You can’t savor your regrets

So long as your life isn’t so bad you’re ready to end it, regrets cannot be savored; this is frustrating but you can’t really be frustrated. It’s paradoxical but true.


Cosmic God existence dilemma

Suppose it’s true that the more one studies the cosmos, the more evidence one finds against the existence of God (somewhat in the vein of Sean Carroll). This creates a dilemma:

On the one hand, the evidence against the existence God is piling up and up.

On the other hand, if God created a perfect cosmos then it should not contain any trace of His having created it, so in fact each piece of evidence against His existence is actually evidence for it.

The button

Somewhere out there is a person you haven’t met yet, but who you will one day meet and care deeply for, and eventually love with all your heart.

Now imagine a button. If you press it, there is an X% chance that person will be killed right after the button is pressed, even though he or she did nothing wrong. You won’t get in any legal trouble, though a lot of people might consider you a murderer.

But there’s a further catch: if you don’t press the button, your life will become much more difficult. It will be harder to do the things you want, to achieve the things you try to achieve. You will be hampered down. You will lose sleep. You will lose money. You will experience moments of intense pain.

How large a number would X have to be before you’d refuse to press the button?

Decide on a number before reading on.

Continue reading

Am I a feminist?

I don’t normally think of myself as a feminist but I must be one in the larger scheme of things. Here are a few of my feminist “credentials,” as such:

  • I am unhappy with the notion of women being treated unfairly or unkindly just for being women.
  • I admire and am genuinely impressed with many of the women I have worked with or for.
  • I believe that a woman can be as good as a man at basically any job (with the understanding that there will be statistical divergences).
  • I happily support and perpetuate my daughter’s apparent interest in “unladylike” things such as cars/trucks, bugs, dirt, worms, and laughing at farts.
  • I don’t think it should be illegal or even an undue hassle for women to vote, drive, own property, run businesses, etc.

So what differentiates me from feminists? Why don’t I think of myself as one?

I think the overarching answer may be that unlike most feminists, I am either comfortable with or encouraging of human sexual dimorphism in all its forms; no active push against sexual dimorphism exists as part of my thought process, or at least I can’t recall any.

Some of it boils down to taste, of course. For instance our society exaggerates some forms of sexual dimorphism, such as with the convention that women wear relatively long hair on their heads but shave off their leg- and armpit-hair–and I am supportive of this; I would not rally for this to be overturned.

There might be subconscious biological underpinnings here: body hair retains scent-producing bacteria very well, and strong scents are used by many animals–perhaps including humans for most of our evolutionary history?–as markers of dominance or territorial ownership, so by shaving their body hair women remove a path to dominance and territorial ownership, which would benefit me as a man…but that’s highly speculative. Had I grown up in a society where women wore their hair short and didn’t shave, I doubt I’d object.

Some of the difference between me and feminists boils down to our viewpoints too though. I don’t see an inherent problem, for example, with women being underrepresented or overrepresented in various fields, or tending to perform better or worse on standardized tests, or things like that. To me these are just instantiations of sexual dimorphism. I am OK with them, while feminists actively oppose them.

Contrary to many feminists, I also think sexual dimorphism explains a lot of the obstacles many women face (and blame on men). For example, women claim they are often talked over or assumed less competent by men at work. There are certainly some misogynistic men out there, but I feel confident the vast majority of these cases simply fall into the “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” problem where men and women are accustomed to interacting in different ways that don’t always translate well when their roles are interposed. We should be aware of our behavior and thoughts and try and correct for that in a work environment, but I don’t see it as a Huge Moral Atrocity That Needs A Policy Solution  Right Now.

Some aspects of feminism, as with identitarianism in general, seem to me like a monomania in which little molehill inequalities are constantly discovered and made into mountainous issues backed by conspiracy theories. For instance, men sometimes separate their legs when seated. Maybe there are physical reasons, maybe it’s acculturated, but it doesn’t matter because This Is Man-Spreading! The Patriarchy even wants power and influence over space on subway seats and park benches!

For one thing, stuff like that often betrays bad faith and an eagerness to fight rather than merely correct wrongs. But for another thing it’s a kind of autistic obsession in which the nuances of life are considered intolerable. I believe the world can accommodate a few double-standards. Some double-standards benefit me, others do not, but unless I specifically know where they came from and am confident that they serve no useful purpose (I seldom have this confidence or understand where one might get it) I tend to see them as Chesterton Fences.

There are other aspects of feminism that definitely repel me. Not every feminist does this, but there is a contingent who is quick to blame everything they dislike on men, or everything they dislike a man doing on the fact that he is a man, complete with made-up pathologies and strawman reasoning. I have even seen them get offended at men who don’t join in with them while they do this.

 How could I be expected to get down with that?

Guilt by descent

1. You have a time machine that can take you 200 years into the future.

2a. You steal or otherwise con decent people out of a bunch of money. You use the ill-gotten money to open up a trust fund for your not-yet-born grandchildren, then you step into the time machine.

2b. You work hard, save scrupulously, and employ your wits and innovative skills, resulting in some extra money you put aside to open a trust fund for your not-yet-born grandchildren. Then you step into the time machine.

3. You get out of the time machine. Your grandchildren are long gone, but they used their trust funds to build a kind of empire. Their descendants are now an elite class: influential, productive, innovative, generally of superior health and intellect than the rest of the world, the driving force at the leading edge of much human endeavor, the model of civility, cooperation, high functioning, etc. But you hear these people talk, and they are ashamed of their endowment. They are wracked with guilt at the possibility of having had an innate advantage over anyone else. Many of them see their heritage as a curse, and basically always refer to their ancestors in negative language. You have some emotional response X to this.

Question: Does X drastically change depending on whether you took course 2a or 2b?