammation and tissue injury by activating myeloid cells via FcRs.” The authors cite 2019 study in which “immunization of non-human primates with a modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) virus encoding the full-length S protein of SARS-CoV promoted activation of alveolar macrophages, leading to acute lung injury.” The authors also examine which epitopes of SARS-COV-2 are likely to induce neutralizing antibodies, as opposed to suboptimal antibodies causing AMIE upon viral challenge. “Multiple factors determine whether an antibody neutralizes a virus and protects the host or causes ADE and acute inflammation. These include the specificity, concentration, affinity and isotype of the antibody.” For instance, “antibodies targeting different epitopes on the S protein may vary in their potential to induce neutralization or ADE. For example, antibodies reactive to the RBD domain or the HR2 domain of the S protein induce better protective antibody responses in non-human primates, whereas antibodies specific for other S protein epitopes can induce ADE.” They cite a 2016 study which found that ONE OUT OF FOUR spike epitopes of SARS-COV-2 that were tested induced ADE in non-human primates. Furthermore, the authors of the Nature article also noted that vaccines targeting the nucleocapsid protein, as opposed to spike, were more likely to induce non-neutralizing antibodies exhibiting ADE upon re-challenge. Now imagine if the world followed your advice, Scott. Imagine if vaccines targeting SARS-COV-2 were immediately rolled out without clinical trials or testing for ADE. Based on the 2016 study, there’s maybe a one in four chance that the epitope we selected for the mRNA vaccines would have induced antibodies exhibiting ADE. Should we have taken that chance? Risked making COVID vastly more deadly for hundreds of millions of young people, immunized with a potentially dangerous vaccine? We know that vaccines in preclinical trials for the original SARS, which shares the vast majority of its sequence identity with SARS-COV-2, caused antibody-mediated immune enhancement (immunopathology) in non-human subjects. And you would risk just rolling out these vaccines to humans with no safety testing? What if we picked the nucleocapsid antigen, instead of Spike? Then, according to the Nature article, the vaccines we distributed could very well cause ADE. I’m of the opinion that the possibility of antibody-mediated immune enhancement has still not been ruled out. Here’s the relevant passage from the Nature article: “For a given concentration of antibody and a specific targeting domain, the stoichiometry of antibody engagement on a virion is dependent on the strength of interaction between antibody and antigen. ADE is induced when the stoichiometry is below the threshold for neutralization. Therefore, higher affinity antibodies can reach that threshold at a lower concentration and mediate better protection.” The affinity of antibody for antigen is dependent on a large number of enormously complex, and difficult to predict, factors, including closeness of the stereochemical fit between antibody sites and antigen determinants, the size of the area of contact between them, and the distribution of charged and hydrophobic groups. We know that the molecular structure of the SARS-COV-2 spike protein has changed rapidly with each successive mutation. Omicron alone has 32 mutarions in the spike protein. A typical seasonal flu will have a much smaller number of mutations. The rapid genetic evolution of the SARS-COV-2 pandemic should inform our vaccine policy. We know that breakthrough cases can now carry the same viral loads as infections in unvaccinated people. Thus, it is quite possible that mass vaccination with mRNA vaccines, targeting a single antigen as opposed to the entire virus, have changed the fitness landscape of SARS-COV-2, and is selecting overwhelmingly for mutations in the spike protein that evade the vaccines (i.e., have weaker affinity for vaccine-induced antibodies). Perhaps this has already happened with the Omicron variant. The vaccines are still protecting against severe disease and death *for now.* But with every successive mutation, selected for by the new fitness landscape wrought by mass vaccination, we are moving closer and closer to a spike protein which evades vaccine antibodies to such an extent that antibody-mediated immune enhancement is induced. This is the “treshold” referred to in the passage from the Nature article above. So here’s the nightmare scenario. Everything seems to be going great. The vaccines continue to protect against severe disease and death. New variants of COVID continue to circulate among the vaccinated, but aren’t hospitalizing them. Then, one winter, a new variant emerges and spreads across the vaccinated world. This one isn’t killing old and unvaccinated people. It’s killing young, vaccinated people, through cytokine storms. It might have a brutal infection fatality rate, 1 or 2 percent instead of 0.4 percent. It wreaks devastation on the vaccinated. They’ll have to desperately roll out vaccines targeting the new variant with no safety testing. That’s the “nightmare scenario.” I’m not saying it’s going to happen, or even likely to happen, just that it’s *possible.* Crucially, even if it doesn’t happen, it was still possible the entire time, and governments gambled with our lives and forced a completely experimental vaccine on us while covering up the horrifying potential risks. That’s treating us, quite literally, like livestock. 67. Scott Says: feminist liberal arts type #61: Thank you so much — it means a lot to me, especially coming from someone who “said mean things about me” in the wake of comment 171. I wish I knew what else we else we could all do when, in the course of human events, it’s become necessary to stop the world’s theocrats and authoritarians from imposing their wills on everyone else. I guess I’ll just leave you with one thought. If I hadn’t eventually solved my problem—i.e., figured out how to ask women on dates, make my interest clear, have relationships, not be single forever, etc.—I probably would’ve had orders-of-magnitude fewer emotional resources for worrying about the problems of other people. The comment of techcel #45, whatever else one thinks of it, gives a pretty good sense for the emotional reality. But for the Democrats to defeat the theocratic shit, they’ll need the broadest possible coalition, including “techcel” and millions of other guys vaguely like him. And if I’ve ever been certain of anything, I’m certain that the path to winning those guys over isn’t to shame them as misogynist losers; instead it’s to help them acquire the social skills and attitudes that they need to solve their problem, to feel like full and valued members of the culture rather than celibate worker drones. In that way, I see helping such guys as part of the broader project of feminism. 68. clayton Says: Scott #67 — this is an obviously sincere expression of your point of view, but I think there is an implicit and quantitative disagreement you incidentally bring up. Are there “millions” of people like “techcel”? Are they amenable to compassionate discussion that broadens their circle of empathy? And, in the limit of finite resources, should we provide succor to them, or to the people actively experiencing huge negative d(rights and privileges)/dt, or to the people with historically enormously small integrated (rights and privileges) dt? You reason from your prior experience, and your conclusions are humane and admirable, but you might be on the far end of a tail of a relatively small group of people with already unconcerning scores in both of those measures. Each of us can only do so much, and we’ll inevitably do so imperfectly, and I consider (to take a random example) hurting techcel’s feelings a reasonable price to pay to stand in solidarity with people affected by the impending wave of abortion bans or people who have never had equal access to it in the first place (and to signal my willingness to do so in this semipublic arena). 69. Feminist in Tech Says: Scott, I’m honestly astonished that you’ve let “techcel”’s comment stay up. His completely over-the-top, indeed violent, language towards women could literally be traumatizing for some people. The only redeeming feature of this “techcel” is that he’s shown us the reality of male culture in tech. I’m a woman in tech, and this kind of disgusting, creepy and misogynistic behavior from our male coworkers is exactly the reason why so many women are turned off from working in tech. Let me draw your attention to this excellent article by Ellen Pao: https://www.wired.com/story/ellen-pao-the-perverse-incentives-that-help-incels-thrive-in-tech/amp “Techcel” exemplifies the disgusting incel culture that flourishes at so many tech companies. There are so many young guys out there who have some niche “intelligence” in machine learning or whatever, but are awkward/weird and have no idea how to interact socially, and many of them think they’re entitled to women’s bodies and attention. It’s disgusting and pathetic. The truth is that some guys just don’t deserve sex. I don’t agree with everything Feminist Bitch wrote, but I think she was spot on when she suggested that these guys stop being “stinky and awkward” instead of whining about the lack of sex. Guys like “techcel” don’t deserve sex. They’re creepy, entitled, weird and don’t have social skills. Not to mention far-right and misogynistic. This guy is a real danger to the women around him. If I were you, Scott, I’d try to figure out what company he works at and inform HR of his unacceptable and inappropriate behavior. As a woman in tech, I’ve had to deal with awkward flirting, creepy behavior, and even touching. I’m trying to be taken seriously for my work, and instead I get creepy “compliments” about my physical appearance and creepy attempts at flirting. One guy even tried to kiss me at a work party, which was totally inappropriate. Hit on people ar a bar for fuck’s sake, not a workplace. It makes a most uninviting environment. As I said, I don’t totally agree with “Feminist Bitch”’s tone, but I do understand her frustration, and I think she called you out appropriately when she noted how your sympathy for really vile and violent movements like the Incels conflicts with your alleged support for women’s autonomy. If you were a woman in tech, and you had to deal with this kind of gross male attention on a near constant basis, you’d understand the urge to call out the “awkward, creepy, stinky nerdbros.” Is it rude? Sure. But in my opinion totally understandable. 70. Scott Says: Feminist in Tech #69: I agree that techcel’s comment might traumatize someone, and that does indeed make leaving it up a tough call. I do ask that you give me a chance to answer him before you judge my choice. In the meantime, my question for you is this: do you acknowledge the possibility that your comment might also traumatize many readers? I went through your comment and made a partial list of all the “shaming terms”: disgusting, creepy, misogynistic, incel, awkward, weird, pathetic, stinky, don’t deserve sex, whining, entitled These terms are almost custom-designed to drive sensitive young guys to self-harm or suicide. When they see these terms everywhere they turn, as they do today, they understand them as commentaries, not on what they should or shouldn’t do, but on what they inherently are. And they’re not completely wrong to understand them that way! Indeed, your own comment is shot through with essentializing language (“[t]he truth is that some guys just don’t deserve sex”). As Scott Alexander pointed out years ago, one can get a sense for the shaming-terms’ cumulative effect by substituting a parallel set of terms: greedy, grasping, parasite, hook-nosed, nasally, money-grubbing, scheming, vermin… In some sense, the hardest problem I ever had to solve in my life was how to navigate a social world where the rhetorical arsenal of “sexualized nerd-shaming” is on hair-trigger alert, ready to be launched against any guy who had the misfortune to be born with Aspberger’s or autism-spectrum traits or other social deficiencies and who commits a single gaffe … not, usually, out of a desire to hurt or offend anybody, but out of the desire shared by almost all human beings who’ve ever lived (including you, perhaps?) not to die single, celibate, and unloved. I respect the anonymity of commenters on this blog, including yours. Even supposing it were technically feasible, I find your suggestion that I hunt down “techcel”‘s workplace and report him to HR to be, frankly, scarier than anything he wrote. Though I’ll note that former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, who you approvingly link, once made a similarly chilling proposal, that tech companies should identify and fire all their “incels.” (This would presumably require snooping on all employees’ intimate lives, or lack thereof … are you sure you want this, woke friends? 🙂 ) I fully believe you that you had one or more terrible experiences with nerdy guys that led to the attitudes in your comment, and I feel terrible for that. Respectfully, though, I’ll continue to insist until my dying day that with a little empathy and understanding, those who you call “disgusting, creepy, misogynistic, incel, awkward, weird, pathetic, stinky” can be successfully integrated into modern, feminist liberal societies, rather than condemned, ostracized, and weeded from the gene pool. And furthermore, that if one isn’t motivated to do this by the stinky nerds’ astounding contributions to creating and maintaining our technological civilization, then one can instead be motivated by compassion. 71. Another Incel Says: I’m so fucking dissappointed in you Scott. Where’s your backbone? Feminists and the woke left have abused and mistreated you at every turn, and yet you continue to suck up to them at every opportunity. Like this “Feminist in Tech” individual. You “believe” that she has had some truly traumatic experiences with nerdy guys? Let’s list her experiences, shall we? They include “awkward” flirting, compliments, and one kiss. In what universe is that traumatic? In what universe does that compare to the soul-crushing sexual frustration and loneliness and despair I find myself in as an incel? “Feminist in Tech” thinks that flirting in the workplace is inappropriate. Seriously? Most relationships in human history have started in the workplace. She exemplifies perfectly the insane new dating scene men have to deal with, where they’re shamed and attacked at every turn just for being sexual fucking human beings. You didn’t even challenge that idea Scott. You keep saying us incels need to “learn” and “adapt.” Well, the truth is, I’m doing everything fine. *I* don’t need to change. It’s *society* that needs to change. It’s not my fault that the dating scene is so fucked up. It’s “Feminist in Tech”’s fault, and the fault of a psychotic woke left so obsessed with safteyism that it’s relegated dating and flirting and all the fun experiences of youth, away from our workplaces and everyday lives (where it’s “creepy”) and onto some miserable dating apps where only a tiny fraction of men can compete. If society isn’t at fault, why have rates of sexlessness skyrocketed so rapidly among young men in the last fifteen years (to 30 some percent)? For what it’s worth, as a fellow kissless virgin, I think Techcel is 100% right and 100% understandable. Fuck the Left and fuck #metoo. The left and feminists have made my life a living hell and they’ve lost all the support I might have given them. 72. Scott Says: techcel #45: Having put it off all day, it’s time to try to help you. To say that I know the psychological territory in which you find yourself, that I’m familiar with many of its landmarks and contours, would be a comic understatement. The central question that you pose is: “why should I care?” As one particular instance: “why should I care about poor women seeking abortions?” My answer is simply: because caring about others is the moral burden of every human being. Yes, even of those who hold some terrible cards in life … which includes you, and which once included me, but we’re very far from the only ones, and our cards aren’t even the worst. At risk of stating the obvious: there are bereaved parents. There are war orphans. There are people with Down’s syndrome or horrifying genetic disfigurements. There are women who were raped, women whose boyfriends abandoned them, women who are pregnant and desperate and at a loss for what to do, as you’d be in the same situation. There are female incels, many of whom describe themselves as ugly, disabled, or fat. You can spend hours reading their sob stories on Reddit. I’d actually recommend that as a way to gain insight. The idea that all young women are “Stacys” is really, honestly, just a sampling bias. But forget about other people: ultimately this is about you, about what kind of person you choose to be. The way I survived for over a decade was by telling myself every day that fate and the universe were testing me, just like the Holy One (blessed be He) tested Job. The moment I abandoned my core values—liberalism, feminism, bodily autonomy, kindness, empathy—the moment I even entertained toxic thoughts like “these bitches, how dare they reject me for these nobodies and neanderthals, don’t they know I’ll be a world-famous scientist,” etc. etc.—that’s the moment when angels would swoop down from on high exclaiming “aha! we finally caught him! all his supposed principles were a lie!” And then I would’ve failed the test. And I was determined not to fail. So, when life got worse, that just meant the test was getting harder. You know, like the computer-based GRE, which gives you harder and harder questions because you correctly answered the previous ones. And even if I died alone, with math and science having been my only loves … still, what mattered was whether I passed the test. And the more excruciating the test, the prouder I could be in the end to have passed it. In some sense, this is the entire substance of morality: that you’ve checked out of the game of earthly rewards. That, when you get shot by the Gestapo officer for having ferried 20 Jews to safety, you don’t treat it as having lost the game of life, but as having won the game. What’s true in all the world’s religions is their exhortation to internalize this; what’s false is most of the other stuff. Anyway, having been where you are, having successfully escaped, the above is the single most important thing I can tell you. But I can also tell you a second thing. A relentless focus on passing God’s Test, on living up to your highest principles however difficult life makes it, on being satisfied with who you see in the mirror … all of that helps produce self-respect. Self-respect helps produce confidence. Confidence helps produce comfort in social situations. Comfort in social situations help produce … well, you get the picture. After a year or two you might find yourself bemused by the thought that the girl right now jamming her tongue into your mouth is actually real, that she’s not an impossible fantasy or an eschatological reward, but exists on earth just like you do; she even seems happy to be here just like you’re happy. You’ll simply observe and accept that as you learned to observe and accept your previous situation in life—as if standing outside of yourself and watching it all from a higher plane, the plane of principles. So to you, techcel, and to everyone else in a similar situation who might be reading this: I wish you the same clean win, the same (relative) happiness with your morality intact, that fate, the insane bastard, eventually saw fit to grant me. 73. feminist liberal arts type Says: Thank you for your reply Scott. I don’t know what to do about the “feminists vs shy nerdy guys” issue. I really don’t. I’m an autistic-ish nerd too, and I’m not good at this stuff. Except that right now, Team Good should accept anyone who wants to fight against Mordor over there and (1) isn’t Mordor-evil themselves and (2) doesn’t inherently cost more allies than the assets they bring to the table. And I’m willing to accept waaaaaay more uncomfortable allies than “guys I personally don’t want to date”. In the meantime, let’s nurture a culture of mutually leaving personal issues aside as much as possible. So, no more neckbeard jokes. What we do on the (to my mind) much more important “theocrats and authoritarians” issue is the same thing that worked in last time. Like in the 1940s. Or the US 1860s. We go to war. Or, more precisely, we recognise the war already upon on us and fight back. They’re trying to rape women for life. Louisiana just made the first move against birth control. Abbott just moved to stop educating immigrant children – you know, the kinda shit the Nazis did to Polish people under the General Government. Our enemies are fascists and quickly moving up the evil scale from Orbán to Franco in the direction of Hitler. You know, I have my serious criticisms of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, but in broad general terms they got it 100% right on the very important Nazi issue. The Democrats in Congress won’t save anyone. But we can save ourselves. We outnumber them and we’re higher quality people. We just have to drop peacetime mental habits, because they sure did a long time ago. When someone tries to kill you, you try to kill them right back. We attack them, with every psychological, social, intellectual, economic, political, and military asset we have. Waves of sympathy strikes intimating a general strike would be a good first move. Satyagraha. Mass civil disobedience. Occupations of government buildings and critical infrastructure. Work stoppage until corporations divest from slave states. Force the governments of California and New York to take a side. They want a Dark Age? Your nerdy STEM friends in IT could assertively refuse to maintain infrastructure. Imagine Texas going through another power failure next winter. And then every winter. Make their lights go out. And their heat. I have sensory sensitivities, but if there’s a 21st century equivalent of working 10 hours a day in some horrible grimy munitions factory producing bullets for the front, I’ll do it. I’ll give up my career and quit my nerd hobbies and ruin my figure and enlist. In there a victory garden thing someone with minor tech skills and a good brain can do? I mean, armies train people, right? Someone organise online classes and I’ll sign up and learn something useful. 74. Qwerty Says: Shmi #4: You’d said, “radicals are the real enemy of the moderates, since they fracture the cause and present a convenient caricature for the other side.” Very well-written, and important for people to understand.. thank you. 75. Scott Says: feminist liberal arts type #73: We attack them, with every psychological, social, intellectual, economic, political, and military asset we have … They want a Dark Age? Your nerdy STEM friends in IT could assertively refuse to maintain infrastructure. Imagine Texas going through another power failure next winter. And then every winter. Make their lights go out. And their heat. Err, you do realize that some of us live in Texas, and have families to feed and shelter? 🙂 Instead of deliberately engineering power failures here, here’s a different idea: what if the Democrats engineered a way to make the power failures not happen, and thereby turned the 47-48% of Texans who currently vote Democrat into 51%? 76. Scott Says: feminist liberal arts type #73: Also, if I could venture a tiny bit of practical advice, I might not say to the nerdy STEM guys, “while I’d never, ever even consider dating any of you—you make me tear-my-hair-out uncomfortable as a class of people—I’d still gratefully accept your help to defeat theocracy in America.” You can leave out the first part even if it’s true. 😀 77. Michael Vassar Says: Buying slaves is what the UK did, the same county that banned the international slave trade. It’s what anyone serious about opposing slavery for essentially ethical reasons would have done. 78. Gen Fudou Says: Scott, I suspect that you’re being trolled. I think something is not right with commenters Feminist Bitch and techcel. I do not believe that they are legitimate statements of what the poster actually believes and are just deliberately trying to provoke you. I think they (and possibly others) might be the same individual. I know that Poe’s law is a legitimate thing, but something about these posts and the way they are written comes across as a little too on the nose, a little too convenient to mock. A little too perfectly checking ALL the boxes of what is infuriating about these ideologies. I’ve been a moderator on a relatively large forum for about 8 years, and I’ve seen this specific kind of trolling a few times, and learned to see certain types of patterns in it. Of course I could be wrong, but I think it’s important to let you know that I’m getting a pretty strong impression about this, and that this is an area where I have quite a bit of expertise. 79. Scott Says: Gen Fudou #78: For what it’s worth, I looked up the IP addresses of Feminist Bitch and techcel; they’re from completely different parts of the US. Of course that doesn’t prove anything, but if they were written by the same troll, that troll went to some effort to hide his or her tracks! I suppose the next step would be to see if there are stylistic tells in the comments that point either to the same author or to different ones. Honestly, though, once we went down this road, we’d have no choice but to place the majority of comments on this entire blog under the same cloud of suspicion. Who knows whether anyone here truly believes what they write or are who they say they are? (Excepting, of course, your long-suffering host and a few others, who stand behind everything and prove it by tying it to their real-life identities?) What choice do I have, except to answer how I would’ve wanted to answer if the comments were sincere, and to regard them as such until evidence emerges to the contrary? I’m asking for real, not rhetorically. 80. Max Says: By reading this and other liberal blogs, in addition to twitter et. al., one gets the impression that the very fabric of reality is thinly held together by abortion. Could it be that the people who in the past sacrificed their children to Moloch were onto something? Were Covid-19 and the current wars the result of not enough abortions? Will the Sun rise tomorrow if we do not abort a baby right now? Did the Aztecs know something we do not? I think not but I am open to hearing opposite views. 81. Boaz Barak Says: Scott, I am just so impressed with your kindness. This is not just because you are donating much more than most of us (myself included) to help Texan women. This also because, despite being one of the busiest academics I know, you take the time to read these anonymous comments, and even though you know there is a good probability they might be trolling you, you still try to give them compassionate advice on the off chance this is an actual human being in pain. 82. Scott Says: Boaz Barak #81: Thanks so much. Alas, I think I’m now going to bow out of this discussion. It’s draining to pour so much of my time and emotional energy into responding to people who are even suspected by so many of my readers, rightly or wrongly, to be insincere trolls. More importantly, though, I feel I’ve already said what I wanted to say for now about the issues raised by techcel, Feminist Bitch, and Samuel Alito. 83. Scott P. Says: I think Scott wants to argue that the States might do this or that and that we need SCOTUS to restrain States from behaving badly. This seems rather unlikely to me, and just because some fringe group wants to push some wacky nonsense, that is no reason to be alarmist. The Louisiana legislature is taking up a fetal personhood bill that defines personhood as beginning at fertilization (implantation not required), and defines any action that ends the life of such a ‘person’ as homicide. 84. Adam Treat Says: Scott, your replies are beautiful and show a tremendous amount of spiritual wisdom. Great job and great example. 85. Adam Treat Says: “ Mass civil disobedience. Occupations of government buildings and critical infrastructure. Work stoppage until corporations divest from slave states. Force the governments of California and New York to take a side. They want a Dark Age? Your nerdy STEM friends in IT could assertively refuse to maintain infrastructure. Imagine Texas going through another power failure next winter. And then every winter. Make their lights go out. And their heat.” It is always easier to destroy than to create or heal. Absolutely none of this will help restore the world. It will just help to destroy it further. 86. Dohnny Jepp Says: Scott, I am very confused by the “over the top” reaction of the american left. I think that abortion should be legal up to some point in the pregnancy (say 6-7 months). There is a huge difference between 5 months old fetus and a 9 months old fetus (also known as a human baby). As I discovered just yesterday, USA and Canada are the only democratic countries in the world who allow abortion up to labour. No European country allows abortion at 9 months. But in the USA, there are 7 states + Washington DC in which abortion at 9 months is legal. Do you really believe that this is normal? Do you actually believe that it should be legal to kill a baby 1 day before labour?? So if a mother/father living in Colorado just decide to kill their baby at 9 months, they will not be criminally charged? ps: I am honestly just asking.. 87. Douglas Knight Says: Topologist Guy #51, Basically everything you said is wrong. No vaccine has ever made people more vulnerable. Outside of dengue, all such claims I have seen are vaccine trials canceled because of insignificant noise. In theory, you could create a new strain of dengue and then a vaccine for that strain would be worse than nothing. But in the real world, in the rare case that the dengue vaccine fails to protect against A and only protects against B, C, and D, and the person is infected with A and gets a life-threatening case of dengue, that is no worse than if the person had been unvaccinated and first had a mild case of A and then a life-threatening case of B, let alone 3 life-threatening cases of B, C, and D. Maybe tourists shouldn’t be vaccinated, but people who live where dengue is endemic are going to get multiple strains. The vaccine is doing no worse than nature would, and usually much better. It probably would be better to do a$10 test to determine if people have been exposed to a strain before vaccinating, but RCT shows that it already saves lives.

Similarly, there is the mystery of why young people were so vulnerable to the Spanish flu and died of cytokine storms. Probably their immune systems were fixated on an earlier strain of the flu. But that’s the result of a live disease, not a vaccine. Maybe a flu vaccine could have the same effect. So you could suppose that a new strain of covid could have a similar effect (although this has never been seen with coronaviruses), but that would be true whether you got the vaccine or the virus. In general, your form of argument fails to distinguish the vaccine from the virus. Maybe such an argument could be made against a flu vaccine for a strain that is only going to infect 10% of the population, but with a new virus, everyone is going to be infected, so you must argue that the vaccine is worse than the virus, not just that it could have some costs in common.

Cytokine storms are not unique to young people. Most people who died of covid, at least early on, died of cytokine storms, but they were old.

88. Scott Says:

Dohnny Jepp #86: Please see my comment #28, which already addressed this, or my “Kabul University” post. Basically, as Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan advocated in 1990, I personally favor abortion for any reason before the fetus has a functioning brain, but only in case of medical emergencies, severe deformities, or perhaps other extreme situations afterward. Many other abortion policies (Roe’s trimester framework, the policies of many other Western countries, a 24-week or even 15-week cutoff…) are approximations to this ideal that I regard as probably good enough in practice most of the time. So in particular: no, it should not be legal to kill a baby 1 day before labor just because the mother changed her mind (but has that ever actually happened in the modern US with the cooperation of the medical system?). I don’t know enough about the situation in Colorado or Washington DC to comment on that.

89. Dan Staley Says:

Well, the last sentence of the post made me want to comment even though I haven’t read through the 80+ comments that are already here.

Scott, it’s obvious that you care a lot, about both things that are important and things whose importance is more debatable. The amount you care about the opinions of a slim minority of folks on the internet certainly inspires no envy in me 🙂

And your donation pledge may change a mind or two, but I believe the sad truth is it will change next to nothing in terms of the amount of hate you see online. It’s just the unfortunate reality of how social media works (which, incidentally, I blame for a lot of the current political climate).

90. Dohnny Jepp Says:

Scott #88,
“(but has that ever actually happened in the modern US with the cooperation of the medical system?)”

Lets assume (as it seems to be the case) that it is not illegal to kill a 9 months old baby in 7 states in the USA, and that a mother/father cannot be criminally charged at all.
If this is true, then there is zero doubt that at least hundreds (if not more) of healthy 9 months old babies are being killed every year in the USA.
It is just common sense that if there are no laws against killing, then there would be many people who would kill (people kill even when they know they will go to jail for life).
And these killings, I would assume, are mostly not reported for obvious reasons.

If this is what is happening in 7 states in the USA, then it is incredibly incredibly insane.

91. Sandro Says:

Matty #9:

I don’t think the “right” to abortion is any more fundamental than the “right” to take drugs, and I challenge anyone to give me a coherent argument to the contrary.

You have that backwards: the burden of proof is on you to justify why the state should have the power to restrict your natural right to do anything with your body. All laws are restrictions on your natural rights to act freely, and you are permitted to do anything that is not forbidden by law. Conceptually, you are only to be so restricted when such acts infringe on the rights of others.

Taking drugs entails no such infringement, so you arguably do have a fundamental right to take drugs.

People against abortion argue that fetuses are people with full rights too, and so abortion is infringing on their right to life. However, fetuses embody few of the characteristics we ascribe to people, namely bodily independence, a modicum of intelligence or awareness, feelings, ability to act, etc. Nobody disputes that a fetus can become a person, but it’s a stretch to say say that a fetus is a person, and it’s not at all obvious that we have any kind of moral or legal duty to entities that could become a person.

For instance, we are very close to the ability to reliably clone people from any kind of cell. That means every single cell of your body you accidentally spit out or shed off of your skin could conceptually become a person. Any kind of moral or legal duty towards entities that could become people would have us all become murderers at that point.

This is clearly absurd. Therefore, we can have no such moral obligation to things that could become people. Therefore, we have no obvious moral obligation to fetuses. Therefore, you have a right to bodily autonomy and abortion should be legal.

In practice there is of course some nuance in how abortion is realized, but the fundamental argument is sound.

92. Pace Nielsen Says:

I’ve hesitated to comment, but I think there are three things I can add to this discussion.

First, to offer some comfort to Scott (and others worried about this leaked opinion, and Texas’s behavior) from the other side of the aisle. (I haven’t seen nearly enough of that here.) I can understand your frustration with Texas and its law. While I’m avidly pro-life, I’m a strong opponent of the way Texas went about it.

If it is any consolation, know that I (and many like me) oppose trying to manipulate the law to accomplish one’s designs.

I am glad that you recognize that there are extremes (not just in bloggers) from the other side too. I’m speaking about the (thankfully very few, but still too many) states that allow abortions up to birth. As a super majority of Americans recognize, abortion becomes murder much earlier than that.

By the way, most of the trigger laws (if indeed Roe is overturned) are reasonable, if not perfect, compromises. Another consolation you might take to heart is that the current abortion regime has been a weight upon the hearts of many Americans—at least close to half! This weight in recent years has increased, as taxes have been used to fund abortions, which for many of us made us complicit in the deaths of innocents. Think about how you felt when Trump was elected, and then when he lost; that is close to how many of us are feeling right now, but at a deeper level for a much longer time.

Second, I believe I can describe some important principles in the abortion debate that some of your readers do not realize are a part of the calculus many of us make.

Of course, there are the issues of **bodily autonomy** and **life of the child** that are in direct conflict. The most distrustful might accuse my side of only pretending to recognize that women really do have bodily autonomy, and that we only give it lip service. (And vice versa.) The more rational will recognize that we truly believe unborn children have the right to life, and we find conflict between these two principles.

But too often both sides mistakenly believe that because these two principles are in conflict, the abortion debate merely boils down to either letting one principle triumph over another, or making a compromise between the two. There are other important principles that come into play.

Let me first mention a principle that is important to both sides of the aisle: **rational and responsible choice**. On the liberal side, this arises in discussions about how 4 weeks is too early, because many women don’t even recognize that they are pregnant yet. It also arises, for both sides, in the debate over which measure we use to value life; is it having a heart-beat, or having brain functions, or (at conception) having your own genetic make-up and beginning the process of growth?

On my side of the aisle, responsibility is a big part of another principle: **freely chosen acts affect others**. By freely choosing to behave certain ways, there are consequences for others, including the newly created human life. Thus, comments like “its none of your business, it’s a private matter” fall flat for us, because it is no longer a private matter.

To give an analogy [and yes, I recognize that analogies are only that, analogous, not perfect correspondences; so don’t read too much into this example], if you sign a contract allowing someone to live in your home, but then you kick them out because you find it inconvenient, you are not merely affirming that you own the house, you are breaking contract. On the other hand, if someone breaks into your house, and you throw them out, you are within your rights and did not freely enter into a contract.

Now, to repeat, I recognize that this analogy is not a correspondence. It is merely an example of the principle that while we have autonomy in some actions, some of that autonomy can properly be lost through freely chosen actions. Especially if we are informed about the consequences of our actions, and know possible outcomes.

I hope that this might help some people recognize why someone who is Christian and pro-life like me, who believes that at the point of conception—when a new human life has been created—it would be morally wrong *for me* to end that life, can also compromise with respect to the **law** for **others** who place great value on personal freedom and who may not yet recognize value in that new life. (I’m talking here about allowing early abortions in law in cases of rape, incest, etc…)

The third and last thing I can contribute is to remind Scott of our previous conversation on this blog. You might consider whether there is a better way to accomplish your hope for people needing less abortions (through education and other means).

93. Just Another Commenter Says:

Scott,

For what it’s worth, I’ve taken a look at the writing style / word choice of “Feminist Bitch” and “Techcel,” and I’m reasonably confident that they’re two different people. I suppose it’s possible that this could still be some huge trolling attempt, but I find it far more likely, personally, that Techcel was “triggered,” for lack of a better word, by the language of this post (“creepy, gross, misogynist nerdbros”) and lashed out. I really appreciate how you reached out to him, and also how you implored sympathy for people like him to some of the really unpleasant “feminist” commenters here (like “feminist in tech.”) Honestly, for how angry techcel is, look at “feminist in tech”’s comment and language, and tell me that hearing those words every single day of your life wouldn’t make you angry and desperate, and sap your emotional resources.

I still think it’s unfortunate that this whole “nerds vs. feminists” thing has taken away from what is supposed to be the main purpose of this post, raising money for women in need. I suggest this to you, Scott: perhaps it’s time to make a fresh new post hashing out the whole “love shy nerdy guys” thing. This is a huge problem that doesn’t receive nearly enough attention, and apparently seems to be contributing to a fair amount of political rage in our society, just judging from techcel’s post. I think it’s time for you to open up this can of worms again and have a discussion just devoted to this, separate from the abortion thing. There are so many young guys who are hurting and could use help from you, and this is a societal issue that is very serious, yes, but I think you are uniquely predisposed to help out. Let me know what you think.

94. Jilian Says:

“I continue to think the majority of you recoil against hatred and dehumanization of anyone—whether that means”…unborn babies or …

Right?

95. JimV Says:

Donated $100 +$3.30 at https://fundtexaschoice.org/donate/ (took me a few minutes to find it). Thanks for your efforts on this.

96. OhMyGoodness Says:

Douglas Knight#87
“No vaccine has ever made people more vulnerable.”

This isn’t true. As an example an HIV vaccine made it to 2b human trials that increased risk for HIV infection in men.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32156-5/fulltext

Topologist Guy #66 Scott #53

The vaccines are still protecting against severe disease and death *for now.*

The follow up period is still exceptionally brief but if you or anyone else an point to any all cause mortality studies segregated by age group and vaccine type for say 18 months post vaccination then much appreciated. The only study I have seen is the Danish study that questions these conclusions for the mRNA vaccines.

Here is an interesting study that evaluated polymorphisms in the ACE2 and TMPRSS2 genes that are associated with Covid that found very few polymorphisms in the Amish and Ashkenazi populations and limited in ethnic Finns while the non Finn European population has the widest variance by far.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7360473/

97. Anon93 Says:

Scott P #83: That’s disgusting. They ban to want IVF. Real rightists support IVF and embryo selection for intelligence and health. The woke left wanted to cancel Steve Hsu. Neither party is pushing embryo selection, and increased daycare and incentives for smart people to have more kids. Instead, both parties rail against “eugenics”. I support “eugenics”. I do not support the early 20th-century illiberal stuff that violated human rights, like the government-enforced sterilization. But I support incentives for highly educated people to have more kids, and embryo selection.

98. Sandro Says:

Pace #92:

The more rational will recognize that we truly believe unborn children have the right to life, and we find conflict between these two principles.

I would be more persuaded that pro-lifers actually did care about the lives of fetuses if there were evidence that they cared about children that had already been born just as much. Which is to say, that they actually pushed for well funded programs to address child poverty and food insecurity, that they funded sex education and maternity and/or paternity leave, and they seriously addressed other economic and educational disparities which drive many of these women to seek abortions.

In fact, the opposite appears to be the case. All of the effort and campaign funds appears to be focused on helping “poor fetuses” right up until they are born, and no further. So to use your words, your claims about the right to life fall a pretty flat with everyone else.

You might consider whether there is a better way to accomplish your hope for people needing less abortions (through education and other means).

Those programs I mention above are exactly those other means by which the need for abortion would be reduced. Women who are poor and can’t afford a child, or another child, are disproportionately represented among those women seeking an abortion.

Red states that have been pushing to outlaw abortion are by and large the worst on exactly these points. So again, this comes back the question of consistency. If you truly cared about this matter, why not show your good faith and advocate just as hard for setting up these social programs before throwing these women and their children to the wolves?

While I am ideologically opposed to the core premise of your argument, democracy is about compromise as you you imply, but I’ve seen no real, good faith effort on the part of pro-lifers to actually create the safety net that would dissuade many women seeking an abortion, I’ve mostly seen condemnation and hate.

99. Jr Says:

I think Obergefell will not be similarily overturned. Alito says it is less morally objectionable (though he probably finds it equally unsupported by the text) and I think that is an honest and accurate portrayal of the view of all the conservative justices. So less reason not to just refer to stare decisisis.

I will say that I think the argument against overturning Roe has to be all about how abortion is important. There is no neutral ground from which it looks bad. You can’t say it is wrong as a general matter to overturn precedent, that Republican actions on judicial nominations were any worse than Democratic actions, that overturning Roe is undemocratic (the liberals have no problem striking down abortion restrictions that are supported by most voters) or anything like that if you are an honest Democrat.

100. JimV Says:

“But in the USA, there are 7 states + Washington DC in which abortion at 9 months is legal.
Do you really believe that this is normal?
Do you actually believe that it should be legal to kill a baby 1 day before labour??”

There are cases in which medical technology has determined that the baby will not survive the birth, and labor will endanger the mother. In those cases, it should be legal to abort regardless of the month, yes.

A blanket law against abortion with no provisions for special cases is much worse than leaving such decisions up to those directly concerned, in my view. The women and doctors I know personally would not have or perform abortions except in the most dire and immediate necessity, regardless of laws.

Speaking for myself, if there was a multi-verse and I was informed that in some of its other universes I had been aborted, I would feel no outrage or moral condemnation. I didn’t exist for billions of years in this universe, and it will continue on for many billions of years after I no longer exist. My existence is not a moral necessity. This of course is not meant to condone the forcible termination of any entity capable of survival and decision-making on its own, or whose loss would unnecessarily harm its associates. E.g., I do not condone capital punishment, although several states do.

To Topology Guy: I also disagree with our host’s recommendation to rush vaccines into use without all standard testing, but at some point the experts have to make a decision, and it seems to me they made the right one, as the mRNA vaccines seemed to have saved millions of lives. Also, as Dr. Aaronson has pointed out, no one was actually forced to take the vaccine. (I got my fourth dose last week, though.)

101. Scott Says:

Jilian #94:

“I continue to think the majority of you recoil against hatred and dehumanization of anyone—whether that means”…unborn babies or …
Right?

Already addressed multiple times. The ones with brains, yes. I find it hard to articulate in what sense, if any, the ones without brains have more personhood than a sperm cell.

102. Dohnny Jepp Says:

JimV:

You have not addressed my point-

It seems completely LEGAL for a healthy mom to kill her -1 day old HEALTHY baby.

I do not see much difference between killing a -1 day old baby and killing a +1 day old baby. The latter is first degree murder, whereas the former is legal in 7 states in the USA.

By the way, this is allowed only in the USA and Canada, and in no other country in the world. For example, Sweden allows abortion only before 18 weeks. Denmark 12 weeks.

103. Qwerty Says:

American culture is only one culture in the world. There are others. In many of them, shy and nerdy are not unattractive qualities in a man. Not at all.

It seems deeply ingrained in Western women though, to see mindless aggressiveness in men as somehow attractive. (Maybe in Westernized women living in other cultures, too). Insulting shy nerdy men might be a part of this.

I guess I still don’t quite understand this American phenomenon sometimes despite having lived there so long. (Currently visiting India).

I have always found non-nerdy people boring. Shy often means artistic, thoughtful…These are attractive qualities in anyone.

I understand this is all very complex. But there is a clear delineation between “male” and “female” qualities in the West, that doesn’t exist in many older cultures.

My father, as a child, was dressed up as a girl by his conservative Tamil parents, to invite neighbors to functions. This is very traditional.

Some of our forms of God, like Shiva as Ardhanareeshwara (literally, half man half woman) are considered attractive men. I found a temple called Iravan temple where a union between Shiva and Vishnu is celebrated. These are iconic male Gods who are the epitome of masculinity too. Christian evangelicals here from the West routinely mock these things, to persuade poor Indians to convert. They are appealing to the distaste they expect them to feel towards this. Indians don’t get that particular appeal at all.

It is almost impossible to explain this to someone raised in the West. Maybe they’d feel insulted by this even. Or want to laugh at this. Or, be violent towards this.

104. Pace Nielsen Says:

Sandro #98: I couldn’t agree more! Just so you know I’m not faking this sentiment, please see my comment #172 here: https://scottaaronson.blog/?p=5807#comments

105. Scott Says:

Just Another Commenter #93:

I still think it’s unfortunate that this whole “nerds vs. feminists” thing has taken away from what is supposed to be the main purpose of this post, raising money for women in need. I suggest this to you, Scott: perhaps it’s time to make a fresh new post hashing out the whole “love shy nerdy guys” thing.

I’ll point out that it was “Feminist Bitch,” not me, who connected the two topics.

More importantly, though: I was just thinking the opposite, that I shouldn’t blog more about sensitive topics like “love-shy nerdy guys,” even if they’re important and even if I have something to say, because of the extreme asymmetries caused by the fact that I put my real name and reputation on the line with everything I say here, while almost none of the people challenging me (or accusing me of sexism, cowardice, etc etc) do likewise. This was infamously a huge contributing factor to the comment-171 affair, although in that case at least Amy and I actually succeeded in understanding each other better (even while much of the rest of the planet condemned me…), and I even met Amy in real life afterward. She’s real.

This time, though, there’s a new element: namely, a substantial fraction of readers seem to think that I’m being trolled by people who don’t sincerely believe their own arguments and merely seek a reaction from me. Whether or not that’s true in this particular case, just the live possibility of it is profoundly demoralizing to me. I’m indeed hugely vulnerable to “emotional guerrilla warfare,” whereby bad actors hiding under cover of anonymity can say anything whatsoever to try to trigger me, and then turn around and punish me for any misstep in my response. And if this is the new reality of blogging, then I don’t see any defenses other than to (1) stop blogging about emotionally sensitive topics altogether, or else (2) stop engaging with anonymous commenters if I do.

Does anyone else have a suggestion?

106. Harvey Friedman Says:

I thought that this discussion, inspired by the leaked Alito memo against Roe, would focus on interesting Constitutional, legal, logical, and philosophical issues, but it seems to have gotten pretty far away from that. Maybe I can draw it back to that, at least somewhat.

I already talked about the issue of which matters should be left to the Legislative branches and which matters should be left to the Judiciary. I mentioned that the intellectually cleanest solution to this is what Alito is doing, with the idea that if it isn’t “explicitly in the Constitution” then it should be left to the States. And then one has the interesting logical and legal and philosophical question of just what “explicitly in the Constitution” really means and how it is to be determined.

But I also sense another issue here. I think Scott wants to take the position that there are obvious irrefutable absolutes that cannot be challenged or should not be allowed to be challenged even if there are States where these are not accepted, or not accepted at least without modification.

In other words, “it is so obvious that a woman has the right to terminate a pregnancy up to a few seconds before natural birth that it is simply not debatable and letting States vote on this is totally unacceptable”.

This raises the question of just what are the criteria for the “completely obviously correct” in this context. That is: what should warrant Federal Judicial fiat?

We do understand how to deal with this near perfection in mathematics. But I do not think we know how to deal with this in social contexts.

We all know that there is widespread differences of opinion about the “right to terminate pregnancy” down to details about when in the pregnancy and also other circumstances such as rape, incest, life of the mother, etcetera.

So what justifies the insistence of a “one size fits all” solution to this problem?

Same can be said about the less involved “marriage should not require biologically opposite sexes”. This is less involved because there isn’t the “length of term” issue we have with termination of pregnancy.

You may want to also say that it is completely obviously true without any need for discussion that “marriage should not require biologically opposite sexes”. And therefore it should be the realm of Judicial fiat also. But how do you argue that this is completely obvious?

I have never heard arguments that any such things are completely obvious. Such an argument for either one of them would require a rather elaborate and subtle theory in order to get close to making these “completely obvious”.

Without them being completely obvious, it is rather compelling to me that such things need to be left to the States under our US Constitution. At least this is the most intellectually attractive way to proceed. (I am less clear about the proper role of Congress in this – Schumer wants Congress to repeat some form of Roe).

I know that Scott wouldn’t propose a Truth Commission to determine what the obvious principles are in human affairs. Or maybe??

And I know that Scott would be rather uncomfortable proposing some elitist system where some chosen few thinkers decide what is and what is not obviously true in human affairs. ??

If such matters are now to be properly viewed as utterly obvious then why weren’t they considered utterly obvious earlier? Human race has been around for some time.

107. Qwerty Says:

My view is, one of the greatest minds of our time (Dr. Aaronson’s) should not spend any energy responding to abusive commenters. Or reading their abuse…

Why? No one really knows if they’re sincere about their nasty comments or not, but the way they express themselves should not be encouraged.

They need to know that no one might be reading their abusive communication. A program or preferably person ought to be hired to screen incoming communication! And commentors should be made aware that this is being done.

There is no point trying to understand evil.

108. Shmi Says:

> Does anyone else have a suggestion?

Well, you could require more scientific standards, and only allow “emotional guerrilla warfare” if the writer first does a decent job summarizing your position and key points before attempting to refute them. And, of course, return the favor in your reply. Which you mostly already do, anyway.

109. Anonymous Scott Fan Says:

Hey Scott,

I’m a young guy in STEM and a big fan of your work. Like you, I’ve suffered really, really horribly in the past from this whole “love shy nerd” thing. You’re one of a tiny, tiny number of advocates for us in the public sphere, so it would be a real shame, in my opinion, if you withdrew from talking about it.

Re #105, I have what I believe to be a really, really, really neat solution to your problem. I agree that debating anonymous commenters, some of whom may be insincere, is unproductive and emotionally draining. I think I have a way, though, that you can really talk about these deeply important issues in a different and far more productive setting.

I’m emailing you my idea. Please do let me know what you think about it.

Sincerely,

A Fan

110. Gen Fudou Says:

@Scott #105 #79

My recommendation is to never let provocative garbage comments through moderation, for any reason. If you suspect the comment might be a troll, it’s probably bad enough that it should’t be let through in either case. The problem is that there really are a lot of bad actors who are chomping at the bit to corrupt any forum and discussion. The unfortunate truth is that you have to be pretty heavy handed about comment moderation if you don’t want the place in question to descend to the level of Twitter and 4chan.

111. VT Says:

Donating $500– Thank you for the match! 112. Incel Says: You have no idea how much I’m hurting. The idea of sex feels literally impossible. Impossible. Like being an astronaut or some shit. That’s what “being in a relationship” feels like to me. Like I literally can’t even imahine it because it’s so far outside my actual realm of experience. I feel like I have a better chance of proving P vs NP than getting laid. I’m not even joking. I’m hurting so much and YOU’RE THE ONLY FUCKING GUY ANYWHERE who talks about my suffering outside of fucking 4chan. The one fucking guy. Your posts oh incelism are one of the few things that have goven me hope and lifted me up. Like your comment 171 so many years ago. And your answer to Techcel here. The idea of you stopping talking about these emotional vulnerable things on your blog fills me with so much fucking despair and dread. I’m befging you Scott. Please. Don’t stop talking about these things. I wish you would post more regularly about them. You can kick out the bad faith commenters but let people actually talk about their lived experiences. I’m on my knees right now begging you from the bottom of my heart to continue speaking out for us and offering the one corner of the internet where we can talk about these thing. Please. 113. Douglas Knight Says: OhMyGoodness #96, I had not seen that HIV vaccine study before, but I looked and, of course, it’s like the many claims I mentioned: retrospective p-hacking. 114. Jeffrey Goldberg Says: Donated$100

115. JimV Says:

Mr. Jepp, I don’t believe any mother in her right mind would carry a healthy baby for nine months minus one day and then decide to abort it for no medical reason, nor that any doctor would assist in that. So doing so would be evidence of insanity and cause for consignment to an asylum.

From what data I can find in Wikipedia, the abortion rate in Oregon is lower than the USA average. I think you are getting worked up over an imaginary case.

In any case, overturning Roe v. Wade and Casey would have no effect on what the Oregon legislature determines, so it is a red herring as far as that debate is concerned.

116. JimV Says:

On the criterion of obviousness, as recommended by Harvey Friedman:

That slavery is bad has not been obvious to many people throughout history. Perhaps we should let states decide that?

What is not obvious to me is that it is any of my business if two people who are not of opposite sexes want to commit to each other in marriage so as to share spousal rights (for hospital visits, inheritances, etc.).

Fine for excessive commenting: I will donate another $100. 117. Bill Kaminsky Says: I donated$250 just now to Fund Texas Choice. Thanks, Scott, for running this matching campaign.

==============

If you’ll indulge me, here’s a personal vignette or two that I address to both:

– all the screaming souls that are writing in or at least looking at this comments thread in the far-fetched-hope (well, far-fetched until you consider the rest of the internet) that you’ll find some solace here,

– as well as all the not-screaming souls (or, at least, not-screaming-*here* souls) that are also writing in or at least looking at this comments thread, but instead going “umm, WTF happened to this quantum computing blog?!!”

[[ Version #1: The short, sweet, platitudinous version that’s also kinda plagiarizing Dan Savage’s support campaign for LGBT youth that had its high point circa 2010-2012 ]]

It gets better.

And what Dan Savage, et al., didn’t explicitly say but is kinda implicit in what they said and is the truly vital message: **It still gets better even after you correct for the fact you will be f@%king up and pi&&ing away some of the things that will indeed eventually come along and maybe even make you go “Holy s#!t !!! Things can be a lot better!!” but, alas, you’ll f@%k up and pi&& away because — like everything else — not f@%king things up and pi&&ing them away is a skill that takes practice.**

It really can get better if you hang on.

And if hanging on is getting tough, then — as freakin’ unhelpful [read: heart-crushingly disappointing and painful] as it may at first feel — please-oh-please seek out professional mental health help.

Believe me, I know such forays into the world of professional mental health likely will elicit repeated feelings of of “Umm, didn’t you go to school for like a decade to help people like me? As such, HOW THE HECK CAN YOU JUST LIKE THE SEEMING REST OF HUMANITY NOT UNDERSTAND ME AT ALL?!!” But it’s the best thing humanity’s yet invented for true major depression… even better than trying to find understanding among strangers on a quantum computing blog’s comment threads! Really!! Best thing at the moment is better than waiting on better thing than may never come in time. Really.

[[ The somewhat longer version to establish my bona fides in being laid low but getting up and, you guessed it, it “getting better”. ]]

Once upon a time in the early 00s, I was in the throes of an episode of major depressive disorder. It was exacerbated generally by:

(a) me struggling in my first years in MIT’s PhD program, and
(b) me having made the really non-conducive-to-mental-health choice to live by myself with no roommates for the first time.

It was also exacerbated specifically by me cycling off SSRIs and cycling onto Wellbutrin, which — don’t get me wrong — does work for many, but Lordy, caused significant adverse reactions in my po’ po’ lil’ addled brain. In my case, Wellbutrin pushed me over the edge to an inner seething at anybody and everybody I saw of any age around me who seemingly was even a little happy.

That would be horrid enough in and of itself, but given that I’m also somewhat a sufferer of neurotic scrupulosity, I felt SUPER GUILTY about this. How SUPER GUILTY did I feel? Well, suffice it to say that I feelt SUPER GUILTY to the extent that I literally wanted to [content warning: not pretty image] scrape my face off on the nearest brick wall.

But what was that nearest brick wall? At the time, I didn’t know what it was. It was just a brick wall near the corner of Prospect St and Mass Ave in Central Square. But in the coming years — lo and behold! — it was a wall very near the Central Square Starbucks where I’d eventually meet the veritable goddess that was my wife. Yes, I say “was”. It eventually ended in a divorce [amicable, don’t worry]. And, as you might’ve guessed, it ended because I, not yet having enough practice not f@%king things up and pi&&ing them away despite every freakin’ intention of doing the exact opposite, eventually — umm — f@%ked it up and pi&&ed it away.

BUT STILL… even correcting for that… it did get better.

And, oh right! In fact, that’s not even my main point in sharing this vignette.

Wait, what was my main point?

Oh right! My main point is this: As I often did at that time, I soothed myself by procrastinating by going into bookstores. And that day, I went into Harvard Book Store and saw a book* that had the following great (and kinda out-of-context, but that honestly made it even greater) quote from Czeslaw Milosz as an epigraph to one of its middle sections to which I just luckily happened to open the book:

“It is possible that there is no other memory than the memory of wounds.”

I literally broke down crying in the middle of Harvard Book Store that day in the early 00’s.

But it was a good type of crying. Well, ok, it obviously was a partially drug-enhanced crazy type of crying too. But it really was good, for it was then that the seed of truth began to sprout in my po’ po’ addled lil’ brain that, while there are no doubt some lucky ones who lived charmed life, man-oh-man do people of all genders, races, classes, and creeds suffer. And they suffer in no small part due to the fact that — apologies if you know what’s coming because I’m getting repetitive — not f@&king things up is a skill that, alas, the vast majority of us don’t start skilled at. But you can get better at it if you hold on. Just hold on… life will give you lots of opportunities to practice said skill… wayyyy more than you likely want at any given moment. Thanks, life! Oy.

Seriously, it really can get better. So, please hold on.

I wish y’all a good night, and I wish you way more than good luck.

* P.S. The book that had that Milosz quote as an epigraph somewhere in the middle of it was Jedediah Purdy’s _Being America_. Though I bought the book then and there, I don’t know I ever read it enough to truly recommend it. YMMV.

118. OhMyGoodness Says:

Douglas Knight #113

It was a double blind randomized placebo controlled study. At 42 months follow up the placebo group had 37 positives for HIV while the vaccinated group had 63 positives. Are you suggesting that the impact of a vaccine should be determined immediately in order not to be retrospective?

119. Boaz Barak Says:

To all real commenters: If you are suffering, please do seek help. However anonymous blog posts is the last place you’d want to go for advice, and it is also deeply unfair to Scott for the reasons he mentioned in #105.

Scott: It’s your blog and you should do with it as you like, but I think many readers like me would be happy to go back to the regular scheduled programming of quantum computing, and your insights on science at large (and in particular that Dall E preprint)

120. Postdoc ergo proper hoc Says:

Hello Scott,

You said you wanted to hear people who are moderate. I count myself as one, and let me tell you that I’ve never found you to be misogynistic or any of the other things people like feminist bitch (FB) call you. Sometimes I’ve even defended you in presence of people who call you all sorts of things.

There’s no point in talking about why people like FB are ridiculous. My problem is with you. Why do you engage with them? I’m all for being open and listening to everyone and trying to learn from them, however, it shouldn’t be at the cost of losing oneself. Engage with someone who makes a valid point, or one that made you think, or one that taught you something. Be like how you are with your policy on reading proofs of P!=NP.

Look at your response to the comment itself. You are forced to start defending how 24 hours time is reasonable. Now, if you had taken a week to post something on this, or a month, or never for whatever reason, does that prove FB’s insinuation? Once you start defending yourself and get into the “hey I’m not a bad guy because I did X, y, z”, you’ve already started digging a hole for yourself. Consider either complete ignoring of such people or a more non-defensive response like “I welcome criticism, but your narrative is unbalanced – you form a misbegotten hypothesis, ignore all data that contradicts it, and then post something self righteous and non constructive. Thanks for mentioning it, but kindly fuck off, because you are either stupid or disingenuous.” If however the commenter had said something like “you not displaying urgency in saying something is not good”, at least that’s a concrete and constructive point.

Your brand of reasoned argument will not work with everyone. Rude is the only thing that gets through to some people. If you are not comfortable being stern, at least learn to ignore. My father-in-law changed my life by teaching me that complete ignoring and non-responsiveness is very useful – it is effective, empowering and great for peace of mind.

One final thing. I once wrote you a fawning email. You responded very tersely (not rude, but colossally to the point). I understand you get a lot of email, and you cannot engage with everyone, but you engage with FB despite the fact that what they say is so meaningless, and you don’t with someone who doesn’t do such stuff. How is it a wonder that you don’t hear from moderates more? May I suggest some re-alignment of priorities? 🙂

121. Passerby Says:

After reading all of the intensity in these comments, just a friendly reminder that, on the whole, life is ok.

122. Matty Wacksen Says:

@Scott #28:

Commenting again, because you mention a “limited 15 week ban” being something you could support, and I just read a Bloomberg article that touched on this, and a number of other points here from which I will quote directly below.

> Eventually, they [opponents of Roe] built up to bans on abortion after 15 weeks of gestational age, the restriction specified by the 2018 Mississippi law that has put the issue before the Supreme Court now. These laws are popular in most polls, gaining support even from some people who consider themselves pro-choice, but directly conflict with Roe. As both parties arguing the Mississippi case agreed, the justices had to choose between keeping the law and keeping Roe.

Source:

123. Lorraine Ford Says:

I support women’s bodily autonomy. Years ago, I myself had an early-stage abortion: its legal in my country. When will the Christian fundamentalists, and other fundamentalists, stop trying to control women?

And why do these fundamentalists oppose killing human fetuses, when they don’t oppose killing living conscious animals, to eat, or in experiments. My point being that these people seem to consider that human beings are a sacred species. But, as science has shown, human beings have a lot in common with every other species on the planet: it is illogical to believe that human beings are a sacred species.

It’s a difficult issue, but I think people should try to respect ALL the life on this planet.

I agree with Topologist guy #50, and I think it has absolutely nothing to do with whether the vaccines are effective or not.

I can respect and understand people who truly value personal body autonomy, as a value. The value being people’s right to control what is going on with their body, including whether they take a vaccine or whether they allow a pregnancy to continue.

I can also respect and understand people who truly value human life, as a value. The value meaning doing everything to preserve and protect human life, by both mandating vaccines, which I agree save human lives, and by preventing abortions, which end human lives. Except in edge cases, there’s no denying that without an abortion, there would be a human living and breathing at the end of the pregnancy. The rest, in my opinion, is rationalizing murder, and I find arguments about the age of the fetus similar to arguments about only old people dying from corona, except the case of fetuses is actually worse since no fetuses survive an abortion and the fact that fetuses actually have their whole life ahead of them.

I think anyone reaching a middle conclusion isn’t a man (or woman) of values but instead just a hypocrite that is easily manipulated by various emotional triggers of his political tribe. Sadly, that includes you Scott, because if you actually held bodily autonomy as a higher value than human life, you would oppose all the vaccination mandates. Whether they come from the government or not is irrelevant.

My personal opinion is actually for choice, including murder of fetuses. I don’t think the government should be allowed to tell you what to do. You should know you’re literally murdering a future human and then be allowed to do it. Just like you should be able to know you’re endangering everyone, and old people especially, when you don’t take the vaccine. But in order for the choice to be real, you need a society which understands that this is murder. It isn’t a choice when there is no understanding. Just like with the vaccines.

125. Sandro Says:

Pace Nielsen #104:

Great, so we can take up the discussion on abortion when those others measures have been taken.

126. Ted Says:

Scott #105: One way to (slightly) decrease the asymmetry in anonymity between you and potential troll commentators would be to adopt a comment moderation policy that for borderline cases, you’ll lean toward accepting troll-ish comments posted under a full real name, or at least a name that plausibly could be the poster’s real name, and you’ll lean toward rejecting troll-ish comments published under obvious pseudonyms. That would shift the burden onto the commenter to decide whether their comment adds enough substance to the conversation to merit being made from an identifiable source.

127. Douglas Knight Says:

OhMyGoodness, 118,

Your link contains none of those numbers. It emphasizes a retrospective subgroup analysis, which is what I responded to (and that was only in one study—it did not replicate in the other study). It is true that it claims an increased risk in the base study, but without numbers. I clicked through to citations 2 and 3 and saw that they were hazard ratios of 1.2 and 1.25, which are worse than nothing, but the confidence intervals were 0.6-2.2 and 0·76–2·05, so these were simply null results, falsely described by your link. Those were the ~18 month blind RCTs. Because of that null result, the study was terminated and the 42 month followup was not blind. Yes, if people falsely believe that they have been vaccinated, they make take more risks. That is not a biological effect of the vaccine.

128. 1Zer0 Says:

Some of the comments here sound like 4chan tier baits getting a reaction / long post out of people to burn their lifetime on that.

How is your timely engagement in those people compatible with

“Thus, whatever I wanted to accomplish in my intellectual life, I should probably get started on it now.”

129. JimV Says:

If the infrastructure is available for it, I would recommend a fee for commenting, on the order of two cents per word with some minimum, to be split between the hosts for their time and effort, and charity (tax deductions if any for the charity donations would go to the hosts). The fee could be waived by the hosts at their discretion if they consider the comment useful. Moderation rules would still apply, and there would be no right to have the fee waived if the comment is not accepted–comment at your own risk.

130. Scott Says:

Postdoc ergo propter hoc #120: You make an interesting point. Besides blogging, a non-negligible fraction of my life is spent answering emails from strangers all over the world: people seeking career or grad school advice, who want to interview me for their science podcast, who have a technical question, who want to know whether to take some claimed breakthrough seriously, etc. etc. I used to answer every single inquiry, but became more selective once the volume became overwhelming. So your question is: if I’ve already accepted the necessity of triage in answering people who like me and mean well and just want help or advice, then why do I feel an obligation to spend days pouring my heart out when someone publicly accuses me of misogyny or cowardice or some other sin?

I can only give a personal psychological answer to this question: it’s because, in such cases, it feels like the entire world is accusing me, and I therefore now have the burden of clearing my name before the world. I mean, not when I get attacked from my right. Attacks from my right, if anything, increase my credibility with the respectable mainstream that sits forever in judgment over me. But attacks from my left? That’s my academic colleagues, and the girls who sneered at me in high school, and the writers at Slate and Salon and the New York Times and Washington Post and New Yorker, and the people who you yourself met who “call me all sorts of things” and from whom I’m grateful that you defended me … all rolled into one. That’s everyone who’s on the “right side of history” and who has the power to declare me to be on the wrong side of history. So the question is: how could I not respond? How is it even a choice, a decision?

Having said that, if it’s possible or likely that the often-anonymous people who level these accusations don’t even mean it—that they’re just trolling, just doing it for the lulz— then that changes everything. On the one hand, it’s catastrophic for the basic model of this blog since 2005, which is that “the world” (in the form, mostly, of commenters) sends me challenges, and then I answer “the world.” If I don’t even know which challenges to take seriously, then that model has to end now. On the other hand, it of course removes a huge burden from my shoulders. I’ll put basically any amount of time and emotional energy into answering the tribunal of the world … but not if I learn that, once the justices retreat to their chambers, they just take off their robes and laugh hysterically over the fact that they got me to take them seriously. In the latter case, the tribunal of the world can go fuck itself.

131. OhMyGoodness Says:

Douglas Knight #127

Of course the clinical trial included risk reduction counseling and this from the Findings of the Phambili trial conducted circa 2007-

“Differences in risk behaviour at baseline or during the study, or annualised dropout rate (7·7% [95% CI 6·2–9·5] for vaccine recipients vs 8·8% [7·1–10·7] for placebo recipients; p=0·40) are unlikely explanations for the increased rate of HIV-1 infections seen in vaccine recipients.

In 2015 there was an additional registered clinical trial to locate the Phambili participants that were seronegative at the end of Phambili for additional testing that found again more positives in vaccinated men (19 additional vaccinated and 17 additional unvaccinated).

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0137666

Human beings are difficult medical subjects with often unconsidered genetic differences, complex behaviors, require long observational periods, have stringent ethical requirements, huge financial incentives for successful drug development, and subject to infection by pathogens that are often genetically diverse and have been at the game for eons. I understand your comments about a thimble of signal in an ocean of noise. This study does show a strong signal but as is usually the case does not provide absolute certainty. On balance this study in conjunction with other independent studies of this vaccine that showed the same, albeit weaker, signal of increased infection risk with vaccination satisfy my requirements for beyond a reasonable doubt but understand that it is not certain. Drug development provides good work for statisticians. 🙂

132. fred Says:

Man, if parts of Scott’s blog post get strategically quoted, the references to “Feminist Bitch” may really be confusing to a lot of people and work against Scott.
But that was probably the intent of the original poster using “Feminist Bitch” as a handle…
From now on I’m gonna post under the name “Quantum Computers Will Never Work”

133. fred Says:

Scott #7

” It’s like: if I’m going to imagine that, then why not go further, and picture the sperm and egg cells similarly crying out, that I let them remain mere potentialities? “

To play “devil”‘s advocate, because, no matter how long you wait, an isolated spermatozoid or egg cell on will never turn into a human, but once they’ve merged and start dividing and growing, if you wait 9 months, you get a human (a very specific one).

134. fred Says:

I think both hardcore feminists and incels can find solace in the fact that very soon VIRTUAL REALITY SEX will be so amazing that no-one will hardly care about having “real” sex anymore…

Even workplace interactions will mostly happen through the extra layer of indirection provided by VR (or video streaming with some real-time deep-fake manipulation thrown in), so all shallow outward-facing individual features (sex, color, voice, age) will become hidden, neutralizing most of identity politics antics.

135. fred Says:

Q: what would the “abortion” debate be like if humans had their fetus develop for 9 months in an egg that’s outside the female as soon as the conception starts (like birds). Would it be okay for either parent to go ahead and smash the egg as long the baby hasn’t come out of it yet?
If not, why is it so fundamentally different from having the baby grow in a pouch (placenta) inside the female (i.e. mammals)?

136. pete Says:

I finally read the Alito opinion in its entirety. There is a fair amount I do not understand due to my non-legal background.

For example, he goes to great lengths to establish that, prior to Roe v Wade, there was very little support for abortion in the country. But our society has evolved over those years (even giving women the vote!), so surely the rights implied by the constitution have evolved as well. Now a majority of Americans support abortion.

A further is the issue of “viability”. In the US, it is 24 weeks and that seems a long time (to me, but feel free to correct me). Especially since the vast majority of abortions occur in the first 12 weeks. I wonder if the 15 weeks requested in the case is out-of-line – it is more than France, for example. Of course, 15 weeks was very likely suggested by Mississippi specifically to raise less of an uproar when Roe v Wade was overruled and that state would rapidly enact a new, 0 week law after the overturning. But perhaps the Supreme Court could take viability down to some X week law, all based on the “undue burden” to the Mother. And still keep Roe v Wade. Of course, then they’d feel like a legislature but the huge, huge changes caused by an overturning might justify this.

137. Dan Staley Says:

You know, I’ve always found it a strange leap of logic to assume that a “right to sex” should imply some kind of forced sex slavery. I don’t know if there should be a “right to sex”, but if there were the next logical step to me is to legalize prostitution and issue vouchers (to everyone regardless of gender). It’s so strange to me that both the incel and feminist arguments seem to jump to a much darker conclusion.

Scott #130: So all these leftist (I won’t use the term liberals because of the injustice American leftists inflicted on the word) are extremely mean, driven by lack of empathy, quick to misjudge, cancel culture and suppress free speech, but you still call them “right side of history”. This is pure tribalism. At what point do you ask yourself, are they the bad guys? What kind of tribe is it, that treats you so badly?

The words feminist, democratic, liberal, and racist used to mean very different things. You’re used to the old meaning, you don’t realize that they are corrupted. Liberal used up stand for liberty, now it stands for people who oppose freedom and instead feel entitled to “equality”. Feminists used to fight for rights that all women should have similar to men, but today after all those rights were achieved, they fight for entitlements. Racism used to mean treating someone different because of race, but today your called racist for not giving “minorities” their entitled privileges of affirmative action, safe admitting your “white privilege”
Standing for LGBT used to mean standing against systematic persecution of these people, but today it means standing for systematic persecution by these people of anyone criticizing them.

These are not people of values. They are entitled spoiled kids who will follow whatever narrative gives them more power. They are definitely not on the right side of history. They are on the side that’s left.

As for the whole incel discussion, I have one insight. Women don’t understand what attracts them. There was one research from a dating website that women swipe right on only 4 in 100 men. It was an extremely depressing research. But you need to understand that whenever a women tells you that they don’t judge by looks or that they look for personality, or all the other common things women say, end of the day, those women would probably swipe left many men on looks alone because that’s basically all there is on those dating websites. Men on the other hand swipe right pretty frequently, about third to half of all women. A man can easily tell you what’s attracting or not about a women, and the statistics will show that he actually follows the self described behavior, but whatever really goes on with women is a mystery to everyone.

139. Elon Says:

Yo once the check clears I’m giving fred a blue checkmark.

140. OhMyGoodness Says:

Douglas #127

…and Actuaries estimate the drug development statisticians mistakes. 🙂

fred #132

Also the question how GPT3 will interpret these remarks and the hope that ‘3 is kind.

141. Yev Says:

Feminist liberal arts type #73: What you are suggesting is a civil war, and US can’t have a civil war because both sides would likely end up with some part of US nuclear arsenal. It can collapse like USSR, but a (hot, non-proxy) war is off the table.

However there is something you can do if you are so eager to fight in a war against authoritarians and fascists. You can come to Ukraine and join our international legion. See fightforua.org for more information, and feel free to talk to your local Ukrainian embassy or consulate if you have any questions.

142. Qwerty Says:

Incel and some others :
Perhaps the solution for shy nerdy men, is socialize online. Facebook actually is a good way. Your intelligence and ability with words will be appreciated without great pressure to have “social skills”.

Another, is to practice in-person socializing. Like with anything, one improves with practise. That “growth mindset” can help with social skills too, not just math (one hears about this mindset in the context of math typically).

All this was (and is) so much easier in India. I have several cousins who are extremely shy. This was just a few years ago…their parents found them matches online using a “matrimonial” website. They met these girls. Sometimes it fell through and eventually something clicked. I notice Indian kids growing up in America refuse to even consider this option. It is socially taboo I guess. I think this system evolved for a good reason. It helps many young people.

I am somewhat suspicious of people with smooth social skills. They don’t seem authentic to me. 🙂 It takes all kinds of ppl to make the world.

143. Art Says:

On the topic of managing the blog: I suggest hiring someone to do the first pass of moderation. Or, failing that sustained cost, have an AI do it. Something like ‘check probability of “no” as a response to “given this thread X is the following post genuine: P” You can even validate the model yourself for the first few weeks.

Someone more clever at prompt engineering could expand options. Ideally you want correct summaries of previous arguments, no petty attacks, and good faith.

It may make sense to put a person to the task for just the high tension posts like this one?

144. Ilio Says:

Fred #135,

A few years ago, on one of the most women-friendly land on earth, my wife asked a colleague whether she should hired a research assistant he once had. He was very positive about the candidate. Smart. Hard-working. Very capable. And, also, « she has no boyfriend so less chance she will go on maternity leave ».

Tell me Fred, in your self-caring egg scenario, would women be less at risk of being denied a position if it is believed they could lay an egg? If not, that’s not what life looks like for women. Also, a baby in your belly can sometime kill you. I know, who could have guessed, right?

145. JimV Says:

In my admittedly-biased opinion, over half of the comments in this thread do not contain enough merit to justify the time spent reading them. Random example: asking us to consider the morality of birds destroying their young (which any nature show will testify does happen) and equating* that to a woman having an ectopic pregnancy aborted, or electing to abort an early pregnancy in order to take chemotherapy in hopes of surviving cancer to raise the three young children she already has**. With a fee-for-comment system, at least some good might come from such comments.

Following my own recommendation, I have donated a third 100 to the site in the OP. * by implying there is no difference between growth of an embryo inside an egg shell and inside a woman. ** these are both actual, not imaginary, cases known to me. 146. Scott’s Woke “Bully” Says: Leave it to Scott to turn literally every topic ever, even helping under-priviledged women, into a [REST OF COMMENT REDACTED] 147. Scott Says: Scott’s Woke Bully #146: Is it relevant in any way that I am not the one who connected the two topics — the commenter calling herself “Feminist Bitch” was the one who connected them? “That self-important whiner Aaronson! He diverts even the hugely important topic X into yet another conversation about antisemitism … and for no better reason than that my ally declared in public that even though Aaronson strongly agrees with us on topic X, his waiting a full 24 hours to blog his agreement is unacceptable and the sort of thing that only a hook-nosed Jewboy would do…” 148. Lorraine Ford Says: Re Trolls etc.: What a nightmare world. A world where some people lie and pretend, seemingly in order to create division, confusion, mischief, suspicion, and paranoia in other people. Has anyone seen the witty British comedy show “Would I Lie to You?”, where contestants spin tales, and the other contestants have to guess whether they are lying or not? It’s difficult to tell if people are lying because the world is full of improbable events and characters. It’s a very funny show, but comedy is always based on something true about the world. Presumably, the reason why one of the Ten Commandments is about lying is because of the harm to society that lying can cause. But there have always been “white” lies, where the intent is to be nice to other people. And on the subject of the Ten Commandments, people have always killed others, e.g. in war, and killed conscious feeling animals, and there is even mercy killing, where killing is a kindness. People’s internal motives matter. The world is helped by people who try to act out of love, and the world can be harmed by people who act out of their internal confusion and hate. 149. Ashley Says: Scott #72, That was beautiful. Both philosophically and because of the practicality. (And actually it may be applicable to many others too, whose distress is of a different form than techcel’s. The algorithm of staying steadfast with spiritual principles, and then gaining both spiritually and earthily is something that you could consider applicable to all, including Feminist in Tech!) 150. Vanessa Says: “In this sad twilight for the United States and for liberal democracy around the world, we the reasonable and sane, we the fans of the Enlightenment, we the Party of Psychological Complexity, have decades of work cut out for us. For now I’ll simply say: I don’t hear from you nearly enough in the comments.” I think that a large part of the reason is: when you agree with everything and there’s nothing to add, there’s not much motivation to comment. Whereas when you’re all angry and worked up, there’s a lot of motivation (personally I usually avoid heated Internet arguments, but even I experience the temptation). So, for the record: Scott, your political opinions appear to me reasonable and kind, whereas usually your vocal critics are neither. Also, to all angry self-identified incels in the comment section: your worldview is very distorted and your woman-hatred is completely unjustifiable, but I do pity you for your predicament. Personally, I would kiss most kissless virgin nerds who asked nicely, if the chance presented itself. 151. Michel Says: To the Incels and Techcels reading this blog: All I – as a 70 year old self advertised nerd – can say: Do not panic, take your time, and remember a few things: extreme awkwardness (e.g. in relationship building) is [I]not a crime[/I]. But it is awkward, and does not make it easy. But learning [I]is[/I] possible. I myself started a fairly stable relationship at over 30, and finally married near my fortieth. A few notes: – Testosterone does not necessary improve intelligence… (and neither does a progesterone overload) – Treat the other like you want to be treated yourself: [I]Give{/I] attention first, and that entails fighting hard against your eagerness! Ask around what you might be doing differently, and take critique seriously. Readers of this blog mostly happen to be in the higher intelligence scales, use that intelligence to control your eagerness. (Although, IQ does not equate with intelligence necessarily, esp not on the EQ/Solcial intelligence scale, but it [I]does[/I] facilitate learning). Empathy is a learnable skill (at least in most cases). – Oh yes, the pain of a snub or rejection always hurts (even at 70..). Just accept the pain and go on/elsewhere. Mourn, check where you are on the Kübler-Ross scale of the 5 stages of grief, and retry after the fifth stage.. -And so on and on, some of us are born relationship builders (like my son, surprisingly), some learn after 20, some after 40, some never…. O, yes, a large minority of people just hobble on, considering all those divorces .. 152. Postdoc ergo proper hoc Says: Scott #130: You say “why do I feel an obligation to spend days pouring my heart out when someone publicly accuses me of misogyny or cowardice or some other sin?” Please allow me to say that I am making a slightly more nuanced point here. I don’t think anyone can be 100% certain that there is no misogyny in them, or that they have never exhibited cowardice, or that they never have encouraged patriarchy by their actions, etc. We could always have something to learn from people who we categorize as “extreme left”. At least, I am speaking for myself here. My point is this – once I have realized that someone has no content, or is being disingenuous and executing motte-and-bailey fallacies, or in general has nothing new to teach me, it is intellectually dishonest to not abort at that point. Especially when they are not displaying any willingness to seriously listen and engage meaningfully. Whether or not people like FB are trolls is irrelevant IMHO. Surely there exist people who think like FB. So how is it important if this person is a troll? Your answer is to anyone who aligns with those thoughts. Surely, it is not possible that the set of people who accord with FB’s narrative is an empty set. You should choose to ignore FB, not because FB might be a troll, but because FB had no content, didn’t teach us anything new, and was only arbitrarily sanctimonious. It is not wrong to hold a particular opinion. It is imperative however to back it up with justifications, even if they are just heuristic. If FB said “24 hours is too much time for what might be one of the most ridiculous rulings that is going to affect women terribly… you often have a turnaround time of less than 72 hours for even something as insignificant as small advancements in boolean functions… this is many orders of magnitude larger than that, so your response time has to be less than 1/10 of 72 hours”, then, even if you disagree, it is a concrete point. Going further, if we just accept that you should have blogged within 3 hours of the news, by being tardy in blogging about this, you are at best a “lazy blogger/activist”. You aren’t misogynistic or patriarchal because of your laziness. If I didn’t know better I’d say you have low self-esteem given that you spend so much time engaging someone who very clearly is speaking nonsense. Instead, even responding to people who choose to email you questions which they could get answers to with a simple Google search… this could help out someone clueless in need. It will be a real worthwhile contribution to humankind. You have to accept that you are not going to win everyone over. Also, by not responding, you will definitely seem like a fool and as if you have “lost” the argument. But you know better than me that you are not “winning” by continuing to reason with FB and the ilk. 153. Scott Says: Postdoc ergo proper hoc #152: You have to accept that you are not going to win everyone over. That’s really the crux, isn’t it? A dog doesn’t have anything in its verbal toolkit besides barking, a rooster besides crowing. I have nothing beyond being open and honest and self-deprecating. I have even worse comments in my moderation queue than the ones I allowed through — including one that repeats many of the favorite tropes of the high-school bullies, and fantasizes about my female students carrying pepper spray to meet with me. In some sense, I’m still the same person I was in high school, and the bullies are still the same bullies. The only difference is that I now have a successful career and wife and kids and so forth and am naturally harder to wound … which is precisely why the bullies have moved to attacking me in comment sections. The only problem is that the way I got the successful career and everything else was by being open and honest, and having nothing in my arsenal besides that, and I still have nothing else in my arsenal. But maybe that’s just the cost of doing business. 154. Interesting pattern Says: Scott, Plausibly, in your view, the political coalition you think is required for securing the very important goals you have will require working with not only the incel types but also like, mainstream and leftist feminists. So, as an outside observer who was directed to this thread by someone who was shocked by the amount of incels popping up on a post based around your support of Women’s rights and raising funds for a Texas pro choice charity, I want to ask why you seem to have a sort of divergence in how you engage with these two groups that you presumably need to work with in coalition? You are adopting a pretty kind, sympathetic, mentor-y approach to the the incels (who are espousing some righteously hostile remarks towards members of your community), while you throw out a lot of negative remarks towards the feminists (who you, presumably also need to work with, if you want to get things done). I understand the bad blood that might produce this, but strategically and logically, it doesn’t seem to hold water. Whatever the reasons, it comes across more like you aren’t taking into account the way that including the incels in the community and talking derogatorily about feminists is going to impact your readers. 155. Scott Says: Interesting pattern #154: Honest answer. The phenomenon that you’re seeing has nothing whatsoever to do with feminist activists or incels per se. Both are now groups that I’ve spent many, many hours of my life in dialogue with! Rather, you’re seeing me respond to the level of contempt (if any) that I sense in a given commenter’s words for me personally. That’s all. 156. Scott Says: To the person who left two comments in my moderation queue from a university email address, desperately seeking advice on “dating while nerdy”: Alas, now that it seems plausible that at least some of the requests for advice are trolling attempts, the usual way I’ve interacted with people on this blog is basically extinct forever (at least, unless and until I decide on and implement some novel solution). That being so, I tried to email you at the university address provided, but the email bounced. What I’d need, as I’m sure you’ll understand, is an email address that doesn’t bounce and that makes it plausible that you are who you say you are. 157. Interesting Pattern Says: I was really responding to your comment #67 I guess, which made it seem like part of what you were doing here/now/in this thread had to do with that sort of coalition stuff. I guess if you are saying you are nice to the incels because they are nicer to you and and mean to feminists because they are meaner to you, it may be good to reflect on how that interacts with the thing you said about the emotional resources to help other people. (I don’t mean that in a “ooh wicked burn on Scott” way; I mean, you keep talking about the political and social dimensions of the issue but emotionally and when you explain what you are doing your lens is principally around how reactive you are to how you personally feel and are being treated, which is exactly what you said you have some insight into helping others see their way past, due to the importance of broader political values and coalitions. 158. Scott Says: Interesting Pattern #157: I mean, is there anything inconsistent, dishonest, or hypocritical about any of this? There are thousands of causes that my reason tells me would make the world, or at least tiny little pockets of the world, better. There are only a few that also engage my emotions at the deepest level, in some cases because of the circumstances of my life. Those seem like natural causes for me to focus on, since the emotions will keep me committed even when the going gets tough. “Nerds and feminists” is one such issue for me. As you know, I never chose this issue—first circumstances largely beyond my control made it privately my issue, and then other circumstances largely beyond my control made it publicly my issue. But I did have choice in the matter, in that once the world decided that this should be my issue, I didn’t say no. I said, hell, I probably can say things that could help both nerdy women and nerdy guys with this crippling problem, and if I can, then some would argue I have a moral obligation. Other reasonable people, whose emotions and life experiences are deeply engaged by different issues (homelessness, eating disorders, gender dysphoria, breaking free from cults, whatever it is), should focus on their issues, and then ideally all the well-meaning people will cover all the bases and make the whole world better, and we’ll all work together as swimmingly as do physicists, chemists, biologists, mathematicians, etc. despite their differing focus areas. (Narrator: “Different scientific subfields don’t always work together swimmingly … but well enough, at any rate, to have created the modern world.”) Yet, while everything above seems right to me no matter how often I rethink it, there is at least one disadvantage to blogging about an issue that so deeply engages your emotions, and that’s that you’ll always be easy to trigger. It’s not that “feminists trigger me and incels don’t.” It’s that anyone sneering at me triggers me, anyone not sneering doesn’t. When I hear from feminists who are like “I disagree with you on X,Y,Z, but it’s obvious that your heart is in the right place, I’m embarrassed to have the people calling you a misogynist on the same side as me” … yeah, no, that’s not triggering at all. Whereas when I hear from derisive male bullies of the far right, who call me a cuck, eunuch, self-abasing coward, etc etc … that does trigger me at least somewhat more! Whichever the side, though, I definitely bleed when pricked by strangers who despise me. 159. Scott Says: Annnnnd … at least one person who’s trolling me just gave the game away. They pretend to be a string theorist who finds it hilarious that I dare call myself a “nerd” when quantum computing is so utterly trivial compared to string theory. But the commenter leaves a real name, which according to Google is not the real name of anyone who’s ever published in string theory. Of course, the other tell is that this is precisely the sort of thing that a troll who didn’t know much would make up to try to trigger me. If they were part of the real-world physics community, they’d be aware that the string and AdS/CFT communities (especially, e.g., Susskind, Harlow, Swingle, but even to some extent Maldacena and Witten) have gotten more and more involved in quantum information theory and complexity theory over the past decade, and would more likely be getting in touch with us to ask us a technical question than to sneer. 160. Henry Says: Scott, I appreciate the mentorship you’ve given to the incels here, but I’m curious if you have any more practical tips. Less “how you maintain a moral framework etc.” and more “here’s how you actually get laid / get a date **this month** if you’ll literally can’t stand it any more.” 161. Scott Says: Henry #160: Even if I did have something to say, (1) whatever risk I’ve ever run of getting in trouble for speaking my mind on this blog, the risk would be at least 10 times greater should I ever try to field that question (!), (2) there are vastly more qualified people than me (!!) to provide that sort of advice, and (3) if I do have a more unique contribution to make here, then I really think it is to dispense moral theory, which actually has greater practical relevance than you might think for nerdy young guys who suffer from scrupulosity. Before they can make a move, what these guys need is neither more nor less than a general moral theory that honestly, intensively grapples with the question of whether making this particular move will make them a terrible person, and that finally (in at least some cases) returns with the answer that it won’t. 162. Qwerty Says: Scott #153: “The only problem is that the way I got the successful career and everything else was by being open and honest, and having nothing in my arsenal besides that, and I still have nothing else in my arsenal.” It is also why you have loyal friends and people in your life who care about you genuinely. In all the important things in life, things that truly matter, the bullies have lost. You have won, many times over. Not that there was a real contest. Let them stew in their jealousy, misery. I just wish they’d spend this energy IMPROVING THEIR OWN LIVES instead of being venomous towards a successful person in complicated ways! The way they treat you is greatest evidence of their failure. They could choose to be inspired by you instead. 163. Just Curious Says: Scott #160, I’m genuinely curious. What does “asking out girls” require a moral compass to speak of. It’s literally as easy as 1. Don’t be creepy, 2. Take no for an answer. That’s it. There’s no feminists shaming you for asking our girls. The only shaming is for creepy behavior (deserved imo). 164. Scott Says: Just Curious #163: Because bullies of various kinds have spent the nerd’s entire life causing him to internalize that if he does it, then it is “creepy behavior”—that what matters is not so much the behavior as the inherent worth of the asker according to the super-story of the modern world, and that this inherent worth is precisely what he, as a “creepy, Aspbergery STEM nerd,” was born lacking even while normal men have it. As with many learned self-destructive attitudes and behaviors, what it takes to break out of this seems to be a sort of moral cognitive-behavioral therapy. Among other things, the whole of morality as it pertains to romantic and sexual relationships has to be reconstructed and re-analyzed from scratch, a project that can take years or even decades. It’s ironic that the nerd, should he ever succeed, has almost certainly put much more effort into that moral project than the people who presume to judge him for never having embarked on it. I hope that answers your question. 165. Just Curious Says: Scott #164, Thanks for replying. I’m still struggling to understand your perspective though. You speak in generalities about “bullies” but in this whole thread you haven’t given one specific, concrete example of something somebody said to you that inspired these thoughts of “creepiness.” Unless you can supply such a specific example (or multiple), I’m inclined to believe that this is entirely a process within your own mind rather than something “done” to you by high school bullies or feminists or anyone else. To reiterate, if this isn’t just something in your own head, what is a SPECIFIC THING somebody in your formative years did or said to you that inspired this attitude? From my perspective, there’s a pretty clear boundary between creepy behavior and normal dating behavior and I’m just struggling to understand how you could fear, like, crossing that boundary accidentally. It’s like saying you’re scared to learn to drive because you’re afraid you won’t understand the difference between driving within the right lane and veering off the road. Just as there’s clear rules for diriving, there’s a clear “double yellow line” separating being a guy women like being around and being a creep. I’m genuinely curious if uou can enlighten me as to the difference between these two situations. Again, I’m not trying to be mean or anything, I’m just trying to grasp your perspective. 166. Scott Says: Incidentally, Adam Treat #84: Thank you so much. And of course, thank you to everyone who donated! 167. Qwerty Says: Just Curious #165 : Don’t forget he finished high school at 15 or so. I’ve read that elsewhere. Kids can be very cruel. The show Young Sheldon captures the lives of profoundly gifted young children and the bullying they might experience, quite well. I am not sure asking him to relive certain negative times is necessarily good for him. I wish there would be no such questions from commentors, however well-meaning they might be. 168. Harvey Friedman Says: I was sincerely hoping that my #106 would help push this discussion back to its original purpose which is Roe. So far I have failed. But do any of you want to discuss the legal, logical, philosophical issues surrounding the Roe situation (see #106) going forward, including Scott? There is no lack of intelligence here, and it seems like a waste to move so abruptly past Roe. 169. unresolved_kharma Says: A long-time reader who rarely writes in the comment section here. After many years of silently following the blog, I think now is a good moment to leave some overdue words of appreciation (hoping to counteract at least in small part all the trolling and sneering). I am genuinely in awe of your continuous impeccable moral stance over the years, Scott. The way you have dealt with people who were clearly aiming to hurt you, without falling into the animal instinct to hurt back, is an excellent example of what it means to be a good and rational human. Your commitment to being open and honest, both intellectually and emotionally, is deeply inspiring to me. I too regard openness and honesty as core values, but I often lack the willpower to act in accordance to them. 170. Baeraad Says: Just Curious # 165: > Just as there’s clear rules for diriving, there’s a clear “double yellow line” separating being a guy women like being around and being a creep. Well, that’s… just not true? I mean, I’m sorry to be so rude, but I don’t know how else to put it. In what world is “don’t be creepy” clear and unambiguous instructions? I mean, let’s look at one of the main examples of what’s considered “being creepy,” which is “showing too much interest too soon.” *sighs* Great. “Too much.” “Too soon.” No room for misinterpretation there, right? Okay, so maybe you play it safe by not showing any interest to anyone before you’ve gotten to know them? Oh wait, *then* you’re creepy because you *hid* your interest and deceitfully pretended to want a platonic friendship only to creepily spring your lustful inclinations once the girl’s guard was down! So no, no playing it safe by taking it slow – you need to show not only the exact appropriate amount of interest, but the exact appropriate amount of interest for each exact, individual unit of time, all while pretending that it’s all completely self-evident, because all good people agree that it’s as clear as night and day and showing yourself to not be good people is *definitely* creepy. Look, I’m not saying you can’t learn, in an intuitive, pattern-recognition sort of way, where the invisible lines usually go. Even somewhat autistic guys can get a feel for it eventually, it just takes them longer than it would a regular person. But that requires trial and error, and *that* requires the right to be creepy while you’re learning how to not be creepy. The idea that you can read in an instruction manual how to avoid skeeving out women and then pull it off without a hitch out is just… completely, utterly false. Again, I’m sorry to be so blunt about it, but… 171. Andaro Says: In a free society, of course pregnant women would have a right to abort their own pregnancy. Also, in a free society, cute 10-year-old girls would have a right to sell consensual blowjobs for money on the open market. Also, in a free society, suicidal people would have a right to buy pentobarbital for personal suicide in any drug store that wants to sell it to them. Hell, in a free society, conservatives would even have a right to voice conservative opinions in public without having their faces beaten to a bloody pulp. Of course, we do not live in a free society, so none of these so-called “rights” actually apply. 172. Scott Says: Just Curious #165: You speak in generalities about “bullies” but in this whole thread you haven’t given one specific, concrete example of something somebody said to you that inspired these thoughts of “creepiness.” Unless you can supply such a specific example (or multiple), I’m inclined to believe that this is entirely a process within your own mind rather than something “done” to you by high school bullies or feminists or anyone else. To reiterate, if this isn’t just something in your own head, what is a SPECIFIC THING somebody in your formative years did or said to you that inspired this attitude? Very well then. Let me enter the memories that I’ve been trying for 20+ years to repress, and see what I can dredge up for you… – At sleepaway camp, when I’m 10 or 11, there’s a formal dance. A girl asks me to dance with her (!). I finally get over my scrupulosity and decide I can do this (as of course I want to), without it making me gross and bad. But then, as the girl and I are swaying with our arms around each other, a male counselor points at me and starts laughing, as if to say: there’s Scott, the little nebbishy nerd, presuming to dance with a girl! Thirty years later, I can still clearly see the counselor’s face. In desperate fear, I break away from the girl, leave the dance, and run into the woods in the night. – Also at this summer camp, two bullies in my bunk (I still remember their names) torment me and make my life hell day and night. My response is to start a diary recording everything the bullies do to me, so I can someday shame them in my autobiography or something. One day, one of the bullies grabs the diary away and starts reading it aloud to the whole bunk. I attack the bully. I’m then dragged away, delivered to the camp director, placed in solitary confinement, and threatened with expulsion from the camp. Nothing is done to the bully. – In the days before smartphones, a TI graphics calculator is one of my most prized possessions in the world. Surrounded by laughing girlfriends, a girl in my class grabs the calculator away from me. I try to play along—ha ha, very funny!—and politely reach for her to hand it back. Instead of returning it, she presses the calculator to her breasts with a book, in such a way that if I continue reaching for it, it will look to everyone like I’m sexually assaulting her. She and her friends consider this hilarious. – In junior high and high school, as I walk through the halls, it’s not at all uncommon that someone knocks my stuff to the floor and forces me to pick it up. I react basically the same way you’d react if this were a common occurrence in your workplace right now and you were expected to put up with it. (Do you see now why I jumped at the opportunity to leave high school at age 15 when it presented itself?) – At 15, I leave for the Clarkson School program at Clarkson University: free from bullying at last! But no, in my Clarkson School class is a tall, broad-shouldered bully with a Trump-like swagger who insults me at every opportunity, surrounded by laughing henchmen (think Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter series). The bully explains that I’m falsely claimed to be some sort of math genius, but he actually knows vastly more math than I do (in addition to being taller and better-looking) … he just doesn’t make a big deal about it. The bully then proceeds, one by one, to sleep with the beautiful girls in our class who I’d barely dared to talk to for fear of offending them. I decide that I’ll either die trying, or else produce academic achievements that so far surpass this bully’s that if he’s remembered by history, it will only be for having bullied me. (How am I doing so far? 😀 ) – Also at Clarkson, some bullies get into the habit of regularly calling my dorm phone from payphones, and shouting insults at me in a falsetto voice when I pick up. Following a pattern we’ve seen again on this thread, they zero in like heat-seeking missiles on whatever they think will most wound me—e.g., “great news Scott, heard you just got rejected from MIT!” But then, as never would’ve happened at my old high school, the school office starts an investigation, traces the calls, identifies the bullies, and suspends them. I’m sufficiently impressed that, a quarter-century later, I still recommend Clarkson School to kids who ask me for advice. – At 16, I start at Cornell: now I’m a real college student! Now I’m really free at last! But no, a bully who remembers me from high school is now also a Cornell student! He pelts my face with snow whenever he passes me by and shouts sexualized insults at me. Also, in the dorm, someone writes on my whiteboard “Scott would you have sex with us? please?” and signs it with the names of two girls who’d actually been friendly to me. My friendship with those girls is now finished. – At 19, I go to Berkeley for grad school: now I’m really, really free from this shit forever! But no, someone tells me that a female housemate has a crush on me and promises to confirm for me if I successfully guess which one. Foolishly trusting this individual, I run through a list of possibilities. He answers “no” to each one … and then proceeds to tell all the girls who I guessed, so they can laugh about it together. This incident brings me as close to suicide as I’ve been; in its aftermath, I desperately pursue mental health counseling as well as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. Is that enough for the time being or would you like me to dredge up more? 🙂 173. Scott Says: Harvey Friedman #168: I was sincerely hoping that my #106 would help push this discussion back to its original purpose which is Roe. So far I have failed. But do any of you want to discuss the legal, logical, philosophical issues surrounding the Roe situation (see #106) going forward, including Scott? There is no lack of intelligence here, and it seems like a waste to move so abruptly past Roe. I find it darkly comic that, within the context of this thread, abortion is the “safe, boring” topic, the one that got derailed by the culture war! 😀 174. Scott Says: Now that I’ve gotten those long-repressed bullying episodes off my chest, I would like to clarify to everyone reading this that my position is the same as it’s always been, the same as the one that got me into so much trouble seven years ago. Namely: (1) If we’re to live in a world where status, and standing to speak, are to be determined by the oppression one’s identity groups have suffered, then I demand a respected place in the intersectional matrix of oppression for Aspbergery male STEM nerds, alongside women in STEM, LGBT folks, racial minorities, and other groups that most male STEM nerds would proudly have for allies (when they don’t intersect those groups themselves). I respectfully submit that we’ve suffered enough and been bullied enough to qualify. (2) If this request is denied—if it’s said, for example, that the sexualized bullying of male STEM nerds doesn’t count because it’s not “systemic,” or it doesn’t really happen, or it’s actually amusing and praiseworthy (as “Feminist in Tech” has now explicitly argued, in a comment that I chose not to allow here)—then I would sooner burn down the whole intellectual edifice of intersectional oppression than go along with what’s asked. For to go along would be to deny my own past experiences and memories, and I have an iron moral obligation to my past self never to do that. 175. Dohnny Jepp Says: Hi Scott #174, “…then I demand a respected place in the intersectional matrix of oppression for Aspbergery male STEM nerds, alongside women in STEM, LGBT folks, racial minorities, and other groups that most male STEM nerds would proudly have for allies (when they don’t intersect those groups themselves). I respectfully submit that we’ve suffered enough and been bullied enough to qualify.” It is hard to tell from your comment if you actually believe that the groups you listed are “Oppressed”. In reality none of those groups are even remotely oppressed. It is absurd to believe that groups living in America in 2022 are “Oppressed”. 176. Scott Says: Incidentally, today perhaps the most painful part of the bullying memories from #172 is that, in almost every period of my life recounted there, there were girls who were romantically interested in me. In a few cases, I know that because they explicitly told me many years later. In other cases I only infer it, on the basis that they gave precisely the same sorts of signals that much later, from other girls, really did turn out to indicate romantic interest. It’s just that, for more than a decade, the bullies of both sexes successfully forced a psychological frame onto me that prevented me from ever acknowledging such a possibility (lest it turn out to be yet another prank, lest I expose myself to more ridicule and scorn). 177. Still Figuring It Out Says: Scott #176: Can you describe/explain what those signals were? How would I know what to look for? 178. J.E. Says: I’ve read your blog for a few years now without commenting. The main reason I come is for the insight into quantum computing, but I read every post. Even posts on issues I have little interest in, posts where I strongly disagree with you on some issue, posts where the comment section is terrible, I walk away glad that I read the post. Why? Mainly because of your incredible, inspiring commitment to honesty and the truth. Keep it up, you make the internet, and by extension the world, a better place by doing so. Take care of yourself though. If slightly stricter moderation makes you a slightly happier person it is probably worthwhile, and will have the side effect of making the comments more pleasant to read. You could avoid some censorship by setting up a standard reply to people whose comments aren’t accepted, asking them to consider rewording the comment to include less hate. Don’t forget that many times more people read your articles than comment on them, and these people read for a reason. 179. Vanessa Says: Scott #172 Wow, this is so awful!! I did get the impression from Hollywood movies and American books that bullying in the US is worse than what I’m familiar with, but I wasn’t sure whether it was artistic exaggeration. This is still anecdata, but I updated slightly towards the US being especially bad at this. Anyway, this really makes me want to hug young!Scott and tell him it’s all going to be great. And, I shudder to think how many boys, including brilliant minds like Scott’s, are going through something similar right now. 180. Matthieu Says: Scott, Thank you for opening up. Also since this is my first comment here, in the same vein as unresolved_kharma #169 and J.E #178, bravo for being a brilliant scientist and someone with a moral compass and who is candid and eloquent enough to write it down. The bullying you have endured is chilling to read. It reads to me as distinct from unwanted celibacy, and worse that it. Then maybe you can you make it your social cause, instead of or along with sympathy-for-the-incels and others? Can you picture yourself, I don’t know, giving talks to teachers warning of the horrors of bullying and of negligence by the adults when it happens? I mean bullying targeting boys or girls for whatever reason, whether sexualized or not. You might help more people in more dire need that when debating incels and feminists. I say that as someone who has not been bullied and who is still a long-term semi-voluntary celibate at 29. (Speaking of which, I ”have”, at the time, benefitted by your and Scott Alexander’s thoughtful writings on the issue. It did not make any girl “jam her tongue in my mouth” (#72) but helped me make peace with the fact that it does not happen. Also I must say that your depiction of romance and sex as a mechanical consequence of being a decent person rubs me the wrong way. If this is true, then my not having had a girl’s tongue jammed in my mouth should count as evidence that I’m not a morally better or socially apter person than techcel #45, which I would like to think I am.) 181. Kai Shinbrough Says: Just donated100. -A poor graduate student

182. Malmesbury Says:

Thanks for the initiative Scott. I just made an humble contribution of \$50.

183. e Says:

bolsonaro did not “consolidade his power” at all, and what power he did get was not because of american culture wars. stick to things you know (or, better yet, try to look beyond culture wars in your own country too)

184. Scott Says:

e #183: I never claimed that he obtained power because of American culture wars. There’s clearly something happening all over the world, that in reaction to it produced Trump and Erdogan and Putin and Orban and Lukashenko and Bolsonaro and Duterte and all the others working to unwind liberal democracy within the same ~15-year interval. In other words, I was trying to express precisely the opposite of a US-centric perspective.

185. Another Curious Guy Says:

Scott,

I’m not trying to minimalize your lived experiences. But from where I’m sitting, the incidents of “bullying” you’ve described are objectively unremarkable. It’s only a handful of incidents over more than a decade, and I’m sure most young people experience that kind of cruelty in middle school or whatever and learn to deal with it. I’m honestly a little disturbed by your framing of some of these incidents. For example, the “Draco” character at the Clarkson school. His bullying of you seems to literally consist of him being better looking than you and sleeping with girls you fancied. In my book, not only does that not constitute bullying, but the fact that you are calling this bullying seems to suggest that you think you’re entitled to those girls [REST OF COMMENT ALONG SIMILAR LINES, INCLUDING COMPARISONS OF ME TO MASS-MURDER ELLIOT RODGER, HAS BEEN REDACTED FOR THE SAKE OF MY SANITY] … Again, not trying to be mean. I’m really just trying to encourage you to do better and think more deeply about what you write.

186. Lorraine Ford Says:

I agree with what Sandro #98 said: “I would be more persuaded that pro-lifers actually did care about the lives of fetuses if there were evidence that they cared about children that had already been born just as much. Which is to say, that they actually pushed for well funded programs to address child poverty and food insecurity, that they funded sex education and maternity and/or paternity leave, and they seriously addressed other economic and educational disparities which drive many of these women to seek abortions.”

There is no need for men to discuss what women should do. Individual women can decide for themselves. Any debate should be about how to create a better society so that women don’t find themselves in such a difficult position.

Most of the Ten Commandments are about how people can try to create a better society for all the people in that society. This is the real issue: how to create a better society and a better world.

187. John Says:

Disagree on this one. Killing babies is not a right.

188. John Says:

#98 #185 First, conservatives are statistically more generous than liberals with regard to charitable donations (including to non-religious causes) at all income levels (and this mainly factors through religiosity).

Second, equating real charity and generosity with political support for coercive government welfare programs (https://mjperry.blogspot.com/2008/11/cartoon-of-day.html) is a false equivocation.

Finally, the “argument” you seem to be making is not even valid in the first place, but a fallacious non-sequitur.

189. Incel Apologist Says:

Matthieu,

Gotta disagree with you on this one.

“Bullying” is already a social issue that is, pretty much, universally acknowledged and condemned, and schools already have so many programs for fighting “bullying.”

Scott’s issue was really more specific. There was the intersection of bullying, targeting his sexual attractiveness, I guess, together with his experience of being a lonely young guy, insecure, and struggling with the opposite sex. Correct me if I’m wrong, Scott, but even absent these incidents of bullying you describe, your experience of being awkward with the opposite sex and struggling with a dating landscape where hyper-confident, socially smooth men dominate, would still have left you with emotional trauma.

There’s so many messages society sends to nerdy young guys that they’re awkward and unattractive, and so many messages that tell us that hitting on women is “creepy,” while, for lack of a better word, “neanderthals” somehow escape this predicament.

This is a problem with society and the way dating happens in our culture. How do you feel about this Scott?

190. Scott Says:

Another Curious Guy #185: If you’re not trying to mean or minimize lived experiences, then try harder! 😀

(1) How dare you dictate to me what my experience was? If a woman told you point-blank that someone sexually harassed her 25 years ago, would it cross your mind to mansplain to her that maybe it was just a successful guy who she was jealous of and/or had a crush on? No? Then how do you sleep at night after doing a precisely analogous thing in my case?

When I shared a fragmentary episodes from my long history with bullies (what’s the point? haven’t I learned by now that people will just press their preferred narrative onto anything I share here?), I was perfectly clear that the guy I described as a “bully” was, indeed, under the usual meanings of words, a bully—i.e., someone who repeatedly delighted in putting others down before an audience and making them miserable. Girls chose him despite that quality or because of it.

To clarify, I’ve also known guys who were confident and swaggering and wildly successful with girls and all the rest without being bullies—a few of them were even nice! I’m capable of making that distinction. I’m capable of making elementary moral distinctions more generally.

(2) How dare you compare me to Elliot Rodger? Here’s my response, if you’re able to understand it: one could argue that almost all heterosexual men (including yourself?) are “potential Elliot Rodgers,” in the sense that they were never subjected to the particular psychological pressures that Rodger was according to his manifesto … and therefore, we can only guess about what they would do if they were subjected to those pressures. I’m one of the relatively rare heterosexual men who’s not a potential Elliot Rodger—who can be completely and definitively cleared of that charge. The reason is that, in my case, the requisite experiment has already been done! I’ve been to the hell; I spent more than a decade there. And not only did I not lash out by killing anyone (!!), not only did I not (to the best of my recollection) assault or hurt or coerce or wound anyone, but I later took to my blog to advocate kindness, liberal feminism, and respect for the bodily autonomy of women extremely loudly—even to argue that nerdy STEM guys like myself have a special moral obligation to internalize those as fundamental principles.

I have, it’s true, also advocated compassion rather than contempt for the love-shy nerdy STEM guys. I have tried to help some them out of their situation, as I eventually got out of it myself. This is my crime. I plead guilty to it. And I confess that, should God appear in a thundercloud to tell me why this particular form of human compassion is actually Wrong and Problematic, I probably still won’t repent, but will simply try to change God’s mind.

191. clayton Says:

Scott #s 172, 174, 176 —

Let me start by saying that what you went through sounds awful, and for the large majority of my life, I, too, had consistently similar experiences, though scaled down at least one unit on a log scale of misery, however you’d measure that.

But that whole time, I was acutely aware of (what would now go by the name of, though I did not talk about it at that time as) my privilege. I saw just how much worse things were for other people — and the difference was _many units_ on the log scale of misery. Likewise, I saw people whose happiness struck me as unearned and unjust, as much as by many units on the log scale — but it seemed to me that there was some kind of nearly continuous distribution, which I was, at least temporarily, on the wrong side of. Obviously, this made my suffering far less intense than yours.

I know that discussion of this observable is complicated by context (this distribution is multi-dimensional, and different operators project it onto different axes), intersectionality (misery is not additive), motte-and-bailey-isms (people lie), etc., but I guess what I’d ask is — _when_ did your picture of this distribution come into its current form (which sounds pretty compatible with mine)? Before, concurrent with, or only after making concrete strides in the direction of happiness (which it does sound like you did eventually make)? I guess I’m wondering if you ever saw yourself as an outlier in “magnitude of some meaningful projection of misery”, or if all you had access to was “my sole experience of projection operators (and my version of existence seems remarkably bad)”.

192. Qwerty Says:

Vanessa #179:

You said “And, I shudder to think how many boys, including brilliant minds like Scott’s, are going through something similar right now.”

Yes, although such a brilliant mind is very rare, it is indeed the case that profoundly gifted kids are bullied much more. Example of something a friend who met our son at six said to us, “A kid with a vocabulary like that will get beaten up in school.” He used to say things like “Injuries are an occupational hazard of being an athlete.”, at six. I started to understand what he meant, later.

There was/is a great organization we must all support, called SENG : Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted. It probably has a website that is not even maintained anymore. They gave training material to teachers, pediatricians, etc, on gifted kids and unique situations they face.

The big challenge I faced with a profoundly gifted child (now in college) is to get him to SHARE these experiences with us, his parents. Why don’t kids do that ? As they get older they feel like they have to handle it all themselves. Specially boys. Schools don’t want parents bothering them, and kids being bullied are encouraged to not tell parents (yes, this is a thing!).

I discovered a great book or two to deal with all this.
1. How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk. (Great book, a classic)
2. Playground Politics (useful but not a great book)

193. Incel Apologist Says:

Scott,

I want to challenge this idea that Elliot Rodger is a uniquely horrible person. Of course, what he did was horrifying. But reflect on your bullying and loneliness and rejection and the pain it caused you deep inside and tell me that you don’t at least understand part of what Elliot Rodger was coming from. Are you telling me you never, not once, had any violent thoughts or any revenge fantasies about the bullies or the people who rejected you and looked down on you? You never once had any desire for shadenfreude or vengeance? I find that hard to believe. Well imagine if you just had a little more propensity for outward violence instead of inward self loathing. Fwiw Elliot was going off SSRI pills at the time so there’s that neurochemical reality as well. What he did was horrible but I (and you?) can see where he was coming from, and the idea of a strict boundary between us and violence, maybe it’s flimsier than you moght think. Ultimately it was society’s fault for mistreating Elliot and producing a violent desperate young man.

194. Scott Says:

clayton #191: The short, honest answer to your question is that, in order to feel genuine empathy for the sufferings of others, I first needed to feel like my own life was better lived than not lived. Then, and only then, could I see that I too had many privileges that others might envy. And this experience directly informs what I focus on when nerdy STEM guys ask me for advice.

I don’t mean to suggest that, if you’d known me while I was still in hell, I would’ve come across as some sort of callous monster. Hopefully I wouldn’t have! In some sense, though, I would’ve been “running empathy in pure emulation mode,” as I’d learned to do from an early age. In other words, I might’ve acted friendly and helpful as a consequence of asking what sort of person I was, and then striving to live up to my self-image, skipping entirely over the step where I reflect that I should be compassionate because others have it so much worse than I do (is that really possible? I would’ve wondered).

My experience suggests to me that genuine compassion is built on a base of genuine self-esteem, to the point that if the latter is missing, then there’s very little point in trying to instill the former.

195. clayton Says:

Scott #194, this makes a lot of sense. As always, we should all be thankful to you for your thoughtfulness, openness, and the raw power of an intellect that allowed for both successfully running empathy emulation _and_ solving interesting quantum complexity problems 😉

196. Scott Says:

Incel Apologist #193: Your last sentence doesn’t follow from the previous ones. Yes, it’s useful to understand Elliot Rodger, as it’s useful to understand Hitler and Stalin and bin Laden and history’s other varied monsters. Yes, in all cases that means reading their own words. It means getting over one’s disgust at having one’s misconceptions sometimes corrected by reading their words. It even means vicariously entering their emotional worlds. And that will indeed be easier if one’s own emotional world includes (e.g.) something analogous to the pain of being sneered at in Vienna’s coffeehouses as a nobody and an art-school reject, or whatever else set the monsters on their respective courses.

But none of that is even in the same moral galaxy as justifying their monstrous acts, by shifting the blame for them onto “society.” To hell with that.

In general, I don’t judge others for their private thoughts and grudges and fantasies, but for how they choose to act on them. I urge everyone else to apply the same standard, lest >99% of humanity be consigned to the flames.

197. Incel Apologist Says:

Scott, you are missing my whole point, which is that Elliot Rodger was not a monster but a human fucking being, not so different from you or I, who was suffering and in pain. The fact that he acted on the fantasies that you or I would keep hidden, it’s not this massive barrier that you seem to think it is. You don’t have to answer this question, but just reflect on whether you’ve ever had *violent fantasies* as a result of your suffering. If the answer is yes, is there really a literally zero percent chance you never would have acted on those fantasies if the circumstances were right? If you’re bullying was a little worse, if you were reacting to your psychiatric meds, if you had family troubles on top of that, etc? Most young mass shooters are not monsters but kids in pain, not too different from you or I Scott. And it is society’s fault for making them the way they are. For abandoning them and brutalizing them.

Is there literally any chance you might have been one of them if the corcumstances were right? The gap between fantasies and actions is not the iron wall you protrary. It’s a fragmentary and porous border that the right impulse might send you across.

What if a young woman killed the family member who molested and abused her as a child. Is she a monster? Sure, she should face justice, but in our legal system that would almost certainly count as mitigating circumstances. She might be getting parole in two years. How is a kid shooting his bullies any different? If I were the judge sentencing Elliot, I might give him mitigating corcumstances as well

198. Craig Says:

Most people have dealt with some form of bullying some time in their lives. But if one is a four foot tall man or woman, he or she is guaranteed to deal with it as long as they are in public. If you want to learn to deal with bullying, learn from these people.

199. Michael M Says:

Regarding incels, to all: I think it’s *very* important that we not erase anyone’s suffering, no matter how different, or how we perceive its relative importance. It’s not a contest. I can also attest that this kind of pain is quite intense, to the point where it nearly invalidates all other life achievements. It does not mean we condone some sort of ‘sex welfare’ or something other equally horrible, or that this has to be in conflict with supporting women’s rights. People are people, and suffering is suffering.

I’ve been there, and like Scott, I somehow managed to get out of it. One bit of advice I want to give is that, society tries to tell you that it’s all about your personality. That leads to the idea that if you can’t find someone, it’s your personality that’s the problem, which kills self esteem. It’s not your personality, unless you are angry and spiteful or give off red flags. My wife keeps on telling me, women are as into looks as men are, and apparently not in the way men think. I always assumed if the guy was muscular, that he was considered good looking to women. Apparently not. Apparently your face is like, really important. Not much you can do about that, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Keep your eyes open for the rare woman who likes yours.

Now, I don’t want my first comment on this post to be only to defend incels. Unlike some others, I did not see this coming, and this whole striking Roe down has me filled with anger. I feel like it’s a religious decision where life begins, and to rule against this right impacts the lives of so many people living now in a very real and very intense way. I also care about future generations, but an abortion is an opportunity cost on theoretical humans, and it’s far more likely to lead to human flourishing if we let women make that decision for themselves.

200. Scott Says:

Incel Apologist #197: I can only say that, if I had done what he did, then I would’ve deserved the same fate that he deserved: namely, death or lifelong imprisonment and my name chiseled forever in the halls of human disgrace.

People were wrong, dead wrong, when they generalized their rage at Rodger to any guys who’d ever been in the same dark place. Many such guys deserve praise for standing up to psychological strains that would crack many of their critics—for choosing kindness, empathy, and liberal principles even after nihilism, mayhem, and “burn it all down” have put forward a frighteningly strong case. Certainly these guys deserve whatever help a free society is able to give them.

But Rodger himself? May he rot in the lowest pit of hell, along with anyone who celebrates or justifies him, even “ironically.” If you won’t consider the six innocent people who he robbed of their lives—which you definitely should!—then at least consider how he set the cause of compassion for guys like himself back by decades.

201. Scott Says:

Everyone: I’m closing this thread. The latest comments in my moderation queue consist mostly of

(1) violent incel fantasies, and
(2) more florid denunciations of the gross entitled nerds, sweeping away my every attempt to have a psychologically nuanced conversation.

Making matters worse, both sets of comments might well come from insincere trolls. Both might just be trying to provoke me into saying things that could then be ripped from context and weaponized against me. (Yes, that sounds like a paranoid fantasy … until you read the comments in question!)

I’ll need to think about how this blog can continue at all, in the face of “emotional denial-of-service attacks.” On the one hand, I can’t keep going this way, spending hours per day to plead with contemptuous shadows beyond the reach of reason and empathy. On the other hand, I refuse to give the haters, or trolls, or whatever they are, the satisfaction of having shut down this blog … and open conversation is this blog’s entire thing.

I remember, as a kid, being gobsmacked by how famous people just went on TV and said stuff, and they didn’t care that thousands or millions of listeners almost certainly thought they were wrong. I resolved that, if I ever became famous, I’d be a totally different kind of famous person, one who sought out and engaged every possible counterargument, so that no one could ever say of me that I’d failed to address their objection, and no group of friends would ever sneer at me around a water cooler, calling me hilariously oblivious to my own X and totally unaware of Y and Z, standing above me and passing judgments, because I myself would show up at the water cooler and would stay there until we’d reached the bottom of everything.

For me, the past decade has been a gradually-ramping-up education in why famous people generally don’t act this way!

202. I’m Sorry Says:

Scott,

I’m a feminist working in STEM. In the past I’ve said some pretty cruel things about guys like you. I’ll admit I’ve always been pretty frustrated by nerdy guys with your specific set of complaints. This thread though has inspired me to practice a little bit more empathy. I do really see where you’re coming from now Scott. The stories you shared about your life, they were so heartbreaking. I didn’t know it was that bad for guys like you.

I also want to apologize. When I was in undergrad I contributed to a publication that produced this:

“ 2. The One Who Will Stay a Virgin

Another classic Harvard category. It’s astounding how a place so small can hold so many socially awkward and sexually frustrated young people. It’s very easy to spot this one. He seems awkward. He walks awkward. He is awkward. He probably also lives in Lamont and packs his stuff in a carry-on during Finals season. He might also have red hair. Bless his heart, though. He could invent a social networking site one day and all the arrogant bitches of Harvard who ignored him (you included) can cry themselves to sleep at night.”

I’m curious, Scott, if this is an example of the “sexualized nerd-shaming” that’s ambient in our culture. If it is, I’m truly, truly sorry for being part of a culture that produced this. It’s not even true, as I know for a fact that there are many women sexually attracted to these awkward type of guys 😉 I think that passage, it came from a tendency within so many of us to mock and to sneer at that we don’t understand.

203. OhMyGoodness Says:

Scott #172

Thank goodness you made it and I miss and grieve those that didn’t.

204. Scott Says:

I’m Sorry #202: Alas, I can’t tell which comments are genuine and which are yet more trolling attempts. Assuming you are genuine, though: I appreciate the sentiments and your (or anyone’s) effort to expand their circles of empathy. But I’d also say that a Harvard Lampoon article (or whatever it was) that mocks “virgin STEM nerds” in the course of mocking all sorts of students doesn’t even register compared to what else is out there.

(Incidentally, it’s weird how Mark Zuckerberg became the archetype of the frustrated virgin STEM nerd, given that in real life, he was apparently dating Priscilla Chan almost the entire time the events of the Social Network movie unfolded.)

205. Scott Says:

OK, before I close the thread, I guess I should answer this, from Still Figuring It Out #177:

Can you describe/explain what those signals were? How would I know what to look for?

Mostly just the obvious stuff. Initiating conversations with you. Laughing at your jokes. Inviting you to events. Knowing a surprising amount about you. None of that is proof that she’s interested, but I’d say it’s proof that you have social permission to try to find out if she’s interested.

If I could send a single message back in time to my teenage self, it would simply be: “take it from me, when girls act in weird and ambiguous ways that raise your hopes that they might possibly like you, they’re not all just trolling and then sneering at you behind your back. Or at least, if they’re trolling then they might be playing an exceedingly long trolling game, one that involves marrying you and having multiple children with you as an intermediate step.” 😀

206. clayton Says:

I just want to add another round of applause for your labor here, Scott, and also your comment about “running empathy emulation” has marinated in my brain — it almost feels like you _literally_ ran a machine learning algorithm, forward propagating initially random behavior, back propagating signals based on responses, and after many iterations you have a functioning empathy system! And thinking about it this way has raised the possibility that I have done the same in my life.

Be well and thanks again, and sincere best wishes no matter how the blog moves forward (as your fans wish it will)

207. Still Figuring It Out Says:

Scott #205: Thanks!

208. Michel Says:

Scott #205: Well, I do sometimes imagine sending these messages back to my younger selves. It does not changes the past, but helps clean up old anger or pain sometimes. And yes, I recognize these kind of bullying stories, and surviving them, at a cost. (no need to publsh this, but your choice). But you sure awakened some extra anger in me, in the focus of Roe vs. Wade. It may not have been very good law, but it had very liberating consequences. Overturning it is not bettering law but unliberating freedom.

209. Max Says:

This german guy was ahead of his time. From “The Bite of the Adder (XIX)”:

“Finally, my brethren, guard against doing wrong to any anchorite. How could an anchorite forget! How could he requite!

Like a deep well is an anchorite. Easy is it to throw in a stone: if it should sink to the bottom, however, tell me, who will bring it out again?

Guard against injuring the anchorite! If ye have done so, however, well then, kill him also!—

Thus spake Zarathustra”

210. Qwerty Says:

Who knows if the following is even true in India anymore (I kinda think it is largely true, based on what I see in popular culture), and in America this must sound anachronistic. I will go ahead and say this uncool thing.

I believe being a virgin until you are committed to be married (which rarely happens in undergrad) is a healthy approach to life. I guess I’d like a return to that everywhere :). It is healthier in every way – specially emotionally.

I am disturbed by how sexualized American culture is.

There is a right age and time to get into a sexual relationship and even college is not it!!

Why are young people made to feel that being a virgin in college is something to be ashamed of? Being a virgin should be the default until you are…er…married! Or atleast committed to be. There, I said it.

211. Scott Says:

Qwerty #210: That only works if you can maintain it as an equilibrium. Once most college students are having casual sex, anyone who abstains will inevitably feel like they’re missing out on something incredible (and how many potential marriage partners will have been similarly scrupulous?).

212. Qwerty Says:

Is there no going back to that pre-sixties American way of life, where this was the default?! I mean, where social stigma is attached to having casual sex instead of attaching it to NOT having casual sex ? I know I sound like a conservative talk show host here but I like this!