The History of Taking Children Seriously

This is a history of Taking Children Seriously (TCS), particularly the online community leaders: Sarah Fitz-Claridge (SFC), David Deutsch (DD) and Elliot Temple (ET).

TCS was founded in 1992 by SFC and DD. (SFC was Sarah Lawrence at the time but changed her name in 2003.) It started with a paper journal. When ET joined in 2001, the community had TCS list (an email discussion group with around 1,000 members), a website with articles, and a chatroom.

SFC, a mother of two, did most of the recruiting. She met with homeschoolers and libertarians, networked and gave speeches internationally, and posted at many online parenting and homeschooling groups. TCS advocates frequently got banned from other online groups but did get the word out first.

DD, a theoretical physicist, did most of the intellectual theorizing. He had made significant contributions related to quantum computation and learned about Karl Popper’s Critical Rationalism (CR) philosophy. He and SFC were libertarians with ideas like individual freedom, minimal or no government, and laissez-faire capitalism.

DD’s books are The Fabric of Reality (FoR, 1997) and The Beginning of Infinity (BoI, 2011). They discuss science and CR philosophy. DD also wrote hundreds of blog posts about politics between 2003 and 2008.

A main idea of TCS is that CR – a philosophy about how to create knowledge – applies to parenting and education. DD thought we must understand how learning works in order to know how to treat children. There are no reasonable philosophical positions which imply that punishments are educational. And if punishments aren’t educational, then they’re cruel and abusive, and “coercive” as TCS calls it.

TCS was also based on (classical) liberal values like peace, freedom, cooperation, individual rights and opposing tyrannical authority (be it a king, parent or teacher). Karl Popper shared these values, although he was no libertarian.

CR says all people learn by brainstorming, critical thinking and critical discussion. TCS concluded that even young children, even babies, think and learn this way. People learn on their own initiative with help from others, not as buckets which educators can pour knowledge into like water. Learners are the leaders of their own learning.

TCS’s big claim was that children could be raised well without doing anything to them that they disliked. It’s always possible to find “common preferences” – win/win solutions that everyone prefers. The main obstacle to this kind of rational problem solving is the irrationalities that adults have. Irrationalities aren’t inborn, they come from coercion, so don’t coerce your child and he won’t become irrational.

TCS Activities Timeline

SFC wrote around 1,000 TCS list posts (emails), mostly from 1994-2002. DD wrote around 2,000, mostly from 1996-2002. ET wrote around 3,700, mostly from 2002-2012, though he hasn’t stopped writing about TCS and still answers questions and posts.

SFC secretly began building a separate community unrelated to TCS which she launched in 2003. This partially explains why she reduced her involvement with TCS. Year after year, SFC hid these other activities, while leading people to expect more TCS activity soon and misleading people about her interests and priorities. She avoided transitioning to a new community leader, and blocked messages sharing alternative TCS resources, which left many TCS-attempting parents with little support and fewer resources than they reasonably expected.

SFC stopped creating the TCS Journal in 2000 after 32 issues. She never announced that it ended and left the webpage up where people could pay money to sign up. People were still confused about the matter years later and SFC still didn’t clarify, while still advertising herself as the TCS journal editor.

In late 2002, SFC deleted the TCS IRC chatroom that she’d started in 2000. She said she didn’t know how to run it well and received too many complaints. Rather than solve the problem, she shut it down.

In 2003, SFC discontinued the TCS website. She let the domain name expire without putting a notice on the site telling people about the new site, redirecting traffic, or leaving it up as an archive. She created a new site which had a worse layout and she never even finished transferring over all the old articles. The new site was never very active and SFC mostly stopped work on it after only 3 months. There was an occasional update later, e.g. there were 4 posts in 2004. After trying to be active for one month in 2005, the updates stopped entirely in 2006.

In 2006, SFC announced moving the TCS list from AOL to the new website. People were supposed to be automatically transferred but the new group had no posts and people kept using AOL. This was never explained. Then in 2008, SFC moved TCS list to Yahoo Groups and intentionally didn’t automatically transfer anyone. The result was reducing membership down to around 50 people from a past high over 1,000.

After these disasters, ET created the TCS Google Group in 2009 and Fallible Ideas website in 2010 which included articles about CR and TCS. ET’s TCS list had around double the membership of SFC’s and many more discussions. It became the primary TCS list while SFC’s group went inactive. Meanwhile, at DD’s request, ET also made the BoI Google Group and BoI website in 2011.

ET also became the owner of the Autonomy Respecting Relationships (ARR) forum in 2010 or 2011 after running the group as moderator for over a year. ARR was started by SFC and DD as a way to apply TCS ideas to romantic relationships. Major ARR ideas included that standard romantic relationship patterns are irrational and hurt people, and that freedom implies polyamory instead of monogamy. ET, however, criticized polyamory as well as monogamy.

Elliot Temple Joins TCS

ET read DD’s book, FoR, in 2001, then read DD’s TCS articles and joined the email group and chatroom. DD regularly talked with TCS community members on IRC and on the email group. ET quickly got much of DD’s attention due to energetic curiosity and quickly learning and arguing in favor of CR and TCS ideas. Over the next decade, ET and DD had around 5,000 hours of discussions (the majority were one-on-one, not on the public groups). In 2002, ET started a private email discussion group named curi where DD frequently participated. In 2003, ET started his blog, Curiosity.

After only a few months, ET became TCS’s most active advocate. He was more interested, and wrote more, than anyone else. He’d debate anyone about anything (like DD, ET was interested in ideas broadly, not just parenting), and whenever he had trouble winning an argument, he brought the issue to DD for advice. That way, ET learned how DD would argue each issue and address each challenge. DD heavily influenced ET’s views and arguments. For example, DD converted ET from left to right wing, persuaded him of capitalist and libertarian ideas, and got ET reading Ayn Rand. DD also persuaded ET to favor George W. Bush and the Iraq War politically, to support Israel, and to reject environmentalist ideas like recycling and global warming.

Due to the close association and agreement on so many issues, people, including one of DD’s close friends, accused ET of being DD’s puppet. However, the agreement was achieved by rational discussion, not puppetry. ET argued with DD more than anyone else and persistently followed up on disagreements. It took ET around five years of learning to become skilled enough to win any significant arguments with DD, at which point some disagreements started forming as ET developed more of his own ideas.

ET began providing detailed feedback and editing for BoI in 2004, which continued until publication in 2011. DD and ET routinely discussed topics related to the book. In total, ET wrote around 250 pages specifically to help with BoI, which is enough material to fill a book. That’s why the acknowledgments say “especially Elliot Temple”.

ET was also recognized favorably by SFC. For example, in 2006, ET, SFC and another speaker gave a TCS seminar to a paying audience in SFC’s home. In 2003, SFC tried to persuade ET to “becom[e] a regular contributor to the TCS blog/web site”. She said more articles from ET would help with her goal to “make it more difficult for people to bitch about TCS the way they are now.” SFC had some mixed feelings, stating “In the past, I have sometimes found your posts a bit too harsh and dismissive and lacking explanation, but I have noticed you have written some beautiful posts which are both true and also kind and non-alienating.” Overall, SFC saw ET positively and wanted him to be more involved with TCS including writing official articles because, also, “I really love your writing.” Similarly, in 2005, SFC was also asking ET for more TCS writing: “If you would like to write articles for the site, and if you would like to contribute to a new FAQ for it, that would be splendid!”

TCS Affects Lives

Thousands of people took an interest in TCS. As with many communities, especially controversial ones, the majority quit for one reason or another. Some had major disagreements with TCS from the start. Others liked TCS initially but had major disagreements when they learned more. And others liked TCS but drifted away without planning to – they just never really got around to doing much. But hundreds of people made TCS a major part of their life. TCS affected how many children were treated.

SFC led people to believe that TCS was an important, growing movement that they could join and then get ongoing help and advice. People thought TCS came with resources and support, at least articles, a chatroom and the email group. But then SFC and DD stopped writing articles, SFC discontinued the chatroom and journal, and SFC reduced her TCS list to complete silence. This harmed people who were struggling to live by TCS ideas, as well as preventing other people from joining TCS.

These problems were made much worse by the lack of announcements, clarity, transition plan, etc. The original TCS founders didn’t take responsibility for the movement, what they led people to expect from them, and the consequences of their actions for people’s lives. Instead they broadly kept up public appearances years after ceasing most TCS activity.

The continued availability of TCS materials, and discussion places where people can ask questions, is due pretty much entirely to ET. But ET has done more to take over DD’s intellectual role than SFC’s community leader role, so it’s not a full replacement. And SFC sabotaged the transition to ET’s leadership by preventing many people from finding out that the new resources existed. Even some of the more involved TCS parents were left not knowing what happened or how to continue with TCS.

SFC knowingly poured time and effort into a different, unrelated, non-TCS community, in secret, while misleading the TCS parents that had trusted her. These actions go beyond explanations like merely neglect, failure or incompetence.

DD Quits

DD gradually left TCS for several reasons. First, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, many TCS members sided with the terrorists by making anti-American comments. The political conflict divided the TCS community. Most parents open to TCS were left wing, while DD and his intellectual associates were right wing.

By the end of 2002, DD didn’t write public posts as frequently, although he actively discussed with ET and others. From there, DD’s public posting gradually declined, but it took a decade to stop. Meanwhile, DD often watched ET debate in favor of DD’s ideas, like TCS, and encouraged and advised ET behind the scenes.

As time went on, DD pushed back the publication deadline for BoI but eventually had to face it. In the several years leading up to the 2011 publication, he became increasingly busy and talked with everyone less. He even had to cut a few planned chapters from the book in order to finish.

Although DD hoped and planned for things to return to normal after the book was done, they never did. Instead, he quit every discussion forum, stopped talking about TCS, and decided to focus more on his new physics idea, Constructor Theory.

After gradually distancing himself, DD stopped collaborating with ET and most other active community members around the end of 2011. DD never gave a clear explanation of why, never wrote an article arguing his case, never announced anything had changed, and never even tried to claim that ET had changed in any significant way. It was DD, not ET, who had changed. DD was disillusioned by how little TCS had changed the world, and how few people had learned his ideas. DD wanted to try to get along with the mainstream more, while ET continued developing non-mainstream ideas like TCS and CR.

Looking Back At TCS

From day one, TCS had always offended many people and attracted hateful comments for its unconventional ideas. DD hoped it would spread and gain traction over time, and it did some, but less than DD wanted. Meanwhile SFC ended the journal, chatroom and original website, reduced TCS List membership by 95%, and stopped creating content or recruiting.

ET kept TCS alive as a philosophical theory with some resources to help, but the number of participating parents dropped over time. Eventually, there was little discussion about parents trying to use TCS in their life.

To see quotes from the harsh, offensive side of early TCS, as led by SFC and DD, see this post and the comments under it.

The TCS list grew initially. But SFC said that whenever the list got over 1,000 members, a bunch of people would unsubscribe when there was an active topic causing them to receive lots of emails. Many of the people SFC recruited were not interested enough in TCS to direct the emails to a folder outside their inbox, and just left instead.

The TCS list was moderated. SFC and her buddies blocked whatever posts they wanted, quite frequently and aggressively. It was common for posters to regularly have some their posts blocked and keep participating anyway, though some people left when they weren’t allowed to speak freely. Consequently, SFC had control over the content of the list. If the content alienated people, that was her choice.

At his groups, ET always emphasized free speech instead of controlling what you were allowed to say. He thought this better fit the total-freedom-and-libertarianism-and-maybe-even-anarcho-capitalism type principles of TCS and its founders.

Conflict Between DD and ET

When he quit TCS, DD also quit associating with TCS’s new leader, ET, as well as with active participants in the TCS community. ET wanted to do problem solving. What about CR, common preferences, and win/win solutions? ET wanted to fix things but DD refused.

At the end of 2012, over a year after DD had become unfriendly and withdrawn the help and support he’d led ET to expect going forward, DD had refused many olive branches from ET. ET wrote I Changed My Mind About David Deutsch. This carefully worded piece left out most details to respect DD’s privacy because DD didn’t want the problems discussed and debated openly. Every statement was written so that it could easily be defended and explained if private facts were included in the discussion. DD saw the article prior to publication and made no objection then or later. Others in the community supported the article or didn’t mind; there was no opposition to it because people had seen DD change and leave over the years. ET thought the article was necessary because he’d been such a fan and promoter of DD, so he thought he should update people when he changed his mind about stuff he’d told them. ET was taking responsibility for the advice he’d given other people, as he believed SFC and DD should have but did not.

Although preferring to mostly leave DD alone, ET also wrote David Deutsch Interview Undermines His Philosophy in 2017, Accepting vs. Preferring Theories – Reply to David Deutsch in 2018, and David Deutsch Smears Ayn Rand in 2019. ET thought it was important to defend the ideas he’d learned from DD, even against DD himself. Again DD had no objections, publicly or privately. DD didn’t want to defend or explain his opinions or offer any rebuttal. Although critical discussion and rational truth seeking are major parts of the CR and TCS philosophies, DD didn’t do them nor explain why he wasn’t doing them and how that was compatible with his philosophy. ET’s claims remain uncontested. Meanwhile, DD never said anything negative about ET, leaving him to continue running the BoI, TCS and ARR groups and explain philosophies like TCS and CR to the world.

SFC Destroys FoR Group

Alan Forrester (AF) ran the FoR discussion group, about DD’s book, for a decade. He has a CR blog. Although AF ran the FoR group alone, SFC was the original group creator and never gave AF ownership. This allowed SFC to do whatever she wanted with the group, regardless of AF’s opinions or consent.

After 10 years with no posts or involvement by SFC, she suddenly took over FoR in order to ban ET as revenge for the I Changed My Mind About David Deutsch post. (AF agreed with ET regarding the philosophical issues that ET and DD disagreed about, and didn’t want ET banned.) Then SFC immediately neglected the group and soon everyone stopped using it. She’d been uninvolved because she wasn’t interested in FoR ideas and because she was still involved with her secret, unrelated community; being motivated to ban someone didn’t change that situation.

Just like when SFC neglected the TCS Yahoo Group, everyone interested in discussion moved over to one of ET’s groups. In that case, they went to ET’s TCS group. In this case, they went to the BoI group: since DD’s second book was out now, fans of the first book naturally were interested in the second book too, which covered similar topics.

SFC didn’t attempt problem solving, consent or common preference finding with ET, AF or the FoR group membership. She violated the standard group policy of giving warnings before banning people. And she said nothing indicating that DD himself had any problem with ET’s article. It seemed to be her own personal vendetta, and she didn’t care that she was primarily punishing AF and the FoR discussion group members, not ET who owned the BoI group anyway.

DD and ET had always had a relationship based heavily on explicit communication: if you want something, request it; if you prefer something, say so. DD knew he could make requests of ET and had wide latitude to get whatever he wanted. Several times, DD had asked ET to refrain from saying something or take something down. But this time, DD made no request and expressed no preference, knowing that ET would take that as a go ahead signal. DD, to this day, hasn’t said anything negative about ET or ET’s critical articles.

Fallible Ideas Group

In 2013, ET merged several discussion groups into one, the Fallible Ideas (FI) discussion group. Although the older groups were left unchanged, ET simply asked people to switch and every active poster voluntarily started posting on FI. This smooth transition stands out in contrast with SFC’s disastrous move of the TCS group.

ET merged the groups because the topics are all related. They’re all about understanding good philosophy and applying it. And, over time, under his leadership, the groups had become more philosophically sophisticated. For example, it had become unusual for posters to be unfamiliar with DD’s books. With a smaller membership that was more knowledgeable about all the ideas, and had more consistent ideas, having a single forum made sense.

Thus, the FI group is the continuation of the TCS group from 1994, as well as the ARR, FoR, BoI groups. The FI group also merged some more minor groups: TCS Society (a companion to the TCS group for political discussion), Rational Politics (a newer group by Justin Mallone, which ET and DD participated at), and an Ayn Rand discussion group (by ET).

Where Are They Now?

DD has gone on to work on Constructor Theory. He also became a member of the Royal Society in 2008. DD and SFC seem to no longer like to talk about TCS or be associated with it, but don’t make clear statements or requests about the matter. ET has withheld the older TCS archives posts from the public at DD’s request, even though DD has not provided any public statement about his reasons.

SFC stopped being involved with philosophy, TCS or ARR. She still hasn’t explained what happened or apologized to any parents.

SFC’s two children were friends with DD too, and one was also a friend of ET. They are adults today but never got very involved with TCS or CR. No other child with any sort of TCS upbringing became very involved either.

ET has gone on to improve CR with new ideas like Yes or No Philosophy, Paths Forward, Overreaching, Impasse Chains, Using Intellectual Processes to Combat Bias and Rationally Resolving Conflicts of Ideas. As of today (2020), ET still posts regularly to the FI discussion group and has been a consistent, active poster continuously for 18 years, and he’s branched out to videos and podcasts.

Editor’s note: I made a serious effort to get the facts and dates right. If anyone believes any fact is in error, please let me know.

More info:

If you liked this, or want to learn more about TCS, sign up for the Fallible Ideas newsletter and join the Fallible Ideas discussion group.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (18)

Logan Chipkin from Four Strands is Violating My Trademark Rights

The Four Strands group (for David Deutsch fans) has been an ongoing source of trouble, including an attempt to splinter the discussion community and they continue to spread hatred which has repeatedly crossed the line to initiating force and violating rights.

The first trademark violation from Four Strands was the "Fallible Fun" forum, from Dennis Hackethal, designed to compete with my Fallible Ideas forum. He changed the name when I informed him of the problem, but he should have known better on his own, and he was rude instead of apologetic. Nevertheless, that problem is now solved, and I mention it only because it shows a pattern of behavior from these people, and also because it shows agreement that my trademark matters even from one of the people who had gone so far as to violate it.

The second trademark violation is the Fallible Animals podcast, from Logan Chipkin, designed to compete with my Fallible Ideas podcast. This rights violation is ongoing.

Logan is using the Fallible Animals mark in a commercial manner, including on Patreon and for his freelancing. The "Fallible X" naming is highly distinctive, especially within such a small niche community. There are no US registered trademarks using the term "fallible" or a variant (like fallibilism or fallibility). FYI for those who haven't read anything about the law, I don't have to register with the government for my trademark to exist and be protected; trademark rights come from usage. But the lack of any registered businesses using the term still shows distinctiveness because larger businesses usually register to get some extra benefits. For example, there are 328 US trademark records for "curiosity" (and I would not be claiming there was any problem if he made a Curious Animals podcast, despite the name of this blog).

I've received multiple reports of confusion over this type of naming before. People thought I owned the Fallible Living site, which I've given permission to exist in its current limited form, but only because it's run by a friend, has the sort of content I'd post myself, and the articles on the site are individually attributed to authors. It's basically just an archive collection of articles I also would have shared, and it's a non-commercial site. Nevertheless, if it was a new site I'd still ask him to use a different name. Fallible Animals doesn't have my permission, is a commercial business directly competing with my Fallible Ideas, and is in a position where renaming wouldn't be very hard or costly as the owner has openly admitted.

Below are the emails which show bad faith by Logan.

Jan 19, 2020, I wrote:

Hi, you came to my Fallible Ideas forum in March 2019 and now you’re making a podcast with similar content to the Fallible Ideas Podcast and a very similar name, Fallible Animals, starting in Sept 2019. My Fallible Ideas brand is well established dating back to 2010. Your podcast’s name and related Patreon violate my trademark rights. In order to compete with me, you need to use a clearly separate, unassociated name. I assume it’s an accident and you just didn’t think of the problem, but would you please promptly change it?

Jan 19, Logan replied:

I actually stopped creating content this year and have told my Patrons the same. I might return to the podcast eventually, but for now I'm focusing on other projects. Yes, it's a coincidence. I'd been saying the phrase 'Fallible Animals' as a joke for a few years to friends and family.

Jan 19, I replied:

I’m sorry but it doesn’t matter if it’s a coincidence or if the content isn’t being updated, you still need to rename it promptly. I hope we can resolve this amicably. Rights violations are a serious matter but I’m still hoping not to have to bother my lawyer with writing a letter.

Jan 19, still the same day, Logan replied again:

Please give me a bit of time to figure it out. Thanks for understanding. If I'm in violating of any law, I'm more than happy to oblige. Again, I really have no emotional attachment or anything, it would just be a matter of tracking down wherever the title is in existence.

This was fine. Logan seemed reasonable and responsive, but that was apparently a dishonest trick. Although unattached to the name, and claiming he doesn't want to violate the law, he never responded further with any explanation or defense of his actions, and did not fix it. He lied to me by saying he would figure it out, but then he didn't do that.

On Feb 1, after Logan didn't follow up, I did:

You’ve had time. Will you rename it now? The Fallible Fun forum has renamed.

Logan didn't reply, so I followed up again on Feb 13:

Hello? If you just won’t respond at all, there’s no way for an amicable solution to happen. You asked for time. I gave it to you. You have one more week to respond about your trademark violation. That will make over a month since you asked for “a bit of time” and communicated that it was no big deal to you to change the name.

If you don’t reply within a week, I will have to treat you as now refusing to respond after previously communicating that you would respond. That would be bad faith and would leave me no options short of escalating this to a cease and desist letter. At that point, you will have crossed a major line with no way back, and I will blog negatively about it among other actions. I’m trying to help you by giving you repeated opportunities to avoid bad outcomes. Please respond; this can still be resolved so it’s no big deal.

Also, I request that, within a week, you provide a mailing address where I can send a certified letter.

Now it's Feb 25 and he still hasn't replied. I am considering having a lawyer send him a letter demanding he change the name and pay my legal fees, though he won't even provide an address to send it to, as if being hard to reach with communications was a strategy for dealing with legal matters.

Dear Logan and Four Strands: Please just leave me alone. Follow the law. Stop attacking me. Stop the aggression and just do your own thing peacefully. Even if you are totaly unwilling to do problem solving (while allegedly being fans of a philosophy about problem solving), that'd be acceptable if dumb. I've never violated the rights of any of you (and none of my FI group members are violating your rights either because my group doesn't encourage hatred and crime), but you violate my rights repeatedly, which is absolutely unacceptable. Stop encouraging each other to violate rights and change your group culture to embrace civilized, legal lifestyles.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (4)

Dennis Hackethal, Plagiarist

Dennis Hackethal (DH) published the book A Window on Intelligence: The Philosophy of People, Software, and Evolution – and Its Implications on 2020-03-13. The book heavily plagiarizes Elliot Temple (ET, myself) and David Deutsch (DD, who was ET’s mentor, colleague and close friend for over 10 years). DH repeatedly uses their ideas without giving credit and tries to present them as DH’s own ideas.

DH came to ET in Dec 2018 and initially treated ET like a mentor he was thrilled to have found and be able to learn from. Finally DH found an expert who knew a ton about the topics DH was interested in, and had good ideas instead of bad ones (in DH’s opinion, most experts are terrible, but DD and ET have great wisdom). And ET was actually accessible to learn from, unlike most experts! DH joined ET’s discussion forums and got lots of learning help. DH left after 5 months (DH stopped using the forums and stopped speaking to ET or ET’s associates) and DH refused to say why. That’s around the time DH started writing the book. Later, posting elsewhere on the internet, DH communicated that he has a hateful attitude towards ET and ET’s associates (even though DH still seems to be a huge fan of their ideas and even filled his book with their ideas). Despite cutting contact, DH continued reading ET’s writing.

The below post goes over some examples of how DH’s book plagiarizes ET and DD, and also does some copyright infringement. This is the sort of egregious, extensive plagiarism that gets people expelled from universities. It’s not just a little bit. The book should never have been published and should be withdrawn from the market.

There's also a video where I watch and comment on Justin reading and commenting on this post.

Even though the book has a bunch of ET’s ideas in it, DH provided ET no opportunity to comment before the book was published, did not provide a courtesy copy to ET, and didn’t even notify ET about the book’s existence after publication. This is after DH had personal tutoring sessions to learn from ET, discussed on ET’s forums and his chatrooms, and more. He directly learned material from ET, put it in the book, and didn’t even notify ET, in addition to not giving credit in the book.

Despite relying so much on ET’s and DD’s ideas, DH still introduces a bunch of his own mistakes. The book may alienate readers from the ideas in addition to stealing credit.

Part of the problem is DH’s incompetence. He had no business writing a book. He doesn’t know how to cite things. He screws up badly when speaking about some Richard Dawkins material. He flames Nick Bostrom inappropriately. He gives DD credit in a few places, often inadequately, but then gives zero credit to DD in the majority of cases. However, it’s not just incompetence. DH’s intentional malice is clear because, for example, ET’s name literally isn’t in the book even once, even though it’s packed with ET’s ideas. Details for all of these points are covered below.

DH’s response to the issue is also covered below. He admits he screwed up and expresses his confidence that the book has lots of plagiarism. DH says he’ll fix the plagiarism if ET finds it for him, but then immediately breaks his word and refuses to even read documentation of the problems that he’d just requested. As unbelievable as this is, it’s all documented below since DH put it in writing.

As a likely further response, this website was DOSed (sent extra traffic to break the website so pages don’t load) shortly after DH saw a draft of this blog post, but before it was posted. Whoever did that is a criminal and the timing of the DOS seems unlikely to be a coincidence. The DOS was presumably done by DH or someone he told about his plagiarism. I don’t recall this website ever being intentionally DOSed before, while this DOS was clearly intentional (it’s not just e.g. a web spider ignoring robots.txt). For security reasons, I won’t provide technical details. I’ll just say the attack quickly made the website stop loading for anyone. If DH isn’t involved in this crime, he should provide the evidence he has about the crime, such as who he told about the plagiarism issue and thereby provided motive to. I’ve contacted DH about this. If DH won’t help catch the criminal, all civilized people should shun him even more than they should for his plagiarism. Note as context that DH has a recent history of breaking laws, associating with criminal(s), and lying in defense of criminal(s).

Note: I haven’t read much of DH’s book and don’t plan to. I just skimmed a few parts and searched for keywords. There are probably many other issues which I don’t discuss here. My impression from skimming was that there were a bunch more problematic issues that I didn’t read more about. The parts I comment on were easy to find fast. I did look at all instances of DD’s name (20), ET’s name (zero) and ET’s websites (3), so I know what credit was given to them. I didn’t check if other people like Karl Popper were plagiarized or not. The below is only lightly edited because it’s good enough to communicate the info and I want to get back to educational writing and philosophy research ASAP.

Copied Sentence

Yellow quotes like this are from DH’s book:

Criterion of universality – x is a universal y if it can do all the z’s all the other y’s can do

This sentence comes from when ET was teaching DH what universality is. One part of the educational help DH got was a discussion involving 20 emails. In it, ET wrote (Feb 2019):

X is a universal Y if it can do any Z that any other Y can do.

DH had trouble understanding. He wrote e.g. “I think I'm still confused about universality.”. But after further educational efforts by ET, DH understood the idea enough to copy that sentence into his book and plagiarize the topic in general.

I (ET) recognized this sentence immediately when I saw it. It was a major topic I educated DH about. The sentence is highly distinctive. This isn’t plausibly an accident.

Here’s another example of the plagiarism related to universality:

Whichever way one chooses to define domains in which to look for universality, it is crucial to pick useful qualifiers and determine meaningful domains.

This is an important idea (which is closely related to the Criterion of Universality above) that ET had to explain to DH multiple times before DH finally understood it. And the idea is original to ET, not common knowledge. But no credit is given.

Plagiarism and Copyright

Plagiarism is taking credit for ideas or writing that isn’t yours. Plagiarism is DH’s main offense. It’s the thing that gets people flunked out of university classes for being unethical.

Copyright protects the specific form of a work but not the ideas or concepts. It’s the thing that gets lots of YouTube videos taken down and people get sued over it. It’s a well known law in widespread use.

So DH could write about a criterion of universality in his own words and it would only be plagiarism (if he didn’t give credit) but not copyright infringement. But when he uses ET’s words in his book without quoting them or giving credit, then it’s copyright infringement. To avoid breaking the law, DH has to write his own words instead of borrowing sentences that ET wrote. (The slight rewordings don’t make it OK. You can’t get around copyright that easily.)

Note that copyright has an exception called “fair use”. If DH had quoted ET’s sentence and said ET wrote it, then it wouldn’t be a copyright violation, even without ET’s permission to use the sentence. Fair use allows quoting a little bit of someone’s writing for e.g. critical commentary or educational purposes, but it doesn’t allow taking credit for other people’s work.

Copied Question and Plagiarized Chapter

It is essential to ask, “hard to vary given what constraint?”.

Those quote marks indicate dialog or speech, not a quote from another author. But it’s actually an exact quote from me, without credit.

I wrote it here (2019-06-01) and more prominently in this blog post (2019-07-17) where I was discussing with Bruce Nielson, an associate of DH who is named in the acknowledgments. Even if I hadn’t told this directly to DH’s associate, we know DH kept reading my blog even after he stopped discussing with me because he uses later material from my blog in his book.

Much of the rest of the chapter is paraphrasing ET without credit, such as this sentence:

We want an implementation to be hard to vary while still solving the problem(s) it purports to solve.

ET has said things like this many times, e.g. a 2011 formulation on the FoR email group:

knowledge is information that is hard to vary while solving the problem [that it’s designed or adapted to solve] equally well or better.

Although DH’s phrasing is based on ET’s writing, much of this concept was originated by DD. DD isn’t credited for it either.

The chapter has one footnote about one specific idea:

I first came across the idea of using multiplication as an example of knowledge in computer programs here:, which is in turn based on the concept of structural epistemology, which goes back to David Deutsch and Kolya Wolf.

DH doesn’t give any credit in the main text and doesn’t give my name or a direct link to my website. And DH understates how much material he got from ET’s posts (of which there are three other main ones, on the same topic, that ET emailed to DH, by DH’s request, on 2018-12-24. The posts supplemented the discussion where ET taught DH about it verbally.)

With just this one cite and no mention of ET’s name, DH spends most of ch. 3 explaining ET’s work (some of which, as ET has acknowledged, DD helped with or originated; DH doesn’t credit DD either). DH borrows extensively from ET’s way of teaching and explaining these issues, for a whole chapter, and provides just one endnote mentioning where he got the general idea of using multiplication as an example. But ET didn’t just mention multiplication would be a nice example, ET gave examples and showed how to use them to explain some big ideas, and DH is plagiarizing all that (with, as usual, some added errors mixed in, and some key ideas omitted, so it’s screwed up but still easily recognizable as based on ET’s work).

Other ET Endnotes

The easiest way to find more plagiarism of ET is to check the endnotes. There are two more which indirectly reference ET’s website while refusing to give his name. First:

[33] Hans Hass, “The Human Animal,” as quoted on

You’d never know from this endnote that ET has made multiple videos about this specific topic and had multiple discussions about it. ET’s educational material is where and how DH learned what to say about the Hans Hass quotes he borrowed from ET’s blog post (just like DH was only able to partially understand universality due to ET’s educational efforts, for which no credit was given).

Hans Hass gets his name in the main text of the book too, not just in the note, as is appropriate. But ET’s name isn’t in the book once.

The whole section on ‘Animal “Learning”’ is heavily based on the ideas of ET and DD, including ET’s category of blog posts about animal intelligence. ET also has made several videos on the topic, had several debates, and had many earlier discussions about it on the email forums. They are distinctive ideas which DH plagiarized.

We can explain this easily and well through the existence of an inborn pathfinding algorithm whose results just need to be stored in memory for later retrieval.

DH got this specifically from ET. DH didn’t know it until ET taught it to him personally.

Before learning from ET, DH actually had conventional/mainstream views about animal intelligence. No credit is given for radically changing DH’s conclusions on these matters and teaching him the entire point of view he’s writing in the book.

The last endnote related to ET is:

[36] As far as I am aware, the notion of such a meta-algorithm was first introduced in the form of a “fail-safe” (but its significance underestimated) here:

This includes an unargued, unexplained, unreasonable claim that ET made a mistake! ET’s extensive knowledge of an obscure subject is not evidence that ET underestimates it. ET’s bringing up something original (as DH believes it to be) is not evidence that he doesn’t realize it’s significant.

Again ET’s name isn’t given and this is only an endnote so a reader could easily never realize that even this little bit of partial credit was given. DH uses the term “meta-algorithm” 95 times in the book, inspired by ET and no one else (according to DH’s own account), but doesn’t give ET meaningful credit. I actually think DH is confused about the issue and its originality (it’s already in widespread use by programmers, which DH apparently hasn’t noticed, but certain applications of it to animals are original to DD and ET), but I won’t get into it more.

Note that the link here goes to a post ET wrote in Nov 2019, over six months after DH had stopped speaking to ET without explanation. It shows DH was still reading ET’s work and using it for his book, including specifically ET’s posts relating to animal intelligence.

Another plagiarism example is DH’s discussion of golden rice and the precautionary principle. Is it a coincidence that ET wrote about golden rice and the precautionary principle, also in Nov 2019 while DH was reading ET’s work and writing the book? That ET post also explains a non-standard view of Pascal’s Wager and then DH writes something similar about Pascal’s Wager in another part of the book. DH did change it by incorrectly lowercasing the “w” in “Wager”, even though it’s a proper noun.

DD Plagiarism

I skimmed DH’s book and noted a few topics discussed which are distinctively associated with DD. Then I searched for every time DD’s name was used to give DD credit. Subtracting the times DD got credit from the list, the rest are plagiarism.

Topics plagiarized from DD include: Problems are soluble, problems are inevitable, various universality stuff including the jump to universality (using DD’s exact phrase "jump to universality” seven times), reach, and criteria for reality. These are major ideas from DD’s books, especially The Beginning of Infinity (BoI). They are highly original and distinctive ideas which DH gives zero credit for. DH’s book title “A Window on Intelligence” is also based on DD’s chapter title “A Window on Infinity” in BoI, without credit.

Topics where DD got some credit include: Structural epistemology, hard to vary, universal explainers, static and dynamic memes, Church-Turing-Deutsch principle, and "If you can’t program it, you haven’t understood it.”. In the first 3 of those 6 cases, DD’s name only appears in an endnote, not in the main text of the book, so most readers still won’t know it’s DD’s idea. Also there’s no text crediting DD for the Church-Turing-Deutsch principle, it’s just implied by DD’s name being in the principle’s name. But Deutsch is a pretty common name and there’s no mention it’s the same guy and no citation to DD’s book, BoI, where DD talks about is as the “Church-Turing conjecture” (so DH is using material from DD’s book, with no cite to the book or explicit credit, and DH changed the name, which is a typical example of how he distorts the ideas he plagiarizes enough to screw them up a bit while still leaving them recognizable as other people’s ideas).

There’s also an endnote linking to a DD blog post. I didn’t read that part of the book to investigate further.

Besides the list of plagiarized DD topics above, all the other DD topics in the book are also plagiarized, since they aren’t some of the few topics where credit was given.

The appropriate action is to credit DD by name in the main text every time one of DD’s major ideas is introduced, at minimum. As a comparison, in The Fabric of Reality (FoR) DD shares a few criticisms of Thomas Kuhn, who is a relatively minor topic (the index indicates that Kuhn comes up on only 11 pages in a 22 page section of the book, and isn’t mentioned at all elsewhere). Nevertheless, Kuhn’s name is used 26 times, while DD’s name is used 20 times in DH’s book where DD is basically the main theme of the whole book. (I don’t think it makes much difference to this comparison because Kuhn only comes up in one part of the book, but FYI DD’s book is around 40% longer than DH’s.)

Misrepresenting Association with DD

From the acknowledgements:

David Deutsch, whose books were some of the inspirations for this book, for tirelessly answering my many questions over the years.

This isn’t true. I have lots of info about this from both DD and DH. I’d rather not get into personal details about the relationship between DD and DH unnecessarily because I know DD generally prefers his life isn’t made public. I’ll provide more info if DH disputes my claim that his statement is untrue. (I’ll interpret that dispute as DH wanting this to be a public matter and granting permission to share everything he told me about it, so it wouldn’t even be a little bit discourteous to share.)

Speaking generally about info that’s already public: When DD actually tirelessly answers questions over many years, you end up with e.g. ~8000 emails from him (over half private), like I have, as well as millions of words of personal chat logs. DH has nothing like that. If DD actually was interested in talking with DH much, then DD would be credited for reading and commenting on some of the book, too. If he tirelessly answered many questions, why not read the whole book? But surely DD’s unlimited energy would extend to commenting on some book material (which is presumably some of DH’s highest quality writing, so some of the stuff DD would most want to read or respond to). DH hardly knows DD and is trying to exaggerate a name drop in order to climb the social status hierarchy.

DH, btw, contrary to various pro-criticism and pro-reason themes of his book, has actually admitted to me that he’s a social climber who cares deeply about public perception of him. DH doesn’t want anything negative said about him regardless of whether it’s true or false. I’m under no obligation to keep those particular messages private, but am sticking to only a paraphrase as a courtesy since they aren’t currently available by Google search. I’m not exaggerating. If DH denies this, I’ll provide exact quotes.

Feynman the Popperian

Feynman was familiar with Popperian philosophy and even taught it (though not without mistakes).

Source: Me? (Regarding Feynman’s familiarity with Popperian philosophy.)

AFAIK I’m the only person to publicly make that claim (until DD joined my discussion to back me up). And I, unlike DH, gave sources and evidence.

I figured it out from Feynman’s books but DD already knew it from talking with Feynman IRL and also from DD’s knowledge of the physics community. I shared the idea and many people thought I was an idiot until I convinced DD to share part of his knowledge too.

As to Feynman teaching Popperian philosophy, that’s a misleading exaggeration from some little fragments Feynman taught. And, despite being the source of the idea, I don’t know what mistakes DH is talking about and he doesn’t explain or give any source.

Here, again, DH uses me or DD as an unacknowledged source but then screws the idea up some too. He uses enough of our idea that it’s distinctive and recognizable, but also throws in stuff we don’t agree with. So giving credit would be problematic because DH doesn’t separate what he got from us from his own misconceptions.

Sources: I have a blog post Feynman the Popperian from 2008 but the main material is on email discussion groups, particularly the Fabric of Reality (FoR) group based on DD’s book. Yahoo recently deleted the archives for all groups but you can get the archive from my ebooks page.

I also told DH about this directly, e.g. from 2019-03-03 I told him “i think Feynman read and understood Popper well.”

Here’s DD posting to the FoR group, 2011-05-02, responding to one of my critics. The quote DD responds to is cut from the middle of a paragraph in a rant directed against me:

On 2 May 2011, at 3:41pm, John Clark wrote:

There is in fact no hard evidence that Feynman even knew that a fellow by the name of Karl Popper ever existed.

For what it's worth, I happened to mention Popper in the one conversation I had with Feynman, sometime in the 80s, and he did not say "who's that?" but replied meaningfully to the point. So that's evidence he had heard of Popper at that time. What he knew of him, I have no empirical evidence of, because Popper was peripheral to the conversation and I never got round to pursuing the matter.

Wheeler, on the other hand (my boss and Feynman's thesis advisor and subsequently his collaborator), knew a lot about Popper and was honoured and delighted when Popper quoted one of Wheeler's aphorisms as a chapter epigraph. Wheeler and I discussed Popper in detail on several occasions and I tried to persuade him to become a Popperian -- ultimately without success, because he preferred Polanyi (!). Nevertheless there were specific aspects of Popperian philosophy of science that he very much agreed with, especially that scientific theories are not derived from anywhere, that they are conjectural and full of errors, and that science makes progress by correcting these errors.

-- David Deutsch

(For what it’s worth, DD told me what he and Feynman said to each other. I consider that conversation fully convincing that Feynman knew a ton about Popper, but unfortunately DD prefers not to share the details publicly.)

DH Is Incompetent at Citation

[6] Karl Popper, “Back to the Presocratics”

[10] Karl Popper’s translation in “Back to the Presocratics”

These citations do not follow any of the standard style guidelines for cites. Nor, worse, do they provide enough information for someone to find what Popper wrote. DH gives the name of an essay without saying what it is (book, essay, TV show, what) or saying what book it can be found in. DH elsewhere cites books and TV shows using the same format (quote marks around the title) that he here uses for citing an article within an unnamed book. In those cases, at least he’s giving an author and the overall title of the thing in question, so it’s less bad. Here he left out the name of the book he’s citing!

DH even screws up referring to his own writing:

Dennis Hackethal, Misconceptions About Evolution, 2020

Dennis Hackethal, What Is the Difference Between a Person and a Recording of That Person?, 2020

What book, journal or website has those articles? All DH gives is a title but no link or indication of what type of work they are. It’s not enough info to look them up and read them.

People who don’t know how to cite – and are unable or unwilling to learn or to use a tool that creates properly formatted citations for you (those tools are readily available for free) – should not be writing books with 86 end notes and 35 bibliography entries. Maybe if DH had learned the basics of what he was doing before publication, he would have found out what plagiarism and copyrights are in addition to how to cite, but instead he acted irresponsibly and unethically.

DH Is a Jerk

Although large portions of the book are about DD’s ideas, Nick Bostrom, who is brought up as a target to attack (not as a source of ideas DH advocates), is named more times than DD. Here’s a sample of what DH says about Bostrom and his book Superintelligence:

Oxford has produced … some of the worst [intelligence research] (Nick Bostrom).

Bostrom is [a] slave of [irrational ideas]

[Bostrom’s] book is such a nauseatingly pessimistic attempt to snuff out AGI

[Bostrom’s] book is a slaveholder’s manual. To say this is not an exaggeration, nor is it metaphorical

[Bostrom’s book is a] Gestapo-style manual

DH does give some intellectual reasoning related to these attacks. I think the reasons are partially right but I also disagree significantly. The reasoning is unfair to Bostrom and would be inadequate to make these attacks even if DH was right about all the issues. If you read the book to see the context of the Bostrom quotes and understand the arguments, you may agree with DH’s claims somewhat more, but you won’t find they get any nicer.

Lots of the reasoning DH uses for attacking Bostrom on AI alignment and slavery is plagiarized from ET. DH also plagiarized the view of a new AGI as similar to a child needing an education. Comments like “If you build an AGI, you are a parent.” are taken from ET. (The AGI material is easily recognizable and distinctive while also being changed enough to screw it up). BTW, elsewhere DH also brings up parenting to talk about it being an area heavy with static memes, which is again something he got from ET.

DH also slanders the U.S. south and other slave-holding societies throughout history, by implication, by suggesting that slaveholders only ever gave slaves the minimum food/shelter/etc. to keep their slaves alive to get acceptable work out of them.

A slaveholder needs to keep his slaves alive so that they continue to work for him. He improves their wellbeing only to the point where they can perform the work to an acceptable degree. This degree can be much lower than what promotes comfort or health, resulting in tremendous suffering.

Although I’m not a fan of slaveholders, this is an unfair attack that doesn’t accurately represent slavery throughout history. There have been many times that slaveowners were kind to slaves and even voluntarily freed them. Not all slaves were horribly mistreated (some were horribly mistreated, e.g. in the silver mines of ancient Greece, including too often being mistreated to the point that they didn’t stay alive, contrary to what DH says). I suspect DH is thinking in terms of game theory but hasn’t read about slavery in actual societies.

Richard Dawkins

Another odd use of the concept of slavery is:

the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins discovered that organisms are protective shields genes build around themselves. Organisms are the slaves that genes use to spread through the population.


Like all organisms, human bodies are the slaves that genes use to achieve this purpose.

First of all, the term “survival machine” appears 96 times in Dawkins’ book, The Selfish Gene. That’s why I still remember it even though I haven’t read the book for many years. Why doesn’t DH use the right term? The term “shield” is only in the book once in a different context (DNA membranes). Dawkins’ term is more accurate and descriptive, and somewhat different (a machine does more than a shield, e.g. machines have moving parts and could plausibly hunt for food, while shields don’t). DH has distorted Dawkins’ viewpoint and is getting stuff wrong even before the stuff about slaves.

The stuff about slavery is confused, is a poor explanation of survival machines, and is being unfairly associated with Dawkins, who never said it. To make it harder to tell that Dawkins never said it, DH gives no cite here, not even mentioning which of Dawkins’ books he’s talking about.

Not being plagiarized by DH is a mixed blessing because he misrepresents people’s views when he does name them.

Dennis Hackethal’s Comments

I contacted DH when I first saw a major issue in the book, which was the criterion of universality issue. He responded agreeing that he was in the wrong and that the book should be changed. He also informed me of his belief that his book had many more problems of a similar nature. He asked me to do the work of documenting them for him and send him all of the problems at once.

In my reply, I provided DH with what he’d asked for. He wanted a bunch of problems at once instead of one by one. He had said he would review what I sent him. I sent him a pre-publication copy of this blog post which wasn’t very different than the final version.

DH replied that he wouldn’t read or review any of the plagiarism problems with his book because he didn’t have time – which means because there were too many problems with his book, so it was too much to read. But he’d asked for everything at once, and I didn’t even send him anything near a comprehensive review of the book’s errors. Rather than read whatever amount he’d been willing to read (e.g. only 5 problems for the whole book?), he decided to read none of them.

Besides breaking his word about reviewing the problems I sent him at his request, DH’s reply also said he’d consulted a lawyer and implied that he would only deal with copyright violations not plagiarism. The unstated reason is that copyright violations break the law while plagiarism is unethical but is not generally against the law. So DH is knowingly and intentionally a plagiarist. I tried to double check this with him but he didn’t reply.

I know this is shocking beyond belief so here are quotes. Here is DH agreeing that he made a mistake about the criterion of universality:

it looks like you did tell me that [sentence], in which case the right thing to do is to credit you

He then proposed to add an endnote, with no mention of mentioning ET’s name anywhere in the book, and while still leaving ET’s sentence in the main text of the book with no quotation marks, as if DH wrote it.

Here’s DH stating his belief that the book has more issues of a similar nature (copyright violation and plagiarism) based on incorrect speculation about how ET was reading it:

judging by the passage you're at, it looks like you're still pretty early on in the book. As I'm sure you will find more issues

DH continued with his request for information about the copyright and plagiarism problems to be sent all at once in one long document covering the whole book:

I suggest you finish reading the book so I can review your suggestions and make any applicable edits in one go.

Note how DH is “sure” there are more issues in the book, but intends to do nothing about them unless and until ET explains them to him. In the meantime, DH won’t even try to fix the issues in his book that he’s “sure” are there. (Of course it’s not ET’s job to point out DH’s plagiarism to him. ET did DH a huge courtesy by sending him lengthy documentation of some of the many plagiarism issues.)

In DH’s second email, he began by forgetting that he’d asked for all the info at once, and expressing his disinterest in revising his book to fix the plagiarism:

I don't have time to read your blog post.

He then brought up his lawyer and changed the subject to only be copyright, not plagiarism.

ET’s reply asked:

You only replied about copyright. Are you saying you’re unwilling to address plagiarism issues?

DH did not reply.

Want more proof? Here are screenshots of DH’s two emails. Email 1 and email 2.


DH’s book is full of plagiarism. He tries to pass off other people’s ideas as his own in order to manipulate public perceptions of him. He plagiarizes heavily from at least ET and DD (who have a bunch of important and original ideas that aren’t very well known, so they are particularly good targets to plagiarize). It also has at least two copyright infringements where it uses ET’s writing (as DH’s words, no quote or credit) instead of just copying and paraphrasing ideas from ET and DD without credit.

Although some of the problems are due DH’s incompetence, it was his responsibility to learn what plagiarism is and how to give credit before publishing a book. And surely he’s heard of plagiarism and could have investigated the matter before acting so unethically. And DH has done this partly maliciously and partly in an attempt to climb the social status hierarchy.

The book should be withdrawn from the market and would need massive revisions to be ethical. Ethically, it’d need to be withdrawn from the market while those revisions were made, otherwise DH would be intentionally committing plagiarism during that time. The revisions would also need to be documented so people would know what was changed and could check whether that was acceptable; hiding the version history of the book or being vague about the revisions would be unacceptable.

If you’re considering a business or personal relationship with DH, or an intellectual collaboration, or even just reading his book, I suggest you reconsider. If you’re already involved with DH, I suggest raising the plagiarism issue with him and then disassociating from him if you reach the conclusion that his plagiarism is extensive and indefensible.

DH received credible information that the book contained plagiarism, agreed that it did, stated he believed his book contained more plagiarism, asked to be told problems, received that info, and refused to read it. This is all on purpose.

I will update this post if anything substantial changes, e.g. if Dennis Hackethal stops being a plagiarist or helps investigate the DOS crime.

There's also a video where I watch and comment on Justin reading and commenting on this post.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (29)

Praise from David Deutsch

These quotes give some information about what David Deutsch thought of me and why. They help explain why he chose to spend thousands of hours having discussions with me, primarily one-on-one. I’m providing the quotes to help set the record straight because some people have spread misinformation.

2003: “I'm sure you can do it as well as I”. The context here was writing a reply to someone about physics.

2003: “Yes you did [get it right]. Excellent.” Context is that DD and I had disagreed regarding our mental models of a person in a philosophy discussion. Their new messages made it clear that I was right.

2005: “The reason I liked you right away is that you have a mind like a racing car.”

2006: “as I told you, you remind me of Feynman.” And elaborating on one of the ways I reminded DD of Feynman: "He [Feynman] did have huge energy. But, despite winning the Nobel prize and starting off many fruitful projects, I have the feeling that his mind was like an engine that was never engaged to drive anything worthy of it. Was shaking itself to pieces.”

2007: “he [Feynman] was basically in the same position [as you are regarding boredom]. He had this industrial strength meat grinder in his brain, which was designed to grind up entire oxen every few seconds, but he seldom had any oxen.”

Paraphrase from memory (maybe from 2006-8 range): “You’re the second faster learner I’ve ever met, after Feynman.”

Paraphrase from memory (this was early, maybe 2003): “Are you using software to calculate those derivatives?” Me: “No, I’m doing them in my head.” DD: “I’m surprised you could do them so quickly and accurately.” Context: Derivatives are calculus and DD has seen some of the best physicists calculate (and he’s top tier himself).

2010-03-03 IM: "The way you're thinking about the Feynman lectures is very good. Just right, if I may say so."

2010 email. DD asked me some stuff about Burke and Godwin, and I wrote a short essay explaining it for him. He replied: "Thanks. Very helpful. [new paragraph] You should write that paper." DD routinely encouraged me to write academic papers and said I had plenty of both skill and domain knowledge (including in areas outside my philosophy speciality, like Godwin and Burke history). Similarly, earlier in 2010 DD wrote (following many positive comments about some info about Godwin I'd written): "As I have said many times, you ought to write a paper that takes a baseball bat to all those bad pitches re Godwin and knocks them out of the stadium so hard that they'll never come back."

Regarding DD writing The Beginning of Infinity, for years he sent me draft chapters of the book and highly praised my responses, saying they improved the book. I don’t want to share what he said about other people or give specifics, so paraphrasing his highest and broadest praise statement: “Your comments on BoI are much better and much more useful than anyone else’s.” This is one of the reasons DD asked me to create and own the BoI website and BoI Forum (BoI Forum discussion was later merged into the FI Forum, which is still active today). It’s also why he wrote “especially” before my name in the book’s acknowledgements.

2010 email about my ~250 pages of BoI editing comments: "Nearly all your comments are helpful or very helpful, and some are making the summaries, and hence the book, significantly more comprehensible."

These quotes are all from one-on-one, private, written conversations. I’ve shared them, only after careful consideration, because some of DD’s associates have been engaged in a many-year campaign to undermine and attack my reputation with lies, smears and gossip. Part of the false narrative is to downplay the extent of my association with DD, how much he liked me, and why. DD has not publicly contradicted the misinformation nor attempted to set the record straight. So I’ve provided some factual information about the matter. Relevant to that, DD said in 2010: “I am not mad [at you] and do not hold a grudge.” He has never made a contrary statement or withdrawn any of the praise.

Note: Due to extensive interaction for over a decade, DD and I had complex, non-standard, personalized, private policies for handling privacy and permissions. I’ve taken that into account (but won’t explain the policies to protect our privacy). I’ve minimized the quotes to a few that contradict the false narrative.

FYI, the amount Feynman comes up is unrepresentative. Searching for Feynman was an easy way to find quotes.

The purpose of this post is to provide some information that was not previously available and to counter misinformation. For a broader summary see e.g. The History of Taking Children Seriously.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (8)

Andy B Harassment Continues

Andy B has been harassing my FI community using many false identities. He left after I caught and exposed him, but he returned in Aug 2020. He’s written over 100 new messages under the names Periergo and Anonymous, and his Periergo Less Wrong account has been banned by Less Wrong for targeted harassment against me.

Unfortunately, he succeeded at his goal of destroying my discussions with Less Wrong.

Andy’s actions – including threats, doxxing, spamming, infiltrating the FI Discord with multiple sock puppets for months, and posting hundreds of harassing messages – violate multiple laws. He’s attacked several other FI members, not just me. His real name is unknown.

If anyone is actually willing to discuss this matter, I will provide additional evidence as appropriate. I have extensive documentation. I already posted evidence, and none of the facts are disputed.

Andy’s Friends

Andy is a David Deutsch (DD) fan who is friends with the “CritRat” DD fan community, including the “Four Strands” subgroup. They have turned a blind eye to Andy’s actions. They’ve refused to ask him to stop or to say that they think harassment is bad. The CritRat community is toxic and has also been an ongoing source of (milder) trouble from people besides Andy.

Andy’s friends include many of DD’s associates and CritRat community leaders. They know what he’s done but apparently don’t care. They’re providing him with encouragement and legitimacy in a social group, and some of them have egged him on. The public communications with Andy that I link below are all from months after Andy’s harassment was exposed.

  • Lulie Tanett has friendly tweets with Andy (related, she tweets saying we need to use force and threats, which she considers a useful “technology”). She’s DD’s current closest associate and long time IRL friend, who he often promotes on Twitter and does joint projects like videos with. She’s promoted on DD’s website. She has a history of knowingly associating with people like online harassers, doxxers and spam botters.
  • Sarah Fitz-Claridge follows Andy on Twitter. She co-founded Taking Children Seriously with DD and is his long time IRL friend. She has a hateful attitude towards ET.
  • Sarah’s husband has friendly communications with Andy on Twitter. He’s had discussions with DD for many years. He’s said hateful things about ET.
  • Brett Hall tweets with Andy (examples 2 and 3). He’s promoted on DD’s website and by DD’s tweets, and he’s said hateful things about ET.
  • Samuel Kuypers tweets with Andy. He’s promoted on DD’s website and recently co-authored a physics paper with DD.
  • Bruce Nielson tweets with Andy (more). He’s a Four Strands leader/moderator.
  • Aaron Stupple tweets with Andy. He’s a Four Strands leader/moderator.
  • Dennis Hackethal talks with Andy publicly and was co-moderator of a DD related subreddit with Andy. He’s a Four Strands leader/moderator who has libeled and plagiarized ET. DD has promoted him on Twitter.

All of these people, as well as DD, have so far refused to communicate about this problem. They apparently have no interest in a truce or deescalation. They’re making the problem worse.

They’ve stated no grievances against FI, no terms they want, no willingness to negotiate, and no approaches to problem solving that they’d try. They’ve given no explanation of how they view the Andy problem, and they haven’t said anything to discourage the harassment coming from their community. They haven’t made no contact requests either; they just ghost me and others without explanation. (Except Dennis asked me not to email him again about Andy, which I haven’t.) I’m willing to communicate using proxies, involve a neutral mediator, or take other reasonable steps.

The situation is asymmetric. The FI community is peaceful. Harassment doesn’t come from FI towards CritRats or anyone else. If any FI member did harass someone, I’d ask them to stop or ban them, rather than encouraging them. (Or I’d discuss my doubts about the accusation, if I had any. What I wouldn’t do is ignore the matter with no comment, and ghost the victim, while continuing a friendly relationship with the person accused of extensive harassment, illegal actions and aggressive force.)


Andy hasn’t harassed FI since his Less Wrong account was banned recently. Maybe he’s decided to leave me alone because he got caught again? I hope so. Or maybe he’ll continue on any day.

Despite Andy’s repeated aggression against FI, as well as the misdeeds of other CritRats, I would still prefer to deescalate the situation.

But this is a chronic problem which is doing major harm, and Andy has a pattern of returning to harass again. I’ve been extraordinarily patient and forgiving, but this can’t go on forever. Andy started harassing us two years ago. If any CritRats are willing to speak to me about deescalating or improving this situation, please contact me (comment below, email [email protected] or use Discord). So far the communications of myself and others just get ignored by CritRats. They’ve repeatedly ghosted the victims instead of the harassers.

So I’m issuing a warning: If Andy comes back to harass me again, I will hold his supporters accountable. If you’re encouraging Andy while not even giving lip service to peace, and you’re refusing to communicate about any conflict resolution, then I will blame you and take defensive actions like writing about how you’re violating my rights and sharing evidence. I’ll particularly criticize the community leaders, especially the top leader, DD. If (like me) you don’t want this outcome, clean up your community and stop harassing FI.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (57)

Andy B Harassment Update

This post documents some of the recent harassment from "Andy B". During this time period, he also joined and vandalized the FI Basecamp and did a Denial of Service attack on this website (that's a type of hacking which is a crime). I removed many of these comments, in which case the link will take you to the page it was on but won't display the comment. For more context and explanation, see David Deutsch's Hate Group, Andy B Harassment Continues and Andy B Harassment and Four Strands.

192552020-12-27Anonymous135.0.61.116are u jewish
192782020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116my guy, u jewish?
192792020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116George Washington (February 22, 1732[b] – December 14, 1799) was an American political leader, military general, statesman, and Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Previously, he led Patriot forces to victory in the nation's War for Independence. He presided at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which established the U.S. Constitution and a federal government. Washington has been called the "Father of His Country" for his manifold leadership in the formative days of the new nation. [ET's note: There were another 17,000 words from this Wikipedia article, which I'm leaving out.]
192802020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American singer, songwriter, and dancer. Dubbed the "King of Pop", he is regarded as one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century. Through stage and video performances, he popularized complicated dance techniques such as the moonwalk, to which he gave the name, and the robot. His sound and style have influenced artists of various genres, and his contributions to music, dance, and fashion, along with his publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades. Jackson is the most awarded artist in the history of popular music. [ET's note: There were another 14,000 words from this Wikipedia article, which I'm leaving out.]
192812020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116why wont u tell me if ur jewish i just wanted to invite you to my sukkah
192822020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116I agree With you, DonALd Trump is, Good, and the President.
192832020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116also, Capitalism is NOT a disaster that literally kills poeple and killed my mom... I Agree.
192842020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116why are you censoring me
192852020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116your RULES say your forum is UNMODERATED and UNCENSORED and that you can post WHATEVER YOU WANT... but Because, you disagree with my opinions and my religion you delete my posts... thats hideous you are goinaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa to rot in hells
192872020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116wtf im not an antisemitic, YOUR the criminal
192882020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116im not spamming i just wanted to ask you a question about being jewish (WHICH I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH) and talk about george washington and trump i think politics are good just like you so whats the problem
192892020-12-29Anonymous135.0.61.116SO MUCH, for OPEN discusison, and your forum which claims to be UNMODERATED, when I just want to talk about my religion whitch you are apparently racist too, and youc annot deal with anyone who disagrees with you in your personal athiest cult! SO WHAT if i posted about George Washington...OH ok so anything thats not NEW in tpe past 10 years is irrelavant erase the past just like statue beheading SJWs because your so censoring dictator! HITLER was no worse than you lying, Cheating, and So ON. You CLAIM to watnt honest debate but you refuse to acknowlidge my, Many, Contributios and theories which are promelgated within, and the things EVERYONE KNOWS, are Common Ssense, that you delete without ceremony! SO WHO IS THE CRIMINAL????
200922021-03-04chris p. was hoping to reach you because i was wrestling with the truth and my brothers shouted how they were gibberish and mistakes. tonight was my last chance to land a big client and i failed, again. you're a smart guy and charming, you' have good ideas. i really wanted to do a good job. i made you this amazing video biography. just... respect me. and in return i'll only ask for one thing, which is genesis. it was a time of trouble... but then a ray of hope. a secretly kind and wonderful tiny little person. this thing we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down. i won't be down for long. i reckon you should too. did you like it?
200962021-03-05chris p. this is an unmoderated discussion forum why did you delete my post
201092021-03-06chris p135.0.61.116i will certify the results after the tally. an automatic tie to the male candidate, and the female is put in jail. it is city law. at the 11th hour, i just don't see the problem. a razor-thin margin, on the verge of a nervous breakdown. because of the dream you had at 2:30 AM, i woke up, it was a premonition. i'm pretty sure that's illegal. you did an unbelievable job, my partner. she gets the credit, not me. you have a knack for this. i'm being serious.
201112021-03-06chris p. shades of grey, call 311. hello again diane. nobody answered. someone will be there shortly.
201192021-03-08chris p. are precious to me. nothing can be used that was invented past 1817. i'm doing it for free.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (4)

David Deutsch's Responsibility for Harassment

David Deutsch is the root cause of years of severe harassment against me and other FI community members. I've asked him to write a brief message requesting his fans stop hating and harassing, but he won't. None of the people involved will try to settle this privately with me. So I made an infographic to explain the situation. Click the image to expand, or view as a PDF:


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (21)

What I Learned from Autonomy Respecting Relationships

Autonomy Respecting Relationships (ARR) was an online discussion group led by Sarah Fitz-Claridge (SFC) and David Deutsch (DD). They eventually left. I owned and ran the group when Verizon bought Yahoo and deleted all Yahoo Groups in 2019 and 2020. The archives are still available on my website.

I wrote a summary of ARR in 2011. Most of the ARR discussions were 5+ years earlier.

ARR was an offshoot of Taking Children Seriously (TCS), a parenting and educational philosophy founded by DD and SFC. It had similar themes like non-coercion, classical liberalism and Critical Rationalism.

The first thing I learned when I joined ARR is that monogamy can be questioned. Previously, like most people, I’d taken monogamous relationships for granted as simply how relationships work. I hadn’t known that any reasonable alternatives might exist.

I learned that romance is dangerous and hurts people. Conventional relationships are a problematic area in need of improvement and reform, not a solved problem. The pain of breakups, divorces and broken hearts is a big deal that should be taken seriously.

I learned that (romantic) love is a vague concept which can be used in bad ways. Love can be pressuring or foolish. And no one seems to be able to put into clear writing what “love” is or what’s good about it.

I learned that there are dangerous anti-rational memes involved with romantic relationships.

I learned that the idea of merging two lives into one shared life is problematic and contradicts individualism. Everyone needs to have their own life and be their own person. No one fully or clearly advocates losing individuality in marriage, but there are lots of ideas about partially doing that. I became skeptical of e.g. fully sharing finances and recognized that significantly sharing of finances is hard to do well and merits more serious attention and consideration than it often gets.

Later, elsewhere, I learned that romantic/passionate/sexual love was called “eros” by the ancient Greeks (our word “erotic” comes from the Greek “eros”). The Greeks invented philosophy and also had warned of the dangers of eros over 2000 years ago. Eros was both a concept and a Greek god. The Roman name for the god Eros is well known today: Cupid. Cupid shot arrows because arrows were the most powerful and feared weapon in the ancient world, and people saw sexual love as dangerous. Arrows only became more cute after we got used to guns. You can read about eros in the book Eros: The Myth Of Ancient Greek Sexuality by Bruce Thornton.


ARR advocated polyamory (which means having romantic/sexual love relationships with multiple people at once). It questioned monogamy and wanted to replace that with more freedom and autonomy. Why should you be shackled by conventional ideas that work poorly? Use your rationality to solve any problems that may come up while being promiscuous and having fun!

Although I partly agreed with this at the time, I had doubts about it early on. What had I learned initially? Monogamy can be questioned. But also, love, romance and sex are dangerous. If romantic relationships work badly and hurt people, why have more of them? Instead of having more of this stuff in our lives, we could try the standard amount or less.

Most posters, including SFC, wanted more love and more sex, despite warnings from SFC and others about dangers. DD was more friendly to the possibility of just not doing romance. But I got a lot of resistance when I pushed back against polyamory. People told me how great sex was, and how sex was uniquely important for learning and communication. I thought that was a rationalization. No way is sex an irreplaceable tool for general education or for sharing your ideas. That was an excuse used by people who wanted lots of sex and also wanted to be rational persons who valued knowledge.


Sex is important because our culture imbues it with meaning (and because of the facts of pregnancy and STDs). The philosopher William Godwin had explained that 200 years earlier, as DD showed me. Although sex is not as inherently, innately important as people think, that doesn’t prevent it from actually having a lot of meaning to people and being a big deal. DD and I knew that was hard to change, and I now recognize it’s even harder to change than I used to think. Also, if you’re going to put significant work into self-improvement to change something, there are a lot of other things that could be a higher priority.

ARR (and myself initially) overestimated how easy it is to go against cultural knowledge. Culture is very powerful. If something is cultural rather than genetic, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to change, nor even easier. Memes can be harder to deal with than genes. Ideas rule the world, as both DD and Ayn Rand say.

DD talked about rational respect for tradition, but never emphasized it enough. I learned more about tradition later when reading Edmund Burke and, after that, when learning about the tradition of western civilization from books like Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western Civilization.

Age of Consent

ARR, DD and SFC also criticized age of consent laws. While those laws aren’t perfect, I now think that criticism was unwise. In some ways, I think there should be more or stronger laws about this! E.g., I think all US states should ban child brides (under 18) with a significant age gap (you may be disturbed to find out that most states don’t do that and that there are thousands of child brides involved in US immigration every year – meaning either a child bride is being brought in from another country or an adult is moving to the US to marry an American child). A 2019 Utah law raised the minimum marriage age from 15 to 16 and also banned marriage between minors and adults 7+ years older than them. I think that’s an improvement, not a violation of young people’s human rights.

Imagine a 15 year old girl marrying a 40 year old man. That’s a terrible idea. I’ll grant that it doesn’t literally violate the laws of physics for that marriage to be a good idea and that the concept of greater autonomy for 15 year olds has upsides. But we as a society aren’t even close to figuring out how to make that kind of thing work well, and attacking age of consent laws can lead to more girls being victims. It’s not just that it doesn’t work well today; it’s actually very dangerous. Child marriage often means the girl becomes a sex and house slave and is raped repeatedly with no way out. Due to being too young, minors have limited ability to get out of bad situations by getting a job, getting welfare, using a woman’s shelter, or even filing for divorce. Yes, as dumb as it sounds, some married persons in America today are actually told they’re too young to divorce!

If you’re interested in the modern problem child marriage problem in the US and elsewhere, you can do a web search. There are news articles and info sites.

One of the reasons child marriage keeps happening is due to ageist adults who don’t care about the victims. So if SFC and DD wanted a campaign to improve laws to help children against ageism, it would have been better to start with this instead of attacking age of consent laws. But protecting children from being victimized by child marriage didn’t fit with SFC’s and DD’s goals of being edgy and controversial, proving what free thinkers they were, or focusing exclusively on advocating more independence and autonomy for children without admitting that there could be any problems with that.


Due to my involvement with ARR, I want to be clear about what I think so no one does polyamory and thinks they’re following my philosophy. I know SFC changed her mind about some of this stuff but never told people, which I think was bad. I’m not sure what DD’s current views about this are, and whether they changed, which I also think is bad. Thought leaders who change people’s lives with their advice ought to let people know if they change their mind.

I’ve talked about some of this stuff previously, e.g. my Philosophy First article criticizing ARR, my podcast criticizing polyamory, and my podcast about rationalism and convention which also criticized polyamory.

I don’t remember exactly what I’ve said about relationships in the past, but I’m sure there were some errors, and that some people got the impression I favor polyamory. I was never half as friendly to polyamory as SFC and many other ARR group members, and I now have a fairly (but not entirely) negative opinion of it. I think most actual poly communities are pretty awful. (They might all be awful but I haven’t researched it and looked at many.) There were ARR people who were involved in a bunch of promiscuous, poly behaviors, but I was not the leader of any of that, and my impression is it worked out poorly for those involved (but none of them gave any public warnings about the failures of their attempts at ARR).

I thought of writing this particular article after rereading some of SFC’s old arguments against age of consent laws, which I found disturbing. I have other priorities so I’m not focusing much attention on philosophy of relationships currently, but I think it’s something I should share and clarify thoughts about sometimes. Besides my past involvement, it’s a topic that plays a big role in people’s lives.

People are too controlling of their partners in relationships, but there’s no quick fix. Just being less controlling will run into other problems. The control wasn’t random or pointless.

There are many dangers in romantic relationships and there aren’t good enough resources to help navigate them. (For example people think communication and rationality will be sufficient to make their relationship work better than a typical relationship; that isn’t a good enough plan.) I think there are lots of good points in my older writing about this (ARR emails, blog posts, and FI articles) but it’s nothing like a complete, batteries-included, ready-to-use, foolproof system. You can pick up some good-but-incomplete ideas from my old stuff but need to use your own judgment. I’d suggest, when in doubt, err on the side of convention (and when not in doubt, try to make your critical thinking much more vigorous). You’re also welcome to ask questions and start discussions about these topics here.

ARR and TCS had some good ideas mixed in (TCS more so) but a lot of dangerous errors, too. Beware.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Harassment Summary

I (and other members of the Fallible Ideas community) have been subjected to severe harassment over the last 2.5 years, including illegal actions like DDoSing and threatening IRL harm. The harassment includes hundreds of comments from over 100 IP addresses and over 20 false identities (some maintained for months). It’s coming from the CritRat community led by David Deutsch (DD), who used to be my mentor and colleague. They’ve said they’re harassing because they see me as DD’s enemy. DD left our community (after years of participation) and formed a new community (CritRat) which is harassing his former community which he has a grudge against. When asked to request that his fans stop harassing, DD not only refused but lied to attack me, which encourages further harassment (in my understanding, that lie is illegal: libel and defamation).

I’m writing a series of posts to explain what’s going on, including what harassment happened, what the evidence is, and why I place blame on Deutsch. I’m doing this publicly because Deutsch and his associates have refused to discuss it privately. They’ve also refused to say they are opposed to harassment or that they want the culprits to stop. Many of them are publicly friendly with the biggest harasser, Andy B.

David Deutsch

Andy B

Conceptual Explanations

David Deutsch Background Information & Context


The harassment problem has not ended. Nothing has been fixed so far. DD and others have not made any attempts to improve the situation. Comments on this website remain disabled due to the harassment problem. It's an active issue that is affecting my life on a daily basis.

I hope people who read this will ask DD and other CritRats to answer for this, and will bring up the issue to DD and his community. Please don't harass them, but do raise the issue, ask challenging questions, and share critical opinions.

I've shared a lot of information, but I know I can never completely cover everything people might want to know. I'm open to questions about these issues from people who are making a genuine effort to understand and who already read some of the articles. You can email me at [email protected] or post at my forum. And if any CritRat is willing to discuss the harassment problem, please email me (CritRats unwilling to discuss the problem should leave me alone).

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (19)

David Deutsch Lied About Me

This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me which has been going on for years.

Justin Mallone emailed David Deutsch (DD) to bring up the Andy B harassment encouraged by DD’s associates and fan community. DD replied (italics are mine, and you can view a screenshot of the email which includes what Justin said):

As I have told Elliot several times, I don't want to hear from him. That includes indirectly via you and many others. I don't know this Andy B he speaks of. I'm not aware of anyone I know sending DDoS attacks or anything else covertly to Elliot. I'm not the chief of anything. I'm not the leader of any group. Please go away.

David Deutsch

This is a lie about a factual matter. DD did not tell me several times that he didn’t want to hear from me. He never told me that. He hasn’t made a no contact request. I provide evidence below.

Note: I know that accusing someone of lying will bring strong reactions. If you're upset by this article, please try to be objective and look for factual or logical errors rather than assuming it's wrong. And remember that all I want is to be left alone and not have my rights violated. I would address this privately, but DD won’t discuss it with me, and I don’t know who else he lied to.

The lie about no contact requests is what DD says when he’s writing something he knows may be published. It’s also what he says to someone he believes is on my side acting as my proxy. This is DD on his best behavior addressing (for the first time ever that I’ve seen) his involvement in DDOSing, cyberstalking, multi-year harassment, etc. I presume he’s said similar or worse to people he thinks are on his side (there’s circumstantial evidence that he’s been doing that for 5+ years).

DD’s lie is damaging to my reputation. He’s smearing me as a person who violates no contact requests. I never did that.

Justin (another of the harassment victims) asked DD to write a tweet asking his followers to stop harassing. Not only did DD refuse, he also lied to attack the primary victim (me). DD presents me as a person who treats others immorally by violating reasonable and repeated no contact requests. DD turns things around by changing the topic from harassment against me to alleged harassment by me. That makes it sound like he thinks I’m in the wrong and I’m the one who needs to change behaviors. His email implies that he sees me, but not Andy B, as a problem, and that he doesn’t see the harassment against me as having gone too far. And the things DD denied are different than my actual claims, which is a rhetorical trick to make it sound like he’s disputing something when he’s actually avoiding the issue.

DD’s lie echos previous comments by the biggest harasser, Andy B, who claimed that I was ignoring direct requests to leave people alone or stop doing things (but he didn’t specify any requests and was just using it as a tactic to attack me). Andy B may have gotten that idea from DD or one of DD’s associates, but I don’t know specifically because none of them will speak about it.

I challenge DD to provide specifics of the "several times" he (allegedly) told me that he didn’t want to hear from me or made a no contact request. The vast majority of our communication was in writing. I have records of it and I believe DD does too. And I don’t think it’s an innocent mistake to say “several times” when it was zero times; he isn’t just off by a little bit (like saying 4 when it was 5).

Our Most Recent Communications

To see what’s true, let’s take a look at DD’s most recent communications to me. This list of emails is the full story because we stopped using other communication methods like IM before this. I’m going to limit what I share for both of our privacy. I will provide full information if DD disputes my account.

Note: This screenshot only includes personal emails. DD also sent discussion group replies, including Oct 2013 replies to me about impersonal topics on my private discussion group. That seems incompatible with the existence of an active no contact request.

Now let’s go through all the emails in the picture, from oldest to newest. The bulk are DD’s 26 emails in 6 days discussing schizophrenia with me, plus the related emails about Mental illness and szasz (an author who wrote The Myth of Mental Illness). DD initiated the discussion by sharing his comments on an article. He was starting a friendly debate on an issue he knew I partially disagreed about. We ending up discussing political theory. It was a discussion he chose to have for fun or learning, which he was under no pressure or obligation to participate in, so it indicates there wasn’t any no contact request active at that time. If all later emails also lack a no contact request, I think that should be convincing.

Next is the email Remove BOI post. That was sent to DD but meant for me, so he forwarded it. The later email THE BEGINNING OF INFINITY review copy request was the reverse: it was sent to me but meant for DD, so I forwarded it on to him (he replied with “Thanks.”). I created, owned and ran the BoI forum (and website) at DD’s request, so that’s why the email about removing a post (which had been sent by accident) should have gone to me.

The three ramit sethi email emails involved DD helping me edit a draft email to a public figure (Ramit Sethi teaches personal finance). Helping each other edit stuff was typical of our relationship, and isn’t what people do when they have no contact requests outstanding.

In why can popper publish it, but not you?, DD criticizes Popper. It doesn’t say anything about not wanting to hear from me.

demanding respect for one’s moral code is the most negative and complicated, but does not contain a no contact request. I had sent DD a quote from Atlas Shrugged, a book he was a fan of and which had influenced his thinking and philosophy. I commented, in full, “when you appear to be acting against a main theme of Atlas Shrugged, shouldn't you explain yourself?” Due to our many prior conversations, I thought DD would understand what I meant, though I may have been mistaken. DD’s response began:

You are saying that I ought to write you an essay, on the subject of your choice.

More generally, you keep demanding that I work for you. You keep claiming that I have an obligation to do so.

This was (as best I can understand it) a misinterpretation of my question. I meant that if public figures change their mind about ideas and advice they shared with thousands of people, I think they ought to keep their fans updated, e.g. with a retraction. You wouldn’t want people to keep using your ideas that you later discovered were errors. It’s like when a scientist publishes a result, and later discovers it’s false, then he ought to publish updated info.

Asking a critical, argumentative question is not a demand that DD work for me. It’s intellectual debate. DD could agree, disagree or not reply (he’d used all of those options many times in the past).

DD didn’t want me to demand that he work for me (I don’t think I did, nor do I think I was ever capable of bossing around my mentor who is an award-winning physicist, successful author and Royal Society member). That’s different than a no contact request. And in my judgment, wanting DD to stop lying about me, retract the lie(s) and tell his fans to stop harassing me is not violating his old request. Those are actions that any reasonable person would do. And I’m not trying to get DD to work to provide me with a positive value (such as an essay I’d enjoy); I just want my rights to stop being violated.

The last email to discuss is hello. In it, DD answers my question “are you interested in a solution?” (to whatever reason we weren’t talking much anymore, which wasn’t clearly specified) with “Yes.” I actually read the rest of the email in a negative way, but it didn’t say anything about not wanting to hear from me.


So, reviewing DD's communications, he repeatedly acted like he did want to hear from me, e.g. by conversing with me, and he didn’t request not to hear from me again once, let alone “several” times. My takeaway is that DD has lied to attack the same person that his fans are harassing.

I’ve shared this to try to undo some of the harm to my reputation that DD is doing by lying about me. See also the praise DD wrote about me, which I shared for a similar purpose.

What I want is simple. DD: stop lying about me, retract your lies, and tell your followers to stop harassing. Leave me alone.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (8)