Scaling Evidence and Faith

post by AndrewKemendo · 2009-12-27T12:30:45.561Z · score: -3 (12 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 36 comments

Contents

  Claim: Natural and sexual selection as described by Charles Darwin accurately describes the processes which develop biological traits in separate species.
  Claim: The price of Human full DNA sequencing will fall below $1000.00 before 2012.
None
36 comments

Often when talking with people of faith about the issue of atheism, a common response I get is:

“It takes as much faith to believe in evolution as it does to believe in god.”

Any atheist who has ever talked to a theist has likely encountered this line of reasoning. There is a distinction to be made between the glorifying of faith as evidence of truth, as theists do, and the desire to become less faithful in our understanding, as the rational truth seeking person does.

As has been discussed previously, realistically P = 1 is not attainable, at least for the foreseeable future. Nor is P=1 necessary to be comfortable in the universe. Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan among others, feel the same way. We know that heuristics “fill the gaps” in knowledge of recognizable scenarios such that we can comfortably demand less evidence and still come to a reasonable conclusion about our surroundings in most cases. We also know the myriad of ways in which those heuristics fail. Much has been written about uncertainty in the decision making process and I would imagine it will be the focus of much of the future research into logic. So, I have no problems concluding that there is some level of faith in all decision making. How much faith in a claim am I comfortable with? The way in which I have been thinking about the different levels of "faith" recently is as a sliding bar:

On the left side, natural evidence is indicated in blue which is comprised of data points which indicate to the observer the natural proof of the argument. On the right, faith is indicated in red which is comprised of either counter evidence for the claim or a lack of information. The bar’s units can be anything (probability, individual records) so long as both sides are measured in equal parts.

A few examples:


Claim: Natural and sexual selection as described by Charles Darwin accurately describes the processes which develop biological traits in separate species.

I agree with this claim with 99% natural evidence in the form of observed speciation and fossil and geologic discoveries and accept 1% faith because, well, anything can happen:

Claim: The price of Human full DNA sequencing will fall below $1000.00 before 2012.

I agree with this at 80% natural evidence based on the projection that the price will continue to fall at the same rate that it has and accept 20% faith based on the fact that predictions failed for 2008 and 2009  

You get the idea.


I started noticing a few years back that most rational people, and in general people within scientific and analytic communities, generally needed to slide their evidence meter pretty far to the right before they would accept a premise, even tentatively. After all, even frequentists, as flawed as their methodology may be, still chose 95% as the conventional level of significance. Conversely with a meter far to the left, demanding much faith, most rational people I have found choose to reject those claims.

It’s not a perfect method, nor is it terribly rigorous. However I’m not interested in more rigorous methods because I am interested in bridging the gap between the rationalist and, let’s say, those who have a propensity of demanding lower levels of evidence for beliefs. I think the scale method is a grounding point for discussion between two people who hold different views on a subject. I am of the mind that this helps the average person who has never heard of probability theory grasp the idea and why one person's cause for faith is another person's cause for natural evidence. This way, the faithful can discuss why the incorruptibles are a miracle and proof of faith and another can point to the evidence of embalming, mummification or preservation like burying environment in which they were buried.

One question I have myself about the methodology: would the most rational individual restrict themselves to two scales for all claims; one for acceptance and another for rejection?

Any refinements are welcome – it’s an open source methodology.

My scale of trust in my scale method is 50% evidence and 50% faith.

 

 

36 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Psychohistorian · 2009-12-27T21:47:56.591Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This creates the mistaken implication that there is some need for an affirmative belief to sum up to 100%, and I think it improperly relabels "uncertainty" as "faith."

A perfectly rational being would assign some percentage chance to evolution being true, some percentage chance to each religion's creation story being true, and some chance for any number of other theories that have not yet occurred to us. It would not feel bound to a binary, "Evolution right; creationism wrong!" that the human mind naturally gravitates to. It would be perfectly happy to think, "Evolution P=.999, Creationism P=1.2e-45" or whatever values it determined were appropriate.

Similarly, there is no red gap that needs to be bridged by faith. The only thing one truly must have faith in (and please correct me if you can; I'd love to be wrong) is induction, and if you truly lacked faith in induction, you'd literally go insane.

Rather, the religious claim of, "Well, you need to have faith to believe X" is a fundamental misunderstanding of what constitutes a proper degree of certainty. It's like the DirectTV ad where the "competitor" says, "Direct TV has 1080P. We don't. But neither we nor directTV broadcast in 1 million P! Look who just leveled the playing field!." You can "win" almost any argument by raising the bar to the certainty standard, because if it's an argument about reality, both sides will be infinitely far from meeting it. Implying that some degree of "faith" is necessary to fill the bar to 100 wrongly gives this argument credibility. The red part is occupied by likely alternatives, not by faith.

You need faith to believe that a fair coin flipped fifty times will always land heads. You do not need faith to believe that a fair coin flipped fifty times will not always land heads, even though it is possible. I think this gives a more accurate understanding of what is meant by faith.

comment by MrHen · 2009-12-29T16:47:52.550Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This creates the mistaken implication that there is some need for an affirmative belief to sum up to 100%, and I think it improperly relabels "uncertainty" as "faith."

My agreement with this statement goes beyond simply voting you up. While I can see people having "faith" in placeholder evidence for something not yet found, I do not think this is a useful description when talking with people of faith.

In terms of easing the discussion between people of "faith" and people of "evidence" I do encourage finding a way to translate "evidence" into the language of faith. I just think the OP was a little off. My first attempt would be something such as, "My faith comes from induction and past experience." When they say, "Me too!" you now have a foot in the door to talk about evidence without using the word.

If they say, "My faith comes from fuzzy feelings and what my elders taught me," they are being rather honest about their faith and could probably have an intelligent conversation with you about the subject. Namely, you can contrast and compare how accurate fuzzy feelings and elders were in your life and see how they respond. Again, you can talk about evidence without using the word.

If they say, "Faith is believing in the face of uncertainty" the conversation can drift into "completing the job of evidence," which is what I think the OP was talking about. If evidence gets you 90% of the way there, but you are acting as if it were true, than there is some amount of "faith" involved. But, in my opinion, there should be a 90% faith in the evidence you found, not 10% faith in the evidence you didn't. They may have 10% faith in the non-evidence, but I would argue that this is where the rationalist line should be drawn. This is more obvious when there is 99% that is missing.

comment by AndrewKemendo · 2009-12-28T06:58:08.585Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it improperly relabels "uncertainty" as "faith."

Perhaps. The way I see uncertainty as it pertains to one or another claim is that there will almost always be a reasonable counter claim and in order to dismiss the counter claim and accept the premise, that is faith in the same sense.

The only thing one truly must have faith in (and please correct me if you can; I'd love to be wrong) is induction, and if you truly lacked faith in induction, you'd literally go insane.

Intuition and induction are in my view very similar to what is understood as faith. I failed to make that clear, however I would use those interchangeably.

I recognize that faith is a touchy issue because it is so dramatically irrational and essentially leads to the slippery slope of faith. I view the issue similar to how the case was made for selecting the correct contrarian views, we are concluding approximately for what we do not know or for counterclaims.

comment by Psychohistorian · 2009-12-28T17:58:40.094Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Intuition and induction are in my view very similar to what is understood as faith.

I don't see how this works. Induction is, basically, the principle of inferring the future from the past (or the past from the present), which basically requires the universe to consistently obey the same laws. The problem with this, of course, is that the only evidence we have that the future will be like the past is the fact that it always has been, so there's a necessary circularity. You can't provide evidence for induction without assuming induction is correct; indeed, the very concept of "evidence" assumes induction is correct.

Intuition, on the other hand, is entirely susceptible to being analyzed on its merits. If our intuition tends to be right, we are justified in relying on it, even if we don't understand precisely how it works. If it isn't typically right for certain things, or if it contradicts other, better evidence, we're wrong to rely on it, even though believing contrary to our intuition can be difficult.

I don't see how either of these concepts can be equated with a conventional use of "faith."

Edited in response to EY's comment below: I'm not meaning to compare faith in induction to faith in religion at all. The "leap" involved differs extraordinarily, as one is against evidence and the other is evidence. Not to mention every religious person also believes in induction, so the faith required for religion is necessarily in addition to that required by everyone to not get hit by a bus.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2009-12-28T19:26:50.050Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Induction is thinking that if the sun has risen every day for the last billion years, it will probably rise tomorrow.

Faith is believing that even though the sun has risen every day for the last billion years, it won't rise tomorrow.

Trying to call induction a "religion" to excuse religion isn't going to help you much; all it does is admit the two are comparable, and then simple observation shows that induction is the correct "religion" and faith proves false. Shall we see whether prayer heals this time?

comment by AndrewKemendo · 2009-12-29T10:06:14.234Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you, EY and most use the term faith in a historical context related to religion rather than its definitional context as it relates to epistemological concerns of trust in an idea or claim

The best definition I have found so far for faith is thus:

Faith is to commit oneself to act based on sufficient experience to warrant belief, but without absolute proof.

So I have no problem using faith and induction interchangeably because it is used just as you say:

inferring the future from the past (or the past from the present), which basically requires the universe to consistently obey the same laws.

Religions claim that they do this. Of course they don't because they do not apply a constant standard to their worldview to all events. It is not because of their faith that they are wrong, it is because of their inconsistent application of accepting claims and ignoring evidence.

The point of the system is to deconstruct why you see their claims of evidence as faith and vice versa. Hence the incorruptible example.

comment by Psychohistorian · 2009-12-29T18:56:36.042Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Faith is to commit oneself to act based on sufficient experience to warrant belief, but without absolute proof.

The problem with this definition is that it describes every action you will ever take. "Absolute proof" does not exist with respect to anything in the real world. You only have absolute certainty in a definitional context, e.g."There are no married bachelors" - this is true by definition, but tells you nothing about the actual world. Given that the last statement applies to every single instance, your statement reduces to:

Faith is to commit oneself to act based on sufficient experience to warrant belief.

This statement sounds just like "rational action." That's why many of us take issue with your definition of faith; it does not appear to be a productive concept. Insofar as absolute certainty is impossible, if you're using faith to get you to absolute certainty, you're doing something very, very wrong.

The other problem with this definition is that it is not really compatible with the dictionary definitions, the most pertinent one of which is "belief in the absence of proof."

comment by JRMayne · 2009-12-27T17:17:02.352Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Perhaps I misunderstand, but I think what you're calling "faith," is simply confidence level. Renaming it "faith," I think, is going to muddle the terminology more than it assists the ability to argue the point.

Let's take your view of evolution: You're saying you accept it based 1% on faith. I would say that I am 99% confident of it (assuming your view), which has the advantage that doubts that enter into the analysis would reduce my confidence level, but not increase my faith level, which would remain at zero.

Nor do I believe that this renaming helps us meet the divergent views between the faithful and the evidence-based. To give credence to faith as a necessary filler of doubt doesn't help move people toward evidence, in my view. Further, it is exactly the sort of logic the faithful cite - science is just faith in something else.

comment by AndrewKemendo · 2009-12-28T06:59:43.986Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

confidence level.

Most people do not understand what a confidence interval or confidence levels are. At least in my interactions. Unless you have had some sort of statistics (even basic) you probably haven't heard of it.

comment by MrHen · 2009-12-29T16:30:03.461Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would agree, but I think that teaching them a new term is easier than changing their conception of the term "faith."

comment by orthonormal · 2009-12-30T02:55:06.677Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well put. That's essentially why I downvoted the post.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2009-12-27T14:04:43.303Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

We know that heuristics “fill the gaps” in knowledge of recognizable scenarios such that we can comfortably demand less evidence and still come to a reasonable conclusion about our surroundings in most cases.

Intuition (what you call "faith") is evidence. Like any evidence, it comes with uncertainty about its implications, and dependence of its reliability on other known factors. You can't cut it some slack as a special case, rather you already know something about your mind and its heuristics that boosts the probability of them computing the right answers.

You already know that your lawful intelligence does a lot of work, considers a lot of evidence, much more than it theoretically needed, presenting its conclusions for you to feel as intuition. Even though you can't see the machinery, can't name specific pieces of evidence that drive your intuition, you know that it's there. Perhaps the greatest strength that intuitive mind gives you is ability to locate the hypotheses, something other tools just can't do.

At the same time, you know that you run on corrupted hardware, that the answers given by intuition are unreliable and may be systematically biased towards stupidity or against your values, but so are the answers of any other tool. Conditioned on the presence of features known to evoke standard biases, your intuition can be considered either more or less likely to give the correct answers. Sometimes, you have nothing except intuition and intuition is known to be compromised, but in that case you just have to acknowledge significant uncertainty in what intuition cries to be an inevitable conclusion. In other cases, you have data to update intuition's estimates to something very unlike what intuition says by itself. Often, intuition and other sources of evidence agree.

comment by AndrewKemendo · 2009-12-28T07:07:17.911Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Intuition (what you call "faith") is evidence.

If you will, please define intution as you understand it.

From how I understand intuition, it is knowledge for which the origin cannot be determined. I have certainly experienced the "I know I read something about that somewhere but I just can't remember" feeling before and was right about it. However just as equally I have been wrong about conclusions that I have come to through this means.

I think your entire post gives the same visceral description as someone would describe about having "felt the holy spirit "or some other such nonsense.

I honestly think that the issue of intuition is a MAJOR hurdle for rationality. I tend to err on the side of intuition being false evidence - hence why I indicated that our heuristics filled in the blanks. That is why I categorize intuition with faith similarly.

comment by wedrifid · 2009-12-28T13:35:22.191Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

From how I understand intuition, it is knowledge for which the origin cannot be determined.

I still call it intuition once I (believe I) can work out how it originated. Perhaps I would go with "cannot be easily dissected".

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2009-12-28T17:01:31.463Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Rather, intuition is evidence that can be easily accessed. It's very useful to train one's intuition to work correctly even after you know the answer by other means.

comment by komponisto · 2009-12-27T19:37:35.214Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Claim: Natural and sexual selection

Reminded me to reply to this comment.

comment by DanArmak · 2009-12-27T15:03:53.632Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I’m not interested in more rigorous methods because I am interested in bridging the gap between the rationalist and, let’s say, those who have a propensity of demanding lower levels of evidence for beliefs.

There's no bridging this gap because the non-rationalists (e.g., honestly religious people) are ultimately uninterested in objective truth.

Rationalists can use faith in the absence of evidence, as in "taking P<>NP on faith because we haven't proved it yet". Religious people, however, use faith to believe things despite evidence that contradicts their belief.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2009-12-27T15:36:58.901Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Rationalists can use faith in the absence of evidence, as in "taking P<>NP on faith because we haven't proved it yet". Religious people, however, use faith to believe things despite evidence that contradicts their belief.

It's wrong. There is no difference in principle between "absence of evidence" and "evidence to the contrary". You can't use "faith" "in absence of evidence", you can only use intuition knowing that you expect it to come to the right conclusions because of the evidence that your mind processed but you don't see consciously; also, you always start from some priors, including the priors as rules for reacting to new evidence. P!=NP is a bad example, we have lots of explicit evidence. No one is entitled to take beliefs on faith.

comment by Psychohistorian · 2009-12-27T21:29:14.463Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is true, but I don't think DA was arguing that is is OK to take beliefs on faith. His point was that the following two statements display significantly different and distinct types of faith:

(A)"I don't have much evidence to decide between A and ~A, but I like A, so I believe A is true."

(B)"I have substantial evidence that ~A is true, but I want A to be true, so I will believe in A and consider myself virtuous for believing A in spite of the evidence."

Neither is properly justified, but (A) is only slightly harmful, so long as you are open to new evidence and willing to reupdate on it accordingly, and so long as you aren't making important decisions based on this false certainty. (B) is insidious, for once you take this stance, reality and reason are forever your enemies. This sense of faith is entirely contradictory to that used by AK.

comment by MatthewB · 2009-12-27T15:46:09.364Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No one is entitled to take beliefs on faith.

Yet, this is exactly what the religious mind-set insists must be done.

Is it the case that this tendency will spill over into other areas of life, and in their desire to either explain, or explain away phenomenon for which they have no experience?

My personal intuition says yes.

As for absence of evidence I see on the Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris websites all the time, people who insist that absence of evidence allows them to retain beliefs which are highly doubtful (that tendency to have beliefs that are not allowed to be challenged because they must be respected).

I guess what I am saying is that I agree with you, but that you have only nicked the top of the iceberg.

comment by DanArmak · 2009-12-27T15:44:32.259Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is no difference in principle between "absence of evidence" and "evidence to the contrary".

There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding here. By "absence of evidence" I mean our lack of knowledge. I don't mean that "we checked and there's no evidence", as you seem to be suggesting - I mean "we haven't checked because we don't know how yet". We have no evidence either way, that's a complete absence of any kind of evidence.

You can't use "faith" "in absence of evidence"

I wouldn't normally use the word "faith" like this, but it's the meaning given in the OP: faith is what you have whenever your evidence is less than P=1 (P=1 is possible with math proofs).

P!=NP is also a bad example, we have lots of explicit evidence.

We have evidence, yes, but not as much as we would like (no formal proof). The remaining uncertainty, small as it may be, requires the exercise of "faith" if we're going to assume P!=NP in practice.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2009-12-27T16:02:28.488Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

We have no evidence either way, that's a complete absence of any kind of evidence.

That's what I meant too. Not having observed evidence is not a privileged state. You can be right or wrong in your beliefs, overconfident or not confident enough, and it may be correct to hold a belief with certainty, all when you haven't "observed any evidence", just as well as after you've seen a ton of evidence.

Faith is what you have whenever your evidence is less than P=1

Strictly speaking, P=1 never attains, even with math, although with math (or algorithms) you can hoard as much certainty as you want. A class of beliefs with the level of certainty less than, say, 200 bits, is just a bad category to consider, suffering from fallacies of gray and compression.

The remaining uncertainty, small as it may be, requires the exercise of "faith" if we're going to assume P!=NP in practice.

No it doesn't. You don't have to believe in the hypotheses to act on them, it's everyday decision-making under uncertainty. The opposite side of the coin should too be taken into account, except when the limited resource of attention rules to not think of lesser detail.

comment by DanArmak · 2009-12-27T16:22:13.284Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's what I meant too. Not having observed evidence is not a privileged state. You can be right or wrong in your beliefs, overconfident or not confident enough, and it may be correct to hold a belief with certainty, all when you haven't "observed any evidence", just as well as after you've seen a ton of evidence.

I agree with all that.

You disagreed when I said:

Rationalists can use faith in the absence of evidence, as in "taking P<>NP on faith because we haven't proved it yet". Religious people, however, use faith to believe things despite evidence that contradicts their belief.

How about this reformulation: rationalists act despite having incomplete information and P<1 on their best theories (and sometimes P<<1). The quantity 1-P was called by the OP "faith" (and as I noted it's not precisely the standard usage). In this sense, rationalists act "on faith": it means nothing more than that they act as if some theories were true although they can't be sure from the evidence.

Non-rational people, however, use "faith" (this time the ordinary sense of the word) to discount evidence. IOW, they refuse to update on new evidence that contradicts their faith-supported theory. That's why they're not rational, and why any discussion with them is usually unproductive as long as it doesn't touch on the concepts of rationality and belief.

That was my point in response to the OP: that there's no rapprochement or agreement to be had on this subject between rationalists and such anti-rationalists.

Strictly speaking, P=1 never attains, even with math

Correction accepted. You can always doubt your computing hardware, your sense and brain, your memory of the proof (induction problem), etc.

No it doesn't. You don't have to believe in the hypotheses to act on them, it's everyday decision-making under uncertainty.

The way you use the word "believe", it's as if no-one ever believes in anything. When I act as if a hypothesis was true despite uncertainty, and do so in all circumstances (which don't provide new evidence against that hypothesis), that's what I call believing in that hypothesis.

Of course, whenever I act on a hypothesis I get new evidence that relates to it, but as long as that evidence supports the hypothesis the above definition holds.

comment by Unknowns · 2009-12-29T05:59:38.523Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Looks to me like people are voting this post down just because it uses the word "faith," without being entirely negative about it. Using a word like that without condemning it is collaborating with the all-evil enemy.

comment by Thomas · 2009-12-27T13:39:52.216Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You have no proofs for the core beliefs. They are always assumed only.

Had you have a proof for one of your core belief, it would relay on some deeper beliefs - and those were your core beliefs.

It's alway an arbitrary set of axioms you starts with. Always. An old axiom of yours can be deleted only if it confronts some others.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2009-12-27T14:13:24.056Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's alway an arbitrary set of axioms you starts with. Always. An old axiom of yours can be deleted only if it confronts some others.

Not "arbitrary", and very much specific and immutable.

comment by Thomas · 2009-12-27T15:51:07.261Z · score: -4 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If there is a possible set of the fundamental axioms, there is a person who adopts this set. Almost so.

Do you know two people with the same 20 or so identical sets of fundamentals?

A beliefs system of a human is quite an arbitrary one.

comment by orthonormal · 2009-12-30T02:51:52.890Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I hope you merely mean, "there is a point in mind-space that adopts this set", and not that there exists or has existed a person who does. Just based on the number of possible axioms, that claim is trivially false; and the vast majority of axioms would be particularly unlikely to be chosen by human beings in particular.

comment by Thomas · 2009-12-30T06:23:59.084Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Of course. I thought that was obvious.

The majority of those sets of axioms are not occupied by any human mind. Of course.

I should say "human possible" instead of "possible".

comment by Cyan · 2009-12-27T22:48:42.324Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm surprised that a post that basically does nothing but acknowledge inductive bias is presently at -2.

comment by AndrewKemendo · 2009-12-29T10:11:12.339Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I had not read that part. Thanks.

I do not see any difference in inductive bias as it is written there and dictionary and wikipedia definitions of faith:

Something that is believed especially with strong conviction(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/faith)

Faith is to commit oneself to act based on sufficient experience to warrant belief, but without absolute proof.

comment by whpearson · 2009-12-27T23:26:14.044Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The GP's comment doesn't sit right with me for this reason.

The entity that has the arbitrary axioms in the case of humanity is the genotype, not the phenotype. It has discovered non-arbitrary heuristics that we use day to day. Those heuristics have helped us survive in this harsh world over the millennia, so have been put to the test and found adequate.

comment by Cyan · 2009-12-28T19:59:51.299Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

At first, I thought this was a reasonable comment, but then it occurred to me that the non-arbitrary heuristics were optimized for self-perpetuation, not true beliefs.

comment by whpearson · 2009-12-28T21:19:32.553Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Self-perpetuation is a flavour of winning, no? So while I wouldn't argue that our non-arbitrary heuristics our optimized for true beliefs, they should have some relation to instrumental rationality for self-perpetuation.

I'd argue that the sets of agents optimised for instrumental rationality and epistemic rationality are not disjoint sets. So optimising for self-perpetuation might optimise for true beliefs, dependent upon what part of the system space you are exploring. We may or may not be in that space, but our starting heuristics are more likely to be better than those picked from an arbitrary space for truth seeking.

comment by Cyan · 2009-12-29T02:54:11.449Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I do not disagree with the parent. I think a defense of the use of the term "arbitrary" in the root comment could be mounted on semantic grounds, but I prefer to give only the short short version: arbitrary can mean things other than "chosen at random".

comment by happyseaurchin · 2009-12-28T16:57:23.688Z · score: -7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

i have just found this site forgive the potentially premature comment ||

just an observation: this kind of discussion lacks temporal accuracy

there still seems to be a fundamentalist position implicit in the discussion and examples

that is an attempt to produce a methodology independent of the person speaking or author writing

(oh... i will have to change my style of writing since single line entries are ignored in the comment box... my apologies:)