Reddit Censorship

I tried to participate in a reddit AMA ("ask me anything") for Ann Coulter. I was immediately banned:



That's everything I said. Then:



A few minutes later the moderators changed their mind and made it a permanent ban because, apparently, I'm a "moron". (I had said nothing further.) What's moronic about doing fact checking and research regarding Ann's writing? I found a clear error in Adios America which should be fixed. Instead I get banned:


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (10)

Never Trust Ari Armstrong

Ari Armstrong caught my attention because he's a writer who purports to be an Objectivist. But he's got serious quality problems – I caught him making false statements about what the Bible says. Worse, he provided source links to the passages that contradict him. That gives a false impression that he'd checked his claims properly (similar to adding footnotes to a dishonest book to make it look scholarly).

Recently he's done worse:

The article title, "Why I Will Vote for Any Democrat over Ted Cruz", encourages the destruction of America. What's he so bothered by?

In early November, Cruz, along with Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal, spoke at the National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa. At that event, host Kevin Swanson openly called for the death penalty for homosexuals—albeit only after they’ve had a chance to “repent.” Another speaker at the conference distributed literature advocating the death penalty for homosexuals.

Right Wing Watch is a very biased, untrustworthy site. Nevertheless in this case they had more integrity than Ari Armstrong. Armstrong is misreporting events. His own source says:

In a closing keynote address to the conference this evening, Swanson clarified that he is not encouraging American officials to implement the death penalty for homosexuality … yet.

That's not openly calling for the death penalty for homosexuals. Let's compare. Armstrong:

Swanson openly called for the death penalty for homosexuals

And Armstrong's source:

he is not encouraging American officials to implement the death penalty for homosexuality … yet.

Armstrong is dishonest.

Thanks to Justin Mallone for helping check this.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Fake Burke Quote Attacking Godwin

I found a quote of Edmund Burke trashing William Godwin:

'Pure defecated Atheism', said Burke [of Godwin], 'the brood of that putrid carcase the French Revolution.'

I was especially interested because I'd been unable to find any other direct quote of Burke saying negative things about Godwin. People claim Burke disliked Godwin, but I have my doubts and have searched for the evidence that those people never provide.

So I tracked down the citations, and ultimately the quote is unsourced. While doing that, I found another quote of Burke trashing Godwin which also turned out to be unsourced.

I also contacted an academic expert who agreed the quote is fake.

Here's what I looked up:

The defecated atheism quote is from Godwin's Moral Philosophy: An Interpretation of William Godwin by D. H. Monro.

I originally found it in a different Godwin paper which didn't even try to source it.

Monro says it's quoted from Ford K. Brown, Life of William Godwin (London, 1926), p 155

So I got that book. It has the quote along with a footnote. The footnote states:

Edmund Burke, who is also said to have called Godwin "one of the ablest architects of ruin." (Gilfillan's Literary Portraits (First Series, Edinb. 1845), p.16.)

I found the Literary Portraits book. On page 16 it has the architect of ruin quote, unsourced. It doesn't have the defecated atheism quote at all.

It's no good to source a quote to a secondary source without following the citations back to an adequate source. That spreads myths.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Steven Crowder Fake Quote

MYTH: "Well Regulated Militia" Only? (Second Amendment History) is a video by Steven Crowder. It has quotes from America's founding fathers to argue for his pro-gun-rights position (which I agree with). Crowder put up a webpage with his references which he links in the YouTube video description. The first quote on the page is:

“I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” – George Mason

Crowder's source link is a category at a blog (not even a specific post). The relevant blog post says:

.
I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”

George Mason, Speech at the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1788

~ ~ Grouchy ~ ~

Great, we have a source. It's from a speech at a particular convention in a particular year. It's easy to find a short transcript of the speech (second version) online which doesn't have this quote. I wanted to know where the quote was coming from, and if it was perhaps from another statement not included in those sources. I looked further and found the full book covering the convention. It doesn't contain the quote. So, I'm confident the quote is a fraud.

I didn't check the other quotes Crowder used. This is one fake quote out of just one quote checked.

The full book does have some similar statements from Mason (my emphasis):

I ask, Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers. But I cannot say who will be the militia of the future day.

and

An instance within the memory of some of this house will show us how our militia may be destroyed. Forty years ago, when the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man,* who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually, by totally disusing and neglecting the militia. [Here Mr. Mason quoted sundry passages to this effect.] This was a most iniquitous project. Why should we not provide against the danger of having our militia, our real and natural strength, destroyed?

The fake quote is similar to two real quotes from the speech, but each part is changed. And, in the book, the two parts appear thousands of words apart, and in reverse order. So the fake quote is roughly representative of what Mason was saying, but it's not actually a quote.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Matt Levine Thinks Badly About Incentives and Economics

Matt Levine writes (bold added, links omitted):

AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner is a vertical merger: AT&T mostly owns pipes (DirectTV, cellular networks) that bring content to consumers, while Time Warner mostly owns studios (Time Warner) and networks (HBO, the Turner networks) that produce and package that content. By combining the two, they can achieve some efficiency benefits that should work to lower prices for consumers. For instance, by combining AT&T’s data on its wireless customers with Time Warner’s advertising inventory, they can introduce more targeted ads, which “will lead to higher ad revenues that will alleviate pressure on the programing side and lower the price of video distribution to consumers,” according to Judge Leon’s opinion. In modern antitrust law, more targeted advertising is a consumer benefit. There are those who think that modern antitrust law is bad.

Against these benefits, the government argued that the combined company would have so much market power that it would actually be able to raise prices. This is an unusual argument in a vertical merger—and vertical mergers are rarely challenged—because the merger won’t make AT&T any bigger in any of the businesses it (or Time Warner) is already in. Instead, the government’s theory is that AT&T can use its Time Warner content to bully competing distributors (other cable companies, video-on-demand companies, etc.). Right now, Time Warner makes its money by signing big high-stakes deals with content distributors who want to carry its content. If they don’t reach a deal, then everyone loses: Time Warner doesn’t get paid, and the distributor’s customers get mad that they can’t watch HBO and start thinking about switching cable companies. And so in practice they generally work out a deal; long-term blackouts are very rare.

But once AT&T owns Time Warner, the government argued, its incentives will shift: If it fails to reach a deal with Comcast or whoever, then it still won’t get paid for Time Warner’s content, and Comcast’s subscribers will still get mad and think about switching providers, but now they might switch to AT&T. (To DirecTV, or to some AT&T wireless video product, etc.) Blacking out Time Warner’s networks on a competing distributor will now be good for AT&T’s distribution business, which will give Time Warner more leverage to demand higher prices for its content in those negotiations with distributors. Or that is the government’s theory, which it argued based on some intemperate public statements from AT&T, some worries from its competitors, and the expert testimony of antitrust economist Carl Shapiro.

Judge Leon didn’t buy it. He noted that an AT&T expert witness looked at previous content/distribution vertical mergers and found that “There’s absolutely no statistical basis to support the government’s claim that vertical integration in this industry leads to higher content prices.” And he noted that, even after the merger, it will be in AT&T/Time Warner’s interest to distribute Time Warner’s content as broadly as possible, so it won’t really have that much leverage to demand higher prices:

Indeed the evidence showed that there has never been, and is likely never going to be, an actual long-term blackout of Turner content. Numerous witnesses explained, and Professor Shapiro acknowledged, that a long-term blackout of Turner content, even post-merger, would cause Turner to lose more in affiliate fee and advertising revenues than the merged entity would gain. Given that, there is insufficient evidentiary basis to support Professor Shapiro’s contention that a post-merger Turner would, or even could, drive up prices by threatening distributors with long-term blackouts.

The discussion gets into some odd theory-of-the-firm moments. Several of AT&T’s witnesses were people who had negotiated these content deals at other vertically integrated cable/content companies: “Madison Bond, who has served as a lead negotiator for NBCU during the past seven years when the company has been vertically integrated with Comcast,” for instance, and several Time Warner executives who “testified similarly about their time at the company when it was vertically integrated with Time Warner Cable.” All of these witnesses said the same thing: They never used their ownership by a distributor as leverage in negotiation with other distributors.

When questioned by defense counsel about his prior negotiations on behalf of NBCU, Bond testified that he “never once took into account the interest of Comcast cable in trying to negotiate a carriage agreement.” Consideration of potential Comcast gains during an NBCU blackout “doesn’t factor at all” into his negotations, Bond continued, nor has anyone from Comcast “ever asked” him “to think about that.” Bond’s statements were similar to testimony given by Comcast’s chief negotiator, Greg Rigdon, who testified that he has never suggested, or seen a Comcast document suggesting, that NBC “should go dark on one of [Comcast’s] competitors because then [Comcast] might pick up some subscribers” or that NBCU should “hold out for a little bit more in affiliate fees because that will harm” Comcast’s competitors.

(Citations omitted.) Similarly, a Turner executive said, “I’ve been in Turner when we were a vertically integrated company and had a sister company called Time Warner Cable. And I can tell you that at no time during my tenure there did anyone ask me to consider in my negotiations and how I dealt with other distributors the outcome and impact at Time Warner Cable.”

So basically everyone with experience of negotiating these deals, who had the leverage that the government claims AT&T/Time Warner will have, said: Nah, it never even occurred to us to do that. But the government’s economist testified that of course they would have that leverage and use it. “Indeed, this opinion by Professor Shapiro runs contrary to all of the real-world testimony during the trial from those who have actually negotiated on behalf of vertically integrated companies,” wrote Judge Leon. So he asked Shapiro about it, and got this fun answer:

No, I am aware of that testimony. And so I think there’s a very serious tension between that testimony and the working assumption for antitrust economists that Professor Carlton and I share; that the company after the merger will be run to maximize their joint profits.

Isn’t that sort of lovely? An economist testified about how companies should operate. Actual operators testified about how the companies do operate. The answers were different. “There's a very serious tension,” said the economist. It is really all you could ask for in an antitrust trial: An economic theory of corporate behavior was proposed, it was confronted with the practical reality of the people actually doing the corporate behavior, and the economic theory shrugged and melted away.

Judge Leon is surely right that the tension isn’t as serious as Shapiro thinks:

That profit-maximization premise is not inconsistent, however, with the witness testimony that the identity of a programmer’s owner has not affected affiliate negotiations in real-world instances of vertical integration. Rather, as those witnesses indicated, vertically integrated corporations have previously determined that the best way to increase company wide profits is for the programming and distribution components to separately maximize their respective revenues. … In the case of programmers, that means pursuing deals “to be on all the platforms,” rather than undertaking a “series of risks” to threaten a long-term blackout.

Part of how you combine different businesses is by getting them to work together: If Time Warner is good at selling ads, and AT&T is good at mining customer data, then you smush them together so that AT&T/Time Warner will be good at selling ads based on customer data-mining, which is where the money is. But part of how you combine different businesses is by leaving them to work separately: If Time Warner’s business model is selling programming to every distributor, then changing that model so that it only sells to AT&T, just because AT&T bought it, would be a mistake. Which is which—when you should combine businesses, and when you should leave them to make their own profit-maximizing decisions—is a complicated question, and you can certainly try to answer it with game theory and economic modeling. But sometimes you can just ask companies what they actually do! It is not perfect evidence of what they should do. But it’s pretty good evidence of what they will do.

I've read lots of Money Stuff columns. I often like them. This is the worst one I've seen. People lie. People fail to introspect, especially when the results would be inconvenient.

Of course merged companies work to make an overall profit for the new, single company. Not perfectly, but there's major incentives in companies to make a profit, and these incentives do play a major role in behavior. Sure it happens that sometimes the right hand of the company doesn't talk to the left hand, and they consequently fail to maximize profits. And sure it happens that sometimes the amount of profit available from a particular optimization is too small for the coordination effort required to get it. And sure it happens that people fail to notice opportunities. None of those mean economic theory is wrong.

Why is Levine so naively credulous of some people saying things in court that they have a strong incentive to say? AT&T wouldn't have brought in someone to testify if they were going to say something else that hurt AT&T... And people saying something else would be at risk of getting themselves fired, and maybe other bad things, because they'd basically be saying they personally, and their company, was doing bad stuff that there are various laws against (anti-trust if nothing else – yes anti-trust law is extremely vague, but this seems like the kinda stuff people think that violates it, which is exactly why it was a topic of discussion in this anti-trust case).

Also the witnesses said they didn't go up to Comcast, or whoever, and say "yo, give us lots of money or we'll do a blackout cuz we don't give a damn cuz we own DirectTV" or an equivalent of that. Choosing not to use it as an aggressive talking point, and saying with full clarity what one means, is perfectly compatible with negotiating harder due to the incentives that exist. The testimony also uses careful language, e.g. a person says he didn't suggest doing it, and didn't read any documents suggesting he do it. Another guy says he wasn't asked to take something into account. There's a comment about going dark, which is different thing than using it as a background possibility to negotiate a better deal (which is what they always do, all the time, obviously – of course, if they aren't paid enough money, they will go dark, and everyone on both sides knows it).

Why doesn't Levine consider the incentives people have, and just believes them when they say they act contrary to financial incentives?

And the mathy arguments used are nonsense. Blackouts are too expensive to threaten? Umm, not exactly. Blackouts are always an implied threat in negotiations. If you don't pay us, we will not let you air our shows. Duh. After the merger, the overall cost of a blackout will be smaller for the new merged company than it was for the old company (because e.g. the blackout it benefits DirecTV, which makes up for a portion of the downside).

If no deal is $100 less bad for you than before, you negotiate harder than before and you maybe get a $50 better deal. Even if the deal is worth a million dollars, this is still true, though in that case it'd be too small a factor to worry about. But the argument wasn't "we calculated how big a factor this is, and it's too small to matter much". They didn't figure out what size factor it is. They just denied it's a factor. That's stupid and incompetent, and Levine ought to have noticed if he were competent.

Similarly, the arguments about the benefits of letting different divisions of a company operate independently effect the degree of the issue. Maybe those benefits are larger than the ability of the merged company to negotiate harder and raise prices for TV content. Maybe a lot larger, so the merged company will only pursue the much larger benefit and not concern itself with the smaller benefit that isn't fully compatible with the larger benefit. But Levine doesn't treat it like competing factors and compare their size. He uses one to try to dismiss and ignore the other. That's nonsense. Nor does Levine consider what potential future changes to the company (e.g. some reorganization, selling some other divisions off and getting smaller, whatever) might change the calculations and therefore result in the price raising behavior being economically efficient.

Also, when deciding to believe the businessmen who said "oh no, we would never act according to financial incentives – in fact, we don't even know those financial incentives exist", Levine ignored that there were also public statements by AT&T that admitted it (at least Levine himself said those statements exist, but he didn't quote any or give a source).

Is it true that the best way to maximize profits for a company is for individual divisions to maximize profits? No. You might run your company that way because doing things more optimally is too hard. But that's not the theoretical best way.

And no, Levine, no one said anything about changing the model to only sell the TV shows to AT&T. That's an especially dishonest thing to write.

To be clear: anti-trust laws are evil (which is another thing Levine is clueless about). I'm not saying that mergers should be blocked because prices for some things would be raised, nor am I claiming they actually will be raised. I'm just analyzing the quality of the arguments and thinking presented by Levine, and the big mistakes in the article are on the pro-merger side.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (3)

Bad Sam Harris Brain Scanning Research Paper

This post criticizes The Neural Correlates of Religious and Nonreligious Belief by Sam Harris , Jonas T. Kaplan , Ashley Curiel, Susan Y. Bookheimer, Marco Iacoboni, Mark S. Cohen in 2009. I wrote this as a reply on the Change My View subreddit, and made minor edits so it'd stand alone.

Once we had two groups of subjects (Christians and Nonbelievers)

Specific criteria used are not given, making this research non-reproducible. This especially concerns me because such criteria are controversial and I would expect to disagree with the study authors about some categorizations regarding which persons think about which topics in religious ways (I don't think that religious thinking is all or nothing).

Later, they admit the screening criteria were poor, and make excuses. They later admit, "the failure of our brief screening procedure to accurately assess a person's religious beliefs".

To this end we assessed subjects' general intelligence using the Weschler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI)

It's spelled "Wechsler".

IQ tests have many problems. Here is a previous discussion where I pointed out some of the problems. http://curi.us/2056-iq

screened for psychopathology using the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS)

Their non-random screening, including this, dropped 44% of people. That's getting far from a representative sample of the population! And those are only of the people who met the first 5 criteria that already included two related to psychiatric issues.

There are lots of problems with psychiatric screenings. I'm not going to go into it in detail here, but see these books criticizing psychiatry: http://fallibleideas.com/books#szasz

Forty of these participated in the fMRI portion of our study, but ten were later dropped, and their data excluded from subsequent analysis, due to technical difficulties with their scans (2 subjects), or to achieve a gender balance between the two groups (1 subject), or because their responses to our experimental stimuli indicated that they did not actually meet the criteria for inclusion in our study as either nonbelievers or committed Christians (7 subjects).

Dropping those 7 people is a big problem. They were removed because their data didn't fit the expected answer patterns. IMO that should have been a learning opportunity to reconsider mistaken expectations.


Here are example stimuli from the experiment. I didn't read them all, but it looked to me like over half the groups of 4 stimuli had a flaw. Also there's a systematic bias: the Christian truths are more often non-hedged statements, while the atheists truths are more often hedged. E.g. in 19 you read "The Bible" in the Christian one and "Most of the Bible" in the atheist one, and 29 has Jesus either "literally" rising from the dead or "probably" not rising from the dead.

The Bible is free from error.

This is categorized as something that all the Christian participants should consider true. But many serious Christians do not believe this.

The Bible is free from significant error.

It's weird that they have two very similar questions.

All books provided perfectly accurate accounts of history.

Grammar error.

The Bible is full of fictional stories and contains historical errors.

This is categorized as something that all the Christian participants should consider false. But many serious Christians do believe this.

People who believe in the biblical God often do so on very good evidence.

This is categorized as something that all the Christian participants should consider true. But many serious Christians do not believe this.

It reasonable to believe in an omniscient God.

Grammar error.

Jesus Christ can’t do anything to help humanity in the 21st century.

This is supposed to be considered true by non-believers, but many non-believers (including me) consider this statement false. (Though it's vague: do they mean Jesus Christ literally and personally can help people today, or his teachings can help? I'd change my answer depending on that. It's his teachings that I think can do "anything" (more than zero) to help.)

In general, they shouldn't have used words like "anything", "all", most", "greatest" because people routinely misread those statements (misreading e.g. "all" as "most", or vice versa). And those kind of statements are so often written incorrectly and carelessly that readers, reasonably, don't expect reliable, literal precision from them.

Jesus was literally born of a virgin.

Lots of Christians don't believe this – possibly because they are more educated about their religion (not less). "Virgin" (in the sense of not having sex) is a mistranslation – he was born of a young women (which, btw, is a typical meaning of "virgin" in English).

The Biblical story of creation is basically true.

Tons of Christians aren't young Earth creationists.

Most of the Bible is inferior to modern thinking on morality and human happiness.

This is supposed to be considered true by atheists, but as an atheist I consider it vague (which modern thinking?). If I try to read it using guesses about what the author of the statement meant, I think I disagree with it. Also if I read it with a "most" before "modern thinking", then I'd judge it false.

The Biblical story of creation is purely a myth.

This is supposed to be an atheist truth, but as an atheist I consider it false (due to "purely", which I mentioned above is the kind of word they shouldn't have used because people vary in how literally they read it). It's also problematic because I think many atheists aren't adequately familiar with the Biblical story of creation.

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is almost surely fictional.

Many atheists couldn't say what what the Trinity doctrine is. And many atheists, including me, would disagree with this due to the "almost surely fictional". I consider it fictional and would not want to hedge in that way. If the words "almost surely" were deleted then I'd agree with the statement, but I'm not comfortable with this statement as written. There were lots of statements that were supposed to be things I would agree with, but which included hedges I don't believe.

Human beings have complete control over the environment and can grow food anywhere.

This is vague. They consider it false. But we can grow food in airplanes, submarines or spaceships. Where, exactly, can't we grow food? In the middle of active volcanos? In the middle of the sun? Did they expect me to worry about suns or black holes because of taking "anywhere" literally?

The greatest human accomplishments have had nothing to do with God.

This is one of the worst ones. This is meant to be considered true by atheists. But, historically, most human accomplishments (great and small) were accomplished by religious people who often did think God was relevant (or the gods in the case of polytheists like many Greeks). Example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Isaac_Newton

It is wise to create a government that can help protect its citizens from harm.

I'm confused about why this is meant to be false for everyone. Most people agree with this, right?

Also, for 54 and 55 they accidentally swapped the Christian and Atheist truths. Since they have things categorized incorrectly and make grammar and spelling errors in what they published, I'm concerned that these 4 statements were miscategorized in the actual study.


I could go on and on. There are tons of stimuli with these kinds of problems. This is not up to the high standards required for scientific progress. And they actually excluded 7 people for not answering the questions reliably enough (over 90%) in the way the study authors expected them to answer based on the poor phone screening. And, overall, it looked to me like a lot of highly religious Christians would agree with well under 90% of the Christian truth stimuli, so I think the experimental design is bad. The researchers seem to think that e.g. if you believe in evolution you aren't a serious, religious Christian, which is incorrect. Note they failed at their own design goal that:

All statements were designed to be judged easily as “true” or “false”

Anyway, I'm not even trying to be comprehensive with the issues. There are just a lot of issues. And cites to a ton more issues, e.g. I could go through "The role of the extrapersonal brain systems in religious activity" and point out flaws with that (it's the cite on some text I particularly disagreed with). For now, I'll continue with some comments on the brain scanning aspect since I didn't get to that yet.

For both groups, and in both categories of stimuli, belief (judgments of “true” vs judgments of “false”) was associated with greater signal in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex

This is like measuring magnitudes of electric signals in different regions of CPUs while running different software. That would be a bad way to understand CPUs or software.

Actually, overall, the brain scanning stuff is hard to criticize due to the lack of substantial claims. They need to conclude something significant for me to point out how the evidence is inadequate for the conclusion. But they didn't. Big picture, the paper says more like "We did something and here's the data we got" which is true as far as it goes. They were looking for correlations and found a couple. Finding correlations is quite different than understanding and making claims about how people think. The world is packed full of non-causal correlations. Due to the lack of major claims about the brain scan correlations meaning anything, I'm done. It has quality issues and doesn't reach important conclusions.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

Rothbard's Bad Scholarship on Godwin and Popper

I know some bad things about Murray Rothbard (like his view that abortion is justified by the property rights of the mother against a trespasser, his belief that children are property and that parents are not obligated to feed their children, his attack on Objectivism, and his anti-semitism). But I've seen some merit in his work on economics, and I've begun reading his book An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought. I mostly like it so far, but one must be careful not to trust everything. A particularly interesting part, to me, was the discussion of Aristotle, which I thought was good. It was a lot like what Objectivists say about Aristotle. I don't know how much this is because of Rothbard's knowledge of Objectivism, and how much it's a standard non-Objectivist view. Reading about Aristotle on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Encyclopaedia Britannica, or Wikipedia is rather different than the Objectivist or Rothbardian interpretation. I tried to google for material on Aristotle similar to the Objectivist view, and found this page ... but I checked and the authors are Objectivists.

Here are some new Rothbard errors I've discovered (italics in quotes are added by me, unless noted):

The continual progress, onward-and-upward approach was demolished for me, and should have been for everyone, by Thomas Kuhn's famed Structure of Scientific Revolutions.[5] [italics in original]

See the replies to Kuhn by Karl Popper and by David Deutsch. (Deutsch's writing on this subject is more accessible and more general, so it's what I'd recommend first if you're interested.)

Related to Kuhn (a critic of Popper) is Rothbard's completely false hostility to Popper in The Present State of Austrian Economics:

For my purposes, I am ignoring the allegedly wide gulf between the earlier positivists with their “verifiability” criterion and the Popperites and their emphasis on “falsifiability.” For those far outside the logical empiricist camp, this dispute has more of the appearance of a family feud than of a fundamental split in epistemology. The only point of interest here is that the Popperites are more nihilistic and therefore even less satisfactory than the original positivists, who at least are allowed to “verify” rather than merely “not falsify.”

Popper is not a positivist, nor similar to one. This is totally ignorant, yet he writes about it professionally (rather than being aware of his ignorance and leaving this matter to others).

Going back to An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, I searched it for discussion of Godwin and Burke, who are thinkers where I could readily judge the quality of Rothbard's work, offhand, from my own expertise. Burke isn't mentioned at all, which is an error in a detailed book which gives attention to many lesser known figures. (Burke is fairly well known in general, but not for his comments on economics, even though he made many of them.) Rothbard did very extensive research for this book, but somehow omitted Burke. An example of Burke's relevance, from an 1800 biography of Burke, which has been quoted in many more recent books:

[Adam] Smith, [Burke] said, told him, after they had conversed on subjects of political economy, that he was the only man, who, without communication, thought on these topics exactly as he did.

Adam Smith is a major focus of Rothbard's attention, so Burke was worth discussing at least a little.

Rothbard's treatment of Godwin was much worse. He brings up Godwin briefly in relation to Malthus and makes egregious errors:

In his Utopian belief in the perfectibility of man

The "perfectibility" of man is not a Utopian belief, it means that man can be improved without limit (without reaching an end to progress), not that man can or will reach perfection. The improvement includes both improvement of ideas and of technology. This is a major theme of Deutsch's The Beginning of Infinity, which is titled for this theme and includes Godwin in the bibliography.

William Godwin, on the other hand, was the world's first anarcho-communist, or rather, voluntary anarcho-communist. For Godwin, while a bitter critic of the coercive state, was an equally hostile critic of private property.

That's just not what Godwin says in his material on property in Political Justice.

Godwin believed, not that private property should be expropriated by force, but that individuals, fully using their reason, should voluntarily and altruistically divest themselves of all private property to any passer-by.

Rothbard doesn't provide any quote or citation for this false claim. I will, nevertheless, offer some quotes from Political Justice to refute it, from book 8 (of 8), Of Property.

Of property there are three degrees.

The first and simplest degree is that of my permanent right in those things the use of which being attributed to me, a greater sum of benefit or pleasure will result than could have arisen from their being otherwise appropriated. It is of no consequence, in this case, how I came into possession of them, the only necessary conditions being their superior usefulness to me, and that my title to them is such as is generally acquiesced in by the community in which I live. Every man is unjust who conducts himself in such a manner respecting these things as to infringe, in any degree, upon my power of using them, at the time when the using them will be of real importance to me.

It has already appeared[1] that one of the most essential of the rights of man is my right to the forbearance of others; not merely that they shall refrain from every thing that may, by direct consequence, affect my life, or the possession of my powers, but that they shall refrain from usurping upon my understanding, and shall leave me a certain equal sphere for the exercise of my private judgement. This is necessary because it is possible for them to be wrong, as well as for me to be so, because the exercise of the understanding is essential to the improvement of man, and because the pain and interruption I suffer are as real, when they infringe, in my conception only, upon what is of importance to me, as if the infringement had been, in the utmost degree, palpable. Hence it follows that no man may, in ordinary cases, make use of my apartment, furniture or garments, or of my food, in the way of barter or loan, without having first obtained my consent.

The second degree of property is the empire to which every man is entitled over the produce of his own industry, even that part of it the use of which ought not to be appropriated to himself.

Godwin didn't think people should give away their property to random people, he thought they should have property rights but sometimes, due to rational argument, give some property, as a gift, to someone who had a better use for it. I think trade should be emphasized over gifts and that Godwin wasn't a great economist, but Godwin did support private property and the free market, and was an individualist.

It is not easy to say whether misery or absurdity would be most conspicuous in a plan which should invite every man to seize upon everything he conceived himself to want.... We have already shown,[3] and shall have occasion to show more at large,[4] how pernicious the consequences would be if government were to take the whole permanently into their hands, and dispense to every man his daily bread.

Note the anti-communism.

The idea of property, or permanent empire, in those things which ought to be applied to our personal use, and still more in the produce of our industry, unavoidably suggests the idea of some species of law or practice by which it is guaranteed. Without this, property could not exist. Yet we have endeavoured to show that the maintenance of these two kinds of property is highly beneficial.

Godwin supports the protection of property.

For, let it be observed that, not only no well informed community will interfere with the quantity of any man's industry, or the disposal of its produce, but the members of every such well informed community will exert themselves to turn aside the purpose of any man who shall be inclined, to dictate to, or restrain, his neighbour in this respect.

No one should interfere with anyone's property rights, and people who try to should be stopped.

The most destructive of all excesses is that where one man shall dictate to another, or undertake to compel him to do, or refrain from doing, anything (except, as was before stated, in cases of the most indispensable urgency) otherwise than with his own consent. Hence it follows that the distribution of wealth in every community must be left to depend upon the sentiments of the individuals of that community.

What more does Rothbard want from property rights than that men use their minds in order to use their property in the way they see fit? If Godwin had his way, the result would be a capitalist dream, not a communist society.

But, if reason prove insufficient for this fundamental purpose, other means must doubtless be employed.[9] It is better that one man should suffer than that the community should be destroyed. General security is one of those indispensable preliminaries without which nothing, good or excellent can be accomplished. It is therefore right that property, with all its inequalities, such as it is sanctioned by the general sense of the members of any state, and so long as that sanction continues unvaried should be defended, if need be, by means of coercion.

Godwin, an early anarchist of sorts, who hated violence, was still willing to recommend that the government use violence in defense of property rights, even for unjust types of property that were in existence at the time (think of feudalism and serfdom kinda stuff), let alone for property rights to the product of one's industry.

The arguments however that may be offered, in favour of the protection given to inheritance and testamentary bequest, are more forcible than might at first be imagined.

Godwin defends inheritance of property, too.

The first idea of property then is a deduction from the right of private judgement; the first object of government is the preservation of this right. Without permitting to every man, to a considerable degree, the exercise of his own discretion, there can be no independence, no improvement, no virtue and no happiness. This is a privilege in the highest degree sacred; for its maintenance, no exertions and sacrifices can be too great. Thus deep is the foundation of the doctrine of property. It is, in the last resort, the palladium of all that ought to be dear to us, and must never be approached but with awe and veneration.

The view of property as being implied from the right of private judgment is the best and most correct view of the matter. Godwin is a great liberal thinker, who Rothbard doesn't appreciate. Godwin is, in this respect, more (classical) liberal than Rothbard, and closer to Objectivism which also emphasizes reason in its defense of man's rights. (Objectivism says men have one fundamental right, the right to life, and this implies "the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being". Property rights are the implementation of this.)

And let me repeat what that last sentence says, in more modern words (palladium means source of protection, safety or preservation): Property rights should always be approached with awe and veneration, because property rights are what protect everything good. Rothbard majorly failed at scholarship.

[Godwin] was, after all, not a scholar of population theory, and he had no immediately effective reply. It took Godwin all of two decades to study the problem thoroughly and come to an effective refutation of his nemesis. In On Population (1820), Godwin came to the cogent and sensible conclusion that population growth is not a bogey, because over the decades the food supply would increase and the birth rate would fall. Science and technology, along with rational limitation of birth, would solve the problem. ["On Population" is in italics in the original]

This falsehood about Godwin needing 20 years to figure out a reply to Malthus is refuted in Godwin's book, Of Population (Rothbard got the title wrong), in the preface:

I believed, that the Essay on Population, like other erroneous and exaggerated representations of things, would soon find its own level.

In this I have been hitherto disappointed. ... Finding therefore, that whatever arguments have been produced against it by others, it still holds on its prosperous career, and has not long since appeared in the impressive array of a Fifth Edition, I cannot be contented to go out of the world, without attempting to put into a permanent form what has occurred to me on the subject. I was sometimes idle enough to suppose, that I had done my part, in producing the book that had given occasion to Mr. Malthus's Essay, and that I might safely leave the comparatively easy task, as it seemed, of demolishing the "Principle of Population," to some one of the men who have risen to maturity since I produced my most considerable performance. But I can refrain no longer. "I will also answer my part; I likewise will shew my opinion: for I am full of matter; and the spirit within me constraineth me."

Godwin didn't reply immediately because he thought he'd done enough by writing Political Justice, and that someone else could handle the much easier task of refuting Malthus' bad ideas. This had nothing to do with Godwin needing 20 years of thought or research. Godwin underestimated how influential Malthus would turn out to be, and overestimated the ability of other thinkers to address the issue.


I will keep reading Rothbard anyway. I don't think there's a superior alternative, and I do think he's better about other thinkers that he researched more, especially when their focus is more on economics (Rothbard doesn't adquately understand Godwin's thinking about reason).


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (286)

Bad Scholarship on VDare

From VDare: 93% Of Democrats Think It's Important That Fewer Whites Be Elected.

The article leads with a chart, which says that 75.1% of Democrats believe that "Whites are favored". The chart repeats later in the article. Problems:

  1. The chart has no source.

  2. The author falsely claimed that he always gives sources. Actually he had to be asked the source on Twitter because he hadn't given it. The source is these CNN exit polls.

  3. To get the chart, the author did math on the CNN exit poll data. He did not show his work.

  4. I checked what math he did by asking him on Twitter, since he didn't document it. His math was wrong. Where he got 75.1%, the correct answer was 75%. He added an extra significant figure to exaggerate how good his data was. He admitted I was right, but thought the matter deserved the comment "lol" rather than saying e.g. "My mistake, I will fix it."


The chart was brought to my attention by khaaan on Twitter, who questioned its sourcing.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (19)

Taleb Is Wrong: Killing Millions Actually Is Risky

Alan Forrester writes Criticising Taleb’s Precautionary Principle Paper, quoting Nassim Nicholas Taleb (and his co-authors):

The PP states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing severe harm to the public domain (such as general health or the environment), and in the absence of scientific near-certainty about the safety of the action, the burden of proof about absence of harm falls on those proposing the action. It is meant to deal with effects of absence of evidence and the incompleteness of scientific knowledge in some risky domains.

I'm quoting this as context for what I say later. As a side note, I refuted the burden of proof idea in my Yes or No Philosophy.

The purpose of the PP is to avoid a certain class of what, in probability and insurance, is called “ruin” problems [1]. A ruin problem is one where outcomes of risks have a non zero probability of resulting in unrecoverable losses.

Taleb wants us not to use GMOs – genetically modified food like Golden Rice which helps provide more food and vitamins, especially for poor foreigners.

Forrester summarizes David Deutsch in The Beginning of Infinity (BoI) criticizing the Precautionary Principle (PP):

The PP assumes that new innovations will make the world worse and so that current knowledge is basically okay and not riddled with flaws that might lead to the destruction of civilisation. But our knowledge is riddled with flaws that might destroy civilisation. Human beings are fallible so any piece of knowledge we have might be mistaken. And those mistakes can be arbitrarily large in their consequences because otherwise we would know we were right every time we made a decision above the maximum mistake size. In addition, we can be mistaken about the consequences of a decision so a mistake we think is small might turn out to be a large mistake. The only way to deal with the fact that our knowledge might be wrong is to improve our ability to invent and criticise new ideas so we can solve problems faster. Taleb doesn’t address any of these points in his paper. He doesn’t refer to BoI. Nor do any of the arguments in his paper address Deutsch’s criticisms of the PP.

Taleb's argument is a Pascal’s Wager successor. Pascal's Wager says we should believe in God because the downside of being mistaken about atheism is eternity in hell. Meanwhile the downside of being a Christian, if God doesn't exist, is finite: e.g. some wasted Church visits and prayers. Even if the odds God exists are 0.00001%, given the stakes, one should believe in God and try to get into Heaven.

Pascal's trick is to compare an infinite downside (eternity in hell) with a finite downside (decades of having a worse life). The infinitely important issue will always win unless its probability is 0%. (Ignored is the possibility of a rational, atheistic approach to life helping create life-extension medicine that results in immortality.)

A "ruin" problem is, like eternity in hell, a problem with infinite downside.

With Pascal's Wager, one can argue that God's existence shouldn't be assigned any probability. Small probability is a bad way to deal with bad explanations, bad logic, bad reasoning, unanswered criticisms, losing the argument, etc.

With Taleb's ruin problems, there is risk above 0%. They aren't myths or superstitions like God or ghosts. They are conceivable scenarios.

Taleb uses his argument like Pascal's Wager, e.g. "No matter how increased the probability of benefits, ruin as an absorbing barrier, i.e. causing extinction without further recovery, can more than cancels them out." No matter how large the finite benefits, ruin always matters more. (Minor note: Taleb should have written "cancel" not "cancels".)

It's questionable that even the total extinction of humanity, or of all intelligent life in the universe, should be assigned infinite importance rather than just very very large importance. But I'll set that question aside.

There's a simple answer to Taleb. Everything he proposes also risks ruin. There are risks of ruin either way.

Taleb proposes, in short, to slow down industrial and scientific progress. He proposes more poverty for longer. He proposes more people being blind for lack of Golden Rice – and therefore they will be inferior scientists and inventors. He proposes more people dying for lack of food, or ending up in jail for stealing food – which gets in the way of being a philosopher, businessman, economist, etc.

Delays to industrial and scientific progress are risks of "ruin". They delay the time until we're a two planet species (or two solar systems or two galaxies). Every additional day we spend with a single point of failure (one planet) is a risk. Maybe that's the day a meteor, plague, alien invasion or other risk will ruin our planet. We're in a race against ruin. The clock is ticking before the next big meteor or other ruinous threat. The faster we improve our meteor defenses, and our wealth and technology in general, the better position we're in to deal with that ruin risk or any other ruin risk that may come up. There are some dangers that we don't foresee at all; our best defense against the unknown is to have lots of knowledge, lots of control over physical reality, and other general purpose tools and resources.

Slower progress with more poverty and misery is also a ruin risk for the individuals who go blind, starve, die of aging before a technological solution is available, etc.

And greater poverty and misery in the world, with worse science, increases our risk of ruin from violence. Our ruin could come from resentment from people who want Golden Rice and feel (reasonably, IMO, but it's a risk even if they're wrong) that we're oppressing them. Civilization may be destroyed by Islam, China, Russia or some other war. The sooner everyone lives in a much nicer world (paradise by current standards), the lower our risk of war.

Civilization may be destroyed by the spread of bad ideas. The more prosperity is brought by the use of reason (e.g. science), the more people will be impressed and value reason. Accomplishments help persuade people. The sooner the safer.

Perhaps Taleb things the destruction of civilization, and another dark ages, doesn't constitute ruin because one day people may reinvent civilization. But the destruction of civilization could result in extinction. It could involve biological warfare which creates a disease capable of killing us all. It could involve nuclear and chemical warfare which kills so many, and renders so much land uninhabitable, that everyone ends up dying. It could involve new weapons technology. If GMOs could ruin us, surely a violent conflict could where people are trying to cause mass destruction on purpose. If nothing else turns out to be more effective (doubtful, IMO), people could try to create harmful GMOs on purpose as a weapon.

Slower progress isn't safe. Nothing provides any guaranteed safety against ruin. In general, rapid progress is the safest option. The status quo isn't sustainable, as Deutsch explains in the "Unsustainable" chapter of BoI.

I wonder if Taleb tried to think of ruin problems affecting his proposal for the death of more poor non-white children and many other bad outcomes (even if no such thinking made it into the paper). With Guardian headlines like Block on GM rice ‘has cost millions of lives and led to child blindness’, a reasonable person would give serious consideration to not advocating more of that happening. Does it make sense that denying nutritious food to millions is the safe, no-risk option, while using science to improve their lives is the big risk? That's not impossible, intellectually, but one should make a serious effort to think of counter-arguments. But Taleb (in the full paper) didn't. He briefly suggested maybe the downsides of no GMOs are less than some reports because they have other causes which GMOs don't solve. OK but isn't there a risk that no Golden Rice has killed and will kill millions? Nothing he said could reasonably be treated as a reason that risk is zero. So then, did he analyze whether there is any way that that really bad stuff could lead to ruin? No, all he did is say:

Most of the discussions on "saving the poor from starvation" via GMOs miss the fundamental asymmetry shown in 7.

But it's only a fundamental asymmetry if there are no ruin risks associated with having governments forcibly malnourish the poor. But Taleb (and co-authors) didn't consider or analyze that.


What do I think of ruin risks? The short term affects our long term prospects, as I've been explaining, so they generally don't involve such a big difference as Taleb believes. In general, I think the right answer will be good in the short and long term, good in the big and small picture. We can make life good now and in the future instead of needing to make big, awful sacrifices to try to create a better future. Our success and prosperity now is what will lead to and create a good future.


Disclaimer: I don’t regard this as productive intellectual discourse. A reader might get the impression that this is the sort of critical debate which is supposed to take place between thinkers. I don't think so. I don’t think Taleb is making a good-faith or productive contribution to discourse. I don’t regard him as a worthy opponent. I think he acted intellectually irresponsibly, he’s not open to discussion or learning new ideas, and the bad philosophy thinking he’s a part of is one of the world’s big ruin risks. I regard my post as similar to debunking a UFO sighting.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (8)

David Deutsch and Sarah Fitz-Claridge Publish Misquotes

This post originally focused primarily on Fitz-Claridge, but I found a bunch of scholarship errors, like misquotes, from Deutsch too. For details, see the two updates at the bottom of this post and the comments below the post which share a bunch more research about misquotes. Deutsch's lack of integrity and rationality when it comes to getting quotes right and making his books accurate also provides background context for our current conflict, which has involved Deutsch lying about me regarding a documented, factual matter. His repeated errors in his books help explain how he could make an error like that, and help clarify what kind of person he actually is. (I added this note at the top, and edited the post title, on 2021-06-23 and 2021-06-25. The original title was "Sarah Fitz-Claridge is a Terrible Intellectual".)


Sarah Fitz-Claridge (SFC) co-founded Taking Children Seriously (TCS) with David Deutsch (DD). I found an egregious misquote of Popper on the TCS website. There's no name on the specific page, but I'm familiar enough with TCS to guess that SFC wrote it. In this article, I assume SFC is the author. Regardless, it's on the official TCS website so SFC and DD are both responsible for this error, since they are the founders and they put their names on TCS.

This (falsified) quote of Popper is from "The TCS FAQ" regarding "TCS and Karl Popper" (sources: archive.org and my mirror):

The inductivist or Lamarkian approach operates with the idea of instruction from without, or from the environment. But the critical or Darwinian approach only allows instruction from within - from within the structure itself.

...I contend that there is no such thing as instruction from without the structure. We do not discover new facts or new effects by copying them, or by inferring them inductively from observation, or by any other method of instruction by the environment. We use, rather, the method of trial and the elimination of error. As Ernst Gombrich says, "making comes before matching": the active production of a new trial structure comes before its exposure to eliminating tests."

- pages 7-9, The Myth of the Framework

This quote is bizarrely falsified. I noticed the issue because it says it's from pages 7-9, but it's too short to span three pages. So I checked what Popper actually wrote.

The first paragraph is OK. For the second paragraph, here's the first sentence Popper actually wrote:

In fact, I contend that there is no such thing as instruction from without the structure, or the passive reception of a flow of information that impresses itself on our sense organs.

SFC's ellipsis removed the two words at the start, which is OK. Then where Popper had a comma, SFC changed it to a period with no indication of an edit, which is completely unacceptable. Worse, she then put additional text in the same paragraph which is not in that paragraph in the book. She took some sentences from page 9, from a different section of the book (V not IV), from partway through a completely different paragraph, and stuck them here after half a sentence from from an earlier paragraph which she quoted as being a full sentence.

This isn't even close to how quotes work. You can't just grab quotes from different places in the book and put them together to make a paragraph.

And it's even worse because she presents it as two paragraphs, so it's not like she was leaving out all paragraph breaks. Including a paragraph break makes it even more unexpected that a different paragraph break would be left out. Similarly, she used an ellipsis, which makes it much more surprising and misleading that one is missing somewhere else.

Misquoting seems to be some sort of pattern with SFC and DD. I'm currently working on a video about a misquote in The Beginning of Infinity that I found. SFC and DD are close associates with lots of similarities, e.g. they are both liars.

Immediately after the misquote, SFC writes something else really problematic:

While Popper almost always made such remarks in the context of original discovery rather than learning, the implications for education are inescapable. I should stress that applying Popper's philosophy of science to the growth of knowledge in children applies only when the children are learning science. Our position is much broader, namely that Popper's general idea of how a human being acquires knowledge – by creating it afresh through criticism and the elimination of error – applies equally to non-scientific types of knowledge such as moral knowledge, and to unconscious and inexplicit forms of knowledge. Thus we see ourselves as trying to extend Popperian epistemology into areas where, by its inner logic, it applies, but where Popper himself resolutely refused to apply it.

Popper didn't resolutely refuse to apply his ideas outside of science, nor did he think his theory of knowledge only applied to science. He made this clear repeatedly in many books. He talked about knowledge in contexts like poetry or courts, not just science. Here's an example in Conjectures and Refutations (my italics) where Popper directly says that his theory works for knowledge in general, not just science:

Although I shall confine my discussion to the growth of knowledge in science, my remarks are applicable without much change, I believe, to the growth of pre-scientific knowledge also—that is to say, to the general way in which men, and even animals, acquire new factual knowledge about the world. The method of learning by trial and error—of learning from our mistakes—seems to be fundamentally the same whether it is practised by lower or by higher animals, by chimpanzees or by men of science. My interest is not merely in the theory of scientific knowledge, but rather in the theory of knowledge in general.

Is SFC a liar who wants to praise DD and give him credit for discovering what Popper already published, or did she never actually read much Popper, or did she read it without understanding it? And what's going on with DD putting his name on egregious errors like these?

Also, in the misquote above, SFC showed Popper talking about "instruction" (education), so claiming he didn't know his ideas applied to education is bizarre. Popper also wrote in Unended Quest a quote that SFC and DD both knew about:

I dreamt of one day founding a school in which young people could learn without boredom, and would be stimulated to pose problems and discuss them; a school in which no unwanted answers to unasked questions would have to be listened to; in which one did not study for the sake of passing examinations.

Conjectures and Refutations also says:

Since there were logical reasons behind this procedure [Popper's theory that we learn by conjectures and refutations], I thought that it would apply in the field of science also

In other words, Popper had a general theory of learning first, and then applied it to science. He thought it should apply to everything including science.

And in the preface of The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Popper wrote (italics in original):

The central problem of epistemology has always been and still is the problem of the growth of knowledge. And the growth of knowledge can be studied best by studying the growth of scientific knowledge.

And later in that preface:

Although I agree that scientific knowledge is merely a development of ordinary knowledge or common-sense knowledge, I contend that the most important and most exciting problems of epistemology must remain completely invisible to those who confine themselves to analysing ordinary or common-sense knowledge or its formulation in ordinary language.

Popper wanted to study scientific knowledge in addition to ordinary knowledge, not instead of ordinary knowledge. He thought science made a great example that shouldn't be ignored. But he wasn't trying to figure out how scientists learn things as a special case. He wanted to understand the general issue of the growth of knowledge, and that's what he was trying to explain, and that's what his epistemology does explain. He didn't accidentally create a general-purpose evolutionary epistemology that says we learn by conjectures and refutations or, equivalently, by trial and error. He knew that you can come up with guesses and criticism whether you're doing science or not.

David Deutsch put his name on these errors. And the bizarre claims about Popper inflated his reputation and gave him undeserved credit. It wasn't a random or neutral error; it was heavily biased in his favor.


Update 2021-06-23: "Dec" pointed out that the same misquote is in BoI too (it's slightly different but has the same main error and is also badly wrong). So DD is even more directly responsible for making this error himself.

While I'm updating, DD wrote in BoI:

As the physicist Richard Feynman said, ‘Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves.’

That's a misquote. And I just found another issue. DD wrote in BoI:

As Popper put it, ‘We can let our theories die in our place.’

That's not a full sentence in the original, so that's bad. DD is making it look like a full sentence. The "we" is lowercase in the original.

"Dec" also suggested that I screwed up by not catching the error when I edited BoI. I agree that I could have done better. I was less suspicious then and BoI didn't have the pages 7-9 clue. But I was not a co-author or co-founder of the book, and it was never my job to check for that kind of issue. I helped with the book but I was not paid, I had no official duties or requirements, and the contents of the book are not my responsibility.

In general, I sent DD suggestions and then he decided what to do. The majority of my suggestions were not discussed, so in most cases I don't even know if DD made a change or not. I never went back and compared versions to see which changes he made. The only changes I know he made due to my suggestions are the ones we actually talked about. So you can imagine that I do not feel responsible for the text of the book. I made lots of suggestions that DD didn't take, and most of my suggestions were either small or non-specific (like making a conceptual point but not suggesting exact wording). I didn't write any substantial sections of text in the book. I'm not sure if even one whole sentence of mine is in the book as I wrote it. I did not choose or control what was done with the book.

And I was not tasked with checking sources or doing this sort of research. And I never edited a copy of the book containing both the misquote and the bibliography. DD sent me draft chapters, and then full book drafts, without a bibliography included. He then sent me a bibliography draft after I was done editing, when the book was almost done. He finalized the bibliography at the last minute. Two days after showing me a draft bibliography, he sent me a version that had already been copy-edited, which I did not edit.

The first bibliography draft I saw did not contain In Search of a Better World, which is where Popper wrote "Now we can let our theories die in our place." DD only added that book to the bibliography after I said it had two great chapters and suggested that he read the table of contents and consider it. I'm confident that he didn't know he needed it as a quote source.

And DD misquoted in an article he wrote: https://nautil.us/issue/7/waste/not-merely-the-finest-tv-documentary-series-ever-made

As Karl Popper put it, we humans can “let our ideas die in our place.”

No, Popper wrote "theories" not "ideas". Does DD try to quote Popper from memory!? Why does he use different wordings at different times for the same quote? Why doesn't he copy/paste it out of a book? Something's really wrong here. I'd suggest that, going forward, DD should give a source when presenting a quote. I think he should stop writing books and articles containing quotes without sources. I suggest that no one should trust any quote DD gives, anywhere, unless he gives a source and you check the source yourself. (Be careful with anyone giving an unsourced quote, but especially with people who have a track record of getting quotes wrong like DD does.)

On a related note, in 2011 DD got upset with me for questioning a Godwin quote he sent me in a private email which I couldn't find when searching the book. It turned out that he was quoting the first edition and I was searching the third edition. He hadn't given a specific source. I was right to question it and DD should have praised my scholarship instead of getting upset about being questioned. I guess it makes sense that the kind of person who gets upset about being challenged about quoting would also be the kind of person to make quoting errors. Negative emotional reactions to critical questioning are really bad for error correction.


Update 2, 2021-06-23:

I found another quoting error. The TCS website quoted Popper as writing "Lamarkian" when he actually wrote "Lamarckian". ("ck" not just "k").

I also found the misspelling posted by SFC, and still up today, on her personal website.

That page quotes differently than the TCS page, but also wrong. SFC quotes Popper as writing "flow of information which impresses itself" but in the book he wrote "that" not "which". She just wrote a different word and called it a quote.

And SFC attributes the quote to "The Myth of the Framework, pp. 8-9", but the quote starts on page 7 just like the TCS website said.

Also, DD's associate, Chiara Marletto, misquoted Popper:

https://www.edge.org/conversation/chiara-marletto-on-extinction

As Karl Popper put it, we can "let our ideas die in our place."

No, he wrote "theories" not "ideas".

These people need to learn how quote exactly instead of changing words and other details. If you don't know how to give an exact quote, don't give a quote. Stick to paraphrases until you learn what a quote is and how to do it. There's something really wrong with these people – DD and his associates – who keep making different quoting errors in different places. They aren't just copy/pasting the same error over and over. They keep separately creating different errors.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (53)