I also especially like:
all the Calvin and Hobbes comics
the Wheel of Time series
Machinery of Freedom
Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy series
1: "It is better that 100 murderers go free than that one innocent person is convicted."
2: "It is better that 100 tyrannical, bloodthirsty and aggressive states manufacture weapons of mass destruction than that one tyrannical, bloodthirsty and aggressive state without weapons of mass destruction is liberated."
Spot the difference.
-- David Deutsch
despite opposition from the US. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Turkish forces had moved across the border to prevent a flood of refugees.
According to Turkish military sources, more than 1,000 commandos crossed the border.
that some 1,000 Turkish commandos crossed into northern Iraq, a military move that would likely increase tensions with Iraqi Kurds and Washington.
A military official said Friday that soldiers, in M-113 armored personnel carriers, rolled into northeastern Iraq from near the town of Cukurca, where the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Iran converge. He said the soldiers were reinforcing several thousand Turkish troops already on the Iraqi side of the border and were not ordered to go deeper into Iraq.
Similar reports were front-page news in Turkish newspapers Saturday and were carried on Turkish television stations throughout the night.
A spokesman for the Turkish General Staff denied the reports.
?Turkey has not entered northern Iraq,? the spokesman said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity. ?Such news is a lie.?
Germany said Saturday it would withdraw its crew members from NATO surveillance planes that are patrolling Turkish airspace if Turkey moves its troops into Iraq. The threat was announced by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Defense Minister Peter Struck following a meeting of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Security Cabinet.
UN weapons inspector Hans Blix announced today from Ankara that a preliminary inspection of the city ?has revealed no evidence that Turkey has moved any troops into Iraq?. He said there is evidence of previous incursions, and the inspectors are ?vigorously pursuing the issue?, demanding that the Turkish government deliver ?credible evidence? that all the troops had been withdrawn in the mid-1990s. He praised the Turkish government's cooperation ?on process? and said he was confident that cooperation on substance would be forthcoming during the coming months. Meanwhile, inspections would continue. ?There are a lot of interesting restaurants in downtown Istanbul?, Mr. Blix remarked.
Who is this idiot?
We reiterate that there are no, absolutely no, Turkish troops in Iraq. They are there for humanitarian reasons only, and the land they are seizing is not for territorial purposes. UN inspectors are welcome to search for them anywhere in Turkey.
After visiting the "Puzzling Parenting" stuff, I went to the TCS site and read Sarah's wonderful article about math(s).And later:
It got me wondering. I am imagining a kid, no -- a family of three kids. The kids are, um, 10, 12 & 15. The parents have resisted the urge to push academics on them. They have not done any academic math(s). They play video games, chat on the internet, build lego stuff, build tree-houses, etc.
Would somebody write for me a description of life from here on? Tell me a story, that includes the 15 year old becoming a scientist. I am just having trouble picturing them starting math so late... Would somebody help me with this idea?
Maybe. Probably not.The concern is genuine. Without knowledge, how do we come to be who it is we are "meant" to be? And is there not a point, developmentally, where it can be "too late"?NO. I am sure it can't be "too late."
What I really want is a way to picture life from here for, say, the oldest one (15, was it?). Does she begin with fractions and decimals
and work her way up to algebra, then calculus?Calculus is almost certain to follow, rather than precede, algebra, yes.
Does she start at the local community collegeQuite possibly.
in remedial classes?No, in normal classes.
What does such a life LOOK like?Well OK, if you really insist on knowing, I'll tell you. I know all the details except her name, so let's call her Anna.
One should study philosophy only if addressing an originally non-philosophical problem forces one to.Stay the fuck away from philosophy unless forced.
David Deutsch tweeted:
[email protected] To end extreme poverty, end extreme wealth? A misconception that killed more people in the 20th century than malevolent violence.
This tweet categorizes Stalin and Mao as not being in the malevolent violence category. It has to for the body count math to come out right. Rather, Deutsch believes they had a "misconception" about income equality and the root causes of poverty.
It's disturbing that in Deutsch's mind he doesn't associate mass-murderers like Stalin and Mao with malevolence and violence. Soviet and Chinese gulags, and starving millions to death, weren't policies for dealing with "extreme wealth".
DD is bad now. There's so many things wrong here!
He said "indeed" to a tweet insulting children. Most people would do that, but in the past DD wouldn't have. He was good about ageism.
He said "indeed" to a tweet no one considers literally true.
He said "indeed" to an exaggerated, ageist, unserious, unintellectual claim that Trump is clueless and incompetent. (Also file that under unoriginal!)
He likes Obama more than Trump. (Previously we found out he likes Hillary more than Trump.)
He says "yes" that Putin is "the worst dictator" which is false.
DD says "yes" that Trump is "befriending" Putin. That's false. Trump is – as he should – having a working relationship with a person his job requires him to work with. Work relationships are different than friendships. Suggesting that Trump is personal friends with Putin is a lazy smear.
From Obama's worst policies, DD excludes: Obamacare, supporting Iran, supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, supporting Cuba, open borders, appointing activist leftist judges, and losing the Iraq war. That's just a small start on what Obama did wrong.
DD not only claims that Trump will pursue all Obama's worst policies, but that Trump is even worse at all of them than Obama. This is unfair to Trump by ignoring many terrible Obama policies where Trump is way better. And it's false because Trump is better on every listed policy than Obama. Trump is going to be more financially irresponsible than Obama? Really? I read Trump's tax plan, among other things, and I don't see it. I await DD's considered argument for this claim and the others. But DD doesn't explain serious arguments anymore, he tweets.
DD has become an apologist for Obama and the left. DD speaks imprecisely and participates in superficial commentary. DD no longer cares much about ageism.
I follow DD's tweets and this quality is typical. He used to be a much better thinker.
Update: Here's a second example of low quality DD tweets. From someone else it'd just be expected that they are confused about AI, persons, animals, etc, all of that. But DD used to be good at these things. And he used to be my peer. But these tweets aren't in my league or up to DD's former standards of thinking.
David Deutsch tweeted, twice, that his epistemology work is footnotes to Popper. (I think he's exaggerating.)
Aug 1, 2016
@DavidDeutschOxf having a debate: are you Jesus to Popper's John the Baptist, or St Paul to Popper's Jesus? :)
[email protected] Neither. Footnotes to Popper.
Feb 9, 2016
@cccalum Follow-up for @DavidDeutschOxf: in your view, has there been ANY progress at all in understanding creativity needed for AGI?
@SheaBigs84 @cccalum Not since Popper. Unless you count my tiny footnotes to Popper in The Beginning of Infinity or http://arxiv.org/abs/1508.02048
David Deutsch (DD) did an interview on The Christian Transhumanist Podcast.
Typical people will understand very little of what DD says. Way too advanced and based on already understanding FoR/BoI. But for me the interview is pretty basic. It’s not really designed to add on to DD’s books with new info nor to help people learn the books. So who is it for?
I think it’s for impressing people who don’t understand it, not for rational learning. I think that’s a typical kind of guest on interviews of this type. Most of what DD is saying happens to be true, but that won’t stop people from treating it just like the next impressive-sounding set of comments (which are false and which people find entertaining).
Is DD super popular? No. Why not? Well, are DD’s interview comments very good for impressing people who don’t understand? They’re OK at that but not great. DD doesn’t focus on offering memorable sound bytes people can quote to impress their friends. Nor does he focus on making what he says repeatable for lots of audience members without much fear of contradiction. DD says some stuff that your friends would argue with instead of be impressed by. DD also has a handicap compared to other interview guests, like he discusses in BoI about static memes: making his comments true gets in the way of socially optimizing them. E.g. if you can say false things, it’s easier to say stuff that sounds deep/impressive and also which fits with common sense well enough for lots of listeners to think they kinda partly understand it immediately – DD by contrast said lots of true stuff that will make it clearer to listeners that they don’t understand it.
The interview as a whole has a tone like: DD is smart and has some sophisticated ideas which could be valuable to some intellectuals.
The interview does not have the following messages coming across:
DD is undermining the implications of his own philosophy by acting as if they don’t exist. A reasonable person hearing the interview would think I’m being ridiculous when I make these claims. Why? Because if that’s what DD’s message was, why didn’t he say it? He chose to talk about other things that matter way less. And he didn’t even protest the lack of attention he’s getting. As a contrasting example, Aubrey de Grey does protest the lack of funding he gets for SENS and does make public claims that he needs lots of money ASAP and it’s a very important life-or-death issue.
What’s the structure of the interview? A guy who doesn’t understand much about DD’s work asks DD questions which aren’t chosen very well but which are intended to help bridge the gap between DD and the audience. The host tries to guide DD to say things the audience will care about. DD could do that better without the host existing. DD knows better than the host what to bring up.
The interview also has a dialog/discussion format, but it’s fake because DD is just saying his own stuff and the host isn’t meaningfully contributing ideas.
What determines how the host treats DD? The social expectations of the host role and his deference to DD as someone much smarter than himself. (Whether the host is actually impressed by DD or not, he has to act the part, or else why did he even bring DD on the show?)
It’s somewhat similar to the situation DD would be in teaching a university class. The social situation prevents him from being challenged and organizes the interactions so that he’s deferred to.
And what does DD do? Give the other people roughly what they expect. DD doesn’t rock the boat. He doesn’t have real power. He’s just playing the role of the important person who gets to speak important truths and be listened to, but then actually he's being careful to say innocuous things. So DD is helping with a cultural ritual which pretends that some smart people get the opportunity to say important things, and DD participates in that but pulls his punches. So people can listen to dozens of such interviews and think they are open-minded, truth is being vigorously pursued, etc, and actually, all the while, every interview guest is dishonest (either like DD they try to avoid rocking the boat, or more commonly they’re actually faking being smart and knowledgeable at all).
It’s kinda like our society chooses one smart person per day and says “ok, today you can speak truth to power, we’re listening with open minds and trying to be objective and rational” and then, every day, each smart person says “our society is wonderful” even though they don’t believe it. And so plenty of people eventually hear hundreds or even thousands of times that everything is fine and wonderful and there’s nothing to worry about or fix. And DD participated in that disgraceful ritual and helped lie to the public and keep them complacent.
DD believes, correctly or not, that if he didn’t play along then he wouldn’t be invited back. And he tells himself he’s at least sharing some good ideas and also building up the popularity, reputation and status to enable him to share even more ideas in the future. And he doesn’t reread The Fountainhead and think about Gail Wynand or other ideas from Ayn Rand like this (The Virtue of Selfishness, ch. 7):
The excuse, given in all such cases, is that the “compromise” is only temporary and that one will reclaim one’s integrity at some indeterminate future date. But one cannot correct a husband’s or wife’s irrationality by giving in to it and encouraging it to grow. One cannot achieve the victory of one’s ideas by helping to propagate their opposite. One cannot offer a literary masterpiece, “when one has become rich and famous,” to a following one has acquired by writing trash. If one found it difficult to maintain one’s loyalty to one’s own convictions at the start, a succession of betrayals—which helped to augment the power of the evil one lacked the courage to fight—will not make it easier at a later date, but will make it virtually impossible.
David Deutsch has some misconceptions about epistemology. I explained the issue on Twitter.
I've reproduced the important part below. Quotes are DD, regular text is me.
There's no such thing as 'acceptance' of a theory into the realm of science. Theories are conjectures and remain so. (Popper, Miller.)
We don't accept theories "into the realm of science", we tentatively accept them as fallible, conjectural, non-refuted solutions to problems (in contexts).
But there's no such thing as rejection either. Critical preference (Popper) refers to the state of a debate—often complex, inconsistent, and transient.
Some of them [theories] are preferred (for some purposes) because they seem to have survived criticism that their rivals haven't. That's not the same as having been accepted—even tentatively. I use quantum theory to understand the world, yet am sure it's false.
Tentatively accepting an idea (for a problem context) doesn't mean accepting it as true, so "sure it's false" doesn't contradict acceptance. Acceptance means deciding/evaluating it's non-refuted, rivals are refuted, and you will now act/believe/etc (pending reason to reconsider).
Acceptance deals with the decision point where you move past evaluating the theory, you reach a conclusion (for now, tentatively). you don't consider things forever, sometimes you make judgements and move on to thinking about other things. ofc it's fluid and we often revisit.
Acceptance is clearer word than preference for up-or-down, yes-or-no decisions. Preference often means believing X is better than Y, rather than judging X to have zero flaws (that you know of) & judging Y to be decisively flawed, no good at all (variant of Y could ofc still work)
Acceptance makes sense as a contrast against (tentative) rejection. Preference makes more sense if u think u have a bunch of ideas which u evaluate as having different degrees of goodness, & u prefer the one that currently has the highest score/support/justification/authority.
Update: DD responded, sorta:
You are blocked from following @DavidDeutschOxf and viewing @DavidDeutschOxf's Tweets.
Update: April 2019:
DD twitter blocked Alan, maybe for this blog post critical of LT:
DD twitter blocked Justin, maybe for this tweet critical of LT:
David Deutsch (DD) wrote an email which was posted to reddit. This post critically analyzes it. I comment on small chunks at a time, but everything DD said is included and is kept in order.
I admire Ayn Rand, but not as a philosopher.
Being a philosopher is what Ayn Rand (AR) wanted to be admired for. This is pretending to be partially friendly while being hostile. AR would regard someone saying this as an enemy, not an admirer – and DD knows that.
Fake evenhandedness is a theme through DD’s email. He falsely communicates objectivity. DD mixes in praise in order to pretend that he’s giving credit where it’s due, rather than focusing just on attacking her. That’s a way to attack AR extra. He’s attacking her and manipulating readers into thinking he’s not doing an attack (so they believe what he says more).
The praise DD offers is either basically empty (as in this case) or else understates AR’s virtues (so it’s actually downplaying how good she is). And none of the praise actually explains any non-philosophical reason to like AR (contrary to DD’s alleged non-philosophical admiration).
Also, this is not what DD said about AR to me during our many years of discussions and when he repeatedly recommended her books to me. He was genuinely friendly to AR in the past and was a fan of AR (“fan” is his word that he gave me explicit permission to quote publicly). He’s changed his mind, in a big way, without any public announcement or retraction, and without explaining what changed.
Also, DD can say critical things about any thinker that he wants to. He attacks AR without putting it in context: he thinks that almost every thinker is far worse than AR. (Unless he’s changed his mind even more than I think he has after reading this email.)
As an observer of people,
She was an understander and explainer of people, not a (passive) observer. That involves philosophy skill. And it wasn’t a major focus for AR.
and of some of the pervasive irrationalities and hangups of our culture (especially the ones she somewhat misleadingly called 'altruism'), she was outstanding.
Was she outstanding at that? She was bad at judging her associates. She overestimated Nathaniel Branden, David Kelley and others. She said something about this being hard and one of her weaknesses.
She was good at writing fictional characters to represent and explain certain traits which she’d seen in real people. She was great at some of what DD is talking about. But overall, in this area, she was kinda mixed. (Though have other people actually been better at it? That’s hard to say.)
The comment that AR used the word “altruism” misleadingly is an unargued and unexplained attack which DD sneaks into a parenthetical (it ought to be the topic of at least one paragraph, not an aside). It’s an unreasonable point to attack in passing because AR actually addressed the matter, e.g. in the introduction of The Virtue of Selfishness (which discusses the closely related issue of why she uses the term “selfishness”, and directly addresses her critics).
DD is also writing in his own terminology rather than AR’s. E.g. “hangups” is his word, not hers. He avoids speaking like an Objectivist, even though he knows a lot about how to, in order to distance himself from Objectivism. He doesn’t want to reveal how much he himself learned about Objectivism (which implies that he saw a ton of value in it in the past).
And DD is being vague rather than naming some of AR’s accomplishments like her explanation and criticism of second-handedness. The vagueness makes her accomplishments sound less impressive and avoids bringing them – along with their substance – into the reader’s mind. If DD named them, readers might see him as more of an AR fan and say “Wait, you thought that was good? I disagree with that! You like her more than I do!” But when it’s more like “She got some stuff right but she sucks.” then it sounds more like lip service and like he doesn’t really like her.
As a polemical writer criticising these irrationalities and exposing the harm they do, she was excellent and persuasive. And her optimism and pro-human stances are refreshing and inspiring (and true).
Being refreshing and inspiring were not primary goals of AR. They are secondary points. Saying true things was a primary goal which DD downplays as a parenthetical (as if it’s not that big or unique of an accomplishment).
Calling AR a “polemical writer” is an attempt to distance her from being a philosopher or intellectual. It makes her sound like a good mudslinger who could be a politician who gives speeches and makes short quips to be replayed on TV. It makes it sound like her skill was more about rhetoric than reason. DD suggests she’d be impressive on the debate stage, which is different than being a serious intellectual. None of this is clearly stated, and if the rest of the email was more positive then it might actually be reasonable to view these words as a compliment not an attack. But in the context of the other attacks, it helps pile on by vaguely implying more bad things, and it reinforces some of the themes of the other (clearer) attacks.
But she had a strong tendency
Saying “X tends to Y” is a way to avoid discussing the causal mechanism. It doesn’t say why that happens or in what circumstances it doesn’t happen. It’s a way to make an unargued, unexplained assertion which sounds to people like a reasonable statement.
People also commonly use terms like “likely” and “probably” when they leave out explanations and don’t want their statement to look like a bald assertion. That’s the same issue.
DD knows this. I made literally dozens of comments about these issues when editing his book The Beginning of Infinity. DD himself helped figure out this knowledge, perhaps more than I did. We both played a role in developing this viewpoint and I applied it to an editing pass of his book.
It’s sad to see him getting worse as a thinker. He should know better. Or maybe he does know better and he’s doing this anyway because his goal here is to smear AR. If you want to attack someone good, you have to do something wrong in order to accomplish that. Leaving out explanations of why AR is bad – because they don’t exist – is important to what DD is doing.
to make hyperbolic generalisations
This (the word “hyperbolic”) is flaming, not serious analysis. (Compare it to the analysis you’re reading right now and consider how different it is.)
DD gives one incorrect example for this point. (One example doesn’t tell you anything about her tendencies, but it does help clarify what he means by a hyperbolic generalization.)
and to double down on them with nonsense in order to deflect any potential criticism.
This is triple flaming. He’s saying that she doubles down on bad ideas, she speaks nonsense, and she won’t address criticism.
DD then gives an example which does not involve AR doubling down on anything or deflecting any actual criticism (criticism that she’s aware of and could state). I don’t know how one would preemptively double down to deflect potential criticism (criticism that someone might think of in the future, but today you don’t know what it would criticize or why). I don’t think that makes sense.
Just consider dispassionately, if you can, whether the following statement is true or false:
DD suggests that “if you can” analyze AR’s statement dispassionately, you’re high skill. He suggests the statement isn’t intended (by AR) to be analyzed dispassionately, so if you can do it you’re outcompeting her.
DD is also baiting the person to analyze the way DD wants by challenging them and suggesting that maybe they can’t. DD also implies that his own analysis is dispassionate (which people think means it’s objective, even though a person thinking unemotionally can be biased).
DD is trying to give readers the impression that they have seen for themselves that AR is bad. He wants them to think they thought for themselves. What could shatter their respect for AR more than personally outthinking her!? (People generally don’t have much self-esteem or respect for their own intellectual abilities, even if they say they do. They admire thinkers they see as way above themselves.)
DD is carefully guiding the whole project. DD decides what is analyzed, in what context (out of context...), and what the goals of the analysis are (judge truth or falsity, nothing else). DD picked the book, chapter, paragraph and sentence. DD has an expectation in advance about what conclusion the reader will reach. DD is leading his audience by the nose while pretending to give them space to do their own thinking.
"In no case and in no situation may one permit one’s own values to be attacked or denounced, and keep silent".
This AR quote is taken out of context. It’s the end of a paragraph. I’ll cover this more below.
Here is what DD wants you to think: If a communist points a gun at you and says “Shut up or die.” and then says something to attack your values (e.g. “The USA is an evil empire which should be destroyed with nuclear fire!”), then you should keep silent. But AR said not to keep silent in any situation, including that one. That’s a counterexample, and one counterexample means AR’s statement is false. Also, AR must have been a bad thinker (worse than you) to fail to consider a well known scenario (that you thought of quickly, without difficulty).
Can it really be the case that DD’s audience can predictably think of a counterexample, but a top philosopher would miss it? No! It’d genuinely be damning if AR didn’t think of any scenarios of that type.
But AR’s statement, even taken out of context, is true. Why? Because “permit” means “give authorization for”. (Seriously. Check several dictionaries and its etymology.) Yes there exist definitions of “permit” for which AR’s statement is false, but there also exist definitions for which it’s true. It’s your job as a reader to interpret multi-definition words using the best option. E.g. if I said “Kant is dumb because he thought truth-telling was a universal, categorical moral law, even if it got you killed!”, you wouldn’t respond “How does having a bad idea imply that Kant was unable to speak?” (The word “dumb” can mean “idiotic” or “mute”.) Also, AR wrote it 57 years ago and the definitions that work better for her sentence are the older ones.
AR said that you shouldn’t authorize or sanction people to attack your values. Keeping silent at gunpoint doesn’t give them permission, so it’s OK. (Keeping silent in situations where you are at liberty to speak up can give implicit permission but doesn’t always – it depends on the situation. That’s an important and tricky issue which DD is familiar with from considering e.g. what to do if a parent mistreats his child in your vicinity. What sort of involvement does it take so that you should speak up, and how much should you say?)
DD knows what AR’s view of the matter is. He was picking on a particular wording which he thought people would misread as saying something that he knows is not her position. He’s trying to do a picky logical point instead of engage with her views. If he was right, a slight rewording would fix the problem (there’d be no need for Objectivists to reconsider their philosophical ideas). But even for this small, technical point, where DD chose the discussion topic out of everything AR wrote, and chose the limited terms of the critical consideration, he’s still wrong.
DD has exceptionally good vocabulary knowledge (better than mine!). So, if he wasn’t being biased, I’d expect that he probably knows what “permit” means. Or, if he didn’t know it offhand, he could have looked it up (as I did). He should know better than to think it’s this easy to catch AR being wrong. He should have done some double checking.
AR’s statement also has context. Earlier in the book was the chapter The Ethics of Emergencies which basically says that her claims about moral philosophy are, by default, trying to talk about regular life, not emergency situations. She thinks regular life is more important for moral philosophy to address than lifeboat scenarios or being held at gunpoint.
Now, for context, let’s look at the whole paragraph that DD took the quote from (in The Virtue of Selfishness, ch. 8, which is available online):
This last means that one need not launch into unprovoked moral denunciations or debates, but that one must speak up in situations where silence can objectively be taken to mean agreement with or sanction of evil. When one deals with irrational persons, where argument is futile, a mere “I don’t agree with you” is sufficient to negate any implication of moral sanction. When one deals with better people, a full statement of one’s views may be morally required. But in no case and in no situation may one permit one’s own values to be attacked or denounced, and keep silent.
Here we see that AR was aware of the key qualifier: you must speak up “where silence can objectively be taken to mean agreement with or sanction of evil”. If a gun is pointed at you, no reasonable observer would think your silence means agreement. (If a gun is pointed at you, even saying “I agree! That’s great! That’s the truest thing I’ve heard all year!” couldn’t be reasonably taken as meaning you agree.)
AR’s statement is true as written if you look up what the words mean. But even if it wasn’t, the worst you could reasonably accuse her of is failing to repeat something she had already said earlier in the paragraph, which she could reasonably have thought was implied.
DD made the context harder to check because he left out the source of the quote. In the past, in my experience, DD was great at attributing quotes accurately, and he thought it was important. (Edit 2021-07-16: I was wrong about this. See my article Misquotes by David Deutsch.)
The thing is, if literally true, this is a profound discovery in moral philosophy, with dramatic practical implications.
If AR’s sentence meant something like “Always tell the truth, even when people will shoot you for it.” and that was actually true, that would not be a profound discovery in moral philosophy. It’d be unoriginal.
Kant (one of AR’s main enemies) already said that. (I doubt it was original to Kant, but I don’t know the history of the idea. Also I think Kant did allow silence – which is insufficient to save yourself in some scenarios – but never lying. See Kant’s On a supposed right to lie from philanthropy which literally discusses the scenario of a murderer at your door asking if his intended victim is home, and then says “To be truthful (honest) in all declarations is, therefore, a sacred and unconditionally commanding law of reason that admits of no expediency whatsoever.”)
Kant’s position on this matter is well known enough that DD ought to have heard of it. I’d guess that DD knew it at some point but forgot. And that, before making his claim, DD didn’t stop and think (let alone use Google) about whether this “profound discovery” was actually already discovered.
But if it is merely a maxim that is true in a certain vaguely defined set of circumstances,
As mentioned above, the circumstances for not speaking up were defined earlier in the paragraph, and they also got additional elaboration earlier in the book.
and her idea is that people often defer to social convention when they shouldn't,
No, the essay says a lot more than that. DD is stating a dumbed down version of one paragraph (to make Rand sound more basic than she is). But the essay says more, e.g. AR talks about why to defer to social convention less. And if you understood her essay, you wouldn’t think the issue was whether or not to follow social convention – that’s a poor framing of the matter (a better question – suggested by the article title – is how to maintain your own rationality or integrity, and AR’s answer is by making moral judgments).
then it is unoriginal and unspectacular though arguably useful in a self-help-book sort of way.
“Unoriginal and unspectacular” is flaming.
“Self-help-book” is a flame. DD doesn’t respect those books much. And his point is that they don’t have serious philosophy like AR claimed to do (he’s calling her an amateur or non-philosopher).
DD is mixing flaming with praise again. He’s pretending to be fair and unbiased by admitting that, “arguably”, there is some partial merit in AR’s sentence.
She intends the latter meaning but expresses it in terms suggesting the former.
No, AR intended the true meaning. (Or, conceivably, she intended “permit” to be read in the way DD has in mind, but also intended the qualification from earlier in the paragraph to apply to it.) DD is being arrogant and condescending by speaking for AR. He’s implying that he’s so far above her that he can understand and judge her thought process, not just judge her conclusions (as is more standard and easier).
As polemic or rhetoric, that's great.
DD means that polemic is dishonest and AR is dishonest. He dishonestly presents this as praise (“great”) but it’s actually a smear. He’s saying she does social manipulations well (something she and he both oppose) but that she’s bad at truth-seeking and logic (something she and he both value).
As philosophy, it's embarrassing wannabe stuff.
DD’s email has many insults. He’s done a lot of good writing which isn’t like this, e.g. his books and physics papers. He knows how to do better.
She was (ironically) obsessed with attributes of people rather than of ideas.
What AR was obsessed with (if anything) is an attribute of a person (AR). DD has been talking more about various attributes of AR than about her ideas. It’s ironic that DD is criticizing AR (incorrectly) for something he’s doing.
The focus on AR’s attributes contradicts his own philosophy. DD is perfectly capable of writing about ideas rather than people. He’s done a lot of it. But this time he’s behaving differently (it looks to me like bias).
AR wrote a bunch of impersonal non-fiction that was about ideas, not people. In her novels, she uses fictional characters to help present ideas (including, yes, some psychological ideas). She wasn’t writing parochial material about specific individuals. She did so little of that that, e.g., I don’t know of anywhere that she elaborated much on her criticisms of Friedrich Hayek or Milton Friedman.
There’s also another irony. DD views himself as doing serious intellectual work (when writing the email) but he’s unaware of how badly he’s screwing up. Overestimating one’s work is something DD (incorrectly) attacks AR for.
That's why her followers tend to form themselves into groups with insider/outsider ideologies (somewhat unfairly called 'cults' by her detractors).
DD presents himself as not being one of AR’s detractors. He talks about her detractors as a separate group. But, based on my experience, he’s actually flaming her more than a typical AR detractor.
DD pretends to be unbiased by partially defending AR by saying the “cult” charge is “somewhat” unfair. But that implies it’s somewhat fair, so that’s actually another unargued, unexplained attack. DD is (a little bit indirectly) calling AR’s fans somewhat cultish.
In regard to fundamental philosophical theory she was hopelessly incompetent and confused.
There isn’t much to analyze here. DD is just openly flaming AR. Only the part about the quote even tried to be a substantive argument. The rest is basically just assertions of DD’s opinions, but without explaining his reasoning (how he reached those conclusions).
Despite this, her actual conclusions about economics and politics, which don't really follow from these purported foundations, are very good indeed ---
This is more mixed praise and flaming. DD’s saying her conclusions were good (praise) but her reasoning was wrong (flame). Overall, this is a flame, not a neutral comment. It’s kinda like saying “A broken clock is right twice a day.” If your reasoning is wrong but your conclusions are correct, you got lucky. DD, while pretending to be neutral, is accusing AR of getting lucky even to the partial extent that he accepts that she got stuff right.
DD does not argue his case. He doesn’t discuss AR’s arguments about (classical) liberalism, nor what he thinks a better approach is, nor how or why the wrong arguments led to (largely) the right conclusions. (It’s unusual for bad reasoning to reach especially good conclusions.) The one sentence quote was the only part of his email where DD even pretended to go into detail. (And even then he didn’t actually give arguments, he instead led the person to think of the arguments DD intended without being directly told.)
though she underestimated the resilience of American and Anglosphere institutions, and indeed underrated the importance of institutions generally.
DD doesn’t argue or explain this point. Knowing DD and knowing AR’s material, I’d guess that DD’s primarily referring to ch. 1 of The Fountainhead where Roark questions the architecture tradition with the Parthenon and tells the dean that he stands at the end of no tradition and inherits nothing. I won’t analyze that scene because it doesn’t discuss American or Anglosphere institutions.
I think DD is mistaken about AR’s views. In Justin’s analysis of DD’s email, Justin points out an AR quote in which she speaks positively of American institutions and their development over centuries.
Her main -- perhaps her only -- innovation, was to stress much more than anyone before her that free markets are morally superior to socialism, and that defending them in terms of efficiency only is to concede much of (she would say the whole of!) the opponents' case.
Stressing something is like calling attention to it or putting italics around it. While AR did that, that wasn’t the main thing she did there. She argued the issue, and reasoned about moral philosophy, instead of just stressing it. Saying her main innovation was to stress something is basically denying that she had any substantial intellectual accomplishments. This is another flame disguised as praise.
AR would not say that those bad defenses of capitalism concede the “whole of” the opponent’s case. That would be the sort of hyperbolic error which DD accuses her of, but which she was actually skilled at avoiding. To back up his attack, DD had one incorrect example (above) and one made up example here (she didn’t say it, DD just asserted that she would).
DD, AR and I all agree that defending only the efficiency of capitalism concedes a lot that shouldn’t be conceded. But that specific point is fairly simple. It’s not a complex argument that if you only defend one aspect of capitalism, then you’re not defending various other aspects. So this isn’t very impressive. (And DD made it less impressive by simplifying the logic by saying “only” instead of “primarily”, even though AR’s arguments work with “primarily”.) AR said it, and it’s a good point, but by highlighting it this much for praise DD is implying that AR didn’t have a bunch of other more major points (she did, e.g. her explanation and criticism of second-handedness).
All the manipulative stuff DD does is intentional. He’s developed the skill to do it. He has extremely good control over what he writes – better than most people realize is possible. He’s a very precise, careful writer and thinker – even offhand, speaking extemporaneously. He put effort into this email.
It’s possible he’s not consciously thinking about some aspects of what he’s doing while he does them. That wouldn’t diminish his responsibility. He made choices which led to this result. What he’s done in the email wasn’t bad luck.
It’s similar to how Gail Wynand was responsible (in AR’s The Fountainhead) for what the Banner wrote even when he was on vacation:
“I know what you think. You understood that I didn’t know about the Stoddard Temple yesterday. I had forgotten the name of the architect involved. You concluded it wasn’t I who led that campaign against you. You’re right, it wasn’t I, I was away at the time. But you don’t understand that the campaign was in the true and proper spirit of the Banner. It was in strict accordance with the Banner’s function. No one is responsible for it but me. Alvah Scarret was doing only what I taught him. Had I been in town, I would have done the same.”
Part of why DD seems somewhat convincing is that he does know a lot about Objectivism. He used to like it. (Notably, nothing he says here explains why he changed his mind.) DD chose an important essay – that clashes with his current life – as the one to misleadingly quote from and attack. And most AR critics wouldn’t have made the points about defending capitalism that DD did. But DD isn’t the same person he was when he studied and liked AR, so there’s something unfair about using his former self’s knowledge to attack his former self’s own values.
And DD doesn’t acknowledge or address the conflict and explain his reasons for changing. What he ought to do – this is the kind of thing DD normally advocates – is explain what’s wrong with AR in a way that DD’s own former self could agree with and voluntarily change his mind to. The new view offered ought to be strictly better – better in every respect (while that’s unusual, it’s something DD and I both advocate). He’s basically calling his former self (and all AR fans) bad instead of attempting to be helpful by providing strictly better ideas that they would prefer to hold.
Note: This blog post doesn’t attempt to be a complete analysis. I think there are other bad things about DD’s email which I didn’t cover here.
DD was a great man and was my friend and colleague. He’s done great work in both physics and philosophy. This is the worst thing he’s ever written that I’ve seen. It’s sad.
The David Deutsch fan community is being split by the creation of a secondary community. In addition to the public Fallible Ideas forums (FI) for discussing topics like David Deutsch’s books, there are now “Four Strands” forums for discussing those topics. This takes a small community and tries to splinter it into separate factions.
The people behind this, such as Bruce Nielson and Dennis Hackethal, have not explained what they’re doing or why. They have not posted any invites or announcements on FI to let people know about the existence of these new forums or to explain the reasons for creating them and their purpose.
I’m not even very clear on who is in charge of the group or what it consists of. I was told it’s a Google Group and a Slack, then I found a Discord. There’s apparently no webpage explaining and linking their stuff, stating rules, policies or purpose, organizing it, etc.
They apparently have a problem with FI, but they haven’t criticized FI or had discussions attempting to solve whatever problems with FI they may have had. They seem to be unwilling to debate whatever the issues are and have no Paths Forward to allow error correction. They don’t seem interested in writing and sharing their relevant claims, criticisms, ideas for improvements, etc. I hope I’m mistaken about these impressions and I invite correction. Let’s talk about this!
There’s also a Beginning of Infinity subreddit from kodheaven and Dennis. Despite it claiming to be for anything DD related, I was banned without ever submitting a post or comment. Meanwhile, a post linking my interview with David Deutsch was deleted and the person who posted it was also banned. No explanation was provided.
Where is the attempt at cooperative problem solving as DD advocates!? What about common preference finding or win/win solutions, as DD advocates?
The FI forum, for those who don’t know, was formed by merging existing DD-related discussion groups, such as Beginning of Infinity (BoI), Taking Children Seriously and Autonomy Respecting Relationships (all of which I owned and ran). I simply asked people to move to a unified group instead of being split up. There were no objections to the merger and all active posters came to FI. Note that I created and ran the BoI google group and website at DD’s request.
This is an established forum community related to DD’s ideas going back to 1994, which I joined in 2001. DD used to actively post and wrote a few thousand emails to the forums. There is a 25 year history here, including a lot of participation by DD himself, but these alleged DD fans are apparently splintering away from the community which has been influenced by over 15 years of discussions with DD. They seem to be rejecting a big part of his legacy. (Note for those who don’t know: that legacy also includes me personally, since I’ve had around 5,000 hours of intellectual discussions with DD in which he played a huge role in shaping my thinking.)
I believe Bruce and Dennis already know most of the facts above, though perhaps not. They never participated in the community much before splintering off. Bruce first posted in the community in July 2018 and Dennis in Dec 2018, and they each stopped participating after several months.
Do Bruce, Dennis and others regard splitting up a small community as a positive thing!? I don’t know. So far, they don’t communicate or explain. Guys, what’s the problem and what’s going on?
There now seem to be a bunch of blog posts, videos and podcasts which aren’t being shared to the main community. This hinders our ability to learn from each other, share ideas, and share criticism.
I asked both Bruce and Dennis if I could join their discussion group. They didn’t reply at all. I tried joining the Discord but was banned with zero explanation.
Just in case anyone doesn’t know or would assume otherwise: Bruce and Dennis never got in trouble on FI. They never even got warnings for anything. They just stopped sending posts. They did later get included on Alan’s list of people who had stopped responding to FI discussions and arguments without a rational conclusion to the discussion, but of course they’re welcome to change that situation.
FI is a free speech platform which is open to the public. The usual reason for splinter communities is that people were having their content blocked or being banned, but that didn’t happen.
What would it take to fix whatever this is? They’ve made no demands, stated no grievances, suggested no changes to FI, etc.
Hopefully this is a misunderstanding or they didn’t realize there was an issue. I invite them to explain themselves and engage in rational problem solving now.
For people new here: FYI I've been writing about CR and David Deutsch stuff (like Taking Children Seriously) since 2002. Find my stuff here. The community also includes people like Alan Forrester, a physicist who knows Deutsch and ran the Fabric of Reality discussion group for over 10 years, and who blogs CR stuff. I'd also suggest this Overview of Fallible Ideas Philosophy video.
Update, Feb 3, 2020: The Four Strands leadership has not responded. I didn't misunderstand. They don't want to even try problem solving. This is unsurprising because if they had some interest in problem solving they could have tried it in the past, but they never did, so why start now?
This post is about Taking Children Seriously (TCS) and what it was like before my leadership. This is primarily interesting because of the value of TCS's bold conjectures about how to apply Critical Rationalism to parenting and education. I'm secondarily bringing it up because some people today are unfamiliar with TCS and other ideas from David Deutsch (DD) and make ignorant, incorrect assumptions about what it's like. E.g. Bruce Nielson posted to The Beginning of Infinity forum in 2018:
Thanks Elliot for the excellent and thoughtful feedback. I'll try to come up with a new version that improves the problems of the existing version.
I joined [FI]. I hope to be an active participant.
You can read my free DD/CR (David Deutsch and Critical Rationalist epistemology) help, which Bruce was so thankful for, at Critical Rationalism Epistemology Explanations.
Although it's been a year and a half, and Bruce said he would follow up, he hasn't. It appears to have been his first attempt at online DD/CR discussion and it went nowhere due to his own disinterest and inactivity. Fine, but then why is he now a manager at an online DD/CR discussion group that is attempting to splinter the community and sideline FI? He's a newcomer who hasn't yet succeeded at his first productive DD/CR discussion, but now he's taking on a leadership role?
Some people commenting on this problem (which Bruce won't engage in problem solving about, but I have) think I and other FI posters are too harsh. They seem to conclude (without specifically stating and arguing it, and without involving facts), that FI's posts are different than a non-coercive-and-problem-solving focused philosophy like DD's TCS. Therefore FI can't really be a continuation of DD's thought and community. So let's take a look at some posts from before I joined the community. What sort of community did I join, learn the culture of, and am now continuing? I think if people knew what the TCS forum was actually like, and what DD was actually like, they would agree that I and FI are milder successors.
1996, full post from a TCS leader (minus names):
I subscribed to this listserv several weeks ago and have been lurking for some time. The name of this listserv caught my attention because I am a public school educator who is interested in changing my teaching and classroom management methods to a more child - directed approach.
Then your only possible course of action is to
- resign at once,
- take up a morally justifiable profession,
- become good at it, and
- be prepared to welcome children into your working environment, answer their questions and pass on your knowledge and skills to them if they ask you to.
Save yourself if you still can, [name]. I'm not joking.
1998, part of a post from a TCS leader:
Or are all of you against public school? My daughter (13 years old) is a homeschooler, but I am studying elementary education. I want to use non-coercive techniques in my classroom--basically because I realize that the idea that a teacher can control any student's behavior is a myth. Behavior can only be controlled by the "behaver" (the person doing the behaving)!
I think you're mistaken. If this were really true, most of the children in your classroom would simply get up and walk out. The fact that none of them do -- until the instant that you give them permission to -- despite the fact that throughout the lesson many of them are painfully yearning to do so, is one token of the fact that you are controlling them.
2000, full post from a TCS leader:
Could someone help me? How do you discipline a child that has got in the habit of throwing temper tantrums, when she doesn't get her way? It's becoming a common practice for my daughter to fallout wherever she is(public, home or daycare), which is very embarrassing. HELP!
That's a tough one, but I think this may be one of those rare cases where a sound thrashing might actually help. You may think that that would be illegal, but not if you arrange things properly. This is what you do:
Visit a bar in the sleaziest part of town, and employ the largest, strongest man you can find. (With a little bit of luck, he may well be willing to do this job without payment.) Introduce him to your daughter and explain to her that this is being done for her own good, and that it will hurt you much more than it hurts her. Explain to her that this nice man's job is to follow you and her around wherever you go. He will be unobtrusive and helpful, unless and until your daughter throws one of her tantrums. At that point he will step politely forward and beat the shit out of you.
Then the tantrums will soon go away.
1996, full post from a TCS leader, italics in original, bold added for emphasis:
People often complain that I lack respect in my posts. They accuse me of not "practising what I preach". They suggest that I should "teach" non-coercive educational theory by "example", and only post "non-coercive" messages. In practice this means that if I post anything other than soothing, dishonest, posts that are "accepting" of tyranny and coercion, I am being "coercive" to those whose posts I criticise. Certain posters have criticised my "lack of tolerance" over and over again, and called me "hateful" and "vengeful" and any number of colourful epithets in their attempts to show me (respectfully, by example, presumably?) the error of my ways.
But whenever I ask them whose rights they think I am violating, they decline to comment.
Perhaps they feel uncomfortable about admitting that logically their criticism of me in such cases amounts to a defence of tyranny.
I respect people whom I consider worthy of respect. I do not respect tyranny; I do not respect organisations like the KKK; I do not respect harmful human institutions whose existence is inimical to the growth of knowledge and thus to human happiness. I think these things are objectively wrong. So when I read posts advocating coercion or proudly detailing vile schemes to manipulate children into states of mind that are bad for them, I wish to express my contempt, and I wish to argue against these proposals. Ridicule is, as [another TCS leader] pointed out recently, an effective weapon against tyranny, and I shall continue to use it. I do not apologise for being honest.
I am often told that in order to change minds, I need to adopt a soothing, respectful tone, and cut the contumely. The thing is, changing minds in that sense is not my aim. I am not interested in placing people into a state of mind pre-determined by me, if the only way I can no this is to mislead them. It is all too easy to lull people into the appearance of agreeing by deliberately equivocating about what the words they are mouthing mean. These are manipulative aims, and I have already said I abhor coercion. Indeed, the whole idea that it might be possible to coerce someone into non-coercion is incoherent.
If someone says something false, or wicked, against which I believe I have a good argument, I want to put that argument to them and to others who might be subject to similar errors. If someone reports horrible things they have done to their children, seeking (and invariably getting) praise, justification and encouragement to do more of the same, I want to say "no, this is wrong". If there is any changing of minds that I am hoping for in connection with my arguments, it is the person himself changing his own mind, through his own thinking.
My purpose in posting (including this little post) is to support those who already feel that coercion is bad. Sometimes one feels something to be wrong but does not know why it is wrong. Sometimes it helps to know explicitly why something is wrong. (Sometimes people think "A-ha! Of course!" when they read explicit arguments against things they already felt in their guts to be wrong.) And of course when I write these scathing, "unacceptable" posts, I nearly always get messages from people saying "thank you so much for saying that" -- so I get to "meet" new sympathetic others. Advocates of coercion can find support everywhere. Those who are struggling to make their relationships consensual can't.
Note that I am never disrespectful in response to posts from people saying that they consider coercion is bad, but they do not currently have the knowledge of how to find consent in such-and-such an area (but are trying to learn). We are all in that position. We are all fallible and we all make mistakes. If someone seems genuinely to want to find consent-based solutions, I am always deeply respectful. That is because I feel deeply respectful. But ask me to be deeply respectful to a tyrant and I'll metaphorically spit in your face. If I did less I might be betraying the child who is suffering behind the tyrant's sugar-coated self-justification, and certainly the readers out there who want to read the truth, for once, unalloyed.
As you can see, some of the recent complaints are nothing new. They are to be expected, as a TCS leader explained in 2001 shortly after I joined:
[A TCS leader] wrote:
Have you noticed it says ...
the socialists Sarah Lawrence, David Deutsch, and Kolya Wolf
It's not the first time I have been branded a "socialist". Makes you wonder if the person who wrote that was on something when he or she read up on us, doesn't it? You'd think he or she might be slightly embarrassed about being so mind-bogglingly ill-informed, wouldn't you? 8-)
People have described me as "a sad collectivist", "right-wing", "PC", "a fascist", "a Randroid", and "an anarchist" (and no, they didn't mean an anarcho-capitalist). (Also, "subjectivist", "relativist", "moralistic", "amoral", "irrational", "a cold rationalist", and so on...)
Still, never mind, I have also been branded "full of original sin," and "a libertine"... but also "a do-gooder" and according to some interent authorities, I am "on a different planet" and "a joke".
Many have said that I "have clearly no experience of children", "obviously don't have children", "have obviously never come within a hundred miles of any living kid"; others have branded me "a progressive parent".
And then there was the argument about whether I am "a cow", "a cow with udders for brains" or "a cow with BSE".
So if "socialist" is the worst they can come up with, well hey, I think that's a distinct improvement. 8-)
I was informed only last month that I'm "nutty", that I "don't make a lot of sense", that my "philosophy is neurotic", that I'm "hysterical", that my "reading comprehension could use some work", that I have a "hysterical point of view", that my "reading comprehension is really in the dirt", that I am "screwed up psychologically" and:
"pseudo intellectual b.s."
"This is all coming out of your bu*t."
"You just seem to have some kind of... problem."
"You just don't seem to understand anything at all."
"Actual real mature grown ups (unlike yourself)"
"You just seem to have a personal problem."
"You are clearly hysterical and a crack pot."
"You have some other personal problem that you, really, should get help
"your own hysterical interpretation"
"You're on medication, aren't you"
"This is clearly delusional"
"You are either sick or the concepts you are trying to critique are
too deep for you."
"From that place you go to when you run out of meds?"
"You are an idiot."
"You just have a chip on your shoulder."
"you don't seem to get anything."
"the keeper of this website is clearly floating around in their own warped
"You spout a bunch of words"
"you don't know what you're saying"
"you don't know what others are saying"
"you're not even aware of how obvious you are. Sad."
"just some nut with a personal problem."
What provokes this hatred and vilification -- and blind misunderstanding?
I think it's this: someone who is far in advance of most people about an important moral issue is likely not to be understood at first, and in the meantime, to be hated and vilified just as much as someone who is egregiously wrong. How could it be otherwise?
If you don't like DD's ideas like TCS, that is your right. For those who do want to learn about DD's ideas – the ideas of the person who wrote two great books, hundreds of blog posts, and thousands of discussion forum posts – join the FI forum.
The Fallible Ideas (FI) community has been under attack for over a year by an online harasser, stalker, spammer, doxer, IRL-threatener, financial fraudster and liar named “Andy B”. He’s used over a dozen identities including some multi-month projects where his false names pretended to be learning about FI. He’s posted over 400 comments on this blog from over 60 different IP addresses. His fake identities often talk and agree with each other. Some are openly nasty while others hide it for a while to trick people. He has initiated force against four separate people connected with FI. Evidence is later in this post.
Harassers and trolls usually stop much sooner and are best ignored, which is why I’ve been silent until now.
What can drive a person, day after day, to spend his life trying to hurt others? One of the answers is ongoing encouragement from friends and allies. For example, consider an animal rights group where people encourage each other to hate scientists who experiment on animals, fur coat wearers and farmers. Most people will stop at rhetoric, meetup sessions where they complain and share their debating points, etc. But some people will be willing to “get their hands dirty” by committing petty crimes at night or by harassing opposing intellectuals online. When they attend the meetings by day, they are encouraged to feel like they’re standing up for a righteous cause, and it drives their persistent, secret use of force.
Many criminals are alone and isolated. Basically, they know that everyone disapproves of what they do and keep it secret. But when people have a social group which is encouraging them and agreeing with them about the rightness of their cause, it inspires them to more crime. This is a reason some criminals are part of gangs.
Andy B has received ongoing support and encouragement from the FI shadow community (which doesn’t really have a name other than the more recent Four Strands group). Andy is a member of Four Strands both as Andy and TheRat, and he connects with many of them on social networks like Twitter.
I’m writing this post because some of the facts – the ways other people helped and encouraged Andy, and refused to stop supporting him or actually made statements against crime or harassment – are so unbelievable that they must be clearly documented to be believed. The toxic culture and hateful leadership are shocking and they’re utterly unwilling to attempt any sort of problem solving in private. That leaves me no choice but to publicly document everything so that I can link it to people to explain what’s going on. The most I can do, when they will fix nothing, is criticize their actions and explain my case. They won’t leave me alone or stop trying to harm me, but at least I can tell my story so some people will know the truth.
The shadow community is a group of people interested in FI topics like DD, FoR, BoI, TCS and CR but who don’t participate at FI and hold a grudge about some past criticism. Recently, this shadow community has more organization and leadership with a “Four Strands” group. The leaders include Dennis Hackethal (a software engineer from Cupertino, CA, blog, contact at [email protected]), Bruce Nielson (a computer science student at Georgia Tech, blog, contact at [email protected]), Aaron Stupple (from Springfield, MA) and Allie Pace. (The occupations and locations are from their public Twitter accounts. I’ve left out private info about them that I have.) They’ve put effort into hiding who is a leader of the group, but I have a bunch of sources and I believe this is accurate. The group doesn’t publicly post any rules, policies or description, or say who is actually in charge, which helps them try to dodge responsibility for their involvement in crime. Bruce has also pretended not to be an owner.
Bruce, Aaron and Allie are owners of the Four Strands Google Group, and Dennis is a manager there. The Four Strands shadow community also includes the Beginning of Infinity subreddit, co-moderated by Andy and Dennis, and Dennis’ Crit App forum. Four Strands also has a Slack and Discord.
Dennis and Bruce were notified that their group member, Andy, was a criminal, and that he had joined the Four Strands group under multiple identities. They did not respond. When asked again, Bruce did not respond and Dennis responded with a malicious trick (the emails are later in this post).
It seems that the only way to get a response from this gang of aggressive rights violators is to bring up ways they are personally breaking the law. For example, Dennis did respond when I pointed out to him that it’s against the law to intentionally falsely accuse people of crimes in order to damage their reputation, as he had done. He issued a minimal retraction, refused to apologize, and did not attempt to undo the harm he’d done or set anything right. More on this below.
Similarly, Dennis responded to a complaint that he was violating the Fallible Ideas trademark in a minimal way that didn’t even involve notifying me when he renamed his “Fallible Fun” forum or what the new name was. He was so uncooperative that he wouldn’t even say that “Fallible Fun” was his forum; I had to find out elsewhere. One of Dennis’ Four Strands associates, Logan Chipkin, also violated my trademark with a “Fallible Animals” podcast and has yet to resolve the matter.
When group leaders initiate rights violations under their real names, it encourages and legitimizes Andy’s fly-by-night rights violations. They are telling him with not merely words but also actions that I and others deserve to be aggressed against, and that Andy is fighting the good fight. This makes them partially responsible for the aggressive uses of force that they use their leadership roles to encourage others to commit.
Decent people who accidentally get caught up in crime would attempt to mitigate the harm and distance themselves from it. Dennis, Bruce and the rest have refused to denounce crime, refused to ban Andy, refused to give me access to records that I could review for other rights violations, refused to disassociate with Andy, refused to ask people to stop harassing me, and refused to discourage the hatred they’ve been working to create and which has led to many initiations of force.
What does their group do to create an atmosphere that’s a breeding ground for violating rights? Dennis explained the group atmosphere like this:
I feel the pressure of agreeing with everyone about how much we all dislike Elliot
Dennis also encouraged hatred by posting:
I am now a proud entry on [FI’s] public list of apostates. :)
There is no list of apostates, merely a list of some people who chose to engage significantly in a public debate with FI and then stopped responding without explaining or finishing. Here, Dennis expresses pride, and smiles, about being in conflict with other people, which further promotes hatred and fighting.
Bruce helped lead the the way in establishing hostile gossip as part of his community when he posted:
[ET] has a bit of a history creating bad feelings in forums he doesn't own and causing people to leave. (Or so I am told. I don't have a personal history here.)
Bruce knowingly and intentionally spread rumors that people had gossiped to him. Bruce’s message also suggests that one should believe second-hand gossip without knowing any details, at least if it smears ET. The Four Strands community is full of gossip and shadowy rumors (just like it was before they made the Four Strands group and intentionally recruited a bunch of gossipers and haters for members), rather than being full of accountability, responsibility and civilized values. This is by the design of its leaders. This makes it easier for people to cross lines.
Similarly, Brett Hall (website) is a longtime FI shadow community member, who the Four Strands leadership promoted as a valuable addition to their community. Brett teaches Theory of Knowledge, a mandatory course in the IB diploma program, with a 20% failure rate (failure means no diploma), which requires 100 hours of instruction. According to Brett, what he teaches is “philosophy-lite with lots of lefty relativism and other nonsense“. 100 hours of instruction in mandatory “nonsense” with high pressure and high stakes! Why would Brett be involved with that sort of anti-TCS mistreatment of students? “I teach it because I like it.” (Source: the Fallible Ideas discussion archive.) Contact at [email protected]
Brett said that ET is poison and that ET destroys valuable things (thus helping justifying destructive actions targeted at ET), for example:
FWIW any project that one does decide to undertake will be less likely derailed or poisoned were Curi not involved. Indeed some of us will actively avoid any project Curi is involved with. :)
Poisoning is a violent and often murderous action. Brett repeatedly uses language like that which suggests that something nasty should be done about ET. E.g.:
Does anyone want to go onto FI and save some of those poor souls? Some seem to want actual personal help but are being asked for money by ET. I think that’s beyond the pale. FWIW I’m directing all enquires about the CR community here and to slack and the 4 strands group.
The part about being asked for money is a lie which Brett heard gossip about and decided to spread without fact-checking first. I have documentation of the source and spread of this particular rumor, so I know that Brett changed and exaggerated it when passing it on instead of error-correcting it.
By saying that ET’s actions are “beyond the pale”, Brett encouraged people to take extreme action against ET in order to “save … poor souls” who are ET’s alleged victims.
Brett further accused ET of “coercion”, which both means ET is hurting people (justifying hurting him) and also is intended to smear ET as a violator of TCS principles (and therefore someone who is destroying the great value of TCS by attempting to lead it while contradicting its actual ideas and values). Brett went on to accuse ET of “ruin[ing]” valuable communities and doing “destructions” and “exterminat[ion]”. Would you harass a destructive, ruinous exterminator of valuable ideas about rationality, and feel like you were righteously standing up for good values and justice? Maybe not but some people like Andy would, which is one of the foreseeable consequences of Brett’s hateful comments.
What do the Four Strands leaders do about this sort of incivility from Brett? They praise him as a great thinker and content creator.
The worst that I’ve seen (but I haven’t seen many of their postings, let alone their secret gossip) was when Dennis Hackethal, a group manager and community leader, falsely accused ET of threatening Dennis with violence. There was no factual basis for this dishonest, malicious claim which was given for the stated reason of discouraging people from discussing philosophical ideas with ET. The quote is:
[ET has] insinuated violence towards me in the past.
Dennis, by lying that ET had committed a serious crime (as threatening Dennis with violence would have been), tried to destroy ET’s reputation so that people would stay away from ET, and also his comments encouraged people to violate ET’s rights since a criminal deserves it.
That’s libel and defamation. (Read about them at the link. I am not a lawyer, but I did speak with a lawyer about this.)
When ET later found out about this, Dennis partially admitted his guilt: he didn’t pretend that “insinuated violence” didn’t refer to a threat. Dennis issued a brief retraction because he knew there was no factual basis for his lie, but Dennis did not attempt to undo the harm, apologize, tell people to stop harassing ET, say that he regretted encouraging crime, say that ET was in fact a decent, civilized person and law-abiding person, or anything like that. Dennis’ actions are bad enough to open him up to a lawsuit for libel and defamation, but he refused to even apologize.
Passively letting group members cross lines encourages more people to do it. When group leaders themselves cross those lines, the effect is much worse.
Dennis makes a podcast and postures as someone who is doing important work to develop AGI, promote David Deutsch’s great ideas, and otherwise change or save the world. Dennis is connecting that reputation – as an intellectual and philosopher – with hatred of ET and with it being OK to break laws and lie in order to hurt ET. Dennis is teaching others, not merely with words but with actions, that using aggressive force is good when it’s in favor of a valuable intellectual cause.
Andy is Dennis’ star student. Dennis, by the way, is the only other moderator at Andy’s Beginning of Infinity subreddit which purports to promote David Deutsch’s book and ideas, and Dennis has continued that public association.
Dennis provided the paper-thin excuse that I had once mentioned “destroy[ing]” Dennis socially, and spoke of not wanting to do it and not doing it. (I mentioned it because I said certain bad, immoral social rules encourage it.) Dennis said the word “destroy” is a strong word which, at the time, made him feel unsafe and fear physical violence. That’s a serious issue, but Dennis’ response was unserious: he waited six months then gossiped about it to try to hurt me. He could have asked for a second opinion (and been told by anyone that it’s not a threat), told the police (and been laughed at), asked me or anyone else from FI (he believed my clarification that it wasn’t a threat in on Jan 23, so why not ask for clarification at the time?), or looked the matter up online. For example, if you Google search “Trump destroys Hillary” you will find the term “destroy” is used routinely in ways having nothing to do with threats or violence, e.g. debate victories. On this basis, Dennis broke the law trying to destroy my reputation. My explanation is that he doesn’t really notice when his actions cross lines like what the law is or violating someone’s rights. Sure he’d notice that some actions cross a line, like murder, but he’s not very consistent about it (which makes him dangerous).
Dennis’ retraction from Jan 23 reads:
Elliot has contacted me about this and asked me to retract this statement. He has since clarified what he meant at the time and my comment above was based on a misunderstanding. He was not insinuating violence. I will delete the above comment in the Google group.
This statement suggests that Dennis did nothing wrong, and it was just an innocent and reasonable misunderstanding, which is false. It also does nothing to try to address the harassment by Andy which Dennis’ libel, and other his actions, encouraged.
Here are some of the replies to the retraction which will give you a further understanding of what the group’s hateful atmosphere is like, and which Dennis didn’t discourage. Brett Hall, on Jan 23, replied about:
[ET’s] dishonesty and cruelty and inability to just leave us alone
please: just stay away. Yet [ET’s] still tagging me in Tweets regularly (I’ve muted him but often others respond so I see those responses). It’s tiresome.
That’s a factually false attack on my reputation. It’s first of all misleading because it sounds like I had added Brett to a topic on Twitter or started a new topic and included him, which I didn’t do. Rather, I shared one relevant blog post to a conversation he was already in, and then I responded to a few people who responded to me (which automatically sent my tweet to everyone in the conversation). Responding to people who tweet to me is not regularly tagging Brett. The conversation lasted two days. Brett’s problem is with Twitter’s conversation and notification system (which I grant is poorly designed), but he’s falsely and misleading suggesting that I did something wrong. The reason Brett got notifications is because other people, who are not me (and were mostly hostile to me because of the rumors people like Brett have spread) tagged him in their tweets, because that’s how Twitter works by default, but somehow he blames me.
Although upset to be notified about my blog post by the Twitter conversation, Brett was apparently interested enough to read it and flame me for it:
And now the attacks on Bruce and Dennis and yet more evidence of his utter obsession with people over ideas: the WHO rather than what, and the questioning of personal motives and psychology and so on. He cannot stand not having control of a place beginning to thrive. The number of times he uses the word “I” in that new flame post is telling. He’s saying everyone on “Alan’s list” is not rational.
So the context is that Dennis libeled and defamed me, and retracted it. Brett apparently thought to himself something like, “ET’s rights were violated. This would be a great time to smear him with flames and falsehoods!” He wasn’t the only one. Aaron Stupple, a Four Strands owner, replied:
Completely agree. It seems best to completely ignore as he has a tendency to use any argument as a means to try to manipulate and slander. And there's just no place for that here and we should do our best to keep things open and enjoyable.
Aaron, as a group owner and leader, completely agreed with uncivil flames as a comment on ET’s rights being violated, and piled on with additional flaming. He’s leading the group in inciting hatred and harassment.
Andy himself replied too, as well as Felix (who is Andy’s ally or false identity). I won’t go into the further nasty comments, which got much worse, except to say that Brett responded positively to Andy saying that Andy’s comment “puts [ET] further beyond the pale. Thanks for highlighting this.” Saying I’m “beyond the pale” means that I’ve crossed a major boundary into completely unacceptable behavior outside the standards of decency and civilization. (Seriously, look it up, it’s a very strong term. Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.) This is the kind of idea which inspires Andy to continue attacking me. Brett is egging Andy on.
The Four Strands group is so toxic that they think retracting a libel is a good time and context to pile on and flame the victim. And Dennis’ retraction was clearly in bad faith or he would have objected to this if not blocked/deleted the posts (he’s a group manager).
I have been told second-hand that some Four Strand people want us to leave each other alone, and we see that in Brett’s message too. But they don’t leave me alone. They don’t seem to even know how to leave someone alone. Their idea of us leaving each other alone seems to involve me being disallowed from complaining about their criminal member harassing me, while they spread libel, defamation and hatred which no one objects to, with no regard for the law or my rights. You have to learn to recognize what is and isn’t a rights violation before you can understand how to leave someone alone or how to accurately judge whether someone is leaving you alone or not.
Dennis, Bruce or their associates very likely have information about Andy’s identity or ways to pressure him to stop committing crimes. They have refused to say whether they have any information, try to get information, or otherwise participate in a process of protecting persons and rights. They continue to imply, by refusing to lift a finger against crime, that they endorse crime. This is the sort of social approval which encourages Andy to keep spending his life being an online harasser.
Another involved shadow community member is Lulie Tanett, who is a direct associate of David Deutsch. Lulie has a past history of knowingly and intentionally associating with doxers, spam bot users, open anti-semites and a variety of nasty people online, and has confessed to violating people’s privacy with her gossip. Lulie has been an ongoing source of pseudo-intellectual arguments allegedly justifying the hatred and vilification of FI and ET. Lulie has refused to denounce crime, distance herself from Andy’s actions, say whether she has any relevant info about Andy, or use her FI-hating contacts to get info about Andy – even though she and her family all follow Andy on Twitter and have plenty of contacts throughout the shadow community. She ought to be thankful to have been informed she was associating with a dangerous criminal, so she could stop, but her attitude to the matter has been uncivilized.
The shadow community has created such a bad atmosphere that Andy can go on Twitter as Andy or a sock puppet, and lie and smear me, and the community responds by mocking me and disbelieving me when I state facts. This group of people who publicly accept and praise a criminal over his victim is the source of the evil. After being informed about the ongoing crime, Lulie personally participated in that crime-favoring public mocking, as did some of her family members.
Since the problem is coming from David Deutsch’s fans, and is dangerous to his civilized fans, David should say and do something. But he has failed in this duty, preferring (I guess) to pretend that it’s not his problem when the owner of the subreddit for his book is a criminal. Why warn his fans? Instead he occasionally promotes content from people who are directly involved like Dennis and Lulie.
PS Please do not harass anyone or commit any crimes. That’s not a way to defend me or fix anything.
On Jan 22, 2020, I emailed Dennis and Bruce. I would have contacted them sooner if they hadn’t already refused to respond to other communications such as asking whether or not I could join the Four Strands group, and if they hadn’t already refused to do anything when someone else reported a threat and spam to them (this is explained later). I had little hope of a productive response and, in retrospect, I was right.
You should be aware that Andy B (bconecat, kodheaven, heuristicworld) has many false identities, has spammed two people, doxed two, threatened one, posted literally hundreds of harassing messages, and harassed the FI discord on at least 8 accounts. He’s unstable and vindictive against people who annoy him. He’s targeted at least four people so far. I wanted to warn you because you appear to be associating with him in several ways and he’s outside the realm of civilized, peaceful people.
TheRat is a pseudonym of Andy B. This is not speculation, it’s based on technical info like server logs.
He’s been posting a series of troll comments on my blog right now, as I send this, which I’ve been deleting. He’s breaking laws.
I assume your association with him is out of ignorance. Initially, he pretended to be friendly and curious with me, too. I thought you should know.
On Jan 31, after no response, I emailed again:
Since you have taken no action in regards to your ongoing association with an active criminal, and you are running a group which incites hatred and encourages harassment, I’m asking you to respond in a reasonable, civilized way so that we can attempt to fix this major problem. If you don’t respond, I will have to make unilateral decisions about how to defend myself, and I will have to regard you as knowingly and intentionally siding with aggressive force. I would prefer to talk about it and attempt problem solving but so far you haven’t responded so I don’t know how to problem solve with you, but this problem is hurting me so I’m going to have to do something whether you guys will respond or not.
If you wanted a “soft” group with less criticism, and more moderation of tone, and more focus on AGI but no politics – for example (I’m just sorta guessing at the ballpark of what you might want) – that would be a legitimate purpose for a group. You could advertise that on FI, you could stop spreading hatred, people on your group could link to FI materials without that being taboo or something that gets them attacked, people on FI could link to your stuff (instead of you guys hiding CR content from us), we could co-exist. You could have written rules and I could follow them if I want to post on your forum. There are many things that would be reasonable, but you haven’t explained what you’re doing and have contributed to an atmosphere of hatred and rival, enemy factions (some of which predates your group, but you recruited many of the haters and said hateful things yourselves), which is unreasonable and harmful to DD’s legacy. Instead of being a hub of nasty gossip, you could be e.g. an intellectual group with different social rules where people like Andy are unwelcome and it’s made clear to everyone that such actions are unacceptable.
Dennis responded on Feb 3:
Please stop emailing me. I am not one of the group's owners, so this is beyond my control.
This was a malicious trick. Rather than do something anti-crime or anti-hatred, Dennis tried to fool the victim. I never said Dennis was an owner. He is, contrary to what he implied, a manager. And he does have some control over this matter (no one person has total control, but he’s one of the people involved in the decision making). He’s also co-moderator of a subreddit with Andy, which he seems to have conveniently and dishonestly forgotten (rather than e.g. being apologetic and helpful after violating my rights with the libel or due to sympathy with a crime victim).
Jan 18, 2020, I emailed Lulie about Andy. I emailed David Deutsch on Jan 21. I emailed them both again on Feb 1. I have a personal history with both Lulie and David, which I referred to, so I won’t quote those emails. I shared info similar to what I told Dennis and Bruce. There was no response.
On Feb 3, I also received a response from an unknown person, “Doctor Philosophy” ( [email protected] ). Apparently Bruce or Dennis forwarded my emails to them. They said:
Thanks for bringing this problem to our attention. You have sent Four Stands two emails now (below). Your first email warned us of a possible problem so that we could look into it but didn’t ask for any response. We did start to investigate your claim. Before we completed the investigation, you sent a second email that seemed to indicate you were expecting some sort of response within a previously unspecified time frame – though what you were expecting is not made clear.
Your second email makes it clearer that you feel there is some sort of criminal activity going on. If that is true, that would be concerning. We are not qualified to investigate possible criminal activity. So we ask that you please call the police or other authorities right away. When they have reviewed the evidence, if they think that this is worth investigating, they may wish to contact us. We don’t think we have much that can help as this is just an internet group and few of us know each other. People who join the group may express their own opinions and those opinions don't reflect the views of the entire group. But we want to help the police, should they open an investigation, as much as possible.
To summarize: they had no idea that doxing, spamming, threatening, etc., were crimes, so they began investigating – but in secret without notifying me in any way. Their investigation did not discover any laws against those actions, and they expected me to believe, 13 days later, that the investigation was ongoing and that I should wait more for an update. They also said nothing for 2.5 days after my followup email then told me to call the police “right away” as if they knew the matter was urgent. And now that they realize Andy’s actions are seriously bad, they will do nothing.
This is thoroughly dishonest. For one thing, they began investigating 18 days ago, before my email, when the threatened person spoke with Bruce. And from what I’ve been told, the investigation consisted basically of asking Andy if he was guilty and believing him when he said no, as well as finding it implausible that Andy and Rat were the person despite IP evidence they were given, and despite the much more evidence that was available but which they didn’t want (like the table below).
The claim that I sent Four Strands two emails is both false and misleading. It’s false because I sent a third email to Four Strands (Dennis) a few days earlier on Jan 19:
Did you make this or could you tell me who did? I saw you tweeting it. https://www.fallible.fun
And may I join the Four Strands groups?
And it’s misleading because I had also contacted Four Strands by means other than email, e.g. I DMed Bruce on Twitter, on Jan 19, asking if I could join the Four Strands group (he did not reply).
Doctor Philosophy made no attempt to identify themselves or state their connection to Four Strands, so I replied (Feb 3):
You have not identified yourself or explained how you got a copy of my email message below. Who are you and what is your relationship to the Four Strands group? Who do you speak for and who do you not speak for? Are you speaking for Dennis, or not? For Bruce, or not? Aaron? Allie? Anyone else? Please provide some sort of proof that you represent whoever you claim to represent.
What steps did you take to investigate and what were the results so far? At this time, do you intend to take no further action?
What are the proper ways for the authorities to contact the Four Strands group? Names, phone numbers, emails, etc?
They did not reply.
I thought carefully about what evidence to provide because the more I share about my knowledge, methods and security, the more it helps Andy learn how to beat my defenses. I’ve decided to prioritize proving my case, which is better for dealing with everyone other than Andy. The data dump at the end clearly shows two of Andy’s alternate identities, TheRat and Augustine, as well as a lengthy record of harassment. I have detailed evidence for everything else too and could provide additional info if there is a request with a reason it’s needed. I’ve provided a lot preemptively below.
Andy was friendly initially and learned about FI for a while before becoming hostile because I support Trump building a wall. He then apologized for getting so mad and soon got mad again because I criticized the moderation policies on the IDW subreddit where he was a moderator. He ragequit and start posting harassing comments (as well as apparently-civil comments and questions designed to waste people’s time). TheRat and the Augustine identities started out pretending to be friendly people learning FI and both created fake backstories and he ran both long cons, at the same time, for months. Andy often tries to draw people into discussion. He’s interested in FI ideas but has conflicted feelings about them. However, while learning on one identity (and even voice chatting) he would post ongoing troll comments anonymously.
Andy keeps making new identities or posting anonymously. If he gets attention, he uses that identity more. If not, he just tries something else. Some of them are openly hostile, harassing or trolling, while others are partially civil while trying to sneak in a few attacks, and others are entirely civil when Andy really wants attention. Andy also frequently talks with himself to make it sound like more people agree with him and to trick people into thinking his identities are separate people. He also will debate someone on one identity and when he doesn’t win the debate, he tries again on another identity. The identities that talk with each other the most are Andy and TheCritRat, particularly on Discord, Twitter and Reddit. In Curiosity blog comments, Andy often anonymously agreed with himself to create a fake crowd, rather than using a longer term identity.
The thing that most often makes Andy mad is his own insecurity about whether he can be a good philosopher like ET or David Deutsch. As TheRat, he rage quit over his concern that he was too irrational. He returned later and confessed that was why he left. He explained that he’d talked to a lot of people and found they were even more irrational in arguments than he was. He’s often desparate for ET’s attention and keeps trying different ways to try to ask questions and get ET to respond to him. He partially hates ET for ways ET is different than him that seem inaccessible to him, e.g. Andy can’t see himself supporting Trump building a wall, so it upsets him that ET supports that. TheRat rage quit a second time after ET said he was able to play chess calmly, without getting upset about losing, at age 4 or 5. TheRat exaggerated that heavily and got really angry because he thought that meant he could never be rational like ET. He’s also brought up these motivations repeatedly elsewhere. Andy’s psychology helps explain why the support, legitimization, approval and sanction of an alternative community of superficially-similar philosophers (also David Deutsch fans, who was ET’s mentor) matters so much for his behavior. It gives him a way to hate ET, feel good about it, and think he has an alternative way to be a good philosopher.
Andy has had four total victims. I haven’t named the other three, two of whom were doxed and one was threatened and spammed. Below I present information about identities and misdeeds.
Andy B, openly:
Discord: Andy B#6964
Creator, moderator: https://www.reddit.com/r/BeginningofInfinity/ (other mod: dchacke which is Dennis Hackethal)
Creator, moderator: https://www.reddit.com/r/HeuristicWorld/
Moderator: https://www.reddit.com/r/TheIDW/ (other mod: OursIsTheRepost)
Former moderator: https://www.reddit.com/r/IntellectualDarkWeb/
Andy B, covertly, known from computer security data:
Andy B or someone working with him:
Discord: I KanT even#5632
Discord: Felix The Cat#3929
People have asked me about Anon99, who posted hostile blog comments then created a new, anonymous Twitter account and blog on Feb 1, 2020, for the specific purpose of harming my reputation in just the same sort of ways that Andy tries to. He jumped right into old Twitter discussions that Andy had posted in, and expressed knowledge of FI, CR, Objectivism and IDW (just like Andy knows about, and which is quite a rare combination outside of FI). There was no real pretense that he wasn’t a sock puppet. He shows many indications of being Andy, who has a history of making new identities and lying, but I don’t have a direct proof like I do with TheRat or Augustine. The reason I lack the same direct proof is because I’m now blocking everything with a direct connection to Andy’s past comments, so he’s had to hide his identity better in order to continue his harassment. A downside of active security is that people learn, by trial and error, what gets them caught. Besides a VPN, Anon99’s comments use other, uncommon identity-faking tools, and show common Andy patterns like writing malicious comments from different names in the middle of his conversation. Besides the use of unusual identity-hiding tools and circumstantial evidence, there are several other pieces of evidence regarding Anon99, but I don’t want to give away all my security info. Also there’s zero evidence that Anon99 is not Andy.
Note: Andy often deletes identities when he doesn’t plan to use them anymore. This makes it harder to track him or search for info. For example, TheRat rage quit for a while and then came back, at which point he had to recreate his accounts with the same name, and the Augustine discord account has been deleted.
Might be Andy:
These two are speculation based on content, style and behavior. They could easily be wrong.
Recordings of Andy's voice (as TheRat):
Mailing list subscription confirmation notice for mailing list
We have received a request from 220.127.116.11 for subscription of your
email address, “[email protected]", to the
[email protected] mailing list. To confirm that you want
to be added to this mailing list, simply reply to this message,
keeping the Subject: header intact. Or visit this web page:
Andy spammed an FI person by signing them for 25 email lists which caused them to receive emails like this. This spam was done from Andy’s primary IP address on Jan 5, 2020. Andy also spammed me with 18 email list signups from 18.104.22.168 on Jan 9 (in the table below, you can see Andy using that IP address on Jan 10).
In January, Andy doxed two people (not me) in Curiosity blog comments. I deleted the doxing and I won’t name the individuals or say what personal information was shared. It’s confirmed from server data that he did it. Andy is likely also the culprit who tried to reset someone’s Netflix password around the same time that he doxed that person.
Dec 30, 2019, after posing as a young person for months (the Augustine identity), and telling lies about his cruel parents to gain sympathy, Andy fraudulently tricked me into gifting him $400 worth of my digital educational products. (I’m a kind and generous person, sometimes perhaps too much.) Defrauding people for hundreds of dollars of financial gain crosses a major criminal line.
On Jan 5, 2020, Andy (as TheRat, on Discord) baselessly accused an FI person (not me) of being “sociopathic” and abusing a child’s trust. Andy verbally abused this person with profanity-laced insults and made threatening statements:
when you hurt children in the process you’ve crossed a line.
I am sure there’s ways to make your life difficult, particularly in [name of country]
This was followed by additional flaming along with comments indicating the threat was serious, such as:
you think I am joking around here or something? Fix it. I won’t ask again.
you have 24 hours to [obey my demands] […] Fix it. That simple.
There was no factual basis for Andy’s claims. The supposed child in question was Andy himself under the fake Augustine identity, and nothing really happened to him. I’ll tell the story so that you can see how little happened. Let’s call the threatened person Joe. Augustine sent Joe a link by direct message. Joe read it. Later, Augustine sent the same link to a public chat. Joe said roughly (the exact message was deleted to try to accommodate Augustine’s demands), “Oh I read that when you sent it to me Aug, here are my thoughts […]”. That’s it.
The threatened person is on the Four Strands group in addition to FI and told Bruce Nielson about the threat because both Andy and his TheRat identity were in Four Strands. Bruce, as a group manager (though I actually have some evidence that he’s an owner who pretends to be a manager), did nothing about it and let them both stay; apparently the Four Strands group is intentionally choosing an atmosphere where threats like this are acceptable. Bruce also did nothing about the threatened person being spammed from Andy’s IP address.
This verbal abuse was done allegedly to self-righteously stand up for TCS values, and the threatened person was insulted with profanity for allegedly not doing TCS correctly.
Andy’s primary IP address is 22.214.171.124, which appears to be in Texas. He posted around 100 friendly comments from that IP address before he became hostile in Sept 2018. Below are all comments from that IP address and all comments which visitor-match a comment from that IP address. The visitor-matching is done using standard, robust, open source security software (see the Security ID column in the table below). I won't provide the specific security software I use. The basic facts are that it’s imperfect and sometimes gives false negatives (it fails to match two comments as being from the same person), but false positives (where it incorrectly says two people are the same) are very rare and I haven’t found any false positives in extensive review. FYI I’m a professional software developer and have reviewed the security data with another developer. This simplified, limited data set is 316 comments from the over 400 that I know were Andy. If you click a comment link and it doesn’t highlight a comment, that means it’s hidden. Andy did continue posting harassing comments during the time gap in this data set from Oct 2018 through Sept 2019, but not as frequently and he consistently remembered to use a VPN during that time before slipping up and posting from his primary IP address again in late 2019.
|14240||2019.11.08||The Lil lion Augustine||126.96.36.199||4f87d14258e955a9e970ccc7f1f2c402|
|14253||2019.11.09||Likes proper commas||188.8.131.52||c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9|
|14320||2019.11.14||YouTube Loves Capitalism||184.108.40.206||c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9|
|14339||2019.11.14||The best Anon||220.127.116.11||c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9|
|14549||2019.11.23||John Galt would help fight climate change||18.104.22.168||c4b0c9e4a71adbbb956ecf49bc9e1ed9|
|15033||2020.01.06||When the ego doesn't match the skill||22.214.171.124||e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7|
|15046||2020.01.08||Rand would be dissapointed||126.96.36.199||e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7|
|15056||2020.01.10||Shit Tier Blogger||188.8.131.52||e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7|
|15088||2020.01.14||Curi is a hypocrite||184.108.40.206||e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7|
|15128||2020.01.17||[name removed due to doxing]||220.127.116.11||e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7|
|15170||2020.01.20||Ayn Rand's Dildo||18.104.22.168||e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7|
|15191||2020.01.22||[name removed due to doxing]||22.214.171.124||e4396c2db04e0a072a5150796f09b3f7|
Andy B is an online criminal. Dennis Hackethal, Bruce Nielson, Aaron Stupple and Allie Pace are maliciously encouraging Andy (and anyone else) to harass me. And that group of leaders has personally spread hatred about me and violated my rights. They’re welcoming Andy as a member at their groups, providing him moral support, protecting his reputation while working to damage mine, working with him, preventing me from having access to group messages to investigate, and more. Others like Brett Hall have helped encourage the culture of hatred. David Deutsch has acted irresponsibly by saying and doing nothing. None of these people will make any anti-crime or anti-harassment statement, or even pay lip service to asking their members or fans to be peaceful. This shadow community is dangerous and should be shunned by all civilized persons.
They wouldn’t even ban Andy from their group, or disassociate from him, let alone discourage the culture of hatred they’ve created or oppose harassment in any way.
If anyone involved apologizes and takes reasonable actions to try to make amends, I will update this post.
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.
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.
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!”
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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: http://web.archive.org/web/20190701184215/https://curi.us/988-structural-epistemology-introduction-part-1, 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).
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:
 Hans Hass, “The Human Animal,” as quoted on http://web.archive.org/web/20190702162345/https://curi.us/272-algorithmic-animal-behavior
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:
 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: http://web.archive.org/web/20200207181124/http://curi.us/2245-discussion-about-animal-rights-and-popper
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.
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.)
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 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.)
 Karl Popper, “Back to the Presocratics”
 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 curi.us 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 curi.us 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 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.
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.
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.
|19255||2020-12-27||Anonymous||126.96.36.199||are u jewish|
|19278||2020-12-29||Anonymous||188.8.131.52||my guy, u jewish?|
|19279||2020-12-29||Anonymous||184.108.40.206||George 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.]|
|19280||2020-12-29||Anonymous||220.127.116.11||Michael 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.]|
|19281||2020-12-29||Anonymous||18.104.22.168||why wont u tell me if ur jewish i just wanted to invite you to my sukkah|
|19282||2020-12-29||Anonymous||22.214.171.124||I agree With you, DonALd Trump is, Good, and the President.|
|19283||2020-12-29||Anonymous||126.96.36.199||also, Capitalism is NOT a disaster that literally kills poeple and killed my mom... I Agree.|
|19284||2020-12-29||Anonymous||188.8.131.52||why are you censoring me|
|19285||2020-12-29||Anonymous||184.108.40.206||your 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|
|19287||2020-12-29||Anonymous||220.127.116.11||wtf im not an antisemitic, YOUR the criminal|
|19288||2020-12-29||Anonymous||18.104.22.168||im 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|
|19289||2020-12-29||Anonymous||22.214.171.124||SO 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????|
|20092||2021-03-04||chris p.||126.96.36.199||i 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?|
|20096||2021-03-05||chris p.||188.8.131.52||if this is an unmoderated discussion forum why did you delete my post|
|20109||2021-03-06||chris p||184.108.40.206||i 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.|
|20111||2021-03-06||chris p.||220.127.116.11||fifty shades of grey, call 311. hello again diane. nobody answered. someone will be there shortly.|
|20119||2021-03-08||chris p.||18.104.22.168||you are precious to me. nothing can be used that was invented past 1817. i'm doing it for free.|
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
I'm making a video series explaining, discussing, analyzing and teaching David Deutsch's book The Beginning of Infinity (which I helped edit for 7 years).
View the YouTube Playlist
It's on a new YouTube Channel (Critical Fallibilism) so you'll need to subscribe (and click the bell and select "All") even if you're already subscribed to my curi channel.
Use the comments below to discuss the videos or the book.
I helped David Deutsch with his book, The Beginning of Infinity, for seven years. Soon after the book was done, he dropped me, and he's now hostile enough to personally take a leading role on harassing me by lying about me in writing.
It has just now occured to me that he may have been using me to get help with his book. Now I'm unsure. I had never thought of this until a couple days ago. But academics getting younger people to do some work for them, which they can take credit for, is a common story. BoI wasn't like getting a younger co-author for a paper who you can actually get to do most of the writing. DD absolutely wrote BoI himself. But I did help a really unusually large amount, as DD requested. I wrote over 200 pages to help DD with BoI, which is an entire book worth of writing. And no one else helped similarly (nor could they have – DD wanted some of my unique skills, abilities, knowledge and perspective).
Part of why this occured to me is that DD got Chiara Marletto to co-author some Constructor Theory writing with him (and also to write multiple other papers, also about DD's ideas, without DD). He's getting a younger postdoctoral researcher to do a lot of work that he isn't doing himself. And when you see two people with significantly different social status as co-authors on a paper, in general that means the lower status person did most of the work. If the higher status person had done most of the work, he wouldn't have given anyone co-author credit. You see this all the time with professors taking too much credit for the work of their grad students (either the grad student helps and gets little credit, or the grad student does most of it and gets his or her name on it and everyone assumes the professor did most of the smart stuff and guided the work, which is often inaccurate).
Note: People often use others without having full conscious knowledge of what they're doing. I think that's much more likely than DD doing using me while having clear, conscious knowledge of exactly what he was doing.
I learned a lot from interacting with DD. But I also had a reasonable expectation of more help from him in the future which never materialized. And my expectations were not just my own reasonable assumptions/guesses; for example, DD told me that one day he would write a forward for my book.
Here's some info about what I did for BoI:
This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me which has been going on for years. The harassment is coming from David Deutsch and his community. I’ve tried to address the problem privately but they refused to attempt any private problem solving.
Justin emailed David Deutsch (DD) to ask him to respond to the Andy B harassment and to write a tweet asking DD’s fans to stop harassing. DD replied and it’s the only thing he’s said about the whole situation, as far as I know, so I’m analyzing it. I already analyzed how DD lied. Now I’m focusing on a different section (source):
I don't know this Andy B he [Elliot] 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.
DD’s comments don’t respond to the claims at issue or to what’s being asked of him. What’s going on?
DD’s words look like a straw man reply. The claims at issue include:
But DD didn’t reply to any of those issues. Instead he says:
DD hasn’t actually denied any of the claims at issue. But he’s written it to sound like he’s issuing a denial.
And even if Brett Hall (for example) had covertly sent harassment to ET, including a DDoS, DD still wouldn’t be saying anything wrong as long as Brett never told DD that (and DD didn’t find out some other way). DD spoke about what he’s aware of, not what actually happened nor what the best explanation for the evidence is. (Brett or another of DD’s associates has probably written some anonymous, negative blog comments on curi.us, which actually would be sending something (“anything else”) covertly to Elliot. That’s the best explanation but the evidence is circumstantial.)
This apparent straw manning should be explained. What’s going on? I have two explanations: ignorance or word lawyering (carefully using technically true but misleading wordings).
Maybe DD doesn’t know what the issues are because he didn’t read the info he was sent. If he doesn’t know what the claims in the discussion are, it would explain why his replies didn’t address them.
But in that case, why did DD reply like he was answering the issue instead of saying “I’m busy and won’t read this”? He gave the impression he knew what the relevant claims were and was responding to them with relevant denials. It’d be irresponsible and misleading to write DD’s response if he was simply unfamiliar with the claims and evidence.
And if DD was unfamiliar with what’s going on, then he must have gotten lucky. If you make claims about an issue you aren’t familiar with, usually you’ll screw up and say something that’s clearly wrong or is contradicted by facts you don’t know about. DD doesn’t appear ignorant: he seems to have known what statements he could make without fear of being directly refuted by the published evidence.
DD also found out about DDoSing somewhere. The email DD was responding to hadn’t specified DDoSing, so DD must have read or been told something else.
Another interpretation is that DD knows what’s going on and carefully wrote misleading statements. He may be intentionally responding to the wrong issues in order to say technically true statements while still making his reply sound negative towards ET. It looks like he was trying to bias his comments against ET without saying something false. (Trying to disown the harassment while being biased in favor of it is kind of contradictory.)
It looks to me like he was hoping people wouldn’t notice the straw manning and rhetorical tricks. It looks designed so people would react like this: “DD denied everything and wouldn’t risk his reputation by making factually false statements regarding crimes, therefore ET is probably lying.”
How does DD know that he doesn’t know Andy? Andy has used 20+ fake names (even his main name, “Andy”, is likely a fake name). DD could be in contact with one of Andy’s fake names without realizing it. Getting DD’s attention and having some association with DD under a fake name is just the sort of thing Andy would love and might try repeatedly with different names.
Did DD even review all publicly known aliases of Andy before declaring that he doesn’t know Andy? Did DD ask his associates who know Andy what other aliases they know about? (I doubt it, considering that DD doesn’t seem to mind when his friends publicly associate with Andy, despite Andy’s involvement in threatening, persistent harassment, and other uses of force. DD doesn’t seem to mind having Andy two steps away on DD’s social graph via multiple routes; DD hasn’t even blocked Andy on Twitter and many of DD’s friends who he follows on Twitter are following Andy.)
On 2011-03-13, in IMs with DD, I suggested he should try having more discussions with a smart friend of mine. He replied:
[oxfordphysicist] I can't recall her ever addressing me. I don't know her at all.
DD had sent her at least 12 private emails within the previous month before denying knowing her at all. For each of those emails, she was one of only four recipients.
She had started talking in the TCS community in 2003 and written dozens of emails. DD had publicly replied to her, and he generally read most TCS emails.
She’d come up repeatedly over the years, e.g. DD had given her advice two years earlier. It was memorable, high-stakes advice about a child custody court case.
In 2010, I told DD one of her philosophical theories and his response referred to her by name.
I got DD to IM with her in 2006 (I set up a three-person IM chat). In that chat, she did address him and he said “good luck [her first name]” at the end. That wasn’t their only conversation; it’s just the first one I found.
If DD doesn’t know Andy in the same sense that he didn’t know her at all – meaning he only emails Andy privately 12 times in a month and Andy is active in a discussion community he co-founded, reads and replies to – then he does know Andy.
DD seems willing to use poor memory as an excuse (he said he “can’t recall”, which may have been true). Note that he didn’t have any significant incentive to lie then, as he does with Andy.
If DD forgot all about her, his memory can’t be trusted. If he remembered her, his statements can’t be trusted.
Maybe DD doesn’t think his interactions with her count as “knowing” someone at all. If so, DD could know Andy equally well and think that somehow doesn’t count as “knowing” Andy.
It’d be bad if DD denied stuff about harassment while being ignorant of what he was denying. But the ignorance explanation doesn’t work well, so I think something even worse is going on. It looks to me like he was word lawyering to make it look like he was denying my claims while actually denying other issues that weren’t in dispute.
Why would DD respond to harassment of me with word lawyering? Perhaps because he wants the harassment to happen (note that DD has been asked to say he doesn’t want it to happen, but has refused to say that), wants to use words against me, and also wants to carefully avoid responsibility by not getting caught in an error. (But I did catch him lying in a different sentence.) It’s hard to come up with alternatives that make sense, and DD isn’t providing any, nor are his fans.
I spent around 10 years learning a lot with David Deutsch (DD), and then the next 10 years not interacting with him much. And he mostly stopped putting out public content, so I moved on to engaging with other thinkers. With distance and with greater familiarity with other thinkers and ideas, I’ve reflected on what biases my mentor had and how they were passed on to me and affected me. This is my retrospective from my point of view.
DD liked politics. He read political news and talked about it a lot. Since I met DD in 2001, the most consistent, organized, serious content creation he ever did was writing around 500 posts for his political blog in around four years. Why didn’t he write articles about philosophy, physics or parenting? Why did he chose politics? I don’t know. I think he was wrong. Being overly interested in current politics is a common error I see with many people who ought to spend more attention and time elsewhere. This error affected me, more in the past, and still a little recently.
Was promoting the Iraq war really a cause DD needed to focus on? If he was just saying everything he thought (which is closer to what I did), that’d be more understandable. But he wasn’t. He was choosing his battles … and he chose the Iraq war as a major one to argue about.
DD didn’t talk about political philosophy or economics much. He wasn’t trying to teach people useful background that would enable them to judge political issues better for themselves. (He did some of that teaching privately with me, and some publicly, but not enough compared to how much he discussed political news.) He frequently spoke about current events and the latest political news. Why? Why is that the best thing to focus on? I think he was wrong. His interests were biased away from stuff with lasting importance or areas where he had the most valuable expertise.
I think being overly focused on current political news generally makes people’s lives worse, and it’s a common problem which I’ve contributed to some. I’ve criticized it, warned people against it, and taken steps to move away from it myself.
DD likes Israel and defends it in political debates. He often blogged about it. He called it a shining beacon of morality, or some words very similar to that. I agree with him. I didn’t initially. He was fighting against the mainstream media and I didn’t know much about it. But he convinced me pretty quickly. And he kept talking about it on a regular basis, year after year. Why? I think he’s basically right about the topic, and it’s a reasonably important issue, but why not spend that energy teaching me more epistemology? Or writing publicly to refute induction in a better, more organized and persuasive way? Or making videos doing commentary on his or Popper’s books?
How big a place Israel occupies in DD’s mind is a bias which he taught to me. He kept bringing Israel up and made it have an outsized role in our conversations (and on his political blog).
Learning a lot about Israel and how the media treats it unfairly had some value for me (e.g. it helped with understanding how biased and dishonest the mainstream media is), but I don’t think it was the most optimal area to spend that much attention on and write blog posts telling others about.
I don’t think I’ve debated or blogged about Israel for years, so maybe I’ve gotten over this bias.
DD likes polyamory as a concept or abstract theory. Why pay so much attention to it when he wasn’t living that kind of life himself? I don’t know. Maybe because Sarah was into it. Regardless, he got me to pay attention to poly, too, and learn about the subject. Was that useful to me? Not especially. It’s OK. There are many interesting things in the world. Poly was an interesting topic to think about. But was it the best place my attention could have gone? I don’t think so.
Even if polyamory is a theoretically good idea – which I have some substantial doubts about – is it the best use of energy? If you are going to go against your culture on 1-5 major issues in your life, should it be on the list, or are there other things which are a higher priority? I’ll grant that romantic relationships could easily be included on a top 5 important areas list. But the main goal that’s worth the effort should be to avoid disaster (since chronic fighting, broken hearts and divorces are common), not to be poly – which is uncommon, risky and hard. Poly generally doesn’t have major benefits even if it works. And if you have a disaster doing poly, you’ll have a harder time than with a conventional disaster because most people will understand your problem less and be less helpful, sympathetic or supportive.
DD’s and Sarah’s Autonomy Respecting Relationships (ARR) said monogamy is the main problem in people’s relationships. They thought coercion causes all the trouble in both parenting and relationships because all irrationality comes from coercion. And they seemed to think that monogamy was the main source of coercion in romantic relationships. They suggested that if you get rid of the rules and restrictions in parenting or relationships, then people will almost automatically be rational and happy. I disagree.
Part of why poly can hurt people is mixing it with “rationalism”. If you think you’re super rational and right about everything, and you say monogamous people are attacking autonomy, then you can end up pressuring people to be poly or else you’ll judge them as irrational. I didn’t intentionally pressure people, but some people may have taken it that way, and this kind of theme comes up in multiple rationality-oriented poly communities, e.g. at Less Wrong too. The Less Wrong poly stuff has been a huge disaster that hurt people (I was never involved with that at all; I just read about it online). There are other poly communities that are more like “it works for me; I just wanna do my choice and be left alone not stigmatized” and don’t criticize most people for not being poly, which is less pressuring. ARR told people monogamy was irrational and that not being poly was limiting the growth of knowledge as well as basically opposing freedom and trying to be a jealous coercer, so that was really pressuring.
Overrating discussion for learning is a bias DD didn’t have himself (maybe), but passed on to me. I overestimated the availability and value of discussion due to having so much access to valuable discussions with DD. I got used to that and expected it to continue basically forever. I didn’t expect DD to quit discussion. And I expected to find other very smart who were interested in unbounded rational discussion, which is something DD told me was way more realistic than I now think it actually is. Consequently, I overestimated how much emphasis other people should put on discussion in their own lives. And I became overly reliant on discussion myself. Discussion is genuinely important and I’ve given some good reasons and arguments about it, but I also overestimated it.
I also overrated the long term value of discussions with other people who were less awesome than DD. I had lots of discussions that were good at the time, but having more, similar discussions lost value over time as they got more repetitive. I wanted to move on to some more advanced discussions, but it was hard to find discussion partners willing to pursue topics past the more accessible starting points. I didn’t foresee that problem.
I don’t think DD had the same issue as me, but he had some related issues. Most of what he’s written in his life has been discussion replies. He wrote two books in 20+ years and wrote a handful of articles. But he wrote thousands of TCS posts and thousands of other discussion forum posts, and he wrote multiple books worth of private IMs and emails to me. I think he has some perfectionist tendencies that make it hard for him to finish anything for a formal, serious or organized context. It’s easier for him to write for informal, disorganized, incomplete discussion than writing anything for publication or with higher standards or expectations.
DD did write thousands of posts at discussion forums, primarily email lists, but I don’t think he was personally biased in favor of discussion in the same way as me. In most of the posts, he was telling other people his ideas but wasn’t trying to interactively learn from or with them. And he was using the format to excuse imperfections, disorganization and incompleteness, whereas I was treating it more seriously. I actually thought critical discussions were a great way of doing truth seeking.
It was hard, but I’ve put a lot of work into moving away from discussion so that it’s more of an optional bonus for me instead of something central to my philosophy work. Over the last few years, I did a lot of unshared philosophy writing that wasn’t discussion based: it wasn’t prompted by other people’s questions or anything else they said.
Productive discussions require more skill than I realized. My and DD’s communities had a pro-discussion bias because we didn’t recognize how hard it is for people to discuss productively. Interestingly, I think many people also underestimate the skill needed for productive discussion but then reach a different conclusion: an anti-discussion bias. They notice that they don’t get much value from their discussions, so they conclude that discussion isn’t very valuable. They don’t realize how much their discussions could be improved with better discussion methods and skills.
This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me which has been going on for years. The harassment is coming from David Deutsch (DD) as well as his direct and indirect associates, especially “Andy B” who is one step removed from DD on the social graph (many of DD’s friends are friends with Andy).
In this post, I discuss friend groups, social legitimacy, abusers and going no contact. I tried to address this privately first, but they won’t do that.
YouTube video: Why are So Many Scammers on Runescape? Starting at 6:50, Crumb says:
So one thing I’ve observed in scamming and hacking discords is that they often treat it like some sort of legitimate business. They’re sharing screenshots of what they’ve stolen and they’re receiving praise for it from other scammers in that server. And so it creates this social group where everyone is accepting of this wrongdoing. And I think this helps the scammer feel not like a menace to society and in fact even like somebody who is achieving something. They have a friend group that is supporting of what they’re doing and is also engaging in the same types of activities. It normalizes it. I think that is a dangerous situation to find yourself in, especially if you’re somebody who is a bit of a recluse. You maybe don’t have friends in real life and so this becomes your primary only social group. How are you going to get out of that? You know, to scam is to not add any value to society which is a real problem […]
This is happening with the harassment against me. Andy B is being given social approval and a friend group by people like Brett, Lulie, and Bruce (who are DD’s associates and/or leaders in his fan community). They normalize Andy’s actions, accept his wrongdoing, and help him feel like he’s achieving something (fighting DD’s enemies) rather than being a menace to society. Some people in the group also do harassment themselves, which isn’t as severe as Andy’s harassment, but which is still bad and encourages him.
Social legitimacy and having friends makes a big difference to scammers. Fortunately, scammers can usually only get that from other scammers. They’re driven underground. Regular people despise scammers and won’t be civil with them. The scammer has to hide the scamming to get along with people. You wouldn’t want to be friends with a scammer. That makes it harder to be a scammer and reduces the number of scammers in the world. But Andy is getting support from a bunch of people. They provide some of the support publicly, on social media, under their real names, which provides extra social legitimacy.
Most people also avoid knowingly being friendly with gang members, drug dealers, phone call scammers (“Hi, we’re calling about your car’s extended warranty…” or the guys who impersonate the social security administration), murderers, robbers, embezzlers, money launderers, etc. Those things are punished by social ostracism in addition to potential jail time. Overall, I think people’s moral judgments and social decisions make a larger difference to stopping crime than the criminal justice system does. (Imagine a society where no one respected the law, people didn’t feel bad or guilty about committing crimes, most people knew multiple criminals and cheered for them, and everyone refused to cooperate in police investigations. Law enforcement wouldn’t be very effective.)
Note that Andy’s harassment has included cyberstalking, hundreds of nasty messages, maintaining sock puppets for months, using 20+ identities and 100+ IP addresses, using hacking tools to evade computer security systems, threatening IRL harm, doxing, and spamming. He’s been doing this for more than two years. This isn’t some sort of minor incident involving a few rude comments. People can often be nasty for a few days on their own, but they rarely keep it up so long without any form of external encouragement. (I think the most common reason for long term harassment from a lone individual with no encouragement is because they’re stalking a girl they like. But I’m not a girl and I haven’t received that kind of harassment.)
Many women (and some men) have been abused or raped but, for various reasons, don’t get help from the police. Many abusers or rapists have faced too little social ostracism and that’s been a significant societal problem. People have been working to reform that, and the issue has received national attention with the #MeToo movement. (The activists also make some errors; I’m not endorsing them but partly agree.)
Many rapists are members of their victim’s social group (because people are often raped by someone they know). A common problem is that other people stay friends with the rapist even after the women (or man) opens up and tells them about the rape. The woman can end up excluded from social events because people keep inviting her rapist, so to avoid him she has to stay home. It’d discourage rape more if people treated rapists worse instead of saying “Well, I’m not doing anything. I didn’t rape anyone. What are you blaming me for? If there’s an issue, I’m sure the government will take care of it. It’s not my place to worry about whether my buddies are rapists.”
Do you see the parallel? DD and his friends keep the abuser Andy B in their social group/community, and seem to think that’s OK since they didn’t personally abuse me. (Apart from the occasions when they did abuse me, e.g. when DD lied to damage my reputation.)
These kind of “neutral” reactions, like including a rapist in social events, both further victimizes the victim (by excluding her) and also legitimizes the rapist. He’ll think he must not be doing anything very bad because his friends still talk with him and invite him to stuff. He may even think they agree with him that she was annoying or a tease, and was asking for it; he may assume they also abuse girls in private. It’s unrealistic for an abuser to see his own behavior as worse than how his friends see and treat it. And if he’s the one who is showing his face in public (at social events), then it appears like he’s the one with nothing to hide.
Sometimes abusers even try to claim the moral high ground. It’s powerful to say to your victim, “Even your friend Amanda thinks you’re overreacting.” Abusers often try to turn things around and play the victim, e.g. by complaining that they’re being bullied by their victim’s over-zealous complaints. (One of the responses I’ve gotten is that I’m the real abuser because I’m writing negative things about Andy, DD and others. I’ve been told I need to leave them alone – meaning shut up, suffer in silence, and don’t tell my story, not even on my own blog, even though the abuse is ongoing.)
There are also more subtle problems. If you’re trying to talk with someone at a social gathering, your ex can come up and say something that’s just a little awkward but which disrupts the conversation or chases you away. And he can do that 10 times when you try to talk to 10 different people. Each person may think you’re overreacting if you complain or explain, because he didn’t really do anything that bad, so why are you so upset? They don’t see the pattern where he does it over and over, and they refuse to shun him or care about your story about his ongoing harassment because they don’t see how it’s their problem. But their attitude is enabling him to keep doing this. Their attitude is vulnerable to harassers, and can enable or favor them, as a systematic bias that can be exploited. (This is similar to how I tried to talk with people at the Less Wrong forum, but Andy stalked me there under another fake name and posted disruptive stuff every time I started a conversation.)
If you try to get people to pay attention to the issue, and talk about it a bunch and try to explain why it’s a big deal, people may think you’re smearing your ex, and that you’re obsessed with him and harassing him. If you put work into trying to get them to care instead of being neutral and hanging out with your abuser, they will wonder why you’re trying so hard and look down on you for being needy. They may think it’s aggressive that you’re trying to turn people against your abuser. And other people just interpret it as “drama” and then look negatively at both sides without giving much thought to the details. These are some of the ways victims get a bad result when they try to explain the issue to people who keep associating with their abuser. I’ve received reactions like this when trying to talk about what’s been done to me. I initially thought the fact that the abuse against me had crossed the line into crime would get most people to take it seriously, but I was wrong, and it disturbs me to consider what that’s like for victims of rape or physical domestic abuse.
When people think, say or act like the victim is overreacting, that legitimizes the abuser. It makes the abuser feel justified. If he’d really done something very bad, people would be calling him out, right? But DD and his associates have never called out Andy (or any of the other harassers) or asked them to stop or made any statement that they think harassment is bad.
DD (who was my mentor, colleague and friend for a decade) isn’t even the unfair and inadequate sort of neutral, though. When asked to say he thinks harassment is bad, he refused, and instead lied about me in a way that suggests I’m the primary abuser in the situation (DD lied that I’d broken several no contact requests from him). He didn’t even try to pretend to stay out of it like a host inviting both me and my stalker to the same party; DD was willing to lie, in writing, about documented facts, in order to falsely call me out, while refusing to call out anyone abusing me. DD is actively encouraging his social group to exclude and mistreat me, and has zero remorse when his followers DDoS me, threaten IRL harm, use a false identity to try to lure another of DD’s former friends (a physicist who DD had spent time with in person) to an IRL meetup, and more.
Lying about me to attack my reputation – particularly in a way that seems designed to justify and encourage additional harassment – is abuse, by DD, against me. (Note: It doesn’t justify harassment in fact. Even if I’d broken no contact requests as DD falsely claimed, it’d still be wrong to harass me. Similarly, please do not respond to DD’s harassment of me by DDoSing him, threatening him, stalking him, or otherwise harassing him. As far as I know, no one in my community has harassed anyone in their community, and I’d like to keep it that way.)
DD not only refused to disavow Andy or ask the harassment to stop, he also took the initiative to abuse me himself, which is a pretty clear signal to Andy and others to keep abusing me too.
I’ve tried to address this privately but DD and his friends are unwilling to and the harassment has been going on for 2.5 years and counting. I’ve asked to discuss a deescalation or truce; they won’t even consider it. The best explanation is that they don’t want a solution and are doing this on purpose. DD is more powerful and influential than me, so there’s not much I can do besides speak truth to power and hope some people will be reasonable enough to listen, care, and push back.
Some people in our culture, especially on the left, have recognized the problem where abusers stay in a social circle and the victim gets pushed out. They’ve tried to correct this by being more sympathetic to victims and socially ostracizing abusers. We see this in #MeToo and in people helping out with no contact requests (e.g. Joan goes no contact with her abuser, and then other people in Joan’s social circle also go no contact with him).
#MeToo and recent no contact and abuse ideas are aimed at real problems, but they’re also problematic. “Believe all women” makes it easier for some women to lie and be believed (but on the other hand, making all victims go through trials can be traumatic for them and is one of the reasons that some victims don’t report crimes). And people who are in the wrong, or in messy situations where both sides are flawed, often accuse the other side of being an abuser. Some bullies accuse their victims of being abusers and use the language of victimhood to gain sympathy and amplify their bullying.
There are many articles about going no contact which basically assume that the person going no contact is always right. Many articles don’t mention any need to give a reason or explanation for going no contact. People can just go no contact and be assumed to be right. Then, if the person being ghosted tries to argue back, they can be yelled at (typically by the no contacter’s friends) for breaking no contact (even if they speak on their own website or in private chats, it can be called problematic because the no contacter wants to be left alone and the person being ghosted should just shut up and stop defending themselves). Most (but not all) articles about no contact do at least say you have tell the person you want no contact, instead of just starting to ghost them and expecting them to guess it (and getting angry when they send you messages like “Hey, not sure what’s going on. Please explain?” which you interpret as violating your consent.)
So, on the one hand, DD and friends are not paying attention to these modern, somewhat-lefty anti-abuse ideas (that are partly good and partly bad) since they are like “eh who cares if we enable an abuser; your no contact requests to him (that he constantly breaks) are not our problem”.
But on the other hand, they are actually using these modern, somewhat-lefty anti-abuse ideas against me. DD tells people I’m an abuser, that he went no contact with me, and that I’ve broken his “several” no contact requests. DD has then gotten other people in his social circle to go no contact with me in order to take DD’s side and protect him from his alleged abuser, me. The problems with that are that I’ve never abused DD, none of them have ever made a no contact request to me, none of them have explained anything I did wrong. If DD’s lies were true, it’d be reasonable for people in DD’s social group to avoid me (at least if I wasn’t a crime victim, which is actually a good reason to take a break from ghosting, but they won’t acknowledge that or make any claim that Andy’s actions are or aren’t crimes, and the people possessing evidence about Andy’s crimes or identity have refused to provide it to me). The problem is he’s lying to abuse the no contact system as a way to abuse me by tricking other people into ghosting me. And, simultaneously, DD won’t acknowledge the no contact system exists when it comes to an actual abuser, Andy, who will not leave me alone.
Despite none of them actually requesting no contact, the only thing I’ve been contacting them about is how they keep being friends with an abuser and publicly encourage him, and also how some of them have also done abusive things themselves, e.g. lying that I threatened them with violence (that person, Dennis, did that somewhere he thought I wouldn’t see it, and admitted his claim was false when I found out … and then he, as a moderator, let Andy, Brett and others respond to his retraction of that smear by flaming me and essentially arguing why I still deserve harassment anyway. He also refused to apologize and only retracted it because he knew his action had been illegal).
It’s perverse how DD is lying to the more enlightened (re abuse and no contact) people that I’m an abuser in order to get them to mistreat me, while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge any such enlightened ideas exist when it comes to Andy’s abuses and even crimes.
And it’s perverse that the lies DD and others tell about me are mostly done privately so that I’ve been unable to respond to the accusations. I just see the results like people I don’t know ghosting me or people I’ve had friendly talks with abruptly ghosting me. The only people in my entire life who have done these behaviors are DD’s fans who interact on Twitter with people like Lulie, Brett and Bruce. DD is apparently such a habitual liar that even when he knew he was writing to my proxy, he still lied about me in a blatant, factually-verifiable way (it wasn’t a matter of opinion). He’s not able to turn the lies off, which gives a pretty good indication of what he says and does when it’s off the record in friendly company. (Also, back when he was my friend, he used to say mean-but-clever insults about public figures to me, as well as about non-public-figures he had contact with. They were frequently tangential and I often didn’t respond at all; I’d just keep talking about the philosophy topic; but he kept doing it anyway. So I know he’s a gossip who’s eager to privately flame people he dislikes. And I know he now dislikes me. I will provide documentation if DD disputes having done this in our conversations.)
To reiterate: Neither DD nor any of his friends has made a no contact request to me or something similar. I’m not violating that kind of thing.
I have tried to go no contact with “Andy B” but he keeps using sock puppets and hacking tools to continue stalking and harassing me. DD and friends say who cares, not their problem (or at least I’ve gotten that impression; mostly they won’t say anything and try to hide behind the ambiguity of not stating their position), and keep including Andy B in their social group. They also take actions to harass me, e.g. Brett saying hateful flames about me to Andy, and DD lying to smear me, which clearly encourage Andy’s campaign. They refuse to even make a statement like “we think harassment is bad and even people we don’t like should not be harassed”.
DD has lied about me. I don’t know the full extent and details of the lying. He and his associates have gotten people to ghost me by lying. None of them will tell me what the accusations against me are, discuss the matter with me, or allow any defense. People have been tricked into being haters and being DD’s pawns. All I actually did to DD was write a handful of articles criticizing his ideas and public statements, e.g. a rebuttal to his attack on Ayn Rand (if there’s something else, no one has bothered to tell me before hating me for it, so that I could change it or possibly correct a misunderstanding). He broke a bunch of obligations to me and destroyed our friendship, but when he dumped me with little explanation I left him alone until I realized he’d been spending years getting people to be toxic towards me and that the toxicity had gotten bad enough to cause severe harassment against me and my community. Then I privately let him know and tried repeatedly for months to deal with the problem privately. But he ghosted me and got his associates to ghost, so deescalation is impossible and in the meantime I get abused by the militant wing of their group. The major abuse started 2.5 years ago and has been a nightmare.
I get why people wouldn’t want to speak to me when they think DD already explained what I was doing wrong, at length, multiple times, and believe that I responded in such an abusive, irrational way, repeatedly, that 3+ no contact requests were DD’s only option, followed by ghosting when I still kept messaging him. And I understand why people who believed that would think “I need to contact DD now because Andy is abusing me” would seem like an excuse to break the no contact requests. The thing is, that never happened. It’s a complete fabrication. It’s such a bold and thorough lie, with no factual basis, that it’s hard to believe anyone would lie that much. (The reason DD is lying that much is, in short, as my best guess, his irrationality. He needed a narrative to justify parting ways with me in his own mind, so he told himself that I’m irrational and bad, and can’t be reasoned with. He needed a narrative like that because he considered me the smartest person, fastest learner and best editor of his book that he had to talk with, so there had to be some kind of excuse to get rid of that. He also needed a reason for ceasing the common preference finding, rational problem solving, “all problems are soluble” attitude, etc., that he’s written about. Since DD has such a public reputation for rationality, it’s especially hard for anyone to believe the root cause is his irrationality. But rational abstract philosophical theories, which DD is good at, are often a separate matter than rational personal conduct. Is there a better explanation about what’s going on? No one has suggested one to me.) So DD is abusing me with his lies that trick others into mistreating me.
I don’t know what else to do, and I’m a writer, so I’m writing down what’s going on and what I think about it. I’ve written some before but I didn’t know then that DD was actively lying about me to cause my nightmare, and I didn’t understand the situation as well. I think truth and sunlight and public knowledge of events will make things better for me. I don’t have anything to hide. A lot of this situation can be discussed publicly, so it makes sense for both sides to write out their case publicly, at least once (and then people can be referred to that, like an FAQ, without having to re-explain the issue). But DD and his side won’t state any case nor refute anything I’m saying. They are leaving the public state of the debate as: they have no arguments, I do, and they have no criticism of any of my arguments. They won’t provide any allegations against me like a fair trial. I hope people will judge accordingly. Supposing hypothetically that I’m right, what more could I do?
I’m trying to treat them fairly. I gave them the benefit of the doubt initially and I tried to speak with them privately multiple times and I’ve been slow to air issues publicly. I’m explaining stuff so that, if I’m wrong about any of this, someone could point out my error. I’m exposing my story, with a lot of detail, to criticism. I wish they’d do the same. I don’t know any better way to approach problem solving. I can’t just drop it because their side won’t drop it – I’m still being harassed. They won’t leave me alone and also won’t explain their side. They won’t state demands, terms for truce, grievances, etc. I hope people will see that it makes sense to ask them what their side of the story is and, if they won’t answer, then take my side and support me.
When writing about this, my main goal is that anyone who approaches this objectively and fairly, and tries to understand, will be able to see my point. I’m also enabling problem solving: it gives DD, Andy and others the opportunity to learn what they’re doing wrong (an opportunity that I want, but which they deny me) and how to fix the situation, as well as the opportunity to refute what I’m saying (another opportunity that I want, but which they deny me). It also lets any third party correct me if they see a mistake I’m making – which I’d appreciate. I’m trying to do the rational thing by writing and sharing this.
I’m doubtful that David Deutsch (DD) lied about me with full conscious knowledge of what he was doing. That wouldn’t stop it from being a lie, though. He said events happened which didn’t happen. Base on DD’s statement, any reasonable person would believe he had a clear memory of the events or had checked his records. If he doesn’t know he’s lying, it’s because he’s thinking about it in a fuzzy way or not thinking about it – and also choosing not to check his records – in which case it’s dishonest to make strong, factual claims about it.
Why do I doubt it’s a fully conscious lie? To begin with, it’s an ineffective, dumb lie. Why lie to Justin, who DD can easily predict will check with me? If DD thought about it, he’d know I will deny it and will be able to look it up. How is this lie supposed to help him? He’s not going to fool Justin. It seems like a tactical and strategic disaster. I can just respond with facts. And he knows that I have records of our emails to prove that he’s lying. So where’s the upside?
A possible upside is the lie could fool people who aren’t paying attention, so it’d make sense if DD couldn’t think of anything honest that could convince those people (that seems implausible – if someone is gullible and is only reading DD’s side of the story, it wouldn’t be that hard to trick them without directly lying about documented facts … he had better options).
When I knew DD, he was good at avoiding consciously lying. He only intentionally lied in specific cases with clear reasons. Otherwise he knew how to use careful wording to technically avoid lying and to avoid being strictly wrong.
In this case, to consciously lie, DD would need a self defense justification in his mind. But that’s problematic. That scenario would be: I did X wrong; DD needs to defend himself; DD lies that I did Y wrong. He’s accusing me of doing something wrong that I didn’t do (and can prove I didn’t do) because what I actually did was unsayable (maybe private) somehow? It’s hard to make that make sense. If he’s trying to hide the real issue, he’d need to tell a plausible lie that will stand up to some scrutiny. Telling an obvious lie leads straight to people wondering why he’s lying. (The good news for DD, in this scenario, is that the first guess people will have is that he’s lying because he has no reasonable facts or arguments on his side, rather than because he’s hiding something. But that result is ineffective at defending DD, so it doesn’t make sense to cause it as a means of defense.)
The main thing DD has to defend against is the accusation that his fans are harassing me, including with crimes, and that he hasn’t even paid lip service to asking them to stop. Lying to attack me makes that problem worse instead of better. He could have just said “I don’t condone harassment” instead, but he’s refusing to say that for some reason, which encourages the ongoing suspicion that he wants harassment to happen.
Also, if DD consciously knew he was lying, I think he would have recognized that it was a potentially illegal lie (libel, defamation). If he knew that, I doubt he would have said it anyway, on purpose. Why make himself a (maybe) lawbreaker when he had other options? That seems way more counterproductive than useful for him.
I think DD’s lie was blatantly counter-productive, in addition to being immoral aggression and likely illegal. I’ve tried to mentally model how he could be aware that he was lying, analyze his options, and determine that it was a good lie to tell that’ll be effective for his goals. But I can’t get there. Why would he want me to write a blog post about how he lied, which goes through some of our emails for evidence, and then he just doesn’t respond to it? Me writing that post was an outcome he could have easily predicted. He knows me and I have a history of writing similar posts. His lie and my response just makes him look worse than before; it doesn’t seem like he has a thought-out strategy.
If DD didn’t consciously know he was lying, that’s really problematic. It means he’s probably been lying to a lot of people about me in private, since he wouldn’t feel any guilt about it, since he doesn’t consciously realize he’s spreading lies. And in that scenario, he remembers making several written requests he never made, about a high stakes issue, and then he made a serious, public accusation without double-checking his records. (The requests would have been in email, and he could search and review his emails, just as I did before commenting on the matter. Presumably the no contact requests would have been some of his last few emails to me and would be easy to find even.) That’d be a severe error which seems like he’s disconnected from reality and irresponsible. And since being corrected, he hasn’t offered any argument, evidence, retraction or apology (his fans haven’t offered any arguments either, just harassment severe enough that I’ve had to disable public comments on this website).
This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me. This post shares more info about David Deutsch’s direct involvement with the harassment: he talks publicly with my largest harasser ("Andy B" has been cyberstalking me for years, has written hundreds of harassing messages from over 100 IP addresses, and has ongoing support from a community of Deutsch fans who have done some harassment themselves too). I’ve tried to address the problem privately but they’ve refused to attempt any private problem solving.
David Deutsch's (DD's) involvement with Andy B is worse and more blatant than I knew. I wrote skeptical comments about DD's claim to not know Andy. I said he might be in contact with Andy or one of Andy's many identities, but somehow not count it in his mind. I gave an example about him previously falsely claiming not to know someone. I speculated (but didn’t know specifically) that DD could be in direct contact with Andy. He is:
DD has been tweeting with Andy's primary Twitter account since at least 2018 and also tweeted with Andy, twice, within the last few days. Andy has renamed the account multiple times, and also deleted all his old tweets, so this is not a complete list of the times DD has spoken to Andy. Using other searches, I quickly found another time that DD tweeted Andy that isn't in this pic (and more here).
Note: Andy only recently stopped putting the 'Andy' name on his twitter. He stopped going by 'Andy' roughly around April 2021. Old tweets by DD would have been to an account that was openly announcing that it was Andy. (Some but not all old tweets get updated to tag the new name when Andy changes his name; it depends how it's saved in Twitter's database. That's why it says SeekingApatheia on some tweets from years before Andy used that name, but other tweets don’t show up in this search because they weren’t updated.)
The SeekingApatheia account is still Andy's main Twitter account, which he created in April 2010, but renamed. That means that e.g. if DD had ever blocked Andy, the block would still apply to the new name (DD chose not to block Andy). DD could easily know that SeekingApatheia is Andy by asking one of his friends like Lulie, or by asking an FI person, or by reading info posted to this blog. DD either knows that SeekingApatheia is Andy or is burying his head in the sand and refusing to make any effort to avoid ongoing contact with Andy (while also making public statements about not knowing Andy).
Tweets from DD directly to Andy encourage Andy to continue harassing people he perceives as DD’s enemies (me and other FI community participants, because we're DD’s old community that he left and now has an unexplained grudge against). DD has never said a word to delegitimize Andy's harassment of me, and this is another thing he's doing to legitimize it.
I just want to be left alone but have now been persistently cyberstalked and harassed for years. DD has encouraged it in multiple ways, like tweeting with the worst offender who is clearly a criminal, and lying to make it sound like I'm the bad guy, and DD has refused to negotiate in any way or to ask his fans even once to stop harassing.
Some people may be worried that if they have discussions with me, they’ll end up called out and exposed in a blog post attacking them. So I want to clarify who I do that to and why.
A callout post is one where I’m trying to draw public attention to a problem I’m having with someone who has mistreated me.
I call out people who violate my rights. That requires things like getting banned and then ban evading to post harassment on my sites, like Andy B. Or persistently lying about being coached and mentored by me, like Rami Rustom did, so I needed to deny that. Or spreading really nasty lies about me, such as Dennis Hackethal’s lie that I threatened him with violence or David Deutsch’s lie that I broke several requests to stop contacting him. Plagiarizing my ideas is also something I will blog about if you refuse to fix it. (I mention that because it’s debatable whether plagiarism is a rights violation).
I also frequently criticize public figures regarding publicly available information like their writing. And I also have critical discussions on forums, but if a non-public-figure loses a debate with me I don’t go call them out on my blog. My goal in those discussions isn’t to call public attention to the flaws of my discussion partners.
Let’s discuss some examples of callouts I’ve done.
I never blogged about Rustom when he was just some fan who was bad at learning. I never mocked him for stuff that many people would laugh at. I still didn’t blog about him after he wrote a book heavily plagiarizing me, because he apologized and took it down instead of ending communication (as Hackethal did about his plagiarized book). Rustom merely got one negative blog post after I found out he was lying to people about his association with me – and I was unable to get the matter resolved privately – so I considered it necessary to publicly deny association with him. He was actually using my name to try to sell his business coaching products. In response to me making it harder for him to sell my name for his profit, Rustom further violated my rights by making threats, escalating his threats, sharing a private recording, lying about me, and spamming my blog. My restrained response was merely to update my one blog post to cover the new developments.
I never blogged about Hackethal when he was just some guy who had admitted to me (with no reasonable expectation of privacy) that he was a second-handed social climber who cared about reputation over truth. Hackethal quit my community (at least I thought he did – but I later discovered he’d kept reading my blog in order to include mangled versions of my posts in his book without credit) because, basically, he thinks I’m autistic. He wanted to interact with people who are more responsive to social hints instead of reasoned statements or explicit requests – but I didn’t publicize his bigoted, ableist attitude. I only blogged about Hackethal due to his book plagiarizing my ideas and his involvement in harassment (including his public collaboration with Andy B, his libel against me, and his role in the DDoSing of this website). I know which woke, cancel-culture-friendly employer Hackethal works for but I never contacted them or named them because, even when extremely provoked, I act with restraint.
Before he harassed me, I never cared or talked about Andy B rage quitting my group over an intellectual disagreement. I still didn’t blog about the issue after he initially harassed me and got caught. I only made a big deal of it after I discovered he was behind months of extensive sock puppeting (using false identities) and harassment. I’ve always been tolerant of rude posters and minor, short-lived harassment.
Everyone I’ve called out got multiple warnings first. I tried to speak privately with Rustom, Hackethal, Andy B and Deutsch before blogging anything negative about them.
The point is, those people did really bad and easily avoidable things, and then persisted and amplified the issues when given multiple opportunities to change course. Anyone who wants to can avoid doing what they did and getting called out. It’s easy. I’m actually more tolerant than most people and I try to resolve things privately first. In each case, I only called people out on my blog after they refused to try to solve the problem privately.
I focus my blog criticism on public intellectuals and on people who initiate substantial force against me plus refuse communication. So if you aren’t going to do that, you’ve got nothing to fear.
Being harassed – and writing about it – is an unfortunate distraction which is delaying Critical Fallibilism articles. If you don’t like that, complain to David Deutsch and the others involved. I can’t ignore them because they are using ongoing force and I have no way to choose to be left alone. They come to my websites and follow me to public discussion places like Less Wrong or Reddit. One of them joined and vandalized my FI Learning Basecamp, and I realized that using Basecamp is not a realistic option because it doesn't have good enough security. I’ve tried not talking about them for months at a time but they won’t stop. I’ve tried to discuss the problem privately and deescalate (I did that before going public and tried again later too), but they’ve refused to discuss – they have no demands, have no stated grievances, and have offered no terms under which they’d end the harassment campaign. Fan support regarding this major problem would be appreciated.
This is part of a series of posts explaining the ongoing harassment against me from David Deutsch and his associates and fans.
Sam Harris in his Response to Controversy post (from 2013):
A general point about the mechanics of defamation: It is impossible to effectively defend oneself against unethical critics. If nothing else, the law of entropy is on their side, because it will always be easier to make a mess than to clean it up. It is, for instance, easier to call a person a “racist,” a “bigot,” a “misogynist,” etc. than it is for one’s target to prove that he isn’t any of these things. In fact, the very act of defending himself against such accusations quickly becomes debasing. Whether or not the charges can be made to stick, the victim eventually seems thin-skinned and overly concerned about his reputation. And, rebutted or not, the original calumnies will be repeated in blogs and comment threads, and many readers will assume that where there’s smoke, there must be fire.
Such defamation is made all the easier if one writes and speaks on controversial topics and with a philosopher’s penchant for describing the corner cases—the ticking time bomb, the perfect weapon, the magic wand, the mind-reading machine, etc.—in search of conceptual clarity. It literally becomes child’s play to find quotations that make the author look morally suspect, even depraved.
Whenever I respond to unscrupulous attacks on my work, I hear from smart, supportive readers who say that I needn’t have bothered. In fact, many write to say that any response is counterproductive, because it only draws more attention to the original attack and sullies me by association. These readers think that I should be above caring about, or even noticing, treatment of this kind. Perhaps. I actually do take this line, sometimes for months or years, if for no other reason than that it allows me to get on with more interesting work. But […]
These are problems I'm dealing with. Some people think I'm overly reactive, thin-skinned or reputation-focused because I've written too many blog posts about the persistent, ongoing, criminal harassment against me. And I keep using strong, rude words like "criminal" and "harassment".
The harassment has been severe enough – for multiple years – that I've closed free, public comments. They are closed right now. The harassment is affecting me and my community today.
Defending myself by telling my story derails this blog and focuses it away from my usual topics. But not defending myself is awful too. They stalk me to other forums. If I try to use Less Wrong, Twitter, Reddit, Basecamp, Discord, Slack, etc., they can and do stalk and harass me there. And on those sites, I don't have adequate tools to protect myself. On a website I control, I can at least install security tools of my choice that give me a chance to defend myself (that's hard and unreliable, which is why I made a new forum with a paywall, but it works much better than defending myself on other sites).
Twitter (for example) allows you to block users, but that doesn't do me much good. They can and do create many different accounts. They also impersonate beginners, fans or any other group of people I want to talk with. They also post ambiguously hostile stuff, passive aggressive derailing, concern trolling, and other attempts to be unpleasant. They sometimes try to make it negative but ambiguous about whether it might be an actual new person unaffiliated with the harassers. They also mix in extreme, blatant harassment, which makes a toxic atmosphere and alienates people who see it.
Even if Twitter let me see IP addresses of people who talk with me – which it doesn't – that wouldn't be enough. Andy B alone has used over 100 different IP addresses while harassing me. Better security tools are necessary but unavailable.
Sometimes they pretend to be a beginner who is trying but has negative emotions about my responses. This creates a negative interaction which is alienating to readers who think that they, too, would end up alienated if they had a discussion. But I’m not actually alienating someone who was making a good faith effort; it’s just a fraud. That both creates a toxic atmosphere and wastes my time. It’s also misleading to me when I’m unsure if it’s a real beginner and I just need to try harder to explain, or if it’s bad faith. It makes it harder for me to know how difficult it is to talk with real beginners in positive ways and to figure out what will and won’t work with people who discuss in good faith. When it’s a fake account from a harassers, then no matter what communication methods and friendliness I test, the experimental result I get will be negative: it doesn’t work. Except that’s fake data, and the same communications might have worked great with someone who isn’t sabotaging on purpose.
They try to create a pattern of what appears to be me having negative interactions with many different people interested in my ideas. But it’s fake, and isn’t what was happening in my discussions before the harassment began (some ended negatively, but a much lower proportion). It’s frustrating and unfun for me and it discourages my actual fans from talking with me. Similarly, they’ve used fake accounts to support themselves (both at my sites and elsewhere, e.g. on Twitter or Reddit) to make it look like more people agree with them than actually do.
Beginners often say some partially negative things while making a good faith effort to engage. People are sometimes a bit rude, a bit upset about a controversial idea, or say something illogical. I try to be tolerant and charitable about that stuff. Most people need some tolerance in discussions. But harassers can abuse that tolerance by e.g. making stuff as negative as possible that they think I might tolerate. They can also get worse to be slightly past the line so I want to end the discussion but it’s not obvious to all observers that the discussion is so bad that I should stop tolerating it. Or sometimes they just go past the line into obvious hatred to fake a record of someone starting out friendly and then being very upset by me so that they became hateful.
It’s hard to tell what might be an honest mistake from a beginner, which should be dealt with in a kind, helpful way. So having harassers on fake names wasting our time and charity with dishonest mistakes is a problem. And then when they escalate to make it look like our helpfulness failed, that’s nasty too. Being flamed and harassed – sometimes in extreme ways – is nasty but the ongoing attempts at ambiguity are even worse. They have done over a hundred experiments to find out what’s hard to deal with and to optimize their harassment.
David Deutsch (DD) falsely called me a no contact request breaker to an unknown number of people privately which avoids rebuttal. Accusing me of breaking several no contact requests is similar to calling someone a "racist" or "bigot" like Sam Harris mentioned. Breaking no contact requests is really awful and is currently something cancellable – a lot of people really hate it. Responding to that and defending myself is itself toxic, and DD has a much larger reach than I do. The hate that has been spread against me is so strong that many people who its been spread to are entirely unwilling to speak with me or consider my side of the story. I can't defend effectively against preemptive strikes powerful enough to get total strangers to shut their minds closed and refuse to ever consider my side of the story.
Many associates of DD have been spreading hate about me. I know this for a fact because there have been a few leaks. I’ll give some examples.
In the past, Lulie Tanett repeatedly shared private information with me, e.g. that some of DD’s associates were joking about murdering me (from memory, that was in 2015), which gives some idea of how hateful they were and also that they talk about me in their private conversations.
In 2009, Lulie Tanett showed me Sarah Fitz-Claridge (SFC, DD’s TCS co-founder) lying that I’d violated many requests from her (a very similar lie to DD’s lie, which seems to show a pattern of people bad at differentiating between what they wanted and what they actually requested with words).
Another person told me that, around 2010, SFC’s husband wanted to collaborate on a forum for the purpose of hurting Elliot Temple. I'm told SFC's husband was blatant, not subtle, about his goal: he wanted to shove a (presumably metaphorical) red hot poker up my ass. The person declined because they weren’t interested in harming anyone. The person told me about it, years later, after the Andy B harassment became a big deal.
Another way I got information was people sending me quotes from the Four Strands Google Group. My haters used their semi-private philosophy forum to have multiple discussions about me in which they attacked me. When caught, their response was to kick everyone off their forum who they thought might sympathize with me and to limit new membership in order to better hide their activities. That forum is where Dennis Hackethal lied that I’d threatened him with violence in order to gain clout with other forum members and justify hatred and harassment towards me.
Because the CritRats spread their hate through gossip but don’t write public arguments, it’s hard to answer it. I’ve never even seen most of what’s been said against me, but the effects are visible: I’ve been repeatedly ghosted, and sometimes flamed or harassed, by people I’ve never had a conversation with. The behavior of CritRats differs from any other group I’ve interacted with. And keep in mind that I’m not really a public figure: almost no one has heard of me, but people I don’t know care enough to hate me because of whatever gossip is circulating among CritRats. It seems like the gossip includes lies that I’ve done actions so bad that I must be entirely shunned and ghosted. I’ve seen some of the really nasty lies being told (about violating several no contact requests or threatening violence) but don’t know what else they’re circulating. Someone who repeatedly breaks no contact requests or threatens violence is actually a reasonable person to dislike, ignore and avoid – if that were true. (BTW, Andy B and Rami Rustom both made threats but the CritRats don’t avoid and ignore them.)
Not knowing what’s being said prevents me from targeting my replies well. I have to either not answer stuff or write more and answer more stuff without even clearly knowing it’s the right thing to answer – which some people interpret as me being obsessed because they don’t see the actions of the other side, whereas my actions are public. It’s also more work for me to write about more issues, which sucks.
Meanwhile, many people think that where there's smoke there's fire, or that the evils being done to me are so extreme and nasty that they can't be real (certainly not from the people who appear otherwise respectable). (Other times, contradictorily, I’m told that what’s been done to me is mild and ignorable. Not having any official position lets them make a wide variety of arguments without caring if they contradict themselves.) And people keep repeating and spreading the hate. I wouldn't even care much about the hate if it didn't lead to harassment that limits my ability to have conversations on the public internet, and which follows me around, and which comes to my spaces to harass and DDoS my blog. I have no way to be left alone and ignore them because they use force not just insults.
Like Harris, I’ve tried not responding for long periods of times. The attacks on me actually started in 2009 or earlier and gradually ramped up. I basically ignored it for a decade, and it grew much worse. Even after the extreme harassment from Andy B, I’ve tried ignoring it for months at a time, which hasn’t helped. Sam Harris felt it necessary to respond even though he’s just facing words without direct harassment like DDoSing. That’s perfectly reasonable, and it’s notable that my situation gives more reason to respond because the problems cross major, additional lines. Harris also has the advantage of facing claims made in public which he can quote, whereas the group harassing me acts in a shadowy way.
It’s horrible that – as a person who is not very popular – I have to literally charge people money to be able to discuss with me because it’s the only way I think I may be left alone by the harassers.
I think the best thing I can do is to explain myself rationally. I want to help reasonable people judge the issue by providing the information and reasoning that I can. And I want to show that I’m the one willing to expose factual statements and arguments to critical scrutiny, unlike the other side. I have more posts in progress, and plan to continue writing about this sporadically as long as it’s an ongoing problem affecting my life. If anyone has a better idea, I’m open to it. So far I’ve received no substantial criticism of anything I’ve said about the matter from anyone – my fans, the people who hate me, or neutral third parties. I’m trying to deal with a hard situation in the right way using my limited resources, and I hope people will be sympathetic and supportive about that.
This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me. This post shares background info about my conflict with David Deutsch. I’ve tried to address the problem privately but he’s refused to even attempt private problem solving or common preference finding.
The closest thing to a reason that David Deutsch (DD) ever gave me for turning against me was that he was upset about the TCS archives issue. I never considered that explanation to be very good. In short, he didn’t want them published and I agreed not to publish them. Would he really end ten years of friendship and productive discussions over that!?
I’ll explain what happened, then after that I’ll give additional facts, quotes, details and sources.
Taking Children Seriously (TCS) was a parenting and educational philosophy co-founded by DD and Sarah Fitz-Claridge (SFC) around 1992. They, I and others believed that TCS had very important ideas which all parents should learn and which could dramatically improve the world.
TCS List was a public email discussion group that started in 1994. The archives were tens of thousands of emails posted in the past. I joined in 2001. In 2002, DD and I both wanted to share the discussion archives with millions of parents so that they could learn to treat their children better.
For years there were automated, public archives which were searchable and downloadable. There were instructions on how to do this. Everyone was warned not to post anything private. But eventually AOL limited and/or removed archives for all their groups. In my understanding, that was because they didn’t want to store the data or spend money on the groups, and that change was a precursor to the groups being poorly maintained for years and then eventually being shut down entirely. So the archives needed to be reposted elsewhere.
In 2007, SFC and Kevin (SFC’s tech guy) wanted the archives to be posted on a public website and were working on making that happen. They publicly announced this and Kevin told me that the only obstacle was the software work necessary to make it nice.
Because SFC and Kevin were not very involved with TCS anymore starting around 2003, and didn’t get much done, I got a copy of the full archives for myself. I wanted to read it and I was also interested in sharing it with the world because no one else was getting that task done. I got my full copy of the archives from Lulie, who got it from Kevin. Before that, I had archives starting in 2002 (all the emails since I joined the group), plus some additional, incomplete, older archives that I’d gotten from several other people.
I believed the only obstacle to sharing the archives was getting the data and making a website for them. I believed sharing the archives was just restoring the previous status quo – getting TCS back to where it was before AOL changed their archive software.
At some point between 2002 and 2010, DD changed his mind about sharing archives. He no longer wanted them shared. But he didn’t tell me (or I think anyone else, at the time) that he had changed his mind. DD belatedly let me know there was an issue after I was already in the process of sharing the full archives. He could easily have told me earlier because we were talking regularly and he knew what I was doing (I didn’t go behind his back about any of this).
In 2010, DD told me that sharing the archives would be bad, and that he’d explain why after he was done writing his book, The Beginning of Infinity. So, to accommodate him, I waited for over a year. Then DD still didn’t want to explain and got upset with me for expecting him to explain. If he didn’t want to explain, he should have said that in the first place instead of asking me to wait and then, after I waited, saying that he wouldn’t explain. He bait and switched me but wouldn’t acknowledge having done that. He is the one who offered to explain and proposed a timeline. I had an expectation that he would explain because he voluntarily chose to create that expectation.
Despite that, I was willing to drop the matter, not receive an explanation, and not share the archives. I clearly communicated that I was willing to defer to DD. DD knew that but said it was inadequate. He didn’t want me to defer to him or do him a favor. He wanted me to see for myself that sharing the archives was bad. He wanted my judgment to match his. But that would have required him arguing his case and persuading me. Since he wouldn’t do that, I kept disagreeing with him. I still agreed with the earlier DD who wanted the archives published, since he’d never explained why he changed his mind. DD demanded that I somehow persuade myself and come up with reasons that he was now right; I did try doing that but I failed to reach his newer conclusion.
The case for publishing the archives was simple. They had lots of good, important, original ideas in them which people could learn from and use to treat children better. Plus there was no TCS book or organized body of writing teaching TCS, so learning TCS without the archives was unrealistic due to the lack of other material. DD didn’t provide a rebuttal to that, and as far as I could tell he still believed that was true.
DD did make some brief attempts to argue a few points about why sharing the archives would be bad. They were nothing like the thorough discussions we’d had on many other topics. Previously, DD had successfully persuaded me of many things. I gave counter-arguments about the archives and I wasn’t even close to persuaded. I had a bunch of arguments that I thought were great points that DD never tried to answer.
Why did DD want me not to post the archives? He said it could damage his career if people saw and disliked his TCS ideas. I wasn’t convinced by that argument for multiple reasons. I didn’t think that sharing good ideas would damage his career just because some people would mistakenly think the ideas were bad. Also, it was his responsibility to consider that before co-founding TCS and publishing ideas. He had also published TCS ideas in the paper journal and on multiple websites and was making no effort to take those things down or to retract any of the public advice he’d told thousands of parents they would be immoral not to follow. I didn’t see the point of inconsistently trying to suppress some TCS information while a bunch of other similar information was available.
The Autonomy Respecting Relationships (ARR) group had public, searchable, downloadable archives available dating back to 2001 because ARR had been using Yahoo Groups since 2001 and Yahoo’s archives still worked. ARR was a spinoff of TCS which DD had posted a bunch of unpopular ideas at (like attacks on monogamy and marriage), but DD showed no interest in taking down the ARR archives. He didn’t even try to explain the discrepancy. The FoR Yahoo group also had around a decade of archives available and DD didn’t seem to mind that either.
I’m unclear on why DD thought sharing the TCS email archives would cause a significant additional problem given the other info available. And he’s a public intellectual who co-founded TCS around age 40. Wanting and trying to unpublish his ideas and take them back, and get a clean slate when he’s around age 60, is bizarre and violates the reasonable expectations of the people who not only were trying to use his ideas in their lives, but whom he had pressured as coercive parents if they didn’t listen to him. And he didn’t actually retract anything or say he changed his mind about any of the ideas (I still don’t think he did change his mind about the ideas). He told me he wanted to share more TCS info later, which implied he still thought the ideas were valuable.
You shouldn’t share parenting advice for 20 years, get thousands of people to change their parenting, tell them they will having ongoing help, support and advice, and then try to take away the advice that was already given. Merely ceasing to share further advice was already seriously letting down a bunch of parents and their children – it betrayed their trust and violated their reasonable expectations – but DD and SFC never acknowledged or apologized for that. Preventing people from accessing the TCS archives made that betrayal worse.
I don’t see why DD’s preferences about his career should create obligations for other people not to create mirrors or archives of public discussions.
As best I know, DD agreed with me that sharing the archives wouldn’t violate his rights. So I wasn’t convinced that sharing the archives would be bad. I thought it’d be good for the world and also good for DD. But I was still willing to do what DD wanted due to our friendship and my respect for his intellectual accomplishments.
DD used his reputation as a public intellectual to spread TCS and give it legitimacy. People took it more seriously because there was a smart author involved and writing for it, not just some mom. But if you’re going to put your name behind it and use your public intellectual status to promote it, then you ought to act accordingly: it’s stuff you said in your capacity as a public intellectual, and it is therefore public (plus he literally said it publicly, in writing, with public archives that only disappeared for technical reasons). Trying to hide ideas DD promoted using his book is fairly similar to if he’d tried to hide the contents of his book itself after it was published and had sold tens of thousands of copies.
Conclusion: So DD got very upset with me, and stopped associating with me, because (maybe) of my not agreeing with his reasoning about limiting the spread of TCS ideas to the world. He didn’t tell me his reasoning in much detail and I still did what he wanted, but he demanded intellectual agreement – he wanted me not only to do and not do certain actions, but also to have and not have certain thoughts. I let him control my actions regarding the TCS archives but not my thoughts. That’s the story. I’ve never found it very convincing. I figured there must have been some other issues that played a significant role in the end of our association. DD has never spoken clearly about the matter, but as best I can tell, he claims that the TCS archives issue was the main reason that he stopped talking with me (which then led, eventually, to his leadership role in a harassment campaign against me).
This is a chat log between me and DD from 2002:
Curi42 (4:50:37 PM): sarah mentioned putting all the old TCS posts on a CD to sell. that'd rock
OxfordPhysicist (4:51:56 PM): Yes. They'd have to be sorted first. And then there's the permissions problem. But yes, it's a great idea.
Here’s Kevin posting publicly on TCS list, in Dec 2007:
We have nearly complete archives now, and hope to make them readable on the TCS web site in the not too distant future.
We are still missing posts from October 16 to 23, 1995.
The TCS list started in Nov 1994 and Kevin gathered emails back to the very start. It was a public group that anyone could join, for free, with no screening. Joining the group was automatically handled by software without a human even having to click “approve”.
The TCS list had rules against posting any private information. They urged people to discuss hypothetical examples only and never to share info about their kids. Moderators enforced this sometimes (moderation was never consistent and people were warned that a post appearing on the group did not mean that a moderator had bothered to review it). They created a way to post anonymously and people were told to speak hypothetically even their anonymous posts. It was always made clear that the list was public, that you shouldn’t share anything that could embarrass your kid later, and that many people had private discussions by emailing other posters off-list. SFC even said that there were a lot more private off-list discussions than public discussions, and encouraged people to consider whether they should be posting something publicly or having a private conversation instead.
The TCS list software kept automatic, publicly-searchable archives starting in at least 1996 when they used AOL. SFC shared instructions about how to search or download the old posts. The plan to share the archives were merely an attempt to restore software features that had already existed.
When SFC moved the TCS list away from AOL software in 2008, her announcement said:
Please note that the content of the list will be public, and assume that whatever you write could end up reaching an audience of billions.
On Yahoo, like AOL, there were automatic, public archives and SFC’s welcome message said:
Bear in mind that this list is public and please take care to avoid violating privacy or writing anything that might embarrass your child when he or she is running for President of the United States or whatever. Please note that we reserve the right to move posts from the TCS list to the TCS website.
So not only did the list have public, searchable archives on the Yahoo website, they also explicitly warned everyone that they might repost anything to another website. And they warned people to write like they would have billions of readers in the future, and like whatever they say could affect their child’s career decades later.
Similarly, the TCS website said in 2008 (my emphasis):
Please be aware that anything you post on the TCS list is public and will be permanently available on the internet. Take great care not to write anything that might embarrass your child later when he or she is running for President of the United States or whatever. In many cases parents themselves have later regretted bitterly having posted something. You will not be able to delete something you post later, so do not post unless you are in a calm state of mind. Delay posting for as long as it takes for you to be in a calm state of mind. That way you will be less likely to regret having posted later.
As was pretty well known at the time, deleting or editing posts was never possible with email lists because all members receive their own copy of emails and you can’t delete other people’s data from their personal computers.
That webpage had different text in 2007 before moving to Yahoo. It said (my emphasis):
When you have subscribed to the List, you can retrieve the archives, which provide a rich source of information about the List, about TCS and about subjects about which you may have questions.
Unfortunately, that was out of date. In 2007, you could no longer retrieve the full archives (or maybe any at all) because AOL had removed features from their service. But it shows the intention to have the archives available.
See also: The History of Taking Children Seriously and Harassment Summary. (DD’s fans have been severely harassing me and my fans for years, and instead of asking them to stop, DD lied to attack me, thereby encouraging more harassment.)
This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me which has been going on for years. The harassment is coming from David Deutsch (DD) and his community. This post provides info about DD’s motives and the historical context. I’ve tried to address the problem privately but they’ve refused to attempt any private problem solving.
This complete chat log between me (curi) and David Deutsch (oxfordphysicist) spans 4 minutes on the afternoon of 2011-10-04 (bold highlighting added now):
You're entirely mistaken. I'm terrified, and will be unable to work for at least a day now. And who knows how long after that. Receiving an e-mail from you is sheer fear and revulsion before I even look at it.
i think you're mistaken and i do not want to do anything without coming to some resolution
i am attempting to follow my understanding of tcs methods. you aren't following them. perhaps we disagree about what tcs says to do.
This is the most negative thing DD ever said to me. It struck me as totally out of character. In retrospect, given how his character seems totally changed today, I think he may have been hiding his character from me for years. I think, originally, he may have been trying to hide his flaws in a noble, honorable way to shield me from them and let me interact with the best parts of himself. That’s the kind of thing he advocates parents do for their children, and he acted like a father-figure to me in some (but not other) ways.
For context, “You're entirely mistaken.” refers to some emails we’d exchanged that day about the TCS archives. He meant that my claims about the TCS archives, in those emails, were mistaken. I explained the TCS archives conflict here.
The message was a surprise to me. You can see the friendly tone of my messages beforehand. DD didn’t gradually lead up to it. He held some things in and then let them out abruptly like this.
DD still talked with me a lot after this, repeatedly initiated contact, and never said something similar again later.
This is by far the closest DD ever came to making a no contact request (which is notable because he lied about me breaking several of those that he never made). At the time, I took this as probably being a no contact request even though it was phrased as providing information rather than making an explicit request.
Note: Based on our personal history, DD knew how to make explicit requests to me, and knew that I would see that this logically wasn’t one. This may sound unreasonably pedantic, but DD and I were both like that, and literalness was a standard part of our communications. DD had actually set up this dynamic himself: He’d told me repeatedly that if he wanted something he would ask, and that I shouldn’t try to guess what he wanted and act on those guesses. He convinced me that it was better for him if I just listened to direct requests and avoided trying to guess other ways to accommodate him. He also had me use lots of explicit requests with him, which he could then say yes or no to at his option. I think I got over 50% ‘yes’ answers, but lots of ‘no’ answers too, which is unusual – in most relationships people try to avoid asking for stuff without being over 90% confident they’ll get a ‘yes’ answer. That’s how DD wanted our relationship to work (it benefited him if I asked 5 short things that I’m not confident he’ll say ‘yes’ to, and got only 1 ‘yes’, because he didn’t want to miss out on that opportunity and giving a few quick negative answers is a cheap price to pay in effort if no one gets their feelings hurt, plus even a declined request can be interesting and worthwhile to read).
Since I thought it was probably a no contact request, I stopped contacting DD. This prevented me from attempting to discuss and solve some of our problems, or doing common preference finding, as I wanted to. But I was trying to respect DD’s wishes.
What happened next?
DD kept emailing me privately, like normal (less frequently, especially since I never replied or started any discussions anymore, but he was initiating contact and emailing me stuff instead of trying to avoid contact). He acted kinda like he’d never sent the message about fear and revulsion. He didn’t act like he’d issued a no contact request. His actions were compatible with nothing having happened and us being too busy converse like normal.
In total, after the message about fear and revulsion, DD sent me 81 personal emails (plus other emails on discussion groups). Many were friendly emails that were purely optional. He had no reason to send them other than wanting to have a conversation with me. E.g. he did not have to, but did, have a long email conversation with me about schizophrenia.
After 52 days of not responding to any of DD’s emails or discussing the problem in any way, and waiting, and him not acknowledging what happened, I became concerned that I was being cold to him and ignoring him. I worried that my coldness could confuse or hurt him, especially since he hadn’t literally requested that I stop sending emails. I was also concerned since he hadn’t suggested any plan to fix anything and didn’t seem to be initiating any problem solving, and didn’t appear to intend to do problem solving later (since he was just going on with normal communications). I decided to clarify. I sent him a short email on 2012-11-25:
Do you still want me not to send you emails? Should I wait more? I'm unclear on what to do and realize that waiting could itself be taken negatively (as cold, distant).
I think 7.5 weeks was a long time to wait with someone I’d been talking with for years, often daily (in our total relationship, DD sent me roughly 4,000 private emails and spent thousands of hours chatting and engaging with me; I’ve estimated that the total amount of words he wrote to me is more than ten times the length of his book, The Fabric of Reality). That shows how much I was trying to respect his wishes. And it turned out that I was right to send the email. DD didn’t complain about it or treat it as a violation of a request.
DD’s response to my clarification request did not acknowledge ever wanting me not to send him emails, or ever sending the IM from 52 days earlier. He didn’t respond directly at all or answer my questions, but instead reinitiated conversation and invited me to try to persuade him of something by email. So we moved on and had more email discussions. He never suggested that he’d made a no contact request that I should be following. He sent 81 emails after the negative IM because he was still having contact with me. DD’s rate of sending me emails reached near zero in late 2012, around a year after his worrying IM. He stopped sending more emails without any announcement. I gave him a lot of space and tried not to push him about it, and was disappointed when he didn’t come around over time. I also realized that the opportunity to discuss the issues more had been missed (as I think DD wanted).
I now interpret DD’s harsh IM as asking me to back off temporarily, for an unspecified amount of time. And I backed off more than long enough, so that was that. He was alerting me to a problem and wanted some space, which I gave him.
I was still concerned after this incident and was more careful about sending DD anything. Some of the underlying problems were still there. But I don’t think it was ever actually a no contact request, just a serious complaint meant to raise a problem. Even if it had been a no contact request, DD retracted it by not reiterating it, by talking about something else when I asked for clarification of whether it was OK to contact him, by sending me 81 more emails, by acting like he never said it, by being friendly with me after it, and by never complaining that I was doing something wrong by emailing him again. So, to the best of my knowledge, I didn’t violate DD’s wishes about that specific matter.
One of the lessons here is that DD is an emotional, irrational, fragile person who loses days of work over his strong feelings. And he has strong feelings about things he hasn’t read – so his feelings do not depend on the merits of the arguments being made or how reasonable they are. That’s important context that helps explain his involvement in harassment against me.
This is part of a series of posts explaining the ongoing harassment against me from David Deutsch and his associates and fans. To provide background information, I’m sharing some of the most negative things DD ever said to me, which I think reveal some irrationality on his part and reveal some ways that he doesn’t follow his own philosophy principles.
This is an email David Deutsch (DD) sent me on 2011-09-30 (the nested quotes, displayed indented with a black line to the left, were written by me):
you've shown disinterest in explaining these topics for months if not years. e.g. WRT the tcs archives. and lately (several years) have not in general pursued conversations to a conclusion (like deduction, hard to vary, qualia, value of mises, gold standard, burke, tcs archives). so i'd be concerned about the short term strategy lasting a long time.
In regard to hard-to-vary and qualia, the discussions have paused because we have not managed to crystallise a clear statement of what the disagreement is. Both disagreements are rooted in subtle and interesting differences in world view, such that whenever we have gone into details we find agreement, yet stepping back to the overall issue we find strong disagreement. This is a commonplace occurrence among philosophically-minded people. Philosophy is hard. Making progress would require further discoveries, which there is no guarantee of making. I expect there are important things in there to be discovered (by both of us) but it is a fatal mistake to allow an unsolved problem to become a black hole absorbing all one's time and attention, paralysing progress on other problems. This is what you are blaming me for not doing.
The other issues have stalled for a less benign reason. It is that you have developed a repertoire of argumentative tactics which, when applied (you do not always apply them), effectively prevent you from being persuaded of anything. With each particular item on which this has happened (including deduction, Mises, gold standard), I have stopped when I have run out of ideas for how to present the relevant idea to you in a way that gets round the tactics. Just tactics. Nothing to do with content, and I say this independently of whether I'm right or wrong on the issues. These are all issues on which neither of us has any axe to grind anyway.
Currently you are insisting on a reinterpretation of (what seems to me) the plain meaning of a Godwin passage, in order to deny that Godwin expected that in future people would give away most of their wealth. This is a debate that I haven't yet given up on, but the next step, if I pursue it, will require me to explain how you're misinterpreting the word 'if', and I can already think of half a dozen ways you will find to avoid the implication, and I'm guessing you'll succeed in constructing an effective baffle, so I'll have been wasting my time.
And now, in addition to the above-mentioned patterns of argument, your tactics have escalated to include accusing me of fabricating quotes, and having a variety of other personal failings on account of not dropping, and in the TCS-archive case sacrificing, everything else in order to solve things for you.
I can't advise on that because I don't know the answer. As for the other things you asked about, I have some ideas about what you should do in order to achieve success and happiness, but it's rather pointless to address those while you consider yourself to have grievances.
you've shown disinterest in explaining these topics for months if not years. e.g. WRT the tcs archives. and lately (several years) have not in general pursued conversations to a conclusion (like deduction, hard to vary, qualia, value of mises, gold standard, burke, tcs archives). so i'd be concerned about the short term strategy lasting a long time.
In regard to hard-to-vary and qualia, the discussions have paused because we have not managed to crystallise a clear statement of what the disagreement is.
Both disagreements are rooted in subtle and interesting differences in world view, such that whenever we have gone into details we find agreement, yet stepping back to the overall issue we find strong disagreement. This is a commonplace occurrence among philosophically-minded people. Philosophy is hard. Making progress would require further discoveries, which there is no guarantee of making.
i don't think this is it. i will explain why if you want.
I expect there are important things in there to be discovered (by both of us) but it is a fatal mistake to allow an unsolved problem to become a black hole absorbing all one's time and attention, paralysing progress on other problems. This is what you are blaming me for not doing.
i do not think i am blaming you.
it's not even clear to me what you think was blaming, or why. i made some factually oriented statements which, based on your reply (including below), i think you agree with. i said you had shown disinterest and you gave two reasons for disinterest.
The other issues have stalled for a less benign reason. It is that you have developed a repertoire of argumentative tactics which, when applied (you do not always apply them), effectively prevent you from being persuaded of anything. With each particular item on which this has happened (including deduction, Mises, gold standard), I have stopped when I have run out of ideas for how to present the relevant idea to you in a way that gets round the tactics. Just tactics. Nothing to do with content, and I say this independently of whether I'm right or wrong on the issues. These are all issues on which neither of us has any axe to grind anyway.
so, you have adopted a negative meta/psychological view of me, and that is why you dropped those topics without explanation.
thank you for clarifying that.
but what can we do about it?
i think your description (reminiscent of claims made by kolya, about you as well as me) is false. would you like to hear why?
you think it's true. would you like to persuade me of it?
if neither, then what do you think should happen?
Currently you are insisting on a reinterpretation of (what seems to me) the plain meaning of a Godwin passage, in order to deny that Godwin expected that in future people would give away most of their wealth.
changing a key word of your claim (share -> give away) seems like a mistake to me.
This is a debate that I haven't yet given up on, but the next step, if I pursue it, will require me to explain how you're misinterpreting the word 'if', and I can already think of half a dozen ways you will find to avoid the implication, and I'm guessing you'll succeed in constructing an effective baffle, so I'll have been wasting my time.
so, it's the meta/psychological view governing your interaction again.
i don't see why you would debate the "if" part. i said that if one reads on then he finds that the "if" clause is godwin's view, and i accepted it as his view. so, all you could accomplish is to convince me the shorter quote is compelling in isolation. doing so would not have any direct relevance to the discussion.
I said that equalization can be achieved in more than one way, not necessarily by sharing. Why doesn't your intended reply focus on this main point i made?
And now, in addition to the above-mentioned patterns of argument, your tactics have escalated to include accusing me of fabricating quotes,
I did not make that accusation.
this came up previously (w/ your wording "made stuff up"). i explained that you had misinterpreted my meaning. you didn't ask for clarification or debate anything, but now you have repeated this claim as before, seemingly disregarding my reply. why?
and having a variety of other personal failings on account of not dropping, and in the TCS-archive case sacrificing, everything else in order to solve things for you.
i don't understand your seeming strategy here of interpreting criticism -- offered in confusion more than anything else -- as unpleasant accusations.
I can't advise on that because I don't know the answer. As for the other things you asked about, I have some ideas about what you should do in order to achieve success and happiness, but it's rather pointless to address those while you consider yourself to have grievances.
what grievances? i do not have grievances.
I think my response email covers a lot of the issues well. I’ll comment further on something I think is particularly important.
This was the end of the conversation; DD didn’t reply to my email. His choice not to reply conflicts with his philosophy that says problems are soluble and advocates common preference finding. For context, keep in mind that we had been friends for ten years and that DD has written thousands of emails to me. The issue wasn’t the time it’d take to write a reply. The issue was that DD was in the process of ending our friendship and his email above gives some info about how and why he did that.
DD was unwilling to discuss any approaches to problem solving regarding the negative meta/psychological view of me that he’d formed. Further, he’d never given me an example. He’d apparently formed negative, undiscussed opinions, for years, and hidden that from me. He disliked some things I said, regarded them as irrational tactics, but never told me even one, so I had no way to stop doing the things he disliked, change my mind or improve. Nor was there any way to correct him if he were mistaken. I still, today, don’t know which things I said that he thinks were irrational tactics, let alone any arguments explaining how my statements were irrational tactics. I’d understand more if he stopped discussing when he though someone was being irrational, but he kept having lots of discussions with me for years while hiding relevant information from me.
If your approach to debate is to decide that the other person is irrational and give up on debate – and to refuse to discuss what the other person did wrong with any examples or arguments – then you are irrational and you are closed to debate. (This is an idea DD taught me, and which he’s repeatedly advocated in writing.)
DD wasn’t taking his fallibility seriously. In his email, he said that he might be mistaken about the object level disagreements, but didn’t acknowledge that he could be mistaken about his meta claims (that I’m irrational and that some of my statements were irrational tactics). DD doesn’t seem to view meta claims as ideas he has which may be false. He treats meta ideas as a special category that shouldn’t be discussed, and that viewpoint prevents error correction of his meta ideas. (DD repeatedly, and in writing, advocated not having meta discussion. That is an idea he said, not my speculation.)
So DD forms off-topic, meta, psychological views of people (his dislike for meta discussion doesn’t prevent him from thinking it and attaching importance to those thoughts). Then he refuses to explain or discuss them, but still assumes they’re true and acts on them. He won’t have meta discussion (sometimes). But he will have meta ideas and let them control and ruin the object level discussion, and then just give up on the object level discussion with no attempt at problem solving because he doesn’t want to critically discuss his unargued beliefs about other people being irrational, having bad psychology, etc. This is a way of destroying the means of correcting errors, not a way of making unbounded progress by truth-seeking.
There were plenty of other times that DD did engage in meta discussion with me. He isn’t consistent about it and never explained a delineation between good or acceptable meta and bad meta. Trying to avoid meta discussions was a recurring theme with DD and also an (inconsistent) moderation policy on TCS list, but he never acknowledged that he wasn’t really against all meta discussion. If he’d acknowledged that, he’d have had to make some statement about which meta discussion he had a problem with and why that sub-category is different and bad, but he didn’t have a good answer to that (I brought it up several times).
This particular comment from DD’s email is particularly notable:
I have stopped when I have run out of ideas for how to present the relevant idea to you in a way that gets round the tactics
Not only did DD never say that he thought any particular statement was a tactic or point out anything wrong with it, he also stopped discussing when he ran out of ideas for how to persuade me. He viewed discussion in terms of coming up with ways to change my mind. But he didn’t take seriously that I might be right about some of the topics. He dropped topics until he had ideas for new arguments, but wasn’t open to listening to my arguments. He didn’t come up with ideas for how to be persuaded and continue discussions when he had some of those. He approached discussion in a one-sided way that didn’t leave scope for him to learn. At least that’s according to his own statement – though actually in practice he sometimes did better than that. He did sometimes listen to me rationally, learn things from me, accept my arguments and change his mind, etc.
You may wish to forgive DD for assuming he’s right because he’s way smarter than most people. That attitude contradicts his philosophy and there’s another problem with it. He had thousands of hours of discussions with me and told me that he respected my intelligence and considered me one of the smartest people he’d ever talked with. He hid his condescending, one-sided, biased approach to discussion from me for ten years of discussions (or maybe he was better in earlier discussions and changed at some point without telling me – I don’t know). He communicated to me that he was taking me seriously. He asked for, and got, huge amounts of my time. That context is nothing like having a short chat with a fan that he doesn’t know. Assuming you’re right briefly with a low social status stranger is problematic, especially given DD’s fallibilist philosophy, but at least that would be conventional arrogance. DD’s condescension to someone after being close intellectual associates for a decade, and very strongly praising their thinking, learning and rationality is worse than that. It indicates that DD assumes he’s right when dealing with everyone – he’s just a poor fallibilist. Or maybe he just assumes he’s right when an issue comes up that he’s biased or emotional about, and it isn’t about the other person or what they say.
In conclusion, DD is irrational and doesn’t live up to the philosophy he advocates. He was dishonest with me for a long time, and the stuff he was hiding built up to major problems which were finally, belatedly revealed in a few harsh incidents like the email above, and then he stopped talking with me. He didn't want to solve problems as we went along and communicate openly about them, nor solve them later either, and he misled me about that for a decade. All this helps explain how his bad and irrational behavior regarding the harassment campaign could be possible.
I've found, over and over, that issues I'm thinking about were already covered in Ayn Rand's books, particularly Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Rand knew so much about people, social dynamics and morality.
Lately, I've been thinking about the harassment against me and my community. One of the things I've been surprised by is how the CritRats, like David Deutsch and Lulie Tanett, can be OK with having a serious criminal, Andy B, in their community.
In The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, Gail Wynand says to Howard Roark (my emphasis):
“I think your second-handers understand this, try as they might not to admit it to themselves. Notice how they’ll accept anything except a man who stands alone. They recognize him at once. By instinct. There’s a special, insidious kind of hatred for him. They forgive criminals. They admire dictators. Crime and violence are a tie. A form of mutual dependence. They need ties. They’ve got to force their miserable little personalities on every single person they meet. The independent man kills them—because they don’t exist within him and that’s the only form of existence they know. Notice the malignant kind of resentment against any idea that propounds independence. Notice the malice toward an independent man. Look back at your own life, Howard, and at the people you’ve met. They know. They’re afraid. You’re a reproach.”
That makes sense. Andy B is like a parasite. He has nothing to do on his own, independently. He's not a creator. Besides Deutsch, the other CritRats are like that too. They don't create. They don't think independently. They put up a public pretense at being intellectuals, but it's all a fake show they put on for others. I think most of them know it and feel bad about their inability to be productive; certainly Lulie does. So they have a major spiritual similarity to Andy B. Deutsch is second-handed too, but unlike the rest of them he has also accomplished things as a creator.
I've become very suspicious of any fan of The Beginning of Infinity (BoI), who says it's great, but who has not read The Fabric of Reality (FoR). I've seen a repeated pattern where people who haven't read FoR are shallow fans of BoI who don't know much about Critical Rationalism (CR). Overall, BoI is more popular than FoR, but is attracting worse fans than FoR did. Anyone who has read both and likes BoI way more is also highly suspicious and likely didn't understand much from either book. I don't think "BoI is way better than FoR" is a reasonable opinion. Anyone who goes around recommending BoI, but who recommends FoR much less or not at all, is probably a bad thinker.
Also, Deutsch's books should be read visually (which makes it a lot easier to catch more details, take your time and only advance to the next paragraph when you're ready, reread things, etc.). Be very suspicious of the understanding of anyone who's read them only as audio books. (Deutsch is irresponsibly selling audio books with no warning that understanding his ideas from an audio book is unrealistic. It's an unsuitable format for a first reading of his difficult, wordy books that contain many long, convoluted sentences. Audio books are fine for a casual second reading to review the book a bit while knowing you're missing a lot. They're also fine for a blind person who is very experienced with audio books, listens at a much slower speed than they usually listen to books at, and regularly rewinds to hear parts again. But a sighted person who starts with the audio book is almost certainly fooling themselves rather than actually understanding much.)
BoI is doing a much better job than FoR of attracting social climbers who talk about the book as a way of bragging. BoI is more popular, and it's a bit easier than FoR to read in a shallow way and think you liked it without learning much. BoI also has more things that can be used as slogans or sound bites.
If you haven't read either book, FoR should be read before BoI. I strongly recommend reading them in the order they were written. FoR does a better job of introducing and explaining CR ideas for new readers. FoR also does a much better job at introducing the many worlds interpretation of quantum physics. Deutsch put his most important things to say in his first book and didn't repeat them all in his second book (which would be fine, except that he doesn't tell anyone to read the books in order).
FoR is a deeper book with more technical details. It goes into more depth on some specific topics rather than focusing as much as BoI on being of general interest. It is a popular science book meant for the general reader, but some sections are less useful for most readers. In particular, the two chapters (11 and 12) about the physics of time can be skipped. The last chapter (14), about the end of the universe, is also skippable, especially the omega point discussion.
FoR talks about four strands, CR, evolution, quantum physics and computation. The key chapters in FoR to learn about CR and evolution are 1, 3-4 and 7-8. The CR and evolution strands are the more useful and easier to understand for almost everyone.
But if you're trying to learn about philosophy, I don't recommend starting with Deutsch's books. I used to recommend them more, but most people find them too difficult to learn anything substantial from, especially as a starting place. Most people who like them, and think they're learning something, didn't actually understand much.
Some good places to start learning are my Critical Fallibilism website and Eli Goldratt's books (especially The Goal, It's Not Luck, and The Choice). After that, you'd have a better chance to actually learn from FoR, though I'd recommend first reading chapters 1 and 2 of Philosophy: Who Needs It by Ayn Rand and reading Understanding Objectivism by Leonard Peikoff (which talks about how to learn a philosophy).
Also, if you don't already read books regularly, you may be more successful by first getting into reading and then trying to read FoR later when reading a book is already a common, easy and enjoyable activity for you. Many people should start by trying to form a habit of reading regularly, and enjoying it, using fun books like novels. I like Robert Heinlein best for sci-fi (start with his juveniles) and Brandon Sanderson for fantasy. My reading recommendations in the previous paragraph are much easier to read than Deutsch's books, and might actually work for newer readers, though they're significantly harder reading than Harry Potter. Also, you may want to start getting into reading more with audio books or text to speech, and that's fine and works well for many people, but at some point you should transition to also getting comfortable with visual reading, which you'll need for reading authors like Deutsch or Popper.
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.
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:
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.
This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me which has been going on for years now. The harassment is coming from David Deutsch and his community. I’ve tried to address the problem privately but they’ve refused to attempt any problem solving. This post provides more context about the situation. It explains David’s psychology, what he’s upset about, and why he went from being my friend to being hostile to me.
David Deutsch and Lulie Tanett have been abusing my respect for their privacy to mislead people into believing we never had much of a relationship. (They may be saying some other things privately that I don’t know about. Regardless, they’re so publicly cold to me now that people are often skeptical that we ever knew each other well or were friends for many years.)
This needs to be corrected because they gossip and lie about me to damage my reputation and create a toxic hate group which has been harassing the FI community. (Lulie, back when she was more mixed instead of cold, actually confessed to me about violating my privacy and gossiping about me. David was caught lying about me. They both publicly speak with my largest stalker/harasser, Andy B.) Over the years of my patience and assuming good faith, they’ve escalated things so the harassment is severe and breaks laws.
David and Lulie both independently told me what actually happened: at some point, David started feeling bad whenever I wrote criticism related to him.
I didn’t share this before because I’ve been trying to protect David. I finally gave up on protecting him after not only over two years of serious harassment, and David and his entire social network ghosting me and anyone who agrees with me (which prevents problem solving about the harassment), but also specifically after David personally lied about me where I could see the exact text instead of having to speculate about his actions.
Lulie told me about David’s negative feelings in late 2015 and/or early 2016 while visiting me in person. I don’t have exact quotes because we had a lot of discussions in voice. She said that every time I wrote any kind of critical public reply to one of David’s public statements, he’d feel awful and it’d make things much worse and alienate him more. She wanted David and I to be friends again, and she hadn’t turned against me yet at that time.
Note: Lulie resisted David’s anti-Elliot pressure for years before eventually giving in to a father-figure whom she’d known since around age two. David advocates non-coercive parenting but heavily coerced and pressured her to turn against me. That was after previously heavily encouraging her to have an intellectual relationship with me, and strongly encouraging me to have an intellectual relationship with her. David told each of us that we’d benefit a lot from discussing philosophy with the other. It was awful to take that away from her after pushing her into it.
Lulie’s career as an intellectual – which so far hasn’t produced anything significant – has been controlled by David a lot. He has significant responsibility for her ongoing unhappiness, lack of productivity (she can’t regularly write articles, read books or make videos), and inability to make money to support herself.
David told Lulie that conversing with me was one of the best things she could do that could get her unstuck and help her become a productive philosopher. He tried to help her succeed at that. But later he put work into preventing her from conversing with me. But while David was taking me away from her, she still thought I was important to her intellectual progress, and he never gave her convincing reasons why that had changed.
Lulie told me that she was scared that David would dump her like he dumped me, and stop speaking to her, helping her with money, or helping her career (and she has no other career prospects besides trying to be the intellectual that David wants). She told me that David promised not to dump her, and said everything was fine, but that she didn’t trust him and was under extreme duress. She said she was unable to rationally discuss the matter with me due to the pressure from David.
David told me about his negative feelings on 2011-10-04. He said he felt bad about my arguments before reading them, regardless of what I said. He didn’t want to deal with criticism and disagreement anymore.
Why did David have negative feelings? David told me that too. It’s a bit of a long story.
Originally, from 2001-2007 or so, David persuaded me about the vast majority of issues that came up. If I had a different view than him, we’d discuss it. I’d think about it a lot, and, using help from his arguments, I’d change my mind.
Eventually, as I learned more, it became harder for David to change my mind. I started winning some arguments. And some arguments weren’t resolved. And there were fewer easy wins to focus our attention on, so the harder topics got more attention. David lost confidence in persuading me with followup discussions. He started thinking that if we discussed it a few more times, I’d probably still disagree with him.
The unresolved disagreements I’m talking about were intellectual issues, not personal problems. Some topics that we had a harder time agreeing about include: the nature of deduction, qualia, mirror neurons, “mental illness”, meta discussion, moral sanction, how anti-capitalist William Godwin was, pandering, and some details about justificationism.
A list of outstanding disagreements built up. David would only talk about them when he had a new idea about how to change my mind. That’s what he said. He didn’t think maybe I was right, as a fallibilist would. He instead tried different ways to change my mind. When one didn’t work, he’d drop the topic for weeks until he had a new idea for how to persuade me.
This violates and contradicts David’s own philosophy, which he wrote about his in books, wrote thousands of forum posts about, and had been teaching me about in private discussions. So it was confusing to me. I expected him to follow his own philosophy, and it was harder to understand because he was hiding information from me about what was going on (the things he told me, which I linked above, came late in our relationship, so I didn’t understand for years before that, and still had a hard time understanding it after he said a few sentences contradicting years of our prior relationship).
David’s philosophy says common preference finding and problem solving always work, and that they are part of how we grow knowledge and make progress. They’re truth seeking activities which are important to rationality and fallibilism, not merely ways to have better interpersonal relationships. It’s problematic and misleading that he teaches that while not even trying to do it. It wasn’t like we had a bunch of conversations attempting to find a common preference together, but failed. He hid some problems from me and, for those issues, he didn’t attempt that sort of open, cooperative problem-solving process. I’d understand more if he’d tried to do his philosophy ideas and it hadn’t worked out successfully, but in major ways he didn’t even attempt to live up to his own ideals.
How could David explain (to himself) his failure to persuade me about the intellectual topics we disagreed about? He started thinking I was irrational about those issues. He belatedly told me that too. But he never pointed out any example of my arguments, reasoning or actions being irrational. He never actually gave arguments about my alleged irrationality. He never e.g. pointed out a mistake I made and then analyzed the cause of the mistake to conclude that the underlying cause was irrationality. He didn’t quote example things I said that he thought were irrational and say why he thought those particular ones were irrational and explain or argue his viewpoint. He wasn’t doing the sort of truth seeking and problem solving that he says everyone should do.
He stopped wanting to deal with my arguments and reasoning because he wasn’t getting his way all the time. He started finding that when he argued with me, his arguments were less effective than before. Gradually, his arguments went from around 100% effective with me in 2001 to more like 25% effective in 2010 (which is still a very high effectiveness compared to what’s typical in the world today). I’d already changed my mind to agree with him about tons of stuff, and he was running out of easy wins.
David likes praise and he likes being a lecturer whom others listen to (he told me both of those things repeatedly, and he acted like they’re correct, too). He was not prepared to learn much from me and, on some issues, some of the time, be my student. He was done being a student a long time before we first met (in 2001, when he was age 48). This is notable because David’s philosophy says everyone should be life-longer learners, and that even beginners sometimes can teach experts something. David viewed me as one of the best philosophers alive – and the best one he could get discussions with – but still didn’t want to learn from me.
So it got to the point that when I wrote arguments, David would feel like he couldn’t win and he was blocked by all my (alleged) irrationalities, so the matter felt really hard to deal with. Each of my thoughts that he didn’t like was a new permanent problem because he didn’t know how to change my mind. My (alleged) irrationalities were undocumented and unexplained. David didn’t quote irrational statements by me and provide analysis. He just thought privately about what they were, in a disorganized way not a rigorous way, and then privately came up with tactics to deal with them. He didn’t want to talk about my (alleged) irrationalities because then I’d question his claims, using quotes and logic, which he started to regard as rhetorical tricks to excuse his failure to persuade me. He never bothered to try to objectively establish my errors in any clear cases, or to explain them to me enough that, if he were right, I could make changes to fix my problems. But simultaneously he still liked me better than other people and kept talking to me for years while pretending things were OK and that he was just stressed out by writing The Beginning of Infinity.
If he were right, why not explain it in three public examples in a way that would satisfy most neutral, unbiased, intelligent readers? That’s not much work considering that he wrote thousands of emails to me and spent literally thousands of hours interacting with me. He thought I was super smart and valued the relationship enough to spend so much time on, so why not try to persuade me? Even if it might not work, it’s worth trying. Plus he could have persuaded others who were in the discussion community at the time, rather than giving no arguments. Due to David not giving reasons, now most of the people from the discussion forums during that time period, who are familiar with events and formed an opinion, formed judgments in my favor not his.
David never wrote any such arguments. He didn’t even try. He left his discussion community, and lost some of his oldest fans, rather than argue his case. For example, David made no attempt to persuade the physicist and philosopher Alan Forrester, who had run the official Fabric of Reality discussion forum, who lives in the UK and met David in person multiple times, and whose name is in the acknowledgments of The Beginning of Infinity. Alan remains a friend of mine, still posts at my discussion forum, and has been a victim of the harassment. Alan emailed David to ask him to help stop the harassment that was affecting Alan too, but David refused to answer. Did Alan do something to deserve to be harassed? Is having philosophy discussions on my public forums enough for David to hate a former friend and want to see them hurt, even though David has never told Alan any reason that he shouldn’t discuss with me?
I think the reason David didn’t argue his case is simply that he couldn’t. He was wrong, didn’t have reasonable arguments to give. And he didn’t want to give bad arguments, get critical feedback, and change his own mind.
But why did David feel the need to blame me as irrational, instead of just agreeing to disagree? Because his philosophy says that all problems are soluble, common preferences can always be found, etc. So if problem solving isn’t working, that must mean one person is blocking it, being irrational, not acting in good faith, or something else awful. So David saw it as him or me. He had to blame me as irrational to avoid the alternative that it was his fault. If I wasn’t irrational, and he wasn’t doing truth seeking with me, then (in his view) that’d make him irrational for rejecting truth seeking and problem solving. Also, he had little respect for most intellectuals, and needed some reason to tell himself about why he was dropping one of his favorites whom he’d chosen to spend so much time on.
Unlike David, I did, eventually, write some things pointing out mistakes David made, which did persuade some people. However, I wasn’t very interested in persuading people about David’s flaws until recently. I could have written a lot more, but didn’t; but now after being a victim of years of harassment from David’s followers, and David smearing me, I want to tell my story and argue my case.
David made major life changes (leaving not only me but the whole TCS/ARR/FoR/BoI/curi/FI community he’d co-founded and then been a part of for two decades) based (I think) on my (alleged) irrationality (that he never tried to write down in a clear, objective way). I was going along with life as normal. I thought about David’s flaws some because it affected my life when he reduced then ended our conversations, and broke some promises and obligations to me. But I didn’t write a lot about it. I would have written more about it had David actually wanted to discuss it, but I knew that, at that point, he didn’t like to read or think about my arguments; he didn’t want them and he didn’t want anyone to read them for fear that people might agree with me. So I tried to mostly just give him space. This is part of why I didn’t make videos explaining BoI sooner.
Many people have felt like they can’t win debates with me. Some blame their own ignorance and incompetence. Some call me an idiot or sophist. Some say debate is hard and it’s understandable if no one is persuaded. David was not in a position to consider me dumb – he couldn’t convince himself of that narrative after spending years believing I was extraordinarily smart, clever, logical, open-minded, active-minded and fast-learning, which was why he was friends with me. Since he couldn’t find any kind of simple or factual errors to blame, and couldn’t plausibly blame me being dumb, he needed to come up with something else to put the blame on me, in his mind, for his inability to win some arguments with me. So he decided that I’m irrational (without ever explaining how or why that happened, since he’d previously thought I was especially rational. BTW, years after David became cold to me, Lulie told me that she thinks I’m more rational than him. She knew both of us personally so was in a position to judge based on personal conduct, not just our writing.).
Also, David put work into getting me not to worry about social cues with him. Sometimes people give social hints that they don’t like something or want to be left alone, and perceive it as aggressive or mean if those social hints/cues aren’t followed. David didn’t want our relationship to work that way.
David wanted me to rely on him making explicit requests, and on me asking for explicit permission for some things (mostly about sharing stuff he told me). He communicated that he didn’t want me to follow social cues from him. He repeatedly said not to worry about potentially annoying him, wasting his time, contacting him too much, bothering him, etc, and that he would choose what to engage with and what to spend time on. He said he’d take care of himself and he didn’t want me making guesses about what would be in his best interest. He didn’t want me to withhold communications based on my ideas about what he wanted; he wanted to manage the situation himself.
The main reason this came up is that I asked about it repeatedly in the first few years I knew him. I asked about it because I met David as a fan of his book not as a peer, and I figured he had important stuff to be doing, like writing his next book, instead of talking with me so much. I didn’t want to overstep. But he wanted me to be comfortable with him, treat him as a friend, and not worry about bothering him or taking up his time. (Also, social cues never count as no contact requests. Lots of people miss social cues, especially online, and at worst missing those cues is kinda rude, not abusive.)
Also David basically taught me that paying attention to social cues is irrational and we should interact based on explicit statements, talking things out, reasoning in words, etc. That’s also one of the things his TCS philosophy taught. TCS got a lot of pushback because it had that attitude even for pre-verbal children, who it sees as merely small adults who are fully capable of long abstract discussions about problem solving. (I don’t agree with that.)
That’s the context. Now here’s my best understanding of the main issue:
After years of feeling bad about what I said and building up an “Elliot is irrational; that’s why my arguments don’t work” narrative in his mind, David started confusing his feelings with facts. He started thinking that, since he felt bad, I was abusing him in some way. This is how he got to the mental state where he lies that I’m a several-no-contact-request violating abuser. It feels like that to him. He felt like he didn’t want things, and then he observed me continuing to do them anyway, despite his unstated (and purposefully hidden from me) feelings (and probably despite some social cues that he’d trained me not to pay attention to). And he felt bad about being asked to clearly state what he didn’t want, so that just added to the perceived abuse. It felt bad to him to try to formulate in words what he didn’t want and why because it was hard for him to come up with reasonable words that didn’t blame himself. He felt abused, so people started picking up on his attitude, and it evolved over time to a harassment campaign and to him getting facts wrong. That’s because the emotion-driven narrative was primary to him. That’s a pattern with David and his close associates like his TCS co-founder Sarah, who did something similar more than once.
By disagreeing with and debating David, I was following his philosophy that he taught me. I wasn’t disrespecting his authority. From the beginning, I hadn’t changed my mind until I was satisfied (by his arguments and/or by what I thought of myself). But when I disagreed with him in the later years, he assumed that meant I was wrong, stubborn or irrational. He tried to talk to me about issues only when he thought of a new way to convince me he was right. So he wasn’t following the philosophy he taught me.
David’s fallibilist philosophy says to consider it equally possible that I could be right instead of him. His philosophy says that “get the lower status person to see why the expert is right” is an irrational way to approach disagreement. He’s often said that Karl Popper taught us that we must not recategorize disagreements as something else (like disobedience, disrespect, a student not knowing their place, dishonesty, bad faith, etc.). I was following what David taught me, not pushing one of my own ideas on him.
David said that, most of the time, children don’t disagree with their parents (people overestimate how disagreeable children are because they focus a lot of attention on the disagreements). Children selectively disagree in cases where the parent’s idea doesn’t make sense to them. So although parents are usually right, if you look at only the cases where children disagree and object, then children are right a significant portion of the time. (Also, often both the parent and child are partly wrong. Neither one has a perfect view, so the parent can be mostly right but still need to make some adjustments to address a problem the child saw.) The same logic applies to e.g. an expert teaching a novice. The expert is usually right, but if you only look at the times the novice listens to the expert first and then still disagrees afterward, then the novice has a decent chance of being right. The cases where you’re wrong are, on average, the hardest ones to teach to others and get them to agree with. But David didn’t take seriously that I might be right about our intellectual disagreements. He wasn’t interested in reconsidering his own ideas in light of my arguments. And that was long after I was no longer a novice, and he’d called me a “colleague” and made a bunch of changes to drafts of his book on my advice. In retrospect, it seems that a lot of his interest in my arguments was about knowing what obstacles to address to persuade me, rather than actually being interested in learning the ideas I was saying. But approaching discussion that way is, according to David’s philosophy, extremely irrational.
David repeatedly and publicly wrote about and advocated this view on rationality (some of the things he said were extreme, unconventional and actually problematic, which I may write about later). And on 2011-03-15, David IMed me “One side-effect of infallibilism is that it redefines misunderstanding as treason.” He believe that basically disagreement (including from young children) should never be delegitimized as something else like treason, misbehavior, disobedience, “being difficult”, bad faith, stupidity, etc. Instead, fallibilists interpret basically all kinds of conflicts or problems between people as disagreements about ideas that can be dealt with using rationality. It’s unclear to me how exactly David decided that we didn’t have a discussable misunderstanding and that, instead, I was a traitor. He didn’t go through some kind of robust, visible, explicable process of determining that with me. It seems like he just believes what’s necessary to protect his feelings.
One of the underlying causes of this whole story is that David was extremely stressed by writing his book, The Beginning of Infinity (BoI). He was especially stressed by the deadline to finish, which he got extended (but he couldn’t keep getting extensions). Although he worked on the book for over a decade, he ran out of time at the end and had to leave out some planned chapters. He often used being busy and stressed by the book as an excuse for things (sometimes quite reasonably, other times less so). And one time he told me that he was acting irrationally due to the stress of trying to finish BoI. He said he expected to recover and treat me more normally again after BoI was published (but instead became colder and more hostile after his book was done). (This info was over multiple years, primarily in IMs.)
I guess I should have shared this years ago but I wanted to protect my former friend. So I suffered through years of abuse without even sharing much of my side of the story.
I wouldn’t talk about this if it was just David being a jerk, a bad friend, or a person who wasn’t personally as good as his philosophical ideals. But I don’t want to be trolled by a bunch of fake identities, be DDOSed, be lied about by a public figure, and suffer other abuse from his community. David is using false narratives about me to encourage ongoing severe harassment that needs to stop. He’s been getting revenge on me for his hurt feelings. I want to be left alone. I don’t want my rights violated.
PS: If you think I’m mistaken, please quote and respond critically to the single thing you’re most confident is an error. (Email [email protected], use my forum, or post on your blog and email me the link. FYI, I will treat your email about this matter as public unless you get my explicit agreement, in advance, to keep something private.) Evidence, details or logical arguments would be appreciated. A calm, objective tone would be great too. If you want to argue with multiple things, that’s OK, but let’s do one at a time. Please start with any factual errors before trying to debate any points that are more in the realm of opinion. I’m under the general impression that some people in David’s community don’t believe me when I say things like this or even when I claim to have been harassed at all, but none of them have told me what they don’t believe or why, which makes it difficult to respond to and provide more convincing information. I have to guess at what people disagree with or doubt and try to address it preemptively, which is hard when I’m also trying to limit what I share for privacy reasons, and it’s also hard because most of the people don’t want to read long things.
This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me which has been going on for years. The harassment is coming from David Deutsch and his fans and associates. This post provides historical context.
David Deutsch (DD) said I had a “talent” for annoying irrational people. He said I was good at offending them, bringing up key issues that people were sensitive about, and being pushy (rather than conflict-avoiding) about intellectual debates.
I didn’t fully agree with DD about the details of this, but I did and do agree about the broad outline. Something along those lines is a reasonable statement.
DD said several times that he had a talent for not being bothered by my talent. (I’m not certain, from memory, that he used the specific word “talent” to refer to his ability to deal with my “talent”. And comments below about what DD said are paraphrases from memory.)
So it was really unfair of DD to secretly build up resentments, for years, over my “talent”, after assuring me multiple times that he didn’t mind it and he was fine. Yes I offended some people when debating them, but DD repeatedly reassured me that I could speak freely with him and that he was safe. He said it was safe for me to be myself, speak openly, and be maximally critical and argumentative. He said I didn’t need to put effort into being tactful with him, as I often do with others (it’s sometimes inadequate, but I generally do make some effort to be tactful).
DD told me that he was rational enough that I could make all the arguments I wanted, say ten criticisms about a single issue, ask whatever questions I wanted, etc., and it would be fine and never alienate him. He convinced me that this was true. It wasn’t. Maybe it was fine at first, perhaps for the first five years. But at some point it stopped being fine and he was dishonest with me and hid that problem from me (while continuing to talk with me a ton – and during those conversations I’d occasionally say things he didn’t like without knowing it and with no direct, negative feedback).
DD put work into getting me not to follow normal social rules when talking with him. He told me repeatedly to talk to him as much as I wanted and that he would take responsibility for choosing how much to engage with me. He said I didn’t need to throttle or limit my communications or worry about wasting his time. He wanted more messages from me and to have full control, on his end, over how much attention he paid to me.
Context makes it worse. I met DD as a much younger person than him and an immature intellectual. He had a lot of influence on me, and he played the wise expert role. I trusted him a lot, including his statements about how to treat him. But now I’m being criminally harassed because I believed what DD told me about his unbounded ability to hear truth-seeking arguments, criticisms, opinions, questions, requests, analysis, etc. He actually got really upset about my attempts at unbounded truth-seeking, did not point out any errors I was making, hid the problem which prevented me from trying to problem solve about it, and then finally stopped associating with me. But abandoning me and breaking some promises (e.g. to write an introduction for my book) wasn’t enough for him. He held onto a major grudge which is still severe enough, a decade later, to libel me and encourage criminal harassment.
The grudge seems to be largely because he intellectually fears me. I’m one of the only people who can effectively criticize and refute his ideas – including both big picture issues and also poking holes in his logic or wording – and he doesn’t want to look bad in public. He never once requested that I don’t publicly criticize his ideas (in the past, I was extremely willing to go along with his requests, and gave him a ton of leeway and consideration). But, in his mind, I believe he blames fear of my criticism for years of him not blogging or otherwise being productive and sharing ideas with the world. It’s an ongoing issue today. Because if he did write blog posts, I might refute them like this.
(That linked post is about a 2016 email he sent to a stranger who then posted it on Reddit. DD’s email was roughly equivalent to a blog post instead of being tweet-sized – that’s one of most recent substantive things he’s written that is publicly available – and it was actually really bad and I explained in writing how incompetent, biased and error-filled it was. If DD blogged, I’d notice more bad posts, and criticize some of them, and he knows that and doesn’t want that to happen. It threatens his ability to convince people that he’s one of the greatest thinkers ever and that his word is gospel. And he doesn’t want to actually defend that desired reputation by debating, partly because that’s hard and stressful, and partly because he knows he might lose. So not only has he been avoiding saying things that could be criticized, but he’s also been trying to withdraw some things he said in the past like his approximately 2000 TCS emails.)
Anyway, DD assured me that stuff (arguments, analysis and unbounded truth-seeking) was fine, I listened to him, but then it turned out it wasn’t fine. He was vulnerable to my “talent” after all and needed boundaries on criticism. He hid the problem from me for yearsa, tried to deal with it himself, and failed. That’s his fault and responsibility. But now I’m being harassed and smeared by him and his community over his screw up.
This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me which has been going on for years. The aggressors are David Deutsch and his fan community. This post provides context about what type of person Deutsch is (a social climber), with quotes, which helps explain the harassment situation.
In the Introduction to Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand wrote about the right and wrong ways to approach life and other people. The error of wanting to control too much about other people explains a lot about David Deutsch (DD). After the Rand quote, I’ll give quotes from DD showing how he has flaws that Rand was talking about. In the quotes, he talks about managing his reputation and controlling what other people think of him.
Her [Dagny Taggart’s] error—and the cause of her refusal to join the strike—is over-optimism and over-confidence (particularly this last). Over-optimism—in that she thinks men are better than they are, she doesn’t really understand them and is generous about it.
Over-confidence—in that she thinks she can do more than an individual actually can. She thinks she can run a railroad (or the world) single-handed, she can make people do what she wants or needs, what is right, by the sheer force of her own talent; not by forcing them, of course, not by enslaving them and giving orders—but by the sheer over-abundance of her own energy; she will show them how, she can teach them and persuade them, she is so able that they’ll catch it from her. (This is still faith in their rationality, in the omnipotence of reason. The mistake? Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone.)
On these two points, Dagny is committing an important (but excusable and understandable) error in thinking, the kind of error individualists and creators often make. It is an error proceeding from the best in their nature and from a proper principle, but this principle is misapplied. . . .
The error is this: it is proper for a creator to be optimistic, in the deepest, most basic sense, since the creator believes in a benevolent universe and functions on that premise. But it is an error to extend that optimism to other specific men. First, it’s not necessary, the creator’s life and the nature of the universe do not require it, his life does not depend on others. Second, man is a being with free will; therefore, each man is potentially good or evil, and it’s up to him and only to him (through his reasoning mind) to decide which he wants to be. The decision will affect only him; it is not (and cannot and should not be) the primary concern of any other human being.
Therefore, while a creator does and must worship Man (which means his own highest potentiality; which is his natural self-reverence), he must not make the mistake of thinking that this means the necessity to worship Mankind (as a collective). These are two entirely different conceptions, with entirely—(immensely and diametrically opposed)—different consequences.
Man, at his highest potentiality, is realized and fulfilled within each creator himself. . . .Whether the creator is alone, or finds only a handful of others like him, or is among the majority of mankind, is of no importance or consequence whatever; numbers have nothing to do with it. He alone or he and a few others like him are mankind, in the proper sense of being the proof of what man actually is, man at his best, the essential man, man at his highest possibility. (The rational being, who acts according to his nature.)
It should not matter to a creator whether anyone or a million or all the men around him fall short of the ideal of Man; let him live up to that ideal himself; this is all the “optimism” about Man that he needs. But this is a hard and subtle thing to realize—and it would be natural for Dagny always to make the mistake of believing others are better than they really are (or will become better, or she will teach them to become better or, actually, she so desperately wants them to be better)—and to be tied to the world by that hope.
It is proper for a creator to have an unlimited confidence in himself and his ability, to feel certain that he can get anything he wishes out of life, that he can accomplish anything he decides to accomplish, and that it’s up to him to do it. (He feels it because he is a man of reason . . .) [But] here is what he must keep clearly in mind: it is true that a creator can accomplish anything he wishes—if he functions according to the nature of man, the universe and his own proper morality, that is, if he does not place his wish primarily within others and does not attempt or desire anything that is of a collective nature, anything that concerns others primarily or requires primarily the exercise of the will of others. (This would be an immoral desire or attempt, contrary to his nature as a creator.) If he attempts that, he is out of a creator’s province and in that of the collectivist and the second-hander.
Therefore, he must never feel confident that he can do anything whatever to, by or through others. (He can’t—and he shouldn’t even wish to try it—and the mere attempt is improper.) He must not think that he can . . . somehow transfer his energy and his intelligence to them and make them fit for his purposes in that way. He must face other men as they are, recognizing them as essentially independent entities, by nature, and beyond his primary influence; [he must] deal with them only on his own, independent terms, deal with such as he judges can fit his purpose or live up to his standards (by themselves and of their own will, independently of him) and expect nothing from the others. . . .
Now, in Dagny’s case, her desperate desire is to run Taggart Transcontinental. She sees that there are no men suited to her purpose around her, no men of ability, independence and competence. She thinks she can run it with others, with the incompetent and the parasites, either by training them or merely by treating them as robots who will take her orders and function without personal initiative or responsibility; with herself, in effect, being the spark of initiative, the bearer of responsibility for a whole collective. This can’t be done. This is her crucial error.
This is where she fails.
David Deutsch (DD) wants to control his effect on the world and how the world sees him. He wants to have a large number of fans. He wants to do things to, by and through others. He doesn’t want to treat people as fully independent entities. He wants to tell people what to think. That’s too hard a task, which is one of the reasons it took him over a decade to write BoI.
DD has had ideas like teaching people to be better parents – but without them having to learn Critical Rationalism (CR) themselves. Taking Children Seriously (TCS) said parents could just learn DD’s conclusions, based on his understanding of CR, without having to learn much about philosophy themselves. TCS reassured parents that reading even one Popper book was optional. (I give sources for this at the end of this post.) This made DD the bearer of responsibility for the whole collective, since he was the one with knowledge about CR and how to apply CR. But DD and his TCS co-founder, Sarah Fitz-Claridge (SFC), have also denied having responsibility for what happened to those parents and their children, and basically abandoned them.
DD hides what kind of person he is, so I expect people to initially doubt my claims about him. Getting you to doubt he’s a social climber is part of his reputation management. But DD has admitted these things to me privately, e.g. he emailed me on 2010-07-25 (my italics):
I myself do not want the [Taking Children Seriously] archives to be widely read (yet!) because I am strongly of the opinion that it would run a coach and horses through my plans to manage my reputation into the future so that I can have a beneficial effect on the world other than physics etc. It would cause no end of trouble for me in that regard.
DD didn’t think there was anything wrong with his roughly 2000 posts about TCS. He wanted them read later (hence the “yet!” comment). He hadn’t changed his mind about the ideas. He wasn’t even saying they needed to be rewritten or edited. He just wanted to control what effect he had on the world and control his reputation (that is, control what opinions other people had in their minds about him). So he wanted to hide his ideas that he thought were wonderful and important. He wants to be a mastermind manipulating the world for its benefit, just as TCS says a parent should try to not do to his child, and Rand said not to do in the quote above. (DD claimed to be a fan of Ayn Rand and strongly recommended her books to me.)
Similarly, on 2010-09-26:
17:16:00 curidotus: can you explain your reputation management theories a bit more?
17:17:12 oxfordphysicist: One reason I agreed to be in this new Institute is that it will extend the area over which I am regarded as entitled to pontificate in public and to be listened to.
17:17:47 curidotus: rather unFeynmanesque of you
17:18:12 oxfordphysicist: I want to keep extending that area until it covers some aspects of politics and one day even education theory.
17:18:28 curidotus: and since you don't belong to any think tank dedicated to contradicting feynman, you're not allowed to argue with that!
17:18:34 oxfordphysicist: Similarly I want to avoid doing things that reduce the area.
Note that I disagreed with DD and was arguing with him by mentioning how his attitude contradicted Feynman’s.
On 2010-10-01 (my italics):
16:52:37 oxfordphysicist: Today I met the other senior members [including Nick Bostrom] of the proposed new Future Technology Institute.
16:55:35 oxfordphysicist: Mostly we were all trying to impress the sponsor with our cleverness and depth. So nothing has actually happened yet.
That’s social climbing.
And within a few days of 2010-08-20:
[That] Might harm me by diverting discussion away from BoI issues onto TCS and STWTR issues which I am not yet ready to present to the general public.
It’s amazing how DD wants to control his reputation. He wrote hundreds of STWTR posts on a public blog. Then he wants to somehow take it back. He’s not ready to present it to the public!? But he already did present it to the public.
Similarly, TCS was already presented to the public and probably thousands of parents started trying to use it. Many people made some changes to their parenting on DD’s and SFC’s advice. They relied on DD and SFC for the ongoing support and advice that DD and SFC communicated would be available. You can’t (reasonably) withdraw a parenting philosophy that is already in use in many people’s lives that you shared on the public internet, in a bunch of conference speeches, and in a paper journal.
You especially can’t withdraw your parenting philosophy when you tell people they’re basically like evil dictators if they don’t do TCS. They compare non-TCS parents to slave owners and to husbands when beating your wife was legal. They tell parents that TCS is something they can and must do right now, today, to avoid destroying their children’s minds. And tell them they don’t need to learn philosophy and Popper – that’s optional, advanced extra stuff. If they don’t learn Popper themselves, then they are dependent on experts like DD and SFC, so withdrawing that expertise screws people over really badly.
And neither DD nor SFC has publicly admitted to withdrawing anything or quitting the community. They don’t acknowledge anything changed. But behind the scenes they do things like pressure me not to repost archives that became unavailable due to technical/computer/software type problems. It’s dishonest to to hide what’s going on from the community you’re trying to take resources away from. They never even admitted that they stopped making new parenting resources, but they did worse than that by trying to take away existing resources like the original TCS website and recently the second TCS website (that was harder to navigate and incomplete, and they promised more stuff that never came). And when they quit, they never directed anyone to any alternatives to move on to.
It was basically implied that the parenting resources to move on to were me and my community, since DD and SFC left their discussion community to my leadership. But they never directly said that (they just left without explanation and without any clear moment in time when they left). And SFC disliked me and put some effort into preventing TCS parents from finding out that a TCS discussion forum still existed, run by me. And now they’re involved with harassment against me and my community, even though it was the only significant resource left for TCS parents. For many years, I’ve been the only person letting TCS parents come ask questions and providing expert answers, and they seem mad about that because they want to be the expert leaders. They abandoned TCS, but still want the social prestige of being a founder and leader, but without the responsibility or work involved.
SFC has been doing some podcasts and talks about TCS recently with zero acknowledgement or explanation about being gone for over 15 years. It’s confusing because they simultaneously in some ways want to hide and disown TCS, and in other ways want to claim to always have been the experts and leaders like nothing changed. It doesn’t make sense. And it leaves me with no idea what actions I could take to please them so that they would stop the harassment campaign.
As TCS leaders, they’ve (primarily SFC, who played much more of a community manager role than DD, while DD played the wise intellectual role) repeatedly said things like that new wonderful TCS stuff was coming soon. SFC was still selling TCS journal subscriptions long after the last journal was published. When they switched from the tcs.ac website to takingchildrenseriously.com (and unnecessarily got rid of the old domain instead of leaving it alone or redirecting it), they told everyone they’d repost all the articles from the old website, but then they never did. And currently takingchildrenseriously.com has all content deleted, and SFC claims the site will be even better soon. Why couldn’t she leave the existing articles available until the new stuff was ready? Why take them down instead of leaving things alone? She took stuff down on purpose, for a reason she won’t tell the TCS community (she says she disagrees with some old stuff, but doesn’t say what, and maybe just disagrees with the tone). And why delete things at all? Why not just add new additional stuff. And when is the new stuff coming? She took down the existing stuff months ago.
On 2010-08-27, DD wrote (typos in original):
I dodn't mean only FoR List discussion. I mean -- say a TV producer has joined the FoR list as part of sizing me up for a 12 part series. Then he sees that someone regards me as having written thousands of TCS posts so he reads them and decides I;m a crank.
DD wants to control what other people think and do. TV producers must see DD’s resume exactly as he wants it, with no other information. He thinks his TCS posts could cost him a TV series, and therefore wants to prevent any parents – who are in the middle of a TCS parenting – from continuing to use or discuss it.
Also, DD did write around two thousand TCS posts. That’s a fact, not something that some people regard him as having done.
But DD won’t say publicly that he wants to hide the information that TV producers might dislike (which, admittedly, would defeat his goal of tricking the public including the TV producers). He just sabotages parents behind the scenes after founding a parenting movement at around age 38 and putting his intellectual reputation (e.g. as a book author) behind it. I think a lot of TCS parents don’t know what went wrong and probably blame themselves, and don’t know what DD and SFC did that was unreasonable.
You can’t start something well into adulthood, connect it to your career, and then expect to withdraw it. That’s so unreasonable. People listened to DD because he relied on the reputation from his career and book – they thought he was putting his reputation and career on the line and that he would be a strong, lasting advocate of the movement he started. But now he won’t take responsibility for what he said or responsibility for the role of giving radical, life-changing advice to parents that raises new problems that they need ongoing support, articles and discussion to help with.
By the way, despite getting his way about hiding the TCS archives, DD still hasn’t gotten any 12 part TV series in the last 10+ years since he was so pushy with me about it. Not even a 1 part series. (And is he grateful that I did what he wanted regarding the TCS archives? No. He now initiates force against me without saying why.)
In his article Is TCS Revolutionary?, DD had warned other people not to try to manage their reputations like he secretly does:
One thing that one does not do is hesitate to argue against those ideas and in favour of ideas that seem better. Darwin hesitated for twenty years before publishing The Origin of Species, partly out of fear that it would undermine the fabric of society. His fear may have been justified, but his hesitation was not. The reason is the very consideration that I am discussing in this article. Yes, Darwin's theory contributed to the decline of religion and perhaps, thereby, created a vacuum that has been filled by such things as totalitarian ideologies. But on the other hand, it also contributed enormously to scientific and philosophical progress, which has saved countless lives and enriched many more. For Darwin to know which of these effects would be stronger — to know whether postponing publication of his theory of evolution would do net good or harm — would require a supernatural knowledge of all the ideas, explicit and inexplicit, that existed in other minds, followed by a superhuman analysis of the myriad interactions between them that publication would initiate. To imagine that he could make a meaningful judgement in this matter, and that it was his place to second-guess the intellectual development of the entire world on the basis of such a judgement, was not just silly, it was crass utopianism.
When we were still speaking a lot, I asked DD about this passage and how he isn’t following his own advice. His excuse was that he has more than one thing to say and he needs to say them in the right order. He should have thought of that before he said the TCS stuff. He spent nearly 20 years saying TCS stuff and then tried to pretend he didn’t. Except in a weird, ambiguous way. SFC gave a talk on TCS recently, identified DD as a co-founder of TCS, and claims she will soon publish a book on TCS (20 years ago, she also claimed the book would be done soon, so who knows if or when it’ll ever come out). She also recently went on some podcasts to promote TCS. Are they trying to hide TCS or not? What do they actually want? It doesn’t make sense. Some of DD’s fans are still finding TCS and thinking they should do it, and SFC is encouraging that. Some of DD’s fans tell people about TCS in his Twitter topics, too, and put that in DD’s mentions (notifications).
DD told me basically that he wasted many years of his life sharing TCS ideas and participating in discussions because people don’t listen, don’t learn it right, and hate TCS. He broadly thinks people are too dumb (compared to him) to reason with. I think he’s in an awkward position of thinking TCS is true, and having nothing to retract, while also wanting to stop telling it to anyone he doesn’t intellectually respect (so nearly every living person). He thinks people who read about TCS mostly respond by hating him because they’re stupid and irrational, and he doesn’t want to deal with that anymore, but he doesn’t want to retract TCS either. Partly he won’t retract TCS because that would draw more attention to it, and also he doesn’t want to admit to having been wrong about something.
But SFC is promoting TCS in 2021, so what’s going on? Maybe DD doesn’t want her to, but is unwilling to make clear, direct requests to her because she’s an extremely emotional, irrational person who will get really upset and angry over nothing, let alone over a significant request. (My main source on that claim about SFC is talking with her child a lot, though I’ve seen some of it myself too, both in person and online.) SFC might not even know what DD wants. Or maybe DD got old enough that he gave up on doing other stuff. He did promise me that he’d write a book on TCS before he died (but after he finished his physics work). But if he’s decided he’s again ready to be associated with the movement he co-founded and put his reputation behind and hasn’t retracted … he hasn’t said that either. And if SFC is allowed to talk about TCS, what is he so mad at me about that he has his community harassing me? He claimed that he was upset with me for wanting to keep the TCS email discussion archives available for people to read (but not doing it, at his request). (He wanted not just obedience but agreement … but also didn’t want to discuss and debate the matter to change my mind. Much like how conventional parents sometimes treat their children, which TCS objects to.)
DD himself is tweeting about TCS issues in a confusing way that’s bad for social climbing. He isn’t explaining it. It seems like he just doesn’t have a coherent plan. For example (2021):
All compulsory education, "tough" or not, "love" or not, in camps or not, and whether it "traumatises" or not, is a violation of human rights.
That tweet was paired with a link to Troubled US teens left traumatised by tough love camps. DD was downplaying how bad those camps are. He hates all compulsory education so much that he apparently can’t differentiate that some instances are worse than others. When you compare compulsory education to slavery or dictatorship, you don’t leave much room to admit that some things are less bad than others. It’s like saying all compulsory education is all bad, with no shades of gray, and therefore downplaying the evil of compulsory education that’s worse than public schools (like the camps). And there are abusive parents who are worse than regular parents – DD would reply that they’re all abusive parents, but some parents get drunk and beat their children and some don’t, so they aren’t all the same.
But DD isn’t explaining what he’s talking about, nor making available links to articles that explain it. His audience isn’t going to understand. Some people ask what he’s talking about and he mostly ignores them.
DD also tweeted (2021):
Compulsory education is bad.
Again he didn’t explain his position.
And he’s using force – compulsion – against me that pressures me to learn things I don’t want to learn, e.g. to become educated about the dumb tweets he writes. My self-defense has required learning a bunch of information I’d rather not about people like DD and Andy, as well as about things like website security and false identity detection.
And DD tweeted (2021):
A very bad law is about to be enacted. The very term 'junk food' is hate speech. The very term 'obesity' is a signal of scientism.
Defending children eating whatever they want, and saying all sorts of “junk food” are healthy, was a common DD/TCS claim. But why start tweeting it without explaining your position? He stopped admitting to believing this for years and now he wants to put it on his regular Twitter account, to his regular audience, without giving any reasoning? What’s the big reveal after years of silence? That’s his idea of reputation management? The only plan here is to be vague enough that most people won’t understand what he’s talking about and will hopefully ignore it, so he won’t get too much backlash. But where’s the upside? No one is going to learn something useful from tweets like this. If he was willing to alienate most people with strong, unpopular positions, without really even trying to explain it so reasonable people could see his point … then what was he doing for the last decade? What was he hiding this stuff for if he’s going to share it so recklessly?
DD is a reputation-managing social climber who tries to control what other people know and think about him. He screwed up by founding a movement people dislike, connecting it with his book and public intellectual career, using his author status to recruit and impress members, and writing thousands of posts about it over a period of many years. He also screwed up by writing hundreds of right-wing political blog posts, even though the intellectual elites he wants to socially climb with lean pretty strongly left-wing.
He wants to pretend he never said stuff, but he still thinks it’s true, and he has no coherent plan or policy for what to do about this situation. I think this results in frustration which sometimes builds up enough for DD to tweet a few vague things about his actual views (but they have to be vague because he doesn’t actually want to share his opinions clearly and face the public response, which he fears). He failed at his goals to manage his reputation and control the public’s opinions, and has no idea how to fix it, and his actions now don’t make sense.
And DD seems to blame me a significant amount, for no clear reason, but with concrete consequences: severe harassment for multiple years, and DD himself defamed me. Which is terrible strategy. If he would leave me alone, I wouldn’t be writing about his involvement with TCS, his social climbing, his mistreatment of me, and so on. But he absolutely refuses to discuss the matter privately, ask even once for his fans to stop harassing, or clean up his toxic community. The situation remains intolerable for me, and violates my rights, so I’m talking about it.
DD is second-handed. He cares what other people think and what ideas are in their heads – that’s what reputation is. He wants prestige and social status in the minds of others. He ought to reread Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, which addresses second-handedness as a main theme.
I think my negativity towards reputation management and social climbing is one of the major reasons that DD and I parted ways. Reputation management is also one of the reasons DD doesn’t publish very much writing. He wants to control things that are out of his control, and his writing can’t live up to that goal, so it’s never good enough.
This section gives evidence for my earlier claim that TCS said reading Popper is optional, and explains how TCS was selling easy answers and shortcuts.
SFC wrote to TCS list on 2000-03-25 (my italics):
Popper, the man, had no connection with TCS. In fact, he did not discuss educational theory, and indeed, he wrote ghastly, non-TCS things about television. So don't worry if you don't want to read his books
Kevin Schoedel (a close associate of SFC) wrote from an official TCS email address ([email protected]), which SFC announced and posted from herself, on 1996-07-20, to TCS list:
Reading those books [by Popper and Bartley about Popperian epistemology] will not necessarily give you the slightest clue about non-coercive educational theory … On the TCS list, I try to write in such a way that it can be understood without familiarity with Popper, as do others. Furthermore, I am pretty sure there are several individuals on this list who have never read Popper and yet understand what this is all about.
It is not necessary to have read Popper to understand non-coercive educational theory! But if you really want to read Popper ... But I still say reading this list, and asking all the questions thereby raised in your mind, would be more useful [than reading Popper] if the aim is to understand non-coercive educational theory.
Note that this advice came before DD had published a book, so people weren’t going to learn CR by reading DD instead. And after DD published The Fabric of Reality, reading that was considered optional for TCS parents, too.
I’m the person who started telling parents that they had to learn CR and become rational philosophers themselves in order to have a realistic chance of being great, non-coercive parents. But most of them didn’t want to do that; they’d been looking for the easy answers TCS had been selling.
Speaking of easy answers, TCS also told parents that they could be and stay irrational, and still do TCS correctly, as long as they didn’t intentionally hurt their children. TCS talks about shielding your children from your own irrationalities, which you don’t solve, by not coercing your children based on your irrationalities. And TCS said all coercion is intentional, so just don’t coerce on purpose and your own irrationality and ignorance won’t matter much.
SFC wrote to TCS list on 1996-03-18 saying that coercion is “almost invariably” “intentional”:
Acting on one theory while a conflicting theory remains active in one’s mind [which TCS calls “coercion”] is not a state that happens by chance. It is almost invariably a result of intentional coercion on the part of another person, whether at the time, or earlier in the person’s life. That is why we call this state “acting under coercion” and not something less judgemental-sounding.
TCS got popular with the message that your children will grow up fully rational as long as you aren’t mean to them on purpose, and that you don’t have to learn philosophy or read books in order to accomplish this.
TCS also pushed privacy and avoided sharing information about the results for any actual children. But as a longstanding member of the community, who has met or talked with a lot of TCS people, I can confidently say that TCS never worked as advertised for a single parent. Some TCS people did pretty well as parents, and some poorly, but the plan to never be intentionally mean, and thus raise fully rational children, wasn’t even close to working for a single person. It was a bit like a “get rich quick” scheme – it makes big promises that only require low effort, but it doesn’t actually work. A lot of people want easy answers and shortcuts, and David Deutsch put his name and intellectual reputation on this one, and made it sound philosophical to people who’d never read a philosophy book (and were told that they didn’t need to). That (plus SFC’s community organizing) was enough to attract a few thousand followers.
When the harassment started, I didn’t expect that David Deutsch (DD) or Lulie Tanett (LT) were involved. When I caught Andy B (linked together his many fake identities), I emailed DD and LT about it, and I thought they’d be helpful and reasonable. I expected a very different reaction than I got.
What DD and LT have done has surprised me. That actually made it harder to deal with. If I knew what they were like in the first place, I would have handled the situation differently. I went out of my way to give them lots of chances for private discussion. I responded slowly to the problems to give them many chances and months to see it’s a serious public issue and change their behavior. I didn’t go into this knowing what was actually going on. I shared information as I figured out new things and that’s made my explanations longer and more complex.
Why was I surprised? Well they just left without comment. They didn’t leave in an explicitly negative way. They never said they weren’t speaking to me. We didn’t part ways with a fight. Nothing in particular happened. Our conversation frequency dwindled over time. I initiated some problem solving, but I wasn’t pushy about it and gave them time and space. Months passed and at some point they didn’t come back. That’s all. That didn’t give me much reason to think they hated me or wanted me harmed.
There was no conversation where I had any reason to think it was the last one. By the time I knew things were over, they’d been over for months. (And by the time I knew DD and LT actually weren’t speaking to me – the current situation – I now estimate that they hadn’t been for multiple years. That’s something they did on their own, unilaterally, without informing me, and with no specific or clear cause.) They never even said bye. I thought we were still trying, gradually over time, and eventually I realized that they weren’t.
I thought our old friendships would still mean something when a criminal attacked. And it’s not like I had done anything wrong. I hadn’t wronged DD or LT. I hadn’t done some sort of mean action to hurt them. I hadn’t knowingly violated their consent. And they never complained “Hey wait, that wasn’t OK, you accidentally violated my consent”.
I thought crimes were a serious matter and that people would set aside petty stuff when crime was at stake. I didn’t know that DD and LT were so far gone not to do that and/or were never actually very anti-crime (just anti crimes against their own tribe).
I thought they were doing their own things, separate from me, and that when there was an emergency involving crime that would take precedence over whatever mild grudges or negative feelings had lasted through years of not interacting. Time heals all wounds, right? Why would they still be super mad – mad enough to have a tribalist attitude and side with crime – after years with no negative interactions?
The thing DD lied about is a key point. He lied that he told me several times that he didn’t want to hear from me. But he never told me that and I had no idea he felt that way. That’s key context. He’s lying that I’m violating his requests, when actually he was violating my reasonable expectations (which is misleading to observers) even before he overtly lied about me. I had a reasonable expectation that he would respond appropriately when his fan was committing crimes partially in DD’s name. (One of Andy B’s main complaints, and motivations for harassment, is that he sees me as DD’s enemy.) DD also wouldn’t respond when Dennis Hackethal plagiarized both of us, or when someone impersonated DD and wrote comments literally in DD’s name, or when Andy B created and owned the BoI subreddit (DD wouldn’t disown that or distance himself from it in any way).
I thought I was telling DD and LT about a serious problem in their community that was bad for them. I thought they’d want to ban him from their community and keep their distance from a dangerous person. Instead they embraced Andy B, tweet with him, and continue to have a toxic community culture that does things like lie, libel, and spread hateful gossip.
I thought DD cared about his career and reputation, and would want to stay out of the mud, and would appreciate the warning about the mud getting on him. I thought it was neglect not malice. I was wrong though. After nearly a decade of going our separate ways, DD seems willing to take substantial risks with his public reputation for the purpose of trying to hurt me. He can’t or won’t let anything go, nor specify what exactly he’s so upset about or what he wants or doesn’t want. (I literally don’t know what actions to take to please or appease him so that he’d stop the harassment campaign; he won’t say; maybe there are none.)
DD’s and LT’s behavior, like fully ghosting me about crimes connected with them, and tweeting with Andy B after he was caught, has been really shocking. It completely violated my expectations based on how we left things (as well as my expectations about basic human decency and civilized behavior from them).
I’ve been going back and reading old stuff because I was shocked by their behavior and I wanted to know what happened. Did they change a lot since we last spoke much, or did I miss something in the past? The answer, in short, is that I missed stuff in the past. The old discussions are full of warning signs about their irrationality that I can see now but missed before.
DD and LT are the only people involved in the harassment that I actually knew well. It makes some sense that I’m still on their mind. But I met Sarah a long time ago but never knew her very well, and she really shouldn’t still care about me. Most CritRats I knew less well than Sarah. Why would people I never knew at all, or never knew well, hold multi-year grudges and be super hateful? There’s something really wrong there (I think their community is really toxic). And to the extent I can get any reasons from them, they say stuff like that I’m rude and that I criticized their hero DD. So what? All public figures have rude detractors on the internet, who are mostly ignored or mocked a little bit, but generally no one cares much. Even if that were true about me, why would it even matter? The people who hate and harass me are revealing, by their behavior, that they think I’m super important. They act like my opinions will somehow determine DD’s fate. They treat me like DD’s peer, and like one of the few intellectuals in the world who matters. They seem to see me like a threat to DD, a high status power player with a big following, or else why would they care? If they don’t like me and think I don’t matter, they wouldn’t be so concerned with my opinions.
I’ve posted negative blog posts about (for example) Sam Harris, but none of his fans bother me about it. I don’t even get mild pushback (they don’t seem to notice or care), let alone harassment. If I actually went to Harris’ subreddit and criticized him there, I’d get negative reactions, but all I’d have to do is stop posting on his subreddit and they’d forget about me and leave me alone. Why? Because Harris has many critics and even haters, but most are not influential and most fans don’t regard them as important. If I had 100k YouTube followers and criticized Harris, it’d get more of a reaction, but I don’t have that. Yet DD’s community treats me like I have a few million YouTube followers, or whatever the equivalent is for blog readers.
I’ve discovered that David Deutsch (DD) is an unreliable quoter. His book The Beginning of Infinity (BoI) contains many serious quotation errors, and he has misquoted elsewhere too.
For context, DD and I were close associates for a decade. I helped with BoI for 7 years and wrote over 200 pages of comments, suggestions and edits on drafts of the book. I learned a lot from him but I trusted his scholarship too much. I promoted his books. I was wrong about him and his books in multiple ways. My mistake. I retract my previous endorsements and recommendations of DD’s books. That doesn’t mean the books are awful or shouldn’t be read, but I no longer want to promote them myself. There are good ideas mixed in, but be wary of major problems.
Block quotes are from BoI unless otherwise stated.
I think there will certainly not be novelty, say for a thousand years. This thing cannot keep going on so that we are always going to discover more and more new laws. If we do, it will become boring that there are so many levels one underneath the other . . . We are very lucky to live in an age in which we are still making discoveries. It is like the discovery of America – you only discover it once.
The Character of Physical Law (1965)
That’s different than what Feynman wrote. DD changed the words “perpetual novelty” to “novelty”. DD also changed “keep on going” to “keep going on”. (More details.)
Behind it all is surely an idea so simple, so beautiful, that when we grasp it – in a decade, a century, or a millennium – we will all say to each other, how could it have been otherwise?
John Archibald Wheeler, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 480 (1986)
What Wheeler actually wrote was "Behind it all is surely an idea so simple, so beautiful, so compelling that when–in a decade, a century, or a millennium–we grasp it, we will all say to each other, how could it have been otherwise?”. DD deleted “so compelling” and moved “we grasp it” to before the dashed part. (More details.)
As the physicist Richard Feynman said, ‘Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves.’
Feynman didn’t say that. It’s not even a documented quote with some changes. It seems made up with no original source or evidence.
I checked the web and some Feynman books and speeches. It’s likely that the misquote started in 2000 in the article Magical Thinking (my thanks to Justin Mallone for finding that article), which paraphrased Feynman that way without using quote marks or giving a source. Unfortunately, the wording made it sound like it was an actual quote, so I think people started spreading it as a quote. Then DD probably got the misquote from an unreliable webpage and put it in his book without trying to find a primary source or telling his readers which unreliable secondary source he used. There are now two books which give this quote and cite it to as quoted in BoI. There’s also a book which gives the quote with a footnote saying that the author was unable to find a source for the quote (then don’t put it in your book!).
Feynman said some similar ideas in Cargo Cult Science, but the wordings are different. DD didn’t take the quote from there and add one or two errors (like he did with some other quotes, where you can tell that he’s quoting a specific thing incorrectly). It’s too different to have come from that speech.
The inductivist or Lamarckian 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.
The Myth of the Framework
DD ends the first sentence of the second paragraph with “without the structure” and then a period. Instead of a period, Popper had a comma there and continued the sentence. Then, the rest of that paragraph that DD quotes is actually from a different section of the book. DD combined sentences from different places in the book and presented them as one paragraph with no ellipsis or square brackets to indicate a modification.
And DD left out the words “In fact,” before “I contend”. DD also put an ellipsis at the end of the first paragraph when that should be a period. There are no omitted words there. The paragraph ends there and DD continues without skipping a paragraph. DD also left out Popper’s italics.
A similar misquote also appeared on the Taking Children Seriously (TCS) website (mirror). DD co-founded TCS with Sarah Fitz-Claridge and she’s my best guess at the author of that misquote, though it could have been DD. Either way, he has responsibility for what it says on the official website of the movement he co-founded (particularly for pages, like this one, with no author specified).
Judging by the similarities, the misquote in BoI was likely based on the TCS website misquote. Even when a secondary source is accurate, it’s problematic to take a secondary source quote and then edit it without checking the original. When you do that, you’re making edits without knowing the original context and wording, so you aren’t in a good enough position to judge what edits are OK.
(More details about the TCS website version of the misquote.)
Thanks to Dec for telling me that this misquote is also in BoI after I wrote about the version from the TCS website.
As the physicist Stephen Hawking put it, humans are ‘just a chemical scum on the surface of a typical planet that’s in orbit round a typical star on the outskirts of a typical galaxy’.
This quote seems to be made up based on a similar Hawking quote about “chemical scum” from the 1995 TV program (Reality on the Rocks: Beyond Our Ken by Ken Campbell (IMBD, trailer)). Interestingly, DD had quoted it correctly in The Fabric of Reality as “The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting round a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies.” I didn’t find the original video, but it’s quoted that way in various places online that aren’t based on DD’s writing. (Some sources have “around” instead of “round”, which is an understandable difference given how similar those words can sound when spoken out loud.)
It seems that DD made up this misquote for his 2005 TED talk and then based the quote in BoI on his talk. Alan Forrester checked the books The large scale structure of space-time, A Brief History of Time, The Grand Design, The Nature of Space and Time and The Universe in a Nutshell, but found that none contain the word “scum”. And I can’t find any online sources for Hawking ever saying the BoI version of the quote (whereas with the The Fabric of Reality version, I easily found other online sources).
This misquote doesn’t seem fully accidental. DD changed the quote to be more elegant and catchy by repeating “typical” three times. I’ve noticed that many of DD’s misquotes involve changing text to sound nicer.
[Horgan believed] that science has the ability to ‘resolve questions’ objectively […]
Horgan actually wrote “Scientists have the ability to pose questions and resolve them in a way that critics, philosophers, historians cannot.” DD changed Horgan’s words “resolve them” to “resolve questions”, which is wrong without using square brackets to indicate an edit. (More details.)
The issue of what exactly needs to be explained in an ‘appearance of design’ was first addressed by the clergyman William Paley, the finest exponent of the argument from design. In 1802, before Darwin was born, he published the following thought experiment in his book Natural Theology.
It’s unclear what, if anything, “appearance of design” is a quote from, but it’d be understandable if a reader believed it was a quote of Paley in Natural Theology. But it’s not in that book.
The inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker . . . There cannot be design without a designer; contrivance without a contriver; order without choice; arrangement without anything capable of arranging; subserviency and relation to a purpose without that which could intend a purpose; means suitable to an end . . . without the end ever having been contemplated or the means accommodated to it. Arrangement, disposition of parts, subserviency of means to an end, relation of instruments to a use imply the presence of intelligence and mind.
DD changed the words “any thing” to the word “anything” and changed “an use” to “a use”. DD also quoted from both chapters 1 and 2, but presented it as single paragraph with ellipses. DD also removed a comma near the end before “imply the presence of intelligence and mind” which helped the reader understand the text. (DD edited other punctuation too, but this punctuation edit stood out to me because it’s significantly worse than the original.) (More details.)
As Hawking once put it, ‘Television sets could come out [of a naked singularity].’
Thanks to Alan Forrester for looking into this quote at my request. He was unable to find Hawking saying this. He searched the web and the following books: The large scale structure of space-time, A Brief History of Time, The Grand Design, The Nature of Space and Time and The Universe in a Nutshell.
As Hofstadter remarked, ‘In retrospect, I am quite amazed at how much genuine intelligence I was willing to accept as somehow having been implanted in the program . . . It is clear that I was willing to accept a huge amount of fluidity as achievable in this day and age simply by putting together a large bag of isolated tricks, kludges and hacks.’
Hofstadter’s actual paragraph ends with “a large bag of isolated tricks-kludges and hacks, as they say.” DD’s punctation edits changed the meaning. Hofstadter said “isolated tricks” and then gave “kludges and hacks” as a rewording of “isolated tricks”. DD changed it to a list of three things, “tricks, kludges and hacks” and made it sound like the modifier “isolated” applies to all three, whereas in the original it applied only to “tricks”. As a list, it means that all three things were put together. In the original, it says they put together tricks, and then provides the additional information that the tricks could be characterized as kludges and hacks as people (informally) say.
Thanks to Dec for bringing up this misquote.
Representative Roger Q. Mills of Texas complained in 1882, ‘I thought . . . that mathematics was a divine science. I thought that mathematics was the only science that spoke to inspiration and was infallible in its utterances [but] here is a new system of mathematics that demonstrates the truth to be false.’
This text is available in the Congressional Record. DD changed the words "by inspiration" to "to inspiration". It’s also misleading that where DD wrote “[but]”, with no ellipsis, he skipped multiple sentences and continued with text from a different paragraph.
DD likely copied this misquote from Fair Representation without telling his readers that he was trusting a secondary source without fact checking it, and without letting readers know which secondary source he was using.
Before Blackmore and others realized the significance of memes in human evolution, all sorts of root causes had been suggested [...] [T]here is the ‘Machiavellian hypothesis’ that human intelligence evolved in order to predict the behaviour of others, and to fool them. […] Blackmore’s ‘meme machine’ idea, that human brains evolved in order to replicate memes, must be true.
At first I read “Machiavellian hypothesis” as a quote of Blackmore from her book The Meme Machine that DD mentioned earlier and included in his bibliography. If so, it's a misquote. That phrase isn’t in her book.
But maybe “Machiavellian hypothesis” is merely meant to be the name of a hypothesis. If so, it’s the wrong name. The correct name is "Machiavellian Intelligence”, as one can find out from Blackmore’s book or Wikipedia. Blackmore has an index entry for “Machiavellian Intelligence” and cites two books with “Machiavellian Intelligence” in their title. She also writes “An influential version of social theory is the ‘Machiavellian Intelligence’ hypothesis (Byrne and Whiten 1988; Whiten and Byrne 1997).”. It appears that DD read her book, misremembered the name of the hypothesis, didn’t check it, and put quote marks around it. (More details.)
The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote . . . Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals.
Albert Michelson, address at the opening of the Ryerson Physical Laboratory, University of Chicago, 1894
The source for this, which DD didn’t specify, is the book Light Waves and Their Uses (1903) by Albert Michelson. The speaker wrote down what he said in his own book. Michelson wrote:
Many other instances might be cited, but these will suffice to justify the statement that "our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals."
DD incorrectly quoted this as Michelson saying “[o]ur future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals” himself, when Michelson actually had it in quote marks and talked about that statement. Deleting quote marks within a quote is misquoting. (More details.)
For example, as I wrote in The Fabric of Reality:
Consider one particular copper atom at the tip of the nose of the statue of Sir Winston Churchill that stands in Parliament Square in London. Let me try to explain why that copper atom is there. It is because Churchill served as prime minister in the House of Commons nearby; and because his ideas and leadership contributed to the Allied victory in the Second World War; and because it is customary to honour such people by putting up statues of them; and because bronze, a traditional material for such statues, contains copper, and so on. Thus we explain a low-level physical observation – the presence of a copper atom at a particular location – through extremely high-level theories about emergent phenomena such as ideas, leadership, war and tradition.
There is no reason why there should exist, even in principle, any lower-level explanation of the presence of that copper atom than the one I have just given. Presumably a reductive ‘theory of everything’ would in principle make a low-level prediction of the probability that such a statue will exist, given the condition of (say) the solar system at some earlier date. It would also in principle describe how the statue probably got there. But such descriptions and predictions (wildly infeasible, of course) would explain nothing. They would merely describe the trajectory that each copper atom followed from the copper mine, through the smelter and the sculptor’s studio and so on . . . In fact such a prediction would have to refer to atoms all over the planet, engaged in the complex motion we call the Second World War, among other things. But even if you had the superhuman capacity to follow such lengthy predictions of the copper atom’s being there, you would still not be able to say ‘Ah yes, now I understand why they are there’. [You] would have to inquire into what it was about that configuration of atoms, and those trajectories, that gave them the propensity to deposit a copper atom at this location. Pursuing that inquiry would be a creative task, as discovering new explanations always is. You would have to discover that certain atomic configurations support emergent phenomena such as leadership and war, which are related to one another by high-level explanatory theories. Only when you knew those theories could you understand why that copper atom is where it is.
In addition to checking this using ebooks, I also compared hardback copies of both books. It’s FoR pp. 22-23 and BoI pp. 109-110.
DD quotes “understand why they are there” but the original reads “understand why it is there”. DD changed the words “it is” to “they are”.
DD quotes "Pursuing that inquiry”, but FoR says “this inquiry”. DD changed the word “this” to “that”.
DD quotes “understand why that copper atom is where it is”. DD omitted the word “fully”. The original said “understand fully why”.
DD wrote “[You]” in BoI, which is an incorrect use of square brackets. He skipped two sentences and should have used an ellipsis. And it says “You” in the original, so he shouldn’t put it in square brackets since it isn’t modified. Square brackets can only replace an ellipsis when the text in square brackets replaces/summarizes/paraphrases all the skipped text, but the word “You” doesn’t replace the skipped sentences.
The italics “why” and “what it was” are not italicized in FoR.
The ellipsis DD used in “studio and so on . . . In fact” is incorrect because the original had a period after “so on”. There should be four dots there (one for the period, and three for the ellipsis), not three dots.
DD doesn’t even quote himself accurately.
In The Fabric of Reality, DD wrote:
Mystery is part of the very concept of time that we grow up with. St Augustine, for example, said:
What then is time? If no one asks me, I know; if I wish to explain it to one who asks, I know not. (Confessions)
This quote has some word changes compared to the edition of Confessions that I checked. However, there are other English translations, so it could be an accurate quote of one of those. DD didn’t say which translation he used, which is more problematic than usual when quoting a particular translation rather than quoting something with a single, unambiguous wording that could be looked up.
As Karl Popper put it, we humans can “let our ideas die in our place.”
I found Popper saying something similar three times, but he didn’t use that wording. I think DD relies on his memory for this quote, instead of checking a source. He’s quoted it different ways in different places (e.g. with “theories” instead of “ideas” in Why It’s Good To Be Wrong and BoI). DD should get quotes from sources instead of putting quote marks around what he believes he remembers someone writing.
Popper said similar things in The Myth of the Framework (“By criticizing our theories we can let our theories die in our stead.”), In Search of a Better World (“Now we can let our theories die in our place.”), and Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind (“Let our conjectures, our theories, die in our stead!”).
DD’s associate Chiara Marletto also misquoted Popper as saying "let our ideas die in our place.”.
DD’s associate Sarah Fitz-Claridge misquoted William Godwin and intentionally sanitized a quote about slavery. She gives “The condition of a … slave in the West-Indies, is in many respects preferable to that of the youthful son of a free-born European. The slave is purchased upon a view of mercantile speculation; and, when he has finished his daily portion of labour, his master concerns himself no further about him. But the watchful care of the parent is endless. The youth is never free from the danger of grating interference.”. She misquoted by changing the words "of its grating" to “of grating”. And she sanitized the 1797 quote by changing "negro-slave" into "... slave”. (I think that’s an incorrect use of an ellipsis, too.) Also, the quote is horrible because it downplays how bad slavery was, so it’s disturbing that Fitz-Claridge liked the quote enough to highlight it.
Fitz-Claridge also misquoted The Myth of the Framework. It’s some of the same Popper material misquoted in BoI and on the TCS website, but misquoted differently. This time, Fitz-Claridge changed “that” to “which” and got the page numbers wrong. (More details in the second update.)
DD frequently doesn’t give sources for quotes which makes it harder to check their accuracy. By leaving out sources, he’s asking his reader to trust him. But he made many quoting errors, so that trust would be misplaced.
DD repeatedly writes “X … Y” when X and Y are from different paragraphs or even different sections of a book. This is misleading. He also does it when X is a complete sentence, which makes it look like X is not a complete sentence.
DD frequently changes capitalization and punctuation without square brackets to indicate the change. DD capitalizes stuff to make it look like the start of a sentence when it isn’t (both at the start of a quote or after an ellipsis). DD also puts periods inside the quote marks after quoting a partial sentence, which makes it look like that was the end of the sentence when it wasn’t. DD also repeatedly puts a space then an ellipsis after a sentence ends, which should be a period then ellipsis but he changed the period to a space. So he makes stuff look like the start or end of a sentence when it isn’t, and then other times he makes stuff look like it’s not the end of a sentence when it is.
DD doesn’t appear to have a consistent policy for periods going inside or outside of quotes. E.g. I searched an electronic copy of BoI and found 188 instances of a single close quote followed by a period, and 88 instances of a period followed by a single close quote (and 3 instances of period, single close quote, and period again, which all involved a number, ellipsis, close quote, then period). DD often ends quotes with a period inside the quotation marks when the original sentence doesn’t end there, but other times he puts the period outside the quotation marks, and I don’t know why. DD is also inconsistent about italicizing quotes the same way they are in the original.
There are standard guidelines for how to do quotations, which DD violates, in addition to the larger misquote issues I presented above. For example, Working with Quotations, from Suny Empire State College, says:
Remember that when you do choose to use direct quotations, you need to retain the exact wording, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation of the original source.
DD went to both Oxford and Cambridge. I don’t think they teach lower standards than state colleges, and in any case he hasn’t followed their guidelines. For example, this Guide for authors and editors from the Oxford University Press says:
Quoted matter must reflect the original source exactly in spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Please double-check all quotations against the sources from which you have taken them to ensure that you have copied accurately.
It must be possible for the reader to identify the work from which a quotation has been taken.
The University Of Oxford Style Guide says “Place any punctuation which does not belong to the quote outside the quotation marks (except closing punctuation if the end of the quote is also the end of the sentence).”
The Cambridge Editorial Style Guide says “A full stop is used outside the quotation mark if the quote is only part of a sentence.” and “Always source quotations”.
There’s another scholarship issue in DD’s books. I was horrified to discover that Karl Popper’s name is only in The Fabric of Reality (FoR) chapter 3 two times. That chapter is focused on sharing Popper’s ideas. But it doesn’t give adequate credit. In particular, the diagrams (3.1, 3.2, 3.3) are clearly based on Popper’s diagrams in Objective Knowledge, but DD never tells the reader that they’re modified from Popper. (More details.)
DD has presented himself as very humble and modest. He’s claimed multiple times to be only footnotes to Popper (which comes off as exaggerated modesty, rather than convincing his fans that it’s actually true). But DD has simultaneously misled readers to believe he accomplished much more than he did, e.g. in FoR ch. 3. This is a pattern. For example, in a 2016 paper, The logic of experimental tests, particularly of Everettian quantum theory, DD wrote:
An important consequence of this explanatory conception of science is that experimental results consistent with a theory T do not constitute support for T. That is because they are merely explicanda. A new explicandum may make a theory more problematic, but it can never solve existing problems involving a theory (except by making rival theories problematic – see Section 3). The asymmetry between refutation (tentative) and support (non-existent) in scientific methodology is better understood in this way, by regarding theories as explanations, than through Popper's (op. cit.) own argument from the logic of predictions, appealing to what has been called the ‘arrow of modus ponens’. Scientific theories are only approximately modelled as propositions, but they are precisely explanations.
This passage misleads readers into believing that DD improved on Popper by making a better argument focused on explanations instead of on the logic of predictions. Most readers would be surprised to discover that Popper made both arguments. Popper did make the logic of predictions argument (which is less important but was worth making too) but also made the other argument that DD is implying is his own original work. DD made some original contributions to epistemology, but not this one.
You can search Popper’s Conjectures and Refutations (C&R) for words like "tentative", "explanation", and "support" to see that DD is less original than he implies. Popper also covers these issues in other books. I’ll give one example from C&R:
For a scientific theory—an explanatory theory—is, if anything, an attempt to solve a scientific problem, that is to say, a problem concerned or connected with the discovery of an explanation.
This clearly shows that Popper viewed scientific theories as explanatory theories. DD didn’t come up with the idea that scientific theories are explanations. The footnote at the end of that quote refers readers to more of Popper’s writing. Popper talked about explanation often. Popper also came up with the asymmetry between refutation (tentative) and support (non-existent). Popper emphasized refutation, said it was only tentative, and is also the person who challenged thousands of years of philosophical tradition by arguing that support is non-existent. Popper drew multiple major distinctions between negative and positive approaches to epistemology.
DD also gets other people to praise him while he presents himself as humble. For example, his TCS co-founder Sarah Fitz-Claridge (SFC) wrote that Popper invented a philosophy of science and that David Deutsch and his TCS philosophy had extended Popper’s epistemology to apply outside of science. (SFC probably wrote that. It’s on an official TCS page, but doesn’t specify the author, so it could have been written by DD.) That’s a major misrepresentation. Popper was seeking a general theory of knowledge, and said so, and applied it outside of science. (More details.)
DD has gotten his associates to praise him as e.g. having “the greatest mind ever”. SFC believes that DD made major improvements on Popper, and so do many of DD’s fans. I don’t believe it’s an accident that many people overestimate DD in ways similar to his co-founder who publicly promotes him. It looks like a strategy where DD plays humble while having other people say things that would sound arrogant coming from him. (More details.)
In 2012, SFC wrote to the official Fabric of Reality discussion group (archive of FoR posts) (my italics):
In my view it would be much more accurate to say that David has the greatest mind ever to have existed. His thinking is breathtakingly logical and brilliant. His ideas have changed the world and will do so even more profoundly in the future. I have never met anyone more pure, more truth-seeking and more open to criticism than David.
In 2000, SFC wrote to TCS list (my italics):
So really, people should not speak of Popper, but of Deutsch, because it was David who came up with the link between Popper's ideas and educational theory.
Note that DD has a history of secretly ghostwriting stuff which SFC then claims to be the author of. (Source: DD’s friend. He or she was friends with DD before DD turned 18 and they’re still friends now, over 50 years later. He or she had many discussions about TCS, Popper and more with DD and SFC. DD introduced me to the friend and I had some discussions with him or her.) Full disclosure: In the past, I’ve posted a few things that DD wrote, but under my own name, with his permission and approval. I did this when (as best I remember) I wanted to share something good that he told me, which I thought would benefit the world, but he didn’t want to share it himself and wouldn’t let me post it and attribute it to him or to an anonymous person, but he would let me post it under my name without attributing it to anyone. Here’s an example that I remember (I think it was the most significant, memorable instance). More often, I wrote stuff myself that was based on things DD told me, and he didn’t want credit but was happy for me to say it. At other times, DD helped edit my writing and a sentence or two of his ended up in the final version without credit (he didn’t want credit). DD had substantial influence over some of my early writing, and he also has had substantial influence over some of SFC’s writing that he didn’t fully ghostwrite.
I was mistaken about how good DD’s books are. They’re worse than I thought. I still think there is significant value in those books, but you can’t trust DD’s scholarship. Besides distrusting direct quotes given by DD, you should also distrust paraphrases or summaries of what other people said or thought. You have to check things yourself if you actually want to know. DD is too unreliable. And don’t use DD as a secondary source. Don’t spread quotes that DD quoted; quote directly from the original source or don’t use it. Some people are spreading his misquotes (they’ve even been repeated in books).
FYI, I don’t think DD is especially bad at quoting compared to others. Lots of books and academic articles have major errors related to quotes, paraphrases, cites or facts. But for a book to be considered great, it should do better. In the world today, you shouldn’t trust authors with quotes or facts by default. You should be suspicious by default unless an author earns more trust. Many people believe DD has earned a lot of trust (including me in the past), but they’re mistaken.
I apologize for encouraging people to respect and trust DD more than he merits. I know I played a role in that.
DD’s misquote problem also helps contextualize his recent mistreatment of me. How could a super rational, great person act like that? The answer is that he he’s actually a deeply flawed person with some good traits mixed in as special exceptions.
DD once got very upset with me for questioning a Godwin quote he sent me in a private discussion. He’d sent it without a specific source and I couldn’t find the quote by searching the book. It turned out that he’d quoted an obscure first edition but I was searching the third edition. He should have praised me for looking for errors instead of getting defensive and lashing out at me. Good scholars don’t expect to be trusted and don’t mind being questioned or challenged. Even though he didn’t misquote in that instance, DD’s irrational attitude was a warning sign that DD might be a misquoter. I failed to recognize the full problem and I didn’t go fact check his books at that time (2011).
BoI has an errata page (mirror) which documents a bunch of errors in the book. They are mostly factual errors, and the number and severity should concern readers. Despite all the misquotes in the book, there are currently no misquotes on the errata page, which says something about how little fact checking the book has been getting (there are probably a bunch of other errors that no one has found yet).
I will edit my book recommendation articles to warn people about DD’s misquotes. I will also take down the beginningofinfinity.com website that promotes BoI and put a warning there about DD’s misquotes.
Update, 2021-07-12: In a 1985 physics paper in a prestigious, peer-reviewed journal, David Deustch misquoted Alan Turing.
Update, 2021-07-13: I made two videos related to DD misquotes:
Video about the Feynman misquote: "Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves.". This video goes into more depth.
Video about this blog post about DD's misquotes. This video is more of a broad overview.
This is part of a series of posts explaining the ongoing harassment against me from David Deutsch and his associates and fans.
David Deutsch (DD) was never as good as I thought. But he had some great ideas, particularly re physics (as far as I know) and Critical Rationalism (CR). He read Popper and understood a lot – while others fail to understand much Popper. He also understood Dawkins and connected CR with neo-Darwinism, and he understood stuff about computation and information theory. The four strands in The Fabric of Reality (FoR) are good, valuable, etc., though DD overemphasized them. They are just four strands out of over ten, not the top four. Math, logic, (classical) liberalism, (Austrian) economics, moral knowledge (including from Objectivism, Judaism and Christianity), and Theory of Constraints are examples of other major, important, deep areas of human knowledge. DD was overly narrow when I knew him, and wouldn’t reread Rand or Szasz (he knew stuff about their ideas, but also had forgotten or never known a lot of it), and would never learn Mises or Burke for the first time (he knew some Hayek, who was Mises’ student, but Mises was much better). One of the issues is that DD reads fewer books than people think he does. I had to repeatedly recommend some Feynman books to get him to read those (he’d read some long ago, but never read others), and I was unable to get him to read much else.
Aside about DD’s lack of reading: In 2012, DD blatantly contradicted Szasz. I’d read over a dozen Szasz books recently, and I’d discussed them with Szasz himself. Nevertheless, DD didn’t believe me about what Szasz’s view are, and didn’t want to reread Szasz as I urged him to. But DD was confident enough to challenge me (my italics): “If you quote a statement or short passage of mine in this thread, and a statement or short passage of Szasz's that contradicts it, I promise to re-read the whole book in which Szasz's statement or passage appears.” I provided quotes. One of the issues was that DD was unaware of Szasz’s opposition to the medicalization of everyday life, even though Szasz titled a book about this issue. DD thought it’d be “harmless” to call effective anti-Islamism arguments a “cure” or “treatment for Islamism”. After I gave quotes, DD acknowledged that he “wasn't aware that Szasz totally rejects the use of the term 'treatment' in the way I used it, i.e. to describe what psychiatrists do.”, bought the book on Kindle (so he got it immediately), and said he’d read it. But he never actually read it and followed up. This incident disturbed me because it was a clear example of DD lacking integrity. He made a “promise” then broke it.
FoR and The Beginning of Infinity (BoI) are primarily about CR. They build on CR some and connect CR to other areas. Not many people understood enough Popper to start working out implications of CR, and DD succeeded at that and also learned some other important stuff that he could connect CR to. That’s impressive and was a contribution to human knowledge.
I recently discovered that BoI has lots of misquotes. DD is a worse scholar, with less integrity, than I thought.
DD has other notable ideas outside of physics, too. Taking Children Seriously (TCS) has important insight mixed in, but is also too disorganized and has major errors. DD’s static meme idea is good (I don’t think it’s perfect or complete, but it’s a good lead/start/try). He got a lot right about politics and economics, such as advocating capitalism, but he didn’t contribute much there. DD’s idea about the jump to universality is a good start on something important, as is his criticism of weighing explanations. DD’s anti-weighing ideas are some of the inspiration for my Yes or No Philosophy.
Original thinkers take risks. They may be wrong some. DD’s attacks on age of consent laws were a mistake. His attack on monogamy had some reasonable points but overall I’d say that was a bad idea that needed to be thought through more. DD doesn’t understand or respect tradition and traditional knowledge enough, but he was willing to make bold claims, some of which were good. It’s a lot better to say something important and also three wrong ideas than to say nothing risky or important.
DD was personally irrational about tidiness, scheduling, food, children and more. And he accepted a bunch of irrationalities as unsolvable problems and didn’t try to fix them.
DD’s extremely biased about ageism. He sees some ageism that most people don’t, but he also sees ageism when it isn’t there. For example, DD once argued to me (in 2004) that a news article mentioning metaphorically taking a politician behind the woodshed shows that violence against children is part of the fabric of our culture. DD claimed people wouldn’t say such awful things in general, and are only willing to do it due to ageism. I said people still talk about hanging, which isn’t due to ageism, it’s just because society does use violent words. (There’s a children’s word game named “hangman” which is used in classrooms.) DD was so biased that he responded: “[The word] Hang doesn't have a connotation of baseness and horror.”. He denied the badness of hanging because it isn’t anti-children and he wanted to claim anti-child stuff is much worse. Hanging kills people, which makes it more base and horrific than beating someone behind a woodshed. Also hanging is public violence, while behind a woodshed means privately (second source).
DD’s arrogant and stopped learning much before I met him in 2001. He’s dishonest with others on purpose, including his friends, for a variety of reasons including conflict avoidance and social climbing. He’s really scared of the world and of conflict with people, and he tries to hide problems (contrary to his philosophical theories about problem solving).
He’s a social climber who cares deeply about his reputation. I’m not sure how much he always was. I think maybe he was less concerned about it when he started TCS, and may have been changed by the negative experience of TCS’s failure to catch on and the hateful reactions it got. He may also have gotten more scared after a negative incident with the government around 2003 (but he kept advising other people not to be scared of the government, and some of that advice was horribly unrealistic and irresponsible, and could have gotten people’s children taken away).
DD’s a two-faced person and extremely biased about Lulie Tanett (LT). He put a lot of work into telling me to be friends/colleagues with LT, and telling LT to be friends/colleagues with me, but he also went behind my back and sabotaged our interactions sometimes. He said negative stuff about me to her while hiding what he was doing from me. One time, he put a lot of work into convincing her that I was threatening her when I told her some conditions she’d have to meet to remain a member of a small, private discussion group I owned (the conditions were basically just being an active poster). DD basically told her that learning from me was her best chance fixing her problems and becoming a rational, productive intellectual, so alienating her from me like that was really bad, though he did much worse later.
After leaving my community, he heavily pressured her to drop me entirely, and finally after around five years of pressure she dropped me. Doing that after convincing her I was crucial to her learning – and after she was very attached to me – was really horrible of him. It’s a little like a coercive parent controlling who their kid is allowed to be friends with. But it’s much worse to belatedly take away a friendship from your kid, over 10 years after it started, that you recommended and convinced them was crucial to their career.
DD really messed with LT’s head and her lack of accomplishments and inability to do productive work or learn much philosophy is significantly his fault. It’s also Sarah Fitz-Claridge’s (SFC) fault and TCS’s fault. SFC publicly posted on 2006-03-31 on TCS list that LT is her daughter, though they all seem to be trying to hide it now. Most people don’t realize that when DD promotes LT, that’s basically nepotism. DD has known LT since she was around age 2, and SFC moved her family to live near DD in Oxford when LT was around 7. DD treats LT partially like a daughter. However, he won’t take responsibility for actually trying to treat her in a TCS parenting way because that’d be too much work for him. In general, DD likes to keep things flexible and avoid having clear responsibilities, even with his closest associates. (E.g. he said that he avoids having anything scheduled at a specific time because having something coming up today or tomorrow often prevents him from working.) He mostly avoided explicit obligations with me, too, though he made exceptions like saying he’d write a forward for my book, saying he’d write a TCS book, and, as I discussed above, promising to read a Szasz book.
TCS parenting worked out badly for LT. TCS, SFC and DD did poorly in practice, but they’re dishonest with the public about TCS’s practical results.
SFC’s post saying LT is her daughter was an announcement of an official TCS event at SFC’s home in the UK. The event involved me, SFC and LT giving speeches about TCS, plus Q&A. The post also said LT “will be taking over the management of the TCS web site”, but then SFC violated TCS principles by breaking her word to her own daughter (LT wanted the TCS website, but SFC refused to hand it over while leaving it inactive – it’s been inactive for 15 years now). After the TCS event, SFC told me and LT that she despised the TCS parents who attended, had met them before, and thought they were hopeless and would never make progress on their problems. She hid her negativity while they were present. SFC also broke her word about letting LT and I have the money we charged for the event, and, after the event was over, she decided instead to simply take a share for herself without discussing the matter. She either took half or a third (I don’t remember). It wasn’t a lot of money and didn’t matter much to me, but I was disturbed that she’d break her word and take money away from her child who had very little money. And it’s ironic to screw over your child for money from a TCS seminar which talked about treating children well.
DD met another mother of young children before SFC, but stopped associating with that family because he didn’t think the mother was a good enough parent. Specifically, he found out that the mother had told the kids to be on their best behavior when visiting DD, so he ended things with them. But SFC was an awful parent and DD put up with it. I’m told she routinely closed her office door while her toddlers fought outside. I don’t know why DD got rid of the first mother but then put up with SFC’s bad parenting. (Source: I’ve been told things by people who were part of the TCS community before me and who knew SFC/LT/DD/etc in person.)
SFC also mistreated DD himself, and he put up with that too, though I observed that after he was already highly invested in TCS, SFC, LT and LT’s sibling. When I visited the UK for three weeks, DD gave me a draft chapter of BoI to read and discuss. SFC was jealous that she didn’t get one. She kept bugging him about it repeatedly and trying to pressure him into giving her one (he refused). She was a bad friend who didn’t respect his control over his writing process.
I found out a lot about DD being two-faced with me because LT told me lots of the private stuff DD said to her (without getting his permission or telling him that she shared it). I don’t think she was wrong to do that, btw. DD was like a father to her (actively involved in her life since she was a toddler) and somewhat of a father-figure to me. It’s reasonable and understandable for kids to share information and discuss strategies for dealing with the irrationalities of their parents. On the other hand, I also think LT learned to be a two-faced gossip from DD and SFC, and there’s a major problem there. She sometimes shared info about me and others with people she didn’t know well (she confessed to doing this). Similarly, DD started badmouthing public figures (particularly ones he’d personally interacted with) to me when he hadn’t known me very long yet, and he kept doing it despite me frequently just literally not responding at all to it. Imagine how much mean gossip he’d tell someone who actually encouraged it…
DD wanted a student. He liked me when he gave partial explanations that almost no one could learn from, and I figured stuff out (often more than he meant or knew). That worked well when his conclusions were correct. But I couldn’t usually come up with convincing reasons for DD’s claims when he was wrong. Over time, I learned most of the stuff he was right about and that put more emphasis on the issues where we disagreed, since there was less other stuff left for him to teach me about. DD was never rational about debate and truth-seeking. I’m not sure that he ever changed his mind about anything major due to my arguments, despite thousands of hours of discussions. I did successfully correct him on many smaller things, including in the seven years I commented on and edited drafts of BoI, but he didn’t post mortem those errors to look for larger errors that could be root causes.
Anyway, DD helped me understand a lot of his ideas. Some were great and some were errors. Overall, engaging with him and his ideas was very intellectually beneficial for me. I wouldn’t regret it just because he left me. But I really do wish he’d leave me alone now. Hating me for no clear reason, and having his fans harass me, is really nasty. I didn’t recognize how irrational and dangerous he was. I don’t know major things that I should done have differently with DD, even in hindsight, though.
I thought that even though David Deutsch (DD) and his fans were harassing me, his books were still good. But I hadn’t reread them for years. On review, The Beginning of Infinity contains lots of misquotes. DD’s books are a lot worse than I realized. I was horrified to discover how frequently and severely DD misquotes. I trusted DD’s ability to quote accurately and handle details reliably and correctly, but I was wrong.
Also, DD explains too little in his books. They’re too hard to learn effectively from because he doesn’t give enough depth or detail. I had trouble seeing this in the past because I had many conversations with DD which filled in the gaps for me. But even when DD’s books say something important, he often doesn’t provide enough information for a reasonable, smart person to understand it well.
DD’s books have some good parts mixed in, but, due to the serious flaws, I retract my recommendation of them. I no longer want to actively promote them.
I’m sorry. I should have caught the misquotes earlier. I was capable of finding those errors years ago. I found and wrote about other similar errors.
I was giving DD space after he left the community. I guessed (I think accurately) that he wanted to be left alone by me and I was trying to respect his wishes. I mostly stayed away from him and his work after he left. I thought continuing to recommend his books was safe, but I was wrong about that.
I only started my video series about BoI after I gave up on DD leaving me alone. I caught the Feynman misquote in chapter 1 when I first reread it for the videos. BoI misquotes Feynman:
As the physicist Richard Feynman said, ‘Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves.’
Then, due to the harassment, I was reviewing old information and found a Popper misquote on an old TCS webpage. Someone (“Dec”) saw my post and told me that the same Popper quote was in BoI too. That made two misquotes in BoI, which was a possible pattern. That led to checking more quotes, which led to discovering that there are tons misquotes in BoI.
It seems that no other readers of BoI have noticed the misquoting problem yet (the errata page has factual errors but no misquotes), which I think is important information about the world. Regardless, I should have done better.
I took down the website beginningofinfinity.com and replaced it with the below protest message.
This website promoted David Deutsch’s book The Beginning of Infinity (BoI). David was my friend, mentor and colleague. I helped with drafts of BoI for seven years (I wrote over 200 pages of suggestions, comments and edits to help with the book). At David’s request, I made and owned this BoI website and the BoI Google Groups forum.
I’ve taken this site down in protest due to David’s role in harassment against me. I’ve been harassed by his fans and he lied about me. They’ve disrupted my blog, forums, and ability to discuss with other intellectuals online.
I also discovered many misquotes in BoI which, alone, would be enough reason for me to stop actively promoting BoI.
The story in short: David (and his Taking Children Seriously co-founder Sarah) created an online community which I was part of, but then he left after 15 years. Now he has a second fan community, which is harassing the first community. The harassment is primarily targeted at me, presumably because I’m now the leader of the older community. One of the motives some people have communicated is that they see me as David’s enemy.
The harassment has persisted for years, and has included dozens of fake identities (some maintained for months), hundreds of harassing messages from over one hundred IP addresses, stalking me to other websites to disrupt my conversations there, DDoSing, impersonation, threats, spam, plagiarism, libel, fraud and doxxing. Some of that is illegal (I am not a lawyer; I’ve presented evidence; judge for yourself).
David has been unwilling to ask his fans to stop, to discuss the matter privately or publicly, to explain himself, to dispute any of the evidence, to state a grievance he has against me, or to offer any terms for truce. I’d be willing to do conflict resolution through proxies or associates (David’s, mine or both) but he’s been unwilling to do that.
When asked to tell his fans to stop harassing, David not only refused, but turned it around and lied to attack the victim (me) which justified and encouraged additional harassment. His lie is damaging to my reputation and it seems likely that he’s said it to other people privately. Rather than deescalate, he choose to openly join in the harassment himself by smearing me. He hasn’t retracted his lie, nor has he denied circulating it privately so that harassers believed it and were motivated by it. This is despite me posting documentation that he’s lying. (I understand David’s lie to be libel and defamation, but I don’t have the resources to stop it. I am not a lawyer and you can read what he said at the link, along with the actual facts, and judge for yourself.)
I finally gave up and closed the comments on my blog – after 18 years and over 20,000 comments – due to being unable to deal with the harassment there. I’ve also been harassed at Reddit, Less Wrong, Twitter, Facebook, Google Groups, Basecamp, Discord and Slack. They won’t leave me alone.
David hasn’t argued that he isn’t involved or explained why his actions are OK. He hasn’t said which facts or claims he accepts or denies, presented his own account of events, or argued that my account is false. He hasn’t denied gossiping negatively about me, nor said what he’s doing to avoid crossing the line into unacceptable behavior. He hasn’t given an innocent explanation for the links between the harassment and his social circle.
David hasn’t taken steps to distance himself from the problem or to reduce the harm being done. He hasn’t stated that he’s opposed to harassment in general or to any of the harassing actions by his fans against me. He hasn’t blocked the worst harasser on Twitter, and keeps tweeting with him. David won’t do anything to delegitimize the harassment. Many of David’s friends and associates behave similarly or worse. David won’t even pay lip service to saying that I’m not his enemy or that I shouldn’t be harassed.
David also hasn’t disowned the subreddit for The Beginning of Infinity, which was created by the worst harasser. Nor has David disowned a nasty message posted under the name “David Deutsch” (I believe it was impersonation, which is something that ought to concern David). I think some of David’s fans have taken his behavior as a signal that he wants me harassed, and he’s refused to deny wanting me harassed.
I’ve documented the harassment, provided extensive evidence, and explained what’s going on. The response has been a mix of silence and more harassment. David is more powerful and influential than me, and has more support and resources, so there isn’t much I can do besides speak truth to power and hope that reasonable people listen. I’ve tried to put up with things, ignore things for months, privately ask for a peaceful resolution, publicly ask for a peaceful resolution, etc. In the past, David spent thousands of hours discussing with me, but now he’s stonewalling all attempts at deescalation.
I have the right to be left alone, not harassed for years. My rights are being violated, and I think David is the root cause of the problem. David needs to take appropriate steps to reign in his toxic community, and needs to retract his lie about me.
If you’d like to help, please ask David and his community about the problem, criticize them and complain, but don’t harass them in return. Maybe David will stop his bad behavior if people complain. David’s public email address is [email protected] and his Twitter is @DavidDeutschOxf.
— Elliot Temple (my philosophy work)
I completed my 12 part video series about The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch. I helped him with the book for 7 years.
Parts 1-9 and 11 explain ideas from chapter 1. Part 10 is about a misquote in chapter 1. And part 12 is about my blog post about many misquotes throughout the book.
I will no longer be promoting Deutsch's books.
David Deutsch (DD) wrote in Quantum theory, the Church-Turing principle and the universal quantum computer (1985), p. 3:
Church (1936) and Turing (1936) conjectured ... This is called the ‘Church-Turing hypothesis’; according to Turing,
Every ‘function which would naturally be regarded as computable’ can be computed by the universal Turing machine. (1.1)
And from Deutsch's references (p. 19):
Turing, A. M. 1936 Proc. Lond. math. Soc. Ser. 2, 442, 230.
Now we'll compare with Turing's paper: On Computable Numbers, With An Application To The Entscheidungsproblem (1936), p. 230:
the computable numbers include all numbers which could naturally be regarded as computable.
Turing wrote "numbers", but DD misquoted that as "function". Turing also wrote "could" which DD misquoted as "would".
There's also a problem because Deutsch uses what appears to be an italicized block quote. You'd expect the whole block quote to be a quote of Turing, but instead it's a paraphrase. Inside the paraphrase are quotation marks surrounding the misquote of Turing that I criticized.
DD's citation is also incorrect. DD cites Turing's paper to volume 442 of the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, but it was actually in volume 42 not 442.
To determine what's correct, we can check how Turing himself cites it. In a correction to his paper, Turing cited himself:
Proc. London Math. Soc. (2), 42 (1936-7), 230-265.
You can also see that the latest volume of the journal, published in 2021, is volume 122. Volume 442 is unlikely to exist for over 100 more years. And the journal's website has archives showing that the Turing article was in volume 42.
Tangentially, I hope this lowers your opinion of academic peer review. DD's paper was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, a prestigious and peer-reviewed journal that started in around 1830. It has published work from many famous scientists.
Thanks to Dec for finding this misquote.
Note that DD has published a lot of misquotes.
Update 2021-07-15: Dec pointed out that a similar Turing misquote is in DD's book The Fabric of Reality:
He [Turing] conjectured that this repertoire consisted precisely of ‘every function that would naturally be regarded as computable’.
No, Turing wrote "all numbers which could" not "every function that would".
It appears that DD got this misquote from his own paper, and also modified it. There's a recurring pattern where every time DD touches a quote, there's a significant chance that he changes something. Here, he took the word "every" which was outside of quote marks in his paper and moved it inside quote marks for his book.
Update 2021-09-14: I contacted the academic publisher (proceedings of the royal society). They looked into the matter and said:
Apologies for the delay in getting back to you on this. A board member has had a look at the paper and does not think the misquote affects the outcome of the research presented in the paper. Although the error in the refences is unfortunate, we do not believe it will prevent readers from finding the correct article. Given the age of the paper we therefore do not think any further action is necessary.
I have several criticisms of this response.
They agree with me that DD misquoted and miscited.
Why won't they put up errata on their website? Is that too hard for them (they are bad at websites?) or do they actually not want to?
Errata serves several purposes. Academics working in the field could find out about the issue. People debating the issue could also refer to it – it would e.g. let a student whose professor repeated the error borrow the journal's authority to correct the professor. It's risky to correct your professor in general, but much easier with an official errata to point him to.
Is correcting professors a real issue? I think so because professors have been teaching Deutsch's error (there are some examples posted in the comments below). And they've been doing it out of context. In other words, even if the error did not affect the conclusion of Deutsch's paper, it still can affect other conclusions about other issues. So spreading the error matters, and it has in fact been taught in schools. Also, any reader of the paper may remember the Turing quote and use it for something else, and it may negatively affect the conclusion of their usage, even if it didn't affect the conclusion of Deutsch's paper. (Admittedly, some of the professors don't cite a source and might have been getting the error from Deutsch's book The Fabric of Reality where he repeated a similar error. But the fact that Deutsch put roughly the same error in his book is, IMO, an additional reason to errata it and at least do a little bit to stop the spread of the error.)
If they published an errata or other note about the error, they could also state their reasons for why they believe the paper's conclusion is unaffected. Other people could consider that reasoning and potentially disagree. This could be an area for critical thinking and truth seeking rather than an unaccountable authority pronouncing judgment for secret reasons. Even if it's no big deal in this case, their general attitude is concerning. How many other judgments do they make with no transparency? What is the nature of those judgments? Are any of those judgments mistaken? Do they gloss over many errors in papers they published? Could they be doing that partly out of bias and not wanting to draw attention to their own involvement in errors?
People expect academic science journals with peer review to have high standards and to be really picky about errors. They are not living up to this reputation. So much for their unlimited interest in truth for the sake of truth or whatever they were supposed to be doing.
They are still sharing the paper electronically and could update it there. Deutsch is still alive and available and could actually write or approve a small update, or they could do an update which is labelled as written by a journal editor not Deutsch.
How did this error happen? How did every step of the publishing process miss it? Did anyone intentionally cause or allow the error? Were any biases involved? They did no post mortem, no root cause analysis, no investigation into their peer review and editorial process, etc.
There are major causes for concern here. This errors calls into question how effective their reviewers and editors are. It also calls into question Deutsch's integrity. Maybe it was an accident but they have given no account of how it could have happened accidentally nor asked him to give one.
Do peer reviewers or editors not check quotes or cites? Should they? How widespread a problem is misquoting? How many other misquote reports do they receive, validate as correct criticism, and then bury? Might they be hiding a pattern revealing that many papers contain misquotes? Instead of hiding misquotes should they be doing something different like e.g. paying people enough money for misquote reports to make finding the misquotes worth the time and effort? If they actually wanted to find out about misquotes, and find out how big a problem it is, wouldn't they do something more like that? They could have responded to me by offering me money to find more misquotes since I've proven I can do it. That seems reasonable if they were better and more interesting in correcting errors.
Deutsch had an argument with a referree which was related to the text Deutsch misquoted:
But I soon found out that not everyone saw it that way. I also had referee problems. The referee of the paper in which I presented that proof insisted that Turing’s phrase “would naturally be regarded as computable” referred to mathematical naturalness – mathematical intuition – not nature.
(BTW, as a first impression, without reading Turing's paper or investigating the issue, I agree with the referree. When talking about naturally regarding something, that sounds like it's talking about what is natural or intuitive to people and their opinions, not about nature, due to what the key word "regard" means.)
Could Deutsch have intentionally misquoted in order to help win a specific logical point he was arguing about with the reviewer? Could the horrible, misleading presentation of the quote (as a block quote with an internal quote – which btw has tricked some people into thinking the whole thing is a quote) have been some kinda compromise worked out between Deutsch and the peer reviewer? Was the misquote in earlier drafts of the paper? Do they have records of what changes were made to the paper during peer review? In any case, there is some possible motive here for Deutsch falsifying the quote on purpose or just being biased and more careless in his own favor. Deutsch has a history of repeated misquotes throughout his career and most of them favor him in some way and I don't recall any that were bad for him, so it seems like whatever's going on involves bias if not actual deliberate, fully-conscious misquoting.
Seriously, how do wording errors in quotes happen accidentally? I understand typoing a letter or two when typing a quote in from a paper book or journal. But how do you just change the word? That seems more like Deutsch quotes stuff from memory – and his memory is biased in his favor (or there's selection bias – if he likes the version he remembers then he uses it, but if it's not ideal then he looks up the exact wording). Quoting from memory in your books and papers (and scripted speeches) is a serious scholarship violation that should lead to repercussions and major reputational damage. That's totally unacceptable. Another possibility, which there have also been potential indicators for, is that Deutsch changes quotes during his editing process without double checking the original. I suspect Deutsch thinks certain minor changes to quotes are OK, and maybe this somehow escalates to more major wording changes after multiple editing passes. Deutsch's editing could be like the game "telephone" where you whisper something to the guy next to you, who whispers it to the next guy, and so on. The goal is to repeat exactly what you heard. After something has been whispered a dozen times, often all the words are different and the meaning is totally changed.
In my experience, people are often willing to view things as "an accident" or "a mistake" without thinking about how exactly it happened. Some mistakes are simple like a one letter typo happening because you pressed the wrong keyboard key by accident because your finger dexterity is good but imperfect so occasionally you hit the wrong key (and then you usually notice and fix the typo, but not always). But many errors don't have such simple explanations and merit actual analysis. Changing the word "numbers" to "function" is not a typo due to flawed finger dexterity. That's bias, misremembering (while incorrectly believing quoting from memory is OK), intentionally falsifying the quote, or perhaps a horribly unreasonable editing processes that edits words within quotes similarly to how it edits words that are not within quotes. Or there are other possibilities like maybe a peer reviewer or editor caused the error and Deutsch didn't have full control over the final wording of his paper.
And how did the journal miss the error? Was it anyone's job to catch the error? Would the journal like to catch such errors in the future? And how did the error remain unnoticed in the archives for decades? Do they have a tiny readership? Do their readers not care about errors? Do their readers fail to report errors? Do their readers report errors but nothing is done? Would it make sense to hire people to review the archives for errors or should they focus on catching more errors before publication or should they just continue to not even post errata about errors and pretend nothing happened?
For more info, see my reply email to the journal:
I took down the Beginning of Infinity website in protest two months ago, after David Deutsch (DD) and his fans harassed me repeatedly for years. They won't discuss why or stop. What's happened since then?
Maybe people feel justified attacking me with sock puppets because DD lies to them that I do that to him. There have been repeated signs that people got this idea from CritRat community gossip, and DD is the community leader and I now know that he has said it to people. I have now seen DD, in writing, gossiping to people to try to turn them against me, mocking me and encouraging hatred, and specifically telling people that some of his critics are my sock puppets (with zero evidence, and with the hyphenated spelling "sock-puppet"). And if DD were correct, as he believed he was, then he would have been doxxing me by outing an anonymous account as me. And what enabled the attempted doxxing? Our friendship. If I were a stranger or a forum poster he only knew impersonally, then DD would not have been able to guess which accounts were mine and convince others that he was probably correct. (BTW the account DD claimed was my "sock-puppet" in multiple emails was an openly anonymous account that didn’t claim to be a unique person who wasn’t already in the discussion, so it couldn't even have been a sock puppet in the usual sense. The posts DD were upset about consisted primarily of quotes from his books to show what he’d actually written, which DD considered an attack. DD didn’t want to, and didn’t, clarify his positions on the matters being discussed, and was upset that anyone would use his book quotes against him to try to tie him to specific viewpoints that could be criticized.)
Since the problem is active today (ongoing harassment, my blog comments still disabled, DD's lie not retracted, no attempt to clean up their toxic community and prevent further harassment, etc.), I’m going to share more information related to DD’s harassment campaign. This time, I’ll provide evidence that DD is a mean person who is capable of mistreating me, since that seems to be something that people doubt who don't know him personally. People may find it implausible that he’d be so cruel to me – his behavior is so bad that some people doubt I could be telling the truth – so hopefully seeing some of his other bad behavior will help persuade people.
I don’t want to take actions like this, and will be happy to stop when DD takes actions to improve this intolerable situation. He should make a reasonable attempt to stop his community from harassing, including asking them to stop and enabling some line of communication so that incidents can be reported and addressed. (In source links below, chats are displayed using Past for iChat.)
2011-05-12: David Deutsch called Sam Harris “gullible as a sheet of paper” and said Harris’ writing about meditation has no meaning (“meaning is there none”). David then went on Harris’s podcast, twice, and acted friendly. Source.
2008-06-20: David Deutsch insulted Richard Dawkins. “Dawkins should write his God stuff under a pseudonym. (And his political stuff on toilet paper and just flush it.)” David based one of four strands in his first book on Dawkins’ work and has had friendly conversations with Dawkins in person. Source.
2009-03-11: David Deutsch says Scott Aaronson is “not a serious thinker. He’s just a mathematician with delusions of competence (and indeed authoritay) in philosophy, politics etc.” Source. And on 2010-04-06, he mocked Aaronson as someone he really wouldn’t want to be Facebook friends with. Source.
2003-04-26: David Deutsch attacked Rafe Champion (a Popper scholar whose work David is currently recommending) as both “insane” and “anti-Semitic”. Then David was friendly to Champion in emails (I saw some of them) for at least the next nine years. Source.
2008-06-25: David Deutsch insulted Thomas Szasz (author of The Myth of Mental Illness) saying he “only knows two things, maybe three.” Deutsch also mocked Szasz’s accent. Previously, Deutsch met Szasz in person, was respectful to his face, and got his copy of Szasz’s book The Second Sin signed by Szasz in 1988 (Deutsch still had the signed book in 2012). Source.
2010-10-01: David Deutsch was involved in meetings to set up a proposed “Future Technology Institute” with other senior members including Nick Bostrom who heads the Future of Humanity Institute. Deutsch mocked the others: “They are scared that AIs may go rogue and fill the world with paper clips. They are more scared of this sort of accident than of bad governments using AI as a weapon.” He also accused them of being pandering social-climbers (and confessed to being that himself): “Mostly we were all trying to impress the sponsor with our cleverness and depth. So nothing has actually happened yet.” Source.
2008-06-20: David Deutsch says Daniel Dennett’s ideas “are about as good as a rottweiler’s”. This is extra insulting because David believes dogs aren’t intelligent at all and don’t have ideas. He believes the animal rights movement is an error because animals are literally 100% incapable of thinking, having any emotion or suffering. In my experience, David often ridicules animals and uses them in jokes and negative comments. Source.
If these quotes have convinced you that DD could be doing something wrong, you can read about the harassment campaign. You can also complain to him. DD's public email address is [email protected] and his Twitter is @DavidDeutschOxf. Perhaps the best way to help is by sharing this information with more people.
I wrote the below email to the Proceedings of the Royal Society (academic journal) as a followup to the issue of Deutsch misquoting Turing. They agreed that Deutsch's quote and citation were both inaccurate, but didn't want to do anything, even post an errata, on the basis that the errors didn't affect the paper's conclusion.
Thanks for getting back to me. I have a few remaining concerns.
The quote in question was related to a disagreement when the paper was first published. Deutsch said:
I also had referee problems. The referee of the paper in which I presented that proof insisted that Turing’s phrase “would naturally be regarded as computable” referred to mathematical naturalness – mathematical intuition – not nature. And so what I had proved wasn’t Turing’s conjecture.
I wonder what processes were in place – from both Deutsch and referees – that could still miss that it’s a misquote, with an incorrect cite, while actively debating what that exact phrase means. That specific part of the paper got particular attention and the error was somehow missed anyway. Or perhaps the debate over that quote caused edits which introduced the error (I wonder if there are still records of what changes were made during the review process?). I suspect there’s a systems, processes and policies problem somewhere that could be improved.
Turing’s actual words being significantly different (Deutsch changed “numbers” to “function” but those are different concepts) has a meaningful chance to matter to the debate they had over what Turing meant. And Deutsch seems to agree with the referee that that debate matters to what Deutsch had and hadn’t proved, to his conclusion.
I don’t think a wording change like that can easily be explained as a random error, like a typo. I think a root cause analysis would be worthwhile, including e.g. asking Deutsch how he thinks the error happened. There could have been quoting from memory, changing quotes during editing passes, intentionally changing it to better address the referee’s objections, a change made by the referee himself (I don’t know if they are able to change any words), or something else. It’s hard to speculate but could be investigated since there are no obvious answers that make what happened reasonable. I think the results of looking into this would be relevant to many other papers at your journal and others. I’ve found that misquotes are widespread throughout the academic (and non-academic) worlds.
Also, even if the conclusion of this paper is unchanged, I think an errata would be appropriate because people have been spreading the error and using the misquote for other purposes. It's been taught to students in university courses. In general, people read trusted sources like your journal, remember some parts, and then reuse stuff for other purposes. An error that doesn’t matter in one context often does matter in another context. Posting an errata on your website would help with this ongoing problem.
I also think it’d be reasonable to, along with the errata, publicly share the reasoning that the error doesn’t matter to Deutsch’s conclusion so that other people can judge for themselves.
 Here is an example of a Stanford course spreading the error: https://cs269q.stanford.edu/lectures/lecture1.pdf