Comment by Boyi on The problem with too many rational memes · 2012-01-20T15:05:27.504Z · LW · GW

This is a wonderful post, and it is a personal problem I strongly sympathize with. Here are my thoughts; I hope they are of some use.

But it’s not my true rejection. My true rejection is that them being wrong is too annoying for me to want to cooperate. Why? I haven’t changed my mind, really, about how much damage versus good I think churches do for the world.

You see physics and rationalism as right, but at the same time you value community (which is also right seeing as humans are social creatures who demand healthy relationships). This is an ethical dilemma. Ethical dilemmas are situations where it is not about right vs. wrong, but right vs. right. In this case Truth vs. Loyalty. You cannot argue that Truth should always be prioritized over Loyalty, or that Loyalty should always be prioritized over Truth. What is needed is moderation. How to moderate is something I too am currently struggling with. Since graduating from College my Truth has become immersed in academic theory. I love reading, writing, and talking about theory. My family and hometown friends do not. In fact many of them hate it. It does not feel like an exciting game to them, rather it is a threat to their intelligence, personal image, and just stressful. I guess I could just cut these people from my life, but it would be an amputation of my self. It would be a painful process, and I find it rarely justified. On the other hand, what I find to be Truth is also perhaps the strongest statement I can make about my identity. To live a secure, healthy life, I need my Truth as much as I need a community. But it is also important to realize that neither is absolute. My community, as well as the symbolic body that I support, are both subjectively created.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-15T17:11:15.009Z · LW · GW

I concede that post-modernism is unintuitive when compared to the history of academic thought, but I would argue that modernism is equally unintuitive to unacademic thought. Do you not agree?

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-15T16:34:04.819Z · LW · GW

Your dodging my question.

As to your qusetion- I do not think I have made any more extraordinary claims than my opposition. To me saying that because "several people have told someone that they need there to be God because without God the universe would be immoral" is not sufficient enough evidence to make that claim. I would also suggest that my claims are not extraordinary, they are contradictory to several core beliefs of this community, which makes them unpleasant, not unthinkable.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-15T16:20:30.811Z · LW · GW

I do not say it means adding content. It means to remove offensive content. Offensive content that is morally base is considered vulgar.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-15T16:05:57.157Z · LW · GW

Really great post! You are completely right on all accounts. Except I really am not a post-modernist, I just agree with some of their ideas, especially conceptions of power as you have pointed out.

I am particularly impressed with Bullet point # 2, because not only does it show an understanding of the basis of my ideas, but it also accurately points out irrationality in my actions given the theories I assert.

I would then ask you if understand this aspect of communities including your own, would you call this rational? It is no excuse, but I think coming here I was under the impression that equality in burden of proof, acccomdation of norms and standards, would be the norm, because I view these things as rational.

Does it seem rational that one side does not hold the burden of proof? To me it is normal for debate because each side is focused solely on winning. But I would call pure debate a part of rhetoric ("the dark arts"). I thought here people would be more concerned with Truth than winning.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-15T15:53:19.000Z · LW · GW

??? Um no read sentence # 2.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-15T15:22:31.247Z · LW · GW

Show me a definition oft the word bowdlerize that does not use the word vulgar or a synonym.

If I am being rude it is because I am frustrated by the double standards of the people I am talking with. I use the word force and I get scolded for trying to taint the conversation with connotations. I will agree that "force" has some negative connotations, but it has positive ones too. In any case it is far more neutral than bowdlerize. And quite frankly I am shocked that I get criticized for pointing out that you clearly do not know what that word means while you get praised for criticizing me for pointing out what the word actually means.

It is hypocritical to jump down my throat about smuggling connotations into a conversation when your language is even more aggressive.

It is also hypocritical that if I propose that there are people who have faith in religion not because they fear a world without it the burden of proof is on me; while if it is proposed by the opposition that many people have faith in religion because they fear a world without it no proof is required.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-15T15:11:18.163Z · LW · GW

vul·gar  : indecent; obscene; lewd: a vulgar work; a vulgar gesture.

And just incase....

Indecent: offending against generally accepted standards of propriety or good taste; improper; vulgar:

Or are you going to tell me that "offensive content" is different from something that is offending?

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-15T12:38:05.626Z · LW · GW

All they see is you/people like you calling a part of them "vulgar." I don't believe I've done this

"It is harder and/or worse to get people to part with these beliefs than to adopt a bowdlerized version of them".

Don't use words if you do not know what they mean.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-15T01:00:27.832Z · LW · GW

Ok generally was a bad word. I checked out the wiki and the primary definition there is not one I am familiar with. The definition of theoretical reductionism found on wiki is more related to my use of the term (methodological too). What i call reductionism is trying to create a grand theory (an all encompassing theory). In sociological literature there is pretty strong critique of grand theories. If you would like to check me on this, you could look at t"the sociological imagination" by C Wright Mills. The critiques are basically what I listed above. In trying to create a grand theory it is usually at the cost of over simplifying the system that is under speculation. That is what I call reductionist.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-15T00:46:26.580Z · LW · GW

Eliezer's argument assumed the uncontroversial premise "Many people think God is the only basis for morality" and encouraged finding a way around that first.

How is this an uncontroversial claim! What proof have you made of this claim. It is uncontroversial to you because everyone involved in this conversation (excluding me) has accepted this premise. Ask yourself the fundamental question of rationality.

Your argument seems to be assuming the premises (1) "The majority of people are unable to part with beliefs that they consider part of their identity" as well as. (2) "It is harder and/or worse to get people to part with these beliefs than to adopt a bowdlerized version of them."

My argument is not that people are unable to part with beliefs, but that 1.) it is harder and 2.) they don't want to. People learn their faith from their parents, from their communities. Some people have bad experiences with this, but some do not. To them religion is a part of their childhood and their personal history both of which are sacred to the self. Why would they want to give that up? They do not have the foresight or education to see the damages of their beliefs. All they see is you/people like you calling a part of them "vulgar."

Is that really the rational way to convince someone of something?

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T20:17:28.354Z · LW · GW

Can you elaborate on what you mean by "reductionist"? You seem to be using it as an epithet, and I honestly don't understand the connection between the way you're using the word in those two sentences.

Reductionist generally means you are over-extending an idea beyond its context or that you are omitting too many variables in the discussion of a topic. In this case I mean the latter. To say that rhetoric is simply wrong and that "white-hat writing/speaking" is right is too black and white. It is reductionist. You assume that it is possible to communicate without using what you call "the dark arts." If you want me to believe that show your work.

Again, this is just not what we're about. There's a huge difference between giving people rationality skills so that they are better at drawing conclusions based on their observations and telling them to believe what we believe.

"Giving people skills" they do not ask for is forcing it on them. It is an act of force.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T20:07:13.131Z · LW · GW

The methodology is the same. If you accept Yvain's methodology than you except mine. You are right that our purposes and methods are different.

Yvain Wants:

  • Destroy the Concept of God
  • To give people a social retreat for a more efficient transition
  • To suggest that the universe can be moral without God to accomplish this.

    I Want:

-To rewrite the concept of God, - To give people a social retreat for a more efficient transition - SAME -To suggest that God can be moral without being a literal conception.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T19:55:12.311Z · LW · GW

You are right that people sometimes need time to adapt their beliefs. That is why the original article kept mentioning that the point was to construct a line of retreat for them; to make it easier on them to realize the truth.

I know! That is what I have been saying from the start. I agree with the idea. My dissent is that I do not think the author’s method truly follows this methodology. I do not think that telling people "it is ok there is no God the universe can still be moral" constructs a line of retreat. I think it over simplifies why people have faith in God.

And just to make sure, and you clear of the differences between a method and a methodology?

Around here, rhetoric is considered one of the Dark Arts. Rationalists are not the people who are recklessly forcing atheism without regard for consequences. See raising the sanity waterline. Religion is a dead canary and we are trying to pump out the gas, not just hide the canary.

Rhetoric can be used as force, but to reduce it to "dark arts" is reductionist. Just as to not see the force being used by rationalists is also reductionist. Anyone who wants to destory/remove someting is by definition using force. Anyone who wants to destory/remove someting is by definition using force. Religion is not a dead canary, it is a missued tool.

The purely rationalist position is a newer adaptation of the might makes right ideology.

This is just a bullshit flame. If you are going to accuse people of violence, show your work.

No, I am not flaming, at least not be the defintion of rationalists on this blog. Fact is intellectual force. Rationalists want to use facts to force people to conform to what they believe. Might is right does not nessecairly mean using violence; it just means you beleive the stronger force is correct. You believe yourself intellecutally stronger than people who believe in a diety, and thus right while they are wrong.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T19:33:47.869Z · LW · GW

Sorry I was again assuming a common basis of knowledge. Carbon emissions would be environmental damage (damaging to the biosphere as a whole). Ecological damages more commonly refers to damages to ecosystems (smaller communities within the biosphere). When people talk about ecological damages they are primarily talking about invasive species. Invasive species are plants, animal, bacteria, and fungi that have been artificially transported from one ecosystem to another and have no natural predator within it. Huge portions of American forest are being eradicated as we speak by Asian beetles, plants, etc.

The primary cause of invasive species is trans-Atlantic/ trans-pacific shipping and flights. We try to regulate what gets on and off ships and boats, but it is really really hard. If you ever take a class in ecology this fact will probably be beaten into you. I work with an ecologist so I hear all the time about the devastation of invasive species and the growing frailty of the worlds ecosystems.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T19:23:45.233Z · LW · GW

God is not just a transcendental belief (meaning a belief about the state of the universe or other abstract concepts). God represents a loyalty to a group identity for lots of people as well as their own identity. To attack God is the same as attacking them. So like I stated before, if you agree with Yvain’s argument (that attacking the identity of the opposition is not as effective to argument as providing them with a social line of flight), then you agree with mine (It would be more effective to find a way to dispel the damages done by the symbol of God rather than destroy it, since many people will be adamantly opposed to its destruction for the sake of self-image. I do not see why I have to go further to prove a point that you all readily accepted when it was Yvain who stated it.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T19:11:16.289Z · LW · GW

In what sense is understanding something not an act of dominance?

* Sorry I forgot the "not" the first time.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T17:50:03.155Z · LW · GW

Personally, I see truth as a virtue and I am against self-deception. If God does not exist, then I desire to believe that God does not exist, social consequences be damned. For this reason, I am very much against "rewriting" false ideas--I'd much prefer to say oops and move on.

When you call truth a virtue do you mean in terms of Aristotle’s virtue ethics? If so I definitely agree, but I do not agree with neglecting the social consequences. Take a drug addict for example. If you cut them cold turkey immediately the shock to their system could kill them. In some sense the current state of religion is an addiction for many people, perhaps even the majority of people, that weakens them and ultimately damages their future. It is not only beneficial to want to change this; it is rational seeing as how we are dependent on the social hive that is infected by this sickness. The questions I feel your response fails to address are: is the disease external to the system, can it truly be removed (my point about irrationality potentially being a part of the human condition)? What is the proper process of intervention for an ideological addict? Will they really just be able to stop using, or will they need a more incremental withdrawal process?

Along the lines with my assertions against the pure benefit of material transformation I would argue that force is not always the correct paradigm for solving a problem. Trying to break the symbol of God regardless of the social consequences is to me using intellectual/rational force ( dominance) to fix something.

The purely rationalist position is a newer adaptation of the might makes right ideology.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T17:35:26.566Z · LW · GW

I felt the major point of this article, "How to lose an argument," was that accepting that your beliefs, identity, and personal chocies are wrong is pyschologically damaging, and that most people will opt to deny wrongness to the bitter end rather than accept it. the author suggest that if you truly want to change people's opinions and not just boost yoru own ego, then it is more cost-effective to provide the oppostion with an exit that does not result with the individual having to bear the pyschological trauma of being wrong.

If you except the author's statement that without the tact to provide the opposition a line of flight, then they will emotionally reject your position regarldess of its rational base; then rewriting God is more effective than trying to destroy God for the very same reason.

God is "God" to some people, but to others God is like the American flag is, a symbol of family, of home, of identitiy. The rational allstars of humanity are compenent enough to breakdown these connotation, thus destroying the symbol of God. But I think by defintion allstars are a minority, and that the majority of people are unable to break symbols without suffering the pyschological trumma of wrongness.

is that good enough?

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T15:55:40.303Z · LW · GW

My example wasn't meant to be a strawman, but simply an illustration of my point that human thoughts and behaviors are predictable.

I did not say your example was a strawman, my point was that it was reductionist. Determining the general color of the sky or whether or not things will fall is predicting human thoughts and behaviors many degrees simpler than what I am talking about. That is like if I were to say that multiplication is easy, so math must be easy.

I am fairly certain I personally can predict what an average American believes regarding these topics

Well you are wrong about that. No competent sociologist or anthropologist would make a claim to be able to do what you are suggesting.

I don't know, are they? I personally think that questions such as "how can we improve crop yields by a factor of 10" can be at least as important as the ones you listed.

You can make fun of my diction all you want, but I think it is pretty obvious love; morality, life, and happiness are of the utmost concern (grave concern) to people.

don't know, are they? I personally think that questions such as "how can we improve crop yields by a factor of 10" can be at least as important as the ones you listed.

I what subsume the concern of food stock under the larger concern of life, but I think it is interesting that you bring up crop yield. This is a perfect example of the ideology of progress I have been discussing in other response. There is no question to whether it is dangerous or rational to try to continuously improve crop yield, it is just blindly seen as right (i.e as progress).

However, if we look at both the good and the bad of the green revolution of the 70s-80s, the practices currently being implemented to increase crop yield are board line ecocide. They are incredibly dangerous, yet we continue to attempt to refine them further and further ignoring the risks in light of further potential to transform material reality to our will.

IMO, borderline unethical. In any case, I don't see how you can get from "you should persuade people to be rational by any means necessary" to your original thesis, which I understood to be "rationality is unattainable".

The ethical issues at question are interesting because they are centered around the old debate over collectivist vs. individualist morality. Since the cold war America has been heavily indoctrinated in an ideology of free will (individual autonomy) being a key aspect of morality. I question this idea. As many authors on this site point out, a large portion of human action, thought, and emotion is subconsciously created. Schools, corporations, governments, even parents consciously or unconsciously take advantage of this fact to condition people into ideal types. Is this ethical? If you believe that individual autonomy is essential to morality than no it is not. However, while I am not a total advocate of Foucault and his ideas, I do agree that autonomous causation is a lot less significant than then individualist individually wants to believe.
Rather than judging the morality of an action by the autonomy it proivdes for the agents involved I tend to be more of a pragmatist. If we socially engineer people to develop the habits and cognitions they would if they were more individually rational, then I see this as justified. The problem with this idea is who watches the watchmen. By what standard do you judge the elite that would have to produce mass habit and cognition? Is it even possible to control that and maintain a rational course through it?

This I do not know, which is why I am hesitant to act on this idea. But I do think that there a mass of indoctrinated people that does not think about what it is they belief is a social reality.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T15:24:20.272Z · LW · GW

Facts of the first kind are the overwhelmingly more numerous than facts of the second kind. Facts of the second kind are more important to human life. I agree with you that this community underestimates the proportion of facts of the second kind, which are not universalizable the way facts of the first kind are. But you weaken the case for post-modern analysis by asserting that anything close to a majority of facts are socially determined.

I was never trying to argue that the majority of facts are socially determined. I was arguing that the majority of facts important to human happiness and survival are socially determined. I agree that facts of the first kind are more numerous, but as you say facts of the second kind are more important. Is it logical to measure value by size?

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T15:11:24.731Z · LW · GW

Ok but then I do not understand how eliminating God or theism serves this purpose. I completely agree that there are destructive aspects of both these concepts, but you all seem unwilling to accept that they also play a pivitol social role. That was my original point in relation to the author of this essay. Rather than convincing people that it is ok that there is no God, accept the fact that "God" is an important social institution and begin to work to rewrite "God" rationally.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T15:01:09.282Z · LW · GW

Yes it is, and I do not think a solely rational agenda will fix the problem because I do not see humans are solely rational creatures.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T14:50:04.338Z · LW · GW

... you conviently do not address some of the examples I provide of the negatives of flight. I am not against either techology or science in moderation, which I do not think exists in the current state of things.

This is, at best, an argument against technology, but not against science.

No, it is an argument against the ideology that endless minipulation/dominance of the material world is purely benefical. Science is as much an attempt to dominate/minpulate reality as technological development.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T14:25:15.303Z · LW · GW

My argument is to exist socially is not always alligned with what is nessecary for natural health/survival/happiness, and yet at the same time is nessecary.

We exist in a society where the majority of jobs demand us to remain seated and immobile for the better part of the day. That is incredibly unhealthy. It is also bad for intellectual productivity. It is illogical, and yet for a lot of people it is required.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T14:13:21.280Z · LW · GW

You are measuring success by material transformation of the world. By that standard, sure science is more successful, but how do you justify such a standard?

I have heard several times this example of planes flying. In response I want to ask: Has flight made humans happier and safer? (Note* this question is a case example of the larger question of “does material transformation and dominance to the extent offered by modern science improve the quality of human life?)

Sure there are examples of how flight technologies have made humans wealthier and more powerful. But they have also (along with shipping technologies) been the primary cause of ecological devastation. They have also birthed new forms of warfare that make killing an even more remote and apathetic process. I am by no means trying to say that flight was a bad thing. I am not a Luddite. I am not against technological innovation. My point is to question why the goods of technological advancement are used as justification of further expansion of human capacity to transform the material world, while the damages are ignored. To me that is like promoting all the benefits of cigarettes, while leaving out the damages they do. What I am trying to question in the majority of my posts is the assumption that a greater capacity to dominate material reality equals a greater benefit to humanity when every major innovation produces equal if not greater damages.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T13:56:02.156Z · LW · GW

While our internal models of reality are not always "logical", I would argue that they are quite predictable (though not perfectly so). Just to make up a random example, I can confidently predict that the number of humans on Earth who believe that the sky is purple with green polka dots is vanishingly small (if not zero).

I am not trying to be rude or aggressive here, but I just wanted to point out that your argument is based upon a fairly deceptive rhetorical tactic. The tactic is to casually introduce an example as though it were a run of the mill example, but in doing so pick an extreme. You are correct that a person with a normally functioning visual cortex and no significant retina damage can be predicted to seeing the sky in a certain way, but that does not change the fact that a large portion of human existence is socially created. Why do we stop at stop lights or stop signs? There is nothing inherent in the color read that means stop, in other cultures different colors or symbols signify the same thing. We have arbitrarily chosen read to mean stop.

Some things can be logically predicted given the biological capacity of humans, but it is within the biological capacity of humans to create symbolic meaning. We know this to be fact, and yet we are unable to as easily predict what it is that people believe, because unlike the color of the sky major issues of the social hive are not as empirically clear. Issues about what constitutes life, what is love, what is happiness, what is family are in some cases just as arbitrarily defined as what means stop and what means go, but these questions are of much graver concern.

Just to clarify, It is not that I do not think there is a way to rationally chose symbolic narrative, but that initiating rational narrative involves understanding the processes by which narratives are constructed. That does not mean abandoning rationality, but abandoning the idea of universal rationality. Instead I believe rationalists should focus more on understanding the irrationality of human interaction to use irrational means to foster better rationality.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T13:36:08.541Z · LW · GW

I don't understand. Much of our self-identity is symbolic and imaginary. By self-created reality do you mean that our local reality is heavily influenced by us? That our beliefs filter our experiences somewhat? Or that we literally create our own reality? If it's the last one, the standard response is this: There is a process that generates predictions and a process that generates experiences, they don't always match up, so we call the former "beliefs" and the latter "reality". See the map and territory sequence. If that's not what you mean (I hope it is not), make your point.

You have heard of Niche Construction right? If not, it is the ability of an animal to manipulate their reality to meet their personal adaptations. Most animals display some sort of niche construction. Humans are highly advanced architects of niches. In the same way ants build colonies and bees build hives, humans create a type of social hive that is infinitely more complex. The human hive is not built through wax or honey but through symbols and rituals held together by rules and norms. A person living within a human hive cannot escape the necessity of understanding the dynamics of the symbols that hold it together so that they can most efficiently navigate its chambers. Keeping that in mind, it stands that all animals must respect the nature of their environment in order to survive. What is unique to humans is that the environments we primarily interact with are socially constructed niches. That is what I mean when I say human reality is self-created.

Earlier I talked about the paradox of rationality. What I meant by that is simply

-For humans what is socially beneficial is rationally beneficial because human survival is dependent on social solidarity. -What is socially beneficial is not always actually beneficial to the individual or the group.

Thus the paradox of rationality: What is naturally beneficial/harmful is not aligned with what is socially beneficial/harmful.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T01:38:28.202Z · LW · GW

I agree that "learning the truth and winning at your goals" should be the ideal. But I also believe the following

-Humans are symbolic creatures: Meaning that to some extent we exist in self-created realities that do not follow a predictable or always logical order. -Humans are social creatures meaning that not only is human survival is completely dependent on the ability to maintain coexistence with other people, but individual happiness and identity is dependent on social networks.

Before I continue I would like to know what you and anyone else thinks about these two statements.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T01:17:35.396Z · LW · GW

I also said I think it is the wrong ideal. Not completely. I think the idea of rationality is a good one, but ironically it is not a rational one. Rationality is paradoxical.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T01:05:00.590Z · LW · GW

What I mean by 2 is that we can never be perfect and that the "rationale man" is the wrong ideal.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T00:49:27.609Z · LW · GW

You are correct that their are traditional bodies of knowledge that are not religious, but my point was never that religion is the sole creator of knowledge. That said, it was a pretty big one. If you think the written laws of the romans or the Chinese did not represent their religious beliefs you are crazy.

If is funny you call my position Eurocentric. I am trying to use western examples as much as I possibly can to relate to the audience of this blog. But if you want to talk about China, the creation of a Chinese civilization is directly related to their religious beliefs. Laws were laws because emperors instated them. Emperors were emperors because they were "sons of heaven." The Chinese conception of Heaven is very different from the western one. It is existence itself and the principle that all things move on. The oldest forms of chinese writing are on old tortoise shells. They were oracle shells used to divine the weather.

As for my use of the word legitimize, you are correct it is my own concept. I should have clarified. What I mean by legitimate is believed to be right. No one believes something they do not think is right (not in a moral sense here). Sensory experience legitimizes knowledge, but so do social relations and institutions, like religions.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T00:34:49.470Z · LW · GW

On 1. I meant both.

On 2. I realize that it is a bold statement given the context of this blog. My reason for making it is that I believe taking the paradox of rationality into account would better serve your purposes.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-14T00:10:59.465Z · LW · GW

Sure some information is. But you cannot deny that there is a huge body of information we accept to be truth soley based on the authority that provides it. For example, I could know using my senses that either the sun or the earth moves because I can see a change in the position of the sun as the day goes on. But it is impossible for me, or any other person, to know just from my sensory experience that the earth revolves around the sun (given the practical constraints of my life).

How do I know the earth revolves around the sun? I trust a network of people who tell me it does. How does that network know? They trust the non-humans they work with (machines most likely) that provide consistent results given pre-legitimized mathematical formula.

There is a large body of knowledge that we accept without any sensory information on the subject.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-13T23:57:31.287Z · LW · GW

Look I am not trying to disagree with the scientific method. It is incredibly powerful and beneficial methodology for producing knowledge. What I am saying is

1-that as an institution and a belief-sysetm "science" does not live up to the scientific method. 2- That it is impossible to do so given what we have learned about the human condition.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-13T21:05:07.261Z · LW · GW

Yes! Thomas Kuhn is a brilliant writer and his theory is powerful. But let me ask you what you think he is saying in that book? I am asking because I feel that we draw different conclusions from it.

Have you read Structure of Scientific Revolutions? Many of us have and find it very interesting. But even if you apply post-modern methods to the scientific process, you still need to explain why science can predict which planes will fly and which will not.<

The post-modern question to science is not about whether or not science can predict reality. The question is whether or not science is produced scientifically. Or to put it another way, can science be separated from power and discourse?

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-13T20:55:06.053Z · LW · GW

Phenomenological knowledge- is knowledge that you actively perceive Political knowledge- is knowledge that is accepted due to its relation to some structure of power (parents, church, country, God, etc)

All of those tools are easy to verify.<

They are easy for you to verify because you have the tools to verify them. Whether it is due to economic, motivational, or biological reasons, not everyone has the tools to verify knowledge. You see it as easy because we are talking about a sphere of knowledge you are well-endowed in.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-13T20:44:13.477Z · LW · GW

Yes. I am sorry I did not clarify that. For me it is assumed that legitimized knowledge includes self-legitmized knowledge because the self is clearly a major authority in a person's life.

I am writing too fast and not taking into account that you all do not have a background in sociology or anthropology.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-13T20:32:17.254Z · LW · GW

no it is not. It is nonstandard in the field of study you associate yourself to. Which is exactly my point! I am using terminology and ideas that are common to the sociology of power, Science and Technology Studies, Postmodern sociological theory, postcolonial anthropological theory, and the sociology of knowledge. I am trying to share these ideas with the members of this blog because they are severely lacking here. But obviously my attempts to do this are not welcomed. You do not want to hear about knowledge that is not legitimized by your body of essays, idols, and peers, but that does not make it trivially true. Instead of trying to engage with the ideas you want to criticize what I am saying without asking what I mean, or assuming you know what I mean, which you obviously do not.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-13T20:03:16.561Z · LW · GW

Note I said a "huge portion of knowledge." There is sensory knowledge as you have pointed out, but my point was that there are also institutions and individuals that produce knowledge outside of your sensor experience that you readily accept. When you read an academic paper you do not repeat all the experiements contained within it and its review of the literature. It would be inefficent. You accept because it is in an academic journal or because person X tells you it that it is reliable and true.

But to some extent even sensory knowledge is filtered through the institution of langauge.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-13T19:48:40.574Z · LW · GW

Well think about it. How many facts do you believe because you have preformed the experiments yourself, and how many do you believe because scientists or scientific publications have told you to believe them? How many things do you believe because a person you trust tells you? We look down on hearsay, but in reality a huge portion of knowledge is hearsay. It is just hearsay that has been legitimized by power.

Knowledge is legitmized information whether you except it or not. It would be an enormous limit on what peopel could know if they would have to experience everything themselves.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-13T19:27:21.979Z · LW · GW

Can their not be a wrong method of doing something? I said in my post "religion is an antiquated method of producing knowledge." Perhaps I should have said outdated? Regardless of what criteria we have for knowledge today, it does not change the fact that for centuries religions monopolized knowledge. Knowledge is just legitimized information. I did not say religions created Truth (with a capital t) because that would imply they were completely correct. No, knowledge is what power determines to be knowledge. Whether that is religious, political or scientific authority depends on the society, but it is still knowledge.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-13T18:57:05.213Z · LW · GW

Christianity was an just an example. The theory I am suggesting is that any global religion has existed for this long because it contains attributes beneficial to human survival ( benefits to human survival are not limited to the promotion of literacy; though I would bet that is a key attribute). I used Christianity as an example because that appears to be the majority of this websites background. Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism are not inferior to Christianity. Confucianism for example strongly promotes literacy as well, one could argue even more than Christianity.

So no, it would be ridiculous to attribute Chinese literacy to western missionaries. What would be interesting is to question to what extent Chinese religious mindsets limited the develop of science as a formal institution in China. The major Chinese transcendental belief systems (Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism) provide a conception of the universe as singular, dynamic, and consummated; whereas the Judeo-Christian position describes a static, imperfect, and discrete universe. To what extent does a pre-existing belief in a stable order that is waiting to be perfected lead to the primacy of formal science in a society? I think that is a really interesting question.

We take it as self-evident that rationalists would eventually move towards empiricism, but does it makes sense to seek out facts about the world when you axiomatically accept the universe to be a constantly shifting entity? Would there be such a ideology of progress without the Christian mindset of an imperfect world governed by rules waiting for man to discover?

I find it funny that people, on both sides of the argument, put science as opposite to Christianity. The mindsets that set the West up for a scientific revolution are byproducts of Christian thinking.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-13T16:51:00.591Z · LW · GW

While a large portion of religious knowledge is orthogonal, I would refrain from defining all knowledge produced by religious means that way. Proving the existence of God and divine order was a large motivator for early academics, scientists to. Without the discourse of a knowable, structured universe that was provided by Christianity empirical investigation might not have taken root the way it did in the west.

I actually think it is quite funny when people pit science against religion when the idea of a ordered discoverable universe stems from the Christian discourse.

Furthermore, what do you think has sustained and developed literacy and research during the centuries before science? Or better question why Judeo-Christian religions were so successful?

I will tell you. Judeo-Christian religions have dominated the religious market because it contains qualities beneficial to survival. In the Jewish faith you become a man or woman by proving that you are literate (reading the torah). That may not seem so revolutionary now, but during a time when most religions were based on blood tributes it was a pretty fucking revolutionary idea.

Again, I am not trying to advocate for Christianity or Judaism to replace science or be the norm for knowledge production. All I am saying is that you cannot deny that they got us where we are. They were the norm.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-13T14:43:05.111Z · LW · GW

Religion is the original norm for producing knowledge whether you like it or not. I am not saying it was a good method, but you cannot deny that it is embryologically the basis of knowledge and knowledge production. The first scholars were theologians and aristocrates, the first colleges were religous institutions. I am not saying that it is a correct methodology, but it is our history.

Early doctors healed people in ways we no longer condone, but we cannot deny the fact that they were the forefathers of modern medical knowledge.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-13T03:37:52.940Z · LW · GW

You are correct that rhetoric can be misused. It should be complemented by facts. My point is that just because rhetoric can be used to convince people of falsehoods does not prove that truth is not equally dependent on rhetoric to become normative in people's minds.

People are not born judging information by its verisimilitude. Empirical fact as a criteria for knowledge must be taught. I am not saying it is a bad thing to teach people (it is really good), what I am saying is that judging information by fact has to be seen as highly technical knowledge, not a fundamental system of cognition. The majority of the world's population does not judge information by fact. I am not even convinced that all scientists or rationalists truly judge information by fact.

My perception of you is that you see religion as an antiquated method for producing knowledge. I agree with you. I do not think religion should be the criteria of determining facts. Where we do not see eye to eye is that I also believe that religion serves several other functions beyond literal interpretation of the world. One of which is the maintenance and strengthening of social bonds. So I cannot as easily deem non-factual beliefs as a waste of resources (see my comment here for more on this).

When there is such a plurality of truth being developed how do you assess what truth is Truth. And even if you could how do you know that such truth is not contingent, or that it is more beneficial than detrimental to your life?<

I don't think this is responsive to my third point. But maybe I just don't understand.<

My response was meant to question your statement " I think it is still worth it to learn the truth."

At the pinnacle of your values is Truth. Can you explain to my why Truth should be regarded more important than social relationships/ personal health.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-13T03:13:13.265Z · LW · GW

I probably did mis the humor I am really gullible, but you missed my point about the morality of the universe.

by transcendental I meant a value dealing with issues of the meaning of life. Anytime you talk about what is the purpose of life, what should people do, what is moral, is the universe moral, whether you are talking about a god or a godless universe, it is a transcendental question. There is a misconception on this blog that transcendental means christian or God.

I am not a theist. I am a transatheist.

The author of the article is arguing that a better way to convince theists of the atheist agenda is to not attack them socially, but to find some other critique in their argument. MY POINT, is that this is a good strategy BUT a flaw in the author's example of how to initiate it is an assumption of the theists reasons for their values. The assumption the author makes is that theists believe in God because they need the universe to be moral. Or in other words, that the value of religious belief is dealing with a transcendental issue. I am saying that for some people this is not the case. Some people value their religious beliefs for social reasons (such as loyalty to an in-group). For people like this, the author's tactic is just as cornering as what he is advocating against.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-13T03:01:15.038Z · LW · GW

I never really thought of my posts as debates. I write them during my break at work as fast as possible. I would call them brainstorms more than anything. I can see how that makes understanding what I am saying complicated. I will try to be more considerate from this point on.

-Rhetoric is orthogonal to truth. I like truth. While rhetorical knowledge is not a valid way to discover truth about the true nature of reality, it does reflect truth about the nature of human psychology. There is truth about the human condition. The idea I am trying to convey is that humans are born with ways to evaluate knowledge. They are taught to evaluate it by the standard of facts, but their are other "logics" that we as human animals run on. You are right that purely deductive reasoning produces no new knowledge. It was for this very reason that philosophers and scientists wanted to delegitimize it. My point is that just because the science of rhetoric does not produce new facts about the external world, does not mean that it does not represent facts about how humans naturally interpret information.

-If the proposition is that there is a "transcendental" god, and all you have is non-transcendental evidence, then the best course of action is to reject the hypothesis. No amount of empirical evidence supports believing a hypothesis that is asserted to be beyond empiricism.

My use of the word transcendental here has nothing to do with a physical God. I do not believe in a literal God. Some philosophers and other scholars use the word transcendental to categorize issues dealing with meaning or abstract principle. The author of this article spoke of the morality of the universe. Regardless of whether you are talking about God or not, this would be categorized as a transcendental issue. My point was that some theists probably are not theists for transcendental reasons, but rather for social ones. Meaning that they do not really think about whether or not the universe is moral. The morality of the universe has nothing to do with their religious faith. They are loyal to a belief system because they are loyal to the social network that supports it. For people like this, convincing them that there is a morality without God is futile, because morality was never the issue. They are theists in the same way you root for your home team at the game regardless of who is better or worse.

-It is unpleasant to learn that your beliefs (of any kind) were false. I think it is still worth it to learn the truth. Not everyone here agrees.

When there is such a plurality of truth being developed how do you assess what truth is Truth. And even if you could how do you know that such truth is not contingent, or that it is more beneficial than detrimental to your life?

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-13T00:43:05.031Z · LW · GW

Don't you think it would be easy to say your point, or the problem that you have with my point than cryptically telling me I am missing something. You ever think it is you who are missing something you are just not being open enough to let me figure out what it is. Same to the other 4 silent people.

In my opinion the Karma system is really stupid if you just criticize someone's idea without stating what it is your criticizing or even who you are.

Comment by Boyi on How to Not Lose an Argument · 2011-12-12T21:45:12.222Z · LW · GW

Those seem to be a series of essays on morality, but can you point me to the essay that shows there are absolute moral facts that are not influenced by subjective values?