Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 17 November 2017 04:19:58AM 1 point [-]

Your response comes off as very defensive and lacking in substance

Is that because I gave a point by point rebuttal to each of your ideas?

Intent is a critical part of moral and legal philosophy

Actually, in consequentialism intent is irrelevant.

The stigma for rape comes from a time when rape was considered to be an unambiguous or obviously intentional violation, such as a stranger jumping out of the bushes. It is both inaccurate and socially harmful to apply this stigma to a wider range of situations

That doesn't follow. The stigma for rape also comes from a time when the world population was less than 5 billion, but that doesn't mean that rapes that happened when the world population was more than 5 billion aren't equally bad.

I think the statistical approach to rape is barking up the wrong tree


Lisak's work, whether quantitative or qualitative is especially untrustworthy,

Why? That article doesn't do much to indicate that he is untrustworthy. Right-wing blogs on the Internet are not very trustworthy either, so I'm not sure why I should take anything at face value here.

and sheds doubt on the entire field.

What field? You do realize that "feminism" is not an academic field, right?

Using a more conservative, and less-debatable criteria for rape is essential

What is debatable or controversial about the statements in the surveys used in Lisak's study? Can you name a kind of sexual assault which would count as rape in that study, but which we shouldn't care much about?

because the more aggressive definitions have large externalities in terms of distrust between men and women

Pretty sure that there's just as much distrust whether rape is accidental or not.

People can interpret terms like "want to" differently

And in none of those ways is it okay to have sex with someone who doesn't want to.

Here is a study by feminists

What makes you say they are feminists?

discussing a category of "consensual unwanted sex."

And also discussing a category of "nonconsensual wanted sex," indicating that Lisak's figures may well be underestimates.

Comment author: DavidMoss 17 November 2017 05:29:47PM 0 points [-]

Actually, in consequentialism intent is irrelevant.

It might be relevant to the evaluation of the rightness of acts (in a certain sense), but it's not irrelevant (for consequentialists) to what type of act an act is or the evaluation of the actor. (We have other moral concepts aside from the rightness of acts) Consequentialists don't claim that open heart surgery is a murderous stabbing if it happens to be unsuccessful.

Comment author: DavidMoss 30 October 2017 03:14:14AM 5 points [-]

I don't have much to contribute to the normative social epistemology questions raised here, since this is a huge debate within philosophy. People interested in a general summary might read the Philosophy Compass review or the SEP article.

But I did want to question the claim about the descriptive social epistemology of the EA movement which is made i.e. that:

What occurs instead is agreement approaching fawning obeisance to a small set of people the community anoints as ‘thought leaders’, and so centralizing on one particular eccentric and overconfident view.

I'm not sure this is useful as a general characterisation of the EA community, though certainly at times people are too confident, too deferential etc. What beliefs might be the beneficiaries of this fawning obeisance? There doesn't seem to me to be sufficient uncontroversial agreement about much (even utilitarianism has a number of prominent 'thought leaders' pushing against it saying that we ought to be opening ourselves up to alternatives).

The general characterisation seems in tension with the common idea that EA is highly combative and confrontational (it would be strange though not impossible if we had a constant disagreement and attempted argumentative one-upmanship, combined with excessive deference to certain thought leaders). Instead what I see is occasional excessive deference to people respected within certain cliques, by members of those circles, but not 'centralization' on any one particular view. Perhaps all Greg has in mind is these kinds of cases where people defer too much to people they shouldn't (perhaps due to a lack of actual experts in EA rather than due to their own vice). But then it's not clear to me what the typical EA-rationalist who has not and probably shouldn't make a deep study of many-worlds, free will, or meta-ethics should do to avoid this problem.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 October 2017 04:32:59PM 4 points [-]

Came to say this as well.

See, for example:

The atheists even started to disinvite their intellectual founders, e.g. Richard Dawkins. Will EA eventually go down the same path - will they end up disinviting e.g. Bostrom for not being a sufficiently zealous social justice advocate?

All I'm saying is that there is a precedent here. If SJW-flavored EA ends up going down this path, please don't say you were not warned.

Comment author: DavidMoss 29 October 2017 06:11:17PM *  8 points [-]

People nominally within EA have already called for us to disavow or not affiliate with Peter Singer so this seems less hypothetical than one might think.

'Yvain' gives a good description of a process along along these lines within his comment here (which also contains lots of points which pre-emptively undermine claims within this post).

Comment author: Ben_West  (EA Profile) 26 October 2017 03:39:09PM *  7 points [-]

Thank you for the interesting post Kelly. I was interested in your comment:

people tend to think that women are more intuitively-driven and less analytical than men, which does not seem to be borne out and in fact the opposite may be more likely

And followed the link through to Forbes. I think the part you are citing is this:

But research shows that women are just as data-driven and analytical as men, if not more so. In a sample of 32 studies that looked at how men and women thought about a problem or made a decision, 12 of the studies found that women adopted an analytical approach more often than men, meaning that women systematically turned to the data, while men were more inclined to go with their gut, hunches, or intuitive reactions. The other 20 studies? They found no difference between men and women’s thinking styles.

Unfortunately, the link there is broken. Do you know what the original source is?

Comment author: DavidMoss 27 October 2017 11:53:55PM 4 points [-]

I read the Forbes article which links to a empty page on ''. It becomes clear the the Forbes article is only referring to results on a test called the 'Cognitive Style Index.' If you read the Talent Lens 'Technical Manual and User Guide' for the Cognitive Style Index, you can find the same reference to there being 32 studies, 13 of which found women to be more analytic than men, and 8 which found women to have lower scores than men (I assume these results were not statistically significant and so weren't counted).

The CSI seems to be used almost exclusively in a business and management/marketing context (which it what it was originally designed for) hence, of the 32 studies reported, almost all are on business students or managers. In Psychology, we tend to use the Rational-Experiential Inventory which tends to find results in the opposite direction though inconsistently, and the Cognitive Reflection Test finds even larger differences (unlike the others is not based on self-report). Personally I don't put much stock in any of these results, but I don't think that saying that women tending to be more intuitive and men more analytical/deliberative" does not seem to be borne out and in fact the opposite may be more likely" is an appropriate summary of the evidence.

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 27 October 2017 01:22:23PM 7 points [-]

The problem is that those thoughts, as I noted, become actions, just actions we can usually only see as systematic trends. Just because someone does not say "women are incompetent" does not mean they aren't underestimating women's competence and e.g. hiring them less than he should. Taking action on this just requires a more systematic approach than explicit discrimination does.

I agree that in terms of what works, just pointing out bias doesn't seem to help and can even backfire, as I mentioned, which is why I provided a list of other possible solutions.

Comment author: DavidMoss 27 October 2017 06:44:18PM *  6 points [-]

The problem is that those thoughts... become actions... we can usually only see as systematic trends. Just because someone does not say "women are incompetent" does not mean they aren't underestimating women's competence and e.g. hiring them less than he should.

The flip side of it being hard to discern whether people have bad thoughts and act biasedly except by drawing inferences from broader patterns is that it's also hard to discern whether people actually do have bad thoughts and acted biasedly from those broader patterns. (c.f. the many fields where women dominate men in terms of prevalence and performance, as well as EAs many other demographic biases which don't receive the same treatment e.g. a 14:1 left-right bias, and a 4:1 20-35:any age over 35 bias).

Comment author: mhpage 26 October 2017 10:51:34PM *  14 points [-]

I strongly agree. Put another way, I suspect we, as a community, are bad at assessing talent. If true, that manifests as both a diversity problem and a suboptimal distribution of talent, but the latter might not be as visible to us.

My guess re the mechanism: Because we don't have formal credentials that reflect relevant ability, we rely heavily on reputation and intuition. Both sources of evidence allow lots of biases to creep in.

My advice would be:

  1. When assessing someone's talent, focus on the content of what they're saying/writing, not the general feeling you get from them.

  2. When discussing how talented someone is, always explain the basis of your view (e.g., I read a paper they wrote; or Bob told me).

Comment author: DavidMoss 27 October 2017 03:51:27AM 6 points [-]

I suspect we, as a community, are bad at assessing talent. If true, that manifests as both a diversity problem...

How we do we know that we are not bad at assessing talent in the opposite direction?

Comment author: DavidMoss 17 October 2017 08:11:04PM *  3 points [-]

Feelings of safety or threat seem to play a lot into feelings of tribalism: if you perceive (correctly or incorrectly) that a group Y is out to get you and that they are a real threat to you, then you will react much more aggressively to any claims that might be read as supporting Y.

This sounds roughly supported by Karen Stenner's work in The Authoritarian Dynamic which argues that "political intolerance, moral intolerance and punitiveness" are increased by perceived levels of threat.

Your comments about increasing happiness and comfort are particularly striking in light of this opinionated description (from a review) of the different groups (based on interviews):

Authoritarians tended to be closed-minded, unintelligent, lacking in self-confidence, unhappy, unfriendly, unsophisticated, inarticulate, and generally unappealing. Libertarians tended toward the opposite; they seemed happy, gregarious, relaxed, warm, open, thoughtful, eloquent, and humble.

That said I am sceptical prime facie that any positive psychology interventions would be powerful enough at producing these effects to be warranted on these grounds.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 17 October 2017 07:23:22AM 1 point [-]

Could public debates be helpful for this?

Comment author: DavidMoss 17 October 2017 06:29:31PM *  1 point [-]

Debates sound useful, although it would be great to think of something functionally similar, but without the oppositional/competitive aspect of the debate. I think a lot of EA's would benefit from debates, but for some it would probably increase their cause partisanship and easy dismissal of other causes.

Some other things which could be useful:

  • Involving EAs in structured giving games with a deliberative democratic component where they had to evaluate different causes. This could be structured something like Tom's project here- though it would have to avoid the relativism/disinclination to think about or challenge other people's causes noted in (7.2).
  • Red teaming causes (
  • Involving non-supporters of a particular cause in evaluating and selecting interventions within that cause. At the moment the people evaluating (interventions within) causes tend to be supporters of those causes. This naturally encourages wild one-sided over-optimism about your preferred cause and a lack of interest beyond that cause.
Comment author: DavidMoss 13 October 2017 01:17:08AM 5 points [-]

Instead, participants strongly preferred to continue researching the area they already knew and cared most about, even as other participants were doing the same thing with a different area.

This is one of the things I fear is most likely to fundamentally undermine EA in the long term: people prefer to discuss and associate with people who share their assumptions, concrete concerns and detailed cause-specific knowledge and EA functionally splits into 3+ movement areas who never speak with each other and don't understand each other's arguments, and cause neutrality essentially stops being a thing. Notably, I think this has already happened to a significant extent.

Comment author: Cerulean 04 June 2016 02:58:13PM *  3 points [-]

Can I also suggest though that this tendency should be balanced by the potential positive impact of owning a pet. Jonathan Safran Foer quotes Oxford historian Sir Keith Thomas:

the spread of pet-keeping... created the psychological foundation for the view that some animals at least were entitled to moral consideration.

I've no idea about whether studies of this have been done, but it seems plausible at least that a child in a pet-owning family is more likely to develop some level of empathy for animals, and more likely to question the hypocrisy of treating cats and dogs so well and other animals so abysmally.

In pre- domestic pet societies such as most of the second and third worlds today, empathetic attitudes towards animals are often non-existent (except when there are religions focussed on alleviation of suffering such as in India). There's just little basis at all for caring about the experience of animals. Thus pets may help train moral consideration for animals, and may be worth the meat-consumption tradeoff that they require.

But that's a very tentative may... the likelihood of children in pet-owning families becoming vegetarian or making pro-animal interventions is probably so marginal that it doesn't counteract all the extra chickens that their cat or dog needs.

Comment author: DavidMoss 05 June 2016 08:59:12AM 4 points [-]

You're in luck, there is a study on this:

Results from 273 individuals responding to a survey on an internet platform revealed that participants with greater childhood attachment to a pet reported greater meat avoidance as adults, an effect that disappeared when controlling for animal empathy. Greater childhood pet attachment was also related to the use of indirect, apologetic justifications for meat consumption, and this effect too, was mediated by empathy toward animals. Child pet ownership itself predicted views toward animals but not dietary behavior or meat-eating justifications. The authors propose a sequence of events by which greater childhood pet attachment leads to increased meat avoidance, focusing on the central role played by empathy toward animals

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