Comment by Alan5 on An African Folktale · 2009-02-16T18:23:40.000Z · LW · GW

There is a stated assumption that this folk tale is viewed as reflective of important wisdom, as in a wisdom tradition. That may be so, but such is not self-evidently the case in any conventional sense. Framing the story alongside Aesop possibly leads to overinterpretation, with Aesop serving as a sort of social value anchor. But what if the story is really just a play on words in the Hausa language, or something akin to a limerick, or even spoken ironically? What was the tone of voice in which the orignal was told? We are attempting to derive textual clues from what is, in essence, a translation from an oral tradition, taken out of context. For all this interpretation, the story could be something of a joke, or a baudy tale told primarily for propagating amusement.

Comment by Alan5 on Thanksgiving Prayer · 2008-11-30T01:21:31.000Z · LW · GW

Bow your heads. Close your eyes. Hold hands. Feel the pleasurable effects of oxytocin. Amen.

Comment by Alan5 on Ask OB: Leaving the Fold · 2008-11-10T00:41:08.000Z · LW · GW

The theologian Bart Ehrman describes his personal journey away from fundamentalist christianity in a recently published book. That may be a place to start. Some seem to assume that christianity is a monolithic set of beliefs and practices. In actuality, of course, there is considerable variation across christian denominations--which themselves change over time. Strict churches tend to ask and therefore receive more from their members in terms of morale and commitment. If you're in a strict church, I think deconversion presents more of a challenge, but looking back in retrospect, it mostly boiled down to getting over a belief in strict literalism and the perpetual group (quasi-tribal?) exercise of believing in belief. I do not think intellectually migrating away from the literal teachings of a faith tradition need necessarily be abrupt. There is a useful analogy used by social psychologists. Consider your rational mind the rider and your emotional mind an elephant. The elephant may be comfortable with the faith in which you were raised, while your rational mind thinks otherwise, and wants to steer another course. Instead of forcing the proverbial elephant in a new direction, perhaps it is possible to pursue a long standing faith tradition as a rationalist.

Comment by Alan5 on Competent Elites · 2008-09-27T23:09:00.000Z · LW · GW

"Hedge-fund people sparkle with extra life force. At least the ones I've talked to. Large amounts of money seem to attract smart people."

That is impossible to dispute. Might the statement, though, indicate the happy glow of survivorship and the survivor bias? After all, what of all the other hedge fund people, smart ones no less, who were also attracted to large amounts of money, but whose fortunes fared less well? Some of the clues include multiple references to "aura," "sparkle," and "life force." Does framing such a group encounter in terms of social signaling help in accounting for these literally glowing impressions? If social signaling has explanatory power here, might it be the case that the signals carry more clearly and deliver more impact in this select, and therefore less "noisy" social environment?