The Puzzle of Faith and Belief

post by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-28T15:21:23.045Z · score: -11 (25 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 88 comments

The Puzzle of Faith and Belief

 

Faith and Belief are different words for talking about the concepts of Perspective and Point of view.  

When you use the word Perspective v.s. Faith, you are attaching slightly different connotations to the same concept.   

Perspective is a more rationalist way of seeing the different ways of looking at the world.  The associations with it are scientific, grounded, and well defined.  

Faith is the more intuitive way of seeing the different ways of looking at reality.   I’m more include to use the word “reality” than “the world” even in defining it.  The word itself is more open/less well defined.  

Dictionary definitions from Google for the aspects of these words that I am referring to:

Perspective:  a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.

Faith:  a strongly held belief or theory.

Belief:  something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction.

Point of View:  a particular attitude or way of considering a matter.

 

Why does all this matter?

It matters because they are more or less all the same thing, everyone is biased, and people tend to nit pick the different versions in order to justify their own biases.  

Virtually no one has any solid grounding for their Perspective, Faith, Belief, or Point of View.  

There are different ways in which people delude themselves into feeling safe and comfortable in the points of view, beliefs, and perspectives.  Its fairly easy to make sense on a mid-level.  You can join a consensus reality, where everyone around you has certain things they also agree with, and people who they believe are clearly right, and this feels comforting.   But how many people really question the doctrine?  How many people verify the origin?  

Are you ultimately putting your trust in a guru and a bunch of other people, or have you verified the physics and math yourself?  

If you have not verified the physics and math and the origin yourself of something which you are assuming to be true, down to the level of particle physics:

 

This is faith.   

 

Even if you are a myers-briggs INTP, and you don’t feel that you “strongly” hold beliefs, you are in action every day.  You are choosing to do, and to not do things.  Whether you hold your beliefs loosely or tightly, everything you do always is impacted by them.   

Whether or not you choose to get out of bed in the morning is absolutely a matter of faith.  You have faith that your life will be better if you do.  There are a number of reasons why:

1.  You believe the hunger you feel or eventually will feel from not eating will go away if you go get food and put it in your mouth.  

2.  You believe that you need to do something in order to maintain the lifestyle in which you will continue to have a bed to sleep on.  

3.  You believe that taking care of 1 & 2 will ultimately cause your feeling state to be better than if you do not address them, and you desire to not suffer.  

4.  You likely have much more inspiring beliefs than 1, 2, and 3, but those differ more from person to person and are harder to nail accurately for the majority in a group of many thousands of people.  

 

Again, why does this matter?  

It matters because perspective, point of view, faith, and belief, are power.  

What I have found working as a business coach and anxiety specialist for seven years is the degree to how powerful these things are.  As someone with a rationalist influence, I am the only coach I know who takes and publishes statistics on my clients.  While they are not anywhere near as thorough as I would like, the signal is very very strong.  While I got a 50% increase for mood as according to moodscope.com in 2013, I’m up to about a 78% increase in 2014.  The increase in mood is directly correlated with increase in productivity.  I consider this to be a chicken and egg sort of relationship - improving one improves the other, and its hard to say which is cause and which is effect.  

How do I get these sorts of results simply by working with the concepts referred to in this post?  

Mostly just by eliminating false beliefs, and replacing them with more empowering true beliefs.  The deal is, no one is unbiased - whether they are a believer in the biases associated with  “point of view” or a believer in biases associated with “faith” is unbiased.  Give me 30 minutes of your time, and you will learn things you did not already know.  

I am not so charismatic that I can plant beliefs in anyone that they do not see as true.  Nor would I want to be.  I am simply able to identify the biases people have and reveal them in a way that is generally non-threatening, and I am able to point at many alternative beliefs so that people can choose a new system that is more functional for them.   

What I have found most interesting doing this work, is the relationship between willingness to change belief/faith/perspective/point of view on many different levels.  

Ie: 

The more willing someone is to adopt a new perspective on the topic of the benefits of getting out of bed, the more likely that person is to solve the problem and start getting out of bed at the time they desire.   

The more willing that person will be to adopt a new perspective on applying for a job, the more likely they are to apply, and the more likely they are to get the job.  

The more willing a person is to adopt a new perspective on applying for a job, the more likely the person is to adopt a new perspective on what jobs they can apply for, and the more likely they are to get their dream job.  

The more willing a person is to change perspective to the point of getting out of bed, applying for a job, and specifically applying for and getting their dream job, the more likely they are to genuinely question their Faith in the religious/atheist sense, and the more willing they are to take their questioning to the level of particle and quantum physics.   

[edit] Summary:  

I frequently hear people of a rationalist mindset, who prefer the biases associated with the terms "Perspective" and "Point of View" dismiss the biases associated with the terms "Faith" and "Belief" as inferior.  

I've come to see this particular dismissal bias as "A form of Faith."  It is a faith that one can use science to justify their actions, that is not actually grounded in science.   

The result of this is that there are a lot of people walking around thinking that they are being rational, when really, they are doing more or less what Viliam_Bur describes in this comment.  

I have spent many years now talking in depth to many clients, including hundreds of rationalists.  What I've found is that the degree of people's willingness to be open to introspection on this topic, and to realize just how much of their so called "rational" beliefs are actually based on faith, and their willingness to start correcting in order to seek truth more effectively with this understanding, determines their degree of success in being able to update their belief systems in order to get what they want in life.

Once you realize that you are operating a faith based system, then you can optimize it as a faith based system, rather than operating under the false belief that it is grounded in science.   

In truth, all of the systems all of us use are a combination of faith and science.  We can determine a lot from science, but virtually no one takes it to the level of "grounded," where they really understand how the science works at the core.  Even physics Ph.Ds don't know everything, let alone the people who base their beliefs on what the physics Ph.Ds say.  

So, if you truly want to be rational, it makes the most sense to realize what the system is that you are actually using, and to optimize it accordingly.  Either go to the root of the science, and tune it that way, or tune it as a faith based system, and follow the signal of "what makes the most sense to put my faith into?"

The lowest hanging fruit in tuning your system is actually at the roots, assuming you have the time and energy to really dig into the research, and/or that you have a good guide who you trust.  Asking the questions of "Why do I believe what I do?" and "Why do I do what I do?" at a very fundamental level, without the assumption that you already know, is extremely powerful.  

The testimonials and statistics I linked above are those I have collected personally showing results of what happens as you do this sort of grounding of your belief systems.  The way in which you do it is to start questioning how grounded in science your assumptions actually are, and to release the attachment you have to thinking that you are less wrong because you are science based. 

88 comments

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comment by gjm · 2014-09-28T22:54:35.891Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW
  1. This post is titled "The puzzle of faith and belief". But there appears to be nothing in it that describes something as a puzzle, or describes something that's obviously puzzling, or anything like that. What is the puzzle?

  2. More generally, it's not very clear what the point of this post is. I will go further and say that it appears to be deliberately not very clear what the point is: it feels as if the author is deliberately leaving the actual point unstated. The impression I get, in fact, is that the author suspects that stating the point explicitly would put people off, and is maybe hoping that a few sympathetic souls will "get it".

I find this [EDITED to clarify: "this" means #2] very offputting, stylistically: it feels somehow disrespectful towards readers.

My guess at what the point is meant to be: the author has some non-standard theory about physics, perhaps something that is or sounds "mystical", and has found a correlation among clients between willingness to entertain non-standard theories about physics and willingness to make other life changes. I'm not quite sure why non-standard theories about physics would even come up with clients of a life-coaching service, which is (a) why I'm by no means confident in this guess and (b) one reason why I suspect that if it's right the non-standard physics in question is something "mystical".

ShannonFriedman, would you care to enlighten us as to what "puzzle" your title refers to and what the underlying purpose of the post is?

comment by Weedlayer · 2014-09-29T05:11:51.369Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I have say I didn't find this post particularly useful.

On my first reading, I was having some difficultly understanding what point you were making. You seem to use some words or phrases in highly non-standard ways, I still have no idea what some sentences like "Its fairly easy to make sense on a mid-level" mean. I get the general impression of a post by someone whose first language isn't English, or who didn't proofread their own work, and that makes reading it a chore, not predisposing me to like it. Cleaning the post up and using more simple language, progressing from one idea to the next in an obvious and logical fashion would make it much easier to read.

After reading it again, it seems like the point you're making is that very few people have justifications for their beliefs, and thus, there's not a significant difference between having a religious belief because your guru told you, and having a secular belief because a scientist told you. In other words, physics is basically a religion unless you can do math. The things you say in support of this argument (If indeed it resembles in any way what you are trying to say) are strange, to say the least. You seem to conflate the belief "If I eat I will not be hungry" with religious beliefs by calling them both "faith". This seems disingenuous, like comparing the probability of winning the lottery and of not being struck lightning, and concluding both are "uncertain".

Your post offers no real suggestions for overcoming our biases, which you assert all people have. You say you "eliminat[e] false beliefs, and replac[e] them with more empowering true beliefs", followed by what seems to be an advertisement for contracting some type of service (counseling?). In other words, you say "everyone has false beliefs, you included, so hire me to help fix them and be happier".

There may be something of value here, but right now I can't see it.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T05:39:34.635Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for explaining. I've explained a bit in some of the other comments. It is true that the things I am attempting to communicate are very foreign to this crowd, and I haven't spoken to rationalists at large in quite awhile, especially on a heated topic like this one and am out of practice.

I'm going to do my best to do a more thorough summary in the morning after sleeping on it. Although I am a native Californian and English speaker, I am culturally very different than Less Wrong at this point, and thus forgot quite how thorough I need to be in clear speech for Less Wrongers to get what I'm trying to say.

When you speak to people who are more or less on the same page with you, its very different than speaking with a different group with a different belief set. You need to take the messages down to a much more basic level to define terms and whatnot. I had actually thought I had done that, but still clearly missed many steps.

I'm also very positive reinforcement and appreciation oriented, so its pretty jarring to run into so much hating and so little appreciation. Not that I can't handle it, but its certainly a lot less pleasant to have all of the imperfections picked apart than to have the effort and signal appreciated. There are a lot of different ways to say the same things and reach the same (or better) results. But that is a different post, which I will probably write elsewhere.

A lot of what I teach people how to do is be nicer to themselves, and thus, as they learn this and their lives get better, they are also very nice to me and change their basic assumptions to friendlier kinder ones that are pleasant to work with.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-09-29T16:21:21.181Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

its certainly a lot less pleasant to have all of the imperfections picked apart than to have the effort and signal appreciated.

A lot less pleasant and a lot more useful.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T17:01:24.235Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Depends on the goal.

  1. Its not an either/or. You can give the same feedback that people give here with appreciation. The "ripping apart" style of giving feedback is entirely cultural, and does not add value in and of itself IMHO.

  2. Showing kindness and appreciation does add value, as this is the sort of thing we desire as human beings, and it calms and relaxes people, and thus makes it far easier for people to assimilate the feedback given.

  3. Sometimes getting the feedback that is paired with having things ripped apart on this site is useful. My writing skills have improved greatly from writing on LW, and I did indeed get useful feedback from this, for which I am grateful.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-09-29T17:08:46.582Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Its not an either/or.

Well, that's how you have framed it :-/ As to "entirely cultural", so is the "kindergarten" style of giving feedback. Gold stars for participation to everyone!

thus makes it far easier for people to assimilate the feedback given.

It also makes it far easier for people to ignore the (negative) feedback, focus on the positive, and decide that everything is fine and nothing needs to be changed.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T17:21:44.416Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Here is what I actually said:

I'm also very positive reinforcement and appreciation oriented, so its pretty jarring to run into so much hating and so little appreciation. Not that I can't handle it, but its certainly a lot less pleasant to have all of the imperfections picked apart than to have the effort and signal appreciated. There are a lot of different ways to say the same things and reach the same (or better) results.But that is a different post, which I will probably write elsewhere.

I do this professionally and know that my systems are far more effective at achieving desired results as well as having the nice side effect of positive affect. I do not feel like taking the time and energy to explain my work right now, as it is not on topic for this discussion. You can have a look at the testimonials page on my site if you want to see a lot of people talking about the results they have gotten.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-09-29T17:33:56.437Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You can have a look at the testimonials page on my site

You don't think there might be a wee bit of a selection bias there..? :-)

comment by Vaniver · 2014-09-29T17:52:02.125Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I can't help but feel that this exchange is an example of your earlier point, Lumifer, that if one doesn't use blunt negative feedback the audience can more easily choose to ignore it. It looks like you're optimizing your criticisms to score points rather than to change Shannon's behavior, and this seems to me to be a principal failure mode of the 'rip apart' style of feedback.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-09-29T17:59:14.955Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

looks like you're optimizing your criticisms to score points rather than to change Shannon's behavior

Hard to evaluate such things from the inside, of course, but... First, I have no interest in changing Shannon's behavior and I think having such a goal would be both strange and inappropriate. Second, I didn't understand the point of her post and my usual approach to such situations is to get a few sharp sticks and start poking :-) I know that not everyone is a fan of such methods but I find that they work sufficiently well.

All in all, my weakly held opinion at the moment is that the post wasn't all that interesting -- it was just a failed attempt to promote a psychotherapy practice.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T18:08:46.745Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Of course. For the statistics I used all clients and did not cherry pick, but you only have my word for that. And of course there is selection bias for who gives me a testimonial.

That said, those testimonials and statistics are the best that I have to make my point.

If you want me to provide you a perfect, infallible argument to persuade you to change your life, you are going to be waiting a very long time, because I am neither interested nor possessing the time and energy to do it.

If you want evidence that has signal, then that is what I have given you. You can ignore it and/or pick it apart, and get nothing from it, as you seem to have chosen to do.

Someone else might get quite a lot of value from it, if they use the strategy of looking at signal rather than assuming that they are right until proven wrong.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-09-29T18:13:03.814Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you want me to provide you a perfect, infallible argument to persuade you to change your life

Oh, dear. No, I certainly do not want that.

I mostly want a coherent description of the point, if there is a point other than "come to me and I'll fix you".

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T17:45:59.447Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I added the summary, does this clarify for you sufficiently?

comment by shminux · 2014-09-29T17:34:10.310Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Shannon, it seems pretty clear from the reaction that either the point you are trying to make is invalid, or you are doing a really poor job making it. If you are absolutely sure it's the latter, consider rewriting the post from scratch in a way that matches your intended audience.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T17:44:16.717Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you. I just now posted the summary (at -12). Rewriting the post from scratch sounds like a good idea. Is that done frequently on this blog?

comment by shminux · 2014-09-29T23:06:29.173Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This post comes across as a direct opposite of your usual interesting, clear and insightful entries. It feels to me as if it was written by a novice to this site who is also bad at writing. Normally I'd simply downvote and move on, but you are neither new, nor a poor writer, so I am hoping that somewhere inside this post there is a worthwhile point. However, it failed to materialize in the comments I checked, hence my suggestion to rewrite (and maybe run by someone in your local LW crowd, before posting again -- I hear you know a lot of high-profile regulars who would be happy to oblige).

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-10-11T22:23:50.015Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I am glad that I didn't realize that people could still reply to the post after I deleted it, since its nice receiving the last responses quite a bit later after I am no longer triggered by the initial general response.

I think the reason that my writing is coming off to you this way is that I have moved into a very different mental space than the Less Wrong community, and forgot the degree to which I needed to tune my thinking/writing for Less Wrongers to understand/appreciate my messages.

Less Wrongers are used to talking to people who think and speak in the way that people think and speak on this site. I don't read Less Wrong personally, only post to it. I've read some of the sequences, and I have spent years speaking in person on a regular basis with many high profile Less Wrongers, but the way in which people read and write on the blog is kind of like a foreign language to me, which I am currently rusty at.

Likewise with the cultural expectations about what I should be delivering and how.

I'm considering attempting a rewrite, but not sure if I want to or not. What would my incentive be to do so? So far I have received contempt and criticism for my attempt to communicate what I consider to be some very useful principles. Why should I keep trying?

In order to get it right, I need to wrap my head around the Less Wrong way of thinking again, and figure out how to translate everything I'm saying into something that people on this site will understand. That is quite a lot of work. I really hate this culture of tearing things apart when you don't understand rather than asking questions and being curious about what signal the author is attempting to send. I'm genuinely not sure if I want to engage it again or not.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2014-10-12T19:54:10.879Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm genuinely not sure if I want to engage it again or not.

What do you consider the pros and cons?

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-11-11T05:23:49.287Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Cons

  • Its a large time and energy investment to word a post in a way that does not get shredded in this environment
  • I don't tend to receive much in the way of positive feedback or appreciation for doing it
  • I will almost certainly receive a lot in the way of negative feedback regardless - potentially quite a lot

Pros

  • I might be able to share something with someone else that creates value for them
  • Having a reasonable reputation in the community could be good for my business
  • I might receive some positive reinforcement

I ended up deciding to do a rewrite of one of the fundamental underlying principles of this post into a new post, which is almost done. It has been something that has been many hours of work. A lot more work than I had anticipated to get the post up to snuff where I think it is less likely to get shot down than this original post.

The amount of work it took to get to a point where it might be acceptable to LWers is unlikely to be balanced by the pros, so I am leaning toward it being my last post, although I am very open to having my utility function show me otherwise.

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-09-30T06:42:06.512Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This post comes across as a direct opposite of your usual interesting, clear and insightful entries.

Multiply by -1? While reversed stupidity may not be intelligence, the opposite (in the sense of antithetical) sure is.

Now, all that is left is to figure out how to multiply an English sentence by -1. The neutral element would be the empty string, I suppose. Or some tangentially related but really inconsequential comment, like this one. That's nice, introducing some reflectivity.

Hmmm ... maybe reverse the polarity? This is harder than I thought. If we're defining this operation cleanly, we can always reward ourselves with a Kleene star. Seems arbitrary enough, no?

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-10-11T22:24:36.588Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Can you use different words to describe what you are trying to say here? I don't understand but would like to.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2014-10-12T05:27:52.038Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It's just math and parsing theory jokes riffing on an intentional misinterpretation of "a direct opposite of interesting", nothing that relates to the substance of the discussion as far as I can see.

(Well, it might be meta-level commentary on the substance. Anything might be a meta-level commentary. Constant vigilance.)

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-10-14T01:10:50.262Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-09-29T02:45:56.013Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Like gjm, I don't understand what the point of this post is. All is see is playing with words and making them stretch into uncomfortable positions -- something that doesn't seem all that useful.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T17:46:28.876Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I added the summary to the main post.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-09-29T18:10:11.448Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So, the really important thing is to find right things to believe in? As you are saying,

follow the signal of "what/who makes the most sense to put my faith into?"

Any reason why that shouldn't be Jesus?

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T04:27:47.741Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The point of the playing with words is to show that all four of those words are pointing at roughly the same concept. Each of the words has their own bias.

The different people who use the different words generally think that their way of thinking is superior, so I'm trying to demonstrate that this is not the case, and that it is a bias to think that your perspective is superior when you are simply looking at the biases of the other perspectives and not your own.

The points at the end were meant to illustrate the "everyone is biased" theory. Basically, if I can work with rationalists and get the sorts of results that I do by removing biases, then that implies that they have a lot of biases which they are not aware of and/or aware of how to fix until talking with me.

The solution I'm alluding to is to be more open minded about what the possibilities actually are. That simply taking a different perspective (plus a lot of positive reinforcement) can make the difference between not being able to get out of bed and having your dream job.

I'll write this up more clearly and eloquently in the morning after I sleep on it, but hopefully this at least helps a little for now?

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-09-29T16:37:50.225Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Again, Brienne's post suggested doing what you imagine a more rational version of yourself would do. I've used this technique to some benefit. It serves as a testable and useful way of demonstrating bias, though I still can't tell if it supports your thesis. She posted before you did. And she put the technique in the title and conclusion of her post, rather than making us guess what the Hell she was talking about!

comment by Lumifer · 2014-09-29T15:25:59.866Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

all four of those words are pointing at roughly the same concept

Very VERY roughly. Too roughly for any use, I think. In particular, these words are not interchangeable -- to say that deciding to get out of bed in the morning is a matter of faith is a misuse of the language.

The different people who use the different words generally think that their way of thinking is superior

That's a non sequitur.

illustrate the "everyone is biased" theory

That theory is generally accepted on LW and has people like Kahneman popularizing it in the wide world :-)

The solution I'm alluding to is to be more open minded about what the possibilities actually are.

That's a platitude and a part of all self-help advice since times immemorial. So what else is new?

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T15:42:21.541Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. My understanding of Less Wrong is that there is a general viewpoint that everyone is biased and people on this site are "Less Wrong." Its not an official viewpoint, but its the attitude I see.

The reason I gave the examples and not the platitude is so that people might actually get it, and not just consider it a platitude that they dismiss. I seem to have failed on this blog at this time :)

comment by Lumifer · 2014-09-29T16:14:59.373Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Platitudes are platitudes not because people don't get them -- they are platitudes because everybody has already heard them many times and repeating them once more is not helping.

I am still not sure what are you trying to get to. Is it, basically, better living through self-hacking? Or through being hacked by you?

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T18:10:43.470Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A certain type of self hacking. I added a summary, does it help?

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-09-29T20:07:37.880Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Before this, I read your post as saying mainly, 'You should believe true claims instead of false ones,' without any non-commercial way of distinguishing truth from falsehood. Likewise, I saw no guidelines for how to choose "functional" belief systems.

If I read the summary charitably, it seems to mean that 'When people pride themselves on their rationality due to their atheism, this tends to get in the way of optimizing for truth and/or functionality.' This is technically progress. But I get the impression the LW community already hates people patting themselves on the back for atheism, and may actually discourage it too strongly.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-09-28T19:24:16.138Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In the world of science, I can reason by the results. My microwave oven works. What is the chance it would work, if we got physics wrong?

I believe the base rate of "a random machine doing seemingly miraculous things" is pretty low, otherwise we would be surrounded by magical machines built on theories often incompatible with the official physics. And I mean, magical machines that would work as obviously and reliably as my microwave oven does, or as my mobile phone does... not just something supposedly providing some invisble and hard-to-measure effects.

Now my personal life, and my everyday beliefs, that seems like a different kind of game. I see people with different beliefs, having not significantly worse or better results than myself. (A colleague of mine told me recently that he heard that the theory of evolution was disproved. Doesn't have any impact on his programming skills, which is what he gets paid for. But a better example would be some idea outside of science.) I don't have this kind of feedback for the correctness of my ideas. Thus it would be incorrect to put the same degree of faith in them.

Unfortunately, I have no mind-reading abilities, so I don't know what the obviously successful people believe in. I can listen to what they tell me, but there are problems with this.

First, people compartmentalize (and that's the charitable approach; sometimes they also just plainly lie), so what they tell me they believe may not be the same thing they actually believe or alieve. (For example, reading the books by Kiyosaki will not give me the recipe for how to be as rich as Kiyosaki. The true secret of Kiyosaki is more likely something like: Just pretend to know the secret of being rich, and let other people pay you for whatever soundbites you have for them. It's not like someone would ever do a double-blind study to verify your teachings.)

Second, there could be a selection bias; even if most of the successful people believe the same thing, there may be even more unsuccessful people believing the very same thing. For example, "follow your passion" or "just buy a lottery ticket" may make a few people incredibly rich, and yet, it may be a poor strategy on average. But we will only hear the stories of the winners. "Yeah, I used to be a chicken like you, but then I decided to follow my gut, and played a few rounds of the Russian roulette, and look where I am now! If you are so smart, why aren't you as rich as me?"

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-28T19:48:06.526Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for giving me something challenging to work with that I cannot instantly respond to :) I will process and respond over the next day or two.

I can tell you a couple of elements the response will include. One is that men of science tend to over-extrapolate. Ie: that your microwave works means certain things, which are more probable to relate to other certain things. However, you can take these chains of logic out very far to where they become very flimsy, but justify the flimsy parts with the word SCIENCE.

Another element is something I will refer to casually for now as "solving the problem from the middle." You can have a very logical and concrete beautiful thing that looks like a solution in the middle of a puzzle, that does not really relate to the beginning or end.

This is the classic logic fallacy that I see Less Wrongers engage in, such as the straw man argument in this comment.

He makes a beautiful point that everyone agrees with including me, that doesn't have anything to do with the larger topic at hand. Because he does so in a way that is tangentially related to what I was actually saying, it appears to be a part of the larger topic at hand, it appears on the surface that he knows the answer.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-09-29T09:58:06.855Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

men of science tend to over-extrapolate. Ie: that your microwave works means certain things, which are more probable to relate to other certain things. However, you can take these chains of logic out very far to where they become very flimsy

In other words: Physics is highly reliable. You believe in the standard scientific explanation of physics. This creates a feeling of great confidence in "what you believe"... and then you are prone to apply this confidence mistakenly to everything that seems to belong to the literary genre of science. -- Even if the scientific field is not as reliable as physics. Or if you are not an expert in the given field, so regardless of the reliability of the field itself, your understanding of what the field says is unreliable.

I know a few people like this... who have a degree in computer science, are good at maths, have read a few popular science books on physics... which makes them believe they are "experts on science" in general... and then they produce laughable simplifications of psychology, and crackpot theories of evolution. Everything they say follows "logically" from their long and convoluted thought chains. Everything you say, even if it is standard science 101, they dismiss as not sufficiently Popper-approved.

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-09-28T20:42:18.835Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't even know the question. The OP's comparison with religious faith serves no clear purpose; the whole post seems more like an advertisement than an immediately useful suggestion. Compare and contrast this post.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T17:47:24.419Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The summary has been added, thank you for the suggestion.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-28T21:04:39.423Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I do appreciate the request for more clarity of purpose and useful suggestion.

I think that there is quite a lot that is implicit if you are reading this from an open rather than defensive perspective. However, I am in agreement that I could be much more explicit and that this would be of benefit. Rather than giving an off the cuff response, I will think this through and craft something more useful. Thanks!

comment by CCC · 2014-09-29T10:26:17.065Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I think that there is quite a lot that is implicit if you are reading this from an open rather than defensive perspective.

One thing that I have noticed - as a general rule - is that, in any debate, no two debaters will ever agree on what is implicit in any argument. Anything that needs to be said, that forms an important part of the desired point, pretty much has to be stated explicitly, or most of the readers will fail to notice it.

Or, to put it another way; I, too, agree that your post would be much improved if you were a lot more explicit about precisely what you meant.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-09-29T11:52:05.181Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Voted up for "One thing that I have noticed - as a general rule - is that, in any debate, no two debaters will ever agree on what is implicit in any argument.".

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-28T20:47:12.937Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Funny, I opened that post expecting something very logical and to the point, and was immediately surprised that it read like a long advertisement for CFAR :)

comment by Cyan · 2014-09-29T00:03:33.375Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

...a long advertisement for CFAR...

...containing an immediately useful (or at least, immediately practicable) suggestion, as, er, advertised.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T01:44:43.330Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. I will come back to this and fill in the missing piece, as I said to hairyfigment when they brought it to my attention.

To me the conclusion is obvious, but I can see how it is not to people who are not me, now that this has been pointed out to me. I want to take my time to figure out how to word it properly, and have been very busy with work. I will be getting to it either later tonight or tomorrow.

That said, I personally find it laughable that hairyfigment linked a piece that is clearly advertising propaganda IMHO after claiming that my post sounded like advertisement. Perhaps if I call myself an executive director this would not bother people? :) I had better be careful or I'm going to get this post entirely deleted... ;)

comment by 27chaos · 2014-09-29T05:03:17.054Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Is the intended point simply that people have more confidence in their beliefs than would be optimal? People should change their assumptions more often and see what happens?

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T05:12:52.573Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One of several. I wrote a couple of others here. In retrospect, it is a very good point that I was writing my thoughts more than writing to a specific conclusion, and that I made a writing error in not specifying an action oriented conclusion.

I want to add one in, but since there are actually several different points I'm making in the article, I need to think it through and decide which to include or not in the official conclusion.

I somewhat wish I could help many people on this site learn to be a lot nicer about pointing these things out, as you have been here. However, as they would say to me, it is my choice to post on this site, and thus to the degree I'm here, I it behooves me to play by, or at least tolerate, the cultural rules.

comment by Cyan · 2014-09-29T05:36:31.841Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

clearly advertising propaganda

It's not clear to me -- I'm not even sure what you think it's advertising!

( ETA: I wrote a bunch of irrelevant stuff, but then I scrolled up and saw (again, but it somehow slipped my mind even though I friggin' quoted it in the grandparent, I'm going senile at the tender age of 36) that you specifically think it's advertising for CFAR, so I've deleted the irrelevant stuff. )

Advertising for CFAR seems like a stretch, because -- although very nice things are said about Anna Salamon -- the actual product CFAR sells isn't mentioned at all.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-09-29T12:15:08.776Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

To me the conclusion is obvious, but I can see how it is not to people who are not me, now that this has been pointed out to me.

Well then, I would like to point out a more general fact.

Everyone that you will ever deal with, in any way, is someone who is not you.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T15:47:02.982Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Umm... why does this need to be pointed out?

To me, I was being nice and empathizing with the point made. This feels like I expressed vulnerability and you decided to sink your teeth in and/or rub my nose in shit to tell me what I've done wrong, except I don't actually understand what you're even trying to show me.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-09-30T14:24:49.359Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, I didn't mean to be so abrasive. It's just that communication is, practically by definition, communication with people who are not oneself. It seemed to me that you were surprised to come up against this.

As for the original post itself, it seems to me, as it has to some others who have commented, that it talks around something that sounds like it might be interesting, but never says the thing itself.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-10-11T21:58:27.751Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hi Richard,

I just saw this, sorry about the delay in response.

Yes, I was surprised by the response, because my assumptions about other people's assumptions were wrong in this case.

I do of course understand that no one else has the same mental model I do - my mistake was in that I did not model correctly quite how different my mental models are from the majority of Less Wrong readers on this topic.

Given the hostility of the responses I received in response to my attempt to share something I find valuable, I'm really not inclined to keep going.

Yes, I did make a mistake, but I do not feel an obligation to keep paying and paying for it to ungrateful people... why would I want to teach them anything?

It is work to better articulate - to figure out what the difference is between our models and be able to name it in a way that the group can understand.

I do not feel that I have adequate reason at this point in time to make that investment of my time and energy, when the only payment is contempt and ridicule.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-28T22:48:57.090Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Taking what you said one piece at a time:

In the world of science, I can reason by the results. My microwave oven works. What is the chance it would work, if we got physics wrong?

So, I assume the reason you’re asking this is because you assume that belief in physics and mystical beliefs are incompatible. This is a false assumption.

As one of my favorite examples of this being false, I happen to be friends with someone who is a Tibetan grand master of Reiki, who is also a quantum physicist, with a Ph.D from Oxford. She is obviously extremely spiritual, identifies as a believer in the laws of physics, and knows what the laws of physics are in far more detail and with greater understanding than almost anyone who may read this blog.

I believe the base rate of "a random machine doing seemingly miraculous things" is pretty low, otherwise we would be surrounded by magical machines built on theories often incompatible with the official physics. And I mean, magical machines that would work as obviously and reliably as my microwave oven does, or as my mobile phone does... not just something supposedly providing some invisble and hard-to-measure effects.

Okay, so this is more elaboration based on the first assumption made, which I already addressed.

Now my personal life, and my everyday beliefs, that seems like a different kind of game. I see people with different beliefs, having not significantly worse or better results than myself. (A colleague of mine told me recently that he heard that the theory of evolution was disproved. Doesn't have any impact on his programming skills, which is what he gets paid for. But a better example would be some idea outside of science.) I don't have this kind of feedback for the correctness of my ideas. Thus it would be incorrect to put the same degree of faith in them.

Okay, so this is said to contrast the initial statement, again, doesn’t need a response now.

Unfortunately, I have no mind-reading abilities, so I don't know what the obviously successful people believe in. I can listen to what they tell me, but there are problems with this.

Perhaps time to start asking? :)

First, people compartmentalize (and that's the charitable approach; sometimes they also just plainly lie), so what they tell me they believe may not be the same thing they actually believe or alieve. (For example, reading the books by Kiyosaki will not give me the recipe for how to be as rich as Kiyosaki. The true secret of Kiyosaki is more likely something like: Just pretend to know the secret of being rich, and let other people pay you for whatever soundbites you have for them. It's not like someone would ever do a double-blind study to verify your teachings.)

Agreed that the true secret may be different than that given. Agreed that people also sometimes compartmentalize. True of everyone whether a rationalist or not. Gathering data and finding ways to test for truth and compartmentalization seems like a good idea.

Second, there could be a selection bias; even if most of the successful people believe the same thing, there may be even more unsuccessful people believing the very same thing. For example, "follow your passion" or "just buy a lottery ticket" may make a few people incredibly rich, and yet, it may be a poor strategy on average. But we will only hear the stories of the winners. "Yeah, I used to be a chicken like you, but then I decided to follow my gut, and played a few rounds of the Russian roulette, and look where I am now! If you are so smart, why aren't you as rich as me?”

True. Also, a strategy could be good, but not the only ingredient necessary.

Funny religious story:

There’s a big flood, and a priest is stuck on top of a roof as the water is gradually covering up the ground and the buildings. He is praying reverently. Eventually the water is up pretty high on the roofline, and a boat comes by.

They invite the priest to come with them. The priest says "no no no, God will save me!"

This happens a couple more times as the water gets higher and higher, and he eventually drowns.

When he eventually meets God, he asks “Why didn’t you save me? I still had work to do!”

God responds: “I sent you three boats, why didn’t you get on one?!”

One moral of this religious story is that you need to take opportunity when it comes to you, not assume its going to happen through magic.

Another aspect I find important is that it can take many different elements to get the results you want. In the reality of the story described, it requires praying + action. Praying alone was enough to get the opportunity, but only praying didn’t do anything at all for him.

Hence what I was getting at in my previous post about how over-simplification is really not useful and only leads to false confidence.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-09-28T23:04:44.472Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In the world of science, I can reason by the results. My microwave oven works. What is the chance it would work, if we got physics wrong?

So, I assume the reason you’re asking this is because you assume that belief in physics and mystical beliefs are incompatible. This is a false assumption.

Huh ... I don't see that assumption there at all.

The contrast I see Viliam_Bur making is between ideas that are constantly re-tested and those which are not.

In religion, what we see is that people have vastly different beliefs from each other ... but this doesn't really affect their effectiveness in the world all that much. For the most part, Christians in Christian culture function about as well as atheists in secular culture, or Hindus in Hindu culture ... despite the fact that they have vastly different beliefs.

Whereas, if someone had beliefs about physics that were much different from the consensus ones, they'd be predicting things like "microwave ovens won't work" and "airplanes should fall out of the sky". They would be proven constantly wrong all the time; and the physics consensus proven constantly right. Technology works because we (socially) have really accurate beliefs about physics, chemistry, etc.; whereas there doesn't seem to be such a thing as being "really accurate" about religion.

(There does seem to be such a thing as being "really obnoxious" about religion, e.g. religious terrorism or persecution.)

Physics beliefs get constantly tested and re-confirmed by the fact that we use them to make effective predictions about the world. People who get the idea that rocks fall up do not persist in this belief for very long because, well, rocks do not fall up. Religious beliefs don't get tested in this way: people with belief X and people with contradictory belief Y do not have all that much difference in effectiveness.

Of course there are religious differences that do matter. Anyone whose religion tells them to kill people is going to be at great tension with most societies today. People who have a different religion from the surrounding society are going to be at some tension too, unless secular tolerance memes are quite strong in the area. But these matter because people disagree with each other, not because they disagree with reality.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T01:55:27.009Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What he said about microwaves is noteworthy.

My understanding was that he gave the example to show why there is a problem with all religion and mystical thinking - that it is less reasonable than how rationalists and scientists think.

If what Viliam said was true regarding all mystical thinking, then he would have been giving what would be more or less a proof of how rationalists are more reasonable in their thinking than religious people.

That's why his comment was interesting.

The truth is, that the assumption that all religious and mystical people do not believe in the laws of physics is entirely false. My guess is that in truth, the vast majority of people with spiritual beliefs do believe int he laws of physics. I gave one concrete example to make my case.

Thus, he was only disproving an example of one particular type of belief, and not really saying much at all about all religious/mystically inclined people.

Thus, the point he was making is not very useful, in that disproving one person - be they mystic or rationalist, or one type specific type of mysticism is easy.

You missed that point initially and your comment is continuing to make the same mistake that Viliam initially made, in that you are writing based on your personal belief about what "religious people" think.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-09-29T04:37:42.229Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The truth is, that the assumption that all religious and mystical people do not believe in the laws of physics is entirely false.

Oh, I completely agree!

In fact, that was my point, which I took to be an elaboration or variation of Viliam's.

It wasn't about scientific people versus religious people. It was about the wide diversity of religious belief versus the relative unity of physical belief.

Christians, Hindus, and atheists may completely disagree on matters of theology or metaphysics, but may completely agree on matters of everyday physical reality. (I say "may" because of course there are exceptions, such as young-earth creationists.) The same is pretty much true for, say, elementary mathematics.

We are all more-or-less equally capable of getting on with the physical world, even if we believe things about gods or spirituality that completely contradict one another.

I suggest that this is precisely because we all interact with the same everyday physical reality, and our physical beliefs are constantly tested by that interaction. If we come up with a wrong belief about everyday physical reality, we will encounter contrary evidence. If we come up with a belief that implies that airplanes shouldn't be able to fly, we can look up and notice that in fact they do.

The sorts of beliefs that we call exclusively religious (as opposed to, say, beliefs about psychology that we happen to have learned in religious terms) are pretty much those which are not tested by our interactions with everyday reality. That is why they are able to drift so far from one another, from person to person, or culture to culture.

If the likes and dislikes of the gods were as testable as the composition of rocks, then theology would have the degree of consensus that geology does.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T17:15:49.682Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not really sure where you are going with this. For one thing, it sounds like we need Viliam to clarify what it is that he was trying to prove in his statement:

"In the world of science, I can reason by the results. My microwave oven works. What is the chance it would work, if we got physics wrong?"

Regarding the rest, you're making a lot of generalizations about religion and religious people, which I don't personally find to be on the same topic that I was speaking about. That said, apparently I was nowhere near as clear as I thought I was in my writing, so I perhaps do not have room to judge about this.

I was talking about the concepts of what you choose personally regarding beliefs/faith/perspectives/point of view. I was not advocating any organizations religious or not, or even speaking much about them. Only personal choices.

Religion is the connection people make when you use the word faith, but I was actually trying to draw different connections, and advocating a deep level of personal understanding rather than accepting anything on faith - be it a religious notion or an atheist one.

Personally I find the more modern things going on in the spiritual communities a lot more interesting than what has been going on in the past few hundred years.

I find that individuals seeking truth get much farther than organizations. Organizations are collections of people, and I find that the multiplication of bias with the interactions of multiple people tends to outweigh the multiplication of the positive attributes of brain capacity. I don't think this will always be true in the future, but I think has been true in most cases to this point.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-09-29T02:18:25.308Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Anyone who believes in miracles doesn't believe the laws of physics are entirely reliable. This is most but not all religious people.

On the other hand, it's probably more important to find out how often, in what way, and under what circumstances someone believes the laws of physics break down rather than whether they believe the laws of physics are absolutely true all the time.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-09-29T02:31:31.080Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Anyone who believes in miracles doesn't believe the laws of physics are entirely reliable.

Anyone who believes the laws of physics as currently understood are entirely reliable believes in miracles.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-09-29T09:07:22.386Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Anyone who believes in miracles doesn't believe the laws of physics are entirely reliable.

Yeah, but they may have the concept (not necessarily explicit) of separate magisteria... so they may believe that the laws of physics are entirely reliable when constructing a microwave oven and similar stuff, but unreliable when God purposefully decides to break them.

In other words, if you believe we live in the Matrix, but you also believe that the Lords of Matrix don't micromanage most of the stuff, you can still scientifically research the (default) rules of the Matrix.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-09-29T11:53:30.695Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I also think the vast majority of religious people think large miracles are something that used to happen, but can't reasonably be expected any more.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2014-09-29T03:23:28.638Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Anyone who believes in miracles doesn't believe the laws of physics are entirely reliable.

Unless and until a ToE is found, nobody should believe the "laws of physics are entirely reliable".

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-09-29T12:11:45.323Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Even with a ToE, a remnant of doubt always must remain, as required by the ToE being in principle open to being falsified / contradicted by future evidence.

However, that inherent lingering unreliability cannot be twisted into believing some "favorite miracle" to be more likely, e.g. unicorns.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T04:35:05.089Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Keep in mind that we live in a country with "One nation under God" written on the money supply - we're in a religious country, even though there is for the most part separation of church and state. Physics is taught in high schools in the same country, so odds are that the majority believe both in God and Physics.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T04:15:18.377Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The other two commenters who beat me to it named the most common logic I hear from people who believe in miracles. I have never heard anyone attribute it to the laws of physics being incorrect.

comment by AndHisHorse · 2014-09-28T16:24:04.371Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You speak of putting your trust in "a guru and a bunch of other people" as if it's somehow utterly opposed to the alternative of independently verifying particle physics. That would be the case if we were limited to science alone, forced to explicitly test each and every hypothesis in a controlled way. No, I have not conducted independent, replicated studies with p < 0.05 that verify that the scientific consensus is a reasonably accurate picture of reality.

But, as a rationalist - looking at all evidence, not just the clean, isolated stuff that comes through science - I can make some inferences. If the scientific consensus were, in a significant way, more incorrect than correct, there would be signs, something that would be different in a world-with-correct-consensus. For example, in a world-with-correct-consensus, people would be able to use the fruits of that consensus to design techniques which used the laws they discovered to do more than they could do with their bodies alone. They might build devices which use these principles, which would simply not function if they were untrue.

Further, a world-with-incorrect-consensus would almost certainly have to contain a great conspiracy, to conceal either a hidden truth or a near-universal incompetence. Such a thing is improbable enough that it is reasonable to shift belief towards physics - yes, I personally might not have strong direct evidence for it, but I have reasonably strong evidence (my limited knowledge of human nature judges the probability of a super-conspiracy to be very small) that the evidence which I have received from others is good.

The leprechaun fellow, however, is in a different boat. The world-with-leprechauns would look different from a world-without-leprechauns; there might be photographic documentation that is verifiably unaltered, or consistent reports of lucky Irishmen finding pots of gold at the ends of rainbows. We do not live in such a world; to believe that we do requires one to ignore, rather than use, the evidence available.

Yes, ultimately we do rest on something other than evidence; everybody must have some first principles to go off of. But if your first principle is also your conclusion - "leprechauns exist; that is my belief" - it is a very different, far more useless thing than a first principle which actually gives you tools to deal with the world, such as "things tend to happen, all other things being equal, as they have happened before". To equate the two would be much the same as the stuff required to maintain a scientific conspiracy: denial of a known truth, or denial of tragic incompetence.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-28T17:23:40.706Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Having processed this a little more, I want to address some a couple of your implicit questions:

Q: Would you prefer to have faith in a guru and a community of likeminded people, or is it better to have faith in leprechauns?

A: I would prefer neither. My belief is that it is optimal to have faith in what you can determine to be true at the most fundamental level you are capable, and have openness to updating your opinion as you search for truth at a more and more fundamental level.

Q: If you must choose between leprechauns and gurus/communities, isn't it much more sane to choose gurus/communities?

A: This question is a red herring. The reason is that its not the real choice anyone reading this would be making.

You have chosen an example of faith that is obviously absurd and blind to attribute to me, so that you could make an argument to defeat me and win all in the same comment.

comment by AndHisHorse · 2014-09-30T14:12:23.763Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, the point of my response was to illustrate that to say "all of these things are faith" is an incorrectly simplifying assumption. I did deliberately choose an absurd example of faith, not to attribute it to you, but to show the difference between one thing which you did explicitly claim is faith - trust in people - and another thing which would have to be an example of blind faith - belief in leprechauns. If you acknowledge that there is a real difference between the two, it would seem that I have misinterpreted your thesis.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-10-11T22:07:48.580Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. I do see a huge difference between appropriate faith and blind faith.

It is my opinion that everyone functions based on faith far more than we acknowledge. That much of what we believe we have evidence for is actually based on quite flimsy chains of reasoning, that have lower and lower probability of being true with each subsequent link from the evidence we are supposedly basing the chains on.

It is also my opinion that this is pretty much unavoidable in order to function in the world, and that you pretty much have to function on a faith based system. Even a scientist who understands things at a fundamental level in one area is still probably accepting the world as she knows it based on faith in the majority of cases in her life.

So, it is my opinion that a key first step in being rational is to acknowledge that you have a faith based system, and then to optimize that system based on the acknowledged reality of what it actually is.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-10-11T22:09:12.177Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Please let me know if what I just wrote makes sense to you. If it does, perhaps this comment might be good as a start for making a second attempt at communication - I think I articulated what I was trying to say better here than before.

comment by AndHisHorse · 2014-10-12T22:36:54.353Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It does - thank you for clarifying your point.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-28T16:48:29.681Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

My actual statement was that

"putting your trust in "a guru and a bunch of other people" "

Is a form of faith.

All of the rest of your comment is all arguing with assumptions you have made about what I am saying and thinking regarding conclusions you drew on my behalf.

I am not going to try to dig into what you say here to respond. However, if you want to ask me a couple of simple questions about what I actually do believe, to clarify about whether we are actually in agreement or disagreement, I am happy to answer.

comment by Cyan · 2014-09-29T00:12:42.037Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My conclusion: there might be an interesting and useful post to be written about how epistemic rationality and techniques for coping with ape-brain intersect, and ShannonFriedman might be capable of writing it. Not there yet, though.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-09-29T08:09:35.328Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Entire subject of this site, surely?

comment by Cyan · 2014-09-29T13:12:42.164Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

tl;dr: No, the subject of the site is wider than that.

Long version: IIRC, EY originally conceived of rationality as comprising two relatively distinct domains: epistemic rationality, the art and science of ensuring the map reflects the territory, and instrumental rationality, the art and science of making decisions and taking actions that constrain the future state of the universe according to one's goals. Around the time of the fork of CFAR off of SIAI-that-was, EY had expanded his conception of rationality to include a third domain: human rationality, the art and science of coping with ape-brain.

In my view, these three domains have core subject matter and interfacial subject matter: the core of epistemic rationality is Bayesian epistemology; the core of instrumental rationality is expected utility optimization; the core of human rationality is Thinking, Fast and Slow and construal level theory. At the interface of epistemic and instrumental rationality sit topics like explore/exploit trade-offs and value-of-information calculations; at the interface of epistemic rationality and human rationality sit topics like belief vs. alief, heuristics and biases, and practical techniques for updating on and responding to new information in ways large and small; at the interface of instrumental rationality and human rationality sit topics like goal factoring/funging and habit formation; and right at the intersection of all three, I would locate techniques like implementing tight feedback loops.

comment by satt · 2014-09-30T22:17:18.398Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Nice capsule summary of LW. One minor suggestion about a personal hobby-horse:

topics like goal factoring/funging

Might a simple but less jargon-y word/phrase replace "funging" here? (I'm actually not 100% sure what it means here since I'm used to always seeing "against" after "funge"...)

[Edited to delete an extra "to".]

comment by Cyan · 2014-09-30T23:04:17.323Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As Vaniver mentioned, it relates to exploring trade-offs among the various goals one has / things one values. A certain amount of it arises naturally in the planning of any complex project, but it seems like the deliberate practice of introspecting on how one's goals decompose into subgoals and on how they might be traded off against one another to achieve a more satisfactory state of things is an idea that is novel, distinct, and conceptually intricate enough to deserve its own label.

comment by Vaniver · 2014-09-30T22:33:04.487Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(I'm actually not 100% sure what it means here since I'm used to always seeing "against" after "funge"...)

In most cases, you can replace 'funge' with 'trade,' and talking about goal factoring/trading makes sense. (It's not quite as precise, because trading allows you to swap apples for oranges, and here the idea is specifically to acquire more apples through approach A than you would have received through approach B, which funging points at because when goods are fungible they're mutually interchangeable.)

comment by [deleted] · 2014-09-30T22:55:17.434Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is just curiosity, but what community has brought "funge" to have this meaning? The only definition of "funge" I can find is archaic references to either fungus or simpletons.

comment by Cyan · 2014-09-30T23:33:34.203Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Fungible. The term is still current within economics, I believe. If something is fungible, it stands to reason that one can funge it, nu?

comment by Vaniver · 2014-10-01T01:59:46.249Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is just curiosity, but what community has brought "funge" to have this meaning?

Cyan is correct, with the additional comment that I'm not sure I've seen 'funge' used as a verb in economics discussions, and so I think the transition to a verb may be due to this community.

comment by shminux · 2014-09-28T18:44:35.974Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Re the reasons to get out of bed:

  • I suspect that an average person does not put nearly as much time or effort thinking it through every morning. We are creatures of habit, and if your System 1 decides you should get up, up you get. A typical conscious thought would be like "alarm... silence it... weekday? time to follow the weekday routine... weekend? maybe I can sleep in a little".

  • Your description of beliefs seems severely skewed toward hedonistic reasoning. Many who even bother thinking about it get up out of duty, or for deontological reasons.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-28T19:01:32.603Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Point #1:

Yes.

You are making the point for me very well about how much of everything we do is not rational thought or grounded. You can call it habit, or you can call it faith that getting out of the bed is the correct thing to do.

Whether you re-think your logic or not every morning or not does not make much difference in whether or not the action is faith based in my book. You are acting on the belief/perspective/point of view that getting out of bed is the appropriate thing to do.

Point #2:

Hedonistic examples are simple and thus easy to describe. I could lay out more complex belief systems, but then I'd have to write a book rather than a blog post.

I think there's something else you might be getting at here, but I'm not really sure what you're trying to show through this statement, so if you want to be more direct or ask a question, I'd be interested.

comment by shminux · 2014-09-29T04:34:11.834Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You can call it habit, or you can call it faith

This would be a very non-central example of faith.

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-29T05:26:20.317Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Depends how you define central. There are several different definitions of Faith if you look on Google. Personally, I think the fact that you choose to get up every morning, in some ways makes this more central than religious faith, which people think about far less frequently. Although I do of course get what you are pointing at.

What I am pointing at in this post, is that people take things on faith all of the time, that impact their quality of life, without realizing it.

As an example, if you were to question your reasons for why you get out of bed in the morning when you do, even something that mundane could potentially have a huge impact on your life.

You may for example decide to get up slightly earlier or slightly later, and this could potentially allow you to get something else done in the morning, or increase your wakefulness during the day, and have a domino of good consequences effect you throughout the day.

Another point I was making is that willingness to questioning your faith related to getting out of bed in the morning - in the way that I'm using the word - is in my experience highly correlated with willingness to question your Faith in the most common usages of the word:

"complete trust or confidence in someone or something." and "strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual"

Even if the case is not a central example, that I have found a very strong correlation between this example and other more standard examples causes me to think that I am considering the concept correctly.

comment by Azathoth123 · 2014-09-28T17:29:50.507Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You do realize the original meaning of "faith" was closer to our modern word "loyality".

comment by ShannonFriedman · 2014-09-28T17:58:12.747Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. I personally find current usage more useful than original meaning, although both can be good to know.

comment by Gvaerg · 2014-09-28T19:22:24.825Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Nice to see an old face again!

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-09-29T02:07:23.577Z · score: -3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

A better word than "faith" should be used if we're in a rationalist forum.