2019 October Links

This is a post of links to research, blogs, articles, videos, etc. on topics I find interesting. I do this because I remember things better when I use them, and then I can better integrate them into my worldview. It also creates a stock of citations I can look back on, instead of struggling forever on google while I attempt to retrieve some study I read one time but can't remember where I found it.

So here it goes...

1. Listen to Ryan Holiday on Stillness. He explains how essentially all of the ancient traditions from Buddhism to Christianity to Stoicism to Confucianism all speak of this idea of stillness. Stillness is a moment of clarity of what matters, how beautiful life is, and experiencing the present moment fully. It's serene and calm. Stillness seems close to synonymous with mindfulness meditation., although Holiday explains that these moments ensue more than they can be pursued. We deprive ourselves of opportunities for stillness because we build our entire lives around making these moments not possible.

2. Tyler Cowen calls Joker the most anti-leftist movie he's ever seenIf you go to the Top Critics page on Rotten Tomatoes, 27 of 50 give it the Thumbs Down. Director Todd Phillips said on the matter, "“I think it’s because outrage is a commodity, I think it’s something that has been a commodity for a while... What’s outstanding to me in this discourse in this movie is how easily the far left can sound like the far right when it suits their agenda. It’s really been eye-opening for me.”

3. Michael Huemer's defense of hypotheticals:
"Briefly, the reason is that hypothetical thought experiments provide a means
for conceptual controls that often cannot be reproduced in reality. Or,
in other words, they provide a way of mentally isolating
a causal, explanatory, or logical factor for examination on its own
which normally, in the real world, cannot be isolated, and to do so
while still discussing a concrete situation."
and Bryan Caplan posits a hypothetical I've been wondering for years,
"Suppose you can either save one American or x foreigners. How big does x have to be before you save the foreigners?"
My answer is 1. Why not 2? Because foreigners are more likely to have had more tough luck in their lives.

4. A very similar hypothetical from Twitter:
"There’s a planet, call it Alderaan, inhabited by 3 billion intelligent and sentient creatures. Your choice: do you push a button that kills 30 random people on earth or one that blows up Alderaan?"
A shocking 25% give what I consider the wrong answer.

5. 1/16 (6.5%) of women said the first time they had intercourse it was not consensual. (sci-hub)

It leaves itself open to the usual semantic issues common among studies which show outrageous prevalence of rape. This study, in particular, allows that a man who threatens to leave a sexless relationship is employing a "method of coercion".

6. There is no sex difference in reactions to sex differences.

When subjects were showed fake research on sex differences (i.e., men/women are better at drawing; women/men lie more), both sexes reacted less positively to the male-favoring differences, judging the findings less important, less plausible, more surprising, more offensive, more harmful, and more upsetting, as well as judging the research less well-conducted and studies of that type more inherently sexist.

This might be due in part to the Women are Wonderful Effect

7. You might think you chose your politics, but this twin study shows your political ideology is largely genetic (article, Sci-hub).

Other studies with similar results:

Genetic influence on political discussion: Results from two twin studies (sci-hub):
"Results from both studies demonstrate latent genetic traits account for, on average, 40.63% of variance in traditional and online political talk, discussion with agreement and disagreement, and political conflict avoidance."
The genetics of politics: discovery, challenges, and progress (sci-hub):
"Here, we review the 'genetics of politics', focusing on the topics that have received the most attention: attitudes, ideologies, and pro-social political traits, including voting behavior and participation."
Genetic and Environmental Transmission of Political Attitudes Over a Life Time
"at the point of early adulthood (in the early 20s), for those who left their parental home, there is evidence of a sizeable genetic influence on political attitudes which remains stable throughout adult life."

Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted? Twin study:
"The results indicate that genetics plays an important role in shaping political attitudes and ideologies but a more modest role in forming party identification; as such, they call for finer distinctions in theorizing about the sources of political attitudes."
Can I find any study showing little or no genetic influence on politics? Nope.

8. Study shows both left and right extremist political ideologies have four common psychological features: (a) psychological distress (b) black-and-white perception of the social world; (c) overconfidence (d) less tolerance (sci-hub)

9. Razib Khan lists stuff he was wrong about, and then goes on the  Rationally Speaking Podcast to talk about it. This is a good practice that I hope to undertake.

10. Also on the rationally speaking podcast, it looks like the Stanford Prison Experiment was much less of an experiment and much more of a demonstration.

11. Eric Weinstein's The Portal Podcast is up with several episodes already (Youtube, Apple, Spotify)
He had Andrew Yang on proving once and for all Yang is the smartest presidential candidate this election cycle.

12. Eric's brother, Bret Weinstein, also started a podcast. He recently talked to John Wood Jr. of the Better Angels organization which seeks to depolarize America sometimes using marriage counseling techniques. Better angels includes Jonathan Haidt as one of their board members, and I've heard John Wood Jr. talk before on Glenn Loury's show.

13. A consensus among economists that there's no justification for unequal pay between U.S. Women's and Men's national soccer teams. The follow-up question shows much less consensus on whether it's viable to fine companies that fail to provide the same remuneration to men and women employees performing comparable roles. In the comments, economists frequently mention the problem with defining comparable.

14. A baby younger than 1 year has about the same probability of death as someone in their early 50s. After the first year, the odds of death decrease drastically, and then gradually continues to decrease until the age of 10, which is statistically the safest age to be. The Probability of death is higher for males than females in every single year of life. With no exceptions, you're more likely to make it to your next birthday if you're female. Life expectancy is higher for females in every country except for 1. The one exception is Swaziland, a South African country with a population of about a million.

15. I had a post called The Hypocrisy Trap forthcoming. It's about the hypocrisy of partisans who point out the inconsistency of their opponents who believe X but not Y, when they themselves believe Y and not X. Of course, they see all the differences between X and Y when they're accused of hypocrisy, but not when they're accusing others of it.

but Josh already wrote it.

16. Here is the famous study of the Gender Stem Paradox (sci-hub), which shows the more gender-equal the country, the smaller the percentage of women who attain science, technology, engineering, and math degrees. Countries like Finland and Sweden have very low rates of women graduating from STEM fields (around 20%), while countries like Vietnam and Turkey have higher rates of women graduating from STEM fields (closer to 40%).

How do they measure gender equality? The researchers pull from the Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum. They measure gender equality by 14 criteria which include items like m/f wage equality for the same work, number of years with a female head of state, and m/f labor force participation.

17. The popular claim that K-12 funding is regressive because localities fund it through property tax is false. Education is actually somewhat progressive. Here is a state by state breakdown of education progressivity by the Urban Institute and Brookings finds the same thing. The Economist too.

It seems education funding has been a little bit progressive since the mid-90s and has stayed that until the present. From what understand, in the 60s and 70s states were sued for failing to provide a "general education" which their state constitutions guaranteed. Since then, States have been increasing their share of education funding relative to local governments, and it's been deliberately spent to offset the regressivity of local funding through property taxes. They accomplished their goal decades ago, but people keep repeating the long-expired fact that education funds favor rich districts.

Also see Alex Tabbarok on the lack of administrative bloat in education (which would have been my first guess as to where the money is going), Our World in Data's page on financing education, and the Department of Education's 10 facts about K-12 education spending.

18. This research from Beijing uses satellite data to show widespread increase of greening over 25% to 50% of global vegetated area and 70% of it is due to increased carbon emissions.

19. A report questioning whether climate change benefits outweigh the costs. It doesn't take much to prove to me that some environmentalists underrate climate change. How can they not be? They deny any benefits and are convinced the costs are the worst thing imaginable. But even if we correct for their exaggerations, showing that climate change has net benefits still look difficult.

I'm also skeptical of the skeptics. Since climate change denial has mostly failed, there's a gap to be filled. Since the scent of leftist ideology wreaks through climate change activism a lot of people are looking for a response, and they'll take one even if it hasn't reached acceptable standards.

20. Everything is Awesome and Nobody's Happy: More Black Men Succeeding in America:

21. Philosophers and neuroscientists join forces to see whether science can solve the mystery of free will. And Has Libet's famous experiment, showing the brain makes choices before we are aware of them, failed to replicate? Or not?

22. Pew on the gradual decline of Christianity in the United States.

23. Lies damn lies and social media: Contrary to many popular memes going around, the life expectancy of trans people is not 35.
"outlets and people who repeat this claim are extrapolating the life expectancy for trans women in the United States based on organizations that have made that claim about an entirely different region, one with some of the highest murder rates in the world."
If you're disappointed either because you hate trans people just that much, or because you lost one of your favorite weapons for fighting trans-phobes, you should start being a better person.

24. After the Australian Koala Foundation claimed that Koala's were "functionally extinct", nobody cared what that meant, nobody cared if it was true, but everybody cared about what side you're on. Putting my head first and heart second, I decided to investigate.

What does functionally extinct mean? It could mean there aren’t enough breeding adults left to support another generation of the pouched mammals? It could mean a species whose population has declined to the point where it can no longer play a significant role in their ecosystem? It could mean its decline leads to the extinction of other species? Or it could mean, a species that is probably extinct but we can’t be sure?

Is it true? Are panda's functionally extinct? Of course, it depends on the definition, but when the National Koala Foundation says something like this, I put as much stock in it as if the Starbucks Foundation discovered people don't drink enough coffee. It could be true, but I'm not going to take them at their word.

Besides, the National Koala Foundation's estimate of only 80,000 Koala's left is well below other estimates. This study done by researchers, not activists, finds there's something more like 300,000 Koalas (upper bound 605,000 lower bound: 144,000)

25. I'm a big fan of the blog Wait, But Why? If you're not go read the long and entertaining post on The Thinking Ladder. A quote:
"When you’re high up on the Psych Spectrum, you get the best of all worlds. The Higher Mind understands that primitive pleasures like sex, food, and all-in-good-fun tribalism like sports fandom are awesome, and often necessary, parts of a human life. And like a good pet owner, the Higher Mind is more than happy to let the Primitive Mind have its fun. Primitive bliss is great, as long as it’s being managed by the Higher Mind, who makes sure it’s done in moderation, done for the right reasons, and no one gets hurt."
26. I've been skeptical of calling social justice a religion per se, mostly because Scott Alexander points out how easy it is to map something onto a religious framework using "looks like a duck, quacks like a duck" logic:
"Does it have well-known figures? Then they’re “gurus” and it’s a religion.
Are there books about it? Then those are “scriptures” and it’s a religion.
Does it recommend doing anything regularly? Then those are “rituals” and it’s a religion.
How about just doing anything at all? Then that’s a “commandment” and it’s a religion.
Does it say something is bad? Then that’s “sin” and it’s a religion.
Does it hope to improve the world, or worry about the world getting worse? That’s an “eschatology” and it’s a religion.
Do you disagree with it? Then since you’ve already determined all the evidence is against it, people must believe it on “faith” and it’s a religion."
But James Lindsay goes much deeper into exactly what he means by religion (ideologically motivated moral communities), and shows just how well the social justice group fits this definition. Read Postmodern Religion and the Faith of Social Justice.
"What makes moral tribes “ideologically motivated” is the incorporation of truly, locally, sacrosanct ideas imported from some ideology or faith tradition. These by definition cannot be questioned, challenged, or doubted. Sacred beliefs are ones that have been for moral reasons removed from the realm of skepticism and doubt because they’re viewed as too important to be subjected to these corrosive influences. Instead, sacred beliefs are effectively set aside from rational inquiry, which results in an expectation for them to be understood mythologically rather than literally, technically, or scientifically."
27. Related: Social Justice is crowdsourced religion.

28. This study on the results of 53 television advertising experiments shows only a "modest" effect on voter behavior.

Also see: Measuring the Effects of Televised Political Advertising in the United States (sci-hub)
"Despite all this evidence about fundamental attachments and national factors, nearly every person outside the walls of the academy remained convinced that the campaign activity seen before every election must matter. Of course, the simple fact that campaigns advertise—and often massively—does not constitute sufficient evidence to demonstrate that political advertising has an impact on voters."
"After much debate, the emerging conventional wisdom in this literature, which would not come as a great shock to political consultants, is that campaign spending has a positive influence on votes. Although increased spending might have a small and diminishing effect on a candidate’s vote share, it is nonetheless a beneficial effect that could be significant in a tight race."
29. I've already linked to SlateStarCodex several times in this post, but Too Much Dark Money in Almonds is too good not to quote:
"Everyone always talks about how much money there is in politics. This is the wrong framing. The right framing is Ansolabehere et al’s: why is there so little money in politics?"
"Add up all US spending on candidates, PACs, lobbying, think tanks, and advocacy organizations – liberal and conservative combined – and we’re still $2 billion short of what we spend on almonds each year. In fact, we’re still less than Elon Musk’s personal fortune; Musk could personally fund the entire US political ecosystem on both sides for a whole two-year election cycle."
Many of these links reaffirm my claim that ideology, not money, is the reason politics sucks so much.

30. Which of these 16 reasoning styles best captures the way you think?  by the Julia Galef associated site Clearthinking.org

Unsurprisingly, I'm a rationalist

31. Skeptic.com and Michael Shermer try to do a study on the demographics of the Intellectual Dark Web. They only got about a 50% response rate and none of the results were surprising, at least to me.

32. Surprise, surprise:
"Despite being shown identical data, participants in the Authentic condition differed in their judgments of the graphs along party lines."
33. Is disgust a conservative emotion? Study says no, it's just that liberals are better at studying conservatives than other liberals.

34. Conservapedia on Bill and Hillary Clinton's racism is another example of the Self-Reinforcing Dog Whistle Machine. Any single example doesn't look like racism, but if you assemble a whole slew of examples it starts to look like a pattern.

35. The Diet Soda Myth that Won't Die
"No matter how many times you stress the difference between correlation and causation, people still look at “increased risk” and determine that the risk is causing the bad outcome."
36. Media Bubbles Aren’t The Biggest Reason We’re Partisans says more Americans have a centrist media diet than a slanted one. And most Americans are basically fasting.

It links to a report excellently titled, Avoiding the Echo Chamber about Echo Chambers

37. Why professors shouldn't hide their political politics is about how we should make our classrooms political to keep them from becoming partisan.

38. The libertarian organization Reason come to a very non-libertarian conclusion about Target raising the wage of it's workers to $15 an hour.

For a good interview on minimum wage see Jacob Vigdor on the Seattle Minimum Wage

39. Read Jacob Falkovich's summary of Predictable Identities, a series of posts on the principles of predictive processing and how we apply them to other people,
"Our brains constantly predict sensory inputs using a hierarchy of models. Learning new and better models improves our predictive ability in the long term but can be so painful in the short term that we will fight against updating, and often fight the people who force us to update. It’s important to take all models with a grain of salt and resist the lure of all-explaining ideologies
We predict the world to exploit and act on it, and the same applies to other people. We need to know how to get people to do nice things for us, using stereotypes for strangers we don’t know and more detailed mind-simulations for people we do. We don’t need detailed models for people unlikely to be nice no matter what, and we’re creeped out by people who don’t fit our models at all like those who blow their non-conformity budget. We encourage those around us to conform to our narratives and predictions of them, which means that changing one’s opinions and behavior takes great effort in the face of the expectations of your social surroundings."
40. Coffee doesn't dehydrate you. While it may be true that caffeine is a mild diaretic (some research questioning even that), a cup of coffee is also made of water. The hydrating effect of the water outweighs the dehydrating effect of the caffeine. A cup of coffee has a net hydrating effect.

See: Precision Hydration, Time, Mayoclinic, Livescience, National Post, Self, and studies A randomized trial to assess the potential of different beverages to affect hydration status: development of a beverage hydration index and Fluid, electrolyte, and renal indices of hydration during 11 days of controlled caffeine consumption.

41. Study finds no statistically detectable relationship between how morally good you say you are, and how honest and fair and loyal you say you are, and what your closest friends and family say about you (blog, study)

42. When in the pregnancy do abortions take place? is an important question if you think life begins after conception but before birth. Both pro-life and pro-choice organizations cite The Center for Disease Control,
"The majority of abortions in 2015 took place early in gestation: 91.1% of abortions were performed at ≤13 weeks’ gestation; a smaller number of abortions (7.6%) were performed at 14–20 weeks’ gestation, and even fewer (1.3%) were performed at ≥21 weeks’ gestation"

Also, black women are 3x more likely to have an abortion, and still have much higher rates after controlling for income. In New York City, more African American babies were aborted than were born alive in New York City.

in 2014, there were 652,639 legal induced abortions nationally. Apply the 35 percent figure offered by Isaac and it looks like black women obtained 228,423 abortions for a rate of 626 a day

43. Social Justice becoming the face of the left:
"nearly half - 47%! -of respondents say that the party has moved too far left. Asked hat same question of the Republican Party and just 37% say it has moved too far right."
44. While car accident mortality is falling, pedestrial fatality is rising.

Also, we mustn't entertain the idea that change in pedestrian behavior could have a contributing effect. Evidence be damned, that would be blaming the victim.

45. Arnold Kling on persuasion mode vs. demonization mode

46. There is so much to learn from Glenn Loury. This video is the perfect introduction to him.

My favorite posts of this month:
Hate looks like Righteousness from the Inside
These Pictures aren't Real Life

Posts I'd like to write next month:
-Campaign Finance Vs. Ideology
and more generally people are evil vs. system is broken
-More guidelines for not terrible parenting
-What economists consider market failure vs. the public
-The environmental influence on homosexuality
-Me vs. conservatism on authority and tradition
-A collection of evidence that economists overwhelmingly support free trade

New Month's Resolutions for November:
-Go to the gym 8 times
-Weigh in 20 times
-Weigh in < 166 lbs


This is a Links Post. Here are some more posts like this:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the shoutout! The fact that you were considering the same issues makes me more confident that there's some meat there.

    Also, love the links posts. It's a buffet of interesting articles and I keep coming back for more!