Beware The Believer, or a study in depth of recursion

post by Raw_Power · 2011-07-30T20:37:56.890Z · score: 3 (15 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 18 comments

I submit to the good people of Less Wrong this wonderful video. Is it a parody of scientifism? A parody of creationist parodies of scientifism? How deep does the recursion go? (those who already know, don't spoil the fun for the rest!).

18 comments

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comment by gjm · 2011-07-31T08:57:20.857Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Speaking as someone who knows the history, I think it's still not entirely clear how many levels of parody are involved :-).

comment by JoshuaZ · 2011-07-31T14:01:14.429Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This video was created as part of the promotional material for Ben Stein's pro- intelligent design movie Expelled. See this discussion at the Panda's Thumb. It has been described before by a variety of people as surprisingly well done and funny. The people behind it were different from the people who made the movie itself.

comment by nazgulnarsil · 2011-07-31T13:24:44.970Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

had to click away after the rap started. why do people still think that making rap videos about things white people like is funny? it was slightly funny in the 90's.

comment by Raw_Power · 2011-08-02T09:45:52.649Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Expecting rap music to "belong" to black people and other uses of it to be nothing but parody is absurd, insulting and just plain ethnocentric. I'll have you know that people of all "races" and venues in life rap. For this video's purpose, Rap was especially well-suited because it is a genre that favour boastfulness and ridiculing of the opponents: it's something poets and bards have been doing for millenia, because back then there was nothing as memetic as a good satyre that rhymed: it's easy to remember and fun to repeat (as an Arab, I could recite to you some VIIth century verses that would make current rappers take notes... though I don't need to go that far in space-time: some sonnets from Quevedo or Voltaire should do the trick just as well). Euologies are also great for repeating within one's own group, reinforcing the collective ego, and for throwing at the opponents in public. Rap is simply the XXth century expression of that old, non-lyrical poetry (indeed, little rap is dedicated to musing on the wonders of the world or otherwise emoting or contemplating).

So, this video is about New Atheists being obnoxious about saying "we are awesome, you suck, you should join us". I can't possibly imagine a better way of doing it than rap.

And, obviously, this has nothing to do with "stuff white people like": one of the things that make it funny is that it features stuffy, dignified, prestigious old scholars doing the sort of status signalling that is so over-the-top you only expect it from people with extremely low status (again, not necessarily black by any means, you should listen to German or Korean rap sometime). You'd expect them to Counter-Signal by being all polite and nice, and then you start to wonder if they aren't counter-counter signalling and being Politeness Hipsters [LW · GW] ("we're so high status we don't need to be boastful but we're doing it anyway because we know you couldn't possibly confuse us with the low-status boasters: we have the ego, we have the stuff to back it, and we're not afraid of flaunting it")... aaaaand we're back into recursion, and the interesting applications thereof!

comment by nazgulnarsil · 2011-08-04T23:14:01.699Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

it's a parody based upon the incongruous juxtaposition that you yourself enumerate.

comment by DanPeverley · 2011-08-01T05:45:51.625Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I thought of it was hilarious. The dissonance between the two parts caused the humor for me. Then again, I wasn't really looking at this sort of thing in the nineties, so maybe I haven't had a chance for my joviality to mature sufficiently.

comment by atucker · 2011-08-03T15:15:52.582Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I notice that I'm taking the fact that its hilarious to be evidence for it being a parody of the ID side. Happy affective death spiral around atheism? Or legitimate information?

comment by Raw_Power · 2011-08-04T16:31:12.660Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, perhaps people should listen to those who are smarter than them.

comment by philibuster · 2011-07-30T22:41:17.120Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can't say what sort of parody it is, but it's pretty well done, whatever it is.

comment by Raw_Power · 2011-07-30T22:56:19.624Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Right, right? It looks like what our manifesto would be if we had a manifesto and chose to be especially obnoxious about it (more than usual I mean).

comment by Manfred · 2011-07-30T23:45:58.051Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Maybe your manifesto.

comment by Raw_Power · 2011-07-31T00:06:40.179Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What, you mean we aren't constantly saying "scientists know better, people should listen to them", "only science can give any measure of certainty in knowledge, and Bayesian rationality is the fastest and most reliable way to find the right hypotheses to test", "the Machine (the FGAI specifically) will make everything better or at least more interesting", "scientists who are religious Outside The Laboratory are Doing It Wrong and ought to be taken as seriously as if they professed belief in Santa Claus"...

... I notice I might have confused Less Wrong's general philosphy with that of Eliezer Yudkowsky specifically (the above points are caricatures and oversimplifications of stuff he actually said). That's just not true. I've noticed most people over here aren't nearly as caustic as him.

comment by Manfred · 2011-07-31T00:52:12.440Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

scientists know better, people should listen to them

Conditionally true, but not always true, and so can become both wrong and annoying when used fully generally as in the video.

only science can give any measure of certainty in knowledge, and Bayesian rationality is the fastest and most reliable way to find the right hypotheses to test

Not quite the LW position. Knowledge comes from evidence, science finds publicly verifiable knowledge.

the Machine (the FGAI specifically) will make everything better or at least more interesting

There is no "the Machine" to promote, we should stick to "a machine," which will do things if built, rather than "will." This strict factualness also keeps us from using the same mental machinery as a messianic cult, which is good both cosmetically and practically.

scientists who are religious Outside The Laboratory are Doing It Wrong and ought to be taken as seriously as if they professed belief in Santa Claus

The first part may indeed be LW manifesto material, and the second part is false for obvious social reasons.

comment by Raw_Power · 2011-07-31T10:40:34.894Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, that's why I said "obnoxious". It's like a very arrogant, conceited, straw-man caricature of us (actually, of the New Atheist movement, but we do share a lot of traits), which has some good points but deforms them to the point of them not being valid anymore. I suspect that's the sort of reaction we can get if people read stuff like "Raising The Sanity Waterline" and feel so insulted they won't listen anymore and take everything the wrong way.

Totally behind you on the first paragraph, but I can't quite understand the two last paragraph, especially the "obvious social reasons".

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2011-07-31T15:26:20.807Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Someone who is religious Outside The Laboratory believes something silly that eir culture promotes, so ey 1) has something of an excuse in the form of childhood indoctrination and 2) probably just believes in belief or professes to believe for the social benefits. Someone who believes in Santa Claus believes something silly for no good reason and with no apparent cause, and thus is probably clinically ill.

comment by billswift · 2011-07-31T16:15:17.742Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

so ey 1) has something of an excuse in the form of childhood indoctrination and 2) probably just believes in belief or professes to believe for the social benefits.

This is why I don't particularly care about people who "believe" in a religion. No matter how rational and intelligent a person is there simply isn't time to test every belief, and most "believers" don't really seem too entangled in their beliefs unless challenged.

People who advocate religion on the other hand--priests, preachers, ID advocates, or whatever--I think have an epistemic responsibility to study the actual support for their beliefs.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2011-07-31T03:42:34.734Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, as Eliezer said every cause wants to be a cult.

comment by Raw_Power · 2011-07-30T21:23:43.614Z · score: -7 (15 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Gah! Downvoting Roman strikes again! XD He didn't even comment...