Tuesday S&T II


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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107 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Sc6: The result of publish or perish, right there (the Academy deserves an equal measure of the blame heaped upon the researchers). What’s unfortunate is that it sounds like the lab generates a lot of investigatory leads & ideas, but rather than fleshing those out into legit studies, they publish and move on.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine says:

      In concurrence, the publish/perish paradigm is certainly driving bad behavior… but isn’t it the repeatability dearth that the real crisis?

      Which ironically in this particular case (or in one particular instance in this particular case) the findings were repeated (so they say)

      “He pointed out that an independent lab confirmed the basic findings of the pizza papers. “That is, even where there has been unintentional error, the conclusions and impacts of the studies have not changed,””

      But yes, they appear to be mining the data for science nuggets that should form the basis of future studies… so publishing the findings as studies seems to be something of systemic error.

      Sounds like the system needs some gamification… scientists need to be rewarded for confirming/falsifying peer studies at rates higher than publishing the initial finding… rewards for confirmed findings should be backloaded upon repeatability. They should do a study on that.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        It’s publish or perish because journals aren’t interested in confirmation studies*, only in novel results. Sure, the journals also have to own some of this as well, for supporting the incentive, but it’s still the P-or-P dynamic at play.

        *The closest they get is Lit Reviews, which aren’t duplication/confirmation, but at least try to asses the quality of what is published.Report

        • fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

          Y’all really do NOT want to get me started on academic publishing and “publish or perish” ‘cos I could write a long and rambly novel about it 😛

          And also how things like post-tenure review and the threat of being de-tenured (so that someone can be hired new at much lower wages) drives the need to feed the publications beast even more.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Maybe if they hired professors that cost less they wouldn’t have to keep raising tuition.Report

            • Avatar dragonfrog says:

              Profs don’t cost all that much – and in particular, they don’t cost much more now than they used to.

              Administration, sports, edifices, on the other hand…Report

            • fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

              $60,000 a year? Is that excessive?

              ‘Cos that’s what I make right now.

              Those 6-figure professorial salaries you see are mostly for people at law and medical schools.

              (I may have a history with this people are not seeing: when our anatomist, who taught GROSS ANATOMY (think: cadaver) retired, they were at first telling us, “Oh, can’t you get an adjunct who will do it?” Adjuncts are part-timers making maybe $5000 a semester, and getting zero benefits. And my fear is that a lot of unis are looking to do that – to contingentify the work force. And I can’t live on 15,000 a year, y’all. And I have NOTHING to fall back on: no spouse making money, no medical experience where I could go be a dental hygienist or something. If I lose this – well, I don’t know what I’d do. So I get slightly frantic over the whole thing. I probably need therapy, yes, but can’t afford it right now)Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            Y’all really do NOT want to get me started on academic publishing

            Actually, we do, as long you do a guest post, because, hey, content!Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine says:

          Well, yes… but “journals” are just people; there’s a cost to “science” being imposed by people at journals. Science people should review the actions of Journal people lest those costs have bad effects on Science people.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            The Academy should engage in some introspection about how it’s demands for prestigious publication hurt it’s own mission. Or, more simply, the Academy needs to start telling the journals to go pound sand with regard to only wanting novel research. The Academy is fully equipped to evaluate the value of the work it’s faculty is performing, and needs to stop outsourcing that evaluation to external publications.Report

            • Avatar veronica d says:

              @oscar-gordon — It’s really nice how much of the “real action” in CompSci happens, these days, on arXiv. There is an important distinction. If your algorithm is crap, and your proofs are fudged, then your code won’t actually work. People will notice. You’ll get a rep. That said, it is damn nice.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Lots of the experimental hard sciences work the same. Gotta show your work, and if the next lab over can’t make it work, they call BS.

                It’s the squishy statistical stuff that is in trouble. If there is a p to hack, it will be hacked.Report

  2. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    I1: I’ve been hearing about the death of blogs for several years now. Yet my daily routine still involves my regular blog reading, with no dearth of material. What is really going on is that blogs are no longer the Hot New Thing, so people who want the HNT, either as producers or consumers, have moved on. The people who are interested in what blogs do well (medium form–not long, but more than 140 characters–pieces, often but not necessarily timely to the day) keep doing their thing. The ‘blogs are dying’ meme is akin to the idea that baseball is dying: sure, it is pulling in huge crowds and fantastic revenue, but the Superbowl gets higher ratings than the World Series, so ergo…Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      Most existing blogs also have a well-established commentariat at this point with little new blood coming in. You can’t really use blogs to launch a career anymore like the first generation.Report

      • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

        How much is this that the bacteria have spread throughout the Petry dish, and how much that there is less agar? I’m sure it is some of both, but I think it is more the first.

        It is a normal progression. I see this in discussions of self-published novels. This trend opened up around, oh, let’s say 2010. Writers who jumped in right away could do very well, even if they had had no name recognition beforehand. A lot of the early adopters are still doing OK, so long as they keep churning out the content, because they got that name recognition. A no-name trying to break in today has a lot harder time of standing out in the ever-growing crowd.Report

        • Avatar Maribou says:

          @richard-hershberger @leeesq

          My skepticism about “the death of the blogosphere” has a lot to do with remembering “the death of the blogosphere”s that have happened before (literally about blogs) since way back in 1999 or so. There’s been probably 3 of them so far? Maybe more like 5 or 6.

          “like the first generation.”

          This is a good example. Which first generation would that be? The folks who were writing in the late 90s, moved into professional writing or got busy and moved on? Cause that’s not the first generation I think you’re talking about, @leeesq …Report

  3. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Te1: Want to see the industry get concerned? Impose automatic significant financial rebates to the customers when it’s shown that their IoT device leaks or steals personal data. Say, 25% of MSRP in the event of a leak, and 50% in the event of theft. Define theft broadly, so it includes things like the smart TVs that uploaded viewing information by default.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      See also: The smart thing Sen. Warren is trying to do with regard to Equifax & other agencies that hold reams of private data.Report

  4. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    [I4] Getty Images may have a legitimate interest in people visiting their sites, or their customers’ sites, but I don’t see how Google has any obligation to change their search engine to make it happen. After all they could be just as many entities that want people to be able to view the images they serve up as conveniently as possible.

    Getty is in control of their own servers, they can filter by HTTP referrer.

    If I own a coffee shop and don’t want people coming in just to refill their travel mugs, I can put a sign up that says “we don’t serve takeout”. No need to try to arm wrestle all nearby stores to stop selling travel mugs.Report

    • Avatar Maribou says:

      @dragonfrog Yes, exactly this.

      (I would also look at this in the context of the embedding question we were discussing a week or two ago. It’s no coincidence that Getty is giving the plaintiff in that case his bankroll…)Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      Getty is in control of their own servers, they can filter by HTTP referrer.

      I don’t understand why they didn’t just do that. Surely it must have been cheaper than suing Google. Unless Google was caching the images on their own servers, which would be pretty clear infringement, but AFAIK they weren’t.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        I can’t actually find Getty’s complaint, but apparently it was on antitrust grounds, not copyright. Reading between the lines, I think the issue was that if you did this, Google would exclude you from image search altogether.Report

  5. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    [Sc2] I’m somewhat skeptical of this. What Sarawitz is describing is the hybrid system we have – broad, but shallow support for “pure” research and narrow but much deeper support for “applied” research – stuff that is focused on achieving particular goals, and a whole lot of that applied stuff is funded by DARPA. I know that to be true in my own field, computer science. I also know that researchers commonly would apply to DARPA by trying to figure out how to dress up what they were interested in studying in a way that would make it look useful to DARPA.

    The rhetoric of scientists about “pure” science and peer review has a lot to do with the average guy on the street not realizing how, say, a particular species of slug, is highly relevant biologically, and thus being vulnerable to some grandstanding congressman about the egregious waste of taxpayer dollars spent studying said slugs.

    I think that dialectic between pure and applied is vitally important in keeping science alive. I mean, if you want to have a world class olympic soccer program, you have to make sure that there’s a lot of amateur soccer being played out there.

    In the case of science, sometimes those “amateurs” will produce really valuable knowledge. Sometimes the value of it won’t be seen for decades.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      In the case of science, sometimes those “amateurs” will produce really valuable knowledge. Sometimes the value of it won’t be seen for decades.

      ‘Pure’ research is a long game, or long term investment. How much of the public not getting that is on journalists not understanding this?Report

  6. I1 – Blogging has been dead for a while. We’re living in 1982, and Yazoo just released “Situation”. Maybe we have Springsteen, Nick Cave, and Nirvana to look forward to but not much else.

    Sc5 – I actually studied abroad in Dunedin and didn’t even know about this study existing. Interesting. There are similar studies conducted all over the world though (Framingham is the flagship), and they are more or less responsible for everything we know about cardiovascular health and lifestyle factors.

    Te1 – WHY DOES THIS SURPRISE PEOPLE?!?!?!?!?!?! Obviously existing market players want to make it difficult for others to enter. This has happened in every industry everyday since the dawn of fishing time!

    Te4 – My wife likes Spotify. I hate it with a passion. I think the company tries to annoy people into subscribing by bombarding them with ads. This is not a sustainable model. I much prefer Pandora.

    Sp5 – Is that satire? It reads like a Clickhole article.Report

    • Avatar veronica d says:

      Sp5 is satire.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        Marcie Bianco works at the Gender Studies department at Stanford. I just read her Vox interview with Wendy Davis. I’m pretty sure this is real. A quick look around NBC Think indicates that this article is par for the course.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Marcie Bianco, PhD, is the Editorial & Communications Manager at the Clayman Institute at Stanford University. In this role, she oversees all editorial and communications work pertaining to the translation and dissemination of the Institute’s gender research, for in-house, on-campus, and mainstream publications.

          Not satire.Report

        • Avatar dragonfrog says:

          There’s satire a la The Onion, and there’s satire a la Tartuffe.

          I mean, just because she’s using satire to make a point, it doesn’t mean the point isn’t a real point.Report

          • Avatar Maribou says:

            @dragonfrog I dunno. At the least I don’t think the blog publishing it thinks it’s satire. It appears to be NBC News hot-take/clickbait arm…Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            I mean, just because she’s using satire to make a point, it doesn’t mean the point isn’t a real point.

            If it’s satire, what point is she making that doesn’t undermine gender studies’ credibility?Report

            • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

              It could be an attempt to take all of those dreadful journal articles and make everybody wonder, “Was this really that stupid, or was it actually just a really subtle, decades long satire that makes a clever point that we were all too dumb to catch?” It could do more for the legitimacy of the field than I initially thought. I’m second guessing everything now.Report

          • Avatar Pinky says:

            The piece is labelled “thought experiment”, so I tried to consider it that way. But it reads more like “I’m joking but I’m not joking”. Post-modern pieces can fall into that trap. And there’s nothing in the piece that stands out as beyond-the-pale within feminist circles. Patriarchy as rich and white; the feminine as being more in tune with nature; women being more affected by global poverty. Heck, if you look at the talking points, the piece is too tame to be provocative.Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

              Its hard to tell who’s putting on whom.

              Its a cliche of the MRA types isn’t it, the whole “We Hunted The Mammoth” stuff, that men, manly-men-in-the-pride-of-their-manhood, are the ones who conquer continents and bravely go where no man has gone before, while wimmin wait patiently for them to come home?

              I’m wary of gender essentialism, even when it purports to exalt women.Report

            • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

              I have definitely talked with people who want to know why Elon Musk isn’t spending all that money on something serious and valuable.

              They apparently don’t know that 1) Rockets serve a valuable purpose 2) Rockets must be tested 3) Falcon Heavy had to have a test launch anyway and so the only real cost was the 10 year old Roadster that belonged to Musk himself. So that’s what? 50 thousand bucks? That wouldn’t make much of a dent in many social problems.

              Meanwhile, there are, in fact, very few people on the planet who have done more to fight global warming than, yeah, you guessed it, Elon Musk.

              But somehow, these people I talk to don’t know all that. I can say nothing at all definitive about what Marcie Bianco knows or understands, though.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                Weirdly enough, I’ve found that the people who are most offended that SpaceX is doing nothing “practical” from their perspective are not usually people whose careers are particularly practical by their own apparent metric.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                “Elon should do something useful with all that money, like clean up the oceans.”

                “Are you cleaning up the oceans?”

                “I’m only a florist! If I had as much money as him that’s what I’d do, tho.”Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                He might not be cleaning up the oceans, but he’s certainly not making it worse by dropping discarded rocket bodies into it.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


              • Avatar Damon says:

                “I have definitely talked with people who want to know why Elon Musk isn’t spending all that money on something serious and valuable”

                Those are probably the type of people that think they can spend other people’s money better than them. If EM wants to spend all his money on “hookers and blow” or investing in a time travelling Delorian, it’s all good to me. It’s his money. My only issue is how I get a piece of that sweet sweet pile.Report

              • Avatar dragonfrog says:

                Meanwhile, there are, in fact, very few people on the planet who have done more to fight global warming than, yeah, you guessed it, Elon Musk.

                That’s debatable, I think. He certainly has some of the grandest schemes, but that doesn’t mean they’re among the most effective. Or even necessarily that they’re not outright counterproductive.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Electric cars are touted as being pretty effective for combating global warming. He also does a lot of green energy projects (primarily solar), as well as developing industrial scale grid storage solutions to better enable wind and solar.

                Finally, reusable rockets are very green. And LOX/RP-1 as the fuel is a hell of a lot less toxic that what comes out the tail of any normal solid rocket booster. Sure, it’s not as clean and LOX/LHYD, but LHYD is a real tricky cryo-fluid to handle.Report

              • Avatar dragonfrog says:

                It’s a bit of a mixed bag.

                There’s also things like hyperloop to enable cities to continue to focus on enabling urban sprawl and car focused development.

                Or the giant battery wall instead of grid connections.

                And of course, solar cars are probably better than gasoline cars, because efficient generation + transmission loss is better than inefficient local fuel burning. But they’re not better than sensible mass transit, pedestrian and bicycle focused development, etc.

                The most gloriously “carbon neutral” newly built 3,000 square foot detached house has a bigger carbon footprint per occupant over its lifespan, than maintaining an existing 10 unit apartment building with mediocre insulation and leaky windows.

                That’s why I kind of suspect that it might be the people with the much less grandiose schemes – things like, making it easier to build mid-rise apartment buildings with minimal-to-no automobile parking, good cycling infrastructure of the kind that actually gets people using it – who might be making the bigger difference.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                There’s also things like hyperloop to enable cities to continue to focus on enabling urban sprawl and car focused development.

                I suppose you could say that the hyperloop project on which Colorado is spending some actual planning money enables urban sprawl. I’d describe it as dealing with the existing realities of the Front Range and I-70 mountain corridor. The people in Fort Collins and Colorado Springs aren’t going to pack up and move to Denver; hyperloop is an alternative to cars for handling those 60-mile trips north and south. Ditto for getting people up and down to the mountain resorts.

                Same thing goes for the Denver area’s light-rail system. It’s not designed to get rid of cars in the short- or even medium-term, it’s just supposed to handle enough of the ongoing growth to keep the roads from being unusable.Report

              • Avatar dragonfrog says:

                Is the hyperloop being considered for Colorado going to be as Musk envisioned it – a thing where you drive your whole car into a single-car pod, which rockets along to another city so you can drive your car in that city, maintaining perfect isolation from plebeians the whole way?

                Or is it going to be a mass transit system where you go to a hyperloop station to share a large passenger car with other humans who might possibly earn less money than you do?


              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                It’s a Virgin Hyperloop One proposal, so the mass transit option. The basic pod size/shape appears to be capable of supporting a variety of models: high-end luxury, commuter cattle cars, cargo. I suspect viability of the whole system will depend on how closely they can space pods in the tubes.

                It obviously has a last-few-miles problem, much like the Denver area light-rail system. My bet is that eventually people will accept getting off the train and grabbing the first little autonomous electric car in the row (something like the MIT CityCar) that will take them the last few miles. Attendants will clean the little cars as they arrive back at the end of the line, and they’ll charge wirelessly. Rich folks will, of course, have their own line of somewhat bigger, more luxurious cars.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                That’s a pretty on-point article. People like Musk really don’t get the average person or their needs. Furthermore, while I don’t necessarily object to rich people buying and selling stuff for other rich people, there is no reason we should pull up our city infrastructures to build things that only rich people can effectively use. I can understand the desire to avoid “the poors,” but at the same time, it is not admirable. Likewise, it is not sustainable without violence, since there will be some level of immiseration where the knives come out.

                The point is, large infrastructure projects, those that demand right-of-way, are legitimate objects of democratic will, and democracy is predicated on one-person-one-vote, not one-dollar-one-vote, the latter being Musk’s preferred frame.

                Musk really does exemplify the clueless-smartypants archetype. We can admire these people when they build spaceships, but city planning — that’s a different kettle of badgers.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Perfect being the enemy of the good?

                As for Hyperloop, it’s a car that will supposedly reach 700 mph, that isn’t supporting sprawl, it’s intercity/interstate transit.Report

              • Avatar Pinky says:

                going to Mars = stupid
                GPS and weather satellites =/= stupid
                Musk’s money =/= my businessReport

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Going to Mars involves a lot of very important advances that will need to be made to get people there that will pay dividends in other ways.

                So while the goal may be kinda stupid, it’s a perfectly fine target to move the pace of advancement along.Report

              • Saying that going to Mars is a stupid goal is like saying big muscles and guns are not cool.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                It’s stupid in that there isn’t a lot there for business to exploit (since any exploitation has to go back up the gravity well). As a people, the planetary science aspect is a definite big one.

                But if I was thinking about the bottom line, I’d be looking at asteroids much more seriously.Report

              • As long as feats of manly strength are involved, I support it.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                We have to go to Mars because MARS.

                Good grief people, obvious things are obvious.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Well obviously ‘we’ have to go to Mars. It’s not obvious that SpaceX has to do it (again, aside from epic bragging rights & feats of manly strength*, what is the profit motive?).

                *Which just seem more manly, because Mars has less gravity.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Well obviously ‘we’ have to go to Mars.

                For certain values of ‘we’. It will take quite a lot to convince me that we’ve reached a point where a live person will provide added value over increasingly sophisticated robots and software. Especially when the cost of all the mass required to give that human a reasonable chance of arriving alive is included.

                The Fermi Paradox these days is more often phrased as “If intelligent aliens exist, why haven’t we encountered their AI probes?”Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                Well, apparently someone did encounter their Anally Invasive probesReport

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


                (because, you know, they are anally invasive…)Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

                Am I the only one who finds the Fermi paradox remarkably facile?Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                @christopher-carr — It’s an interesting starting point in thinking about stuff, but yeah, it’s at least 80% “making shit up.”Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

              The piece is labelled “thought experiment”, so I tried to consider it that way.

              “Thought Experiment” is the name of the regular column, in which this particular piece of work is one entry. It’s not a literal thought experiment.Report

  7. Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

    SP5: Summary. Maybe that’s unfair. I was going to reject the piece is being shallow and not really digging into the thesis since it wasn’t comparing rockets to penises, but there was a sly nod to it about 2/3 of the way down, so it’s clear she did plumb the depths of the topic.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      Poe’s Law?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        The most common situation in which Poe’s Law is invoked is when someone who has a shallow and cartoonish understanding of the views of people with whom he or she disagrees is fooled by a parody that’s obvious to anyone with more than a rudimentary understanding of the target of the parody. This is more an indictment of the person who got fooled than of the target.

        The converse—when something is meant sincerely, but is so over-the-top that even ideological opponents mistake it for parody—is much more significant.Report

  8. Avatar Pinky says:

    Sc4 – Not just teenagers, of course. This is all of a piece with online harassment, Boaty McBoatface, et cetera.Report

  9. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Atrios complains about 2008 tech ending up in a novel that takes place in 1998:


  10. Avatar Murali says:

    I’ve never really gotten why belief in the existence of aliens is supposed to be crazy. In this vast universe, the likelihood that there is intelligent life in other planets should be close to 1. Given that aliens exist, its not crazy to suppose that some UFO might really be an alien. The probability might be rather low, but so is the probability of winning the lottery, but lots of sane people still buy lottery tickets.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I think it’s because “belief in aliens” does not translate to “it is likely that other planets out there might have won the lottery and have stuff like rainfall and topsoil and electromagnetic fields protecting them and thus also have life arise” but arguments about the Greys, the Nordics, and the Reptilians.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        Supposing we grant that aliens almost definitely exist somewhere.

        Now, suppose someone says he’s seen the Greys. And he doesn’t look like he’s lying (at least not intentionally). Why is it that we think he must be delusional or crazy?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Less obliquely, I’d say that this is awfully similar to any discussion on the existence of God or any other major faith topic.

          I am willing to agree with more or less any sufficiently watered-down claim of the possibility of something existing, but if you want it to not be sufficiently watered-down (that is to say, if you want to start arguing stuff that is *VERY* specific), I’m going to need more than Russell’s Teapot.

          If you want me to agree that it’s almost certain that there is another planet somewhere out there that is likely to have the stuff it needs to create life, I’m down! 100%!

          If you want me to agree about someone else being right about the Greys flying from that planet to this one, abducting people, doing some light butt stuff, then putting these people back, and them otherwise having technology that is so good that the federal government can’t see it and, for some reason, they never manage to get captured on tape even though 98% of the country has a decent camera in their back pocket that connects to the internet by default…


          I’m going to have to say that the people who are insisting on having met with the Greys being… let’s say “mistaken, perhaps confused” is a lot more likely.Report

          • Avatar Murali says:

            People are mistaken about lots of things all the time. Lots of sane people have religious experiences. People can’t really handle logic, probability, anything with moderate complexity. People are bad with confirmation bias and memory. That doesnt make them crazy and delusional. I’m not asking why we think they’re wrong. I’m asking why we think they are crazy and delusional.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I’m not asking why we think they’re wrong. I’m asking why we think they are crazy and delusional.

              I don’t think that the people who believe that there might be sentient life on some other planet out there are crazy and delusional.

              It’s the ones who argue that the aliens show up and have specific traits and say specific things that are crazy and delusional.

              In the same way, someone who believes in God is not crazy and delusional.

              It’s the ones who say “Yes, the Lord spoke to me and he tells me that the following things about your toothbrushing habits” are the ones who are crazy and delusional.

              It’s the specificity that pushes us over the edge. The uncanny familiarity.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                It’s the ones who say “Yes, the Lord spoke to me and he tells me that the following things about your toothbrushing habits” are the ones who are crazy and delusional.

                Compare the above with

                “Yes, the Lord spoke to me and he tells me that the following things about your diet (e.g. pork, shellfish and meat with the blood still in it)”

                Was that guy crazy and delusional?

                If no, why not?
                If yes, what about everyone who, for the past 3500 years who has listened to that guy and avoided pork, shellfish etc. Were they crazy and delusional?
                If no, what about the guy who doesn’t himself claim to have seen any aliens, but believes that there are aliens on the basis of testimony from guys who have claimed to see one? Or who believe that there is something suspicious going on in Roswell?

                My point is not about being literal about mental illness attributions. My point is that when we attribute craziness in this exaggerated non literal way,we are not merely claiming that people are irrational. We are saying that they are irrational in a way that is beyond the pale. Either the degree of irrationality is so much greater for believers in aliens or it is qualitatively different in some way. And there doesn’t seem to be anything significantly different about either of these beliefsReport

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Was that guy crazy and delusional?

                Dunno. Did he have a weapon pointed at me when you asked the question?

                If so, absolutely not. As evidence, let me point at all of the people who agree with him!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                If he doesn’t, let me make a distinction between “here is a book of knowledge that has been handed down for thousands of years, from father and mother to son and daughter and it contains information about everything from the right foods to eat to how to treat each other and the original source for this information thousands of years ago was The Lord” and “The Lord talked to me when I was downstairs and he told me that you need to do the following things.”

                The former is one of those things that is likely to be mistaken but isn’t obviously *CRAZY*.

                It’s the latter that is pretty obviously crazy or delusional or, there’s another option, a downright lie intended to manipulate.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                3500 years ago, Moses was just a guy who said he went up a mountain and God talked to him and gave him 10 very specific instructions.

                Why is testimony which has been subject to more than 3000 years of chinese whispers more reliable than testimony from yesterday?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Wait, why aren’t you asking me if they’re crazy?

                We switched to asking if the testimony was reliable.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I think the moral of this story is that God is more likely to speak to people who haven’t yet discovered the scientific method and aren’t wielding weapons.

                And he’s definitely disinclined to converse with folks persuaded by Hume.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                There are a lot of people that I think are mistaken that I do not think are crazy.

                Heck, I can even appreciate Noble… erm… let’s call them “Noble Misdirections” on the part of the people who put together a workable long-term plan to establish a tribal monoculture.

                But that is something different from being crazy.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Why is testimony which has been subject to more than 3000 years of chinese whispers more reliable than testimony from yesterday?

                Technically, the story of Moses was subject to ~1000 years of chinese whispers (Weird name. We call that game telephone.) and then was written down in 500 BCE and stayed pretty much the same until now. Although admittedly it is then translated into the language of the reader.Report

              • Avatar Pinky says:

                Crazy and delusional, unless it happened. When we have good evidence that Aliensamongus43 parted the Red Sea, established a moral code, and led armies to victory, then I’ll give him a little more benefit of the doubt.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Or who believe that there is something suspicious going on in Roswell?

                I think you mean Area 51. Roswell is just a city where aliens supposedly crashed 70 something years ago, and, as far as I know, doesn’t have anything weird going on currently…unless you believe that old WB show ‘Roswell’, I guess.

                Area 51, meanwhile, does have a lot of suspicious stuff happening at it. In reality, that’s because it’s the government’s secret airplane test area. But even if we were in a universe where we had captured aliens or alien tech, I would find myself utterly baffled if the government, inexplicitly, was keeping that exactly where everyone ‘knew’ it was keeping it. The government surely has truly secret bases that no one knows of.

                My point is that when we attribute craziness in this exaggerated non literal way,we are not merely claiming that people are irrational. We are saying that they are irrational in a way that is beyond the pale. Either the degree of irrationality is so much greater for believers in aliens or it is qualitatively different in some way. And there doesn’t seem to be anything significantly different about either of these beliefs

                I think you’re assuming that people have lower opinions of ‘a lot of people have reported aliens, and thus I believe there is something going on’ people than they really do.

                Now, people who have _reported_ contact with aliens tend to be disbelieved and treated as jokes…and, weirdly, I think society is somewhat correct to do that, because the sort of people who assert that happened to them often tend to, basically, be attention-seeking pathological liars or people with psychological issues, either biological or chemically-induced via drugs and drink.

                And note this isn’t true across all ‘made up stuff’ fields. For example, plenty of perfectly reasonable people have seen Sasquatches, or even UFOs up in the sky. They are misinterpreting things like bears and airplanes and stuff, but they are honestly doing that. Whereas people who assert ‘I was taken into a UFO’ generally have no credibility whatsoever, and have a dozen dubious claims under their belt…mostly because it’s pretty hard to misinterpret anything real as ‘alien abduction’, so either they do not care about facts, or they have an inability tell the real from the unreal.

                But you assert we also think of people who believe those people as crazy, and I’m…not sure about that. I don’t generally think of them that way…I think they’ve misjudged a few important facts, but I think the same about, for example, libertarians.

                The sole exception would be things like UFO-based cults, but I’m not really sure we treat those as any different than other cults. I don’t think the UFOs have anything to do with it. In fact, weirdly, I suspect that makes us think the worshipers are more sane…at least aliens are some weird mysterious thing that might actually deserve worship in some manner, instead of that guy over there who claims he’s God but is clearly just some random dude.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC says:

              I’m not asking why we think they’re wrong. I’m asking why we think they are crazy and delusional.

              ‘Delusional’, as it popularly used, is merely a subset of ‘wrong’.

              delusional (adjective) – characterized by or holding idiosyncratic beliefs or impressions that are contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder.

              Someone being ‘wrong’ does not mean we think they are delusional. There are plenty of perfectly normal people who are wrong about all sorts of things.

              But someone being ‘wrong’ in a way that appears to be in direct contradiction to observable fact, or in direct contradiction to rational argument, are often called delusional.

              And most people think there is enough logical reason to come to the conclusion that aliens, regardless if they exist out there somewhere, are not wandering around earth abducting people. (Because, for the most obvious objection, that requires a lot of silliness on the part of aliens while at the same time requiring lockstep agreement among the aliens that no one is going to land in the middle of Washington DC and blow their stupid game.)

              This is not an entirely correct medical use. For a belief to be considered a delusion in the medical sense, it has to be a belief that has been disproved to the person who continues to holds it. (Or, at least, facts were presented that would disprove it to a rational person.)

              Which means belief in aliens flying around abducting people is not, in the medical sense, a delusional. Although if someone believes they specifically were abducted at a certain time and location, and evidence can be presented to them demonstrating that something else happened, but they still hold that belief, that can be called a delusion.

              People who are actually delusional in the medical sense are pretty easy to spot, because what they believe often does not make sense….and they almost never try to ‘fix’ that. Rational people, if you point in holes in their logic, either change their conclusion or invent justifications. People with a delusion often absurdly agree with people pointing out what they say makes no sense and is impossible…and then keep saying it. This is because true delusions, caused by mental illness, are not ‘wrong conclusions about the world’ and are more ‘fixed beliefs that have no relationship to any other facts’.

              However, most people are using the term ‘delusion’ fairly loosely, and use it to describe psychosis _in general_, including hallucincations (Which explicitly are not delusions.), which a lot of alien abduction might fall into…although probably some of them are just confused dreams and false memories, which aren’t really an indication of any sort of mental illness at all. And neither are hallucinations, if there is some other bioloigical explanation for them, like drinking or sleep deprivation.

              I’m pretty certain that studies have shown that with regard to _alien abductions_ (As opposed to just sighting UFOs in the sky, which all sorts of people do all the damn time.), that the people making such claims often tend to make a lot of other dubious claims, and either have trouble seperating the real from unreal (and thus might have a psychosis of some sort, or often drug themselves into such a state)…or are just repeat liars.

              Although, to be fair, I fear I must point out that corrolation does not equal causality…it’s possible there are a lot of perfectly rational people who have been abducted by aliens, but we only hear from the people who are used to other people not believing them anyway.Report

          • Avatar Pinky says:

            “this is awfully similar to any discussion on the existence of God”

            There are no philosophical arguments for the necessary existence of aliens, though, only statistical ones.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

              As far as I know, no wars have ever been fought because two groups had different opinions of the nature of aliens.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Based on what we know of the size of the universe it’s highly rational to think that life exists out there somewhere and is entirely reasonable to think that some of it may be intelligent.

          Based on what we know of the size of the universe and of physics it’s highly rational to think that intelligent alien life has no even remotely practical means of detecting that we exist as intelligent life here on earth. It’s highly rational to think that any intelligent aliens out there don’t know who or where we are. It’s also reasonable to think that even if said aliens knew who and where we were that they have utterly no means of traversing the mind achingly, incredibly, enormously, vast and barren expanse of space between us and them. It’s also pretty rational to be skeptical to think that they’d every assay such an endeavor so they can fiddle around with some humans privates.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain says:

          Supposing we grant that aliens almost definitely exist somewhere…. Now, suppose someone says he’s seen the Greys…. Why is it that we think he must be delusional or crazy?

          Because he’s made the huge jump from aliens somewhere to aliens here and now. Take the easy way out — his encounter with the Greys makes them look entirely irrational. If I ask you to bet on which is irrational — a civilization of star-faring aliens, or a human who claims to have met such aliens here — which way are you going to bet? Myself, I’ll bet that that it’s the human.

          @north says it more politely than I do.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            If I ask you to bet on which is irrational — a civilization of star-faring aliens, or a human who claims to have met such aliens here — which way are you going to bet?

            Wait. Are you saying it’s rational to believe in star-cruising alien life? Doesn’t it follow from that that it’s not irrational to claim to have witnessed those beings but only that it’s unlikely you actually did?Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          I’m a little confused Murali. You’ve argued that it’s almost a certainty we’re computer constructs living in a video game. There can’t be any alien life forms!Report

          • Avatar Murali says:

            1) I’m pretty sure I argued that there was something approaching a 30-40% chance of us being in a simulation/evil-demon scenario/brain in vat scenario, not near certainty.

            2) Even if we are computer simulations, there could be simulated aliens as well. My point was that being computer simulations does not prevent us from being persistent entities which operate according to the laws of nature/”simulated nature”.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              a 30-40% chance of us being in a simulation/evil-demon scenario

              Now all those reports of people meeting wild and crazy aliens make more sense.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        Arguments about the Nordics and Greys is crazy. Not the Reptilians, Jaybird. Not the Reptilians.Report

        • Avatar Murali says:

          Arguments about the Nordics and Reptilians is crazy.

          Well, Iceland may as well be another planet and are you sure Ted Cruz isn’t a lizard person?Report

          • Avatar Pinky says:

            You may notice that I changed the phrasing of my comment when I saw that you posted about the Greys the same minute I did. It was originally “not the Greys”, but I didn’t want you to think I was targeting you. And the rhythm worked better in the original, too.Report

    • For what it’s worth @murali , I agree with what you’re arguing in this subthread. A lot of people have wacky beliefs, but can lead a (to use loaded words) normal, healthy lives.Report