Just a little bit of Puppy history

Well this looks like a well deserved announcement:

“Tom Doherty Associates is pleased to announce (and, you know, Tor.com is not unbiased here!) that effective immediately, Irene Gallo is promoted to Vice President, Publisher of Tor.com! In this newly created role, Irene will be fully dedicated to the Tor.com website and imprint.”


Good for her and well deserved given the range and quality of Tor.com output over the past few years.

Of course, the announcement can’t help but echo here because of one of the uglier parts of the 2015 Sad Puppy campaign which included an attempt by several people connected with that campaign to attack Irene Gallo by launching a boycott of Tor books. (see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/what-about-that-tor-boycott-thing/ and more recently https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2019/02/17/back-to-the-revised-history-of-a-debarkle/)

As I said more than once, the whole thing had a dramatic entrance but lacked any kind of distinct end. I guess Puppy-related people still aren’t buying Tor books and I guess nobody cares. Here’s a graph from Google Trends that shows the rapid rise and fall in interest in the topic:


You Haven’t Written About Sad Puppies For A Long Time

True, true. So a summary of various goings on or not going on as the case may be.

Mad Genius covered a few cause célèbres a few days ago including the fuss around Amélie Wen Zhao’s book Blood Heir, and the Mystery Writers of America pulling an award for Linda Fairstein because of her involvement in the prosecution of the Central Park Five. Amid this there was a section on the Nebula Award fuss around 20booksto50K’s reading list:

If you aren’t up-to-date on what this refers to, a so-called slate was put together by a member of a FB group of indie and small press authors. It was, in fact, meant to be a reading list, not a slate for voting. The person responsible has since apologized. But, oh no, the “damage” had been done and it was done by those evil Indies. How dare they try to manipulate the Nebs?
Sound familiar? Remind you of some of the arguments against the SPs?
Note also, how there is no condemnation for the person or persons who took information from a private social media group and made it public. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean folks aren’t out to get you.


It’s the standard and factually incorrect “trad v indie” version of events that ignores that the nominees included people with both trad and indie publications, some of whom were very much SFWA ‘insiders’ and that they were nominated in categories against other works that were independently published or that the most vehement criticism came from indie published authors.

Meanwhile at Mad Genius Club, Dave Freer is taking a break from his regular posts: https://madgeniusclub.com/2019/05/06/a-leave-of-absence/

Speaking of Dave Freer, Louis Antonelli has started his own short fiction magazine. Currently it is a generic Blogger page but from small things big things can grow: https://siriussciencefiction.blogspot.com/ I’d say ‘good luck’ to it and leave it at that but it comes with this rant which includes some weird personal attacks http://louantonelli.blogspot.com/2019/04/the-death-of-live-and-let-live.html The greatest ire from the Sad Puppies has always been towards people who attempted to bridge divides.

“The Soviet Union subverted and infiltrated college campuses during the Vietnam War era in an attempt to topple the U.S. without a fight. It didn’t work, but it did result in the unusual societal outcome that the most spoiled and privileged segments of society are also the most leftist. Today’s liberal leaders combine the snobbery of the Met Club with the ideology of the Khmer Rouge.”

Okedokee. Couldn’t get any more paranoidly conspiratorial than that? Why yes! Yes, it can!

“Once the sci-fi establishment stuffed the ballot box by buying thousands of WorldCon memberships to euthanize the Sad Puppies in the 2015 Hugo vote, it assured the irrelevance of the award. The old institutions remain, but they are like dusty trophies on the mantle of a cob-webbed private club. New ones are rising up because that 98 percent of sci fi authors need some place to call home. The Dragon Awards have already clobbered both the Hugos and Nebulas in both quality and prestige.”

Glad to see Lou is sticking to his usual journalistic standards of evidence based claims.

Speaking of grandiose plans to create alternative venues free from SJW influence, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Creators Guild remains unchanged from February 2018 https://sffcguild.com/blog/

And speaking of the SFFC Guild, Richard Paolinelli and Declan Finn have fallen out with Jon Del Arroz. Timothy’s erstwhile client posted an unfunny meme about the Twin Towers and Infinity War (a skyline pic of the towers sort of evaporating Thanos-snap style, with George W Bush’s face superimposed poorly onto Thanos’s head). Insensitive and offensive? Certainly. The most offensive thing JDA has ever posted? Hardly. Even so, this was a line crossed for some. JDA characterises it thusly:

“On the personal front, I’ve been under heavy attack from — not the left — but centrist right wing authors over the last week. They’ve pushed hard against me, both in public and in private. I’ve shared some of the ridiculous things said about me.”


The list of people Jon has now permanently alienated in the course of his short career grows ever longer.

Speaking of meme sharing harassers, I hadn’t visited Vox Day’s site for a long time but these days his main concern is Royal Babies. Apparently (according to Vox) Prince Harry and Meghan Markle haven’t really had a baby, which is his follow up conspiracy theory to Meghan Markle not really being pregnant. http://voxday.blogspot.com/2019/05/fake-baby-finally-arrives.html Now, sure, I get that racism is a powerful drug that sends its victims into a world of self-parody but didn’t Vox at least once try to project a veneer of being a serious commentator on world affairs?

It’s cosmological arguments all the way down

For those keeping score not only has Inaugural Dragon Award Winner for Best Horror Novel Not to Feature an Actual Horror Novel, Brian Niemeier got a new post about the existence of god up (https://www.brianniemeier.com/2019/04/a-proof-for-god.html ) but in a outbreak of morphic resonance John C Wright has a post up about the cosmological argument as well (http://www.scifiwright.com/2019/04/an-uncaused-first-cause/ ). There’s an excellent take down of the Wright post in the comments that’s well worth a read.

I’ll stick to Brian’s post:

“What we mean by God is the uncreated, all-powerful, and absolute Being who transcends the created order.”

OK but does he transcend time? Does he transcend mathematics? Does he transcend logic? Earlier Brian dismissed discussion about a god “making boulders he cannot lift” but there’s a reason why such cliched argument keep cropping up. What the heck does “all powerful” mean and what are the limitations to that. “No limitations” is fine and a god that can (but chooses not to) do paradoxical things is also fine but if we have a being that transcends logic then any argument about the necessary properties of that being is hogwash. On the other hand, if the being does not transcend logic then, sorry, you’ve still got to deal with tiresome questions about unliftable boulders and who shaves God’s beard if he doesn’t shave himself

“Anyone who says God’s existence can’t be proven is either ignorant or lying. The deception usually lies in moving the goalposts regarding what constitutes evidence. Materialists are fond of demanding physical proof of God while they themselves required no physical proof for materialism.

The claim that God’s existence can’t be proven contains another subtle a priori bias. It assumes that God exists in the same way that a hydrogen atom, a pencil, or an aardvark exists; that is, contingently within the order of creation. God does not have existence per se. It’s more accurate to say that God is Being. The Bible sees eye to eye with Aristotle here. “I Am that I Am.”

That last bit is the Popeye argument: I yam what I yam. It no more demonstrates god’s existence than it demonstrates Popeye’s.

The deception lies in moving the goalpost, says Brian, as he busily digs up the posts from one end of the field and moves them to the parking lot. ‘Exist’ normally means to exist physically but fair enough, there’s other kinds of ‘existing’. Popeye has tattoos (you can see them in the picture) so they ‘exist’ in a narrow sense but we all get that Popeye isn’t real and niether are his tattoos. Gods clearly can ‘exist’ in the sense that fictional beings exist. They exist in the sense that we can have discussions about them. Ficitional beings can have fictional truths about them: Popeye is a sailor and a man. How do I know? Because he is Popeye the Sailor Man!

But if I concede that ‘exist’ can mean something other than physically exist then maybe God exists in someway that is more real than fictional but a the same time not the same as physically existing? Sure! I really can’t prove that’s not the case and it’s not intrinsically irrational if that’s where your faith takes you. However, Brian wants to prove that God exists really real and that’s going to take more effort.

But before we go any further it’s worth pointing out an issue Brian has skipped over. Brian is dismissing God existing in a materialist physical sense. Brian also thinks *JESUS* existed in a physical sense. He’s half a step from demonstrating that Jesus was not God. There’s ways around that but I think most of them are heretical from a strict Catholic perspective. I digress.

“In truth, absolute, uncaused, necessary Being is self-explanatory. The physical universe is more in need of an explanation–both from its origins and at every moment–than the eternal, transcendent God.”

Brian is nodding back to the ontological argument: god is a necessary being and therefore exists because he necessarily exists because we said so. See Popeye above. However, today’s “proof” will be the cosmological argument instead:

“The most elegant and time-tested arguments for absolute Being are the cosmological arguments refined by St. Thomas Aquinas. Moderns and Postmoderns will glibly scoff that these arguments have long been discredited. But each attempt to refute the classical arguments from cosmology, such as David Hume’s, is revealed as a straw man under scrutiny.”

Yes, moderns, post-moderns et al will glibly scoff at the cosmological argument, also there was some scoffing at in the Middle Ages. The link is to a post by Edward Feser who I have discussed before and is a key source for a lot of this necromantic attempts to revive Thomas Aquinas. That link is worth following but it doesn’t adequately deal with the objection, it just points out that the objection has similar problems rather than making the problems go away.

Anyway the next step is the interesting one:

“Here’s a common cosmological argument. An apple ripens on a tree branch. That means the apple had the potential to move from unripeness to ripeness, and that potential was put into act. We can rightly ask where the impetus to actualize that potential came from. Apples aren’t self-sufficient. They need water, sunlight, and a host of other conditions to grow. You can try locating the source of the apple’s actualization in any or all of these contingencies, but that just kicks the can a little farther down the road since water, the sun, etc. all contain potentialities requiring external contingencies to actualize.”

You’ll note there’s another assumption of existence there: “the apple had the potential to move from unripeness to ripeness”. The assumption is that potentials are also things that exist in some sense or other. Brian then asks us to imagine what made all these dominoes of potentiality knock each other over.

“Positing that it’s contingent beings all the way down doesn’t do any good. That just gets you an infinite train of boxcars with no locomotive. Such a train would be incapable of motion. Similarly, an infinite chain of contingent causality could never move the apple from unripeness to ripeness.”

Except it doesn’t. The added hidden assumption here is that there can be no cases of something happening FOR NO REASON. “Reason” in the sense of things having a reason to happen is central to understanding how the term “cause” is used in these arguments. A bunch of random stuff just happening because of no reason at all is regarded as axiomatically not possible. Of course LOGICALLY we cannot assume that. It has not been established that everything happens for a reason and there’s good (ahem) reason to think the opposite. Sure, random effects at a quantum level MAY have hidden causes but there’s no logical reason to think they must. It’s an assumption, a reasonable and appealing and maybe even aesthetically nice assumption but not one that we can prove. If anything, it’s a habit of mind that we adopt because it is handy at the macro level and has a survival advantage when dealing with other human beings.

[Ed. Why not? Because there would be an infinite number of preceding steps that would have to be completed before the apple could ripen. But by definition, an infinite series of steps can never be completed.]”

Eeek. This is just an unforced error. I’d pick on it but Brian doesn’t need this point for his argument. Having said that over at John C Wright, he’s also trying to be moderate with his views on infinity:

“Infinite is a word that causes endless confusion. All it means is that there is no boundary, no stopping point, or, in this case, no starting point.
We call the number line infinite not because any real human being in real history ever counted all the numbers that exist and discovered that there were an infinite number of them: no, that is nonsense.
What we mean is that there is a rule of mathematics that says that for any given number, no matter how big, you can always add one and get a bigger number. There is no end point to the process of adding.”

Good grief, if I was going to start believing in a god it would be precisely so I wouldn’t need to be so mealy mouthed about actual infinities. Having said that, I think this is in line with Aristotle’s view on infinities, as in no limits to extension rather than there being an actual thing called infinity.

Except…well you can see the problem. Infinities don’t ‘exist’ in the materialist sense of exist as far as we can tell. We don’t find them in nature and either at the very big or the very small. Everywhere we have looked we find very big finitudes or tiny granularities. But we’ve admonished to take off our materialist spectacles and consider existence from the perspective of things with NECESSARY properties. Well in that sense of ‘exist’, the mathematical sense, we have not just infinity but infinities — an infinite number of infinities.

Circling back to both Wright and Niemeier, they want their version of god to exist in the mathematical sense of existing (which may not be existing at all) and also be a thinking person even though the are no examples of thing that only exists in the mathematical sense being a thinking person and all examples of thinking people exist materially.

Did fandom cause the collapse of civilisation or vice versa? Let’s Assume Neither :)

It’s been a long time since I linked to a post by the improbable 2016 Campbell Award Finalist and Inaugural Dragon Award Winner for Best Horror Novel That Was Actually A Space Opera, Brian Niemeier but a posy at his blog caught my eye [direct link, archive link].

Brian’s politics mixes standard alt-right nationalism and misogyny with a particularly reactionary form of Catholicism. People may recall Brian’s concern that literal demons are controlling the left (https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/demons-and-witches-and-the-left/ ), so not exactly a Pope Francis or Vatican II fan.

Anyway, Brian has a hypothesis about religion and fandom:

“Kicking Christianity out of public life didn’t usher in a bright, sexy chrome utopia. Instead of directing their pious energies into scientific pursuits, America did what everyone does absent Christianity: They turned pagan.”

‘X-thing is a religion’ is a bit of a cliche but I don’t think that analysis is wholly wrong. Rather, I don’t think religion is really a single social phenomenon at all but a whole bunch of things — which is why cultures don’t follow one of Christianity/Islam/Judaism have quite different boundaries as to what is and isn’t religious and how religion plays a role in wider society*. So, sure, I can believe there’s some commonality between fandoms and religion.

Indeed, I’d go further and say that I think how we engage with fiction and products of the imagination has a close connection with spirituality and how religion has become a part of human culture. Brian is making a different argument though:

“Human beings are wired for worship. If social pressure discourages worshiping God, those with less fortitude will worship trees, rocks, or even plastic figurines.

Religious identity was the engine that built the West, and it’s still a major motivating force elsewhere in the world. What has happened in the American Empire is that Christian identity has shattered, and the pieces have been scattered throughout various hobbies.

Which was precisely what the main players in the Enlightenment wanted–to reduce religion to a hobby indulged in the home with no effect on public life.”

Fandom therefore being the eventual warped expression of people’s instinct towards religion suppressed by the machinations of Enlightenment philosophers. I think we can safely assume that this is not the case. However, the next paragraph is what really caught my eye:

“To see how people’s identities have gotten mixed up in their hobbies, take a quick glance at the ‘gate controversies popping up among various fandoms on a more or less daily basis. #GamerGate was the big one, but it failed due to infiltration by controlled opposition and exploitation by online grifters. It’s telling that every subsequent fandom revolt has enjoyed a brief honeymoon period before skipping straight to the “milked by grifters” stage. “If a man loses faith in God, he doesn’t believe nothing, he’ll believe anything,” is illustrative here.”

It can be hard to tell with the alt-right what is a bad-faith nonsense and what is sincere nonsense. Occasional you get paragraphs like this that are so lacking in self-awareness that they can only be a sincere expression of some very confused beliefs.

As a reminder: Brian was not a major figure in the high points of the Sad Puppy campaigns (a relevant example of one of the right wing uprisings in fandom) but leveraged those campaigns to get his books promoted by the Rabid Puppy slates into a Campbell nomination and a Dragon Award. Brian was also the charmer who tried to stir up a second Dragon Award nomination into another culture war battlefront in a bid to get more votes for his book. (https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/niemeier-wants-the-dragon-awards-to-be-a-culture-war-but-the-culture-doesnt-want-to-play/ ) There may be better example of the ‘milked by grifters’ stage of the Sad Puppy Campaigns but only because it was never not a grift but Brian is a good example of late stage band wagon jumping.

“Few now can imagine–by design–a time when popular culture wasn’t partitioned into myriad fractured fandoms. Sure, people had different tastes, but there were cultural touchstones everybody shared, and more of them. Everybody tuned in to The Shadow. Everybody read Edgar Rice Burroughs. Everybody saw Gone with the Wind. But a people with a shared culture and a strong identity is hard to conquer, so universal popular culture had to go. Fandom was the murder weapon used to kill Western culture.”

Again a reminder: Brian writes anime-inspired right wing science fiction about people fighting in space-robot suits. He’s not exactly aiming for the mainstream. It’s that lack of awareness of his own micro-niche writing that makes me think he genuinely believes that’s what happened — that rather than technology and population growth making it economically easier for people to find stories that appealed to more finely delineated niches, that this was an actual plot to divide society.

Does he really think he would be happier if the only books or films available where the most mainstream ones? Also, if he believed that then shouldn’t he be doing his utmost to just consume the most modally consumed media? But it is like the person who wants religion to be mandatory who doesn’t get that it wouldn’t necessarily be their religion that would be enforced

He finishes his essay thus:

“Fortunately, there are creators laboring to forge new culture in the tradition of our ancestors. For a refreshing take on the mecha genre that clears away all the stale cliche cobwebs, check out my new martial thriller Combat Frame XSeed.”

Irony is dead, a knock-off Kindle Unlimited far right combat mecha killed it.

*[Not that Christianity, Islam or Judaism follow the same template either, but the similarities are what tend to shape what Western culture regards as the things a religion has: a god, a priest, a temple, a holy book, quasi-laws, exclusivity]

A quick voyage around the puppy seas to look at the Mueller report

I haven’t written much about the Mueller report prior to this post (indeed pretty much nothing https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/?s=Mueller ) and I liked Alexandra Erin’s analysis of all such investigation and thoughts about impeachment: the best option for getting rid of Trump is the next election and always has been. That doesn’t mean investigations or even possible impeachment proceedings shouldn’t occur — they are a key part of the checks and balances in America’s system of government and they slowdown and interrupt the full scope of the harm the current administration might cause.

The reaction from the Whitehouse to the as yet unreleased report has been one of claiming that it vindicates or exonerates Trump. You don’t need to be particularly anti-Trump or even particularly anti-conservative to regard that analysis with some scepticism. The investigation already result in action against key figures in Trump’s campaign that anybody, regardless of their politics, should find concerning. Politician’s spin.

So it is fascinating to see Larry Correia’s and Brad Torgersen’s reaction to the report — which note, they haven’t read or seen. Brad and Larry are of particular interest as they were ostensibly anti-Trump at the time of the nomination and were far more reluctant to be seen as endorsing him, presenting their positions as more anti-left or anti-Hillary Clinton than pro-Trump. So. swallowing a politician’s narrative hook, line and sinker is an interesting shift for both of them. Here’s Brad on Facebook:

“Hate Trump for being a loud, uncouth, ill-prepared, boastful, otherwise un-Presidential oaf. Fine. But he was never in Russia’s pocket. In fact, the big red arrows kept aiming back at Clinton, Inc. and also Obama, Inc.”

Facebook Post

And a similar sentiment from Larry Correia:

“Oh well. That’s what you get for pinning all your hopes and dreams on something that was obviously a crock of shit to anybody who gave it a few seconds of critical thinking. There’s plenty of legitimate reasons to hate any politician without straw grasping for silly made up ones.”

Facebook Post

Both Brad and Larry talk a lot about narratives when it comes to politics but in that special projection/reversal of position way where they say their opponents are doing the thing that they are trying very hard to do. In this case attempting to frame a conclusion about the report before they have any idea what the actual content of the report is. It’s interesting because in both cases they are committing strongly to a pro-Trump framing i.e. accepting the uncritically the spin from the Whitehouse without engaging any critical gears at all. Heck even waiting a few days might have been a bit smarter given they still don’t know what is actually in the report.

It’s weird because I’m now a bit more interested in what the report says. Again, it was unlikely to ever have a smoking gun of, say, live video of Vladimir Putin handing wads of money to a pre-election Trump and Trump saying “Gee thanks for the money Vlad, I’ll spend this on doing all the crimes.” However, given there has already been, what, seven (?) prosecutions and four guilty pleas as a consequence of the investigation, it’s an already established fact that the Trump campaign was mired in criminal behaviour.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this pans out. Both Larry and Brad adopt a stance of being different from the more overtly nationalist and pro-Trump right but often repeat and advance talking points and propaganda from the nationalist right uncritically. I’ll be interested to see to what extent they’ll back pedal on this topic as the story shifts.

And today’s Puppy target is…amateur authors!

Bless Dave Freer of the Mad Genius Club, he’s taken off from a comment here and woven a delicate confection of post spun from the purest hot air. https://madgeniusclub.com/2019/03/11/financial-exclusion/

“Just the profession of writing.That’s what the purpose of the site always has been. That’s what we’ve paid forward thousands of hours of our time to. It’s something which is personally very important to me. It’s a site I wish I could have found when I was starting into this profession. I love reading, particularly sf and fantasy, but reading in general. I want others to be able to enjoy it, and my unborn descendants to still enjoy it. Without professional writers… that will go the way of the music of the Lur. Once common, now Word says it is a spelling mistake.  There are of course still hobbyists who play a Lur. But that’s about it.”

[archive link]

Of course, by that standard the various diversions at Mad Genius into quixotic campaigns against awards, attempts to have people sacked from their jobs for not saying nice things about said quixotic campaigns, homophobic attacks on families and the general conspiracy theory mongering would all be distinctly off purpose. Perhaps Freer would rather have people believe each of those was about making money as a writer…

However, it’s the later part of Freer’s post that interests me more:

“If you can’t generate income from your writing, you’re a hobbyist. I wish you all the joy of your hobby, but unless you plan at least to try and try and generate an income, if you’re putting you novels on the market, I wish you in purgatory. We have enough dilettantes using writing for all sorts of other purposes which they care about, frankly damaging reading (because there is no selective pressure in needing to please readers to generate an income. It puts people off.) and certainly making life a lot harder for authors trying to make this a profession they can earn a living at.
Honestly, macramé is great for all those other things you care about. And if you could play the Lur as a hobby, it would bring a great deal more awareness to whatever issue you cared about without screwing up our profession.”

[archive link]

Well, lots of working people can’t generate income from their writing because of the time constraints involved. They might want to and they might hope that they will in the future but they can’t. Further, writing for its own sake brings people joy. If you are one of those people, well I guess you can enjoy having the trad-pub author Dave Freer sneer at you as he wishes you to purgatory.

Those two paragraphs are one of the neatest encapsulation of a core aspect of what I call the conservative crisis. Couple a firm belief in capitalism (although not a well informed one) with a belief that all you need to do to make money in a capitalist society is work hard with the harsh reality that you are struggling to make ends meet and what do you get? If your ideology tells you that the poor are poor because they are lazy and that the homeless are homeless because they choose to be and that millionaires are self-made and the rich deserve their wealth because of hard work, then NOT being an amazing success (particularly in middle-age) is an existential challenge to your self-worth. The only answer that can hold these contradictions together is that somebody, somewhere has cheated you of the success that your ideology and your self-perception say you deserve. The ‘them’ who you believe have cheated you will be legion. For Dave its those terrible New York elites and liberals and SJWs and now, amateur authors flooding the market with books!

In reality, hard work helps but it is no guarantee of success, talent helps and is also no guarantee. There will be lazy, talentless people who succeed because of their background or in some cases just luck. Understanding that is actually important for your own mental well-being.

A taxonomy of online truth values

Some thoughts prompted by a question: various people not of a puppy-persuasion (myself included) have tried to engage with the Mad Genius Club over the years. The arc is always the same but the ‘run’ (i.e. how long it is before the person is declared anathema and banned) varies considerably. It’s not obnoxiousness, nor is it contradicting people or even challenging a belief or a idea commonly held. However, sooner or later the person concerned will hit a conceptual mine and the explosions ensue. The final stage is Dave Freer popping up and demanding people follow a nonsensical challenge.

To see how it happens you need to understand various kinds of beliefs. If you challenge a particular kind of belief, KABOOM. The issue is which kind.

The classic or starting-point definition of knowledge in philosophy is a justified, true belief. To ‘know’ something in philosophical terms is to believe the thing, for the thing to be true and for you to have a sound reason for your belief i.e. you might believe there are spiders on Mars and there might actually BE spiders on Mars but you don’t know that there are spiders on Mars because you have no evidence for them.

For online discourse consider another factor: the sincerity of your belief as in, you may sort of believe something but your attachment to that belief may be quite shallow or alternatively quite strong.

Now consider some combinations

  • A sincere belief, which is true and which you have evidence for
  • An insincere belief, which is true and which you have evidence for (i.e. you have some irrational doubts about the evidence)
  • A sincere belief, which is false but which you have evidence for (i.e. a genuine mistake)
  • An insincere belief, which is false but which you have evidence for (i.e. you’ll kick yourself when it turns out you should have gone with your gut)
  • A sincere belief, which is true but which you have no evidence for
  • An insincere belief, which is true but which you have no evidnece for (and presumably that’s bugging you)
  • A sincere belief, which is false but which you have no evidence for
  • An insincere belief, which is false and which you have no evidence for (sounds absurd but these days this can be sadly common)

The explosions on MGC are an extension of these: challenging beliefs that are:

  1. Sincerely held – indeed passionately held. It’s not a disposable debate point but something to which somebody has attached their personal honour and integrity on.
  2. That is not true AND that the person actually knows is not true. Huh? People can do that. It’s probably not good for your brain though.
  3. That there is no good evidence for and that they know there is no good evidence for.

You may ask, how I could possibly know that about points 2 and 3. Well, you can see it in action. When there is an evidential basis for a belief (even if the evidence is shaky and doesn’t really show what they say it does) they’ll trot out the evidence and then be scornful about any challenge to it. The point has been proved, any further objections are laughable.

On the other hand if the belief is not strongly held then Dave (or whoever) will happily backtrack. The explosion always happens when somebody, no matter how politely asks for evidence on a point that is covered by 1 and 2. The reaction is always that this is a grave insult to the integrity of not just the person asked but the whole blog.