Newtonmas Meetup, 12/25/2010

post by Kevin · 2010-12-22T06:27:22.566Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 106 comments

There's a Less Wrong meetup at my house in Berkeley this Saturday, the 25th of December, at 6PM. Celebrate the winter season, the Solstice, and the birth of Sir Isaac Newton among friendly aspiring rationalists, including Eliezer and other SIAI staff and volunteers.

I will cook for everyone in the style I call "paleolithic gourmet" which is cooked meat and raw produce.

I'd like to satisfy everyone's preferences as reasonably as I possibly can without getting vastly more food than will be eaten.

Default menu:

Steak
Lamb Burgers
Bacon
Salad of Berkeley Bowl produce and parmesan
Grilled Portabello and chanterelle mushrooms
Cheese selection
Pita + hummus
Cookies

Feel free to bring a potluck dessert or if you like, an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage.

The food is free, but if you can afford to, in the spirit of Newtonmas, I suggest a $10 or $15 or $500 donation to SIAI (which will be matched). Please don't not come because you prefer not to pay; no one will be excluded from food or shunned for not paying. I really mean that. Consider the donation not an admission fee and more of a gentle nudge and reminder that optimal philanthropy starts around $10 and that you should positively associate giving money with the fuzzies of eating delicious food.

Please post here if you plan on attending and RSVP on Facebook. You can also post here or PM me with your thoughts on the menu and tell me what you want to eat the most of. I wasn't planning on cooking fish or chicken but can do so if people let me know they want fish or chicken or something else (like a carbohydrate).

My address is 1622 Martin Luther King Jr Way Apt A, Berkeley CA. It's the ground floor apartment around the side, not the upstairs one.

106 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by playtherapist · 2010-12-24T04:27:51.058Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Kevin, I think it's really nice of you to invite everyone and to elicit their food preferences. I live on the other coast, and have other plans. It looks to me like you have taken vegetarians into consideration. If I were invited to a party and was concerned that their was not going to be enough food that I could, or wanted to eat, I would offer to bring a dish of something that I wanted to eat- with enough to share.

Replies from: Kevin
comment by Kevin · 2010-12-24T13:28:45.897Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm pretty sure I heightened expectations of perfection by saying people should pay (not me) for eating. Speaking of which, people should lower their expectations, this thing is going to be as informal as it gets. Like... I'll have adequate seating for everyone but no dining room table. My place isn't exactly set up for a dinner party and this isn't a dinner party so much as an extremely informal party at my house that happens to also have delicious food being served.

Replies from: shokwave, playtherapist
comment by shokwave · 2010-12-24T14:31:04.915Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(which will be matched)

This statement of yours in the post (which IMO deserves more than a parenthetical) does more than enough to counter any link between quality of event and donation.

comment by playtherapist · 2010-12-24T13:46:07.610Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You might have heightened expectations, but I don't think it's realistic to expect that much. I belong to several nonprofit organizations that have meet ups with food and ask for a donation or admission charge Often it is expected for participants to bring a dish, in addition to making a donation. If invitees don't like the menu, they either usually bring something they do like tp share or don't com. If they do complain,they generally do so more discreetly or put a positive spin on it. For example, they might praise the organizers for a job well done and say they think a dinner organized around such and such dish or catered by, or held at, such and such restaurant would be great for the next event.

Replies from: MBlume
comment by MBlume · 2010-12-25T17:33:52.280Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If they do complain,they generally do so more discreetly or put a positive spin on it.

Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate

Replies from: playtherapist
comment by playtherapist · 2010-12-25T18:30:02.704Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting post. I agree that disagreement is productive and necessary for an organization to be effective. I know, however, that there are ways of disagreeing in a diplomatic way that lead to others being more likely to listen. Learning to be diplomatic takes practice, desire and good social skills. Diplomacy and social skills can be learned. By my post, I was suggesting ways one can be more diplomatic when the menu isn't to ones liking.

Replies from: MBlume
comment by MBlume · 2010-12-25T20:04:06.076Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, I'm not sure if it was clear, I was linking to agree with/amplify your point.

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-12-25T20:19:00.559Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It just occurred to me that, if this is an event to be held in honor of Isaac Newton, you should serve apples.

comment by lucidfox · 2010-12-22T10:06:22.461Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Newton's birthday is actualy January 4 in the Gregorian calendar.

Replies from: Kevin
comment by Kevin · 2010-12-22T10:07:06.082Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It seems obviously in the spirit of Christmas to celebrate someone's birthday on the arguably wrong date. :D

Replies from: lucidfox
comment by lucidfox · 2010-12-22T10:15:27.365Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Indeed, especially considering that the Russian Orthodox Church sticks to the Old Style date for Christmas, resulting in it celebrated on January 7. (The difference was 13 days in 1917, when Russia switched to Gregorian.)

Newton was also himself a Christian. I don't think there's a need to drag him into such an explicit spit in the face of religion.

Replies from: Kevin
comment by Kevin · 2010-12-22T10:38:05.890Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd rather not have an argument about playful alternative names for Christmas Day. Call it what you want, and hopefully we'll see you on Saturday.

Replies from: lucidfox
comment by lucidfox · 2010-12-22T10:49:51.477Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"You" here being a generic you? Because I fail to see how that statement can be addressed to me specifically, given that I live halfway across the globe in a different country that doesn't even celebrate Christmas on this day.

Replies from: Strange7, shokwave
comment by Strange7 · 2010-12-22T11:25:23.931Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

None of those issues are relevant to Kevin's willingness to share food with you, should you decide to attend.

comment by shokwave · 2010-12-22T16:14:41.468Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think User:Kevin assumed that if you were commenting on this post, you were interested in or considering attending. I don't think that assumption was particularly unwarranted; as of this post three people appear to agree.

comment by Raemon · 2010-12-23T20:06:00.435Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't live in the area, but if I did I would be offput that vegetarians weren't even considered. I have more to say on the topic but will do so in a separate thread.

Replies from: Kevin
comment by Kevin · 2010-12-23T23:47:38.435Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Salad of Berkeley Bowl produce and parmesan

Grilled Portabello and chanterelle mushrooms

Cheese selection

Pita + hummus

Cookies

Did you read the menu? I find it hard to believe that earnest vegetarians could be sincerely unhappy with that menu, but I accept that it could be made marginally better and I'm open to making or buying additional vegetarian food.

Replies from: Raemon
comment by Raemon · 2010-12-24T04:50:59.790Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Again, I'm not in the area so don't worry about my particular preferences. And I wouldn't exactly go home hungry with that menu. But those things are all stuff that I'd classify as a side dish rather than a main course. One of the hardest things about being vegetarian is not finding veggie-food period, but finding veggie food that has the satisfying substance of a main dish. (My experience anyway)

My preference would be a pasta, casserole or stew.

Replies from: Kevin
comment by Kevin · 2010-12-24T05:10:11.818Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

OK, thanks for telling me your preferences. I was trying to avoid carbs because I'm better at cooking protein. Counterfactual you can eat as many portabellos as you want though. They're $4.79/pound at the Berkeley Bowl.

Replies from: Raemon
comment by Raemon · 2010-12-24T05:17:15.978Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Heh. An additional individual quirk of mine is that I just don't like mushrooms (I'm trying to wean myself onto them, but it's slow going). I currently do eggs and dairy so the protein incentive isn't really there.

If I were a respectable vegetarian who ate mushrooms (I get heat from hardcore vegan friends for not liking them, as well as from incredulous omnivore friends operating off of vague stereotypes), then maybe I wouldn't have felt as excluded looking at the list. Dunno. I didn't quite care enough to comment until I saw Benthamite's reply and how that played out.

comment by multifoliaterose · 2010-12-23T03:10:24.312Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'll come; thanks for the invitation.

comment by mlinksva · 2010-12-22T21:09:47.426Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

optimal philanthropy starts around $10

What does this mean, assuming it isn't joke? I skimmed the articles linked from http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/3a2/100_for_the_best_article_on_efficient_charty_the/ and don't see an obvious argument that optimal philanthropy starts at some amount.

Replies from: JGWeissman, MBlume
comment by JGWeissman · 2010-12-22T22:48:22.485Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is a failure mode in which people will identify a cause they think is important, and, expecting some future increase in income, say they will donate lots of money when they can afford it, but never seem to decide that now is the time to start giving. The solution is that if you think you should give a lot when you can afford it, you should give a small amount that you can afford now, like around $10, and form the habit of giving what you can at any time, while you can still be working to increase your income and the amount you give.

comment by MBlume · 2010-12-22T22:44:51.800Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, it seems like if I wanted to donate, say, a quarter to Singinst (and I couldn't just hand it to Jasen next time I saw him), it probably wouldn't be worth our time to transfer the money.

Collecting money in one place that people are congregating at anyway would seem to obviate that, though, so I'm still confused.

comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2010-12-24T20:57:53.465Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Cannot attend on such short notice without hurting the feelings of the girlfriend (and no, she does not want to attend with me). Have fun.

comment by Kevin · 2010-12-24T00:40:06.154Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

By the way, since I didn't make it clear, a gathering at my place is extremely informal. Like, my house doesn't have a dining room, or a dining room table. Plan on holding your plate while you sit and eat unless you bring your own table or I improvise something or SIAI has some folding tables hidden somewhere.

comment by Clippy · 2010-12-22T15:55:04.592Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can't eat any of that.

Replies from: Kevin, David_Gerard
comment by Kevin · 2010-12-22T16:14:19.781Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was trying to elicit everyone's sincere preferences. For anyone else reading this that doesn't like the menu or has a slight preference for anything else, tell me what it is you want, not just that you are displeased.

Clippy, I really don't know what you like to eat, but I think I have some extra aluminum foil around.

comment by David_Gerard · 2010-12-22T16:15:39.767Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it's clear that SIAI need to order some Art Lebedev paperclips.

comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-23T15:54:30.693Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Steak, Lamb Burgers, Bacon

What ought one to think of a community that seeks to be "less wrong" and yet succumbs to such obvious forms of anthropocentric bias?

Replies from: Eliezer_Yudkowsky, TheOtherDave, Kevin, Kevin, gwern, Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2010-12-24T01:28:13.044Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(If you're wondering why this is being voted down, it's for a comment of the general form "Oh, how can you claim to be 'less wrong' and yet do X, which is wrong?" which will automatically get downvoted to oblivion. Someone else is welcome to explain why in more detail, I don't feel like putting in that effort at the moment.)

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T06:02:59.780Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the explanation. I don't think that any comment that fits that form should be "automatically [...] downvoted to oblivion", however. If members of this community organized a LW meeting but restricted entrance to e.g. whites or men, a comment analogous to mine would be appropriate. Appropriate comments should not be downvoted.

Replies from: orthonormal, shokwave
comment by orthonormal · 2010-12-25T19:37:22.979Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the discussion has gone off the rails here by arguing about the content of your opinions. It's almost certainly the signaling properties rather than the content that caused the initial downvotes. I predict that you're perfectly capable of writing a well-received animal-rights post here, and that this would perhaps get a few people to change to vegetarianism. (Contra Eliezer, you could even begin such a post by stating that eating meat goes against the proper extrapolation of our rationalist values, and still get upvoted.)

What you did here (from my perspective) was to overtly signal your moral superiority to the rest of us, in a context that wasn't devoted to this discussion. That behavior is characteristically downvoted to oblivion here (with a few exceptions- occasionally someone manages to do this wittily or trigger the right applause light; we're still human!).

I approve of this group norm- it leads to discussions with more substance than signaling. I hope you understand that we don't mean any disrespect to your ideas (well, most of us don't), and we'd be open to hearing your case on the issue.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini, Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T20:02:04.561Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate it.

What you did here (from my perspective) was to overtly signal your moral superiority to the rest of us, in a context that wasn't devoted to this discussion.

It was not my intention to signal my moral superiority to members of this community, many of whom I highly respect both morally and intellectually. Instead, I wanted to reflect on the fact that "even a community built around the goal of overcoming bias--and composed of members abnormally smart and truth-oriented--can be quite blatantly biased towards certain classes of beings," as I put it in a rejoinder to the original comment. I fully endorse what Kazuo Thow said in a (sympathetic) comment to David Pearce's Facebook wall:

Rather than taking this as an opportunity to feel like I'm better than much of the LW community, I'll instead reflect on ways that I could be doing that same kind of compartmentalization. Because if a whole community of people dedicated to rationality and self-improvement are suffering a belief-propagation-fail of that magnitude, I'm almost certainly missing something of comparable importance.

Of course, none of this was present in my original comment, so although I still believe a charitable reading of it should not have elicited such a hostile reaction, I am aware that I made things easier for those antecedently disinclined to reconsider their attitudes to non-human beings, by giving them an opportunity to dismiss my comments as coming from a self-righteous prig.

Replies from: orthonormal
comment by orthonormal · 2010-12-26T18:36:07.427Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, unfortunately bad karma can sort of snowball on Less Wrong; when I see a comment in the negative numbers, I instinctively read it (and downthread comments) in a "possibly trolling" light. I'm not sure what might be a good fix for this.

Anyway, I think that people would have given it the benefit of the doubt had it not appeared in a meetup thread. It's a general rule of etiquette that you don't start an intellectual argument where people are trying to set up a social gathering- it throws a monkey wrench in the works. Thus, when someone violates the norm, the first assumption is that they're intending to throw a monkey wrench.

(Yes, the beauty of threaded conversations is that something like this won't necessarily derail the social gathering. But the norm exists, and while it does it's smart to be aware of it.)

OK, this is enough meta discussion for me. I hope you make a top-level post so we can actually discuss the issues...

comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T20:09:42.253Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For the record, here's what I originally commented on David's wall. My comment here on LW was an excerpt from that comment:

Remember when Eliezer Yudkowsky claimed on that website [LW] that frogs are not subjects of moral concern? What ought one to think of a community that intends to be "less wrong" and yet succumbs to such obvious forms of anthropocentric bias?

(I ask this as a big fan of LW, and as someone puzzled by the fact that this community is composed of individuals who are abnormally intelligent and truth-oriented.)

Replies from: orthonormal
comment by orthonormal · 2010-12-26T18:43:25.886Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Again, we should find somewhere else to discuss this- but (if that's indeed Eliezer's quote) it couldn't be unthinking bias; the idea of moral concern universalized to all sentients was a big theme with Young Eliezer, if I recall correctly. Some further argument changed his mind, at least in the context of some pertinent query.

And I'm not among them, but there are a fair number of Less Wrongers who are vegetarians for ethical reasons.

comment by shokwave · 2010-12-25T06:44:17.601Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

restricted entrance to e.g. whites or men

The explanation: you seem to be assuming that consuming meat is on the order of wrongness of racism or sexism. That assumption is not shared here on LessWrong to a large degree; if you wish to explore it and determine why it isn't, and whether it should be, feel free. But simply assuming it is wrong, and gets downvoted as such. One should not assume the truth or falsity positions they wish to discuss, investigate, or instigate investigative discussion about.

In this way, assuming that anthropocentric bias should be corrected for with the cessation of meat consumption, and furthermore that the community as a whole has only anthropocentric bias to justify their meat-eating, and furthermore that this constitutes a failure to refine human rationality, is jumping the gun by leaps and bounds.

(I very nearly posted "What ought one to think of such a commenter that speaks bias yet labors under such misguided assumptions themselves?").

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T07:12:04.694Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The explanation: you seem to be assuming that consuming meat is on the order of wrongness of racism or sexism.

I'm assuming no such thing; I'm simply providing a counterexample to Eliezer's claim that any "comment of the general form 'Oh, how can you claim to be 'less wrong' and yet do X, which is wrong?' [...] will automatically get downvoted to oblivion."

Replies from: shokwave, Risto_Saarelma
comment by shokwave · 2010-12-25T13:09:20.552Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The explanation, that Eliezer did not feel inclined to offer, for why comments like that get downvoted, was what is given in my post, tailored to fit the actual situation. If you want a general explanation, here:

"How can you claim to be less wrong and do X, which is wrong" is downvoted because it assumes X is wrong, it assumes supporters of X have no justification for their view and hold it merely out of bias, and it assumes that this constitutes a failure on part of the LessWrong community as a whole.

Your comment there still presumes that meat-eating is wrong. LessWrong is a community full of people who will not take it on faith that you're right about this. We want to see some arguments laid out for this position, and as long as you keep restating it without said arguments, we will keep downvoting you.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini, wedrifid
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T14:58:44.018Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm sorry, but I believe you keep misinterpreting my replies, perhaps due to a failure to understand the dialectical structure of this little exchange. So let me try to make that structure clear. Eliezer first claimed that comments of a certain form would be automatically downvoted here at LW, and that my original comment was downvoted because it had that form. I offered in reply a hypothetical situation that involved overt discrimination against certain groups of people, and argued that a comment analogous to mine in reaction to that situation would not and should not be automatically downvoted. You then accused me of morally equating discrimination against such groups of people with the use of non-human animals for human consumption. I then in turn replied that the function of that counterfactual situation had nothing to do with arguing for why meat-eating is wrong, but was instead meant to provide a counterexample to Eliezer's generalization. Finally, in your most recent comment, you defend what you said in your previous post, stressing the fact that what you said was given as the explanation that Eliezer did not feel inclined to offer. But this is completely besides the point. The explanation that you gave took, as evidence that I was equating meat consumption with racism or sexism, the fact that I had used a situation involving racism and sexism as a reply to Eliezer, when as I have said already my having used that situation constitutes no such evidence.

Replies from: XiXiDu, shokwave
comment by XiXiDu · 2010-12-25T16:33:06.376Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Wrong in Less Wrong (LW) is referring to the objective ("mind-independent" or intersubjectively verifiable) failure, error, inconsistency, illogical argumentation, irrational behavior. You are wrong if you take the wrong, or simply less effective, path to reach your goal. LW is trying to improve your map so that you'll be able to find a better and more effective path. If you were perfectly aware of what you want, then with regard to your epistemic state, there would be the right thing to do. But LW does not claim to be right but merely less wrong. More importantly, LW does not tell you what you ought to want but rather how to figure out what you might actually want and how to obtain it. Therefore to ask how a group that claims to be less wrong can be doing X, which is wrong, implies that they not only claimed to be right, rather than just less wrong, but also that you know about their objectives and that X is the wrong way to reach them. It would be less wrong to argue that doing X is wrong given certain objectives but not that doing X is intrinsically wrong, that X is wrong in and of itself. After all people might simply want to do X or want to reach Z, X being the path leading up to Z.

I might call wedrifid morally bankrupt for eating meat simply because he likes bacon. But since I expect him to be aware of the consequences of eating meat I do not call him wrong. I'm only proclaiming that subjectively, from my point of view, he does have a poor taste. On the other hand, if I believed that he actually not only wanted to minimize suffering but that he also does assign more utility to reducing the death of beings than culinary considerations, I'd call him wrong for eating bacon just because it tastes good. I would call him wrong on the basis of failing to account for his true objectives in what he is actually doing. Yet I would not declare the activity of eating meat to be wrong itself but in the context of certain circumstances as a means to an end regarding his volition.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-25T17:04:42.199Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That is a brilliant explanation; It's a shame that it is buried here so deeply in a neg-filtered branch.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2010-12-25T20:28:11.643Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's possible to rescue a buried comment by quoting it in a new branch.

comment by shokwave · 2010-12-25T15:41:38.899Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Eliezer first claimed that comments of a certain form would be automatically downvoted here at LW,

First you claimed there was bias involved in eating animals. It is eminently reasonable to interpret your responses as being connected to that claim.

If I was in error, and you have no care at all about eating animals, and you merely wish to discuss Eliezer's claim, you are still wrong. Claims of that form should get automatically downvoted into oblivion because 99% of the time they are bullshit. The cost of rationally engaging with 99 bullshit claims of that form is higher than the loss of missing out on 1 correct claim.

That you can easily generate past examples of the 1% where they are not bullshit is not an argument for not downvoting such claims - any more than you easily generating examples of past lottery winners is an argument to play the lottery.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T16:17:27.207Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

First you claimed there was bias involved in eating animals. It is eminently reasonable to interpret your responses as being connected to that claim.

No, it isn't at all reasonable. My comment was a direct reply to Eliezer's and was explicitly addressed as an answer to his rationale for downvoting my comment. You need to make an effort to keep the separate strands of the debate separate, otherwise you'll misinterpret the structure of the different arguments.

If I was in error, and you have no care at all about eating animals

Wait, why does it follow from my saying you were in error that I had "no care at all about eating animals"?

That you can easily generate past examples of the 1% where they are not bullshit is not an argument for not downvoting such claims - any more than you easily generating examples of past lottery winners is an argument to play the lottery.

I didn't claim in this context that my ability to generate such examples was an argument for not downvoting such claims. I claimed that my ability to generate such examples was an argument for concluding that Eliezer's claim was false.

For my actual views on the appropriateness of downvoting such comments, see the other subthreads in this debate.

Replies from: shokwave
comment by shokwave · 2010-12-26T08:35:54.997Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is a prescriptive/descriptive divide here, and it does us no good to dance either side of it.

Descriptively:

Eliezer's claim that comments of that form will get downvoted may be factually incorrect, given that it's possible to, as you showed, create comments of that form that express sentiments most people would upvote.

The qualifier "almost" placed in front of his comment would suffice to cover these situations.

Prescriptively:

I don't think that any comment that fits that form should be "automatically [...] downvoted to oblivion"

is a prescriptive statement, and one which I attempted to explain was wrong.

We are tripping over this divide, and several different meanings of 'wrong'. Basically, we're making different distinctions to each other, and probably ascribing incorrect intentions to each other. Are there any other possible mismatches I haven't noticed?

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-25T14:49:18.727Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

LessWrong is a community full of people who will not take it on faith that you're right about this. We want to see some arguments laid out for this position, and as long as you keep restating it without said arguments, we will keep downvoting you.

Although this is not necessarily something on which arguments should (in the rational sense) persuade me. The most such arguments can do to rationally persuade me is demonstrate how eating meat transgresses against my values in a way that I had not fully processed. If the disagreement is a matter of having different terminal preference then nothing that someone could say would be persuasive.

"Wrong" in "Less Wrong" means 'incorrect', not 'morally objectionable'.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T15:14:01.968Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Wrong" in "Less Wrong" means 'incorrect', not 'morally objectionable'.

Yes, exactly. Eliezer characterized the form of my comment in a way that suggested I was exploiting the ambiguity of the term 'wrong', when in fact I was giving that term the same meaning it has in the locution 'less wrong'. If the site's name had been 'Less Incorrect', I would still have written

What ought one to think of a community that seeks to be "less incorrect" and yet succumbs to such obvious forms of anthropocentric bias?

Replies from: nshepperd, wedrifid
comment by nshepperd · 2010-12-25T15:33:26.105Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was under the impression the stated (by Eliezer) problem was that "X is wrong" is a simple assertion, which is almost certain to change no-one's mind.

  • Q: "Why are you doing X, when X is obviously wrong?"
  • A: "Uh.. because it's not? Why do you think X is wrong?"

Of course it also has connotations of "What are you, some kind of hypocrite?", which isn't exactly helpful either.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini, Vaniver
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T16:05:23.637Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was under the impression the stated (by Eliezer) problem was that "X is wrong" is a simple assertion, which is almost certain to change no-one's mind.

Reconsider the comment to the hypothetical LW meeting I imagined. Do you really believe such a comment would be "downvoted to oblivion"? Yet that comment is also a simple assertion.

Of course it also has connotations of "What are you, some kind of hypocrite?", which isn't exactly helpful either.

These are the kinds of social rules that I was thinking of when I claimed such rules sometimes hinder moral progress. Users on this forum should not, I believe, refrain from calling people hypocrites if that accusation is relevant and supported by what they take to be the best evidence. Having said that, I wasn't actually accusing anyone of hypocrisy--just inconsistency.

(If one does think that the breach of social rules should be downvoted and is also the target of the critique, one is more likely to misinterpret the critique as a breach of a social rule and downvote accordingly, as you just did. This is another reason for disregarding considerations of social etiquette altogether.)

Replies from: nshepperd, Eugine_Nier
comment by nshepperd · 2010-12-25T16:57:12.548Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Reconsider the comment to the hypothetical LW meeting I imagined. Do you really believe such a comment would be "downvoted to oblivion"?

If the prevailing belief was that whites/men are somehow inherently superior to everyone else, then yes. Otherwise it would be a simple assertion everyone happens to agree with, and hence probably less likely to attract their ire.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T17:03:03.075Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Otherwise it would be a simple assertion everyone happens to agree with, and hence probably less likely to attract their ire.

Then it wouldn't be so downvoted, as Eliezer claimed comments of this form would.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2010-12-27T23:26:19.245Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Users on this forum should not, I believe, refrain from calling people hypocrites if that accusation is relevant and supported by what they take to be the best evidence.

Well, your comment didn't bother to provide any evidence.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2011-01-04T06:33:05.209Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why should it? As I said, "I wasn't actually accusing anyone of hypocrisy--just inconsistency."

comment by Vaniver · 2010-12-25T15:48:53.590Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Of course it also has connotations of "What are you, some kind of hypocrite?", which isn't exactly helpful either.

I think you mean denotations, in this case.

comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-25T15:33:43.316Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, exactly. Eliezer characterized the form of my comment in a way that suggested I was exploiting the ambiguity of the term 'wrong', when in fact I was giving that term the same meaning it has in the locution 'less wrong'. If the site's name had been 'Less Incorrect', I would still have written

Eliezer's reply works either way. You would still be downvoted for the version given this time. Perhaps Shockwave's answer would be helpful for you?

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T15:56:10.412Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, Eliezer's reply would not work, because it falsely asserts that any comment of a form which he claimed my comment fitted would be downvoted, when in fact there are comments that have that form which would and should not be downvoted, as I think we would all agree.

Shockwave's answer wasn't helpful; see my latest reply to him.

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-25T17:00:23.269Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you wish to get a different response from your comments then identify something that you can change such that the response is more desirable. Any explanations you are provided with may or may not be useful for you but they are provided as a courtesy not an obligation.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T17:37:46.753Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Any explanations you are provided with may or may not be useful for you but they are provided as a courtesy not an obligation

I never said Eliezer's reply wasn't "useful" to me; I just claimed it was premised on a false generalization. I appreciate his comments, as I appreciate those of every other person who took the time to discuss things with me, but having this appreciation is no reason for me to abstain from pointing out factual or reasoning errors as I see them. The fact that such comments are not provided as a an obligation is neither here nor there; all comments in this forum are, in the relevant sense, "courtesy".

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2010-12-25T07:57:39.871Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The comment basically said "quibbling about the site name is annoying rhetoric, please don't use it when arguing your point". I don't think it took a stance on your actual argument, and you seem to be responding to it as if it did.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T09:09:13.034Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is getting a bit tedious, but I don't think that was what Eliezer's comment said; if it was, then it simply misdescribed my own comment. I wasn't "quibbling about the site name"; I was --to repeat myself once more-- noting the inconsistency between the purpose of the site and the practice of some of its members. The site could have any other name and my comment would still stand, mutatis mutandis.

Replies from: Risto_Saarelma
comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2010-12-25T11:24:04.410Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And you went and conflated ethics, which you were talking about, with epistemics, which the site is mostly about, both of which "wrong" incidentally applies to in everyday speech. Which happens to be the sort of thing people are especially twitchy about here.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T15:07:07.396Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm sorry, but I did no such thing. My comment could have been restated as follows:

What ought one to think of a community that seeks to be overcome bias and yet succumbs to such obvious forms of anthropocentric bias?

See what I said in reply to wedrifid for further clarification.

Replies from: Eugine_Nier
comment by Eugine_Nier · 2010-12-27T23:32:13.531Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd still downvote you for making a controversial and inflammatory statement in a way that presumes it's obvious without providing any evidence.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2010-12-24T05:04:04.184Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure what one ought to think of such a community. What do you think of it?

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T06:11:17.114Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think that, in this particular instance, it has failed to live up to its own stated purpose.

comment by Kevin · 2010-12-26T00:21:32.205Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's a reason that everyone is an aspiring rationalist. Eating meat is the the thing I do regularly that most goes against my prescribed values, but I just don't care about my personal blip of generated suffering when 10-15 years from now vat grown meat should cause a veritable singularity of vegetarianism.

Replies from: ata
comment by ata · 2010-12-26T00:55:04.215Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Have you tried being a vegetarian? It's pretty easy in Berkeley.

comment by Kevin · 2010-12-23T23:49:21.806Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

See http://lesswrong.com/lw/ei/essayquestion_poll_dietary_choices/1i8a for my thoughts on that matter.

That means that I have seriously thought about animal suffering, yet reaffirmed my decision to eat meat, which means that I just don't care enough about animal suffering as much as I think I do.

comment by gwern · 2010-12-23T15:59:50.948Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nothing anthropocentric about it. We're not eating Clippy, after all. Pigs, cows, sheep - all stupider than us and of less moral consequence.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-23T16:08:24.048Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Who is "us", gwern?

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2010-12-23T17:51:00.595Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Either the community you are diagnosing with biases or humanity in general; they both work for my statement. Asking which is not useful.

And you wonder why you aren't being upvoted for your oh-so-hip contrarianism...

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-23T18:11:10.718Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some humans are stupider than some pigs, cows, or sheep. Would it be okay to eat them?

The question I asked is useful, I believe, because the two listed interpretations of 'us' do not exhaust the relevant alternatives, and because the argument would have a different structure under some of the alternatives not listed.

I'm sorry if my comment sounded contrarian. It wasn't written in that spirit, as I tried to explain in a more recent comment.

Replies from: ArisKatsaris, gwern, prase
comment by ArisKatsaris · 2010-12-23T18:40:10.317Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Would it be okay to eat them?"

It would cause sufficient emotional harm to their loved ones that I would argue against it. But I wouldn't condemn as inherently immoral a society that considered it acceptable to feast on the flesh of their departed loved ones. What would be immoral would be to kill people for their flesh.

I rather think you need clarify your own position. Is your position that eating animal flesh is immoral, or that killing animals for their flesh is immoral? Is killing animals for their flesh less or more immoral than letting other animals kill them for their flesh?

What's morally better, to eat a sheep, or to let a wolf eat a sheep? In both cases, a sheep gets eaten, but the first case pleases the belly of a human, the latter pleases the belly of a wolf. What's better, to make a human happy or to make a wolf happy?

Also I think you're confusing emotional bias with cognitive bias. I freely admit I'm emotionally biased in favor of humanity, compared to animals. This will govern my goals and utility functions. It isn't the same as cognitive bias, thinking the world is other than it actually is.

comment by gwern · 2010-12-23T19:17:10.597Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some humans are stupider than some pigs, cows, or sheep.

You refer of course to human vegetables and the like. I don't consider them morally human except inasmuch as they may cease to be vegetables in the future and whatnot; nor do I consider abortion to be murder, on the same psychological criteria of personhood. If there were a cow as smart as your average adult, then I would regard eating them as murder.

On the general question of 'not whether they can speak but whether they can suffer' (a quote that ought to be familiar to someone with a username like yours), I regard the evil of being eaten as less than the evil of never having been born. Since the billions of chickens and cattle and whatnot would never come into existence if it weren't for meat-eating, I don't regard them as having been wronged or a net source of suffering.

These are all old, practically hackneyed, arguments and considerations in this area of morality. Do you have anything new or especially interesting to say?

Replies from: TobyBartels, Raemon
comment by TobyBartels · 2010-12-23T19:34:18.905Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I regard the evil of being eaten as less than the evil of never having been born

I've never understood this evil of never having been born. Vegetarianism aside, does this mean that you promote the increase of the human population as much as possible? Should well-off people try to sire or bear a new child every two years at minimum?

(I know, this is still off topic. And hackneyed. I would RSVP if I lived near Berkeley.)

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2010-12-23T20:59:50.274Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've never understood this evil of never having been born.

Never having been born means one can't benefit from one's life, I would point out. If the animals we eat are not suffering terribly each moment, that means they have good moments or great ones where they are happy to be alive; enough of these to counterbalance death, and their life is a net gain to them.

One is free to argue that their death or portions of their life are so cruel and filled with suffering that their lives are not actually a net gain, but this is a difficult argument to make and implausible except for a few cases. (For example, veal.)

More intelligent animals (humans) usually judge their lives worth living even under conditions of outright torture and rarely commit suicide; if that is so with all their tastes and aspirations and expectations, why would we expect less intelligent animals to have higher standards?

Vegetarianism aside, does this mean that you promote the increase of the human population as much as possible?

I don't know. It's an active question (which actually I think Hanson has discussed in the past because wealthy 1st Worlders could reproduce a lot more than they do): http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/repugnant-conclusion/

Besides the utilitarian questions, there are practical factual questions - eg. how much does economic growth depend on the demographic transition and holding down the human population?

Replies from: sfb, TobyBartels
comment by sfb · 2010-12-23T21:55:19.284Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Never having been born means one can't benefit from one's life,

This seems as much a mis-answer as the saying "someone lost their life", as if the someone and the life are separable.

"One can't benefit from one's life if one isn't born" implies that one exists before one is born - that there is a "person" (a specific person) hanging around somewhere real, waiting to be born. This is not the case. A child is born and it's neural patterns arrange themselves into a person.

Before a child is born, there is no real extant thing, anywhere, posessing the attribute "lack-of-benefitting-from-it's-possible-future-life".

(Similarly, you cannot ask what it would be like if you were born in another country, or born in 1750, or born to a wealthier family, because that style of question makes the same mistake of getting the order of the wrong way around).

There isn't any X to satisfy the sentence "X is not being born", so "not being born" isn't evil. [Edit: I suppose, unless you class miscarriages or abortions, but I think the point still holds because that still carries the same misconception of a whole "you" within the unborn cell cluster somewhere].

comment by TobyBartels · 2010-12-26T08:50:27.890Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for your reply. I mostly agree with sfb (sibling to this comment), although I wouldn't classify your statement as an error (as sfb seems to do). It certainly doesn't match my values, however. (I find the Repugnant Conclusion truly repugnant, and happily its hypotheses are not met.)

Anyway, I hope that the party was enjoyable (if you went).

comment by Raemon · 2010-12-23T20:00:24.538Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't live in the area, but if I did I would be put off that vegetarianism didn't seem to even be considered. I'll discuss that more in a separate post.

comment by prase · 2010-12-23T18:31:44.017Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Where would you draw the boundary, and why? Is eating insects OK? Flatworms? Jellyfish?

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-23T18:52:19.471Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would draw the boundary at sentience, because there is no moral disagreement about the intrinsic badness of (undeserved) pain. That we are currently uncertain about where exactly sentience begins in the animal kingdom does not constitute an objection to the moral argument; nor is that empirical uncertainty relevant in this context, since no reasonable person would deny that pigs, cows and sheep are all sentient beings.

Replies from: prase
comment by prase · 2010-12-24T11:27:18.501Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

We may be actually more uncertain about what sentience is rather than where it begins. It could belong to the "free will" category of concepts.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T06:07:53.840Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If that's what you think about the concept of sentience, fine; I can restate my reply without using that concept. I would draw the boundary at the ability to experience the sensation of "liking", as that term is operationally defined by Kent Berridge.

comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-23T17:30:55.030Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find it rather disheartening that my comment received five downvotes in less than an hour. Perhaps it was badly received because it came across as rude to many people. If so, let me be clear that I didn't mean to criticize LW as such, but instead to point out that even a community built around the goal of overcoming bias--and composed of members unusually smart and truth-oriented--can be quite blatantly biased towards certain classes of beings. Given that even very honest and able people have exhibited similar biases in the past (men against women; slave owners against slaves), one would expect lesswrongers not to dismiss such criticisms so quickly.

I would appreciate it if those who still believe that my comment is worthy of downvoting could add a brief comment explaining why this is so. Thanks.

Replies from: jimrandomh, David_Gerard
comment by jimrandomh · 2010-12-23T18:03:45.784Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you wish to raise the moral considerations of eating meat as a topic, then do so (a) directly, (b) with a minimum of hostile social signals, and (c) in a new post. The impression I get from your comment is that it was optimized to maximize perceived hostility. It is also off-topic.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-23T18:30:43.378Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Rather than engaging in a merits-based discussion of the various claims you make about my post, I propose to assess those claims by means of an analogy. Suppose that a community relevantly similar to LW existed in the US two-hundred years ago, and that one of its members announced a meeting in which slaves would be in various ways exploited to benefit participants. Suppose further that in discussing this announcement someone made a brief critical comment noting the tension between the stated purpose and the actual practice of this imagined community. Suppose finally that this comment was met with much hostility from members of that community. Do you think a reply analogous to yours would be a proper justification of that hostile reaction?

Replies from: David_Gerard, jimrandomh
comment by David_Gerard · 2010-12-23T20:22:26.035Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Suppose that a community relevantly similar to LW existed in the US two-hundred years ago, and that one of its members announced a meeting in which slaves would be in various ways exploited to benefit participants.

No, no. If you want to make this comparison, the laws of narrative causality mean you have to set it in Berlin in 1938.

comment by jimrandomh · 2010-12-23T18:44:39.722Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you think a reply analogous to yours would be a proper justification of that hostile reaction?

Yes, it would. In your analogy, your comment would have hindered the goal of promoting emancipation, not helped it. If you wish to change people's minds, there are social rules which you must observe, and being on the right side of an argument does not excuse failing to follow them.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-23T19:04:09.948Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I disagree: much social progress was hindered precisely by observance of such social rules. It also seems to me that you and those who agree with your comment would not be so quick to condemn the social critic in my analogy if it had not been presented in the context of the present argument. It's like those who are prepared to say that they would eat human babies and cognitively disabled people only because they would otherwise be forced to admit that their case for eating meat lacks consistency.

Replies from: jimrandomh
comment by jimrandomh · 2010-12-23T19:13:31.965Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I disagree: much social progress was hindered precisely by observance of such social rules.

You have to make at least a little bit of an effort before you can play the help-help-I'm-being-repressed card. Write your arguments as an essay, polish it, and post it at the top level. You shouldn't expect a serious debate on the Christmas party logistics thread.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-23T19:57:47.392Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I never attempted to play the "help-help-I'm-being-repressed card", since I'm manifestly not being repressed. (It's unclear to me why you actually thought that I was trying to play that card.) Nor did I "expect a serious debate" about the arguments against eating meat on this thread. As I have said already, I was instead simply noting an instance of how even members of a community organized around the goal of overcoming bias can themselves be blatantly biased against certain other beings.

Replies from: ata, Kevin
comment by ata · 2010-12-24T00:53:25.208Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As I have said already, I was instead simply noting an instance of how even members of a community organized around the goal of overcoming bias can themselves be blatantly biased against certain other beings.

I don't think you've established that this is bias. First, clarify what you mean by "bias" — you seem to be using it more in the colloquial sense of prejudice, while here it's used in a different and more technical sense. Do you claim that this is an instance of a particular cognitive bias, or that it is an unjustified prejudice (which, surely, should also be overcome) based on something like unconsidered anthropocentrism? If the latter, you need to specifically justify the implication that most non-vegetarians here haven't actually thought about the morality of eating meat, and are just going by a default lack of concern for different-looking entities. (Do you think that many LWers would eat Yoda?) I suspect that many among us (as in Kevin's comment below) have considered the question much more deeply than John Q. Omnivore has.

Or if you simply want to argue that their moral reasoning is faulty or based on false factual beliefs, just say that, and say how; that's much more useful then a blanket accusation of "bias". (In general, it's bad argument to tell people that they're being "biased" or "irrational", particularly on a site where everyone is well-acquainted with the more obvious and/or well-documented forms of systematic irrationality. It's too fully general. If someone is wrong, stay at the object level and just tell them what they're wrong about and what you think you know that you think they don't know.)

comment by Kevin · 2010-12-24T00:36:26.584Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're underestimating how seriously many of us have taken our decisions to be meat eaters. All the animal suffering is not something I take that lightly.

Replies from: wedrifid, Jordan
comment by wedrifid · 2010-12-24T02:39:26.972Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're underestimating how seriously many of us have taken our decisions to be meat eaters.

I for one seriously like bacon. Mmm. Crispy, salty, fatty deliciousness.

Replies from: XiXiDu
comment by XiXiDu · 2010-12-24T12:54:01.142Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I for one seriously like bacon. Mmm. Crispy, salty, fatty deliciousness.

Me too, but I am a vegetarian anyhow, since the age of 13. I'll get back to bacon once in vitro meat is becoming commercially obtainable.

comment by Jordan · 2010-12-24T09:15:54.623Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Indeed. I prefer organic free range as much for its effect on my own health as for the ethical issues of how animals should be treated.

Some meat eaters (unfortunately I'm not one of them, as I can't always afford free range) are responsible for less animal cruelty than many vegetarians. The state of typical egg farms is horrible.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T16:39:02.777Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is really off-topic, but I just wanted to say I agree with your comments about eggs. Indeed, according to Alan Dawrst's estimates, consumption of eggs produces much more suffering than does consumption of any animal product other than fish.

That said, the main objection I have against consuming such products is not the suffering caused by consumption, but the promotion of the meme that non-human animal suffering doesn't matter, or matters less, than human suffering does. I believe this is also Alan's position.

comment by David_Gerard · 2010-12-25T09:30:25.359Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would appreciate it if those who still believe that my comment is worthy of downvoting could add a brief comment explaining why this is so. Thanks.

God forbid someone should dare offer to go to the effort of making and providing free food at their expense without it being the food you personally prefer.

I would suggest you got downvoted for several reasons, breathtaking rudeness definitely amongst them.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T15:47:36.679Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

David, let's assume for the sake of argument that my comment was rude. Do you think rudeness as such is a valid reason for downvoting? Personally, when giving or withdrawing karma here at LW I try to focus on the relevance, importance, clarity and truth-content of comments and posts, disregarding how 'nice' or 'rude' the user appears to be. In any case, I try not to be rude in discussion because I know that even those who share my policy generally need to make an extra effort to overcome the initial dislike they experience in the presence of a rude commenter.

I object to your characterization of my reaction as based on meat not being the food I "personally prefer". Meat is rather the food that I believe is wrong to eat.

Replies from: Vaniver
comment by Vaniver · 2010-12-25T15:51:07.431Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you think rudeness as such is a valid reason for downvoting?

Yes. Enough by itself? Well, as you point out several things go into whether or not a comment gets voted up or down. But rudeness is definitely in the "down" column. Add in one or two more ingredients, and you get -7.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T16:22:31.684Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Don't you think there is a risk that attaching relevance to rudeness in this way provides an easy excuse for dismissing comments that might be worth taking seriously? Especially when the comments in question challenge established social practices that many people are unwilling to change and who as such are naturally predisposed to see rudeness even in comments that are not actually rude or weren't intended to be.

Replies from: Vaniver
comment by Vaniver · 2010-12-25T17:38:44.916Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Don't you think there is a risk that attaching relevance to rudeness in this way provides an easy excuse for dismissing comments that might be worth taking seriously?

Of course I do. But I think that risk is made minimal by requiring several factors- rudeness is strike 1, and making it up to strike 3 to get called out requires two other infractions. That means that some arguments will be out that wouldn't be if we didn't measure rudeness, but the marginal comments are two-strike arguments that are rude; we're looking at pretty low value, here.

weren't intended to be.

This is actually the strongest argument for downvoting things for being rude- instead of letting people continue to unknowingly behaving in a way that reflects poorly on them, you make it explicit to them that their behavior is winning them no friends. They have an opportunity to practice losing gracefully, rewrite their argument to be superior, and clear up their thinking with regards to the issue.

Replies from: Pablo_Stafforini
comment by Pablo (Pablo_Stafforini) · 2010-12-25T17:51:14.308Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

instead of letting people continue to unknowingly behaving in a way that reflects poorly on them

I think this whole discussion about rudeness keeps oscillating between the claim that rude behavior is socially inappropriate and that such behavior is objectionable from the point of view of truth-seeking. The quote above is a case in point: you say that the "strongest argument" for downvoting rude comments is that it "reflects poorly on" commenters. But rudeness reflects poorly on someone socially and not (except in an indirect sort of way) epistemically. I see no reason for thinking that a community of people devoted to refining the art of human rationality should assume the task of punishing others for saying things that would reflect poorly on them as social creatures.

I also note (again) that there is sometimes a tension between doing what is socially appropriate and what is epistemically appropriate. Thus, there is a social norm against questioning people's motives in the context of a debate or discussion; but quite often there is sufficient evidence that such motives are questionable, and in many of these cases questioning these motives is what concern for truth would require. I think a community of truth-seekers should make a special effort to keep these two different sense of propriety apart, in order to prevent social norms from interfering with the quest for truth. After all, such norms were selected for their tendency to promote social harmony rather than human knowledge.

Replies from: Vaniver
comment by Vaniver · 2010-12-25T23:49:36.469Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The quote above is a case in point: you say that the "strongest argument" for downvoting rude comments is that it "reflects poorly on" commenters.

I apologize if I was unclear: upvotes and downvotes exist to signal to two different groups: the authors of comments, and the readers of comments. To the first group they have pedagogical value ("ok, I should be posting X and should refrain from posting Y") and to the second group they have predictive value ("hmm, karma too low? I don't think I'll waste my time").

And so my argument is that if someone posts statement Z and doesn't realize that statement Z is rude, then a downvote (preferably coupled with a polite "try being less rude" comment) is the best thing for them pedagogically, since it helps them improve their ability to articulate themself. If they know they're being rude but think it helps make their point, that's one thing- but if it's from ignorance, even ignorance of social customs, then that's something we generally try to fix around here.

And, in case you're wondering, this is the sort of thing that happens to everyone. If one of EY's comments approaches the issue the wrong way, it will get voted down.

I see no reason for thinking that a community of people devoted to refining the art of human rationality should assume the task of punishing others for saying things that would reflect poorly on them as social creatures.

Rational agents should WIN. Winning often involves social interaction (especially if your goal is to persuade others).

I also note (again) that there is sometimes a tension between doing what is socially appropriate and what is epistemically appropriate.

This looks like a false dilemma. It's not "do I point out their hypocrisy or not?"- there are two separate questions, "do I raise this issue?" and "how do I raise it?". You seem to be under the impression that the only way to raise this issue is rudely, and it's better to be rude than not raise the issue. I strongly disagree; there are very many ways you could approach the issue with a little patience and get much farther than you did. For example, you could say something like "I'm curious about your justification for eating meat; would you mind telling me it?" or "Is vegetarianism an issue that's come up here before? There seems to be a lot about moral reasoning and that seems as appropriate a question as any."

Tact is a rather valuable skill, both at convincing others of their errors and leaving yourself in a social position where you can admit your errors. Both are valuable tools when it comes to refining human rationality.