The David Deutsch fan community is being split by the creation of a secondary community. In addition to the public Fallible Ideas forums (FI) for discussing topics like David Deutsch’s books, there are now “Four Strands” forums for discussing those topics. This takes a small community and tries to splinter it into separate factions.
The people behind this, such as Bruce Nielson and Dennis Hackethal, have not explained what they’re doing or why. They have not posted any invites or announcements on FI to let people know about the existence of these new forums or to explain the reasons for creating them and their purpose.
I’m not even very clear on who is in charge of the group or what it consists of. I was told it’s a Google Group and a Slack, then I found a Discord. There’s apparently no webpage explaining and linking their stuff, stating rules, policies or purpose, organizing it, etc.
They apparently have a problem with FI, but they haven’t criticized FI or had discussions attempting to solve whatever problems with FI they may have had. They seem to be unwilling to debate whatever the issues are and have no Paths Forward to allow error correction. They don’t seem interested in writing and sharing their relevant claims, criticisms, ideas for improvements, etc. I hope I’m mistaken about these impressions and I invite correction. Let’s talk about this!
There’s also a Beginning of Infinity subreddit from kodheaven and Dennis. Despite it claiming to be for anything DD related, I was banned without ever submitting a post or comment. Meanwhile, a post linking my interview with David Deutsch was deleted and the person who posted it was also banned. No explanation was provided.
Where is the attempt at cooperative problem solving as DD advocates!? What about common preference finding or win/win solutions, as DD advocates?
The FI forum, for those who don’t know, was formed by merging existing DD-related discussion groups, such as Beginning of Infinity (BoI), Taking Children Seriously and Autonomy Respecting Relationships (all of which I owned and ran). I simply asked people to move to a unified group instead of being split up. There were no objections to the merger and all active posters came to FI. Note that I created and ran the BoI google group and website at DD’s request.
This is an established forum community related to DD’s ideas going back to 1994, which I joined in 2001. DD used to actively post and wrote a few thousand emails to the forums. There is a 25 year history here, including a lot of participation by DD himself, but these alleged DD fans are apparently splintering away from the community which has been influenced by over 15 years of discussions with DD. They seem to be rejecting a big part of his legacy. (Note for those who don’t know: that legacy also includes me personally, since I’ve had around 5,000 hours of intellectual discussions with DD in which he played a huge role in shaping my thinking.)
I believe Bruce and Dennis already know most of the facts above, though perhaps not. They never participated in the community much before splintering off. Bruce first posted in the community in July 2018 and Dennis in Dec 2018, and they each stopped participating after several months.
Do Bruce, Dennis and others regard splitting up a small community as a positive thing!? I don’t know. So far, they don’t communicate or explain. Guys, what’s the problem and what’s going on?
There now seem to be a bunch of blog posts, videos and podcasts which aren’t being shared to the main community. This hinders our ability to learn from each other, share ideas, and share criticism.
I asked both Bruce and Dennis if I could join their discussion group. They didn’t reply at all. I tried joining the Discord but was banned with zero explanation.
Just in case anyone doesn’t know or would assume otherwise: Bruce and Dennis never got in trouble on FI. They never even got warnings for anything. They just stopped sending posts. They did later get included on Alan’s list of people who had stopped responding to FI discussions and arguments without a rational conclusion to the discussion, but of course they’re welcome to change that situation.
FI is a free speech platform which is open to the public. The usual reason for splinter communities is that people were having their content blocked or being banned, but that didn’t happen.
What would it take to fix whatever this is? They’ve made no demands, stated no grievances, suggested no changes to FI, etc.
Hopefully this is a misunderstanding or they didn’t realize there was an issue. I invite them to explain themselves and engage in rational problem solving now.
For people new here: FYI I've been writing about CR and David Deutsch stuff (like Taking Children Seriously) since 2002. Find my stuff here. The community also includes people like Alan Forrester, a physicist who knows Deutsch and ran the Fabric of Reality discussion group for over 10 years, and who blogs CR stuff. I'd also suggest this Overview of Fallible Ideas Philosophy video.
Update, Feb 3, 2020: The Four Strands leadership has not responded. I didn't misunderstand. They don't want to even try problem solving. This is unsurprising because if they had some interest in problem solving they could have tried it in the past, but they never did, so why start now?
I tweeted about this to Bruce, Dennis, and to some of the people they talk with. I'm going to document some of the responses:
This is vague, unargued hostility that shows no respect for reason and no interest in CR/DD/TCS ideas like problem solving or win/win solutions.
Did you or anyone in the FI community ever attacked or did anything heartfull to DD or one of his fans?
Do you mean like this? https://curi.us/2214-david-deutsch-smears-ayn-rand
Is that a hurtful attack or a high quality article that provides the gift of critical discussion?
It's up to them to say what they object to, not for us to try to guess. It could be a hurtful attack to suppose they would take issue with that article, since that implies they're irrational. (I'm not claiming that. I don't know what they think of that article. They have not said.)
That's not a problem-solving-oriented or CR-theory-inspired reaction.
I'm not confident that he read my post before commenting. I replied:
> You could have several forums with different purposes, formats or styles which sometimes talk about and refer to each other. We have a different situation: they are trying to splinter the community into hostile factions without explaining or problem solving.
I don't want to post their malicious quotes right now because it'd make it harder for them to switch to problem solving mode and change their ways. I'm trying to offer them a chance to fix this. I only mentioned them because the guy doesn't seem to believe me that there's an actual problem.
I think KS didn't actually read the blog post explaining what's going on, or he would have found the FI forum in the first paragraph of it instead of asking where it is.
The ‘Old Guards’ concept, and attacking them as a group (for the trait of taking things seriously, as David Deutsch named one of his philosophies after), is just the sort of hostile factions problem I'm talking about. Notice the lack of interest in problem solving or cooperation. He also further testifies the ongoing policy of people avoiding open competition and trying to prevent everyone from knowing about the whole community's existence in order to decide what they like for themselves. Yet while unaware of FI's existence, he's already been biased to be hostile to it and flame it! That's not an accident. People have been gossiping negatively against FI.
To clarify: I think he heard nasty gossip about FI, possibly without the name, and without knowing there was a forum where he could learn stuff. That's how he was both aware and not aware of it.
Curi is no “fan”
Curi has denigrated Deutsch over and again. He is no fan, he is no friend. He is an enemy of the fans of David Deutsch. He should be shunned. It is laughable given some of the things he has said over the years, that he represents anything like a community of fans of Deutsch. He is a danger to any such community and should be taken seriously as a threat to the ongoing harmony between actual fans and progress towards improving and promoting David’s worldview. That very post above is testimony to the fact Curi will continue to hurt people who try to peacefully engage in friendly discourse about critical rationalism and related matters. The problem has been identified over the years repeatedly: it is Curi. Curi is the common factor. Curi is the problem. He has asked we have told him. And here and now again: Curi: you are the problem. The rational solution is: avoid Curi. And that’s what the community is attempting to do. Unreasonably and with great hostility he is now trolling members of these new communities and refusing to disengage when asked. There is no “path forward” because that entire set of doctrines is itself is a set of coercive mechanisms for guilting people into engaging with Curi even when they feel, know and understand explicitly or implicitly that such activity will only cause them distress. Curi: you need to leave them alone and stick to your own FI group of forums. We’ve asked politely and clearly.
#15233 Insult after lie after ad hominem, with no facts, quotes, arguments, etc. E.g.:
> refusing to disengage when asked.
This is a lie for the purpose of slandering my reputation. What was I asked to disengage with?
> We’ve asked politely and clearly.
Who has asked what? Quote? You're lying to smear me.
Smear? Your own words and behaviour do far more damage to your own reputation than anything anyone else could possibly hope to achieve.
#15235 What words or behaviors of mine? Quote? You seem to have no facts or logic on your side...
The commenter said:
> [Elliot] is a danger to any such community and should be taken seriously as a threat to the ongoing harmony between actual fans and progress towards improving and promoting David’s worldview.
but right before that, in the same comment, he said:
> [Elliot] should be shunned.
> It is laughable...
David's worldview recognizes shunning as evil, and laughing at people who you think made mistakes (a type of shaming) as evil. So this commenter is presenting himself as a greater fan of David than compared to Elliot while not knowing some basic stuff about David's worldview.
I'm not sure it's right to call these things basic. Maybe fundamental is a better description. David's worldview is centered around fallibility and truth-seeking. Shunning and shaming people is counter-productive to truth-seeking. Shaming people for making mistakes is counter-productive to fixing mistakes (which is needed for truth-seeking).
Oh and then there are the lies that the commenter said which curi explained in #15234. Lies are counter-productive to truth-seeking. Lying is antithetical to David's worldview.
Curi, I'm not the same Anonymous as before and I'm not going to quote anything. I'm just genuinely interested which of these sets of words you think your personality matches most closely?
(A) Warm, friendly, fun, relaxed, humble.
(B) Cold, hectoring, defensive, narcissistic.
Lies in #15233
> Curi has denigrated Deutsch over and again.
[had to look up dictionary definition of “denigrate”]
He’s saying that curi lied about Deutsch. What lie? Why no quote and explanation of the supposed lie? Because he’s lying about curi (that curi supposedly lied about Deutsch).
> He is no fan,
In my view, Elliot is the biggest fan of Deutsch in the sense that (1) he understands Deutsch’s worldview better than anyone else, and (2) he promotes Deutsch’s worldview more effectively than anyone else. No one else even comes close. See Elliot’s many websites and discussion forums discussing Deutsch’s ideas. If somebody thinks I’m wrong about this, I challenge you to stick your neck out and tell me who is a bigger fan, while stating what metrics you used to come to your conclusion.
Claiming Elliot is not a fan, without argument, without quotes and explanations, is lying.
> he is no friend. He is an enemy of the fans of David Deutsch. He should be shunned.
Elliot is a friend to anyone interested in truth-seeking. That is something Deutsch’s worldview says is good.
Claiming that Elliot is not a friend to fans of David Deutsch without explaining what constitutes a friend and what constitutes a fan is not a truth-seeking effort. It’s lying.
> It is laughable given some of the things he has said over the years, that he represents anything like a community of fans of Deutsch.
He’s implying that FI members (like me) are not fans of Deutsch, without argument, without quotes, without anything that could (rationally) persuade someone. It’s a lie.
> He is a danger to any such community and should be taken seriously as a threat to the ongoing harmony between actual fans and progress towards improving and promoting David’s worldview.
This is just a repeat of an earlier lie. See my reply above to the text “He is no fan”.
> That very post above is testimony to the fact Curi will continue to hurt people who try to peacefully engage in friendly discourse about critical rationalism and related matters.
He’s implying that Elliot is not being peaceful and is being hurtful, again without quotes and without arguments about why he thinks Elliot’s actions are not peaceful and are hurtful. Another lie.
> The problem has been identified over the years repeatedly: it is Curi. Curi is the common factor. Curi is the problem. He has asked we have told him. And here and now again: Curi: you are the problem. The rational solution is: avoid Curi. And that’s what the community is attempting to do. Unreasonably and with great hostility he is now trolling members of these new communities and refusing to disengage when asked.
Claiming Elliot is being hostile and trolling, while giving false reasons ("He has asked we have told him", "refusing to disengage when asked") is another lie.
> There is no “path forward” because that entire set of doctrines is itself is a set of coercive mechanisms for guilting people into engaging with Curi even when they feel, know and understand explicitly or implicitly that such activity will only cause them distress. Curi: you need to leave them alone and stick to your own FI group of forums. We’ve asked politely and clearly.
Claiming that Elliot’s path forward policy is a coercive, without explaining why he believes that, is another lie. The text following the claim might look like an explanation to some people, but it’s not. Elliot’s path forward policy does not say nor imply that people should engage with the policy while not wanting to (distress implies not wanting to).
There were more lies that curi mentioned: #15234
I'm bending over backwards to try to be reasonable with people who aren't even trying to act like they want to do problem solving, they're just being jerks to me while accusing me of being a jerk in some undefined, general way.
The statement against saying what they mean is notable and shows how they are dealing with this using social thinking instead of rational thinking.
The discussion is getting derailed by newcomers, who have no idea what the issues are, making sloppy statements. Why don't people like Bruce or Dennis attempt to do problem solving in a more serious and preferably non-Twitter way? They've never tried before and have refused me repeated requests and attempts without explaining. If problem solving isn't a thing they do, they have nothing to do with CR!
Still haven't gotten any productive responses or attempts to solve problems, just people being mean to me.
He's openly uninterested in solutions or problem solving. He's rejecting CR, TCS, etc.
This is clarifying who acts by CR and TCS ideas and who doesn't. Win/win solutions? Common preference finding? All life is problem solving? Problems are soluble? By an effort we can deal with culture clash and learn from each other? Your judgments of me are fallible? They don't seem to believe or live by any of this. Or, hopefully, they'll reply soon and start being reasonable.
Changing the issue to obligations is a biased way to miss the point.
Apparently he prefers communities based on the rule of man instead of the rule of law, and he dislikes explicit communication as part of problem solving?
I did not take into account that most people respond to headlines instead of issues and don't even read blog posts. To me, the blog post was the main point and is where I explained myself. That's where I focused my attention. But there's a culture clash problem where many others are not focusing their attention there.
It could be dealt with but the underlying problem seems to be that they don't want solutions. Each time I address something they move the goal posts, and they're frequently rude and pretty open about their hatefulness. You can't solve problems with people who don't want to. I think that's the impasse.
The Twitter stuff is an example of one of the main conflicts between DD and I. DD doesn't respect the idiotic mob anymore than I do, but has made major changes to his life, personality and thinking in order to get along with it better. I haven't. E.g. he wouldn't tell them what he thinks of them, and would be intentionally misleading about it while trying to avoid saying something which is a technical lie. By contrast, I speak truth to power and don't hold the malevolent universe premise that good values have no chance in the world and so must be hidden away, silent and secret.
Dennis Hackethal (Four Strands Google Group, emphasis added):
> Though I feel the *pressure of agreeing with everyone about how much we all dislike Elliot*, I have already done that now, and feel that I can say that I do not recommend doing any of that without giving him a chance to speak first. Though difficult to engage with, he's knowledgable, and should he ever want to interact with us, we should let him, and should let him continue to do so until there are any "offenses".
Bruce Nielson responded:
> Well said, Dennis.
But neither Dennis nor Bruce acted accordingly. They did not give me a chance to speak first. They did not let me interact with them until I did something wrong.
The comment about how their community pressures everyone to dislike me a lot is notable. It goes to show how they are working to splinter the community by pressuring people to take sides. By contrast, I'm asking them what it would take to solve this problem and unsplinter the community, and they don't answer.
I discovered curi.us a few months ago and decided not to participate here. If you would like concrete reasons why people like myself don't wish to participate, here are a few:
1) You have a wall of shame where you track everyone who left your forum (http://curi.us/2215-list-of-fallible-ideas-evaders). I find this weird and creepy.
2) You are obsessed with Ayn Rand and share many of the same flaws she had, for example, overconfidence in your ability to determine what is "rational" and "irrational," which leads you to attack those you deem irrational.
3) Brett Hall made a post here where he said he was a teacher, and you said "fuck you" to him because you apparently think "fuck you" is an appropriate response to any teacher at any school whatsoever, except under rare circumstances where education is completely voluntary. I disagree with this, but I bet you'll call me "irrational" and say "fuck you" to me as well.
4 This forum doesn't even appear to be particularly related to Critical Rationalism. For example, scrolling through the discussion, most of the topics seem to be about other things.
#15253 re 3, are you aware of David Deutsch's and Taking Children Seriously's position on the matter of involuntary education (aka education that is not completely voluntary)? And have you actually read that conversation or are you just trusting gossip? You're misrepresenting the conversation. E.g. Brett didn't merely say he was a teacher, he said he was teaching "philosophy-lite with lots of lefty relativism and other nonsense". In other words, he was knowingly spreading to students, in his name, what he believed to be bad ideas, political indoctrination, and other nonsense. Is that something that you think is acceptable?
re everything, does problem solving interest you?
In another part of that conversation, Brett speaks about his disinterest in philosophy:
>> Why prioritize this over working on philosophy more directly?
> Because I lose interest in working on philosophy directly.
But today Brett poses as a philosopher.
>>>> why prioritize [learning coding stuff] over more FI?
>>> Yes...if I knew lots more epistemology at a higher level that'd be a way to increase my learning everywhere by a big factor. I'm still struggling with that. And where to start.
>> Don't you TEACH epistemology – so it's your job to know it better? (That's what your twitter says: https://twitter.com/tokteacher ). Why would you teach it and choose that sort of job if you aren't super interested enough to learn it really well, now, directly?
Brett, after saying how he teaches nonsense and political indoctrination, went on to say:
> But yes: I should know [epistemology] better. So I can help those who want my help with this stuff better.
He went on to say
> The "ToK" syllabus is a confused mess
Yet he was subjecting children to it with the thin justification that if he didn't hurt those kids, someone else would hurt them worse. Brett also said one of the reasons he was posting to FI is he wants to:
> Ultimately to undermine coercive schooling and change things globally where kids are being destroyed.
By his own view, he was participating in *destroying children*, and he knew it, and he was admitting it to other people who also see it that way. So when he got some negative reactions, they were expected. Rather than being surprised or offended, he treated it like normal conversation and defended and rationalized his actions with arguments. The problem for him came later because what he wanted was TCS/CR approval for what he was doing, and he couldn't get it – instead what he was getting was challenges to his rationalizations (and therefore self-esteem).
As an outsider, it's hard to understand the perspective of TCS, of FI, or of Brett, re schooling. Consequently, you should focus on your own problems or grievances and let other people speak for themselves.
Lulie chiming in, sorta, with no attempt at reason, problem solving or being nice. This is contrary to some of her past statements when she e.g. asked people to stop harassing me, defended me as a good person, said I wasn't doing anything wrong but the other people were, etc.
People object to things like "naming and shaming" in this context and other contexts.
If no one is named, no individuals have responsibility. So nothing happens. You can't negotiate or problem solve with groups when no individuals will take a leadership role with responsibility.
The Four Strands leadership doesn't want responsibility for their actions. I don't even know who owns it.
If I didn't even name the people in leadership that I know of, how would anything happen to address the problems? Who would do it? Members of the group would just fortuitously volunteer to deal with stuff as needed, and that would reliably happen? I don't think so.
People should complain about their own grievances.
If you aren't familiar with Brett's years of posting history, you don't know the context in which issues with him came up. If Brett would write a blog post objecting to something and explaining what happened and the relevant context, you could piggyback on it. You could say "Brett made these arguments about this grievance; they make sense to me." and then you could use his issue. But when you don't know much about it and he hasn't written anything documenting and explaining it, then you're basically just going by gossip which is often incorrect and can't be defended against well because it doesn't have specific accusations and evidence.
You can also use grievances which are not your own if you have full information. E.g. if a new person shows up and has a conversation for 30 minutes, and you read the entire thing, then you may well have full info. In that case, you could write a blog post documenting what happened, using quotes and evidence, and making arguments and criticisms. You could make an objective case about the matter even though it wasn't about you personally.
But in general, people should complain about things that happened to them (and try to do it objectively with quotes, with laying out reasoning that they object to things, etc., not by gossiping to their friends with sloppy and inconsistent stories that, if misleading, are hard to defuse and fix). If Joe doesn't object to what happened to Joe, in general you shouldn't object for him – if he's not complaining about how he was treated, why do you think there was anything wrong with it? It's hard for you to know Joe's perspective. Apparently people dealt with him in a way he was fine with, so they did a good job of understanding how to deal with him. Or maybe he didn't like it but doesn't think it's his right or place to complain, and wants to let it go, so you should let it go. If OTOH Joe is a gossip who won't make serious arguments involving facts, then again you should let it go because there's no serious case that Joe is right or has any accurate grievance, and Joe is acting in a way that's bad for truth seeking and problem solving.
I don't recall, offhand, a single grievance with FI or myself that makes a serious effort to be objective and use facts and quotes. People gossip. People make accusations. But no one seems to care to e.g. put together a blog post with quotes and criticism of those quotes, and then consider counter-arguments and actually try to figure out what's true instead of just smearing people.
Ayn Rand in *The Virtue of Selfishness*:
> When one gives reasons for one’s verdict, one assumes responsibility for it and lays oneself open to objective judgment: if one’s reasons are wrong or false, one suffers the consequences. But to condemn without giving reasons is an act of irresponsibility, a kind of moral “hit-and-run” driving, which is the essence of the Argument from Intimidation.
Bruce, Dennis and others are condemning without giving reasons.
The Four Strands people are like the drooling beast in *The Fountainhead*:
> “Probably. But not quite. I’m not afraid any more. But I know that the terror exists. I know the kind of terror it is. You can’t conceive of that kind. Listen, what’s the most horrible experience you can imagine? To me—it’s being left, unarmed, in a sealed cell with a drooling beast of prey or a maniac who’s had some disease that’s eaten his brain out. You’d have nothing then but your voice—your voice and your thought. You’d scream to that creature why it should not touch you, you’d have the most eloquent words, the unanswerable words, you’d become the vessel of the absolute truth. And you’d see living eyes watching you and you’d know that the thing can’t hear you, that it can’t be reached, not reached, not in any way, yet it’s breathing and moving there before you with a purpose of its own. That’s horror. Well, that’s what’s hanging over the world, prowling somewhere through mankind, that same thing, something closed, mindless, utterly wanton, but something with an aim and a cunning of its own. I don’t think I’m a coward, but I’m afraid of it. And that’s all I know—only that it exists. I don’t know its purpose, I don’t know its nature.”
Brett Hall has explicitly said he is not a philosopher and has not claimed to be one.
#16532 I don't know where he said that but I checked the *about* and *philosophy* sections of his website and didn't see it. Instead I saw him trying to teach people about philosophy via articles and saying how he'd learned lots of philosophy of science, taken philosophy classes, has a worldview informed by top philosophers (KP, DD), etc. He presents himself as a knowledgeable expert sharing insight into philosophy for people to learn from. He does not warn people with anything like "I am a clueless hobbyist and you shouldn't listen to me" at the top nor "I am not a philosopher, and don't claim to be one, so if you're interested in philosophy look elsewhere".