Tuesday assorted links

1. “I still want this, all of it. I want the tears; I want the pain.” (NYT)  Recommended.

2. “Cultural revolutions reduce complexity in the songs of humpback whales.

3. ““If I could have sold off a suicide attempt,” she said in a 2008 interview, “I would have had more time for reading Spinoza.” Duh.”  Link here, that is the excellent Helen DeWitt, interesting throughout.

4. “…we find consistent evidence that dystopian narratives enhance the willingness to justify radical—especially violent—forms of political action.

5. The new “woke”: “Is Lord of the Rings prejudiced against Orcs?

6. On Caplan on educational signaling.

7. Scientist nominations and odds for new fifty pound note.

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5 is nothing new. Take the McSweeney's article from 15 years ago.

And covered pretty well by Jacqueline Carey:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banewreaker

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#1 I wish I had not read that. I made a comment several days ago about how promotion of transgenderism will be looked back on as a malpractice of historical proportions, likely in shorter time than people give credit for. This is people's exhibit A...

#2 So basically 1984's NewSpeak? A beautiful thing. The destruction of words.

#4 Dystopian narratives have a disturbing habit of becoming real or at least partially real historically, and we aren't out of history quite yet. I equate "enhance willingness" to "enhance caution". An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

#5 The themes in that movie as alluded to in the article were quite apparent to me below the surface even when they were released. It is hilarious that you could argue that, as with many things, that movie "just couldn't be made today." The rate of change is changing...

#7 Alexander Fleming for the win!!!

You know most of the "men" on this blog are already basically transgendered.

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6. Depends on what education. Nursing training is hardly signalling, you really need to know how to draw blood properly. Likewise aircraft engine maintenance...

presumably this is why one of Caplan's major recommendations is to drop stuff like music and art from schools and instead focus more on vocational training

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Poor Orcs, if we just let a few billion into the shire, they would be so much better off. And they would be, briefly.

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"Is Lord of the Rings Prejudiced Against Orcs? .... “Senator Bilbo” first appeared in 2001, but its references to border walls and a “Shire First” policy make it seem more relevant than ever. "

So the author is advocating open borders for Orcs? Because their clearly just economic refugees seeking a better way of life in the Shire?

Maybe we should also ask if "The Walking Dead" is prejudiced against zombies?

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#6: HC and S aren’t even the only explanations for the premium! For example, students may use school to DISCOVER their speciality, or there may be NETWORKING. Those are neither HC nor S

I'm skeptical about how big a factor either of these two things really is. In my experience, the networking aspect of college is bunk. You graduate with people your age, and you all start off on the bottom rung. There's no way your old roommate can actually help get you a decent job even if he wanted to; he has no more influence as an entry level X than you do as an unemployed X.

As far as "finding your speciality," that's a stronger case, I guess, but I'd point out a couple things:

a) given the cost of college these days, most students don't have six semesters to muck about trying 35 different things to figure out what they like and happen to be good at. There's pressure to pick something you can tolerate and have passable skills at and then stick with it.

b) this discovery process might be better done some other, cheaper way, no? For example, you might display some promise as a film major, for example, but that doesn't mean you amassed any useful human capital in studying film if you can't actually manage to break into the film industry once you graduate.

"There's no way your old roommate can actually help get you a decent job even if he wanted to; he has no more influence as an entry level X than you do as an unemployed X."

It's not just the immediate effect, it's the down the road effect. My company has an account that's roughly 10% of our current revenue primarily because our director of engineering was a roommate with a VP at the customer 30 years ago.

But of the overall college wage premium, do you think old college drinking buddies throwing each other business is a significant part of the story? No way.

It's old buddies throwing you business,
Old buddies giving you the inside track on new jobs,
Old buddies who can make critical introductions,
Old buddies who can serve as educated sounding boards,
Old buddies who deliver intelligence on specific markets,

I don't think this is a primary driver across the board, but I'd say its the leading one in a great many high-profile, high-income industries, e.g. banking, consulting, investing, media, etc.

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Frankly I don't know. But the number is clearly not Zero, and I don't think there's enough evidence to indicate it's insignificant.

Colleges clearly don't think so. Fraternities & sororities don't think so. Alumni networks & promoting future relationships are a large part of their marketing.

We know networking effects are real and large.

"But of the overall college wage premium"

If you are merely interested in the HC, you go to 2 years of community college and then 2 years of state college. College students routinely pay an extremely large premium over this approach. Why?

Colleges have every incentive to exaggerate the value of college, whether it be network or human capital effects. I wouldn't put any weight on what they might have to say on the subject. Fraternities and sororities...that might be a slightly different story, but I'm still skeptical. I would guess that too many wind up working in different industries and different regions to have much of a real effect on each others' career prospects. But there should be an easy way to spot this, right? Do people who joined fraternities/sororities have better career outcomes than those who didn't? I would guess maybe a bit, but probably not a lot.

As far as network effects, overall, I would just say that my professional network has been a lot more valuable to me, personally, than my scholastic network (although my scholastic network remains more important on a social level). I could be something of an outlier, though, since I moved out of state for work after graduating.

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Companies develop pipelines to certain universities. I got hired right out of college in part because another grad from my state U. was doing a really good job for the company. I didn't know this other grad so it was'nt "networking" but in this case I carried the right brand name.

Signalling!

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Anecdotal so grain o'salt, but gotta agree with Jeff R.

That is textbook signaling.

Yes, but it was a good thing for me the previous guy had his HC together

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The networking isn't the students - it's the professors.

I got my first job out of college because one of my professors was contacted by a former colleague looking for a new grad to hire. For a number of years my current company routinely hired graduate students from one professor whose research we were funding. Basically we outsourced the first filter on new graduates resumes to the professor.

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6. Fair enough. My view about Caplan (not about his theory) is that he doesn't like education. Why? No, not because he prefers ignorance, but because education has become a public (i.e., government) function; indeed, in many communities, the largest employer is the public education system - it is where I reside. For some of today's libertarians, government is so noxious they have to search for reasons to oppose it. The conventional reason for opposing education is that it's chock-full of non-libertarians, but that's the province of politicians who oppose education for it's own sake. Indeed, one could make the case that Caplan is signaling, signaling to the like-minded that he is one of them.

Forget his actual argument that it is expensive, wasteful, inefficient, and ineffective for many. Instead, just chock it up to his libertarianism.

Read the linked review. It isn't that education doesn't have faults, it has many faults, it's that Caplan exaggerates signaling. Whose fault is signaling? The teachers, the students, the employment recruiters? Why does the cost of an education often not match the rewards of education? Is it because firms shifted production to low-cost places like China and, thus, reduced the employment opportunities of those obtaining a college degree? Is it because students aren't that smart and aren't willing to work that hard, and schools aren't willing to impose more rigorous standards for fear that students might go elsewhere and not continue paying tuition? Is the high cost of a college education the result of Republican dominated state governments cutting funding and raising tuition? Is it because colleges spend enormous sums on athletics to appease alumni and hopefully increase donations? The list is long, but signaling isn't anywhere near the top.

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Caplan's official position is, “I love education.” “I embrace the ideal of transformative education. I believe wholeheartedly in the life of the mind.” “I love education too much to accept our Orwellian substitute.” (all from pp. 259-60 of the book)

He does indeed think that by requiring school for K-12 and encouraging and subsidizing school beyond that, governments have made it a sham, a pretend thing, where young people jump through hoops and learn only to forget within a few months because they are not intrinsically interested, don't see any use for it, and indeed don't use it after that test. And that in so doing, governments waste a lot of money and a lot of young people's time.

Of course, if you believe that one measure of the goodness of a society is how much is spent on schooling, then you disagree.

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#5 is silly trolling at best, its obvious to any one whose read the LOTR even at a grade school level that the orcs/golbins etc represented the evil propensities of men. Its allegory... If LOTR wasnt high fantasy and instead set on earth where the goblins and orcs were instead portrayed as certain peoples or cultures than this critique would hold water, but its not...not even close

More to the point, orcs are elves.

Twisted by their government into hateful mockeries of their cousins (I blame Mordor's atrocious public schools), but elves nonetheless.

It makes more sense to compare orcs to dwarves. Orcs and dwarves had a habit of living underground and having an interest in artificial devices.

According to the Silmarillion, dwarves were AIs made by Aule and ensouled by Iluvatar. It makes sense to assume that the orcs were AIs made by Melkor but not ensouled. It also makes sense to assume there was a similar relation between ents and trolls.

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Obvious to everyone perhaps, but not the intent of the author. He himself argued against such readings of the text. He wasn't making a morality play, he was writing a saga. His day job was translating sagas from various cultures, and the similarities are indisputable--he wrote the type of story he like to read.

Further, such an interpretation doesn't survive a careful reading of the texts--particularly not the ancillary texts. Elves, for example, are often portrayed in these arguments as embodying the best of human nature--except they really aren't, they were more or less only there to pave the way for humanity (in the long run), and often displayed the absolute worst in human nature. Feanor, for example, basically committed genocide once and attempted to do so (swore to do so) a second time. Galadriel wasn't exactly a role model either.

Another aspect not addressed by these arguments is that there are a lot of Men who aren't exactly upstanding citizens, Men not corrupted by Melkor or Sauron. Men display every aspect of human nature in the books, from the noblest to the basest--and ironically a lot of the worst examples come from Numenorian stock, even before its Fall.

These sorts of interpretations are akin to the idea that the main theme in the books is "Power corrupts". Okay, that's A theme, sure--but saying it's THE theme ignores the fact that Aragorn's whole goal in the books is power. It's handwaved away as being his birthright, but at the end of the day, Aragorn wanted to rule, same as Sauron. See, for example, his behavior when he first meets Theodon's nephew.

LOTR is a story. It's a deep, meaningful story, and there are a lot of ways to draw meaning from it--but that's in service to it being a story. And since LOTR is, by intent, a modern saga, it's very much written from the perspective of the victors.

It’s not allegory, it’s myth.

It's neither. It is, fundamentally and by author intention, a story. It's a story built on the framework of Northern European myths, but it remains a story and should be evaluated on that basis.

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#5 - not a new "woke" at all. Tolkein's reactionary worldview has long been a source of criticism, dating back at least to Moorcock's essay in 1978 (and probably much further back in academia). He's a great storyteller, but saw the world in fixed and romantic terms wholly incompatible with a fast-moving, ever-changing, institutionalized, scientific, international and aggressively capitalist society.

To be fair to Tolkein, he saw all that coming, didn't like it one bit, and spun a revisionist throwback narrative as a response. Not unprecedented.

"but saw the world in fixed and romantic terms wholly incompatible with a fast-moving, ever-changing, institutionalized, scientific, international and aggressively capitalist society."

Like Rousseau? We don't usually think of Rousseau as "reactionary", just more reason such terms are meaningless.

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#1: Universal healthcare combined with complete patient autonomy. That'll work out well. Clearly, this person has a very well thought out position. I motion to have all public policy decided by suicidal transgenders.

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#1. "But I also believe that surgery’s only prerequisite should be a simple demonstration of want. Beyond this, no amount of pain, anticipated or continuing, justifies its withholding." The author is astoundingly confused, distraught, and mentally ill (by her own admission). Yet she pontificates about right and wrong. OK; opinions/belly buttons, everyone has one. More to my point, who pays (or subsidizes) her surgery and the long-term medical consequences? As long as it's not me, and as long as there is clear preponderance of evidence that surgical intervention will neither decrease her morbidity or mortality and likely improve her mental state, she should go for it. Otherwise, they still do lobotomies, don't they? (JK)

> Otherwise, they still do lobotomies, don't they?

I identify as a broccoli and this is the surgery that will let me achieve an existence which is aligned with my vegetational identity.

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Great links today Tyler. #1, 2, 3 and 6 all provided new insights.

#5 I view much of history, particularly "great man" and "clash of civilizations" along with much of the fantasy genre, as inherently conservative. D&D could not be made today.

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#6: Oh hey so THAT'S why I'm getting so many new comments today. Thanks for the link!

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There's this masochistic part of me that just loves reading things like #1

Where to even begin? I guess with the title. This person is not getting a vagina. He's having his male genitals removed and having plastic surgery to give him a hole in his crotch.

The fundamental point this person is trying to make is that medical services shouldn't be constrained by only providing care that makes someone better. I actually can kind of get behind that -- body autonomy and all that. If someone wants to take estrogen for whatever reason -- let them. We've gated a lot of good things behind the 'care' requirement -- for example restricting performance enhancing drugs (cognitive and athletic).

I feel like making the hormones and treatments less restricted is a good thing -- I don't really care to hear this sophomoric boob whine about how "for decades" trans people have been "forced" to rely on a hostile medical establishment (if transgender is a legitimate facet of the human condition, then what did the legions of transgenders who existed centuries ago rely on??). Go hop yourself up on hormones, chop your dick off, and continue to feel bad about yourself, if you want. Now suggest that those choices should be forcibly subsidized by other people -- that I'd push back on.

Of course, elective and voluntary drugs or procedures should be in a different bucket than "healthcare" if it's not being used to... well provide some fashion of 'care'. Someone taking adderall in order to be more productive isn't engaged in healthcare. Someone receiving a tattoo isn't either. Similarly, someone using estrogen for -- well whatever reason isn't either. Side note: since the purpose of hormone therapy is not "to feel better", according to this author, what is it? Signaling to communicate that you think transgenderism is legitimate? probably -- it seems that to be trans means to dye your hair a garish color such that everyone *knows* you're different.

Also worth pointing out how the author doesn't even begin to question how going down the road of "being" trans made them feel worse. Don't get me wrong, people are allowed to engage in self destructive behavior, but don't ask me to say it's good to do so.

This piece is also so heavy (no pun intended) with entitlement: "as much a human right as universal health care, or food".

"There are only people, begging to be taken seriously."

...maybe stop basing your entire existence on wanting people to share in your entirely private delusions about identity

Anyways, good read, interesting perspective.

This moderate Californian Republican understands, from this comment alone, why hate speech needs to be made illegal. Hate crimes are up 300% since Trump has been elected. And it’s because Trump encourages violent speech like this comment. This is literal genocidal violence.

I’m a Republican, and I can distinguish speech from violence. This comment is violence and deserves to be met with a long prison sentence.

Thousands of trans women are beaten, raped, and killed in every city in America because of comments like these. And Trump encourages this genocide of trans women with his military ban, and now we see comments like this implying not being Cis means mental illness.

End hate. All true Republicans like me must vote Democrat in 2020.

Absurd. The comment is disdainful and unsympathetic, but 'literal genocidal violence' that needs to be banned!? Not wanting to subsidize gender reassignment surgery (and being blunt about it) is 'literally' the same thing as genocide? You need to get a grip. People ('Republicans'?) like you who would use the force of the state to suppress speech they don't like (and send agents with guns to arrest those who won't submit and shoot those who resist) are way, WAY scarier (and much closer to 'literal' fascists) than people like ES.

It’s a sock puppet troll. The real “anonymous” is many things, but this trollish, mocking and plain ol’ dumb he is not.

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Well-played.

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C'mon man, this is like B-level trolling at best. I appreciate the way you incorporate numerous hot buttons (speech is violence/Trump/Rs should vote D); but, like an amateur cook that over seasons the stew, your post ends up tasting funny. Next time pick just one theme and run with it. Then you'll get the fireworks you desperately crave.

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"Not bad enough!"---Max Biyalystok

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"...if transgender is a legitimate facet of the human condition, then what did the legions of transgenders who existed centuries ago rely on??"

Limited options, but not none. Going into detail would be inappropriate, but suffice to say that any reading into the Roman Empire will provide ample fodder for this. There was one transvestite emperor, for example, and the brothels catered to a variety of tastes.

of course, the main difficulty here is translating modern concepts to ancient cultures. Views on these subjects have changed dramatically in the past few thousand years, and you can't simply apply our terminology to their actions without grossly misinterpreting the past. It's not just that they couldn't do gender-reassignment surgery in the past; their entire view of humanity and life was so different that our terms very rapidly become meaningless as you move backwards in time.

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#6: Study time is down, socializing up, passing easier. Not a great HC look! This should make college a LESS effective signal, but Caplan strikes it as a win for signaling, even though the return is NOT dropping in line with these changes."

I don't follow the author here. HC is dropping, returns are not dropping, that's a clear indication that something besides HS is a factor.

To be fair, the something could be networking. Or it could be greater demand than supply. But it could also be signaling.

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#3 is part of what is perhaps the most important issue of our time, in my opinion. People's preconceived notions of what a thing should be make progress impossible. You can't start a new Christmas tradition because Christmas is already defined as stockings, a tree, red and green wrapping paper, and lights on the house. If you don't do those things, then what you're doing might be many things... but it's not Christmas! So you can imagine how it must be trying to innovate in the world of book publishing.

Reminds me of this:

Tom Petty once said, "The best songs have three chords, maybe four."

Meanwhile, Arnold Schoenberg had this to say about his Verklarte Nacht, which was deemed "impermissible" because it contained an inverted 9th chord, "‘There is no such thing as an inversion of a ninth chord; therefore there is no such thing as a performance of it, for one cannot perform something that does not exist. So I had to wait for several years."

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#1 I generally agree with the premise (let people do what they want to their own d*mn bodies). If the surgery doesn't obviously improve health and wellness outcomes however, then why should health insurance cover it? It logically follows that such procedures should then generally be considered elective cosmetic surgery. It is not clear to me if the author would agree with me on this, or if they think everyone has a "right" to health insurance that pays for cosmetic surgeries. I assume that a key reason folks latch on to happiness bit, is to justify health insurance benefits (and to legitimize the procedure).

This was my thought as well. Also, I wonder if the author truly believes surgeons should do whatever the patient wants. She seems to chuck the entire notion of non-maleficence out the window. If a patient comes in and says, "I'd like you to cut off all my limbs, my tongue and my eyeballs", should the surgeon agree?

There are actual people who have something like "foreign limb syndrome" that is analogous to the trans person's situation.

I want to say sure they can, but there probably ought to be a line where people are not allowed to handicap someone that would then require disability assistance to function.

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It's got nothing to do with what is being decided.

It's all about who gets to decide.

Hint: Not you.

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Yes, this is a trans person (inadvertently?) making the case that reassignment surgery is equivalent to elective cosmetic surgery.

This seems completely right to me. I would happily accept broad laws establishing that trans reassignment is exactly as legal/ethical and exactly as health-relevant as breast implants. In all seriousness, there are plenty of women that have extreme anxiety about their breast size, and many of these women are made happier by implants, yet we do not pay for these implants.

More generally - how much happier would any random person be to receive $100000? We could spend it on cosmetic surgery or we could give it to a homeless person. Either way odds are good we will increase happiness but in neither case it is certain and we are not obligated more to do one than the other.

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But health insurance *will* cover many of the followup issues, so we will wind up paying later on.

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How many people should I be allowed to kill pursuing bodily modification?

And I mean this seriously. Going in for surgery is going to require a preoperative course of antibiotics. This gives all the flora in the gut a chance to undergo selective pressure towards antibiotic resistance. Then there is the surgery. Infection will occur in some single digit percentage of the population. They will require more antibiotics, often ones further up the reserve ladder. 20% of neovaginas will require re-operation for reasons other than cosmesis. Now we are talking about a second round resistance training. Per the literature, neovaginas are much higher rates of UTIs and higher rates of incontinence. This again means that we are giving pathogenic bacteria another leg up at becoming resistant and deadly. They also appear to have higher pathogen transmission rates during intercourse.

Ultimately each vaginoplasty contributes to a certain loss of QALYs among the general population. Most of those QALYs will be lost by people who die from infections they would otherwise survive. They will be disproportionately drawn from ethnic minorities, the poor, the ill (e.g. DiGeorge syndrome), and the very young.

All surgery carries some of these risks. Neovaginoplasty carries more than a comparable surgery due to the fact that the body's attempts to homeostasis for pelvic floor function will have to be interrupted.

We could make the argument that vaginoplasty is a net life saver due to diminishing rates of suicide, except the data do no show that. Vaginoplasty is not associated with lower rates of suicide from the studies I know.

So ultimately this falls into the same bin as cosmetic surgery. A certain percentage of them will breed resistance into some pathogen. And a few people down the road will die. Currently, society is okay with people killing a few random elderly or neonates that are difficult to pick up from the background noise of the death rate. Externalize away the deaths, society will pay and some people will pay with their lives.

Personally, I think we should at very least be taxing "unnecessary" surgery enough to offset the currently externalized costs in antibiotic resistance. If we weighted it by length of antibiotic treatment and infection likelihood, neovaginoplasty would be pretty high up the list and carry a pretty hefty tax.

Somehow, though, I suspect Tyler and everyone else will be unmoved by the fact that neovaginoplasty kills other people with a probability greater than zero and less than .01.

This is why I like Sure. It's good to have a doctor on the staff here for these technical questions.

Though I suspect the full range of professional persons this board hosts is pretty strong.

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#1
"I still want this, all of it. I want the tears; I want the pain."
This person wants a purpose, an identity, meaning in life.
The satisfaction of those things will not come from being transgender even if it does give a partial version of identity and purpose.

Tyler sometimes says people should be a little more like mormons, usually in reference to alcohol. I don't know what his reason for posting this article is but the ultimate purpose of mormon culture is for men and women to get married and create families. That is what gives meaning and satisfaction in life. Everything else is noise. And if our broader cultural messaging said that then the author of #1 along with many, many other people would be much healthier, happier and more productive in moving the country forward instead of contributing towards the in-fighting and discord we have today.

+100. Great post.

And boy, is Alexandra Occasional-Cortex going to hate YOU.

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yes great post.

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+1. Good show.

I'm a libertarian, but I'm also now convinced the associated values and mores won't work, and indeed, are destructive, for most people. Traditional values and lifestyles would work best for the great majority.

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So a "passle of brats" (to quote Scarlett O'Hara) is the only source of meaning in life? Did anyone bother to tell the great celibate saints of Christendom?

Obviously there are other paths to meaning and joy. And you may take them, if you are amongst the few called to them. We wish you well.

But family would be a satisficing answer for a great majority of people. Perhaps even the optimal answer.

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“It’s hard to miss the repeated notion in Tolkien that some races are just worse than others, or that some peoples are just worse than others,”

Uh. No shit. Orcs were created by the ultimate evil deity as a corruption of elves. They're not just imperfect; they're infused with evil. This dynamic exists solely in Tolkien's universe and has no relevance to real-world race relations.

People writing this kind of stuff about Tolkien are absolutely incapable of understanding what fiction is, and often are also incapable of any kind of abstraction. They are literally subhumans.

Subhumans who repeatedly write that women are inherently better than men. But the irony is lost upon them, alas.

Why do you so callously murder all those strawmen?? Why?!?

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#5, and the subsequently invoked Moorcock criticism, are both pure tripe.

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#6 I think that I have a better way to put Bryan Caplan's hypothesis here it is:

My grandfather went to school for 1 years. He successfully ran a barber shop and speculated in real-estate (though he lost most of it in the great depression). He could read, write and do arithmetic, so it looks like the marginal value of an addition year of education falls off fast.
Did you ever notice that people like Bernie Sanders seldom talk about ways of educating at lower cost?
Did you ever notice that we talk a lot about more about how to teach students more but little about what knowledge and skills will yield the most bang for the effort?

So what do we actually do in these courses? Push through hard problems, endure boredom, write, follow instructions, coordinate and communicate. Those are all job-relevant.

Would we learn those better another way like working or playing or while learning useful skills/knowledge?
And BTW Bryan does address that saying you could learn that better working some boring job.

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#1 Mostly this is just sad.

Most people draw an imperfect genetic hand. Some hands are more imperfect than others. Such individuals deserve a degree of tolerance and compassion, but its foolish to celebrate or promote this.

Men who pretend to be women are still men, even if they choose to be be surgically and chemically mutilated in furtherance of their pretense.

Other people may humor this pretense to greater or lesser degrees - but it is still a pretense. As remarked up thread, "malpractice of historical proportions", and a bad sign that this has become fashionable in popular culture.

+1

A lot of these people are clearly mental health cases who have latched onto the Mania of the Day. But heaven help you if you say that.

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It's not just that they think they are women, but they tends to adopt an oddly binary view of gender when it comes to sex changes, which is inconsistent with the otherwise claim that gender is fluid rather than fixed in other respects. I do think gender is kind of a spectrum, so there are mannish women, and feminine men, and asexuals and androgynes - which is consistent because people can just be ok with whatever genitals they are born with. There is nothing "wrong" about being a womanish man, you're not "trapped in the wrong body", you don't have to have surgery to alter it in order to be who you "really" are.
But the argument for having sex change operations runs counter to that. It's a claim that people with certain genitals aren't supposed to think or act or behave in certain ways. In other words it actually reasserts and reinforces gender stereotypes. People with penises are supposed to behave in THIS way and people with vaginas are supposed to behave in THAT way, and if I have a penis but I act like THAT then there's something WRONG, I must get rid of my penis and get a vagina.
And that's really fucked up.

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Orcs as the oppressed: http://existentialcomics.com/comic/175

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1: “Senator Bilbo” first appeared in 2001, but its references to border walls and a “Shire First” policy make it seem more relevant than ever.

Make Arnor Great Again

Oops, that's supposed to be link 5 not link 1.

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Relevant to #5: The Last Ringbearer

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My question with LOTR has always been, what happens next? The Orcs aren't all going to be killed. Depending on how they breed (and Tolkien was never too clear on that--there are no Orc women in the books or cannon texts), after the war you have a large number of technologically-oriented beings. They don't have a ruler, sure--but they have knowledge (not individually, but en mass), and it's been demonstrated that even orcs not subject to the Dark Lords can thrive.

So could we have seen a comparatively technologically advanced civilization arise? Say, in the Iron Hills or Harad? And what would that do for Gondor, which was technologically backsliding its way to the stone age?

A lot of this depends on the wizards. Were they tapping into their Mayar abilities, or were they using knowledge available to anyone? Tolkien wasn't very clear on that--in some texts it's one, in some it's the other. Gandalf the White probably was fully able to use his Maya abilities, but as the Gray? I don't think so. Which means that anything Gandalf did prior to "The Two Towers" was open to anyone, including Orcs.

Do you subscribe to Netflix?

If so, then watch the movie Bright. It's set in Los Angeles, thousands of years after an event similar to the War of the Ring.

The critics panned the movie, but it's a pretty good popcorn movie starring Will Smith.

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I like to think that, finally freed from the Satanic malice of first Morgoth and latterly Sauron's will, there was some faint hope for the surviving orcs. That they may ultimately fade in the manner of their elven cousins.

Tolkein always struggled with the idea that, as mere corruptions rather than outright creations of the Shadow, they could not be inherently and ineluctably evil in their choices. After the destruction of The Ring and the final removal of a dominating, evil will, maybe they would be free to choose other paths.

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#4: ever since I saw the movie "Tomorrowland" (a criminally underrated movie IMO), I've been trying to avoid consuming dystopian fiction. This seems to be evidence for the movie's central argument that dystopian fiction is psychologically harmful.

Agree on "Tomorrowland", good movie. It's actually kind of an illustration of Rand's "going Galt" idea, giving it the more optimistic treatment.

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I think it depends on what you're going for.

Something like "1984", dramatizing horrors people were facing in the real world right now, is, if not exactly entertaining, useful. Life isn't all puppy dogs and rainbows, and sometimes we need to face grim realities.

That said, if ALL we're allowed to do is face grim realities, it very quickly comes to a point where you seriously consider eating a bullet just to make the horror stop. Life isn't all darkness and horror and vileness, either. It's important to remember that there is, was, and will be good things in life. And one important job of science fiction, from a sociological perspective, is providing the drive for that good stuff. The flip phone was invented, in part, because the inventor wanted to live in the Star Trek universe, so he made a piece of it real.

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What's dystopian here? Even Star Wars has the Empire (Dis-empowered citizens, wealthy and powerful elites, courageous rebels).

The controls are pretty weird as well - no movie, or Fast and the Furious. Why not James Bond or Saving Private Ryan or Starship Troopers?

Seems like another nonsense correlation study. (See "violent videogames" studies).

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7. James Clerk Maxwell is the easy choice, followed by Alexander Fleming and perhaps Rutherford or Thomson. Turing and Rosalind Franklin are worthy contenders but choosing either one takes the decision in a politically correct direction, which is not the direction I would go. Merit only.

How about the great chemist Margaret Thatcher?

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Robert Hooke, or course - who thoughtfully provided a set of marvellous engravings which would be of use in designing the note.

Rejecting Turing or Franklin because of 'political correctness' is merely demonstrating that you are subject to the same vice.

nonsense.

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1. Whatever happened to letting people pay for extreme body modification with their own money?

Nothing is more annoying about there health care debate than the progressive narrative that not paying for something is equivalent to "denying" people "access" to it.

Maybe I should start arguing that if a $100/month membership in a fitness club is not a "free" benefit of my insurance plan (paid for by my employer) that they are denying me access to exercise.

Perhaps incels can start arguing that hookers should be provided free by their health insurance otherwise they are being denied access to sex.

+1 Nailed it there, Hazel. It's all in the framing. Create a positive right to healthcare like that and, well, somebody else will end up paying for it.

Of course, there's a secondary issue of non-maleficence. Doctors need to be able to refuse requests for self-mutilation.

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I vote for Thatcher all the way!!!

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My question with LOTR has always been, what happens next? The Orcs aren't all going to be killed. Depending on how they breed (and Tolkien was never too clear on that--there are no Orc women in the books or cannon texts), after the war you have a large number of technologically-oriented beings. They don't have a ruler, sure--but they have knowledge (not individually, but en mass), and it's been demonstrated that even orcs not subject to the Dark Lords can thrive.

So could we have seen a comparatively technologically advanced civilization arise? Say, in the Iron Hills or Harad? And what would that do for Gondor, which was technologically backsliding its way to the stone age?

A lot of this depends on the wizards. Were they tapping into their Mayar abilities, or were they using knowledge available to anyone? Tolkien wasn't very clear on that--in some texts it's one, in some it's the other. Gandalf the White probably was fully able to use his Maya abilities, but as the Gray? I don't think so. Which means that anything Gandalf did prior to "The Two Towers" was open to anyone, including Orcs.

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#5 is someone trolling, for real.

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