• Isaac
    5.2k
    I'll pose this again:

    Should laypeople go with the 97% consensus on climate change? Why or why not?
    Xtrix

    At the risk of flogging the dead horse of statistical misunderstanding, I'll try another explanation. Remove climate change and replace it with issue X. On issue X the facts are such that two possible theories can be both held without being falsified by them (you're familiar with underdetermination of theories?). Theory X1 is favoured by experts with green eyes, theory X2 is favoured by experts with blue eyes. 97% of experts have green eyes. Now does it benefit the layman in any way to go with the 97%?

    Of course it doesn't. Because the variance in the variable {numbers of experts supporting} for each theory is caused by the distribution of the variable {eye colour} whereas the variable the layman is interested in is {rightness/accuracy/utility}, the correlation of which to the variable {numbers of experts supporting} is unknown.

    To show that the layman (assuming he's interested in being right) is better off pinning their flag to theory X1, you'd have to show that the variance in support for each theory is caused by (or at least correlated with) the variable {rightness/accuracy/utility}, otherwise the fact that theory X1 has a high score in the variable {numbers of experts supporting} has no bearing at all on the variable of interest.

    I've provided a long list of variables other than 'rightness' which correlate better with the degree of support a theory gets, and I've given a detailed account of why 'rightness' does not even have a very strong variance once the opinions we're discussing are honed down to those of experts (mainly underdetermination and the availability of informal peer review at early stages).

    If you want to further this discussion you'd have to dispute my list of variables which correlate with degree of support more strongly than 'rightness' and you'd have to provide an argument which undermines the underdetermination described by Duhem and Quine. Without either you've provided no argument to link 'rightness' with 'degree of support' among a range of expert opinion.

    You could, of course, make an entirely academic argument that if we know of no other variables, then a possible weak link between 'degree of support' and 'rightness' might be all we have to go on, but that assumes we've no priors at all which outweigh such a weak correlation, and of course we do have such priors.
  • Isaac
    5.2k
    OK, so what's the alternative? Given our group of experts, the variance among whom we know is caused by a wide variety of factors, reasoning error being very low on that list (if present at all).

    How do we then talk about that variance in a non-lame way? — Isaac


    By pointing out that the problem at hand is a complex problem and that solving it requires decisions that are based on priorities (which cannot be established scientifically).
    baker

    True, but this is another level of analysis from the one @Srap Tasmaner and I were talking about. It's something I mentioned way back though, that much of the 'expert opinion' we're referring to in this situation is actually the 'opinion of experts' - a different beast entirely. I'm an expert in psychology, and I'm asked for my 'expert opinion' as part of my job, but if I provide an opinion about investment in mental health services, or sentencing guidelines for criminals with mitigating psychological circumstances, I'm providing the 'opinion of an expert' which (unlike my expert opinion) will include a whole set of assumptions about values which are totally outside my area of expertise (like economics or jurisprudence).

    One of the problems with the analysis in this thread is that even where it might apply to 'expert opinion' (say in very well established principles like those of physics or chemistry), it does not apply to the 'opinion of experts', which is what we're dealing with when it comes to "you should take the vaccine".
  • baker
    2.5k
    As an aside: I just learned that the Janssen vaccine (which I recently took) is newly estimated to be only about 10% effective.

    Which leads to the bizarre situation: We must get vaccinated, but it doesn't matter how effective the vaccine is -- whether it's 80%, 60%, or 10% effective. They're all approved by EMA and the state and we get a covid passport all the same.

    How on earth is one supposed to take this seriously?!
  • Srap Tasmaner
    3k
    The notion of a majority of experts being a safer betIsaac

    I've just started reading Plato again -- been a very long time -- and it's practically the founding claim of philosophy: we don't care what the majority thinks.

    Except it isn't, because that's only half the point. Not everyone in town is a horse-breeder; if you want to know about horses, ask the expert. Not everyone in town is a physician; if you want to know about health, ask the expert. The situation with wisdom is apparently no different:

    SOCRATES: We should not then think so much of what the majority will say about us, but what he will say who understands justice and injustice, the one, that is, and the truth itself. So that, in the first place, you were wrong to believe that we should care for the opinion of the many about what is just, beautiful, good, and their opposites. — Crito, 48a

    Except it is, because Socrates has never found anyone who is genuinely wise, only people who claim to be, or who are acclaimed by others to be.

    There is variation in the natural world; some cats are better hunters than others, I suppose, or some crows better at crow-things. Ants famously have some division of labor going on, and we're more like that. In spades. By the time of Socrates, there is already long since too much going on for everyone's opinion about everything to be equally valuable.

    Is Socrates enthusiastic about the new order of expertise? Maybe he is but not everyone is, and that's why he makes these comments so frequently. Maybe he isn't but most are, and he is only strategically relying on their views. Either way, he does believe he has found a limit to expertise, having found no one who is an expert in wisdom.

    What he never seems to consider is the simple rejection of expertise, "My ignorance is as good as your knowledge." (Is that Asimov?) It's precisely his knowledge that he is ignorant that he "celebrates" in drawing a limit to expertise.

    So here we are, all these years later, or the blink of an eye later, as you like, and still trying to figure out what to do about expertise.

    Here's my question: is expertise the same issue for us that it was for Athens? Or has something changed?
  • frank
    8.5k
    Effectiveness reflects the prevalence of the virus at the time the vaccine was tested. High effectiveness means low prevalence.

    Still, 10% doesn't sound right.
  • Xtrix
    2.1k
    in opposition to any understanding of statistics of or the way expert discourse worksIsaac

    This from someone who rejects the idea that overwhelming scientific and medical consensus is the correct choice for a layperson. You have no idea what you're talking about.
  • Xtrix
    2.1k
    I'll pose this again:

    Should laypeople go with the 97% consensus on climate change? Why or why not?
    — Xtrix

    At the risk of flogging the dead horse of statistical misunderstanding, I'll try another explanation. Remove climate change and replace it with issue X.
    Isaac

    No. That's not the question. Issue "X" is an abstraction; what I'm asking about is a specific real-world example. You can't answer that simple question, and so have to fall back on empty verbiage.

    Regardless, I'll go over this again with you.

    On issue X the facts are such that two possible theories can be both held without being falsified by them (you're familiar with underdetermination of theories?). Theory X1 is favoured by experts with green eyes, theory X2 is favoured by experts with blue eyes. 97% of experts have green eyes. Now does it benefit the layman in any way to go with the 97%?Isaac

    This is what I mean by employing ridiculous contortions when all else fails. But to answer your question: if it could be determined, somehow, that experts with green eyes causes them all to choose the same theory, then this is extra information that is relevant, and one should take that into account when deciding who to listen to. But that, as I've now stated for the umpteenth time, is not the question, because it's been stated from the beginning that there is no other information that the layman has beyond the majority.

    If you add to the climate change example this important piece of information: "The 97% who agree are all graduates of Liberty University," that is important indeed. Likewise, if it turns out that most of the 3% of dissenters have ties to the fossil fuel industry, that's also relevant. But that's not the question.

    To show that the layman (assuming he's interested in being right) is better off pinning their flag to theory X1, you'd have to show that the variance in support for each theory is caused by (or at least correlated with) the variable {rightness/accuracy/utility}, otherwise the fact that theory X1 has a high score in the variable {numbers of experts supporting} has no bearing at all on the variable of interest.Isaac

    And it does correlate. How do we know? For the same reasons that greater experimental confirmation increases likelihood of accuracy. Not only is there historical data, but we know from predictive accuracy as well.

    It helps to think about the consequences of what you're arguing. If it leads to absurd conclusions, which it does, then you know you're on the wrong track.

    This still doesn't address the original question.

    Scientific consensus on any particular issue usually pertains to theories -- whether quantum theory, the theory of evolution, atomic theory, the big band theory, or anthropogenic climate change. When there is overwhelming evidence that supports a theory, the experts (as experts) will be familiar with this, the consensus will change and often reflect the level of confidence in a theory. This can change/adapt over time with the emergence of new theories and new evidence.

    The same is true in other cases, like vaccinations. Experts run experiments, check data, gather evidence, conduct studies, etc. -- all around the world. Experts do not come to consensus because they've got green eyes or want to jump on the bandwagon, and certainly not at higher levels of consensus. It can, of course, turn out that they're wrong or everyone has missed something -- that's happened. But that's very rare in well supported theories. People like to point to Newtonian mechanics and Einstein, but Einstein didn't falsify Newton's theories.

    So back to the question: Is the layman better off choosing the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change (evolution, quantum mechanics, etc) or not, knowing nothing else?

    If you aren't able to answer in the affirmative, then you're simply wrong, because that's the correct answer. In the same way it would be the right answer to bet on something with a 60% chance of winning and not a 40% chance of winning -- knowing nothing else and not getting better betting odds. It's really that simple.

    If you're arguing it isn't correct, then you're essentially saying that a laymen ISN'T better off going with the overwhelming consensus, and in fact cannot know either way -- perhaps it's 50/50, etc. Which is an absurdity, as demonstrated by the facts.
  • ssu
    4.5k
    To show that the layman (assuming he's interested in being right)Isaac

    Quite an assumption to be made.

    I would think the layman would simply choose the option that fits the closest to his or her Worldview in general. There being two or more opposing views means that the issue isn't a simple tautology and for the layman to hear about opposing views means that either the issue isn't settled or there is a sustained campaign to fight the so-called scientific truth for some reason.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    3k
    In the same way it would be the right answer to bet on something with a 60% chance of winning and not a 40% chance of winning -- knowing nothing else and not getting better betting odds. It's really that simple.Xtrix

    But the aptness of that analogy is exactly what @Isaac is disputing, isn't it?
  • Xtrix
    2.1k
    But the aptness of that analogy is exactly what Isaac is disputing, isn't it?Srap Tasmaner

    Sadly, it appears so. Which basically means there's no reason to go with the overwhelming scientific consensus over anything else -- because, who knows? Theory of evolution or creation science -- all experts, so who should we non-experts believe? No way to tell. Take the vaccine, which is the overwhelming medical consensus, or go with Alex Jones? No way to know.

    If this is where we've arrived, then we should realize something has gone drastically wrong.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    3k


    We don't end up there immediately though. You can deny that a simple headcount of experts is dispositive, without concluding that's there's nothing else, and without dismissing the work of experts entirely.

    There really seem to be problems here. The usual bayesian story is that you have your prior and update based on new evidence. But what if you can't personally evaluate that evidence (maybe you don't have the training or maybe it's just impractical). Then you need someone else to evaluate the evidence. Then you also need somehow to factor in your confidence that they have properly evaluated the evidence for you. Maybe you know them, know their qualifications and their integrity. But what if you don't? What if someone else chooses for you who will evaluate evidence on your behalf? Then what? You have to keep discounting.

    One obvious way to tie-off this daisy chain is trust. At some point, early or late, you trust someone or some institution. Done. But don't we have to talk about how you make such a trust decision? Maybe not. Maybe people just choose, but you're not going to like everyone's choices of whom too trust. Yuck.

    Taking the beliefs of another person or of a group of people as itself evidence just doesn't play nice with certain (vaguely empiricist) views of knowledge acquisition. But it is absolutely unavoidable, so maybe those models are junk.
  • Xtrix
    2.1k
    One obvious way to tie-off this daisy chain is trust. At some point, early or late, you trust someone or some institution. Done. But don't we have to talk about how you make such a trust decision? Maybe not. Maybe people just choose, but you're not going to like everyone's choices of whom too trust. Yuck.Srap Tasmaner

    It is a matter of trust, yes. A large part of the country -- 30 or 40% maybe -- go with the 3% who dissent on climate change (actually less than that, perhaps 1% or so). That's a huge mistake. If we struggle to say this, then we’re deluding ourselves. We should rather start with this simple truth and work outward to understand why it’s true— not deny it’s truth altogether, as if consensus means nothing and science means nothing.

    The rest of the country, who are equally ignorant of climate science, throw their support behind the 97% consensus. They are making the correct move, even if by accident. I argue that it isn't completely an accident, and that there is something intuitive or instinctive about their decision -- just as winning poker players can make theoretically correct moves without knowing anything about game theory -- that deserves at least some credit, though minimal.

    That's what started this odd discussion. What's followed is typical of those who try to use the little they've learned in philosophy in order to justify their awful reasoning: when in doubt, bullshit your way through rather than admit it. Throw in abstractions, empty verbiage, multisyllabic words, ludicrous hypotheticals, etc. Go so far as to even question the very nature of truth.

    You see this in much discourse these days. When a QAnon supporter is confronted with facts and evidence, they're forced to undermine it all (“no one trusts those data or those polls”). When confronted with the idea that there is no evidence supporting their claims, I heard this nugget once remarked: "Well, there hasn't been any non-evidence yet."

    This is what’s happening here. Maybe others will be bewildered by it; I will not. There’s a simple matter at stake, and no amount of bullshit will divert from the question.
  • Janus
    10.7k
    That would indeed be ridiculous if the vaccine were only 10% effective. (Although I suppose it would still be a little better than nothing). Are you convinced that is an accurate assessment of its efficacy?
  • Isaac
    5.2k
    I've just started reading Plato again -- been a very long time -- and it's practically the founding claim of philosophy: we don't care what the majority thinks.

    Except it isn't, because that's only half the point. Not everyone in town is a horse-breeder; if you want to know about horses, ask the expert. Not everyone in town is a physician; if you want to know about health, ask the expert. The situation with wisdom is apparently no different:
    Srap Tasmaner

    Absolutely. There's a very strong distinction between the cause of variance within the whole population and the cause of variance within a particular class of a stratified population. The cause of variance in support for a theory among the entire population will probably correlate quite well with education level (the cleverer believing the most plausible theories - in general), but if we stratify the wider population by that very variable (education level), we almost know for a fact that the variance within that strata will be less well correlated with that variable, because it's the variable we used to carry out the stratification, it's relative effect will just inevitably be smaller.

    In other words, yes we should trust experts, and the more expert the better, but within experts of the same education level (ie we limit education level as a variable by stratifying our sample over it) other variables are going to be much more significant - simply because we've eliminated the most significant one by stratification. We haven't made education no longer the most significant factor in likelihood of being right, we've just manipulated our sample to limit its effect.

    I think one of the things that's getting mixed up here is the difference between the question "should we trust experts opinion?" (the answer is yes) and "should we trust the majority of experts over the minority of experts of the same education level?" the answer is no - by specifying that they're of the same education level we've removed (or severely limited) the one variable which had a link to 'rightness' (education level) so the remaining variables responsible for the within class variance may or may not be linked to 'rightness'.

    Here's my question: is expertise the same issue for us that it was for Athens? Or has something changed?Srap Tasmaner

    Interesting question. Yes, I think something has changed. Taking my model above what matters most when deciding between experts are these other variables (as we've removed the most important variable - degree of expertise in the field - by specifying that we're only consulting experts). That most important variable was no different in Athens as it is today, one studies, and uses rules of inference to draw conclusions, others check you've applied the rules correctly. Over time mistakes are minimised evidence is multiplied and good theories develop (note the plural - I'm not dismissing underdetermination).

    But those within class variables have all changed - independence, financial incentive, political affiliation (maybe not so much), publication metrics, tenure, social media outrage, lucrative consultancy gigs, access to data, open pre-print servers, corporate lobbying, increasing specialisation (particularly in statistics)... I don't think the people of Athens had to contend with any (or many) of these when choosing between their experts. Just as I'm sure you find in baseball, the more variables in play the less clear the cause of any trend.
  • Olivier5
    2.9k
    They're immune to facts and they will not change their minds no matter what happens, which is interesting psychologically. But should we engage for the sake of others who are rational yet "on the fence"?Xtrix

    Difficult question. I've debated 9/11 truthers and climate deniers for months online and got nothing to show for it. Zilch. Nada.

    My sister-in-law believes that AIDS is a hoax, that aliens from other planets live among us, and that COVID is some sort of world-wide conspiracy. I love her, she's a good person and a great artist, but she's lost connection with rationality.

    There's nothing you can do on a case by case basis. Crazy is crazy. These people are "lost for science", gone.

    But maybe we could do something at societal level, because it does not seem normal to me that so many folks would chose to go irrational. We're doing something wrong.
  • Isaac
    5.2k
    You can't answer that simple questionXtrix

    I can, it's just not relevant. I'd go with the 97%. Largely for the reasons you later give

    it turns out that most of the 3% of dissenters have ties to the fossil fuel industry,Xtrix

    If it turned out that 97% had ties to the fossil fuel industry would it still make sense to go with the majority? No. Because the variable 'degree of conflict of interest' is more significant than the variable 'degree of support within an expert cohort'.

    it's been stated from the beginning that there is no other information that the layman has beyond the majority.Xtrix

    Then you too are engaging in "ridiculous contortions" We have access to tons of information other than degree of support. In fact I'd say we have access to other variables to a greater extent. Do you really claim to have the data on how many epidemiologists/virologists support mass vaccination vs those that don't? Of course you don't, you have access to the general impression of that number from the media, but not the actual number. We do, on the other hand, have access to data such as political affiliation, source of funding, lobbying power, social media trends, employment security, consultancy offers, openness of data, willingness to pre-print... we know all of these variables quite accurately, so it's just nonsense to invoke this hypothetical where the only information we have access to is degree of support, it's one of the variable we have least access to.

    it does correlate. How do we know? For the same reasons that greater experimental confirmation increases likelihood of accuracy. Not only is there historical data, but we know from predictive accuracy as well.Xtrix

    Struggling to even work out what this could mean. What do we "know from predictive accuracy", and "historical data"? That the most well supported theories turned out to be the ones that were true? You can see, surely, that this is obviously wrong? All theories that we currently consider to be true started out as theories which were only supported by a minority. The predictive power of majority support depends entirely on where a theory is in it's arc of acceptance. Notwithstanding that, you've not provided any counter-argument to Duhem-Quine, so at best this principle would yield a set of theories (plural), that are more likely to be true, not just a single theory. It is a statistical impossibility for a majority to support more than one theory, so by definition, one of the perfectly accepted-as-true theories must be nonetheless supported only by a minority.

    When there is overwhelming evidence that supports a theory, the experts (as experts) will be familiar with this, the consensus will change and often reflect the level of confidence in a theory.Xtrix

    Why only the consensus? Why do the minority not also change their confidence in a theory in the face of this overwhelming evidence? Maybe they're corrupted by bias? So it's possible for an expert to modulate their confidence in a theory because of bias. So why only the minority?

    If you aren't able to answer in the affirmative, then you're simply wrong, because that's the correct answer.Xtrix

    Classic.

    If you're arguing it isn't correct, then you're essentially saying that a laymen ISN'T better off going with the overwhelming consensus, and in fact cannot know either way -- perhaps it's 50/50, etc. Which is an absurdity, as demonstrated by the facts.Xtrix

    What facts?
  • Isaac
    5.2k
    To show that the layman (assuming he's interested in being right) — Isaac


    Quite an assumption to be made.

    I would think the layman would simply choose the option that fits the closest to his or her Worldview in general. There being two or more opposing views means that the issue isn't a simple tautology and for the layman to hear about opposing views means that either the issue isn't settled or there is a sustained campaign to fight the so-called scientific truth for some reason.
    ssu

    Yes. We haven't even gotten to that question yet. I'm just correcting @Xtrix's first error mistaking variance in a population with variance in a stratified cohort. Once that's fixed (which seemed like a simple explanation of the way stratification affects the variable the stratification is over - but apparently not), the more interesting discussion is over who chooses which option and why.
  • Olivier5
    2.9k
    Here's my question: is expertise the same issue for us that it was for Athens? Or has something changed?Srap Tasmaner

    One of the things that has changed is we don't force our experts to drink hemlock once we find them wrong.
  • Isaac
    5.2k
    We should rather start with this simple truth and work outward to understand why it’s true— not deny it’s truth altogether, as if consensus means nothing and science means nothing.Xtrix

    Yes, we should start with the conclusion we like and then keep changing our reasoning until we justify it regardless of any mathematics, evidence, or line of reasoning to the contrary - what a brilliant way to go about thinking over a topic. I couldn't have written a better explanation of exactly the process I was describing in theory selection.

    You see this in much discourse these days. When a QAnon supporter is confronted with facts...Xtrix

    Yes, of course. Happens all the time. QAnon are constantly trying to support their views by explaining the effect of stratification over a variable on the predictive power of that variable within the stratified class, they never shut up about it.

    I think Trump/QAnon is becoming the new Godwin's law
  • Olivier5
    2.9k
    I suppose you got your polio, measles, tetanus and other vaccinations up to date, right? If that's the case, you are not really an anti-vaxxer, just a COVID-contrarian. You shouldn't feel like you need to defend the loonies.
  • ssu
    4.5k
    Yes, we should start with the conclusion we like and then keep changing our reasoning until we justify it regardless of any mathematics, evidence, or line of reasoning to the contrary - what a brilliant way to go about thinking over a topic.Isaac
    That's one way to justify your position. I'd say "Stop the steal" is here an even better example where the Republican politicians and lawyers that supported Trump hopelessly tried to bring some credibility to a crazy man's narcissistic impulses and his bizarre claims that the election was stolen. Anything goes that will make it at the present. With wild accusations you can seize the moment in the media, but it won't stand in court, literally in this case. Yes, obviously it's not science, but politics, but unfortunately even scientific discourse can be hijacked in this way.

    Btw, making outrageous claims that won't hold up with longer scrutiny might be even the strategy when the audience doesn't remember or isn't interested to genuinely inform itself on the events, but just responses to the present day "outrage issue". Conspiracy theorists behave like this: when the outrageous isn't true and shown not to be true, you have already moved to the next outrageous claim.

    That about the tactics. Yet in truth a large part of these issues where science "gets attacked" are basically political issues. Or simply put it: when our policies are justified by scientific observations, then, unfortunately, science gets dragged into politics. The obvious way to be against the implemented policy is to be against the scientific observations.

    Science of course tries to be objective and the normative part (how things should be) isn't anymore so much about science but policy. And perhaps with the exception of creationism, which actually does inherently go against modern day science, usually all political sides do accept science. That is when science isn't made part of the so-called "Cultural War". And unfortunately again, it is. And that is very sad.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    3k
    I think one of the things that's getting mixed up here is the difference between the question "should we trust experts opinion?" (the answer is yes) and "should we trust the majority of experts over the minority of experts of the same education level?" the answer is no - by specifying that they're of the same education level we've removed (or severely limited) the one variable which had a link to 'rightness' (education level) so the remaining variables responsible for the within class variance may or may not be linked to 'rightness'.Isaac

    I get that. It's an interesting point, a reasonable point, but what kind of point is it?

    This is what I was trying to get at by asking whether we're even dealing with the same issue Plato does in the dialogues. What you're talking about is whether there is a statistical correlation between a person being a member of some group and their opinions on a particular subject being 'right'; that's an empirical question, approachable using the tools of modern science, which is the most obvious "something that's changed" between us and Plato.

    When Plato says

    Tell me: does this also apply to horses do you think? That all men improve them and one individual corrupts them? Or is quite the contrary true, one individual is able to improve them, or very few, namely, the horse breeders, whereas the majority, if they have horses and use them, corrupt them? — Apology, 25b

    is he making an empirical observation about the population of Athens and its horse breeders? That being a horse breeder is highly correlated with improving horses?

    I don't think so, and that he's not is one way of defining what's changed. You might see, in the practices of the horse breeder, something like nascent science: careful observation, predictions that are tested, some experimentation in training and treatment of ills. But is there, for the rest of Athens, something like a science of being a citizen? A science that would tell you, among other things, to trust the opinions of horse breeders when it comes to horses?

    That's a whole thing, but first of all it's a no, because even if there were such a science, telling you who to trust is not something science does. That's advice. Science at most would tell you there is, or isn't, a correlation. Can we make science do that? Could we set the terms to be correlated, or not, as "is a horse breeder" and "raises the sort of horses we like"?

    It looks to me like that's what we do much of the time. Science works at what it does, so we want to use its tools for everything we possibly can. We behave as if there's a "science of being a person". --- I've mentioned that I work in a bookstore, and thinking about expertise the last couple days I have looked around the store and seen experts everywhere. The novelists are experts on stories; the cookbook authors are experts on food; the self-help authors are experts on happiness; the religious authors are experts on God; the astrologers are experts on fate. Everyone's an expert.

    It's not like I don't see the appeal. If you take a largely instrumental view of intelligence, which I'm at least as tempted to do as the next guy, then you might as well be as scientific as you can. What you're headed for is just results in the form of conditionals in some special mood, imperative maybe: if you want to grow really nice tomatoes, then you should conduct as scientific a review as you can of the techniques of tomato-growers and adopt the most successful method. No one minds that there's no science in the antecedent. Publishers understand this so thoroughly that they even publish books with titles like, I shit you not, "Read this if you want to be Instagram famous". You do you; we've got the science to show you how.

    I'd like to talk about more about what Plato is saying and whether we ought to care, but instead I'll close by noting yet again the cross-purposes in this damn thread: one side (mostly that's just you @Isaac) is talking about this as an empirical question, and the other side (this would be you @Xtrix) sees all Isaac's talk as a shocking failure of citizenship. (I wander between camps and get two suppers.)
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