comment by Z._M._Davis ·
2008-06-29T17:19:00.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Eliezer wrote (to Angel):"If you can point out an exact specific moment where you were offended, we may be able to cross the gap and see this thing that is in your brain and not in ours. If you only tell us that you were offended, we can only guess." And: "Still if you have specific suggestions for 'things that male writers on rationality inadvertently do that turn off female readers', or even just 'Here's the exact sentence where I stopped reading', then I am, according to my own goals, interested."
I think I may be able to offer some potentially valuable insight here about the psychology of people who are shocked and horrified by talk of psychological sex differences, seeing as that I'm one of them. (Yes, beliefs that "can be destroyed by the truth should be," but that doesn't mean you have to love the world exactly the way it is right now.) For example, statements like this bother me:
"Among the controversial ideas I would propose, is that until men start thinking of themselves as men they will tend to regard women as defective humans."
Look, I get the point that sex differences exist, and that one mustn't regard others as defective versions of oneself--but, as you note in passing, "[w]hether or not [a psychological difference] is due to sex is ultimately irrelevant[.]" So one mustn't dismiss those who are skeptical or offended by the notion of sex differences as being simply blind, either. The fact is that there are a nontrivial number of people who are really, genuinely fed up with their gender role, or gender roles in general, without actually being transsexual. They don't want their sex to be a deep part of their self-identity, and I would vehemently contend that this is a valid preference. So talk of What Men Are Like and What Women Are Like sounds really obnoxious to these people: the first thought that comes to mind when they hear of some stereotype about their sex is: "But I'm not like that!"--usually followed by: "Therefore it can't be true." Bad epistemology, I know, but remember that no one is born Bayesian, and right now I'm just explaining the facts of the matter about what it feels like to be one of these people.
And so when these people read poorly-written stories in the mainstream media about deep, innate, immutable sex differences, it clashes with their internal experience, and a lot of them end up rejecting biologically-informed approaches to psychology altogether. Which is foolish, of course, but you can at least see why it happens.
We hear a lot about how men are after beautiful women, and women are after high-status men. And yes, this does seem to be a very common pattern. I'm a twenty-year-old heterosexual male; when people say that men are after sex, it's not as if I have no idea what they're talking about. I get it; believe me I get it. And yet--even so, I find this idea of romance as a resources-for-sex transaction unspeakably ugly. I conceive of romance as a relationship of mutual love and respect between unique individuals. There are those who say I can't really believe that, that I am only signaling--but the meme has to resonate with something within some people, or we'd never have heard of it in the first place.
By all means, lay out the facts of the matter: tell people what they are qua real-brain-in-a-real-universe. But please, please, Eliezer, and especially as a transhumanist, remember your post "Hypocrisy or Akrasia?" and stay far, far away from rhetoric that can be read to suggest that you know better than people what their substrate-independent-self-identity should be. Tell me that I'm male, and that that has nontrivial psychological consequences, but don't tell me I should think of myself as a man. It's a subtle distinction, I know, and maybe I need better words to express it, but it's terribly important. "The utility function is not up for grabs."Replies from: Zack_M_Davis
↑ comment by Zack_M_Davis ·
2013-02-06T04:22:28.201Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
So, the other day, there was this moment when the whole "adaptations in a sexually-reproducing species are universal up to sex, therefore women and men have different brain designs and therefore can't really understand each other" argument suddenly started to seem more reliable than my internal sense of "I know a few women I can have great conversations with, and I tend to despise ordinary American men who are proud of their masculinity, therefore psychological sex differences can't be all that important, even though I'm forced to admit that they exist because, you know, Science," because the word important in the latter proposition doesn't actually predict anything and therefore doesn't actually mean anything except insofar as other humans reading that sentence can use it to make predictions about the criteria I use to select actions. Categories are clusters in an extremely high-dimensional space; if you're motivated to believe that Category X and Category Y aren't really very different "along the dimensions that Really Matter," there's no amount of evidence that can change your mind, because you can just redefine what Really Matters to be the dimensions along which X and Y are in fact very similar.
(Thanks to Anna Salamon for discussion, and for visiting me in the hospital after I stayed up all night thinking about this and had a delusional mental breakdown.)