Beginning of Infinity Website Removed in Protest
This website promoted David Deutsch’s book The Beginning of Infinity (BoI). David was my friend, mentor and colleague. I helped with drafts of BoI for seven years (I wrote over 200 pages of suggestions, comments and edits to help with the book). At David’s request, I made and owned this BoI website and the BoI Google Groups forum.
I’ve taken this site down in protest due to David’s role in harassment against me. I’ve been harassed by his fans and he lied about me. They’ve disrupted my blog, forums, and ability to discuss with other intellectuals online.
I also discovered many misquotes in BoI which, alone, would be enough reason for me to stop actively promoting BoI.
The story in short: David (and his Taking Children Seriously co-founder Sarah) created an online community which I was part of, but then he left after 15 years. Now he has a second fan community, which is harassing the first community. The harassment is primarily targeted at me, presumably because I’m now the leader of the older community. One of the motives some people have communicated is that they see me as David’s enemy.
The harassment has persisted for years, and has included dozens of fake identities (some maintained for months), hundreds of harassing messages from over one hundred IP addresses, stalking me to other websites to disrupt my conversations there, DDoSing, impersonation, threats, spam, plagiarism, libel, fraud and doxxing. Some of that is illegal (I am not a lawyer; I’ve presented evidence; judge for yourself).
David has been unwilling to ask his fans to stop, to discuss the matter privately or publicly, to explain himself, to dispute any of the evidence, to state a grievance he has against me, or to offer any terms for truce. I’d be willing to do conflict resolution through proxies or associates (David’s, mine or both) but he’s been unwilling to do that.
When asked to tell his fans to stop harassing, David not only refused, but turned it around and lied to attack the victim (me) which justified and encouraged additional harassment. His lie is damaging to my reputation and it seems likely that he’s said it to other people privately. Rather than deescalate, he choose to openly join in the harassment himself by smearing me. He hasn’t retracted his lie, nor has he denied circulating it privately so that harassers believed it and were motivated by it. This is despite me posting documentation that he’s lying. (I understand David’s lie to be libel and defamation, but I don’t have the resources to stop it. I am not a lawyer and you can read what he said at the link, along with the actual facts, and judge for yourself.)
I finally gave up and closed the comments on my blog – after 18 years and over 20,000 comments – due to being unable to deal with the harassment there. I’ve also been harassed at Reddit, Less Wrong, Twitter, Facebook, Google Groups, Basecamp, YouTube, Discord and Slack. They won’t leave me alone.
David hasn’t argued that he isn’t involved or explained why his actions are OK. He hasn’t said which facts or claims he accepts or denies, presented his own account of events, or argued that my account is false. He hasn’t denied gossiping negatively about me, nor said what he’s doing to avoid crossing the line into unacceptable behavior. He hasn’t given an innocent explanation for the links between the harassment and his social circle.
David hasn’t taken steps to distance himself from the problem or to reduce the harm being done. He hasn’t stated that he’s opposed to harassment in general or to any of the harassing actions by his fans against me. He hasn’t blocked the worst harasser on Twitter, and keeps tweeting with him. David won’t do anything to delegitimize the harassment. Many of David’s friends and associates behave similarly or worse. David won’t even pay lip service to saying that I’m not his enemy or that I shouldn’t be harassed.
David also hasn’t disowned the subreddit for The Beginning of Infinity, which was created by the worst harasser. Nor has David disowned a nasty message posted under the name “David Deutsch” (I believe it was impersonation, which is something that ought to concern David). I think some of David’s fans have taken his behavior as a signal that he wants me harassed, and he’s refused to deny wanting me harassed.
I’ve documented the harassment, provided extensive evidence, and explained what’s going on. The response has been a mix of silence and more harassment. David is more powerful and influential than me, and has more support and resources, so there isn’t much I can do besides speak truth to power and hope that reasonable people listen. I’ve tried to put up with things, ignore things for months, privately ask for a peaceful resolution, publicly ask for a peaceful resolution, etc. In the past, David spent thousands of hours discussing with me, but now he’s stonewalling all attempts at deescalation.
I have the right to be left alone, not harassed for years. My rights are being violated, and I think David is the root cause of the problem. David needs to take appropriate steps to reign in his toxic community, and needs to retract his lie about me.
If you’d like to help, please ask David and his community about the problem, criticize them and complain, but don’t harass them in return. Maybe David will stop his bad behavior if people complain. David’s public email address is [email protected] and his Twitter is @DavidDeutschOxf.
— Elliot Temple, July 2021 (my philosophy work)
Update, Sept 2021: No efforts have been made the stop or reduce the harassment, and it has continued. And I've been provided with documentation, from multiple sources, that David played a larger role than I knew: he personally contacted people in my community and tried to turn them against me, in writing (it wasn't just his direct associates who did that as I previously knew about). So I'm sharing additional information to show people that David is jerk who is capable of leading a harassment campaign and spending his time being mean, because people who don't know him personally seem doubtful of that. (In source links below, chats are displayed using Past for iChat.)
2011-05-12: David Deutsch called Sam Harris “gullible as a sheet of paper” and said Harris’ writing about meditation has no meaning (“meaning is there none”). David then went on Harris’s podcast, twice, and acted friendly. Source.
2008-06-20: David Deutsch insulted Richard Dawkins. “Dawkins should write his God stuff under a pseudonym. (And his political stuff on toilet paper and just flush it.)” David based one of four strands in his first book on Dawkins’ work and has had friendly conversations with Dawkins in person. Source.
2009-03-11: David Deutsch says Scott Aaronson is “not a serious thinker. He’s just a mathematician with delusions of competence (and indeed authoritay) in philosophy, politics etc.” Source. And on 2010-04-06, he mocked Aaronson as someone he really wouldn’t want to be Facebook friends with. Source.
2003-04-26: David Deutsch attacked Rafe Champion (a Popper scholar whose work David is currently recommending) as both “insane” and “anti-Semitic”. Then David was friendly to Champion in emails (I saw some of them) for at least the next nine years. Source.
2008-06-25: David Deutsch insulted Thomas Szasz (author of The Myth of Mental Illness) saying he “only knows two things, maybe three.” Deutsch also mocked Szasz’s accent. Previously, Deutsch met Szasz in person, was respectful to his face, and got his copy of Szasz’s book The Second Sin signed by Szasz in 1988 (Deutsch still had the signed book in 2012). Source.
2010-10-01: David Deutsch was involved in meetings to set up a proposed “Future Technology Institute” with other senior members including Nick Bostrom who heads the Future of Humanity Institute. Deutsch mocked the others: “They are scared that AIs may go rogue and fill the world with paper clips. They are more scared of this sort of accident than of bad governments using AI as a weapon.” He also accused them of being pandering social-climbers (and confessed to being that himself): “Mostly we were all trying to impress the sponsor with our cleverness and depth. So nothing has actually happened yet.” Source.
2008-06-20: David Deutsch says Daniel Dennett’s ideas “are about as good as a rottweiler’s”. This is extra insulting because David believes dogs aren’t intelligent at all and don’t have ideas. He believes the animal rights movement is an error because animals are literally 100% incapable of thinking, having any emotion or suffering. In my experience, David often ridicules animals and uses them in jokes and negative comments. Source.
If you'd like to help, please share this information.