Monday assorted links

by on February 22, 2016 at 12:25 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1 Heorogar February 22, 2016 at 12:32 pm

#! – The belief that the rewards of eternal life far exceed all Earthly good would be consistent with economics.

2 Tim IV February 22, 2016 at 1:49 pm

Rational economic analysis of God is impossible because that postulated entity can not be observed directly or indirectly. Pure logical analysis also fails immediately because a God (Judeo-Christian model) is a set of direct logical contradictions and can not exist (a Square Circle).

‘Theists and Deists of the Age of Reason conceived an absolute and perfect being, unchangeable, omnipotent, and omniscient, and yet in an economic sense– planning and acting, aiming at ends and employing means for the attainment of these ends. But action can only be imputed to a discontented being, and repeated action only to a being who lacks the power to remove his uneasiness once and for all at one stroke.

An acting being is discontented being — and therefore not almighty. If it were contented, it would not act, and if it were almighty, it would have long ago radically removed its discontent.
Why would an almighty being bother to create Man or embarked on the whole Christian saga … what itch did it scratch — and how could such an itch even exist?

3 dan1111 February 23, 2016 at 3:49 am

Christians agree that “pure logical analysis” is insufficient to understand God. Also Christians admit to beliefs that are in some sense paradoxical. However, you have a lot riding on the statement “action can only be imputed to a discontented being”, which doesn’t seem so strong to me.

One could just as easily say that logical analysis of the world in purely scientific terms fails immediately because every event must have a cause, yet what caused the first event? Theoretical physics’ proposed explanations for the origin of the universe cannot be observed directly or indirectly.

Ultimately, this is a disagreement about what kind of explanations we find plausible.

4 dearieme February 22, 2016 at 3:21 pm

There is no rational route to Christianity. You either believe in the Resurrection or you don’t. The more intelligent Christians have always said it’s a matter of faith.

5 gpc31 February 22, 2016 at 5:58 pm

Basically agree with you on the Resurrection but would quibble over “routes”; cf. Aquinas’ preambles to faith. There are rational routes but also logical lacunae. Yes, you do have to make the leap concerning the Resurrection. Looking back over the mystery gap you can rationalize that there’s nothing inconsistent with reason.

6 dan1111 February 23, 2016 at 4:01 am

There is a rational defense of the resurrection.

The apostles were greatly dedicated to spreading the message that Jesus rose from the dead, to the point that many of them died for this belief. The most logical explanation is that they genuinely believed Jesus rose.

Letters written in living memory of Jesus appeal to the fact that many people (hundreds) in the early church saw the risen Jesus. These letters would not be credible unless a lot of people really did believe they saw the risen Jesus.

The Gospel of Matthew says that Jewish leaders spread the claim that Jesus’ body was stolen. This only makes sense as a response to an actual claim of a stolen body being made against Christians (they would hardly invent this idea themselves). And that in turn suggests that no one was able to produce Jesus’ body.

Many people have thought that the most logical conclusion from the evidence is that Jesus rose from the dead. Of course, if you have an a priori belief that resurrection from the dead is impossible, this evidence doesn’t matter.

7 Nathan W February 23, 2016 at 4:47 am

I’ve long been inclined to think that either the Romans or priests disposed of the body, since a burial site can provide a locus of further revolutionary behaviour (e.g., questioning the authority of the priest class). Presumably they dropping Bin Laden into the sea for a similar reasoning to that just presented.

If I lived then and thought that the life and story were worth passing on, I would feel quite justified in making up any sort of story to ensure that he could not be denied his martyrdom … the one they came up with was quite fantastic, in my atheist opinion.

8 dan1111 February 23, 2016 at 5:55 am

But would you and hundreds of other people make up the same story, and continue to adhere to the same made up story even when facing persecution and death?

I know I’m not going to convince you, but this isn’t something that can be explained away so easily.

9 dearieme February 23, 2016 at 7:03 am

Arguing that it is plausible that lots of people believed in the Resurrection is not the same thing as demonstrating that the Resurrection happened.

Start with the synoptic gospels: “Mark” (whoever he actually was) doesn’t mention the Resurrection – it’s universally agreed that the verses at the end that do mention it were added later by someone else. “Matthew” and “Luke” do mention it; but then anyone sensible has to doubt their trustworthiness because they had so obviously invented their stories about the Nativity. So the synoptic gospels, which I assume are the best sources available, aren’t too convincing a basis on which to form a pro-Resurrection judgement.

10 dan1111 February 23, 2016 at 7:32 am

@dearieme, here is what the evidence from the New Testament demonstrates conclusively:

1) The earliest Christians, including people with living memory of Jesus, widely believed in the resurrection.

2) A large number of early Christians believed that they saw the risen Jesus.

3) This belief in the resurrection was central to their belief system.

While many scholars believe parts of the Gospels (including the specifics of the resurrection accounts) are ahistorical, the Gospels as documents are not plausible without these beliefs underpinning the community that produced them. The most important evidence, though, is found in Paul’s letters, which predated the Gospels by decades.

Of course this is not the same as proving the resurrection.

11 dearieme February 23, 2016 at 9:12 am

“The most important evidence, though, is found in Paul’s letters”: that’s interesting; what do you have in mind? In particular, is your evidence in those of Paul’s letters that Paul wrote? I gather it’s widely agreed that several letters attributed to him are bogus.

12 dan1111 February 23, 2016 at 9:50 am

@dearieme, it’s true that some scholars doubt Paul’s authorship of some letters, but I’m referring to evidence from the undisputed letters. They are full of references to the resurrection.

Galatians, the earliest part of the New Testament and estimated to be written between 15-30 years after Jesus’ death, starts as follows:

“Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead”

Here is an excerpt from 1 Corinthians, also within a few decades of Jesus’ death:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

Statements like that would not be credible unless there really were quite a few people who believed they had seen the risen Jesus.

13 FUBAR007 February 23, 2016 at 11:04 am

@Nathan W: “I’ve long been inclined to think that either the Romans or priests disposed of the body,…”

Nah. The Romans didn’t deem him significant enough at the time to do that. To them, he was just another flaky rabble-rouser in ever restless Palestine to be eliminated and forgotten about. He wasn’t a historical figure of any note outside the Jewish community until Paul of Tarsus made him one years later.

The simplest plausible explanation for the source of the Christian resurrection legend is the long-derided “Swoon Hypothesis”: Yeshua ben Yusuf survived his crucifixion. It wasn’t an unheard of occurrence. Provided the traditional narratives have historical credibility, his body wasn’t left up on the cross to decompose as carrion like most crucifixion victims. He was supposedly taken down after less than a day, cleaned, and placed into a tomb donated by Joseph of Arimathea. My guess is either his followers pulled a bait-and-switch, and he never went into the tomb at all, or, less likely, he came to shortly after entombment and staggered out. Either way, he survived, healed enough to get back up and around, and return to preaching to his followers. Given the lack of scientific understanding and prevalence of superstition at the time, he may very well have believed he had risen from the dead. His followers certainly would have.

14 dan1111 February 23, 2016 at 11:44 am

@FUBAR007, but then Jesus would have been around to lead the movement, and would have eventually died again and have a grave that was venerated by followers. This theory really doesn’t reconcile with the first century evidence about the early church.

15 Nathan W February 23, 2016 at 7:17 pm

dan1111 – there was an obvious death wish for him. Perhaps he stuck around for a few days and went to India, as some lines of thinking go?

16 Brian Donohue February 22, 2016 at 12:40 pm

#6 was good. Pretty good description of the FedBorg:

“It is easy for you on the outside to make dramatic points like that. If you had been entrusted with the responsibility of office, you would be more circumspect. Although we went to the same graduate school, we are now in different positions. The hawks on the FOMC need to be kept on board with the majority. And I do not want to inflame the Fed’s Republican critics in Congress by appearing soft on inflation. That means I sometimes have to make difficult compromises that you do not have to make.”

17 Donald Pretari February 22, 2016 at 2:08 pm

#6…That could be it, but then it’s not really a disagreement about policy as much as an explanation as to why these Keynesian’s won’t completely implement the policies they believe in.

18 jim jones February 22, 2016 at 12:43 pm

4. Brits view the EU in pretty much the same way as Americans view Washington

19 Ammon Bundy February 22, 2016 at 1:42 pm

We need to talk.

20 prior_test1 February 22, 2016 at 2:55 pm

The Scots, however ….

21 Steve M February 22, 2016 at 9:44 pm

and what of the fleas?

22 Millian February 22, 2016 at 12:45 pm

1. Oh dear. I’m sorry to write that this embodies a lot of the worse reasons to believe in God. The critical phrase God of the gaps was created for this thinking. We do not know how life on Earth began at its origin. That does not mean it was Jesus’s father. Nobody observes the states of the world in which life does not begin, so we should be less surprised that we observe the state in which it does! Why not just say you think Jesus came back from the dead and that we will all reappear as physical bodies because many people conserved this wisdom for two thousand years? It is a lot more reasonable.

23 Urstoff February 22, 2016 at 12:50 pm

It’s pretty bad. A God of the Gaps argument followed by ignoring social evolution (didn’t occur to him that maybe Christianity spread so fast because it hit on a successful social formula; maybe being hostile to biological evolution created this blindspot for him?). And, of course, no discussion of the appropriate epistemological standards needed for believing that someone who lived 2,000 years ago performed miracles and rose from the dead (which basically sinks most religions as justified beliefs even if you think there’s some good argument for a creator of the universe).

24 josh February 22, 2016 at 12:58 pm

I’ll bet you re not sorry to write that.

25 Millian February 22, 2016 at 1:54 pm

I would like to have read something cleverer than “Moldbug told me the librul conspiracy means you can ignore facts”.

26 John Mansfield February 22, 2016 at 4:36 pm

I found interesting his point that “the gaps” don’t necessarily narrow as the ability to observe the world increases. Things that seemed like simple black boxes to be worked out later can become more puzzling as more is learned about them.

27 Question February 22, 2016 at 8:37 pm

I agree that gaps in no way imply or support the truth of any particular religious belief, but I do have an alternative view of their meaning perhaps worth considering.

If you oppose “the scientific life” which ultimately defers only to human reason to “the religious life” which ultimately defers to divine revelation of some sort, the conflict between the two seems insoluble. Divine revelation fundamentally doesn’t accept human reason as its standard, so it is fundamentally impervious to rational critique. Similarly, the claims of revealed revelation of any sort have always fallen short of the evidentiary bar set by reason, and scientific people will refuse to submit to alleged revelations so long as sufficient evidence is not forthcoming.

But in this circumstance, can’t gaps in the scientific understanding be understood as a kind of ad hominem argument, and an ad hominem with rather interesting consequences? For while revelation cannot produce scientific evidence of its truth, science cannot rule out the possibility of revelation either. It is true that gaps in the scientific account of the whole do not imply that there is any sort of god, but they do prevent the possibility of ruling out the existence of a god or gods. And one can wonder if even a completed metaphysics could show anything more than that god is an unnecessary or superfluous explanatory principle. How would it ever be possible to falsify the Biblical premise, for example that God is omnipotent and mysterious? And here one might invoke The Flying Spaghetti monster. And that’s fine, because the issue is not the character of the divine being but what the mere possibility of its existence means for science. For if science cannot rule out the possibility of a divine being, and a divine being faith in which is perhaps infinitely more important than a scientific understanding of the world, then science itself rests not so much on *reason* as on a counter-faith that such a divine being does not exist.

The ground of the faithful life is consistently rooted in faith, but the ground of the rational, scientific life is inconsistently fundamentally rooted in a counter-faith. “The god of the gaps” could be taken to suggest that when it comes to the foundations of science, otherwise rational people are strangely willing to sacrifice their intellect.

FWIW, I am not personally invested in this argument, but I’m interested in seeing how the MR commentariat would attack it.

Here’s an alternative TLDR version: modern scientific reasoning is essentially procedural. When it comes to the premises of science (e.g. nothing comes from nothing) and divine revelation (e.g. something came from nothing), both are matters of faith or belief rather than necessity/demonstration. And how could one ever demonstrate that one or the other is *necessarily* false? This state of affairs is fatal for a life dedicated to (certain) knowledge, but not to one admittedly based on faith.

28 dan1111 February 23, 2016 at 6:02 am

@Millian, you are missing a key part of the argument, which is that he finds the Christian rule for life compelling and consistent with his observations about the world.

Many atheists make the mistake of assuming that religion exists merely as a substitute for science: an explanation for observed phenomena in the absence of any better explanation. However, for most adherents religion is primarily an answer to the question “How should I live?”

29 tjamesjones February 23, 2016 at 8:30 am


30 Nathan W February 23, 2016 at 10:06 am

I’m an atheist, but I broadly agree with you, so much as we focus on the actual words of the spiritual leaders and not allow ourselves to be led around by the nose by instances of religious leaders with too much interest to mix religion and politics, for example to endorse some particular war or something.

31 Tyler Fan February 22, 2016 at 1:03 pm

#1 When he said an intelligent designer argument led him to belief, I assumed it was some sort of “finetuning” argument rather than an old fashioned Paley-type argument. I’m not going to knock him. I don’t think belief in God/Christianity is stupid but I also don’t think he followed a rationalist path to Christianity. He seems as out of his depth with biology as I may be in economics but it seems painfully obvious to me that Jesus wouldn’t truck with classical economics either.

32 anon February 22, 2016 at 1:03 pm

3. Sometimes I think of Clay Shirky as one-trick, but that’s my error.

33 No February 22, 2016 at 1:14 pm

Falkenblog’s argument seems to have three weak spots:

1. ‘radical novelty’ as impossible in evolution: “Many present all evolution as similar to how wolves changed to sheepdogs, or the way in which bacteria develop resistance to penicillin, but such change will not create radically new protein complexes or new species.” It’s long-established that new species do arise in exactly the way wolves changed to sheepdogs (e.g. badger-like animals to horses, primates to humans). Pathways may be missing for protein complexes, but this doesn’t convince me that it is impossible, just that we haven’t found the right mechanism.

2. “the habits of thought and action suggested in the New Testament are highly attuned to our natural instincts, fruitful character habits, and a prospering society.” This is a ‘gee, the further back you go in history the stupider everyone was, so there’s no way they could have guessed stuff we still believe in’ kind of argument. But reading Marc Aurel or Ovid convinces me that we are not fundamentally smarter now than back then, apart from having access to a greater body of accumulated knowledge. People experimented and success prospered for tens of thousands of years, so of course at almost all of the points along the way, people were living their lives in sensible ways.

3. “Things that work as if they are true, are often really true.” If your search space is small and discrete, that’s a good guide. If your search space is large and continuous, like stock markets or human history, any strategy will backtest well over some range, and at any point there is a strategy which backtests exceptionally well, but this isn’t a good guide.

All of the above are related to the weak anthropomorphic principle.

34 tjamesjones February 23, 2016 at 8:33 am

but with your #3, the ‘search space’ is indeed human history. That’s what Falkenblog’s observation is.

I didn’t really understand your other points, “we haven’t found the right mechanism” sounds like faith to me…

35 Shane M February 22, 2016 at 1:16 pm

6B. The paper on NATO defending the Baltics says deploying add’l $2.7B in mostly armor is likely a sufficient deterrent. My thought is this seems a small amount in the scheme of things, and there must be reasons it has not been done already.

I can’t imagine anyone wants to invite an invasion which would lead to inevitable escalation – assuming escalation would be inevitable as the article mentions.

36 A Definite Beta Guy February 22, 2016 at 2:02 pm

There’s little point, is expensive, and would be viewed as an escalation. Regardless, the US is already ramping up commitment. We are planning on pre-deploying something like an entire brigade’s worth of heavy armor to the region. Tanks are there. Guys fly in. Guys jump in tanks. Die Russia!

Either way, Russia will not launch an attack on the Baltics for the same reason it did not launch an attack on West Germany: it will escalate. We had no hope of stopping GDFS. Doesn’t matter. the USSR would receive nuclear attacks and lose everywhere else.

We threatened to make that small war a big war.

Same with Russia’s attack on Lithuania.

37 JWatts February 22, 2016 at 2:05 pm

“I can’t imagine anyone wants to invite an invasion which would lead to inevitable escalation – assuming escalation would be inevitable as the article mentions.”

I think you’ve got that wrong. The assumption is that we’ll have escalation in either case.

In case 1) (No pre-positioned hardware) you are forced to rely mostly on air power and that won’t be enough against modern Russian troops. Which means escalating to tactical nuclear weapons.

Case 2) You have pre-positioned hardware, you fly in troops, the combination of ground forces (willing to take heavy losses) and air power, drastically reduces the speed of a Russian advance. Which correspondingly reduces the chance of NATO feeling compelled to go nuclear.

Personally I feel, a few billion on pre-positioned supplies is a much smarter and less risky approach.

38 ibaien February 22, 2016 at 4:12 pm

amassing military hardware on a nation’s border can’t only be read as a prophylactic act. will the tanks be labelled ‘for defensive use only’?

39 JWatts February 22, 2016 at 6:25 pm

“amassing military hardware on a nation’s border can’t only be read as a prophylactic act. will the tanks be labelled ‘for defensive use only’?”

You don’t preposition military hardware at the border nitwit. If you did the opposition would just mount a hasty attack and over run the hardware before anyone could man it.

40 ibaien February 22, 2016 at 7:11 pm

thanks for the ad hominem. if the soviets had prepositioned armor in monterrey NL you’re arguing that would have caused the american military no anxiety as it ‘wasn’t at the border’? perhaps we could discuss soviet long range bombers based in cuba? heavy concentrations of hardware within striking distance make countries anxious – especially those as prone to being invaded as russia.

41 JWatts February 22, 2016 at 8:04 pm

“thanks for the ad hominem. if the soviets had prepositioned armor in monterrey NL you’re arguing that would have caused the american military no anxiety as it ‘wasn’t at the border’?”

So in your version of history Mexico was a part of the Warsaw Pact? You’ve watched too many movies. Red Dawn was fictional and Mexico was never actually a Soviet satellite.

42 Careless February 22, 2016 at 10:12 pm

Insulting you is not an ad hominem. Don’t use terms you don’t understand while complaining about someone calling you stupid

43 Nathan W February 23, 2016 at 4:57 am

JWatts – are you intentionally ignoring his analogy?

This analogy is this: Russia doesn’t like lots of hardware near its border. The USA wouldn’t either. Turn the tables, and masses of military hardware on the American border would be viewed as utterly intolerable, deserving of pre-emptive attack, no?

44 JWatts February 23, 2016 at 11:51 am

“JWatts – are you intentionally ignoring his analogy? This analogy is this: Russia doesn’t like lots of hardware near its border. The USA wouldn’t either. ”

That’s a crude debate tactic of trying to change the subject. This issue isn’t about Russia vs the US, it’s about Russia vs NATO. Russia has a substantial amount of hardware on it’s side of the border. NATO is resolving some of the disparity. Specifically, in context of the Russian invasions of Crimea, Ukraine and Georgia.

If you wanted a better analogy, this would be like Russia positioning a bomber squadron in Cuba and then the US responding by positioning AA units in southern FL.

45 Lord Action February 22, 2016 at 5:50 pm

+1 JWatts

To answer the question posed in the original post “When did American military planners start believing they could hold back a Soviet attack?”, the answer is some time in the mid-80s. It wasn’t just the invention of AirLand Battle, it was the procurement and training that built a military that could actually implement it.

Alongside SDI and the slow economic death of socialism, the revitalization of the American conventional military post-Vietnam played a large role in the Soviet collapse. It was all well and good for the Soviets to be continually falling behind economically if they could threaten to poor thousands of tanks into German and French cities. Once they lost that ability (or at least saw it reduced), they became less credible.

46 Lord Action February 22, 2016 at 5:51 pm

poor -> pour

47 Nathan W February 22, 2016 at 5:49 pm

The classic problem is that most military assets which are purportedly for defensive purpose can at the flip of a dime be repurposed to offensive purposes.

This is why Russia would legitimately view it as an escalation, as mentioned by A Definite Beta Guy.

Also, if Russia does not have reasonable prospects of being able to inflict major non-nuclear damage in the event of a NATO incursion into Russian territories, then they also have good reason to feel threatened, because people/groups/nations/alliances with overwhelming power are basically never to be trusted. Balance of power is king in maintaining peace, as much as we might like to hold the ability to obliterate them completely and costlessly for failing to adhere to NATO worldviews and preferences.

48 Shane M February 22, 2016 at 6:29 pm

So at least in this case it sounds as if maintaining a known vulnerability might lead to improved security.

If Europe is concerned about Russia (which I think it is), now would likely be the time to push back assuming they have the economic wherewithal. (This would be closer to Reagan’s ‘Peace through Strength’ approach.) I did see a story saying US’s smallish commitment to Europe includes an increase of about $2.6B in spending in 2016 – mainly armor deliveries.

49 Nathan W February 22, 2016 at 6:43 pm

“maintaining a known vulnerability might lead to improved security.”

That is precisely my way of thinking on the matter. But only if you’re quite sure that you broadly hold the upper hand, and the other side has a similar understanding.

For example, I see Russia control over Crimea as broadly contributing to security, because their improved prospects of being able to hit many European targets means we won’t overplay our hand (plus, I sympathize with the historical legitimacy side of the argument, although I do not at all like the military nature of the incursion.)

50 chuck martel February 22, 2016 at 7:19 pm

“maintaining a known vulnerability might lead to improved security.”

That’s why the Canadians refuse to install SAMs around Winnipeg.

51 JWatts February 22, 2016 at 6:40 pm

That’s a completely baffling post.

“This is why Russia would legitimately view it as an escalation,”

The Russians already have large armored forces on their side of the border. The Russians invaded Crimea and took it over two years ago. They’re currently attempting to annex the Eastern Ukrainian.

“Balance of power is king in maintaining peace,”

Yes, that’s why NATO is beefing up it’s border.

52 Cooper February 22, 2016 at 7:26 pm

And let’s not forget about Georgia! Russia now illegally occupies around 20% of that country’s land mass and is actively working against the sovereignty of the other 80%.

Add in Russian meddling in Moldova (Transnistria) and their funding of anti-EU parties across Europe and a troubling pattern emerges.

53 JWatts February 22, 2016 at 7:59 pm

And yet Lefties today (much like in the 70’s and 80’s) only ever seem to worry about the West appearing to be too aggressive.

Russia conquers the Crimea, invades the Urkaine and Georgia, starts flying Bear bombers into NATO airspace. NATO responds by beefing up it’s defenses. And the Left’s response is to worry about NATO’s reaction.

54 chuck martel February 22, 2016 at 9:44 pm

” Russia now illegally occupies around 20% of that country’s land mass”

Illegally? Russia probably thinks what they’re doing is legal. Just as the US always considers what it does in a foreign context as legal. Launching rockets from drones in foreign countries is OK with the US but there’s a strong possibility that others might regard that as illegal. In the end, the guys with the rockets determine legality.

55 Nathan W February 23, 2016 at 5:10 am

I don’t trust Putin for even the tiniest fraction of a second. But those areas would never have been administered under non-Russian socialist republics had they been able to dream of their collapse. The semi-legitimacy of these Russian incursions into Russian-speaking areas is what might cause legitimacy for alarm about the Baltics, given the existence of large Russian speaking populations in those countries.

If the decision of the elected president of Ukraine to eschew closer relations with the EU out of preference for closer relations for Russia had not resulted in the revolution that it did, a revolution broadly suspected to have been supported in a variety of difficult-to-prove material and non-material supports for the revolutionaries on the part of Western (especially American) agents, then none of that ever would have happened. It is not leftist to wonder if we might have brought that one on “ourselves” (where “ourselves” include the Western desire for Ukraine to have an explicitly pro-EU and anti-Russian stance).

Ironically for Putin, lopping off Russian speaking populations from the east of Ukraine will affect the electoral dynamics of Ukraine in a way which will tilt it in a pro-EU, if not explicitly anti-Russia, manner for some time to come.

56 JWatts February 23, 2016 at 12:00 pm

“But those areas would never have been administered under non-Russian …The semi-legitimacy of these Russian incursions into Russian-speaking areas…If the decision of the elected president of Ukraine to eschew closer relations …(especially American) agents, then none of that ever would have happened…”

That’s just classic Western Leftwing Russian apologia.

“It is not leftist to wonder if we might have brought that one on “ourselves””

It might be unfair to tag all Leftists with that kind of “Useful Idiot” apologia. So, I’ll just restrict myself to say your comments are just Russian Imperialist apologia.

57 Nathan W February 23, 2016 at 7:28 pm

I don’t imagine you would consider it to be left-wing were one to observe, say, the semi-legitimacy in an 1880s British decision to militarily bring Canada back into the fold, after having given up that territorial asset. Somehow it strikes you as left wing because you group together any geopolitical perspective you disagree with as “left wing”, which is somehow slightly pejorative to you (no?).

58 Rock Lobster February 22, 2016 at 1:42 pm

What is wrong with you?

59 ed February 22, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Narcissistic personality disorder fits to a T. Maybe comorbid with some other things though.

60 msgkings February 22, 2016 at 4:22 pm

He’s clearly desperately lonely as well, just like Ray.

61 Donald Pretari February 22, 2016 at 2:03 pm

#1…Because of my interest in languages, I would ask Mr. Falkenstein if his studies included other languages?

62 Jake February 22, 2016 at 2:19 pm

Before even reading #1 I am willing to give 100-to-1 odds that it will contain 2-3 elementary and embarrassing mistakes of basic logic, and that moreover such mistakes have already been extensively addressed in the philosophy literature.

I’m willing to give 10-to-1 odds that the embarrassing mistakes were already pointed out by a philosopher living and working over 200 years ago.

63 Jake February 22, 2016 at 2:23 pm

Well, after skimming it, seems like the “economist” in the title is just clickbait. There is nothing in the article that hasn’t been claimed by a thousand believers and refuted by a thousand people thinking straight. (Though one would have sufficed.)

64 Brett February 22, 2016 at 4:15 pm

Yeah, it’s pretty terrible. “Irreducible Complexity” and “No New Information” – two common (and debunked) creationist arguments. He could have literally found the counters to them with a single google search, but I’ll bet that he preferred not to by that point in time.

65 tjamesjones February 23, 2016 at 8:38 am


66 mulp February 22, 2016 at 3:22 pm

The idea that the US could win a war in Europe arose in the minds of those who thoughthink the US could defend against hundreds of nukes flying toward the US while the US was sending hundreds of nukes to wipe out the Soviet Union.

Before Reagan, the mindset was the US would lose but the commies would be destroyed completely, and greed would ensure the US recovers first to control the world.

Since the 90s, I’d say the threat from the US has disappeared because the willingness to sacrifice for the nation is individualized and only 5-10% of the US population is willing to make the sacrifice to deliver the kind of victory that was seen in the 40s and 50s. Maybe 10% are willing to pay taxes to maintain the MADD strategy so the triad is decaying so the only reliable part are the nuclear submarines but paying to build new subs in time for the existing fleet decaying like the rest of the triad is not supported because paying American workers is opposed by so many conservatives, but buying cheap nuclear subs from China is pretty insane.

We the People have been convinced by conservatives that paying taxes kills jobs, especially when the taxes are paid to American workers in industry building weapons of mass destruction, and that the 40s, 50s, 60s were times of poverty from all the taxes and “defense industry” high labor costs. Putin and China understand that the free market capitalists are not going use profits to build the military power to be a serious threat, and taxpayers won’t pay either.

67 A Definite Beta Guy February 22, 2016 at 3:47 pm

Wow, this is an amusing response: Republicans won’t fund the Defense Department and Democrats will do a better job.

The “thinking before Reagan” needs to be sub-divided into a number of periods. Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon did not have identical strategies for dealing with the USSR.

68 Nathan W February 22, 2016 at 5:55 pm

Kind of funny how we always thought they were ahead in so many ways, but now with 20/20 hindsight are positively certain that the outcome of the Cold War demonstrates that communist or authoritarian strategies will always lead to inferior economic/productive might (case of China summarily ignored).

69 Deng Xiaoping February 22, 2016 at 6:35 pm

Hey now!

70 dan1111 February 23, 2016 at 7:39 am

Yes, we did update our beliefs based on the evidence. But your comment seems to apply that this was a bad thing?

As for China, how is it ignored in this argument? China is dose-response evidence for the same thing. The more capitalism they get the better they do, but they are still held back by their authoritarianism.

71 dan1111 February 23, 2016 at 9:51 am

er…”imply” not “apply”.

72 Nathan W February 23, 2016 at 10:09 am

I’m not sure that the case is closed on whether their mixed capitalist/authoritarian system is necessarily inferior, but I’m inclined to believe that it is virtually certain for such a system to hide all manner of inefficiencies. Whether it is worse than the average corporatist democracy? I tilt towards agreeing with you, but I’m not so sure.

73 dan1111 February 23, 2016 at 10:39 am

Of course China is still in motion, so it is hard to say for certain where it will end up. I agree with you that the case is not closed.

However, China’s track record so far easily fits into the narrative that authoritarian and communist countries don’t perform well economically.

74 Mr. Econotarian February 22, 2016 at 3:33 pm

I was expecting the economist to perform a regression test between his spiritual values and the 5,000 different religions of humanity to find one that is statistically significant…

Seriously anyone who has seriously studied geology knows that evolution is real or at least something very different than the Genesis description has occurred.

75 Moreno Klaus February 22, 2016 at 4:20 pm

And? Evolution does not disprove god or does it? Perhaps the contrary…

76 anon February 22, 2016 at 4:45 pm

“Evolution removes the need for a god.”

Uh, why is that?

77 Nathan W February 22, 2016 at 6:01 pm

Evolution disproves the creation myth, not the existence of God. But for some reason, fundamentalists (all words of the Bible to be taken literally) will go to any lengths to “disprove” anything that is not consistent with a literalist interpretation of the Bible.

Many Christians are able to maintain faith without requiring that every word of the Bible is literally true. Others (fundamentalists) see any new information which demonstrates that the Bible is not literally true as challenging each and every aspect of their faith. As though if the house of cards must fall if removing a single card, whereas perfect logical consistency never was and is not the basic idea of faith.

78 Moreno Klaus February 23, 2016 at 7:03 am

the christalibans 😉

79 Brett February 22, 2016 at 4:02 pm

1. He didn’t present a convincing case, either for a rational belief in Christianity or for his conversion being motivated primarily by rational beliefs. The arguments he trotted out against evolution are basically straight-up debunked intelligent design/creationist nonsense, for example. Also, from anyone who has followed his blog for a while, is he telling the truth about being an atheist? This is just personal experience, but in my experience converts to devout Christianity tend to over-exaggerate how much of a secular non-believer they were before they joined.

I suspect he converted for the same reason such folks usually do: he had a serious need for certainty and an insecurity about the “purpose of the universe”, and religion spoke to him emotionally in helping to ameliorate that. Kevin Drum made the good point years back that this tends to be a matter of temperament, with some people just inclined to more easily accept ambiguities and uncertainty than others.

80 entirelyuseless February 22, 2016 at 5:10 pm

He didn’t present a convincing case relative to you, and he didn’t present a convincing case relative to me. But it is rude and insulting to tell a man that since his case is not convincing to you, it must not have been what convinced him, and he must have been convinced by emotional motives instead.

81 Careless February 22, 2016 at 5:52 pm

If he doesn’t like it, he shouldn’t make such terrible arguments.

82 Nathan W February 22, 2016 at 6:06 pm

I do not think it is rude to suggest that a need for certainty and discomfort with ambiguity was an underlying factor making him able to be persuaded by all the arguments he mentioned. It’s not like Brett said “his discomfort with ambiguity made him accept stupid stupid argument”, which would be rude and insulting.

83 tjamesjones February 23, 2016 at 8:41 am

yes, when I want to talk to someone who is comfortable with ambiguities and uncertainty the first place I go is to an online Atheistic Scientist

84 rayward February 22, 2016 at 4:07 pm

1. Oh, I shouldn’t, but I will. That Falkenstein picked Christianity because it’s compatible with his views about the personal (in both the focus on oneself and in one’s relationship with God) and his intellectual role model (Hayek) is very much aligned with the popular televangelist Joel Osteen and the prosperity gospel that he promotes. Falkenstein: “Goods and services received without struggle—and the sense of insecurity that motivates it—leads to resentment, and this leads to a vicious circle of hating the 1% even more; those most in need of help neglect the person who can help them most, themselves.” While that may resonate with Falkenstein and others who share his ideology, it doesn’t follow from the teachings of Jesus or His followers who actually knew Him. I won’t fault Falkenstein for becoming a Christian (I’m one), but the intellectual exercise he goes through to arrive at his choice is more rationalization of his own motivations than revelation. I’ve devoted considerable time to studying the New Testament to find out what’s behind the text, to understand how a first century apocalyptic Jew and His Jewish followers could be the foundation for the (often antisemitic) Gentile religion we know as Christianity. The basic problem with the New Testament is that Jesus and His Disciples were illiterate and didn’t speak Greek, the language in which New Testament was originally written. Moreover, we have no original manuscripts, none, not any, and even the fragments of copies we do have were created decades and centuries after His death. Not only that, the 27 books that comprise the New Testament conflict with each other. Indeed, the religion we know as Christianity is the creation of Paul (almost half the books of the New Testament are attributable to Paul), not Jesus, Paul never even met Jesus, and Paul was rebuked more than once by the leaders of the Jesus movement in Jerusalem (Peter, James, and John), the closest Disciples of Jesus. True believers see the image of Jesus in mashed potatoes. It’s what they are looking for.

85 Nathan W February 22, 2016 at 6:13 pm

” I’ve devoted considerable time to studying the New Testament to find out what’s behind the text …”

Now, I am not knowledgeable enough to defend this perspective myself, but several theologians who I have discussed such matters with basically convinced me that much of early Christian philosophy is basically similar to Greek philosophies of the time, for example many stoic and cynic (?) thinkers.

“a first century apocalyptic Jew …”

Jesus never said an apocalyptic word ever and it is never clear what he really means by the “kingdom of heaven” – perhaps it just meant that everyone will start being basically decent to each other? The Revelation was written centuries later and entered into doctrine basically at the time that (my interpretation) Constantine took over Christianity by making it state religion, because the insane ramblings found in The Revelation were conducive to getting free military service from all the Christians any time there was a large threat to the empire. Consider that the Council of Nicea, where the modern selection of readings were determined, basically happened at the same time that Constantine took over Christianity under the auspices of his supposed conversion.

86 dan1111 February 23, 2016 at 10:04 am

“Jesus never said an apocalyptic word ever”

87 Nathan W February 23, 2016 at 10:16 am

I guess one might be inclined to interpret it that way if you’d been brought up believing that The Revelation was actually part of the teachings of Jesus or anything remotely related to it.

88 dan1111 February 23, 2016 at 10:49 am

It is explicitly teaching about the “end of the age”, it uses apocalyptic language, and Jesus references other apocalyptic passages in the Bible in it. There is no credible reading of this passage that is not “apocalyptic”. Also, there are many other places in the Gospels where Jesus teaches about judgement or the end times. This sort of material is integral to Jesus’ message as presented by the Gospels.

89 The Original D February 22, 2016 at 9:50 pm

Wasn’t the first gospel written something like 30 years after Jesus’ death?

Imagine someone today writing the Gospel of Reagan, without the benefit of videos, cameras, or really any decent storage of information whatsoever.

Oh and widespread illiteracy.

Oh and the person writing it is Sarah Palin.

I don’t know how anyone can look at the Bible as anything more than propaganda.

90 dan1111 February 23, 2016 at 9:56 am

Your arguments would apply to practically everything we know about ancient history.

91 Nathan W February 23, 2016 at 10:19 am

I think you’d be hard pressed to find a historian who disagrees with you here.

92 The Original D February 23, 2016 at 5:08 pm

Most ancient history is not taken seriously by literally billions of people as a guide on whether and how to believe in God.

93 Dan Weber February 22, 2016 at 5:14 pm

#3: I loved the line “We will know by March 15th whether a major party’s apparatus can be hijacked by mere voters. (Last time it was: McGovern.)”

When I was much younger, I thought political parties sucked. I generally still think so, but now that they look like they are about to die, I’m not sure we’ve fully considered the ramifications. Political parties kept a lot of the wahoos and hooligans away from the positions of power.

94 anon February 23, 2016 at 10:58 am

There might be a way to look at this as an optimist.

Maybe the “outside lane” will be proved by the fringe candidates, and then adopted more by the .. ok. My optimism is waning. I was going to say “by the steady and sane” but can they really get a social media avalanche going? The best candidates of the last 10 years have been too boring to win.

95 Matt Moore February 22, 2016 at 5:43 pm

Anatole Kaletsky on why Brexit won’t happen…

Based entirely on the assumption that the individual voting decision is made rationality and with substantial subject knowledge

96 David February 22, 2016 at 5:55 pm

#1: As others have noted, the “god exists” portion of his argument is boilerplate ID/creationism. He uses the same recycled creationist examples (blood cells, whales, bacterial flagella) and even repeats the same errors (the claim that Dawkin’s “weasel” program latches onto intermediate positive mutations – it doesn’t, and latching isn’t necessary to rapidly converge onto the correct text).

97 freethinker February 22, 2016 at 8:46 pm

0n 1: faith in a religion not a search for truth. Rather, it is a search for meaning. people have found meaning in different faiths. But some have found meaning in atheism too.

98 Cererean February 23, 2016 at 8:09 am

(4) This is based on an assumption, which seems to be common among economists, that the only thing people value is material wealth. Of course leaving the EU is going to result in a short term economic shock. But the debate isn’t solely about the economy.

Part of the problem is, if we vote to stay in the EU we’re not getting another vote for quite a while, so we’ve no means of twisting the EU’s arm to get the reforms we need in the event of a bremain vote.

I don’t see what’s so bad about the Norway option, anyway. We’d retain access to the single market, whilst having unilateral emergency brakes for the four freedoms, rather than having to ask the EU commission for permission. Sure, we’d have to abide by some of the rules that are made without our vote (though I’m seeing conflicting information about this), but (1) do these rules cover production for domestic use, or just for export to other EEA countries, (2) just how many would we have to accept (I’ve seen a figure for Norway of about 21% of their laws being EU ones), and (3) we are only 1 over 27 countries in the EU, with 8% of the population, so the idea that we have a substantial voice is a myth anyway.

99 Willitts February 23, 2016 at 9:46 am

5. Military planners were likely ambivalent, on average. On the one hand, our planners were extremely confident in the superiority of our soldiers, training, equipment, and intelligence. But they also recognized the Soviet advantage in numbers and terrain.

In the 1980s, we discovered that the Soviet economy was burning out from military spending. They spent more than half their GDP on the military. Nuclear subs were powering cities. Tank crews were going blind drinking antifreeze.

The Persian Gulf War showed us that our superiority in personnel, training, equipment and tactics was larger than we expected. Arms that were not expected to penetrate Soviet armor did so easily. Our night operations, attack helicopters and standoff capabilities made tank battles a complete rout.

In retrospect, US planners realized we would have devastated the Soviet Army, Navy, and Air Force, possibly leading to a Soviet nuclear strike. More tellingly, Soviet generals conceded that their forces were no match for us, and they are fortunate they never tested us.

US capabilities expanded tenfold by the 1990s. Our forces have such superiority that the Chinese and Russian navies and air forces wouldn’t last more than a couple of days, and their ground forces would be obliterated within weeks or months in a total mobilization. Frankly, the greatest weakness of US forces is its ability to seize and control urban areas in perpetuity, and that appears to be the only operations we expect to face in the future. The WWII model of complete conquest has vanished, to our enduring detriment.

100 carlolspln February 24, 2016 at 4:48 am

“Our forces have such superiority that the Chinese and Russian navies and air forces wouldn’t last more than a couple of days, and their ground forces would be obliterated within weeks or months in a total mobilisation” [SNIP]

Yet the object of your, ahem, ‘obsessive feelings’ can’t defeat illiterate goat herders from Afghanistan who eat stale bread & rancid cheese with sand in it with one hand – and wipe their backsides with the other.

101 Eric Falkenstein February 23, 2016 at 10:14 am

I’m shocked and dismayed my argument for Christianity did not settle the matter once and for all.

102 dan1111 February 23, 2016 at 10:50 am


103 willitts February 23, 2016 at 2:09 pm

Your arguments are very good, but I’ve heard them before and independently came to the same facts and conclusions. I don’t want to live in a universe where humans are a cosmic accident. I refuse to believe that existence is indifferent between me loving my children and me eating them, in the same way it is indifferent to two asteroids colliding.

God as an “as if” proposition appears similar to Newton’s Gambit. It also seems to contribute to the equilibrium of our continued existence.

I came to know God partially through science. When I took AP Biology, the first day of class taught me the characteristics of life, and I have opposed abortion ever since.

When I learned just how improbable life on Earth was in Astronomy and Geology classes, I began to believe more in Intelligent Design and less in the Law of Large Numbers. Earth is not merely a rare planet in the habitable zone, but is also in an outer galactic arm, has a stable sun, has a large moon to stabilize its orbit created from an off center collision with another body, has large gas giants to absorb and clear the solar system of debris, and received enough asteroid and comet pounding to gain its iron core (and magnetic field) and water.

The practice of law taught me there is a Devil.

By the way, I converted from Judaism to Roman Catholicism just before I got married. It hasn’t always been easy but it has always been worth it.

104 carlolspln February 24, 2016 at 5:15 am

You left out the last part: you’re a loser.

105 Rob Lindwall February 23, 2016 at 1:36 pm

Tyler, I think you need to remember that the UK is noted as being “a nation of shopkeepers”.

If it gets 1 month out and there is a real possibility that England will exit, I would expect to see a flood of money to London, strengthening the Pound against the Euro, similar to when Hollande was elected and the French migration basically brought London out of recession. By the end of this referendum, I don’t see how the Euro survives. Spain will want out next.

Boris is a calculating man and the way he staged his speech while Cameron just returned from the negotiations is a direct ploy for the Prime Ministership. He wouldn’t take such a risk unless he had the data showing a swing to Brexit.

Remember, the north of England and south of England will get out to vote in this referendum and are against open immigration. Looking at public opinion in zones 1 and 2 of London is not reflective of the wider public opinion. Also, even if you talk to the posh English Tories in the corporate finance houses of Oxford Circus and Bank, I would say the majority want out. It is really only the law firms and larger banks that want to stay.

Labour will lose the north and south for another election cycle on this referendum if they position themselves as wanting to stay.

I see a landslide victory for the Leave campaign, somewhere north of 65%.

(Australian working in London)

106 Plucky February 23, 2016 at 3:38 pm

1: “Where a man places his treasure, there will his heart lie also.”

Has the principle of revealed preference ever been so elegantly put?

(extra bonus points for anyone who notices that JC’s formulation also suggests loss aversion and path-dependency to boot)

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