'Monkey Girl' and Religious Tribalism

Terrorism in no way requires “a series of coordinated actions.” It is simply defined by its intended purpose.

Do YOU think you get a balanced picture of the US if you’ve only lived in the Boston area?

No. But I think I probably have a slightly more accurate picture of life in the US than someone living in Australia.

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I sincerely doubt that.

I understand that you think that. To be honest, I’m not interested in discussing this topic with you.

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I am getting increasing certainty that you never did.

  1. That would force me to reiterate each and every point I have made in each and every post I make. That is unworkable.

  2. The accusation of “moving the goalposts” would appear to be unsubstantiated and thus thoroughly Unpeaceful.

I have consistently stated that such toxic behavior is neither “exclusive” or unique to religion, and have consistently disavowed the opinion (that you have repeatedly imputed to me) that I consider it to be uniquely bad.

This does not however prevent me from considering the behavior to be very bad and comparitively rare in US society.

There are other, less toxic, ways to react to tribal conflicts: lawsuits, police complaints, and public protests for example. Most religious, racial, ethnic, or political groupings are willing to restrict themselves to these lawful means. This means that the few groupings that are willing to repeatedly break the law in order to get their way should be subjected to severe opprobrium from society as a whole, and increased scrutiny from law enforcement.

You may not wish to discuss this with @Mercer, but as the person who suggested that my “perception is biased in paying more attention to the bad things that are happening in the US”, I would suggest that you cannot reasonably avoid having this conversation with me.

I have already covered Murder – where the US rate is more than five times the rate of New Zealand’s or even Australia’s. This legitimately makes the US look like a third-world country from this side of the Pacific.

What other measures of quality of life would you like to put to the test? Infant mortality? Child poverty? Average life expectancy? Income inequality? Wealth inequality? Voter participation rates? Synthetic indices combining these and/or other measures?

To demonstrate that my “perception of the US is biased”, you first need to demonstrate it is inaccurate. You have not done so.

I’m not sure what your point is raising those statistics. Are you arguing that the US is more accurately described as a third world country rather than a developed country?

I also don’t know what these statistics to do with the Dover Trial, which was 15 years ago. Dover Trial may be interesting to many people on this forum, but in the larger scale of things it is not important enough to explain the quality of life in the US as a whole. Certainly I don’t deny that there are many aspects of life in the US which can be improved, and several aspects in which things have been worsening in the last few years.

I’m not trying to “demonstrate” that your perception of the US is biased. I just suggested the possibility, and wanted to encourage an open dialogue over our differing perceptions and how maybe each of us can get some useful input from the other. That is what Peaceful Science is all about - trying to find common ground, instead of constantly trying to win every point against your opponents. I’ve given you several outs in this conversation, by suggesting that maybe we don’t really disagree that much over the issues we discussed, for example my statement above:

However, so far you have rejected these implicit overtures of peace and prefer to treat this as a debate. I don’t think this kind of conversation will be very useful or edifying to either of us if that’s all we’re going to do.

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We are arguing that the US is a first-world country in a precipitous decline. That decline is all but invisible in daily life to those living in enclaves of educated people such as the Boston area’s massive university complex.

I would think it would be blindingly obvious, given the context.

In terms of its murder rate, yes.

If it is irrelevant, then so is your question of bias. In any case, my point was never only about Dover, but about what Dover (and conservative Christianity’s reaction to similar cases) tells us about American society.

It is a symptom, not a cause, as should also be blindingly obvious.

I would suggest that it goes beyond this, and that the US lags behind many other developed countries (and has so for considerable time) on a wide range of indicators.

And I would suggest that this “possibility” existed only in your head. I dismissed it, you would not let it go, so here we are. If we are going to have a “dialogue” it needs to have a factual basis, so pick your indicators. A factually-untethered discussion of “differing perceptions” is of no interest to me. It would devolve into vague hand-waving and anecdotal claims.

In this chart the US ranks 40th on political stability, 23rd on human rights, 52nd on health, and 44th on safety. (It’s overall ranking is considerably improved by its 2nd ranking in ‘popularity’.) This is not “third world”, but certainly not anything to be proud about.

Please tell me @dga471 how basing my opinion on these, and similar rankings and comparisons that I’ve seen reported, leaves me “biased” in my impressions of the US?

I am not in fact making that argument, at least not principally. I would argue that the US has lagged for some time on a wide range of indicators. The only area that it seems to be in “precipitous decline” would be political stability (with democratic values/political responsiveness suffering a longer-term decline).

If we want to have a discussion it should be clear what we are discussing. Are you trying to argue that religious tribalism in the US is the major causal factor for 1) increased murder rates, 2) human rights violations, 3) worse health outcomes, and 4) worse safety?

If not, then what are you trying to argue, exactly?

Neither is it of interest to me. But numerical scores from random websites are not the only possible form of “factual data” about a country.

When was the last time the US did not lag behind other developed countries? Why do you think it lags now compared to then?

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Fair enough.

I would argue that the lagging is accelerating.

There’s also public health and prescription drug addiction, just off the top of my head.

I’m saying this as someone who grew up in a working-class city in the Midwest, lived in several very nice places in the US that are nothing like my hometown, then spent 5 years in India (visiting the US several times per year opened my eyes to our decline), and traveled around the country before settling in a nice university town.

I think you’re being too kind to the US.

Well put. It’s important to ascertain what is the thesis on the table for discussion.

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I would not disagree that prescription drug addiction is a major problem.

As far as public health goes, @dga471 does not seem to like worlddata.info, so I turned to OECD’s far more scattergun info here.

In both Life Expectancy and Infant & Maternal Mortality (which I took to be the key indicators), the US has been improving over the last couple of decades, but at a slower rate than the rest of the OECD, meaning that its ranking has slowly been declining (at no point in this time period was it in the top half of the 38 OECD countries on either statistic).

It is already clear what we are discussing:

Why are you AVOIDING the question @dga471?

It is an issue you raised.

As a follow up question, were you aware that the US does so poorly on this, or similar, surveys?

I am not currently making that argument – and have made no suggestion that I was doing so. I probably could make such an argument, but would be willing to do so only on a new thread.

Then suggest some other form of “factual data” that you consider more reliable or more relevant. (I’ve already also brought up murder rates, and levels of voter participation.) I’ve invited you to do so, but have heard nothing back from you.

What part of “and has so for considerable time” did you fail to comprehend?

It seems @dga471 that you aren’t even replying to my arguments, but to rather what some imaginery, less nuanced, more absolutist debater, that exists only in your head, would argue based upon the facts I present.

As that debater lives only in your head, I would ask you to keep your replies to him likewise only in your own head, and either respond to the arguments I actually make, or hold your peace.

My arguments have throughout eschewed, and often explicitly disavowed, that I consider the behavior, originally under discussion, to be “ubiquitous”, “exclusive” or “unique”. It is frankly offensive to me to see my arguments caricatured in this way. It is deeply disrespectful.

I don’t know for sure if your impression of the US is biased, because I’m not completely sure what that “impression” is. Again, it’s unclear what you’re trying to argue in this thread. It’s hard to know for sure because you treat almost everything like an adversarial statement, instead of one of open inquiry.

If your “impression” is just “US has rank X in criterion Y according to organization Z”, then of course I wouldn’t have any quarrel with that. That’s a simple fact. There’s no bias in that. But without any other context or discussion, these facts are no different than trivia. I don’t see how they are connected to the main topic of this thread, which was about the things which happened in the Dover Trial. You earlier said they are a “symptom” of the bad quality of life in the US as expressed in several statistical indicators. Is that the main point that you want to defend by bringing these up?

Yes, of course. Notice that I never claimed that the murder rates in the US are better than other countries. I also never claimed that the quality of life in the US is better than other developed countries. In fact, I have often complained about the healthcare system here, as well as the worsening political polarization in the last decade. That is why I’m unclear about the purpose of bringing up these statistics, because I never meant to argue against them.

Then clarify what is the wider point that you’re trying to argue by bringing up murder statistics, instead of saying that it’s “obvious”.

From the phrase “has so for a considerable time”, I deduce that “considerable time” refers to a long but finite amount of time, let’s say X amount of years. Thus, there must have been a time 2020-X when the US was not lagging behind these other developed countries on this “wide range of indicators”. What objections do you have against this reasoning?

Discussing online with people often requires rounds of clarification, rephrasing, and being misunderstood. Sometimes it is indeed very frustrating if people don’t understand your point or seem to mischaracterize your arguments. That has happened to me several times here too. However, I don’t mean any disrespect. If someone feels greatly offended and disrespected due to being misunderstood online, then I would advise them to step away until they are ready to continue, or simply stop. You have no obligation to continue discussing with me here, especially if it is not benefitting you at all.

In addition, @Tim, I would like to state that the tone of your own posts has been needlessly adversarial and hostile in this thread, and that is not the first time that this has happened in this forum. I think in general you should learn to not treat replies to your posts as trying to attack you or disprove your point.


  1. “I don’t know for sure if your impression of the US is biased, because I’m not completely sure what that ‘impression’ is.” What part of my statement that I was “basing my opinion on these, and similar rankings and comparisons that I’ve seen reported” led to this uncertainty?

  2. In my immediately past reply, I am arguing against your implication/“possibility”/impression that my impression of the US is (in some completely unspecified way) “biased”.

  3. In the thread as a whole, I am arguing that whilst the behavior documented by my OP, and documented as being more widespread by the article I cited, is neither ubiquitous among conservative Christians, exclusive to conservative Christians, unique, or “worse than all others”, it is sufficiently serious, and sufficiently rare outside the context of conservative Christian reactions to Church-and-State cases, that it is worthy of heightened condemnation and heightened law enforcement scrutiny. It is in effect, as I suggested before, a (low intensity) form of religious terrorism – an attempt to get your way through fear, when you cannot do so through legal means. And I would say that about any group that engaged in such tactics – be they Rabid Right, Loony Left, Church-burning Atheists – or even Immoderately Anti-extreme Moderates.

I would suggest that I can legitimately go beyond this. If the US ranks worse than reasonable comparitors (e.g. worse than most OECD countries) on a wide range of criteria from a wide range of organisations, I can reasonably generalise an opinion that it is worse than these comparitors, within the general range that these criteria cover, without my opinion being in any way biased.

  1. “I don’t see how they are connected to the main topic of this thread, which was about the things which happened in the Dover Trial.” I am not obliged to argue solely one point in a thread, particularly when people, such as yourself, bring up side issues. I have however done my best to make it clear (by quoting you) which issue I was responding to. If this confuses you, then I’d suggest you avoid bringing up side issues.

  2. “That is why I’m unclear about the purpose of bringing up these statistics, because I never meant to argue against them.” The purpose was to provide evidence that my impression was factually-based, and therefore not “biased”. This was also clear, from the fact that it was in explicit response to your “None of this really answers my question.” (Your question being that of my purported “bias”).

It does not follow that “there must have been a time 2020-X when the US was not lagging behind these other developed countries”. I was silent on what happened before then – and therefore said nothing about that time period. You are simply making the unfounded assumption that this is what I meant. In fact the reason I placed that limitation on my statement was that whilst I had reasonable certainty about the last few decades, I did not have any strong impression before then (I don’t even know if there is even reliable data going back much further to base a well-informed opinion on). You committed what amounts to a particularly egregious form of the ‘Argument from Silence’ fallacy.

Thinking about it further (these thoughts were not included in my “considerable time” comment), I would conclude that (i) the US would have to have been better in most, and probably all, outcomes than most, and probably all, European countries during the 1940s, due to WWII and its aftermath. (ii) I would also suggest that before the fall of the Iron Curtain, it is entirely likely that conditions behind it were worse than the US. Add to that, many European countries either didn’t exist, or had very different borders (and thus different demographics) back before these two events, making historical comparisons even more problematical.

dga471: in this, and at earlier occasions on this thread (your “Because you claimed that the toxicity from religious tribalism is worse than other types of tribalism” comes most prominently to mind) your over-interpretation of what I have been saying reaches the point of outright extrapolation – beyond what ‘Tim must mean’ to what ‘Tim might mean’. This has led to first confusion, then frustration, then outright anger on my part. I try to limit what I say as much as possible to what I can prove, and to clearly demarcate what I say that I cannot prove. So being accused of making claims that I know I didn’t make tends to be especially aggravating.

If you don’t want me to be “adversarial” then I would suggest that you stop extrapolating my claims – as I find it very difficult to view anybody who repeatedly misrepresents me in other-than-adversarial terms. If you cannot help yourself, then perhaps we should avoid interacting.

  1. Repeatedly (I might even go so far as to say ubiquitously) having to ‘clarify’ your unfounded extrapolations of what I have said (i) has been very exhausting and frustrating, and (ii) has ground this conversation to a halt.

The uncertainty is based on your extremely negative reaction when I’m trying to respond to anything you say.

No, Tim, I’m trying to interpolate, not extrapolate. All conversation involves some amount of interpolation, because communication is never perfect. If I converse with someone and they say, “Look at this bad religious fundamentalist behavior in the US, and look at these rankings which show how the US is trailing other countries in many metrics,” then I would infer that they are trying to connect these two things in some sort of causal or correlative relationship, because they chose to juxtapose these them together. Would my interpolation necessarily be a correct representation of what is actually meant? Sometimes yes, sometimes not. Yes, sometimes misunderstandings happen, and what person A thinks is a valid interpolation of what person B is saying is actually not - it’s an extrapolation instead! But the normal reaction by person B is not to angrily accuse A of disrespect or accusing A of “using an argument from silence”. Rather, it’s to simply clarify that he doesn’t mean that.

I agree with the basic sentiment that the behavior documented in the OP is egregious in a civil society and should be condemned, no matter what kind of group - religious or not - engages in it. (I will leave it to law enforcement to determine which kinds of threats are more important to monitor.)

Once again, I don’t think such behavior is more commonly encountered in “Christian reactions to Church-and-State cases” compared to other controversial issues. I’m not accusing you of saying otherwise. If we don’t disagree on this, then good.

Well, thank you for clarifying your opinion. I’m sorry for misunderstanding what you meant to say in that case. Note that I was not making any sort of sustained argument about your claims in the US. I was asking you to clarify by asking some questions (not arguments):

and you did clarify by pointing out that these questions assumed something which you didn’t believe. There is no need to accuse others of making logical fallacies or arguments from silence when they never meant to argue in the first place.

I won’t disagree with the statement that the quality of life US is worse than some other developed countries according to some metrics. But such a statement oversimplifies something complex - “quality of life” and might give a misleading impression. For example, despite the metrics you cited, many people are still more interested to live or work in the US compared to other developed countries, because of the greater range of opportunities in certain fields, such as science and technology. (That’s certainly one of the reasons for why I chose to study in the US instead of say, Sweden or New Zealand.) While certainly the quality of life in the US is worse in some aspects, it’s not always much worse to the point that it outweighs these other benefits. To take an example: a national murder rate is just that, a national murder rate. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m 5 times more afraid of being murdered when I’m in the US than in Australia, for example. The US is a large country, and the local situation is likely more pertinent to the question of the quality of life.

You are certainly in my top 3 of the most adversarial users I’ve encountered on PS. I’m also not the first person to notice here that you commonly elevate casual and friendly interactions to an adversarial debate very quickly. For example in this thread:

No. My “extremely negative reaction[s]” have been when you respond to something that I did not say.

E.g. you said “Because you claimed that the toxicity from religious tribalism is worse than other types of tribalism”, and I knew that I had not made that claim, and so had an “extremely negative reaction”.

No. When you need to first paraphrase my my statement, and then enter a rather dodgy syllogism (as here) to get to the word you were explicitly putting into my mouth, then you are not interpolating. Likewise, when you are enter into an Argument from Silence, you are not interpolating. Likewise when you take an interpretation, that is both not necessitated by my wording, and is contradicted by my other statements, you are not interpolating (it is not interpolation if it conflicts with existing data).

If this is what you mean by “interpolation”, then I would suggest that we need to stop even attempting to communicate, because we are clearly not speaking the same language.

Except that this is not how things came about. I did not “juxtapose” the two issues.

First you wrote:

I responded:

You responded:

Only then, and as an explicit response to that statement, did I bring up relative murder rates (and later other summary data). This was not me juxtaposing these issues, and it was not my (ungoaded) choice.

My background is in Statistics. If the issue of bias is seriously raised (as your unwillingness to accept a simply anecdotal account seemed to indicate), then my reaction is to test the purported bias against empirical data.

I would conclude that given that you appear neither satisfied by my anecdotal account, nor by the empirical data I presented supporting my negative view of US society, as evidence that I lack significant bias, I am at a loss how you expected this issue to be resolved.

I would point out that you have not provided any evidence that this behavior is no more common outside of conservative Christian reactions to Church-and-State cases, outside of a relatively small, unrepresentative and socially-condemned fringe (drug cartels, Sovereign Citizens, the KKK, etc) that we have already agreed to.

This issue is further aggravated by conservative Christianity’s disproportionate, and thus arguably anti-democratic, influence on the halls of power, through a majority on the Supreme Court, to control of the Republican Party, to their favored candidates holding the position of President, against a popular majority, for eight of the last twenty years.

With all this unwarranted privilege, conservative Christianity (or some apparently not-insignificant elements of it) still reacts violently to the least check on their excesses.

It is not a clarification of my opinion – because I had not expressed an opinion on the situation before your “2020-X”. It is a correction of an opinion that you fallaciously imputed to me.

I would be less grudging about accepting your apology for your “misunderstanding” if you acknowledged that it was your fallacy (not my statement) was at its root.

Being asked questions about things you didn’t say, is at first confusing, and with repetition downright aggrevating. Your questions frequently aren’t about clarifying what I said, but by taking your (often false) assumption about what I have said as the premise for your question.

You did not ask me: “Do you mean that there was some time that the US did not lag behind other developed countries” …

You asked me “When was the last time the US did not lag behind other developed countries? Why do you think it lags now compared to then?”

This means that you’ve already baked the assumption in, before asking me the question. It is akin to what is known as a Loaded Question.

The former is a legitimate request for clarification. The latter tends to derail conversations, and aggrevate the person you’re talking to.

Likewise, when you consider my statements to be inconsistent or contradictory, the correct thing to do is to quote the statements (paraphrases tend to just add to the confusion) and ask me to explain the apparent contradiction, not to assume a meaning and barrel on.

That does not surprise me in the least. I would also question whether the decision is always, or even in the majority, well-informed. Yes, in professions where capital costs and economies of scale are high, the US may be the best choice. But I’d argue that this is more of a matter of necessity (or at least severely limited choice), not quality of life. For the many more immigrants that end up driving taxis, working in restaurants, etc, I would argue that the decision is likely less well-informed, and is probably driven by a combination of name recognition, and the (often false) hope of upward mobility in the “Land of Opportunity”. In neither case do I see evidence that I have inferior knowledge on the generalities of the issue (I would of course have less information on the details of specific PhD programmes and specific high-tech industries).

Yes, but the question wasn’t whether I am biased about Cambridge, Massachusetts. The question was whether I am biased about America (implicitly America as a whole). I would therefore suggest that it is the America-wide average that is the relevant statistic. I would also wish to quietly and peacefully suggest that you are moving the goalposts here.

I would further point out that @Mercer has already suggest that “You may need to get out of the northeast to see just how bad it is.” What is the proportion of conservative Christians in Cambridge relative to the rest of the US as a whole, out of interest?

This was in reponse to my response to his statement that:

I responded with:

I then proceeded to demonstrate that the data was in no way unclear on the issue – a point that was acknowledged by this reply to “Chill out”:

I do not think a degree of displeasure at Joshua commiting the very thing that he was accusing me of (failing to look closely at the data) was unwarranted. I will leave it to you to decide whether you think the degree I expressed that displeasure was unwarranted.

I will admit I have not been at my best on this thread.

On this forum I’ve been recently trying to make an attempt to discipline myself to avoid interactions with those who conversing with has tended to produce more heat than light. I have been relatively successful avoiding Thoughtful and r_speir. Less so avoiding Eddie. I did not know, previous to this thread, that you were someone I should consider likewise avoiding. I am however now seriously considering it. I am dissatisfied with this thread – not so much because you didn’t agree with me, but because I feel that your disagreement failed to put my thesis to any significant test. We argued more about whether or not I said things, and about my purported bias, than about any concrete way to assess the relative or absolute seriousness of the issue.

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