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Comment by ernie_bornheimer on Stop Voting For Nincompoops · 2008-01-03T13:37:52.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"...which would create a chance to elect an exceptionally competent governor."

Competence is only an issue when we agree on the proper societal function of the candidate/office. No one ever asks: "I wonder how competent John Gotti was." If a Hitler comes to power, do we want him to be competent or incompetent in implementing his policies?

Comment by ernie_bornheimer on Evolutions Are Stupid (But Work Anyway) · 2007-12-17T23:34:43.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

...we only really began accumulating knowledge, around... what, four hundred years ago?

Surely longer than that...what am I missing?

Comment by ernie_bornheimer on Think Like Reality · 2007-12-13T13:33:58.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I see the point of the post, but it's too harsh. Naive physics (like folk etymology) is important, a feature of the human mind deserving of study. It is indeed the case that some beliefs arising from intuition should be overcome, but they can't be replaced by some higher form of intuition (no one can force himself to intuit quantum physics). Naive physics can and should be superseded by real physics, but our original intuitions remain intact. The two forms of understanding can live side by side, each with its proper function. See this recent piece by Chomsky, about (among other things) how we've been forced to believe in apparent "absurdities" since Newton.

Comment by ernie_bornheimer on Think Like Reality · 2007-12-13T06:14:17.000Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I see the point of the post, but it's too harsh. Naive physics (like folk etymology) is important, a facet of the human mind worth studying and paying attention to. It should be overcome, but it can't be replaced by some higher form of intuition. No one can force themselves (him/herself?) to intuit quantum physics. Naive physics can and should be superseded by real physics, but our original intuitions remain intact. The two forms of understanding can live side by side, each with its proper function. Reminded me of a recent piece by Chomsky. Excerpt:

Descartes had been able to formulate a relatively clear mind-body problem: it arose because he observed phenomena that, he plausibly argued, could not be accounted for in terms of automata. He was proven wrong, for reasons he could never have guessed: nothing can be accounted for within the mechanical philosophy, even the simplest terrestrial and planetary motion. Newton established, to his great dismay, that a purely materialistic or mechanistic physics . . . is impossible'' (Koyre 1957:210). Newton was bitterly criticized by leading scientists of his day for reverting to the mysticism from which we were at last to be liberated by the scientific revolution. He was condemned for reintroducingoccult qualities'' that are no different from the mysterious sympathies'' andantipathies'' of the neoscholastic Aristotelian physicists, which were much ridiculed. Newton agreed. He regarded his discoveries as an utter absurdity,'' and for the rest of his life sought some way around them: he kept searching for acertain most subtle spirit which pervades and lies hid in all gross bodies,'' and would account for motion, interaction, electrical attraction and repulsion, properties of light, sensation, and the ways in which members of animal bodies move at the command of the will'' - comparable mysteries, he felt. Similar efforts continued for centuries, but always in vain. The absurdity was real, and simply had to be accepted. In a sense it was overcome in this century, but only by introducing what Newton and his contemporaries would have regarded as even greater absurdities. We are left with theadmission into the body of science of incomprehensible and inexplicable `facts' imposed upon us by empiricism'' (Koyre 1957:272). Well before Priestley, David Hume wrote that Newton seemed to draw to the veil from some of the mysteries of nature,'' buthe shewed at the same time the imperfections of the mechanical philosophy; and thereby restored [Nature's] ultimate secrets to that obscurity, in which they ever did and ever will remain'' (Hume [1778] 1983:542). The world is simply not comprehensible to human intelligence, at least in the ways that early modern science had hoped and expected. In his classic study of the history of materialism, Friedrich Lange observes that their expectations and goals were abandoned, and we gradually accustomed ourselves to the abstract notion of forces, or rather to a notion hovering in a mystic obscurity between abstraction and concrete comprehension.'' Lange describes this as aturning-point'' in the history of materialism that removes the surviving remnants of the doctrine far from those of the ``genuine Materialists'' of the seventeenth century, and deprives them of much significance (Lange 1925:308). The turning point also led gradually to a much weaker concept of intelligibility than the one that inspired the modern scientific revolution: intelligibility of theories, not of the world - a considerable difference, which may well bring into operation different faculties of mind, a topic some day for cognitive science, perhaps. - Linguistics and Brain Science, in A. Marantz, Y. Miyashita and W. O'Neil (eds.) Image, Language and Brain (MIT Press, 2000).