Sebastian Zearing

how to be progressive without being a stupid liberal


Welcome to my blog! My pen name is Sebastian Zearing, and I think about a lot of things. This is a good post to read if you’re thinking about following my blog so please continue!

My tagline currently reads “how to be progressive without being a stupid liberal.” I feel that deserves an explanation. I also may change the tagline in the future, so I’ll try to write this post so that it won’t be obsolete if I do.

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The Canary in the Arctic

This prediction was made on 28 July 2015.

It is the death of the proverbial canary in the coalmine that is the harbinger of disaster. As for CAGW, it is not the death of the Arctic ice, but rather its resurrection, which will be a harbinger of disaster for mainstream climate policy. Clearly since 2012 but perhaps even since 2010, Arctic sea ice volume anomaly has been on an upswing year-over-year.

Specific Prediction

1) I predict that the upswing will continue, reversing the trend of the last few decades. 2) I predict that within 10 years this upswing will become the primary instigator of defection from the CAGW camp, trouncing flat temperatures and other climate data series. Note that if Arctic ice volume declines for several years in a row within this 10 year time frame, then I will hold 1 to be falsified. However, if such a decline is insufficiently pronounced, then 2 may still come to pass.

Human biodiversity

This prediction was made on 28 July 2015.

Human biodiversity (HBD) is the notion that the biological entity known as Homo sapiens sapiens is subject to subpopulation differences in virtually all conceivable characteristics because of irregular distributions of genetic alleles. This is also identified by some with “racism,” and yet by others with “race realism.” I reject both labels as “race” isn’t a well-defined biological concept, and also essentialism is false. The main purpose of HBD is to provide a view specifically opposed to blank-slatism: though many human characteristics (such as skin color, tooth shape, susceptibility to sickle-cell anemia, adult ability to digest milk, etc.) are known to vary across subpopulations (which does happen to be a well-defined, non-essentialist biological concept), many find it difficult to extend this simple concept into the neurological, psychological, cognitive, and behavioral realms.

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Vasalgel and the Sexual Marketplace

This prediction was made on 17 April 2015.

Vasalgel is a male birth control technology that is currently undergoing human trials for approval by the FDA, probably by 2017 or 2018. It is a polymer that is delivered via a one-shot injection into the vas deferens, where it apparently functions by electrochemically perforating (and therefore killing) any sperm cells that pass by it. The one injection lasts upwards of several years, perhaps up to ten or more. It is easily reversible with an injection of a solvent that flushes out the polymer. It has been 100% successful in prior trials with baboons. It will be very cheap ($100 ballpark).

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Sexuality, androphilia, gynephilia, and gay genes

Edit 28 July 2015: This post argues that strong social pressures are the primary reason homosexuality occurs with such high frequency (vs. ~0%). Though I do not rescind the claim of social pressure affecting rates of homosexuality, I do now believe that the intrinsic noisiness involved in differentiating the androphilic brain from the gynephilic brain in the developing human is probably the greater causal factor in the high rates of homosexuality. A better treatment can be found here.

I hang out at Lion/halfsigma’s blog occasionally, and something he posted yesterday caught my eye. You can read it yourself, but the post was about Obama’s recent call to end conversion therapies for LBGT youth. I won’t comment on that topic itself, other than to note I don’t see anything wrong with governments banning unproven/disproven/known deleterious medical interventions, particularly in youth where consent is squishy. Instead, I want to comment on the responses to his post, in particular JayMan’s comment and hyperlinked post about the topic of the causes of homosexuality. I wrote a reply there, but I want to make a post for my own blog on the topic.

The first thing I want to very forcefully clarify on this topic is that sexuality is patently and obviously genetic. Whether or not you have a Y-chromosome predicts with around 93~98% accuracy whether you find women or men sexually attractive. Almost all the people that have the specifically genetic entity known as the Y-chromosome are sexually attracted to women, and almost all the people that do not have that genetic entity are sexually attracted to men.

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Social Constructs and Social Wrappers

Gender is a social construct, they say. And race/ethnicity. And lots of other things that most people can stare at and say, “but but… these distinctions obviously exist and are real!” And they would be right, except that they’ve failed to understand what a construct is (though that may be the fault of either intentional or unintentional obfuscation on the part of the “social construct” advocates). I think the term “social construct” leads to these kinds of misunderstandings for two reasons. One, the word “construct” itself connotes “not real” even though it definitely doesn’t denote that (here’s where the obfuscation comes from). Two, the term doesn’t imply any kind of connection to something objectively real, even though there often may be an actual connection. The term as it’s most often used should be replaced with “social wrapper.” But what is being wrapped? Well here’s a list:

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Climate Change Revisited

I wrote a post over a year ago about climate change where I gave a brief ontology of the climate change debate and my place in it. This post explains my position as a climate change slight-luke-warmer. I think the human release of carbon dioxide is leading to warming in the atmosphere. Still, I think the negative feedbacks must necessarily be stronger than the positive feedbacks, and so whatever the equilibrium temperature response is to a doubling of CO2 without feedback (estimates of 1-2ºC), the real-world response will be smaller.

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The Intersubjective

The intersubjective is a fascinating concept which I first found here. I will describe how I think of the concept, but I encourage all readers to visit that page.

The objective and the subjective are ordinary notions of how to categorize the epistemology of claims. Claims like “vanilla ice cream is better than chocolate ice cream” or perhaps occasionally “the photograph depicts a white and gold dress” are understood to be claims about the relation between the psychology of an individual and things in the world. Subjective claims such as these can be false, like if I actually did like chocolate ice cream more than vanilla, but the truth or falsehood can only be ascertained by those with direct access to that individual’s psychology, i.e. only the claimant. Consequently, most people are content spending very little time figuring out the truth of subjective claims. Claims like “chocolate ice cream contains more antioxidants” or “there is a peak in the reflective spectrum of the dress at 483 nm,” on the other hand, are not claims about the relation between the psychology of an individual and things in the world, but rather about things in the world themselves, and so can be measured and reported directly.

The intersubjective adds a third category. It asserts an epistemological category characterized by relations among many separate psychologies and/or among many separate psychologies and things in the world. You can jump straight to the examples, or continue with a strong caveat to all of this that stems from the difference between epistemology and ontology.

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Statistical Invariances and Hierarchical and Dimensional Variation

Look around you.

How many repeating things can you find? In my room, I can count several dozen individual blinds over the window, two windows, several dozen buttons on a remote control, several dozen keys on my keyboard, thousands of carpet threads, six guitar strings, several dozen books, four pillows, and a partridge in a pear tree [kidding]. Interestingly, if I had the right equipment, I could tell that all of these things are made from 10^bignumber electrons, quarks, and pions, though if I go back to using my eyes, I’m only interacting with these subatomic particles through photons. These subatomic particles make atoms and ions in exceedingly regular ways. These in turn make molecules in slightly more complicated ways. These molecules in turn make bulk materials in even more complicated ways (or sometimes the pattern jumps straight from atoms to bulk materials, as with most metals). And then these materials go to make all kinds of different things. We can also take a detour through biology, where the molecules, in breathtakingly complicated ways, make cells, which then make tissues, which make organs, which make bodies. So we have a world replete with all kinds of different things, the vast majority of which are not unique, isolated things but rather similar to other things.

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Relevance Theory and the Communicative Spectrum

Relevance Theory claims that a “hearer/reader/audience will search for meaning in any given communication situation and having found meaning that fits their expectation of relevance, will stop processing.” Our worlds are very complicated. Thus, talking about them should be similarly complicated. Fortunately, most two individuals that might want to communicate share a lot of experiences (e.g. they generally share at least a language and a culture), and so communication can be drastically simplified by assuming a common base of information. And not only can this happen, it almost always does in normal human communication.

Your coworker gets to work 20 minutes late. “I hate the metro!” he exclaims as he dashes past your cubicle, flashing a flustered glance. What did he just communicate? I got to work late and can’t you see I’m sorry so don’t judge me because gosh darn it the metro in this city sucks and that’s why I’m late dontchaknow! Well obviously what was communicated had almost nothing to do with your coworker hating the metro. Imagine if instead he had exclaimed, “I hate pomegranates!” You probably would be very confused. Why does he hate pomegranates? More importantly, why is telling me this now? I’m trying to work! You might come to the conclusion that he was eating a pomegranate for breakfast, and as pomegranates do, it exploded all over his work clothes, forcing him to change into new clothes and setting him back by 20 minutes. Notice how this comes down to you assuming that your communicative partner is not wasting your brain’s computing power for no good reason. And given the circumstance of flustered tardiness, it probably has something to do with the flustered tardiness.

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