WorldviewNaturalism.com: A "landing page" for scientific naturalism

post by lukeprog · 2012-07-13T03:39:21.180Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 42 comments

I've just launched WorldviewNaturalism.com, which is intended as a simple "landing page" to be used for introducing your friends to scientific naturalism. Many of the recommended readings linked there are written by LWers. Enjoy.

(This is a very old personal project on which I've spent a few hours per month, and it is not at all associated with the Singularity Institute or the Center for Applied Rationality.)

42 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-07-13T14:44:15.936Z · score: 8 (26 votes) · LW · GW

The video had high production values, but it did make me cringe a bit.

First of all, it felt very choir-preachy - like a five-minute applause light instead of a persuasive summary of naturalism. Additionally, it felt as though too much time was spent on attacking religious strawmen. This feels unnecessary - like it would suffice to go straight to an exposition of what naturalism is rather than an cursory examination of several non-naturalism points in belief-space. And if popular non-naturalist points in belief-space are to be examined, it would do well to refute their best arguments instead of an easily-dismissable strawman.

Secondly - I think there are unintentionally sexist overtones here. The (somewhat condescending) example given of activities which are less useful than developing a worldview was shopping for clothes, an activity people tend to associate with women and femininity. This was not helped by the stock footage of this section consisting almost entirely of women. Contrast this with the collage of naturalists at 4:59 - almost all men. And though the use of the male-pronoun-default is a longstanding tradition, referring to the generic platonic naturalist as "he" rubs me the wrong way. Overall, this seems likely to dissuade half of the target audience, and subtly encourage some highly undesirable patterns in the remainder.

The graphics, music, animation, editing, and most of the celebration of naturalism was very well done. This has the makings of greatness, but I would urge some edits to increase its efficacy.

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2012-07-14T02:10:04.832Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Most wouldn't notice such subtle sexism, but it's still worth fending off the appearance of it.

I wouldn't change this video (except that including a female face among the "well known naturalists" is a good idea if possible); I'd create an additional one aimed at contrasting the fair treatment and respect women can expect from naturalist thinkers as opposed to naive-traditional or ideological-religious ones.

As for your first suggestion, although I don't know what it feels like to be introduced to "naturalism", I think it's a mistake to lead with maximum rigor. The level of difficulty seemed appropriate to me.

As I saw it, the purpose of this video was to suggest that naturalists might be nice, happy, cool people, as opposed to, say, baby eaters - to motivate people to actually entertain the site's writings.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-07-13T18:16:05.961Z · score: -3 (23 votes) · LW · GW

And though the use of the male-pronoun-default is a longstanding tradition, referring to the generic platonic naturalist as "he" rubs me the wrong way.

Clearly using "ze" or something like that will make a better impression on most people. Right.

Overall, this seems likely to dissuade half of the target audience

But less than half of the actual audience the video is likely to get.

and subtly encourage some highly undesirable patterns in the remainder.

This is a weak effect. I'm not even sure it is measurable which means ignoring it carries small costs. Talking about this is thus just boring morality signalling that at least on gender topics eats up far to much time and brain CPU cycles on LessWrong. Your comment isn't by far the worst offender at this kind of utilitarian fail I consistently see. It is not even that bad at it since it hasn't launched drama. But I have a general policy of down voting all such comments to which I will adhere.

tl;dr Up voted because of you pointing out the religion straw man, down voted because of the useless "sexism" talk.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2012-07-13T19:47:09.863Z · score: 3 (25 votes) · LW · GW

Downvoted for knee-jerk anti-anti-sexism of the "straw-womyn" variety: making shit up about pronouns instead of responding to the substantive concern about the impression being given that naturalism is for boys, not girls.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-07-14T07:15:41.386Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Down voted for knee jerk downvote. I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about this, this isn't something that I did on a whim at all. And like I said:

Your comment isn't by far the worst offender at this kind of utilitarian fail I consistently see. It is not even that bad at it since it hasn't launched drama. But I have a general policy of down voting all such comments to which I will adhere.

The post itself wasn't bad, which is why I didn't down vote it (hint: +1-1 = 0) I just used it to criticize a constant low grade ideological axe people are grinding.

In any case its kind of the point of using Charlie Sheen to say stuff that will get me down voted but I think need to be said.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-07-14T11:07:42.496Z · score: -6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

In any case its kind of the point of using Charlie Sheen to say stuff that will get me down voted but I think need to be said.

Oh? A sockpuppet? Not welcome. Will downvote every comment by the account and encourage everyone else to do likewise. Sockpuppet comments should not be visible. (This is my universal policy.)

comment by OpenThreadGuy · 2012-07-24T00:47:06.451Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do you downvote all of my submissions, since this is a sock-puppet account?

comment by wedrifid · 2012-07-24T01:27:52.012Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do you downvote all of my submissions, since this is a sock-puppet account?

No. Your account doesn't fit the profile (as far as I have noticed).

I'm rather shocked that the grandparent was negatively received. I was advocating penalising of overt subversion of the reputation system and the contribution standards it is there to support.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-07-14T13:27:24.033Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Don't have a problem with this as long as you really are consistent and down vote Clippy, Quirrell, ect. Would be interested in a link to your rationale, which I feel you must have written out somewhere. I mean seriously "Charlie Sheen" I'm surprised you didn't catch this one of the n other times I've said and implied this is an alt to keep my IRL name sort of safe.

If it makes you feel any better I can agree to permanently stop using my main account. What I say with it mostly isn't as needed as what I say with this one anyway.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-07-14T14:41:13.302Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Don't have a problem with this as long as you really are consistent and down vote Clippy, Quirrell, ect.

Yes.

Would be interested in a link to your rationale, which I feel you must have written out somewhere.

Yes, somewhere. Two of the purposes of the karma system are:

  • To discourage people from posting undesired comments. You outright declare that this is what you are trying to subvert: "In any case its kind of the point of using Charlie Sheen to say stuff that will get me down voted but I think need to be said."
  • To give an indication of whether the posts of a user are likely to be worth reading, as well as how good the user is at thinking (useful when choosing how much credibility to assign them.) This is also subverted both in terms of karma score and direct associations with the user.

The even more obvious reason is that users who are logging in with multiple accounts will end up voting multiple times on the same comment. This is obviously not good.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-07-14T15:08:32.526Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The even more obvious reason is that users who are logging in with multiple accounts will end up voting multiple times on the same comment. This is obviously not good.

I don't do that, but obviously you only have my word for that. Thank you for elaborating.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2012-07-13T21:07:42.578Z · score: 2 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Clearly using "ze" or something like that will make a better impression on most people. Right.

"He or she" or "they" seems like the obvious alternative.

Talking about this is thus just boring morality signalling that at least on gender topics eats up far to much time and brain CPU cycles on LessWrong.

Your comment suggests you think the discomfort experienced by women from this sort of thing is negligible. It very well may be, but as men I don't think we're in a position to know very well without asking women.

If one person insults another, who knows more about how much the insult hurt: the person who delivered it or the person who received it?

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-07-14T07:26:50.171Z · score: 12 (24 votes) · LW · GW

"He or she" or "they" seems like the obvious alternative.

Bleh. Using she clearly isn't neutral. Unless we are going for "boo boys, yay girls" vibe, which is dull. Also is ze really that much of a straw man considering I've seen luke and others use it here?

"They" seems appropriate, but LWers are nerds, they have far too little common sense for that. You know that two times out of three if they can be geeks about being "gender neutral" or some progressive silliness they will be.

Your comment suggests you think the discomfort experienced by women from this sort of thing is negligible. It very well may be, but as men I don't think we're in a position to know very well without asking women.

The simple truth is that even if we go out of our way to endorse woman friendly norms, they simply won't be making up half the readership. When doing utility calculus, you need to stop thinking in "half of the intended readership" and just thinking about half the actual readership the thing can get. Lets not kid ourselves that the likely audience split will be 50-50, check out the numbers in the relevant academic philosophy departments or even on LessWrong

I'm suggesting the radical notion that a female reader is as good as a male reader and no more. We ought to be maximizing the readership period, not worrying about its demographics except in a instrumental sense. Now obviously you don't want to signal that you aren't inclusive, that is the kind of thing an inbreed toothless bigoted redneck would do, so once someone brings it up you have to do something about it, but 9 times out of 10 that person bringing it up isn't doing the "audience maximisation" goal any good at all, especially once one factors in the opportunity costs of developer/administrator/writer time!

LessWrong readers are capable of shutting up and calculating, deciding to punch their own father in the face and not talk to him for a year in order to get 500k that can save plenty of lives, but they aren't willing to give a rough look to people who suggest the building needs 500k in modifications to make it handicapped friendly. I smell a scared cow with some pseudo-utilitarian rationalization lipstick. If they where capable of doing so they would realize that often the discomfort experienced by the minority fraction of readers does not at all outweighs the investment needed to accommodate them. Worse using such efforts conspicuously is a tribal marker away from the acceptable educated crowd norm, lowering the barrier to entry to the wrong contrarian cluster. Same goes for loudly arguing against such accommodations... I think I'm just trying to balance things out, obviously such thinking is really bad in being vulnerable to creating escalating signalling arms races that eat up more and more brain CPU cycles. But tell me who started escalating by stepping away from the Schelling point of default social norms?

Pursuing inclusivity to minor details such as the default use of gender in language has costs and much more importantly opportunity costs people here don't ever want to talk about. This wasn't someone complaining that people where putting up a "no handicapped" sign on their front door or being intentionally unwelcoming to women or anything, this was someone expecting that more effort than is the society wide norm be spent on it and assuming this is a cost we have to bare for some reason.

I think it just isn't worth it.

Come to think of it this drama isn't worth it either now that the white knight brigade have been alerted, so peace out dudes.

Edit: and dudettes!

Edit: and non-gendered people!

Edit: and non-people!

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2012-07-14T19:05:09.375Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Lets not kid ourselves that the likely audience split will be 50-50, check out the numbers in the relevant academic philosophy departments on even on LessWrong. ... I'm suggesting the radical notion that a female reader is as good as a male reader and no more. We ought to be maximizing the readership period, not worrying about its demographics except in a instrumental sense.

But think of the meetups, man! (is essentially what's behind all white-knighting).

There are definitely men who won't join a currently-all-female step aerobics class at their gym, but pine for the satisfaction of social marching in place (I did partcipate in such a class, but only because of an existing female friend).

Without insisting on 51/49 female/male demographics (which is a slight straw-man), it makes sense to decide whether you want the environment to be attractive to most intelligent women rather than just some exceptional ones.

In slightly more detail (and I guess this is all obvious):

A group of mostly men with a few women entering has a different dynamic than one that already has a sizable and powerful female minority. My imaginary typical intelligent woman sees some of that dynamic as unpleasant, rough edges. To shave those edges down might lose something, will certainly cost something, and might be worthwhile.

I definitely don't think "all readers are equally important", but I lean toward feeling that male and female are, all else equal ("all else being equal" - the ultimate cop-out). If I have to see these readers in these comments, their quality had better be good (and this is hardly the only reason reader quality matters).

My gut feeling about LW's topics: 5% female? Possibly not caused by a perception of excessive roughness. 1%? Definitely a sign of a problem. 30% female? Probably you've been going out of your way to favor adding new female readers over male (based on my experience with women in science / programming in the US).

Then again, it's possible that a demographic shift is caused by a change in topic, or a marketing breakthrough into a demographically different market. e.g. I'm fairly sure HPMOR increased the female percentage of this site's readership.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2012-07-17T05:17:26.124Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If they where capable of doing so they would realize that often the discomfort experienced by the minority fraction of readers does not at all outweighs the investment needed to accommodate them.

Yep, I agree and specifically acknowledged that possibility. In this case, my current guess is that it's not worthwhile for lukeprog to rework his video, but it would be worthwhile to spend a few minutes thinking of gender if he was to make it again.

I've seen people on the internet use "white knight" to refer to men who take the pro-female position in gender-oriented online arguments. Is this just namecalling, or is there a technical difference between "white knights" and men who favor the pro-female position on collective utility maximization grounds?

comment by Grognor · 2012-07-23T02:06:28.203Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I believe this term is used solely to countersignal and has no more technical meaning than "guy I don't like who defends females".

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-07-31T12:23:55.916Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yep.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-07-14T16:33:21.820Z · score: -2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

What costs? Seriously, they is two keystrokes more than he and people is three keystrokes more than men.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-07-14T17:19:08.375Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Rerecording a video has time costs. This discussion was a cost. Also are you missing that the above argument is a big more general than this specific example?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-07-14T02:42:54.587Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

At least one man has concluded that defaulting to male third person pronouns made it more difficult for him to think clearly.

The universal male pronoun contributes to availability bias.

comment by Raemon · 2012-07-14T04:32:07.271Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Woah. Totally did not know Hofstadter wrote that (the first two times I read it I didn't know he was a person I should care about).

I also noticed I was confused when I read the intro to GEB and it talks extensively about his use of primarily male characters. I was impressed but surprised that someone would care that much to disclaim it.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-07-14T07:36:58.053Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Good that is an actual argument instead of just assuming that what 5 or 10% or 20% of the actual viewership will get are offended by standard language use enough for this to be worth spending effort to rerecord the video.

If using gendered pronouns messes with actual rationality, then we should totally do away with them.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-07-14T18:06:23.596Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

There are extremely-low-cost ways to avoid male-gendered-defaults - everything from alternating pronouns to repeating the antecedent to using "they" as a singular. At almost no cost, and with potentially significant upside, it's an easy win. Easy wins are good.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-07-14T07:34:26.821Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If one person insults another, who knows more about how much the insult hurt: the person who delivered it or the person who received it?

"insults another" implies intention here which is a bit of a straw man no? What if they are just offended that I've eaten on Sunday? Or used the language like it is normally used. I don't know maybe we shouldn't be eating on a Sunday or using the language like it is used but this is then probably political value warfare not "refining rationality".

Always assuming the "insulted" person is in the right is bad game theory. Even worse if you just assume that the person doing the "insulting" needs to always change when the insulted person is genuine in expressing their hurtness. On human brains such norms mean that exploiter utility monsters will develop rapidly to pump up all the status they can.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-07-14T15:56:41.915Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I can believe that you are wrong to be hurt by something, and still prefer that you not be hurt.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-07-14T17:21:17.627Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Right, but the only way I see to keep that preference and still deal with utility monsters is to encourage them to not be utility monsters. Which in practice comes off surprisingly callous.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-07-14T21:11:19.747Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In practice, the way I deal with it is to respect their preferences and expect them to respect mine, and to discontinue interaction with people who reject that exchange. I find that strategy has worked OK for me. Others' mileage may, of course, vary.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2012-07-17T05:23:09.907Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

On human brains such norms mean that exploiter utility monsters will develop rapidly to pump up all the status they can.

This is an empirical claim that I am skeptical of. Do you have empirical evidence to support it?

Edit: Grr, why am I getting voted down instead of having my question answered? I don't see what human failure mode you're referring to, although I might see it if you gave a few concrete examples.

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2012-07-15T20:34:04.577Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Talking about this is thus just boring morality signalling that at least on gender topics eats up far to much time and brain CPU cycles on LessWrong.

Maybe you're right, but I notice that almost all of the comments below the parent are below your comment, which strongly suggests that you bear some of the responsibility for eating CPU cycles here.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2012-07-16T08:37:20.268Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In this particular instance I fully agree that I am, it is a bit more drama than I expected to be honest. In hindsight the cost did outweigh the benefit.

But again I was just picking this mild example of a very common occurrence on LW. I suppose I could have written this comment out at a different more salient occasion, one where drama was already present, but that would evoke even stronger emotions, meaning my points would be less likely to be addressed.

I also could have also blunted my comments harshness, padding it with text, but that simply isn't a good way to unambiguously show people that you disapprove and also doesn't match my writing style.

comment by steven0461 · 2012-07-15T21:28:07.084Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What alternative methods of causing people to not talk about these things would you propose?

comment by Nick_Tarleton · 2012-07-15T21:42:34.247Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think the rest of CharlieSheen's comment defeated the purpose of discouraging mindkilling. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

comment by Grognor · 2012-07-13T12:06:13.317Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

On the People page, the picture next to Richard Carrier's name is the same as the picture next to Richard Boyd's.

and that's because science.

That made me smile, [edit] especially because I had just recently read the Language Log article Because NOUN.

The rest of the video made me kind of uncomfortable, though, because it felt like (and I guess sort of was) an advertisement, and you keep saying "worldview naturalism" where anyone else would have said "the naturalistic worldview" or just "naturalism".

(And this is just a personal thing, but I would have put Hofstadter's GEB and Drescher's Good & Real in the self and free will readings section.)

Overall, cool website.

comment by Nectanebo · 2012-07-14T11:13:52.176Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The rest of the video made me kind of uncomfortable, though, because ... you keep saying "worldview naturalism" where anyone else would have said "the naturalistic worldview" or just "naturalism".

Seconded, that felt unnatural and kinda irked me.

comment by shminux · 2012-07-13T04:55:34.291Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Did you have to use the dirty napkin template? I was fighting the urge to wipe my monitor screen again and again the whole time.

comment by lukeprog · 2012-07-13T06:56:13.604Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Did you have to use the dirty napkin template?

Parchment! Parchment, my friend. :)

comment by shokwave · 2012-07-13T05:28:35.451Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I notice I am confused. I do not agree with the statement "all websites should look clean and sparse" but I have also never once thought "this website is too clean-looking".

These seems at odds with each other.

Perhaps I have not explored the right part of the website layout continuum.

comment by gjm · 2012-07-13T08:21:36.246Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You may sometimes have failed to think (or feel) "this website is dynamic and exciting and intriguing" where you might have done so had its designers given more weight to other things besides cleanness and sparsity.

comment by Alicorn · 2012-07-13T06:48:03.934Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Sometimes I think "this website is really boring-looking".

comment by fortyeridania · 2012-07-13T12:44:13.835Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Many of the links to people's Wikipedia pages simply go to the the main page of Wikipedia.

But yes, it is a great site.

comment by siodine · 2012-07-13T14:48:30.217Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Might not be worth the trouble of fixing, but there's a typo in the first question ('jouney') of the Richard Carrier interview. Good work, btw; looks like a good resource for getting into naturalism. Are you going to doing any networking for the site (e.g., interviews on podcasts like The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe)? Such a project could serve as a nice bridge between SI and the skeptic community and bring in potential donors.

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2012-07-14T02:00:25.840Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Nice video. Hair got even spikier in the second half, as did my liking.

For my taste, lukeprog should speak more rapidly. Perhaps this is incompatible with the awesome smile / body language or background footage, though.

I clicked on some links and many didn't work (sorry, forgot which). Probably fixed by now.