Popperian Alternative to Induction

This wrote this on an Objectivist discussion forum in 2013.


http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/Dissent/0265.shtml

I wrote:

Observe what? There are always many many things you could observe. Real scientific observation is selective.

Perform which action? There are many many actions one could perform. Real scientific action is selective.

Which patterns? There's always many many patterns.

In each case, being selective requires complex (critical) thinking. Ideas come first. Induction is supposed to explain how thinking works, but actually presupposes it.

Merlin Jetton replied:

Okay. Give us your answer to these questions. Please give us simple methods that cover all possible cases. How do we delimit those infinitely many possible conjectures?

(Following Popper.) We don't run into all the same problems because we use different methods in the first place.

We don't start with observation, scientific experiment, or finding patterns. All of those come later, after you already have various ideas. Then you do them according to your ideas. This is not problematic in general. It is a problem when you say stuff is "step 1" that actually presupposes ideas, and then claim your set of steps is a solution in epistemology and is how we get ideas.

We have a different approach that is not like induction and avoids many of induction's problems. By using different methods some problems never come up. We never have the problem of figuring out what to observe before having ideas, for example, because we say ideas come first before observations.

How are ideas learned then? Not from observations. Ideas come first. That's not to say observations are excluded. Observations are very useful. But first you need some ideas. Then you can observe (selectively, according to your ideas about what is important, what is interesting, what is notable, what is relevant to problems of interest, what clashes with your expectations, etc, etc ... and if your way of observing doesn't work out you can improve it with criticism, you can change and adjust it) and use the observations to help with further ideas (in a critical role – they rule things out).

Now this is a hard issue and you haven't read the literature and don't be too ambitious about how much you expect to learn from a summary. But anyway, because it's hard I'm going to split it up. First we'll consider an adult who wants to learn something. Then we could talk about how a child gets started after. I'll save that for later if the adult explanation goes over OK. The child is the harder case. I think it's too much to do the child first, all at once.

So, one of Popper's insights is that starting places aren't so important. I'm guessing this sounds dumb to you, because you're a foundationalist and think you have to start with the right foundations/premises/basis and then build up from there, step by step, making sure not to introduce errors or contradictions as you go. And Popper criticized and rejected that approach and offered a significantly different approach.

So let me try to explain what Popper's approach is like. People make mistakes. People are fallible. Errors are common. People mess up all the time. This isn't skepticism. People also get things right, learn, acquire knowledge, make scientific progress, etc, etc... But it's important to understand how easy it is to make mistakes. Knowledge is possible but hard to come by. To get knowledge you have to put a ton of effort into dealing with the problem of mistakes. I think if you read this the right way, you could agree with it. Objectivism recognizes that lots of philosophies go wrong and using the right methods is important and makes a big difference and some stuff like that.

So, OK, error is common and a big part of epistemology and philosophy is how you deal with error. What are you going to do about it? One school of thought tries to avoid errors. You use the right methods and then you get the right answers. That sounds very plausible but I don't think it's the right approach. I'll try to talk about Popper's approach instead. Popper's approach is you do try to avoid errors but you're never going to avoid all of them in the first place. That's not the primary most important thing. Whatever you do, some errors are going to get through. What you really have to do is set up mechanisms to identify and correct errors.

Popper applied this approach widely. Take politics and political systems. One of Popper's big ideas about politics is that trying to elect the right ruler is the wrong thing to focus on. Electing the right guy is trying to avoid errors. Yes you should put some effort into that but you can't do it perfectly and it's not the most important issue. What is the most important issue? That errors can be identified and corrected. In politics that means if you elect the wrong guy you find out fast, and you can get rid of him fast and you can get rid of him without violence. Popper called the wrong approach the "Who should rule?" problem and said most political philosophy argues about who should rule, when it should be focussing a lot more on how to set up political systems capable of correcting mistakes about who gets to rule.

What about epistemology? "Which ideas should we start with?" is a bit like "Who should rule?" You're never going to get it perfect and it shouldn't be the primary focus of your attention. Instead you want to set things up so if you start with the wrong ideas you can find out about the mistake and fix it quickly, easily, cheaply.

error correction is (a lot) more important than starting in a good place. look at it another way. if you start in a bad place but keep making progress, after a while you'll get to a good place and keep going. but if you start in a good place but aren't correcting errors, there is no progress, things never get better, long term you're doomed. so error correction is the more crucial thing that you really need.

so how can adults be selective? how can they decide what scientific experiments to do or which actions and results to investigate? how can they decide what patterns to look for? answer: they already have ideas about that. they can use the ideas they already have. that's ok! they don't need me to tell them some perfect answer. i could give them some advice and there could be some value in it, but it doesn't matter so much. they should start with the ideas they already have, use those, and then if something goes wrong they can make adjustments to try to do something about it. (and they can also philosophically examine their ideas and try to criticize instead of waiting for something noticeable to go wrong.)

in one sense, we're both advocating the same thing. people can and do use the ideas they already have about how to be selective, what issues to focus on, which patterns are notable, and more. but we Popperians know that is what's going on, and know how to keep making progress from there even if people aren't great at it. inductivists on the other hand think they have this method from first principles that is how people think but actually it smuggles in all sorts of common sense and pre-existing ideas as unexamined, uncriticized premises. and that's a really bad idea. those premises being smuggled in are good enough to start with, but what you really need to do is examine and criticize them!

i have not addressed how children/infants get started. i also haven't explained how thinking works at a lower level. (being able to criticize and correct errors requires thinking. how is that done?). we can get to those next if what i'm saying so far goes over ok. also the very short answer for how thinking works is that evolution is the only known theory for how knowledge can be created from non-knowledge. human thinking, at a low level, uses an evolutionary process to create knowledge. (i mean thinking literally uses evolution, not metaphorically. and no i'm not saying you consciously do that).


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Deutsch Misquoted Turing

David Deutsch (DD) wrote in Quantum theory, the Church-Turing principle and the universal quantum computer (1985), p. 3:

Church (1936) and Turing (1936) conjectured ... This is called the ‘Church-Turing hypothesis’; according to Turing,

Every ‘function which would naturally be regarded as computable’ can be computed by the universal Turing machine. (1.1)

And from Deutsch's references (p. 19):

Turing, A. M. 1936 Proc. Lond. math. Soc. Ser. 2, 442, 230.

Now we'll compare with Turing's paper: On Computable Numbers, With An Application To The Entscheidungsproblem (1936), p. 230:

the computable numbers include all numbers which could naturally be regarded as computable.

Turing wrote "numbers", but DD misquoted that as "function". Turing also wrote "could" which DD misquoted as "would".

I double checked using two other copies of Turing's paper. (One and two.)

There's also a problem because Deutsch uses what appears to be an italicized block quote. You'd expect the whole block quote to be a quote of Turing, but instead it's a paraphrase. Inside the paraphrase are quotation marks surrounding the misquote of Turing that I criticized.

DD's citation is also incorrect. DD cites Turing's paper to volume 442 of the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, but it was actually in volume 42 not 442.

To determine what's correct, we can check how Turing himself cites it. In a correction to his paper, Turing cited himself:

Proc. London Math. Soc. (2), 42 (1936-7), 230-265.

You can also get the correct cite, with volume 42, from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy or from Wikipedia.

You can also see that the latest volume of the journal, published in 2021, is volume 122. Volume 442 is unlikely to exist for over 100 more years. And the journal's website has archives showing that the Turing article was in volume 42.

Tangentially, I hope this lowers your opinion of academic peer review. DD's paper was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, a prestigious and peer-reviewed journal that started in around 1830. It has published work from many famous scientists.


Thanks to Dec for finding this misquote.

Note that DD has published a lot of misquotes.


Update 2021-07-15: Dec pointed out that a similar Turing misquote is in DD's book The Fabric of Reality:

He [Turing] conjectured that this repertoire consisted precisely of ‘every function that would naturally be regarded as computable’.

No, Turing wrote "all numbers which could" not "every function that would".

It appears that DD got this misquote from his own paper, and also modified it. There's a recurring pattern where every time DD touches a quote, there's a significant chance that he changes something. Here, he took the word "every" which was outside of quote marks in his paper and moved it inside quote marks for his book.


Update 2021-09-14: I contacted the academic publisher (proceedings of the royal society). They looked into the matter and said:

Apologies for the delay in getting back to you on this. A board member has had a look at the paper and does not think the misquote affects the outcome of the research presented in the paper. Although the error in the refences is unfortunate, we do not believe it will prevent readers from finding the correct article. Given the age of the paper we therefore do not think any further action is necessary.

I have several criticisms of this response.

They agree with me that DD misquoted and miscited.

Why won't they put up errata on their website? Is that too hard for them (they are bad at websites?) or do they actually not want to?

Errata serves several purposes. Academics working in the field could find out about the issue. People debating the issue could also refer to it – it would e.g. let a student whose professor repeated the error borrow the journal's authority to correct the professor. It's risky to correct your professor in general, but much easier with an official errata to point him to.

Is correcting professors a real issue? I think so because professors have been teaching Deutsch's error (there are some examples posted in the comments below). And they've been doing it out of context. In other words, even if the error did not affect the conclusion of Deutsch's paper, it still can affect other conclusions about other issues. So spreading the error matters, and it has in fact been taught in schools. Also, any reader of the paper may remember the Turing quote and use it for something else, and it may negatively affect the conclusion of their usage, even if it didn't affect the conclusion of Deutsch's paper. (Admittedly, some of the professors don't cite a source and might have been getting the error from Deutsch's book The Fabric of Reality where he repeated a similar error. But the fact that Deutsch put roughly the same error in his book is, IMO, an additional reason to errata it and at least do a little bit to stop the spread of the error.)

If they published an errata or other note about the error, they could also state their reasons for why they believe the paper's conclusion is unaffected. Other people could consider that reasoning and potentially disagree. This could be an area for critical thinking and truth seeking rather than an unaccountable authority pronouncing judgment for secret reasons. Even if it's no big deal in this case, their general attitude is concerning. How many other judgments do they make with no transparency? What is the nature of those judgments? Are any of those judgments mistaken? Do they gloss over many errors in papers they published? Could they be doing that partly out of bias and not wanting to draw attention to their own involvement in errors?

People expect academic science journals with peer review to have high standards and to be really picky about errors. They are not living up to this reputation. So much for their unlimited interest in truth for the sake of truth or whatever they were supposed to be doing.

They are still sharing the paper electronically and could update it there. Deutsch is still alive and available and could actually write or approve a small update, or they could do an update which is labelled as written by a journal editor not Deutsch.

How did this error happen? How did every step of the publishing process miss it? Did anyone intentionally cause or allow the error? Were any biases involved? They did no post mortem, no root cause analysis, no investigation into their peer review and editorial process, etc.

There are major causes for concern here. This errors calls into question how effective their reviewers and editors are. It also calls into question Deutsch's integrity. Maybe it was an accident but they have given no account of how it could have happened accidentally nor asked him to give one.

Do peer reviewers or editors not check quotes or cites? Should they? How widespread a problem is misquoting? How many other misquote reports do they receive, validate as correct criticism, and then bury? Might they be hiding a pattern revealing that many papers contain misquotes? Instead of hiding misquotes should they be doing something different like e.g. paying people enough money for misquote reports to make finding the misquotes worth the time and effort? If they actually wanted to find out about misquotes, and find out how big a problem it is, wouldn't they do something more like that? They could have responded to me by offering me money to find more misquotes since I've proven I can do it. That seems reasonable if they were better and more interesting in correcting errors.

Deutsch had an argument with a referree which was related to the text Deutsch misquoted:

http://www.daviddeutsch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/MathematiciansMisconception.pdf

But I soon found out that not everyone saw it that way. I also had referee problems. The referee of the paper in which I presented that proof insisted that Turing’s phrase “would naturally be regarded as computable” referred to mathematical naturalness – mathematical intuition – not nature.

(BTW, as a first impression, without reading Turing's paper or investigating the issue, I agree with the referree. When talking about naturally regarding something, that sounds like it's talking about what is natural or intuitive to people and their opinions, not about nature, due to what the key word "regard" means.)

Could Deutsch have intentionally misquoted in order to help win a specific logical point he was arguing about with the reviewer? Could the horrible, misleading presentation of the quote (as a block quote with an internal quote – which btw has tricked some people into thinking the whole thing is a quote) have been some kinda compromise worked out between Deutsch and the peer reviewer? Was the misquote in earlier drafts of the paper? Do they have records of what changes were made to the paper during peer review? In any case, there is some possible motive here for Deutsch falsifying the quote on purpose or just being biased and more careless in his own favor. Deutsch has a history of repeated misquotes throughout his career and most of them favor him in some way and I don't recall any that were bad for him, so it seems like whatever's going on involves bias if not actual deliberate, fully-conscious misquoting.

Seriously, how do wording errors in quotes happen accidentally? I understand typoing a letter or two when typing a quote in from a paper book or journal. But how do you just change the word? That seems more like Deutsch quotes stuff from memory – and his memory is biased in his favor (or there's selection bias – if he likes the version he remembers then he uses it, but if it's not ideal then he looks up the exact wording). Quoting from memory in your books and papers (and scripted speeches) is a serious scholarship violation that should lead to repercussions and major reputational damage. That's totally unacceptable. Another possibility, which there have also been potential indicators for, is that Deutsch changes quotes during his editing process without double checking the original. I suspect Deutsch thinks certain minor changes to quotes are OK, and maybe this somehow escalates to more major wording changes after multiple editing passes. Deutsch's editing could be like the game "telephone" where you whisper something to the guy next to you, who whispers it to the next guy, and so on. The goal is to repeat exactly what you heard. After something has been whispered a dozen times, often all the words are different and the meaning is totally changed.

In my experience, people are often willing to view things as "an accident" or "a mistake" without thinking about how exactly it happened. Some mistakes are simple like a one letter typo happening because you pressed the wrong keyboard key by accident because your finger dexterity is good but imperfect so occasionally you hit the wrong key (and then you usually notice and fix the typo, but not always). But many errors don't have such simple explanations and merit actual analysis. Changing the word "numbers" to "function" is not a typo due to flawed finger dexterity. That's bias, misremembering (while incorrectly believing quoting from memory is OK), intentionally falsifying the quote, or perhaps a horribly unreasonable editing processes that edits words within quotes similarly to how it edits words that are not within quotes. Or there are other possibilities like maybe a peer reviewer or editor caused the error and Deutsch didn't have full control over the final wording of his paper.

And how did the journal miss the error? Was it anyone's job to catch the error? Would the journal like to catch such errors in the future? And how did the error remain unnoticed in the archives for decades? Do they have a tiny readership? Do their readers not care about errors? Do their readers fail to report errors? Do their readers report errors but nothing is done? Would it make sense to hire people to review the archives for errors or should they focus on catching more errors before publication or should they just continue to not even post errata about errors and pretend nothing happened?

For more info, see my reply email to the journal:

https://curi.us/2477-academic-journals-are-unreasonable


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (15)

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Fallible Justificationism

This is adapted from a Feb 2013 email. I explain why I don't think all justificationism is infallibilist. Although I'm discussing directly with Alan, this issue came up because I'm disagreeing with David Deutsch (DD). DD claims in The Beginning of Infinity that the problem with justificationism is infallibilism:

To this day, most courses in the philosophy of knowledge teach that knowledge is some form of justified, true belief, where ‘justified’ means designated as true (or at least ‘probable’) by reference to some authoritative source or touchstone of knowledge. Thus ‘how do we know . . . ?’ is transformed into ‘by what authority do we claim . . . ?’ The latter question is a chimera that may well have wasted more philosophers’ time and effort than any other idea. It converts the quest for truth into a quest for certainty (a feeling) or for endorsement (a social status). This misconception is called justificationism.

The opposing position – namely the recognition that there are no authoritative sources of knowledge, nor any reliable means of justifying ideas as being true or probable – is called fallibilism.

DD says fallibilism is the opposing position to justificationism and that justificationists are seeking a feeling of certainty. And when I criticized this, DD defended this view in discussion emails (rather than saying that's not what he meant or revising his view). DD thinks justificationism necessarily implies infallibilism. I disagree. I believe that some justificationism isn't infallibilist. (Note that DD has a very strong "all" type claim and I have a weak "not all" type claim. If only 99% of justificationism is infallibilist, then I'm right and DD is wrong. The debate isn't about what's common or typical.)

Alan Forrester wrote:

[Justification is] impossible. Knowledge can't be proven to be true since any argument that allegedly proves this has to start with premises and rules of inference that might be wrong. In addition, any alleged foundation for knowledge would be unexplained and arbitrary, so saying that an idea is a foundation is grossly irrational.

I replied:

But "justified" does not mean "proven true".

I agree that knowledge cannot be proven true, but how is that a complete argument that justification is impossible?

And Alan replied:

You're right, it's not a complete explanation.

Justified means shown to be true or probably true. I didn't cover the "probably true" part. The case in which something is claimed to be true is explicitly covered here. Showing that a statement X is probably true either means (1) showing that "statement X is probably true" is true, or it means that (2) X is conjectured to be probably true. (1) has exactly the same problem as the original theory.

In (2) X is admitted to be a conjecture and then the issue is that this conjecture is false, as argued by David in the chapter of BoI on choices. I don't label that as a justificationist position. It is mistaken but it is not exactly the same mistake as thinking that stuff can be proved true or probably true.

In parallel, Alan had also written:

If you kid yourself that your ideas can be guaranteed true or probably true, rather than admitting that any idea you hold could be wrong, then you are fooling yourself and will spend at least some of your time engaged in an empty ritual of "justification" rather than looking for better ideas.

I replied:

The basic theme here is a criticism of infallibilism. It criticizes guarantees and failure to admit one's ideas could be wrong.

I agree with this. But I do not agree that criticizing infallibilism is a good reply to someone advocating justificationism, not infallibilism. Because they are not the same thing. And he didn't say anything glaringly and specifically infallibilist (e.g. he never denied that any idea he has could turn out to be a mistake), but he did advocate justificationism, and the argument is about justification.

And Alan replied:

Justificationism is inherently infallibilist. If you can show that some idea is true or probably true, then when you do that you can't be mistaken about it being true or probably true, and so there's no point in looking for criticism of that idea.

My reply below responds to both of these issues.


Justificationism is not necessarily infallibilist. Justification does not mean guaranteeing ideas are true or probably true. The meaning is closer to: supporting some ideas as better than others with positive arguments.

This thing -- increasing the status of ideas in a positive way -- is what Popper calls justificationism and criticizes in Realism and the Aim of Science.

I'll give a quote from my own email from Jan 2013, which begins with a Popper quote, and then I'll continue my explanation below:

Realism and the Aim of Science, by Karl Popper, page 19:

The central problem of the philosophy of knowledge, at least since the Reformation, has been this. How can we adjudicate or evaluate the far-reaching claims of competing theories and beliefs? I shall call this our first problem. This problem has led, historically, to a second problem: How can we justify our theories or beliefs? And this second problem is, in turn, bound up with a number of other questions: What does a justification consist of? and, more especially: Is it possible to justify our theories or beliefs rationally: that is to say, by giving reasons -- 'positive reasons' (as I shall call them), such as an appeal to observation; reasons, that is, for holding them to be true, or at least 'probable' (in the sense of the probability calculus)? Clearly there is an unstated, and apparently innocuous, assumption which sponsors the transition from the first to the second question: namely, that one adjudicates among competing claims by determining which of them can be justified by positive reasons, and which cannot.

Now Bartley suggests that my approach solves the first problem, yet in doing so changes its structure completely. For I reject the second problem as irrelevant, and the usual answers to it as incorrect. And I also reject as incorrect the assumption that leads from the first to the second problem. I assert (differing, Bartley contends, from all previous rationalists except perhaps those who were driven into scepticism) that we cannot give any positive justification or any positive reason for our theories and our beliefs. That is to say, we cannot give any positive reasons for holding our theories to be true. Moreover, I assert that the belief we can give such reasons, and should seek for them is itself neither a rational nor a true belief, but one that can be shown to be without merit.

(I was just about to write the word 'baseless' where I have written 'without merit'. This provides a good example of just how much our language is influenced by the unconscious assumptions that are attacked within my own approach. It is assumed, without criticism, that only a view that lacks merit must be baseless -- without basis, in the sense of being unfounded, or unjustified, or unsupported. Whereas, on my view, all views -- good and bad -- are in this important sense baseless, unfounded, unjustified, unsupported.)

In so far as my approach involves all this, my solution of the central problem of justification -- as it has always been understood -- is as unambiguously negative as that of any irrationalist or sceptic.

If you want to understand this well, I suggest reading the whole chapter in the book. Please don't think this quote tells all.

Some takeaways:

  • Justificationism has to do with positive reasons.

  • Positive reasons and justification are a mistake. Popper rejects them.

  • The right approach to epistemology is negative, critical. With no compromises.

  • Lots of language is justificationist. It's easy to make such mistakes. What's important is to look
    out for mistakes and try to correct them. ("Solid", as DD recently used, was a similar mistake.)

  • Popper writes with too much fancy punctuation which makes it harder to read.

A key part of the issue is the problem situation:

How can we adjudicate or evaluate the far-reaching claims of competing theories and beliefs?

Justificationism is an answer to this problem. It answers: the theories and beliefs with more justification are better. Adjudicate in their favor.

This is not an inherently infallibilist answer. One could believe that his conception of which theories have how much justification is fallible, and still give this answer. One could believe that his adjudications are final, or one could believe that his adjudications could be overturned when new justifications are discovered. Infallibilism is not excluded nor required.


Looking at the big picture, there is the critical approach to evaluating ideas and the justificationist or "positive" approach.

In the Popperian critical approach, we use criticism to reject ideas. Criticism is the method of sorting out good and bad ideas. (Note that because this is the only approach that actually works, everyone does it whenever they think successfully, whether they realize it or not. It isn't optional.) The ideas which survive criticism are the winners.

In the justificationist approach, rather than refuting ideas with negative criticism, we build them up with positive arguments. Ideas are supported with supporting evidence and arguments. The ones we're able to support the most are the winners. (Note: this doesn't work, no successful thinking works this way.)

These two rival approaches are very different and very important. It's important to differentiate between them and to have words for them. This is why Popper named the justificationist approach, which had gone without a name because everyone took it for granted and didn't realize it had any rival or alternative approaches.

Both approaches are compatible with both infallibilism and fallibilism. They are metaphorically orthogonal to the issue of fallibility. In other words, fallibilism and justificationism are separate issues.

Fallibilism is about whether or not our evaluations of ideas should be subjected to revision and re-checking, or whether anything can be established with finality so that we no longer have to consider arguments on the topic, whether they be critical or justifying arguments.

All four combinations are possible:

Infallible critical approach: you believe that once socialist criticisms convince you capitalism is false, no new arguments could ever overturn that.

Infallible justificationist approach: you believe that once socialist arguments establish the greatness of socialism, then no new arguments could ever overturn that.

Fallible critical approach: you believe that although you currently consider socialist criticisms of capitalism compelling, new arguments could change your mind.

Fallible justificationist approach: you believe that although you currently consider socialist justifying arguments compelling (at establishing the greatness and high status of the socialism, and therefore its superiority to less justified rivals), you are open to the possibility that there is a better system which could be argued for even more strongly and justified even more and better than socialism.


BTW, there are some complicating factors.

Although there is an inherent asymmetry between positive and negative arguments (justifying and critical arguments), many arguments can be converted from one type to the other while retaining some of the knowledge.

For example, someone might argue that the single particle two slit experiment supports (justifies) the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics. This can be converted into criticisms of rivals which are incompatible with the experiment. (You can convert the other way too, but the critical version is better.)

Another complicating factor is that justificationists typically do allow negative arguments. But they use them differently. They think negative arguments lower status. So you might have two strong positive arguments for an idea, but also one mild negative argument against it. This idea would then be evaluated as a little worse than a rival idea with two strong positive arguments but no negative arguments against it. But the idea with two strong positive arguments and one weak criticism would be evaluated above an idea with one weak positive argument and no criticism.

This is easier to express in numbers, but usually isn't. E.g. one argument might add 100 justification and another adds 50, and then a minor criticism subtracts 10 and a more serious criticism subtracts 50, for a final score of 90. Instead, people say things like "strong argument" and "weak argument" and it's ambiguous how many weak arguments add up to the same positive value as a strong argument.

In justification, arguments need strengths. Why? Because simply counting up how many arguments each idea has for it (and possibly subtracting the number of criticisms) is too open to abuse by using lots of unimportant arguments to get a high count. So arguments must be weighted by their importance.

If you try to avoid this entirely, then justificationism stops functioning as a solution to the problem of evaluating competing ideas. You would have many competing ideas, each with one or more argument on their side, and no way to adjudicate. To use justificationism, you have to have a way of deciding which ideas have more justificationism.

The critical approach, properly conceived, works differently than that. Arguments do not have strengths or weights, and nor do we count them up. How can that be? How can we adjudicate between competing ideas with out that? Because one criticism is decisive. What we seek are ideas we don't have any criticisms of. Those receive a good evaluation. Ideas we do have criticisms of receive a bad evaluation. (These evaluations are open to revision as we learn new things.) (Also there are only two possible evaluations in this system. The ideas we do have criticisms of, and the ideas we don't. If you don't do it that way, and you follow the logic of your approach consistently, you end up with all the problems of justificationism. Unless perhaps you have a new third approach.)


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Beginning of Infinity Website Removed in Protest

I took down the website beginningofinfinity.com and replaced it with the below protest message.


This website promoted David Deutsch’s book The Beginning of Infinity (BoI). David was my friend, mentor and colleague. I helped with drafts of BoI for seven years (I wrote over 200 pages of suggestions, comments and edits to help with the book). At David’s request, I made and owned this BoI website and the BoI Google Groups forum.

I’ve taken this site down in protest due to David’s role in harassment against me. I’ve been harassed by his fans and he lied about me. They’ve disrupted my blog, forums, and ability to discuss with other intellectuals online.

I also discovered many misquotes in BoI which, alone, would be enough reason for me to stop actively promoting BoI.

The story in short: David (and his Taking Children Seriously co-founder Sarah) created an online community which I was part of, but then he left after 15 years. Now he has a second fan community, which is harassing the first community. The harassment is primarily targeted at me, presumably because I’m now the leader of the older community. One of the motives some people have communicated is that they see me as David’s enemy.

The harassment has persisted for years, and has included dozens of fake identities (some maintained for months), hundreds of harassing messages from over one hundred IP addresses, stalking me to other websites to disrupt my conversations there, DDoSing, impersonation, threats, spam, plagiarism, libel, fraud and doxxing. Some of that is illegal (I am not a lawyer; I’ve presented evidence; judge for yourself).

David has been unwilling to ask his fans to stop, to discuss the matter privately or publicly, to explain himself, to dispute any of the evidence, to state a grievance he has against me, or to offer any terms for truce. I’d be willing to do conflict resolution through proxies or associates (David’s, mine or both) but he’s been unwilling to do that.

When asked to tell his fans to stop harassing, David not only refused, but turned it around and lied to attack the victim (me) which justified and encouraged additional harassment. His lie is damaging to my reputation and it seems likely that he’s said it to other people privately. Rather than deescalate, he choose to openly join in the harassment himself by smearing me. He hasn’t retracted his lie, nor has he denied circulating it privately so that harassers believed it and were motivated by it. This is despite me posting documentation that he’s lying. (I understand David’s lie to be libel and defamation, but I don’t have the resources to stop it. I am not a lawyer and you can read what he said at the link, along with the actual facts, and judge for yourself.)

I finally gave up and closed the comments on my blog – after 18 years and over 20,000 comments – due to being unable to deal with the harassment there. I’ve also been harassed at Reddit, Less Wrong, Twitter, Facebook, Google Groups, Basecamp, Discord and Slack. They won’t leave me alone.

David hasn’t argued that he isn’t involved or explained why his actions are OK. He hasn’t said which facts or claims he accepts or denies, presented his own account of events, or argued that my account is false. He hasn’t denied gossiping negatively about me, nor said what he’s doing to avoid crossing the line into unacceptable behavior. He hasn’t given an innocent explanation for the links between the harassment and his social circle.

David hasn’t taken steps to distance himself from the problem or to reduce the harm being done. He hasn’t stated that he’s opposed to harassment in general or to any of the harassing actions by his fans against me. He hasn’t blocked the worst harasser on Twitter, and keeps tweeting with him. David won’t do anything to delegitimize the harassment. Many of David’s friends and associates behave similarly or worse. David won’t even pay lip service to saying that I’m not his enemy or that I shouldn’t be harassed.

David also hasn’t disowned the subreddit for The Beginning of Infinity, which was created by the worst harasser. Nor has David disowned a nasty message posted under the name “David Deutsch” (I believe it was impersonation, which is something that ought to concern David). I think some of David’s fans have taken his behavior as a signal that he wants me harassed, and he’s refused to deny wanting me harassed.

I’ve documented the harassment, provided extensive evidence, and explained what’s going on. The response has been a mix of silence and more harassment. David is more powerful and influential than me, and has more support and resources, so there isn’t much I can do besides speak truth to power and hope that reasonable people listen. I’ve tried to put up with things, ignore things for months, privately ask for a peaceful resolution, publicly ask for a peaceful resolution, etc. In the past, David spent thousands of hours discussing with me, but now he’s stonewalling all attempts at deescalation.

I have the right to be left alone, not harassed for years. My rights are being violated, and I think David is the root cause of the problem. David needs to take appropriate steps to reign in his toxic community, and needs to retract his lie about me.

If you’d like to help, please ask David and his community about the problem, criticize them and complain, but don’t harass them in return. Maybe David will stop his bad behavior if people complain. David’s public email address is [email protected] and his Twitter is @DavidDeutschOxf.

For more information, read my articles about the harassment. To contact me, email [email protected].

— Elliot Temple (my philosophy work)


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)

David Deutsch Books Unendorsement

I thought that even though David Deutsch (DD) and his fans were harassing me, his books were still good. But I hadn’t reread them for years. On review, The Beginning of Infinity contains lots of misquotes. DD’s books are a lot worse than I realized. I was horrified to discover how frequently and severely DD misquotes. I trusted DD’s ability to quote accurately and handle details reliably and correctly, but I was wrong.

Also, DD explains too little in his books. They’re too hard to learn effectively from because he doesn’t give enough depth or detail. I had trouble seeing this in the past because I had many conversations with DD which filled in the gaps for me. But even when DD’s books say something important, he often doesn’t provide enough information for a reasonable, smart person to understand it well.

DD’s books have some good parts mixed in, but, due to the serious flaws, I retract my recommendation of them. I no longer want to actively promote them.

I’m sorry. I should have caught the misquotes earlier. I was capable of finding those errors years ago. I found and wrote about other similar errors.

I was giving DD space after he left the community. I guessed (I think accurately) that he wanted to be left alone by me and I was trying to respect his wishes. I mostly stayed away from him and his work after he left. I thought continuing to recommend his books was safe, but I was wrong about that.

I only started my video series about BoI after I gave up on DD leaving me alone. I caught the Feynman misquote in chapter 1 when I first reread it for the videos. BoI misquotes Feynman:

As the physicist Richard Feynman said, ‘Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves.’

Then, due to the harassment, I was reviewing old information and found a Popper misquote on an old TCS webpage. Someone (“Dec”) saw my post and told me that the same Popper quote was in BoI too. That made two misquotes in BoI, which was a possible pattern. That led to checking more quotes, which led to discovering that there are tons misquotes in BoI.

It seems that no other readers of BoI have noticed the misquoting problem yet (the errata page has factual errors but no misquotes), which I think is important information about the world. Regardless, I should have done better.

Read about the misquotes.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

David Deutsch Retrospective Thoughts

This is part of a series of posts explaining the ongoing harassment against me from David Deutsch and his associates and fans.


David Deutsch (DD) was never as good as I thought. But he had some great ideas, particularly re physics (as far as I know) and Critical Rationalism (CR). He read Popper and understood a lot – while others fail to understand much Popper. He also understood Dawkins and connected CR with neo-Darwinism, and he understood stuff about computation and information theory. The four strands in The Fabric of Reality (FoR) are good, valuable, etc., though DD overemphasized them. They are just four strands out of over ten, not the top four. Math, logic, (classical) liberalism, (Austrian) economics, moral knowledge (including from Objectivism, Judaism and Christianity), and Theory of Constraints are examples of other major, important, deep areas of human knowledge. DD was overly narrow when I knew him, and wouldn’t reread Rand or Szasz (he knew stuff about their ideas, but also had forgotten or never known a lot of it), and would never learn Mises or Burke for the first time (he knew some Hayek, who was Mises’ student, but Mises was much better). One of the issues is that DD reads fewer books than people think he does. I had to repeatedly recommend some Feynman books to get him to read those (he’d read some long ago, but never read others), and I was unable to get him to read much else.

Aside about DD’s lack of reading: In 2012, DD blatantly contradicted Szasz. I’d read over a dozen Szasz books recently, and I’d discussed them with Szasz himself. Nevertheless, DD didn’t believe me about what Szasz’s view are, and didn’t want to reread Szasz as I urged him to. But DD was confident enough to challenge me (my italics): “If you quote a statement or short passage of mine in this thread, and a statement or short passage of Szasz's that contradicts it, I promise to re-read the whole book in which Szasz's statement or passage appears.” I provided quotes. One of the issues was that DD was unaware of Szasz’s opposition to the medicalization of everyday life, even though Szasz titled a book about this issue. DD thought it’d be “harmless” to call effective anti-Islamism arguments a “cure” or “treatment for Islamism”. After I gave quotes, DD acknowledged that he “wasn't aware that Szasz totally rejects the use of the term 'treatment' in the way I used it, i.e. to describe what psychiatrists do.”, bought the book on Kindle (so he got it immediately), and said he’d read it. But he never actually read it and followed up. This incident disturbed me because it was a clear example of DD lacking integrity. He made a “promise” then broke it.

FoR and The Beginning of Infinity (BoI) are primarily about CR. They build on CR some and connect CR to other areas. Not many people understood enough Popper to start working out implications of CR, and DD succeeded at that and also learned some other important stuff that he could connect CR to. That’s impressive and was a contribution to human knowledge.

I recently discovered that BoI has lots of misquotes. DD is a worse scholar, with less integrity, than I thought.

DD has other notable ideas outside of physics, too. Taking Children Seriously (TCS) has important insight mixed in, but is also too disorganized and has major errors. DD’s static meme idea is good (I don’t think it’s perfect or complete, but it’s a good lead/start/try). He got a lot right about politics and economics, such as advocating capitalism, but he didn’t contribute much there. DD’s idea about the jump to universality is a good start on something important, as is his criticism of weighing explanations. DD’s anti-weighing ideas are some of the inspiration for my Yes or No Philosophy.

Original thinkers take risks. They may be wrong some. DD’s attacks on age of consent laws were a mistake. His attack on monogamy had some reasonable points but overall I’d say that was a bad idea that needed to be thought through more. DD doesn’t understand or respect tradition and traditional knowledge enough, but he was willing to make bold claims, some of which were good. It’s a lot better to say something important and also three wrong ideas than to say nothing risky or important.

DD was personally irrational about tidiness, scheduling, food, children and more. And he accepted a bunch of irrationalities as unsolvable problems and didn’t try to fix them.

DD’s extremely biased about ageism. He sees some ageism that most people don’t, but he also sees ageism when it isn’t there. For example, DD once argued to me (in 2004) that a news article mentioning metaphorically taking a politician behind the woodshed shows that violence against children is part of the fabric of our culture. DD claimed people wouldn’t say such awful things in general, and are only willing to do it due to ageism. I said people still talk about hanging, which isn’t due to ageism, it’s just because society does use violent words. (There’s a children’s word game named “hangman” which is used in classrooms.) DD was so biased that he responded: “[The word] Hang doesn't have a connotation of baseness and horror.”. He denied the badness of hanging because it isn’t anti-children and he wanted to claim anti-child stuff is much worse. Hanging kills people, which makes it more base and horrific than beating someone behind a woodshed. Also hanging is public violence, while behind a woodshed means privately (second source).

DD’s arrogant and stopped learning much before I met him in 2001. He’s dishonest with others on purpose, including his friends, for a variety of reasons including conflict avoidance and social climbing. He’s really scared of the world and of conflict with people, and he tries to hide problems (contrary to his philosophical theories about problem solving).

He’s a social climber who cares deeply about his reputation. I’m not sure how much he always was. I think maybe he was less concerned about it when he started TCS, and may have been changed by the negative experience of TCS’s failure to catch on and the hateful reactions it got. He may also have gotten more scared after a negative incident with the government around 2003 (but he kept advising other people not to be scared of the government, and some of that advice was horribly unrealistic and irresponsible, and could have gotten people’s children taken away).

DD’s a two-faced person and extremely biased about Lulie Tanett (LT). He put a lot of work into telling me to be friends/colleagues with LT, and telling LT to be friends/colleagues with me, but he also went behind my back and sabotaged our interactions sometimes. He said negative stuff about me to her while hiding what he was doing from me. One time, he put a lot of work into convincing her that I was threatening her when I told her some conditions she’d have to meet to remain a member of a small, private discussion group I owned (the conditions were basically just being an active poster). DD basically told her that learning from me was her best chance fixing her problems and becoming a rational, productive intellectual, so alienating her from me like that was really bad, though he did much worse later.

After leaving my community, he heavily pressured her to drop me entirely, and finally after around five years of pressure she dropped me. Doing that after convincing her I was crucial to her learning – and after she was very attached to me – was really horrible of him. It’s a little like a coercive parent controlling who their kid is allowed to be friends with. But it’s much worse to belatedly take away a friendship from your kid, over 10 years after it started, that you recommended and convinced them was crucial to their career.

DD really messed with LT’s head and her lack of accomplishments and inability to do productive work or learn much philosophy is significantly his fault. It’s also Sarah Fitz-Claridge’s (SFC) fault and TCS’s fault. SFC publicly posted on 2006-03-31 on TCS list that LT is her daughter, though they all seem to be trying to hide it now. Most people don’t realize that when DD promotes LT, that’s basically nepotism. DD has known LT since she was around age 2, and SFC moved her family to live near DD in Oxford when LT was around 7. DD treats LT partially like a daughter. However, he won’t take responsibility for actually trying to treat her in a TCS parenting way because that’d be too much work for him. In general, DD likes to keep things flexible and avoid having clear responsibilities, even with his closest associates. (E.g. he said that he avoids having anything scheduled at a specific time because having something coming up today or tomorrow often prevents him from working.) He mostly avoided explicit obligations with me, too, though he made exceptions like saying he’d write a forward for my book, saying he’d write a TCS book, and, as I discussed above, promising to read a Szasz book.

TCS parenting worked out badly for LT. TCS, SFC and DD did poorly in practice, but they’re dishonest with the public about TCS’s practical results.

SFC’s post saying LT is her daughter was an announcement of an official TCS event at SFC’s home in the UK. The event involved me, SFC and LT giving speeches about TCS, plus Q&A. The post also said LT “will be taking over the management of the TCS web site”, but then SFC violated TCS principles by breaking her word to her own daughter (LT wanted the TCS website, but SFC refused to hand it over while leaving it inactive – it’s been inactive for 15 years now). After the TCS event, SFC told me and LT that she despised the TCS parents who attended, had met them before, and thought they were hopeless and would never make progress on their problems. She hid her negativity while they were present. SFC also broke her word about letting LT and I have the money we charged for the event, and, after the event was over, she decided instead to simply take a share for herself without discussing the matter. She either took half or a third (I don’t remember). It wasn’t a lot of money and didn’t matter much to me, but I was disturbed that she’d break her word and take money away from her child who had very little money. And it’s ironic to screw over your child for money from a TCS seminar which talked about treating children well.

DD met another mother of young children before SFC, but stopped associating with that family because he didn’t think the mother was a good enough parent. Specifically, he found out that the mother had told the kids to be on their best behavior when visiting DD, so he ended things with them. But SFC was an awful parent and DD put up with it. I’m told she routinely closed her office door while her toddlers fought outside. I don’t know why DD got rid of the first mother but then put up with SFC’s bad parenting. (Source: I’ve been told things by people who were part of the TCS community before me and who knew SFC/LT/DD/etc in person.)

SFC also mistreated DD himself, and he put up with that too, though I observed that after he was already highly invested in TCS, SFC, LT and LT’s sibling. When I visited the UK for three weeks, DD gave me a draft chapter of BoI to read and discuss. SFC was jealous that she didn’t get one. She kept bugging him about it repeatedly and trying to pressure him into giving her one (he refused). She was a bad friend who didn’t respect his control over his writing process.

I found out a lot about DD being two-faced with me because LT told me lots of the private stuff DD said to her (without getting his permission or telling him that she shared it). I don’t think she was wrong to do that, btw. DD was like a father to her (actively involved in her life since she was a toddler) and somewhat of a father-figure to me. It’s reasonable and understandable for kids to share information and discuss strategies for dealing with the irrationalities of their parents. On the other hand, I also think LT learned to be a two-faced gossip from DD and SFC, and there’s a major problem there. She sometimes shared info about me and others with people she didn’t know well (she confessed to doing this). Similarly, DD started badmouthing public figures (particularly ones he’d personally interacted with) to me when he hadn’t known me very long yet, and he kept doing it despite me frequently just literally not responding at all to it. Imagine how much mean gossip he’d tell someone who actually encouraged it…

DD wanted a student. He liked me when he gave partial explanations that almost no one could learn from, and I figured stuff out (often more than he meant or knew). That worked well when his conclusions were correct. But I couldn’t usually come up with convincing reasons for DD’s claims when he was wrong. Over time, I learned most of the stuff he was right about and that put more emphasis on the issues where we disagreed, since there was less other stuff left for him to teach me about. DD was never rational about debate and truth-seeking. I’m not sure that he ever changed his mind about anything major due to my arguments, despite thousands of hours of discussions. I did successfully correct him on many smaller things, including in the seven years I commented on and edited drafts of BoI, but he didn’t post mortem those errors to look for larger errors that could be root causes.

Anyway, DD helped me understand a lot of his ideas. Some were great and some were errors. Overall, engaging with him and his ideas was very intellectually beneficial for me. I wouldn’t regret it just because he left me. But I really do wish he’d leave me alone now. Hating me for no clear reason, and having his fans harass me, is really nasty. I didn’t recognize how irrational and dangerous he was. I don’t know major things that I should done have differently with DD, even in hindsight, though.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Misquotes by David Deutsch

I’ve discovered that David Deutsch (DD) is an unreliable quoter. His book The Beginning of Infinity (BoI) contains many serious quotation errors, and he has misquoted elsewhere too.

For context, DD and I were close associates for a decade. I helped with BoI for 7 years and wrote over 200 pages of comments, suggestions and edits on drafts of the book. I learned a lot from him but I trusted his scholarship too much. I promoted his books. I was wrong about him and his books in multiple ways. My mistake. I retract my previous endorsements and recommendations of DD’s books. That doesn’t mean the books are awful or shouldn’t be read, but I no longer want to promote them myself. There are good ideas mixed in, but be wary of major problems.

Misquotes in The Beginning of Infinity

Block quotes are from BoI unless otherwise stated.

I think there will certainly not be novelty, say for a thousand years. This thing cannot keep going on so that we are always going to discover more and more new laws. If we do, it will become boring that there are so many levels one underneath the other . . . We are very lucky to live in an age in which we are still making discoveries. It is like the discovery of America – you only discover it once.
The Character of Physical Law (1965)

That’s different than what Feynman wrote. DD changed the words “perpetual novelty” to “novelty”. DD also changed “keep on going” to “keep going on”. (More details.)

Behind it all is surely an idea so simple, so beautiful, that when we grasp it – in a decade, a century, or a millennium – we will all say to each other, how could it have been otherwise?
John Archibald Wheeler, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 480 (1986)

What Wheeler actually wrote was "Behind it all is surely an idea so simple, so beautiful, so compelling that when–in a decade, a century, or a millennium–we grasp it, we will all say to each other, how could it have been otherwise?”. DD deleted “so compelling” and moved “we grasp it” to before the dashed part. (More details.)

As the physicist Richard Feynman said, ‘Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves.’

Feynman didn’t say that. It’s not even a documented quote with some changes. It seems made up with no original source or evidence.

I checked the web and some Feynman books and speeches. It’s likely that the misquote started in 2000 in the article Magical Thinking (my thanks to Justin Mallone for finding that article), which paraphrased Feynman that way without using quote marks or giving a source. Unfortunately, the wording made it sound like it was an actual quote, so I think people started spreading it as a quote. Then DD probably got the misquote from an unreliable webpage and put it in his book without trying to find a primary source or telling his readers which unreliable secondary source he used. There are now two books which give this quote and cite it to as quoted in BoI. There’s also a book which gives the quote with a footnote saying that the author was unable to find a source for the quote (then don’t put it in your book!).

Feynman said some similar ideas in Cargo Cult Science, but the wordings are different. DD didn’t take the quote from there and add one or two errors (like he did with some other quotes, where you can tell that he’s quoting a specific thing incorrectly). It’s too different to have come from that speech.

Popper wrote:

The inductivist or Lamarckian approach operates with the idea of instruction from without, or from the environment. But the critical or Darwinian approach only allows instruction from within – from within the structure itself . . .

I contend that there is no such thing as instruction from without the structure. We do not discover new facts or new effects by copying them, or by inferring them inductively from observation, or by any other method of instruction by the environment. We use, rather, the method of trial and the elimination of error. As Ernst Gombrich says, ‘making comes before matching’: the active production of a new trial structure comes before its exposure to eliminating tests.
The Myth of the Framework

DD ends the first sentence of the second paragraph with “without the structure” and then a period. Instead of a period, Popper had a comma there and continued the sentence. Then, the rest of that paragraph that DD quotes is actually from a different section of the book. DD combined sentences from different places in the book and presented them as one paragraph with no ellipsis or square brackets to indicate a modification.

And DD left out the words “In fact,” before “I contend”. DD also put an ellipsis at the end of the first paragraph when that should be a period. There are no omitted words there. The paragraph ends there and DD continues without skipping a paragraph. DD also left out Popper’s italics.

A similar misquote also appeared on the Taking Children Seriously (TCS) website (mirror). DD co-founded TCS with Sarah Fitz-Claridge and she’s my best guess at the author of that misquote, though it could have been DD. Either way, he has responsibility for what it says on the official website of the movement he co-founded (particularly for pages, like this one, with no author specified).

Judging by the similarities, the misquote in BoI was likely based on the TCS website misquote. Even when a secondary source is accurate, it’s problematic to take a secondary source quote and then edit it without checking the original. When you do that, you’re making edits without knowing the original context and wording, so you aren’t in a good enough position to judge what edits are OK.

(More details about the TCS website version of the misquote.)

Thanks to Dec for telling me that this misquote is also in BoI after I wrote about the version from the TCS website.

As the physicist Stephen Hawking put it, humans are ‘just a chemical scum on the surface of a typical planet that’s in orbit round a typical star on the outskirts of a typical galaxy’.

This quote seems to be made up based on a similar Hawking quote about “chemical scum” from the 1995 TV program (Reality on the Rocks: Beyond Our Ken by Ken Campbell (IMBD, trailer)). Interestingly, DD had quoted it correctly in The Fabric of Reality as “The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting round a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies.” I didn’t find the original video, but it’s quoted that way in various places online that aren’t based on DD’s writing. (Some sources have “around” instead of “round”, which is an understandable difference given how similar those words can sound when spoken out loud.)

It seems that DD made up this misquote for his 2005 TED talk and then based the quote in BoI on his talk. Alan Forrester checked the books The large scale structure of space-time, A Brief History of Time, The Grand Design, The Nature of Space and Time and The Universe in a Nutshell, but found that none contain the word “scum”. And I can’t find any online sources for Hawking ever saying the BoI version of the quote (whereas with the The Fabric of Reality version, I easily found other online sources).

This misquote doesn’t seem fully accidental. DD changed the quote to be more elegant and catchy by repeating “typical” three times. I’ve noticed that many of DD’s misquotes involve changing text to sound nicer.

(More details.)

[Horgan believed] that science has the ability to ‘resolve questions’ objectively […]

Horgan actually wrote “Scientists have the ability to pose questions and resolve them in a way that critics, philosophers, historians cannot.” DD changed Horgan’s words “resolve them” to “resolve questions”, which is wrong without using square brackets to indicate an edit. (More details.)

The issue of what exactly needs to be explained in an ‘appearance of design’ was first addressed by the clergyman William Paley, the finest exponent of the argument from design. In 1802, before Darwin was born, he published the following thought experiment in his book Natural Theology.

It’s unclear what, if anything, “appearance of design” is a quote from, but it’d be understandable if a reader believed it was a quote of Paley in Natural Theology. But it’s not in that book.

[Paley wrote:]

The inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker . . . There cannot be design without a designer; contrivance without a contriver; order without choice; arrangement without anything capable of arranging; subserviency and relation to a purpose without that which could intend a purpose; means suitable to an end . . . without the end ever having been contemplated or the means accommodated to it. Arrangement, disposition of parts, subserviency of means to an end, relation of instruments to a use imply the presence of intelligence and mind.

DD changed the words “any thing” to the word “anything” and changed “an use” to “a use”. DD also quoted from both chapters 1 and 2, but presented it as single paragraph with ellipses. DD also removed a comma near the end before “imply the presence of intelligence and mind” which helped the reader understand the text. (DD edited other punctuation too, but this punctuation edit stood out to me because it’s significantly worse than the original.) (More details.)

As Hawking once put it, ‘Television sets could come out [of a naked singularity].’

Thanks to Alan Forrester for looking into this quote at my request. He was unable to find Hawking saying this. He searched the web and the following books: The large scale structure of space-time, A Brief History of Time, The Grand Design, The Nature of Space and Time and The Universe in a Nutshell.

As Hofstadter remarked, ‘In retrospect, I am quite amazed at how much genuine intelligence I was willing to accept as somehow having been implanted in the program . . . It is clear that I was willing to accept a huge amount of fluidity as achievable in this day and age simply by putting together a large bag of isolated tricks, kludges and hacks.’

Hofstadter’s actual paragraph ends with “a large bag of isolated tricks-kludges and hacks, as they say.” DD’s punctation edits changed the meaning. Hofstadter said “isolated tricks” and then gave “kludges and hacks” as a rewording of “isolated tricks”. DD changed it to a list of three things, “tricks, kludges and hacks” and made it sound like the modifier “isolated” applies to all three, whereas in the original it applied only to “tricks”. As a list, it means that all three things were put together. In the original, it says they put together tricks, and then provides the additional information that the tricks could be characterized as kludges and hacks as people (informally) say.

Thanks to Dec for bringing up this misquote.

Representative Roger Q. Mills of Texas complained in 1882, ‘I thought . . . that mathematics was a divine science. I thought that mathematics was the only science that spoke to inspiration and was infallible in its utterances [but] here is a new system of mathematics that demonstrates the truth to be false.’

This text is available in the Congressional Record. DD changed the words "by inspiration" to "to inspiration". It’s also misleading that where DD wrote “[but]”, with no ellipsis, he skipped multiple sentences and continued with text from a different paragraph.

DD likely copied this misquote from Fair Representation without telling his readers that he was trusting a secondary source without fact checking it, and without letting readers know which secondary source he was using.

Thanks to Justin Mallone for looking this up at my request.

Before Blackmore and others realized the significance of memes in human evolution, all sorts of root causes had been suggested [...] [T]here is the ‘Machiavellian hypothesis’ that human intelligence evolved in order to predict the behaviour of others, and to fool them. […] Blackmore’s ‘meme machine’ idea, that human brains evolved in order to replicate memes, must be true.

At first I read “Machiavellian hypothesis” as a quote of Blackmore from her book The Meme Machine that DD mentioned earlier and included in his bibliography. If so, it's a misquote. That phrase isn’t in her book.

But maybe “Machiavellian hypothesis” is merely meant to be the name of a hypothesis. If so, it’s the wrong name. The correct name is "Machiavellian Intelligence”, as one can find out from Blackmore’s book or Wikipedia. Blackmore has an index entry for “Machiavellian Intelligence” and cites two books with “Machiavellian Intelligence” in their title. She also writes “An influential version of social theory is the ‘Machiavellian Intelligence’ hypothesis (Byrne and Whiten 1988; Whiten and Byrne 1997).”. It appears that DD read her book, misremembered the name of the hypothesis, didn’t check it, and put quote marks around it. (More details.)

The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote . . . Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals.
Albert Michelson, address at the opening of the Ryerson Physical Laboratory, University of Chicago, 1894

The source for this, which DD didn’t specify, is the book Light Waves and Their Uses (1903) by Albert Michelson. The speaker wrote down what he said in his own book. Michelson wrote:

Many other instances might be cited, but these will suffice to justify the statement that "our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals."

DD incorrectly quoted this as Michelson saying “[o]ur future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals” himself, when Michelson actually had it in quote marks and talked about that statement. Deleting quote marks within a quote is misquoting. (More details.)

For example, as I wrote in The Fabric of Reality:

Consider one particular copper atom at the tip of the nose of the statue of Sir Winston Churchill that stands in Parliament Square in London. Let me try to explain why that copper atom is there. It is because Churchill served as prime minister in the House of Commons nearby; and because his ideas and leadership contributed to the Allied victory in the Second World War; and because it is customary to honour such people by putting up statues of them; and because bronze, a traditional material for such statues, contains copper, and so on. Thus we explain a low-level physical observation – the presence of a copper atom at a particular location – through extremely high-level theories about emergent phenomena such as ideas, leadership, war and tradition.

There is no reason why there should exist, even in principle, any lower-level explanation of the presence of that copper atom than the one I have just given. Presumably a reductive ‘theory of everything’ would in principle make a low-level prediction of the probability that such a statue will exist, given the condition of (say) the solar system at some earlier date. It would also in principle describe how the statue probably got there. But such descriptions and predictions (wildly infeasible, of course) would explain nothing. They would merely describe the trajectory that each copper atom followed from the copper mine, through the smelter and the sculptor’s studio and so on . . . In fact such a prediction would have to refer to atoms all over the planet, engaged in the complex motion we call the Second World War, among other things. But even if you had the superhuman capacity to follow such lengthy predictions of the copper atom’s being there, you would still not be able to say ‘Ah yes, now I understand why they are there’. [You] would have to inquire into what it was about that configuration of atoms, and those trajectories, that gave them the propensity to deposit a copper atom at this location. Pursuing that inquiry would be a creative task, as discovering new explanations always is. You would have to discover that certain atomic configurations support emergent phenomena such as leadership and war, which are related to one another by high-level explanatory theories. Only when you knew those theories could you understand why that copper atom is where it is.

In addition to checking this using ebooks, I also compared hardback copies of both books. It’s FoR pp. 22-23 and BoI pp. 109-110.

DD quotes “understand why they are there” but the original reads “understand why it is there”. DD changed the words “it is” to “they are”.

DD quotes "Pursuing that inquiry”, but FoR says “this inquiry”. DD changed the word “this” to “that”.

DD quotes “understand why that copper atom is where it is”. DD omitted the word “fully”. The original said “understand fully why”.

DD wrote “[You]” in BoI, which is an incorrect use of square brackets. He skipped two sentences and should have used an ellipsis. And it says “You” in the original, so he shouldn’t put it in square brackets since it isn’t modified. Square brackets can only replace an ellipsis when the text in square brackets replaces/summarizes/paraphrases all the skipped text, but the word “You” doesn’t replace the skipped sentences.

The italics “why” and “what it was” are not italicized in FoR.

The ellipsis DD used in “studio and so on . . . In fact” is incorrect because the original had a period after “so on”. There should be four dots there (one for the period, and three for the ellipsis), not three dots.

DD doesn’t even quote himself accurately.

Other Misquotes

In The Fabric of Reality, DD wrote:

Mystery is part of the very concept of time that we grow up with. St Augustine, for example, said:

What then is time? If no one asks me, I know; if I wish to explain it to one who asks, I know not. (Confessions)

This quote has some word changes compared to the edition of Confessions that I checked. However, there are other English translations, so it could be an accurate quote of one of those. DD didn’t say which translation he used, which is more problematic than usual when quoting a particular translation rather than quoting something with a single, unambiguous wording that could be looked up.

DD wrote in Not Merely the Finest TV Documentary Series Ever Made:

As Karl Popper put it, we humans can “let our ideas die in our place.”

I found Popper saying something similar three times, but he didn’t use that wording. I think DD relies on his memory for this quote, instead of checking a source. He’s quoted it different ways in different places (e.g. with “theories” instead of “ideas” in Why It’s Good To Be Wrong and BoI). DD should get quotes from sources instead of putting quote marks around what he believes he remembers someone writing.

Popper said similar things in The Myth of the Framework (“By criticizing our theories we can let our theories die in our stead.”), In Search of a Better World (“Now we can let our theories die in our place.”), and Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind (“Let our conjectures, our theories, die in our stead!”).

DD’s associate Chiara Marletto also misquoted Popper as saying "let our ideas die in our place.”.

DD’s associate Sarah Fitz-Claridge misquoted William Godwin and intentionally sanitized a quote about slavery. She gives “The condition of a … slave in the West-Indies, is in many respects preferable to that of the youthful son of a free-born European. The slave is purchased upon a view of mercantile speculation; and, when he has finished his daily portion of labour, his master concerns himself no further about him. But the watchful care of the parent is endless. The youth is never free from the danger of grating interference.”. She misquoted by changing the words "of its grating" to “of grating”. And she sanitized the 1797 quote by changing "negro-slave" into "... slave”. (I think that’s an incorrect use of an ellipsis, too.) Also, the quote is horrible because it downplays how bad slavery was, so it’s disturbing that Fitz-Claridge liked the quote enough to highlight it.

Fitz-Claridge also misquoted The Myth of the Framework. It’s some of the same Popper material misquoted in BoI and on the TCS website, but misquoted differently. This time, Fitz-Claridge changed “that” to “which” and got the page numbers wrong. (More details in the second update.)

Smaller Issues

DD frequently doesn’t give sources for quotes which makes it harder to check their accuracy. By leaving out sources, he’s asking his reader to trust him. But he made many quoting errors, so that trust would be misplaced.

DD repeatedly writes “X … Y” when X and Y are from different paragraphs or even different sections of a book. This is misleading. He also does it when X is a complete sentence, which makes it look like X is not a complete sentence.

DD frequently changes capitalization and punctuation without square brackets to indicate the change. DD capitalizes stuff to make it look like the start of a sentence when it isn’t (both at the start of a quote or after an ellipsis). DD also puts periods inside the quote marks after quoting a partial sentence, which makes it look like that was the end of the sentence when it wasn’t. DD also repeatedly puts a space then an ellipsis after a sentence ends, which should be a period then ellipsis but he changed the period to a space. So he makes stuff look like the start or end of a sentence when it isn’t, and then other times he makes stuff look like it’s not the end of a sentence when it is.

DD doesn’t appear to have a consistent policy for periods going inside or outside of quotes. E.g. I searched an electronic copy of BoI and found 188 instances of a single close quote followed by a period, and 88 instances of a period followed by a single close quote (and 3 instances of period, single close quote, and period again, which all involved a number, ellipsis, close quote, then period). DD often ends quotes with a period inside the quotation marks when the original sentence doesn’t end there, but other times he puts the period outside the quotation marks, and I don’t know why. DD is also inconsistent about italicizing quotes the same way they are in the original.

There are standard guidelines for how to do quotations, which DD violates, in addition to the larger misquote issues I presented above. For example, Working with Quotations, from Suny Empire State College, says:

Remember that when you do choose to use direct quotations, you need to retain the exact wording, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation of the original source.

DD went to both Oxford and Cambridge. I don’t think they teach lower standards than state colleges, and in any case he hasn’t followed their guidelines. For example, this Guide for authors and editors from the Oxford University Press says:

Quoted matter must reflect the original source exactly in spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Please double-check all quotations against the sources from which you have taken them to ensure that you have copied accurately.

It must be possible for the reader to identify the work from which a quotation has been taken.

The University Of Oxford Style Guide says “Place any punctuation which does not belong to the quote outside the quotation marks (except closing punctuation if the end of the quote is also the end of the sentence).”

The Cambridge Editorial Style Guide says “A full stop is used outside the quotation mark if the quote is only part of a sentence.” and “Always source quotations”.

Taking Credit from Karl Popper

There’s another scholarship issue in DD’s books. I was horrified to discover that Karl Popper’s name is only in The Fabric of Reality (FoR) chapter 3 two times. That chapter is focused on sharing Popper’s ideas. But it doesn’t give adequate credit. In particular, the diagrams (3.1, 3.2, 3.3) are clearly based on Popper’s diagrams in Objective Knowledge, but DD never tells the reader that they’re modified from Popper. (More details.)

DD has presented himself as very humble and modest. He’s claimed multiple times to be only footnotes to Popper (which comes off as exaggerated modesty, rather than convincing his fans that it’s actually true). But DD has simultaneously misled readers to believe he accomplished much more than he did, e.g. in FoR ch. 3. This is a pattern. For example, in a 2016 paper, The logic of experimental tests, particularly of Everettian quantum theory, DD wrote:

An important consequence of this explanatory conception of science is that experimental results consistent with a theory T do not constitute support for T. That is because they are merely explicanda. A new explicandum may make a theory more problematic, but it can never solve existing problems involving a theory (except by making rival theories problematic – see Section 3). The asymmetry between refutation (tentative) and support (non-existent) in scientific methodology is better understood in this way, by regarding theories as explanations, than through Popper's (op. cit.) own argument from the logic of predictions, appealing to what has been called the ‘arrow of modus ponens’. Scientific theories are only approximately modelled as propositions, but they are precisely explanations.

This passage misleads readers into believing that DD improved on Popper by making a better argument focused on explanations instead of on the logic of predictions. Most readers would be surprised to discover that Popper made both arguments. Popper did make the logic of predictions argument (which is less important but was worth making too) but also made the other argument that DD is implying is his own original work. DD made some original contributions to epistemology, but not this one.

You can search Popper’s Conjectures and Refutations (C&R) for words like "tentative", "explanation", and "support" to see that DD is less original than he implies. Popper also covers these issues in other books. I’ll give one example from C&R:

For a scientific theory—an explanatory theory—is, if anything, an attempt to solve a scientific problem, that is to say, a problem concerned or connected with the discovery of an explanation.[6]

This clearly shows that Popper viewed scientific theories as explanatory theories. DD didn’t come up with the idea that scientific theories are explanations. The footnote at the end of that quote refers readers to more of Popper’s writing. Popper talked about explanation often. Popper also came up with the asymmetry between refutation (tentative) and support (non-existent). Popper emphasized refutation, said it was only tentative, and is also the person who challenged thousands of years of philosophical tradition by arguing that support is non-existent. Popper drew multiple major distinctions between negative and positive approaches to epistemology.

DD also gets other people to praise him while he presents himself as humble. For example, his TCS co-founder Sarah Fitz-Claridge (SFC) wrote that Popper invented a philosophy of science and that David Deutsch and his TCS philosophy had extended Popper’s epistemology to apply outside of science. (SFC probably wrote that. It’s on an official TCS page, but doesn’t specify the author, so it could have been written by DD.) That’s a major misrepresentation. Popper was seeking a general theory of knowledge, and said so, and applied it outside of science. (More details.)

DD has gotten his associates to praise him as e.g. having “the greatest mind ever”. SFC believes that DD made major improvements on Popper, and so do many of DD’s fans. I don’t believe it’s an accident that many people overestimate DD in ways similar to his co-founder who publicly promotes him. It looks like a strategy where DD plays humble while having other people say things that would sound arrogant coming from him. (More details.)

In 2012, SFC wrote to the official Fabric of Reality discussion group (archive of FoR posts) (my italics):

In my view it would be much more accurate to say that David has the greatest mind ever to have existed. His thinking is breathtakingly logical and brilliant. His ideas have changed the world and will do so even more profoundly in the future. I have never met anyone more pure, more truth-seeking and more open to criticism than David.

In 2000, SFC wrote to TCS list (my italics):

So really, people should not speak of Popper, but of Deutsch, because it was David who came up with the link between Popper's ideas and educational theory.

Note that DD has a history of secretly ghostwriting stuff which SFC then claims to be the author of. (Source: DD’s friend. He or she was friends with DD before DD turned 18 and they’re still friends now, over 50 years later. He or she had many discussions about TCS, Popper and more with DD and SFC. DD introduced me to the friend and I had some discussions with him or her.) Full disclosure: In the past, I’ve posted a few things that DD wrote, but under my own name, with his permission and approval. I did this when (as best I remember) I wanted to share something good that he told me, which I thought would benefit the world, but he didn’t want to share it himself and wouldn’t let me post it and attribute it to him or to an anonymous person, but he would let me post it under my name without attributing it to anyone. Here’s an example that I remember (I think it was the most significant, memorable instance). More often, I wrote stuff myself that was based on things DD told me, and he didn’t want credit but was happy for me to say it. At other times, DD helped edit my writing and a sentence or two of his ended up in the final version without credit (he didn’t want credit). DD had substantial influence over some of my early writing, and he also has had substantial influence over some of SFC’s writing that he didn’t fully ghostwrite.

Conclusion

I was mistaken about how good DD’s books are. They’re worse than I thought. I still think there is significant value in those books, but you can’t trust DD’s scholarship. Besides distrusting direct quotes given by DD, you should also distrust paraphrases or summaries of what other people said or thought. You have to check things yourself if you actually want to know. DD is too unreliable. And don’t use DD as a secondary source. Don’t spread quotes that DD quoted; quote directly from the original source or don’t use it. Some people are spreading his misquotes (they’ve even been repeated in books).

FYI, I don’t think DD is especially bad at quoting compared to others. Lots of books and academic articles have major errors related to quotes, paraphrases, cites or facts. But for a book to be considered great, it should do better. In the world today, you shouldn’t trust authors with quotes or facts by default. You should be suspicious by default unless an author earns more trust. Many people believe DD has earned a lot of trust (including me in the past), but they’re mistaken.

I apologize for encouraging people to respect and trust DD more than he merits. I know I played a role in that.

DD’s misquote problem also helps contextualize his recent mistreatment of me. How could a super rational, great person act like that? The answer is that he he’s actually a deeply flawed person with some good traits mixed in as special exceptions.

DD once got very upset with me for questioning a Godwin quote he sent me in a private discussion. He’d sent it without a specific source and I couldn’t find the quote by searching the book. It turned out that he’d quoted an obscure first edition but I was searching the third edition. He should have praised me for looking for errors instead of getting defensive and lashing out at me. Good scholars don’t expect to be trusted and don’t mind being questioned or challenged. Even though he didn’t misquote in that instance, DD’s irrational attitude was a warning sign that DD might be a misquoter. I failed to recognize the full problem and I didn’t go fact check his books at that time (2011).

BoI has an errata page (mirror) which documents a bunch of errors in the book. They are mostly factual errors, and the number and severity should concern readers. Despite all the misquotes in the book, there are currently no misquotes on the errata page, which says something about how little fact checking the book has been getting (there are probably a bunch of other errors that no one has found yet).

I will edit my book recommendation articles to warn people about DD’s misquotes. I will also take down the beginningofinfinity.com website that promotes BoI and put a warning there about DD’s misquotes.


Update, 2021-07-12: In a 1985 physics paper in a prestigious, peer-reviewed journal, David Deustch misquoted Alan Turing.

Update, 2021-07-13: I made two videos related to DD misquotes:

Video about the Feynman misquote: "Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves.". This video goes into more depth.

Video about this blog post about DD's misquotes. This video is more of a broad overview.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (27)

David Deutsch and Lulie Tanett Violated Reasonable Expectations

When the harassment started, I didn’t expect that David Deutsch (DD) or Lulie Tanett (LT) were involved. When I caught Andy B (linked together his many fake identities), I emailed DD and LT about it, and I thought they’d be helpful and reasonable. I expected a very different reaction than I got.

What DD and LT have done has surprised me. That actually made it harder to deal with. If I knew what they were like in the first place, I would have handled the situation differently. I went out of my way to give them lots of chances for private discussion. I responded slowly to the problems to give them many chances and months to see it’s a serious public issue and change their behavior. I didn’t go into this knowing what was actually going on. I shared information as I figured out new things and that’s made my explanations longer and more complex.

Why was I surprised? Well they just left without comment. They didn’t leave in an explicitly negative way. They never said they weren’t speaking to me. We didn’t part ways with a fight. Nothing in particular happened. Our conversation frequency dwindled over time. I initiated some problem solving, but I wasn’t pushy about it and gave them time and space. Months passed and at some point they didn’t come back. That’s all. That didn’t give me much reason to think they hated me or wanted me harmed.

There was no conversation where I had any reason to think it was the last one. By the time I knew things were over, they’d been over for months. (And by the time I knew DD and LT actually weren’t speaking to me – the current situation – I now estimate that they hadn’t been for multiple years. That’s something they did on their own, unilaterally, without informing me, and with no specific or clear cause.) They never even said bye. I thought we were still trying, gradually over time, and eventually I realized that they weren’t.

I thought our old friendships would still mean something when a criminal attacked. And it’s not like I had done anything wrong. I hadn’t wronged DD or LT. I hadn’t done some sort of mean action to hurt them. I hadn’t knowingly violated their consent. And they never complained “Hey wait, that wasn’t OK, you accidentally violated my consent”.

I thought crimes were a serious matter and that people would set aside petty stuff when crime was at stake. I didn’t know that DD and LT were so far gone not to do that and/or were never actually very anti-crime (just anti crimes against their own tribe).

I thought they were doing their own things, separate from me, and that when there was an emergency involving crime that would take precedence over whatever mild grudges or negative feelings had lasted through years of not interacting. Time heals all wounds, right? Why would they still be super mad – mad enough to have a tribalist attitude and side with crime – after years with no negative interactions?

The thing DD lied about is a key point. He lied that he told me several times that he didn’t want to hear from me. But he never told me that and I had no idea he felt that way. That’s key context. He’s lying that I’m violating his requests, when actually he was violating my reasonable expectations (which is misleading to observers) even before he overtly lied about me. I had a reasonable expectation that he would respond appropriately when his fan was committing crimes partially in DD’s name. (One of Andy B’s main complaints, and motivations for harassment, is that he sees me as DD’s enemy.) DD also wouldn’t respond when Dennis Hackethal plagiarized both of us, or when someone impersonated DD and wrote comments literally in DD’s name, or when Andy B created and owned the BoI subreddit (DD wouldn’t disown that or distance himself from it in any way).

I thought I was telling DD and LT about a serious problem in their community that was bad for them. I thought they’d want to ban him from their community and keep their distance from a dangerous person. Instead they embraced Andy B, tweet with him, and continue to have a toxic community culture that does things like lie, libel, and spread hateful gossip.

I thought DD cared about his career and reputation, and would want to stay out of the mud, and would appreciate the warning about the mud getting on him. I thought it was neglect not malice. I was wrong though. After nearly a decade of going our separate ways, DD seems willing to take substantial risks with his public reputation for the purpose of trying to hurt me. He can’t or won’t let anything go, nor specify what exactly he’s so upset about or what he wants or doesn’t want. (I literally don’t know what actions to take to please or appease him so that he’d stop the harassment campaign; he won’t say; maybe there are none.)

DD’s and LT’s behavior, like fully ghosting me about crimes connected with them, and tweeting with Andy B after he was caught, has been really shocking. It completely violated my expectations based on how we left things (as well as my expectations about basic human decency and civilized behavior from them).

I’ve been going back and reading old stuff because I was shocked by their behavior and I wanted to know what happened. Did they change a lot since we last spoke much, or did I miss something in the past? The answer, in short, is that I missed stuff in the past. The old discussions are full of warning signs about their irrationality that I can see now but missed before.

DD and LT are the only people involved in the harassment that I actually knew well. It makes some sense that I’m still on their mind. But I met Sarah a long time ago but never knew her very well, and she really shouldn’t still care about me. Most CritRats I knew less well than Sarah. Why would people I never knew at all, or never knew well, hold multi-year grudges and be super hateful? There’s something really wrong there (I think their community is really toxic). And to the extent I can get any reasons from them, they say stuff like that I’m rude and that I criticized their hero DD. So what? All public figures have rude detractors on the internet, who are mostly ignored or mocked a little bit, but generally no one cares much. Even if that were true about me, why would it even matter? The people who hate and harass me are revealing, by their behavior, that they think I’m super important. They act like my opinions will somehow determine DD’s fate. They treat me like DD’s peer, and like one of the few intellectuals in the world who matters. They seem to see me like a threat to DD, a high status power player with a big following, or else why would they care? If they don’t like me and think I don’t matter, they wouldn’t be so concerned with my opinions.

I’ve posted negative blog posts about (for example) Sam Harris, but none of his fans bother me about it. I don’t even get mild pushback (they don’t seem to notice or care), let alone harassment. If I actually went to Harris’ subreddit and criticized him there, I’d get negative reactions, but all I’d have to do is stop posting on his subreddit and they’d forget about me and leave me alone. Why? Because Harris has many critics and even haters, but most are not influential and most fans don’t regard them as important. If I had 100k YouTube followers and criticized Harris, it’d get more of a reaction, but I don’t have that. Yet DD’s community treats me like I have a few million YouTube followers, or whatever the equivalent is for blog readers.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

David Deutsch Wants to Control Others and His Reputation

This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me which has been going on for years. The aggressors are David Deutsch and his fan community. This post provides context about what type of person Deutsch is (a social climber), with quotes, which helps explain the harassment situation.


In the Introduction to Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand wrote about the right and wrong ways to approach life and other people. The error of wanting to control too much about other people explains a lot about David Deutsch (DD). After the Rand quote, I’ll give quotes from DD showing how he has flaws that Rand was talking about. In the quotes, he talks about managing his reputation and controlling what other people think of him.

Her [Dagny Taggart’s] error—and the cause of her refusal to join the strike—is over-optimism and over-confidence (particularly this last). Over-optimism—in that she thinks men are better than they are, she doesn’t really understand them and is generous about it.

Over-confidence—in that she thinks she can do more than an individual actually can. She thinks she can run a railroad (or the world) single-handed, she can make people do what she wants or needs, what is right, by the sheer force of her own talent; not by forcing them, of course, not by enslaving them and giving orders—but by the sheer over-abundance of her own energy; she will show them how, she can teach them and persuade them, she is so able that they’ll catch it from her. (This is still faith in their rationality, in the omnipotence of reason. The mistake? Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone.)

On these two points, Dagny is committing an important (but excusable and understandable) error in thinking, the kind of error individualists and creators often make. It is an error proceeding from the best in their nature and from a proper principle, but this principle is misapplied. . . .

The error is this: it is proper for a creator to be optimistic, in the deepest, most basic sense, since the creator believes in a benevolent universe and functions on that premise. But it is an error to extend that optimism to other specific men. First, it’s not necessary, the creator’s life and the nature of the universe do not require it, his life does not depend on others. Second, man is a being with free will; therefore, each man is potentially good or evil, and it’s up to him and only to him (through his reasoning mind) to decide which he wants to be. The decision will affect only him; it is not (and cannot and should not be) the primary concern of any other human being.

Therefore, while a creator does and must worship Man (which means his own highest potentiality; which is his natural self-reverence), he must not make the mistake of thinking that this means the necessity to worship Mankind (as a collective). These are two entirely different conceptions, with entirely—(immensely and diametrically opposed)—different consequences.

Man, at his highest potentiality, is realized and fulfilled within each creator himself. . . .Whether the creator is alone, or finds only a handful of others like him, or is among the majority of mankind, is of no importance or consequence whatever; numbers have nothing to do with it. He alone or he and a few others like him are mankind, in the proper sense of being the proof of what man actually is, man at his best, the essential man, man at his highest possibility. (The rational being, who acts according to his nature.)

It should not matter to a creator whether anyone or a million or all the men around him fall short of the ideal of Man; let him live up to that ideal himself; this is all the “optimism” about Man that he needs. But this is a hard and subtle thing to realize—and it would be natural for Dagny always to make the mistake of believing others are better than they really are (or will become better, or she will teach them to become better or, actually, she so desperately wants them to be better)—and to be tied to the world by that hope.

It is proper for a creator to have an unlimited confidence in himself and his ability, to feel certain that he can get anything he wishes out of life, that he can accomplish anything he decides to accomplish, and that it’s up to him to do it. (He feels it because he is a man of reason . . .) [But] here is what he must keep clearly in mind: it is true that a creator can accomplish anything he wishes—if he functions according to the nature of man, the universe and his own proper morality, that is, if he does not place his wish primarily within others and does not attempt or desire anything that is of a collective nature, anything that concerns others primarily or requires primarily the exercise of the will of others. (This would be an immoral desire or attempt, contrary to his nature as a creator.) If he attempts that, he is out of a creator’s province and in that of the collectivist and the second-hander.

Therefore, he must never feel confident that he can do anything whatever to, by or through others. (He can’t—and he shouldn’t even wish to try it—and the mere attempt is improper.) He must not think that he can . . . somehow transfer his energy and his intelligence to them and make them fit for his purposes in that way. He must face other men as they are, recognizing them as essentially independent entities, by nature, and beyond his primary influence; [he must] deal with them only on his own, independent terms, deal with such as he judges can fit his purpose or live up to his standards (by themselves and of their own will, independently of him) and expect nothing from the others. . . .

Now, in Dagny’s case, her desperate desire is to run Taggart Transcontinental. She sees that there are no men suited to her purpose around her, no men of ability, independence and competence. She thinks she can run it with others, with the incompetent and the parasites, either by training them or merely by treating them as robots who will take her orders and function without personal initiative or responsibility; with herself, in effect, being the spark of initiative, the bearer of responsibility for a whole collective. This can’t be done. This is her crucial error.

This is where she fails.

David Deutsch (DD) wants to control his effect on the world and how the world sees him. He wants to have a large number of fans. He wants to do things to, by and through others. He doesn’t want to treat people as fully independent entities. He wants to tell people what to think. That’s too hard a task, which is one of the reasons it took him over a decade to write BoI.

DD has had ideas like teaching people to be better parents – but without them having to learn Critical Rationalism (CR) themselves. Taking Children Seriously (TCS) said parents could just learn DD’s conclusions, based on his understanding of CR, without having to learn much about philosophy themselves. TCS reassured parents that reading even one Popper book was optional. (I give sources for this at the end of this post.) This made DD the bearer of responsibility for the whole collective, since he was the one with knowledge about CR and how to apply CR. But DD and his TCS co-founder, Sarah Fitz-Claridge (SFC), have also denied having responsibility for what happened to those parents and their children, and basically abandoned them.

DD hides what kind of person he is, so I expect people to initially doubt my claims about him. Getting you to doubt he’s a social climber is part of his reputation management. But DD has admitted these things to me privately, e.g. he emailed me on 2010-07-25 (my italics):

I myself do not want the [Taking Children Seriously] archives to be widely read (yet!) because I am strongly of the opinion that it would run a coach and horses through my plans to manage my reputation into the future so that I can have a beneficial effect on the world other than physics etc. It would cause no end of trouble for me in that regard.

DD didn’t think there was anything wrong with his roughly 2000 posts about TCS. He wanted them read later (hence the “yet!” comment). He hadn’t changed his mind about the ideas. He wasn’t even saying they needed to be rewritten or edited. He just wanted to control what effect he had on the world and control his reputation (that is, control what opinions other people had in their minds about him). So he wanted to hide his ideas that he thought were wonderful and important. He wants to be a mastermind manipulating the world for its benefit, just as TCS says a parent should try to not do to his child, and Rand said not to do in the quote above. (DD claimed to be a fan of Ayn Rand and strongly recommended her books to me.)

Similarly, on 2010-09-26:

17:16:00 curidotus: can you explain your reputation management theories a bit more?
17:17:12 oxfordphysicist: One reason I agreed to be in this new Institute is that it will extend the area over which I am regarded as entitled to pontificate in public and to be listened to.
17:17:47 curidotus: rather unFeynmanesque of you
17:18:12 oxfordphysicist: I want to keep extending that area until it covers some aspects of politics and one day even education theory.
17:18:28 curidotus: and since you don't belong to any think tank dedicated to contradicting feynman, you're not allowed to argue with that!
17:18:34 oxfordphysicist: Similarly I want to avoid doing things that reduce the area.

Note that I disagreed with DD and was arguing with him by mentioning how his attitude contradicted Feynman’s.

On 2010-10-01 (my italics):

16:52:37 oxfordphysicist: Today I met the other senior members [including Nick Bostrom] of the proposed new Future Technology Institute.
[…]
16:55:35 oxfordphysicist: Mostly we were all trying to impress the sponsor with our cleverness and depth. So nothing has actually happened yet.

That’s social climbing.

And within a few days of 2010-08-20:

oxfordphysicist:
[That] Might harm me by diverting discussion away from BoI issues onto TCS and STWTR issues which I am not yet ready to present to the general public.

It’s amazing how DD wants to control his reputation. He wrote hundreds of STWTR posts on a public blog. Then he wants to somehow take it back. He’s not ready to present it to the public!? But he already did present it to the public.

Similarly, TCS was already presented to the public and probably thousands of parents started trying to use it. Many people made some changes to their parenting on DD’s and SFC’s advice. They relied on DD and SFC for the ongoing support and advice that DD and SFC communicated would be available. You can’t (reasonably) withdraw a parenting philosophy that is already in use in many people’s lives that you shared on the public internet, in a bunch of conference speeches, and in a paper journal.

You especially can’t withdraw your parenting philosophy when you tell people they’re basically like evil dictators if they don’t do TCS. They compare non-TCS parents to slave owners and to husbands when beating your wife was legal. They tell parents that TCS is something they can and must do right now, today, to avoid destroying their children’s minds. And tell them they don’t need to learn philosophy and Popper – that’s optional, advanced extra stuff. If they don’t learn Popper themselves, then they are dependent on experts like DD and SFC, so withdrawing that expertise screws people over really badly.

And neither DD nor SFC has publicly admitted to withdrawing anything or quitting the community. They don’t acknowledge anything changed. But behind the scenes they do things like pressure me not to repost archives that became unavailable due to technical/computer/software type problems. It’s dishonest to to hide what’s going on from the community you’re trying to take resources away from. They never even admitted that they stopped making new parenting resources, but they did worse than that by trying to take away existing resources like the original TCS website and recently the second TCS website (that was harder to navigate and incomplete, and they promised more stuff that never came). And when they quit, they never directed anyone to any alternatives to move on to.

It was basically implied that the parenting resources to move on to were me and my community, since DD and SFC left their discussion community to my leadership. But they never directly said that (they just left without explanation and without any clear moment in time when they left). And SFC disliked me and put some effort into preventing TCS parents from finding out that a TCS discussion forum still existed, run by me. And now they’re involved with harassment against me and my community, even though it was the only significant resource left for TCS parents. For many years, I’ve been the only person letting TCS parents come ask questions and providing expert answers, and they seem mad about that because they want to be the expert leaders. They abandoned TCS, but still want the social prestige of being a founder and leader, but without the responsibility or work involved.

SFC has been doing some podcasts and talks about TCS recently with zero acknowledgement or explanation about being gone for over 15 years. It’s confusing because they simultaneously in some ways want to hide and disown TCS, and in other ways want to claim to always have been the experts and leaders like nothing changed. It doesn’t make sense. And it leaves me with no idea what actions I could take to please them so that they would stop the harassment campaign.

As TCS leaders, they’ve (primarily SFC, who played much more of a community manager role than DD, while DD played the wise intellectual role) repeatedly said things like that new wonderful TCS stuff was coming soon. SFC was still selling TCS journal subscriptions long after the last journal was published. When they switched from the tcs.ac website to takingchildrenseriously.com (and unnecessarily got rid of the old domain instead of leaving it alone or redirecting it), they told everyone they’d repost all the articles from the old website, but then they never did. And currently takingchildrenseriously.com has all content deleted, and SFC claims the site will be even better soon. Why couldn’t she leave the existing articles available until the new stuff was ready? Why take them down instead of leaving things alone? She took stuff down on purpose, for a reason she won’t tell the TCS community (she says she disagrees with some old stuff, but doesn’t say what, and maybe just disagrees with the tone). And why delete things at all? Why not just add new additional stuff. And when is the new stuff coming? She took down the existing stuff months ago.

On 2010-08-27, DD wrote (typos in original):

oxfordphysicist:
I dodn't mean only FoR List discussion. I mean -- say a TV producer has joined the FoR list as part of sizing me up for a 12 part series. Then he sees that someone regards me as having written thousands of TCS posts so he reads them and decides I;m a crank.

DD wants to control what other people think and do. TV producers must see DD’s resume exactly as he wants it, with no other information. He thinks his TCS posts could cost him a TV series, and therefore wants to prevent any parents – who are in the middle of a TCS parenting – from continuing to use or discuss it.

Also, DD did write around two thousand TCS posts. That’s a fact, not something that some people regard him as having done.

But DD won’t say publicly that he wants to hide the information that TV producers might dislike (which, admittedly, would defeat his goal of tricking the public including the TV producers). He just sabotages parents behind the scenes after founding a parenting movement at around age 38 and putting his intellectual reputation (e.g. as a book author) behind it. I think a lot of TCS parents don’t know what went wrong and probably blame themselves, and don’t know what DD and SFC did that was unreasonable.

You can’t start something well into adulthood, connect it to your career, and then expect to withdraw it. That’s so unreasonable. People listened to DD because he relied on the reputation from his career and book – they thought he was putting his reputation and career on the line and that he would be a strong, lasting advocate of the movement he started. But now he won’t take responsibility for what he said or responsibility for the role of giving radical, life-changing advice to parents that raises new problems that they need ongoing support, articles and discussion to help with.

By the way, despite getting his way about hiding the TCS archives, DD still hasn’t gotten any 12 part TV series in the last 10+ years since he was so pushy with me about it. Not even a 1 part series. (And is he grateful that I did what he wanted regarding the TCS archives? No. He now initiates force against me without saying why.)

In his article Is TCS Revolutionary?, DD had warned other people not to try to manage their reputations like he secretly does:

One thing that one does not do is hesitate to argue against those ideas and in favour of ideas that seem better. Darwin hesitated for twenty years before publishing The Origin of Species, partly out of fear that it would undermine the fabric of society. His fear may have been justified, but his hesitation was not. The reason is the very consideration that I am discussing in this article. Yes, Darwin's theory contributed to the decline of religion and perhaps, thereby, created a vacuum that has been filled by such things as totalitarian ideologies. But on the other hand, it also contributed enormously to scientific and philosophical progress, which has saved countless lives and enriched many more. For Darwin to know which of these effects would be stronger — to know whether postponing publication of his theory of evolution would do net good or harm — would require a supernatural knowledge of all the ideas, explicit and inexplicit, that existed in other minds, followed by a superhuman analysis of the myriad interactions between them that publication would initiate. To imagine that he could make a meaningful judgement in this matter, and that it was his place to second-guess the intellectual development of the entire world on the basis of such a judgement, was not just silly, it was crass utopianism.

When we were still speaking a lot, I asked DD about this passage and how he isn’t following his own advice. His excuse was that he has more than one thing to say and he needs to say them in the right order. He should have thought of that before he said the TCS stuff. He spent nearly 20 years saying TCS stuff and then tried to pretend he didn’t. Except in a weird, ambiguous way. SFC gave a talk on TCS recently, identified DD as a co-founder of TCS, and claims she will soon publish a book on TCS (20 years ago, she also claimed the book would be done soon, so who knows if or when it’ll ever come out). She also recently went on some podcasts to promote TCS. Are they trying to hide TCS or not? What do they actually want? It doesn’t make sense. Some of DD’s fans are still finding TCS and thinking they should do it, and SFC is encouraging that. Some of DD’s fans tell people about TCS in his Twitter topics, too, and put that in DD’s mentions (notifications).

DD told me basically that he wasted many years of his life sharing TCS ideas and participating in discussions because people don’t listen, don’t learn it right, and hate TCS. He broadly thinks people are too dumb (compared to him) to reason with. I think he’s in an awkward position of thinking TCS is true, and having nothing to retract, while also wanting to stop telling it to anyone he doesn’t intellectually respect (so nearly every living person). He thinks people who read about TCS mostly respond by hating him because they’re stupid and irrational, and he doesn’t want to deal with that anymore, but he doesn’t want to retract TCS either. Partly he won’t retract TCS because that would draw more attention to it, and also he doesn’t want to admit to having been wrong about something.

But SFC is promoting TCS in 2021, so what’s going on? Maybe DD doesn’t want her to, but is unwilling to make clear, direct requests to her because she’s an extremely emotional, irrational person who will get really upset and angry over nothing, let alone over a significant request. (My main source on that claim about SFC is talking with her child a lot, though I’ve seen some of it myself too, both in person and online.) SFC might not even know what DD wants. Or maybe DD got old enough that he gave up on doing other stuff. He did promise me that he’d write a book on TCS before he died (but after he finished his physics work). But if he’s decided he’s again ready to be associated with the movement he co-founded and put his reputation behind and hasn’t retracted … he hasn’t said that either. And if SFC is allowed to talk about TCS, what is he so mad at me about that he has his community harassing me? He claimed that he was upset with me for wanting to keep the TCS email discussion archives available for people to read (but not doing it, at his request). (He wanted not just obedience but agreement … but also didn’t want to discuss and debate the matter to change my mind. Much like how conventional parents sometimes treat their children, which TCS objects to.)

DD himself is tweeting about TCS issues in a confusing way that’s bad for social climbing. He isn’t explaining it. It seems like he just doesn’t have a coherent plan. For example (2021):

All compulsory education, "tough" or not, "love" or not, in camps or not, and whether it "traumatises" or not, is a violation of human rights.

That tweet was paired with a link to Troubled US teens left traumatised by tough love camps. DD was downplaying how bad those camps are. He hates all compulsory education so much that he apparently can’t differentiate that some instances are worse than others. When you compare compulsory education to slavery or dictatorship, you don’t leave much room to admit that some things are less bad than others. It’s like saying all compulsory education is all bad, with no shades of gray, and therefore downplaying the evil of compulsory education that’s worse than public schools (like the camps). And there are abusive parents who are worse than regular parents – DD would reply that they’re all abusive parents, but some parents get drunk and beat their children and some don’t, so they aren’t all the same.

But DD isn’t explaining what he’s talking about, nor making available links to articles that explain it. His audience isn’t going to understand. Some people ask what he’s talking about and he mostly ignores them.

DD also tweeted (2021):

Compulsory education is bad.

Again he didn’t explain his position.

And he’s using force – compulsion – against me that pressures me to learn things I don’t want to learn, e.g. to become educated about the dumb tweets he writes. My self-defense has required learning a bunch of information I’d rather not about people like DD and Andy, as well as about things like website security and false identity detection.

And DD tweeted (2021):

A very bad law is about to be enacted. The very term 'junk food' is hate speech. The very term 'obesity' is a signal of scientism.

Defending children eating whatever they want, and saying all sorts of “junk food” are healthy, was a common DD/TCS claim. But why start tweeting it without explaining your position? He stopped admitting to believing this for years and now he wants to put it on his regular Twitter account, to his regular audience, without giving any reasoning? What’s the big reveal after years of silence? That’s his idea of reputation management? The only plan here is to be vague enough that most people won’t understand what he’s talking about and will hopefully ignore it, so he won’t get too much backlash. But where’s the upside? No one is going to learn something useful from tweets like this. If he was willing to alienate most people with strong, unpopular positions, without really even trying to explain it so reasonable people could see his point … then what was he doing for the last decade? What was he hiding this stuff for if he’s going to share it so recklessly?

Conclusion

DD is a reputation-managing social climber who tries to control what other people know and think about him. He screwed up by founding a movement people dislike, connecting it with his book and public intellectual career, using his author status to recruit and impress members, and writing thousands of posts about it over a period of many years. He also screwed up by writing hundreds of right-wing political blog posts, even though the intellectual elites he wants to socially climb with lean pretty strongly left-wing.

He wants to pretend he never said stuff, but he still thinks it’s true, and he has no coherent plan or policy for what to do about this situation. I think this results in frustration which sometimes builds up enough for DD to tweet a few vague things about his actual views (but they have to be vague because he doesn’t actually want to share his opinions clearly and face the public response, which he fears). He failed at his goals to manage his reputation and control the public’s opinions, and has no idea how to fix it, and his actions now don’t make sense.

And DD seems to blame me a significant amount, for no clear reason, but with concrete consequences: severe harassment for multiple years, and DD himself defamed me. Which is terrible strategy. If he would leave me alone, I wouldn’t be writing about his involvement with TCS, his social climbing, his mistreatment of me, and so on. But he absolutely refuses to discuss the matter privately, ask even once for his fans to stop harassing, or clean up his toxic community. The situation remains intolerable for me, and violates my rights, so I’m talking about it.

DD is second-handed. He cares what other people think and what ideas are in their heads – that’s what reputation is. He wants prestige and social status in the minds of others. He ought to reread Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, which addresses second-handedness as a main theme.

I think my negativity towards reputation management and social climbing is one of the major reasons that DD and I parted ways. Reputation management is also one of the reasons DD doesn’t publish very much writing. He wants to control things that are out of his control, and his writing can’t live up to that goal, so it’s never good enough.

TCS Says You Don’t Have to Read Popper

This section gives evidence for my earlier claim that TCS said reading Popper is optional, and explains how TCS was selling easy answers and shortcuts.

SFC wrote to TCS list on 2000-03-25 (my italics):

Popper, the man, had no connection with TCS. In fact, he did not discuss educational theory, and indeed, he wrote ghastly, non-TCS things about television. So don't worry if you don't want to read his books

Kevin Schoedel (a close associate of SFC) wrote from an official TCS email address ([email protected]), which SFC announced and posted from herself, on 1996-07-20, to TCS list:

Reading those books [by Popper and Bartley about Popperian epistemology] will not necessarily give you the slightest clue about non-coercive educational theory … On the TCS list, I try to write in such a way that it can be understood without familiarity with Popper, as do others. Furthermore, I am pretty sure there are several individuals on this list who have never read Popper and yet understand what this is all about.

It is not necessary to have read Popper to understand non-coercive educational theory! But if you really want to read Popper ... But I still say reading this list, and asking all the questions thereby raised in your mind, would be more useful [than reading Popper] if the aim is to understand non-coercive educational theory.

Note that this advice came before DD had published a book, so people weren’t going to learn CR by reading DD instead. And after DD published The Fabric of Reality, reading that was considered optional for TCS parents, too.

I’m the person who started telling parents that they had to learn CR and become rational philosophers themselves in order to have a realistic chance of being great, non-coercive parents. But most of them didn’t want to do that; they’d been looking for the easy answers TCS had been selling.

Speaking of easy answers, TCS also told parents that they could be and stay irrational, and still do TCS correctly, as long as they didn’t intentionally hurt their children. TCS talks about shielding your children from your own irrationalities, which you don’t solve, by not coercing your children based on your irrationalities. And TCS said all coercion is intentional, so just don’t coerce on purpose and your own irrationality and ignorance won’t matter much.

SFC wrote to TCS list on 1996-03-18 saying that coercion is “almost invariably” “intentional”:

Acting on one theory while a conflicting theory remains active in one’s mind [which TCS calls “coercion”] is not a state that happens by chance. It is almost invariably a result of intentional coercion on the part of another person, whether at the time, or earlier in the person’s life. That is why we call this state “acting under coercion” and not something less judgemental-sounding.

TCS got popular with the message that your children will grow up fully rational as long as you aren’t mean to them on purpose, and that you don’t have to learn philosophy or read books in order to accomplish this.

TCS also pushed privacy and avoided sharing information about the results for any actual children. But as a longstanding member of the community, who has met or talked with a lot of TCS people, I can confidently say that TCS never worked as advertised for a single parent. Some TCS people did pretty well as parents, and some poorly, but the plan to never be intentionally mean, and thus raise fully rational children, wasn’t even close to working for a single person. It was a bit like a “get rich quick” scheme – it makes big promises that only require low effort, but it doesn’t actually work. A lot of people want easy answers and shortcuts, and David Deutsch put his name and intellectual reputation on this one, and made it sound philosophical to people who’d never read a philosophy book (and were told that they didn’t need to). That (plus SFC’s community organizing) was enough to attract a few thousand followers.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

CritRats Are Obsessed with Me

This is part of a series of posts explaining the ongoing harassment against me from David Deutsch and his associates and fans, who are called "CritRats" after Karl Popper's philosophy, Critical Rationalism.


KS tweeted, June 2021:

A lot of us assume that brand new accounts are troll accounts made by Elliot Temple. So he [Brett Hall, a CritRat] probably thought you are using a burner account.

I've dealt with dozens of fake accounts from banned people, but the CritRats haven't. My community hasn't been doing that to them. I've received literally zero reports of any problem like that, and I haven't personally made a single troll account. They are lying in public about me. Ugh.

"A lot" of their group ("us") assume that? Who and why? Sounds like they keep gossiping about me and this is a public admission that the gossip is ongoing in their group. And I'm still on their mind – they still keep thinking of me and blaming me for things (that I didn't do) – and it's a public admission of that too. I stay active in their minds because they keep jumping at shadows that have nothing to do with me, even though the harassment campaign has only ever gone in one direction.

What I actually do is write blog posts under my own name (like this one), with arguments and evidence, which they've never been willing to respond to or discuss, publicly or privately. (I tried to discuss stuff privately before writing about it publicly.) I wish they'd do what I do. They won't give any arguments and just snipe at me with lies, mostly in private to prevent rebuttals. This was a case where one of them slipped up and admitted more than he meant to in public (his goal was to attack me and smear my reputation, not to provide evidence about how toxic their community is).

Previously, in 2020, KS admitted on Twitter that he DMs people (private messages them) to flame me:

Hey you [@DorfGinger] have your DM off so I just want to tell you that Elliot Temple (curi 42) is a terrible person. He became super angry with David Deutsch and critical rationalists for no real reason. Basically he thinks he's a genuis and he thinks we should should all worship him.

KS is a CritRat who is hiding his identity and who goes around spreading hatred against me. I don't know why he hates me or what if anything I ever did to him. I don't know if we've ever had a negative conversation. What's going on seems to be that the CritRat community is good at pressuring people to hate me if they want to fit into the tribe, and some of them escalate to spreading that hatred while others actually directly attack me. (A prior piece of evidence regarding the pressure in their community was when the CritRat Dennis wrote "I feel the pressure of agreeing with everyone about how much we all dislike Elliot".)


Also, Sarah Fitz-Claridge removed the Godwin quote that I criticized from her website. That shows they're reading not only my blog posts but the comments section too, and that they're aware of the arguments and evidence against them. I criticized it on June 23, and it was removed on July 1 or earlier. They want people to think I'm paranoid or something, and that they aren't doing anything and forgot that I exist, but that isn't true.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

David Deutsch and My “Talent”

This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me which has been going on for years. The harassment is coming from David Deutsch and his fans and associates. This post provides historical context.


David Deutsch (DD) said I had a “talent” for annoying irrational people. He said I was good at offending them, bringing up key issues that people were sensitive about, and being pushy (rather than conflict-avoiding) about intellectual debates.

I didn’t fully agree with DD about the details of this, but I did and do agree about the broad outline. Something along those lines is a reasonable statement.

DD said several times that he had a talent for not being bothered by my talent. (I’m not certain, from memory, that he used the specific word “talent” to refer to his ability to deal with my “talent”. And comments below about what DD said are paraphrases from memory.)

So it was really unfair of DD to secretly build up resentments, for years, over my “talent”, after assuring me multiple times that he didn’t mind it and he was fine. Yes I offended some people when debating them, but DD repeatedly reassured me that I could speak freely with him and that he was safe. He said it was safe for me to be myself, speak openly, and be maximally critical and argumentative. He said I didn’t need to put effort into being tactful with him, as I often do with others (it’s sometimes inadequate, but I generally do make some effort to be tactful).

DD told me that he was rational enough that I could make all the arguments I wanted, say ten criticisms about a single issue, ask whatever questions I wanted, etc., and it would be fine and never alienate him. He convinced me that this was true. It wasn’t. Maybe it was fine at first, perhaps for the first five years. But at some point it stopped being fine and he was dishonest with me and hid that problem from me (while continuing to talk with me a ton – and during those conversations I’d occasionally say things he didn’t like without knowing it and with no direct, negative feedback).

DD put work into getting me not to follow normal social rules when talking with him. He told me repeatedly to talk to him as much as I wanted and that he would take responsibility for choosing how much to engage with me. He said I didn’t need to throttle or limit my communications or worry about wasting his time. He wanted more messages from me and to have full control, on his end, over how much attention he paid to me.

Context makes it worse. I met DD as a much younger person than him and an immature intellectual. He had a lot of influence on me, and he played the wise expert role. I trusted him a lot, including his statements about how to treat him. But now I’m being criminally harassed because I believed what DD told me about his unbounded ability to hear truth-seeking arguments, criticisms, opinions, questions, requests, analysis, etc. He actually got really upset about my attempts at unbounded truth-seeking, did not point out any errors I was making, hid the problem which prevented me from trying to problem solve about it, and then finally stopped associating with me. But abandoning me and breaking some promises (e.g. to write an introduction for my book) wasn’t enough for him. He held onto a major grudge which is still severe enough, a decade later, to libel me and encourage criminal harassment.

The grudge seems to be largely because he intellectually fears me. I’m one of the only people who can effectively criticize and refute his ideas – including both big picture issues and also poking holes in his logic or wording – and he doesn’t want to look bad in public. He never once requested that I don’t publicly criticize his ideas (in the past, I was extremely willing to go along with his requests, and gave him a ton of leeway and consideration). But, in his mind, I believe he blames fear of my criticism for years of him not blogging or otherwise being productive and sharing ideas with the world. It’s an ongoing issue today. Because if he did write blog posts, I might refute them like this.

(That linked post is about a 2016 email he sent to a stranger who then posted it on Reddit. DD’s email was roughly equivalent to a blog post instead of being tweet-sized – that’s one of most recent substantive things he’s written that is publicly available – and it was actually really bad and I explained in writing how incompetent, biased and error-filled it was. If DD blogged, I’d notice more bad posts, and criticize some of them, and he knows that and doesn’t want that to happen. It threatens his ability to convince people that he’s one of the greatest thinkers ever and that his word is gospel. And he doesn’t want to actually defend that desired reputation by debating, partly because that’s hard and stressful, and partly because he knows he might lose. So not only has he been avoiding saying things that could be criticized, but he’s also been trying to withdraw some things he said in the past like his approximately 2000 TCS emails.)

Anyway, DD assured me that stuff (arguments, analysis and unbounded truth-seeking) was fine, I listened to him, but then it turned out it wasn’t fine. He was vulnerable to my “talent” after all and needed boundaries on criticism. He hid the problem from me for yearsa, tried to deal with it himself, and failed. That’s his fault and responsibility. But now I’m being harassed and smeared by him and his community over his screw up.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Lulie Tanett Defended Me

This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me which has been going on for years. This post provides historical context about how these people already hated me in 2010 and 2015. I’m sharing evidence about what they’ve thought and done in the past, which was a precursor to the more severe harassment that started in 2018.


On 2015-10-02, Lulie Tanett posted on Facebook telling two people (who are part of the group harassing me today) to stop harassing me and her. They had come to Lulie’s wall (her personal space on Facebook) to initiate harassment against us when we were minding our own business. They were harassing because they disliked me, but they actually upset Lulie a lot more than they upset me.

Context: The harassment on Facebook was especially bad because the aggressors were both father-figures to Lulie and they claim to be part of Taking Children Seriously (TCS). Michael is Lulie’s step-father, who is married to her mother, Sarah Fitz-Claridge. Kevin’s home on another continent is where Lulie spent many of her summers growing up (Sarah was divorced and polyamorous until Lulie was around age 18). Sarah’s attitude to the issue was similar to Michael’s and Kevin’s. Lulie’s own allegedly-TCS mother routinely didn’t take Lulie’s side, which was coercive and gaslighting to Lulie. Another time, Lulie told me that Kevin, Michael and Sarah had joked about murdering me. They frequently pressured her not to be friends with me and expressed their hatred for me to her (they didn’t tell her rational reasons and arguments about why I’m bad, though). Contrary to TCS principles, they pressured her to try to control who she was friends with. The Facebook harassment was part of that pressure and was very upsetting and coercive to Lulie.

(BTW, Sarah posted to TCS list on 2006-03-31 telling the public that Lulie is her daughter.)

Lulie’s Facebook post from 2015-10-02:

Kevin Schoedel and Michael Golding: dude stop being assholes. Elliot's not jealous, he's not being mean to me; he's giving helpful and enjoyed criticism, which you guys are interpreting super negatively because you have a personal vendetta against him or something. Stop calling my goddamn friends "minions". Stop trying to speak for me. Stop trying to white knight me, as if you're protecting me from some demon. 1. I can take care of myself. I'm not fragile or gullible. (If you think so, you can explain it to me without dehumanising my friends.) 2. There is no demon. 3. Even if there were a demon, the thing to do would be to explain your criticism, not resort to personal attacks (and literally mocking and laughing at my friends! come on, look at yourselves. Even were you to want to say "he did it first", do onto others as you would have them do onto you). Elliot literally quoted me stating my wishes on the topic, and you ignored them (unlike the person I asked it to directly, btw, who was very nice about the request!) -- presumably because you're so blind with Elliot-hatred that you can't pull your heads out of your arses for long enough to see that it's your comments I find mean, not his. You are not respecting my wishes, he is. You say you'd "rather not [he] be mean to [me] on [my] wall". Why do you not take my explicit words on the matter above your guesses about what's 'good' for me? You say, "You claim to speak for Lulie" -- m8 he quoted me. Maybe at least check with me whether the quote was taken out of context, before you go against a request I made in the quote? (Especially if you're trying to stand up for me! Where it's especially important to use real reference to what I want, rather than your guesses from a distance.) I don't mind criticism (including harsh criticism), nor banter, nor dicking about, nor even trolling and shitposting. But what I do mind are this relentless attacks, dehumanisation, cruelty, claims that you're standing up for me when really you're being dickheads to my friends (for the crime of writing comments which I like and find helpful), and bullying. You snicker amongst yourselves about how clever you are for psychologising someone regarding interactions you know nothing about. You assume he lied or something about having consent? No, far from it: he actually checks with me and discusses what's OK before messing with my FB. He's extremely considerate. If there's doubt he asks, and respects my wishes. (Partly because he's a friend, but partly because he is in fact -- shock horror -- a good person.) So how about being more TCS, respecting my preferences for his critical comments even if you don't understand what I see in them, treating my friends with a bit of courtesy (if not for them or for yourself, then at least for me), and not ignoring my explicit requests (especially if someone quotes them to you). (Also tagging Sarah Fitz-Claridge and Matjaž Leonardis -- Matjaz I liked your comments in this thread but I have reason to think you have a wrong idea of what's going on here.)

So, according to Lulie (who knew them well), they were were already “blind with Elliot-hatred” in 2015. And it’s long term hatred. Michael had expressed interest in having an Elliot-hatred discussion forum around 2010 (source: he brought it up with someone who declined the offer and told me about it when I wrote about the Andy B harassment). And they’re part of the community that’s still harassing me in 2021. Sarah in particular, as the co-founder of TCS with David Deutsch, is a leader in the Deutsch fan community that’s responsible for the harassment.

It’s relevant that, as Lulie explains, I care about consent and check with people privately before doing things. No one ever deserves harassment like I’ve received, but I don’t even partially deserve milder harassment. I’m considerate, listen to what people want, and keep track of and quote their requests. Also, Lulie brings up people assuming I’m lying when she knew I wasn’t lying, which is relevant now too. I have not lied about any of the harassment issues or the historical context. Many people lie a lot but I don’t.

As Lulie explains, CritRats have a ”personal vendetta” against me that involves being so biased that they interpret me as being mean to Lulie when I’m actually being nice and giving “helpful and enjoyed criticism”. And they’re the kind of people who won’t respect her wishes either. They’re mean people who mistreat whoever is currently on their enemies list, including Lulie. They are, as Lulie says, bullies.

Back in 2015, Lulie’s message helped with the harassment. (Actually, they were extremely cruel to her about it privately, but backed off publicly and with me.) Lulie also had success getting other people to stop harassing me when she wanted to. When I posted at the Open Oxford Facebook discussion group where Lulie was an admin, someone there decided to anonymously use a bot to spam my blog comments. Lulie immediately knew who was doing it and what to say to them to get them to stop. I thought there was a good chance she could get a similar result with Andy B (because, as before, the harasser is part of Lulie’s social network), but she never tried, never said she couldn’t do it, and by all appearances doesn’t want to stop him. (Lulie and I stopped being friends in 2016. She has succumbed to the pressure from her family and others to hate me. The campaign to destroy our friendship was itself a type of harassment campaign waged against me (and her), in the shadows, by some of the same people involved with the more public and illegal harassment that I’ve experienced recently.)

Some of the CritRats have hated me for over a decade, and have been working primarily behind the scenes to harass and harm me. I think many people don’t believe this because these people hide what they think and do. They operate mostly in the shadows and aren’t honest about what’s going on. That’s why I now find it necessary to share evidence about it.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

What Happened with David Deutsch

This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me which has been going on for years now. The harassment is coming from David Deutsch and his community. I’ve tried to address the problem privately but they’ve refused to attempt any problem solving. This post provides more context about the situation. It explains David’s psychology, what he’s upset about, and why he went from being my friend to being hostile to me.


David Deutsch and Lulie Tanett have been abusing my respect for their privacy to mislead people into believing we never had much of a relationship. (They may be saying some other things privately that I don’t know about. Regardless, they’re so publicly cold to me now that people are often skeptical that we ever knew each other well or were friends for many years.)

This needs to be corrected because they gossip and lie about me to damage my reputation and create a toxic hate group which has been harassing the FI community. (Lulie, back when she was more mixed instead of cold, actually confessed to me about violating my privacy and gossiping about me. David was caught lying about me. They both publicly speak with my largest stalker/harasser, Andy B.) Over the years of my patience and assuming good faith, they’ve escalated things so the harassment is severe and breaks laws.

David and Lulie both independently told me what actually happened: at some point, David started feeling bad whenever I wrote criticism related to him.

I didn’t share this before because I’ve been trying to protect David. I finally gave up on protecting him after not only over two years of serious harassment, and David and his entire social network ghosting me and anyone who agrees with me (which prevents problem solving about the harassment), but also specifically after David personally lied about me where I could see the exact text instead of having to speculate about his actions.

Lulie’s Story

Lulie told me about David’s negative feelings in late 2015 and/or early 2016 while visiting me in person. I don’t have exact quotes because we had a lot of discussions in voice. She said that every time I wrote any kind of critical public reply to one of David’s public statements, he’d feel awful and it’d make things much worse and alienate him more. She wanted David and I to be friends again, and she hadn’t turned against me yet at that time.

Note: Lulie resisted David’s anti-Elliot pressure for years before eventually giving in to a father-figure whom she’d known since around age two. David advocates non-coercive parenting but heavily coerced and pressured her to turn against me. That was after previously heavily encouraging her to have an intellectual relationship with me, and strongly encouraging me to have an intellectual relationship with her. David told each of us that we’d benefit a lot from discussing philosophy with the other. It was awful to take that away from her after pushing her into it.

Lulie’s career as an intellectual – which so far hasn’t produced anything significant – has been controlled by David a lot. He has significant responsibility for her ongoing unhappiness, lack of productivity (she can’t regularly write articles, read books or make videos), and inability to make money to support herself.

David told Lulie that conversing with me was one of the best things she could do that could get her unstuck and help her become a productive philosopher. He tried to help her succeed at that. But later he put work into preventing her from conversing with me. But while David was taking me away from her, she still thought I was important to her intellectual progress, and he never gave her convincing reasons why that had changed.

Lulie told me that she was scared that David would dump her like he dumped me, and stop speaking to her, helping her with money, or helping her career (and she has no other career prospects besides trying to be the intellectual that David wants). She told me that David promised not to dump her, and said everything was fine, but that she didn’t trust him and was under extreme duress. She said she was unable to rationally discuss the matter with me due to the pressure from David.

Background Information for David’s Story

David told me about his negative feelings on 2011-10-04. He said he felt bad about my arguments before reading them, regardless of what I said. He didn’t want to deal with criticism and disagreement anymore.

Why did David have negative feelings? David told me that too. It’s a bit of a long story.

Originally, from 2001-2007 or so, David persuaded me about the vast majority of issues that came up. If I had a different view than him, we’d discuss it. I’d think about it a lot, and, using help from his arguments, I’d change my mind.

Eventually, as I learned more, it became harder for David to change my mind. I started winning some arguments. And some arguments weren’t resolved. And there were fewer easy wins to focus our attention on, so the harder topics got more attention. David lost confidence in persuading me with followup discussions. He started thinking that if we discussed it a few more times, I’d probably still disagree with him.

The unresolved disagreements I’m talking about were intellectual issues, not personal problems. Some topics that we had a harder time agreeing about include: the nature of deduction, qualia, mirror neurons, “mental illness”, meta discussion, moral sanction, how anti-capitalist William Godwin was, pandering, and some details about justificationism.

A list of outstanding disagreements built up. David would only talk about them when he had a new idea about how to change my mind. That’s what he said. He didn’t think maybe I was right, as a fallibilist would. He instead tried different ways to change my mind. When one didn’t work, he’d drop the topic for weeks until he had a new idea for how to persuade me.

This violates and contradicts David’s own philosophy, which he wrote about his in books, wrote thousands of forum posts about, and had been teaching me about in private discussions. So it was confusing to me. I expected him to follow his own philosophy, and it was harder to understand because he was hiding information from me about what was going on (the things he told me, which I linked above, came late in our relationship, so I didn’t understand for years before that, and still had a hard time understanding it after he said a few sentences contradicting years of our prior relationship).

David’s philosophy says common preference finding and problem solving always work, and that they are part of how we grow knowledge and make progress. They’re truth seeking activities which are important to rationality and fallibilism, not merely ways to have better interpersonal relationships. It’s problematic and misleading that he teaches that while not even trying to do it. It wasn’t like we had a bunch of conversations attempting to find a common preference together, but failed. He hid some problems from me and, for those issues, he didn’t attempt that sort of open, cooperative problem-solving process. I’d understand more if he’d tried to do his philosophy ideas and it hadn’t worked out successfully, but in major ways he didn’t even attempt to live up to his own ideals.

How could David explain (to himself) his failure to persuade me about the intellectual topics we disagreed about? He started thinking I was irrational about those issues. He belatedly told me that too. But he never pointed out any example of my arguments, reasoning or actions being irrational. He never actually gave arguments about my alleged irrationality. He never e.g. pointed out a mistake I made and then analyzed the cause of the mistake to conclude that the underlying cause was irrationality. He didn’t quote example things I said that he thought were irrational and say why he thought those particular ones were irrational and explain or argue his viewpoint. He wasn’t doing the sort of truth seeking and problem solving that he says everyone should do.

He stopped wanting to deal with my arguments and reasoning because he wasn’t getting his way all the time. He started finding that when he argued with me, his arguments were less effective than before. Gradually, his arguments went from around 100% effective with me in 2001 to more like 25% effective in 2010 (which is still a very high effectiveness compared to what’s typical in the world today). I’d already changed my mind to agree with him about tons of stuff, and he was running out of easy wins.

David likes praise and he likes being a lecturer whom others listen to (he told me both of those things repeatedly, and he acted like they’re correct, too). He was not prepared to learn much from me and, on some issues, some of the time, be my student. He was done being a student a long time before we first met (in 2001, when he was age 48). This is notable because David’s philosophy says everyone should be life-longer learners, and that even beginners sometimes can teach experts something. David viewed me as one of the best philosophers alive – and the best one he could get discussions with – but still didn’t want to learn from me.

So it got to the point that when I wrote arguments, David would feel like he couldn’t win and he was blocked by all my (alleged) irrationalities, so the matter felt really hard to deal with. Each of my thoughts that he didn’t like was a new permanent problem because he didn’t know how to change my mind. My (alleged) irrationalities were undocumented and unexplained. David didn’t quote irrational statements by me and provide analysis. He just thought privately about what they were, in a disorganized way not a rigorous way, and then privately came up with tactics to deal with them. He didn’t want to talk about my (alleged) irrationalities because then I’d question his claims, using quotes and logic, which he started to regard as rhetorical tricks to excuse his failure to persuade me. He never bothered to try to objectively establish my errors in any clear cases, or to explain them to me enough that, if he were right, I could make changes to fix my problems. But simultaneously he still liked me better than other people and kept talking to me for years while pretending things were OK and that he was just stressed out by writing The Beginning of Infinity.

If he were right, why not explain it in three public examples in a way that would satisfy most neutral, unbiased, intelligent readers? That’s not much work considering that he wrote thousands of emails to me and spent literally thousands of hours interacting with me. He thought I was super smart and valued the relationship enough to spend so much time on, so why not try to persuade me? Even if it might not work, it’s worth trying. Plus he could have persuaded others who were in the discussion community at the time, rather than giving no arguments. Due to David not giving reasons, now most of the people from the discussion forums during that time period, who are familiar with events and formed an opinion, formed judgments in my favor not his.

David never wrote any such arguments. He didn’t even try. He left his discussion community, and lost some of his oldest fans, rather than argue his case. For example, David made no attempt to persuade the physicist and philosopher Alan Forrester, who had run the official Fabric of Reality discussion forum, who lives in the UK and met David in person multiple times, and whose name is in the acknowledgments of The Beginning of Infinity. Alan remains a friend of mine, still posts at my discussion forum, and has been a victim of the harassment. Alan emailed David to ask him to help stop the harassment that was affecting Alan too, but David refused to answer. Did Alan do something to deserve to be harassed? Is having philosophy discussions on my public forums enough for David to hate a former friend and want to see them hurt, even though David has never told Alan any reason that he shouldn’t discuss with me?

I think the reason David didn’t argue his case is simply that he couldn’t. He was wrong, didn’t have reasonable arguments to give. And he didn’t want to give bad arguments, get critical feedback, and change his own mind.

But why did David feel the need to blame me as irrational, instead of just agreeing to disagree? Because his philosophy says that all problems are soluble, common preferences can always be found, etc. So if problem solving isn’t working, that must mean one person is blocking it, being irrational, not acting in good faith, or something else awful. So David saw it as him or me. He had to blame me as irrational to avoid the alternative that it was his fault. If I wasn’t irrational, and he wasn’t doing truth seeking with me, then (in his view) that’d make him irrational for rejecting truth seeking and problem solving. Also, he had little respect for most intellectuals, and needed some reason to tell himself about why he was dropping one of his favorites whom he’d chosen to spend so much time on.

Unlike David, I did, eventually, write some things pointing out mistakes David made, which did persuade some people. However, I wasn’t very interested in persuading people about David’s flaws until recently. I could have written a lot more, but didn’t; but now after being a victim of years of harassment from David’s followers, and David smearing me, I want to tell my story and argue my case.

David made major life changes (leaving not only me but the whole TCS/ARR/FoR/BoI/curi/FI community he’d co-founded and then been a part of for two decades) based (I think) on my (alleged) irrationality (that he never tried to write down in a clear, objective way). I was going along with life as normal. I thought about David’s flaws some because it affected my life when he reduced then ended our conversations, and broke some promises and obligations to me. But I didn’t write a lot about it. I would have written more about it had David actually wanted to discuss it, but I knew that, at that point, he didn’t like to read or think about my arguments; he didn’t want them and he didn’t want anyone to read them for fear that people might agree with me. So I tried to mostly just give him space. This is part of why I didn’t make videos explaining BoI sooner.

Many people have felt like they can’t win debates with me. Some blame their own ignorance and incompetence. Some call me an idiot or sophist. Some say debate is hard and it’s understandable if no one is persuaded. David was not in a position to consider me dumb – he couldn’t convince himself of that narrative after spending years believing I was extraordinarily smart, clever, logical, open-minded, active-minded and fast-learning, which was why he was friends with me. Since he couldn’t find any kind of simple or factual errors to blame, and couldn’t plausibly blame me being dumb, he needed to come up with something else to put the blame on me, in his mind, for his inability to win some arguments with me. So he decided that I’m irrational (without ever explaining how or why that happened, since he’d previously thought I was especially rational. BTW, years after David became cold to me, Lulie told me that she thinks I’m more rational than him. She knew both of us personally so was in a position to judge based on personal conduct, not just our writing.).

Also, David put work into getting me not to worry about social cues with him. Sometimes people give social hints that they don’t like something or want to be left alone, and perceive it as aggressive or mean if those social hints/cues aren’t followed. David didn’t want our relationship to work that way.

David wanted me to rely on him making explicit requests, and on me asking for explicit permission for some things (mostly about sharing stuff he told me). He communicated that he didn’t want me to follow social cues from him. He repeatedly said not to worry about potentially annoying him, wasting his time, contacting him too much, bothering him, etc, and that he would choose what to engage with and what to spend time on. He said he’d take care of himself and he didn’t want me making guesses about what would be in his best interest. He didn’t want me to withhold communications based on my ideas about what he wanted; he wanted to manage the situation himself.

The main reason this came up is that I asked about it repeatedly in the first few years I knew him. I asked about it because I met David as a fan of his book not as a peer, and I figured he had important stuff to be doing, like writing his next book, instead of talking with me so much. I didn’t want to overstep. But he wanted me to be comfortable with him, treat him as a friend, and not worry about bothering him or taking up his time. (Also, social cues never count as no contact requests. Lots of people miss social cues, especially online, and at worst missing those cues is kinda rude, not abusive.)

Also David basically taught me that paying attention to social cues is irrational and we should interact based on explicit statements, talking things out, reasoning in words, etc. That’s also one of the things his TCS philosophy taught. TCS got a lot of pushback because it had that attitude even for pre-verbal children, who it sees as merely small adults who are fully capable of long abstract discussions about problem solving. (I don’t agree with that.)

That’s the context. Now here’s my best understanding of the main issue:

David’s Story

After years of feeling bad about what I said and building up an “Elliot is irrational; that’s why my arguments don’t work” narrative in his mind, David started confusing his feelings with facts. He started thinking that, since he felt bad, I was abusing him in some way. This is how he got to the mental state where he lies that I’m a several-no-contact-request violating abuser. It feels like that to him. He felt like he didn’t want things, and then he observed me continuing to do them anyway, despite his unstated (and purposefully hidden from me) feelings (and probably despite some social cues that he’d trained me not to pay attention to). And he felt bad about being asked to clearly state what he didn’t want, so that just added to the perceived abuse. It felt bad to him to try to formulate in words what he didn’t want and why because it was hard for him to come up with reasonable words that didn’t blame himself. He felt abused, so people started picking up on his attitude, and it evolved over time to a harassment campaign and to him getting facts wrong. That’s because the emotion-driven narrative was primary to him. That’s a pattern with David and his close associates like his TCS co-founder Sarah, who did something similar more than once.

By disagreeing with and debating David, I was following his philosophy that he taught me. I wasn’t disrespecting his authority. From the beginning, I hadn’t changed my mind until I was satisfied (by his arguments and/or by what I thought of myself). But when I disagreed with him in the later years, he assumed that meant I was wrong, stubborn or irrational. He tried to talk to me about issues only when he thought of a new way to convince me he was right. So he wasn’t following the philosophy he taught me.

David’s fallibilist philosophy says to consider it equally possible that I could be right instead of him. His philosophy says that “get the lower status person to see why the expert is right” is an irrational way to approach disagreement. He’s often said that Karl Popper taught us that we must not recategorize disagreements as something else (like disobedience, disrespect, a student not knowing their place, dishonesty, bad faith, etc.). I was following what David taught me, not pushing one of my own ideas on him.

David said that, most of the time, children don’t disagree with their parents (people overestimate how disagreeable children are because they focus a lot of attention on the disagreements). Children selectively disagree in cases where the parent’s idea doesn’t make sense to them. So although parents are usually right, if you look at only the cases where children disagree and object, then children are right a significant portion of the time. (Also, often both the parent and child are partly wrong. Neither one has a perfect view, so the parent can be mostly right but still need to make some adjustments to address a problem the child saw.) The same logic applies to e.g. an expert teaching a novice. The expert is usually right, but if you only look at the times the novice listens to the expert first and then still disagrees afterward, then the novice has a decent chance of being right. The cases where you’re wrong are, on average, the hardest ones to teach to others and get them to agree with. But David didn’t take seriously that I might be right about our intellectual disagreements. He wasn’t interested in reconsidering his own ideas in light of my arguments. And that was long after I was no longer a novice, and he’d called me a “colleague” and made a bunch of changes to drafts of his book on my advice. In retrospect, it seems that a lot of his interest in my arguments was about knowing what obstacles to address to persuade me, rather than actually being interested in learning the ideas I was saying. But approaching discussion that way is, according to David’s philosophy, extremely irrational.

David repeatedly and publicly wrote about and advocated this view on rationality (some of the things he said were extreme, unconventional and actually problematic, which I may write about later). And on 2011-03-15, David IMed me “One side-effect of infallibilism is that it redefines misunderstanding as treason.” He believe that basically disagreement (including from young children) should never be delegitimized as something else like treason, misbehavior, disobedience, “being difficult”, bad faith, stupidity, etc. Instead, fallibilists interpret basically all kinds of conflicts or problems between people as disagreements about ideas that can be dealt with using rationality. It’s unclear to me how exactly David decided that we didn’t have a discussable misunderstanding and that, instead, I was a traitor. He didn’t go through some kind of robust, visible, explicable process of determining that with me. It seems like he just believes what’s necessary to protect his feelings.

One of the underlying causes of this whole story is that David was extremely stressed by writing his book, The Beginning of Infinity (BoI). He was especially stressed by the deadline to finish, which he got extended (but he couldn’t keep getting extensions). Although he worked on the book for over a decade, he ran out of time at the end and had to leave out some planned chapters. He often used being busy and stressed by the book as an excuse for things (sometimes quite reasonably, other times less so). And one time he told me that he was acting irrationally due to the stress of trying to finish BoI. He said he expected to recover and treat me more normally again after BoI was published (but instead became colder and more hostile after his book was done). (This info was over multiple years, primarily in IMs.)

Conclusions

I guess I should have shared this years ago but I wanted to protect my former friend. So I suffered through years of abuse without even sharing much of my side of the story.

I wouldn’t talk about this if it was just David being a jerk, a bad friend, or a person who wasn’t personally as good as his philosophical ideals. But I don’t want to be trolled by a bunch of fake identities, be DDOSed, be lied about by a public figure, and suffer other abuse from his community. David is using false narratives about me to encourage ongoing severe harassment that needs to stop. He’s been getting revenge on me for his hurt feelings. I want to be left alone. I don’t want my rights violated.

PS: If you think I’m mistaken, please quote and respond critically to the single thing you’re most confident is an error. (Email [email protected], use my forum, or post on your blog and email me the link. FYI, I will treat your email about this matter as public unless you get my explicit agreement, in advance, to keep something private.) Evidence, details or logical arguments would be appreciated. A calm, objective tone would be great too. If you want to argue with multiple things, that’s OK, but let’s do one at a time. Please start with any factual errors before trying to debate any points that are more in the realm of opinion. I’m under the general impression that some people in David’s community don’t believe me when I say things like this or even when I claim to have been harassed at all, but none of them have told me what they don’t believe or why, which makes it difficult to respond to and provide more convincing information. I have to guess at what people disagree with or doubt and try to address it preemptively, which is hard when I’m also trying to limit what I share for privacy reasons, and it’s also hard because most of the people don’t want to read long things.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)