Posts

Comments

Comment by featherlessbiped on Your Strength as a Rationalist · 2012-01-17T03:47:59.204Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Your strength as a rationalist is your ability to be more confused by fiction than by reality.

Yet, when a person of even moderate cleverness wishes to deceive you, this "strength" can be turned against you. Context is everything.

As Donald DeMarco asks in "Are Your Lights On?", WHO is it that is bringing me this problem?

Comment by featherlessbiped on The Strangest Thing An AI Could Tell You · 2012-01-15T22:43:42.335Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

...what if we all have some form of brain damage in common, so that none of us notice some simple and obvious fact?

Aren't things "obvious" by virtue of being noticed (or noticeABLE) by nearly everyone? Not trying to be difficult, but just trying to wrap my head around the idea that we could, all of us, be suffering such a severe cognitive malfunction. (I am thinking, here, of the liar's paradox.) And trying to wrap my head around the idea that now we could sit here in front of our computers and say anything worthwhile about it.

But for the sake of playing the game: "There are no coincidences."

Comment by featherlessbiped on Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story · 2012-01-08T21:18:31.460Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The second sentence of this response is a non-defense of your thesis, and the rest of it does not help your case, much. I am open to evidence of your claim that "many" have become atheists. For the sake of argument, I would admit that >10% conversion rate would count as "many", as would, say, some absolute number such as 1,000 in the last 100 years.

Perhaps you can find some authority who has researched this question?

Comment by featherlessbiped on Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story · 2012-01-08T06:12:17.547Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(Restricting myself to two quibbles, for the sake of time):

I believe your description of Docetism gives the wrong idea; Docetism (as I learned it) did not say that Jesus was not there at all, but rather merely asserted that his corporeality was an illusion. The Docetists did not think of Jesus as "only an idea", but as somebody who staged a form of divine theater, as it were. (Research "Christological Heresies" for more on Docetism and its cousins.)

Quibble #2: not all biblical scholarship is as bad as you say -- much of it is quite rigorous and would be right at home in a secular university anthropology department.

Comment by featherlessbiped on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2012) · 2012-01-08T05:51:04.293Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the introduction and welcome. Upvoted.

Comment by featherlessbiped on Scientific Evidence, Legal Evidence, Rational Evidence · 2012-01-08T05:17:31.408Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

According to classical philosophy (e.g. Aristotle), sense knowledge is knowledge, but knowledge of a kind which does not depend on a rational faculty. One could call that irrational, a-rational, non-rational, pre-rational, etc., depending on the how one has sliced up the phenomenology.

Comment by featherlessbiped on Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story · 2012-01-01T17:10:26.302Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I reviewed your link--thanks, that was interesting.

Maybe we're in agreement. Let me try a more audacious assertion...

All I was saying was that practical demonstration or persuasion takes place within an unquestioned frame of reference. For purposes of the topic at hand, I would say, for example, that using the available evidence, I could convince 9 of 12 jurors under American rules of evidence and jury instructions applicable to civil trials, that Jesus of Nazareth was a flesh and blood historical figure. I think I could do this every week for a year and win 90% of the time. If we change the rules to "establish it beyond a reasonable doubt to 12 of 12 jurors", then my success rate goes way down, obviously.

(Of course, I am assuming that I make no intentional misrepresentations and call only expert witnesses with recognized technical qualifications and unimpeachable character. I.e., no "funny stuff".)

In other words, I am claiming to not be anywhere in the neighborhood of epsilon.

Comment by featherlessbiped on Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story · 2011-12-31T22:13:37.775Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Winky-face noted and appreciated!

But seriously, by my accounting, every standard of evidence I know includes an element of faith. The only differences between them are (a) what is taken on faith and (b) how credulous that faith is.

Namely, I find faith elements in believing:

  • first/second/third-hand reports, even by trained, neutral observers

  • expert consensus

  • single expert opinion

  • by contradiction

  • the evidence standards of American civil and criminal trials (note the plural, "standardS". The standards are different between them.)

  • induction, including (perhaps) mathematical induction

  • "engineering quality" proof

  • "mathematician quality" proof

My professional practice as an aircraft mishap investigator is to identify and apply the highest feasible standard from the above list, based on what information is available. "Best practice" in this industry dictates that selection and application of a standard of evidence is a matter of prudential judgement, based on the consequences and probabilities of being wrong, the resources available (evidence, time and $), while being scrupulously open about ones methods.

On historical questions about events of 20 centuries ago, the quality of evidence is not very good. About pretty much everything. What we are left with is Bayesian stuff. Anybody who goes to 0% or 100% draws the raised eyebrow from me. :-)

Comment by featherlessbiped on Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story · 2011-12-31T20:24:01.289Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you. This is a concise representation of the general objection I was going to make. Finding evidence of ANYTHING in that era that meets modern standards is often very difficult, if not impossible. Nearly all history from that era can be, and is, challenged.

I have yet to see a statement from PhilosophyTutor justifying his choice for a standard of evidence on this question.

Comment by featherlessbiped on Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story · 2011-12-31T19:41:50.034Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The Jesusmyththeory wiki article describes a number of significant rigorous, academic (and non-friendly) challenges to the accuracy of the accounts of Jesus in the Gospels. Every honest person acknowledges uncertainty, exaggeration, and literary license. The question (for me) is: disregarding the deluded and dishonest, how would the honest brokers vote? I don't claim to have the answer.

Comment by featherlessbiped on Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story · 2011-12-31T19:31:41.072Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have a reference to support your first claim?

Comment by featherlessbiped on Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story · 2011-12-31T19:14:08.235Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Please forgive my inappropriate style. I am new, here.

For what it's worth, I agree with your comment at 4:26 am, above, calling for a <5 % chance that Jesus was completely fictitious. Although I am Catholic, I acknowledge that by certain standards of proof, the existence of the Jesus as described in the Gospels is uncertain.

Personal biographical note: 30+ years ago, I called myself an atheist.

Comment by featherlessbiped on Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story · 2011-12-31T05:38:55.402Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"Given that Jesus was supposedly a very noteworthy figure who died in a noteworthy way founding a major religion, the total absence of any historical record of him or anyone substantially resembling him would be very surprising if he was real."

What would you accept as evidence? Seriously.

Comment by featherlessbiped on Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story · 2011-12-31T05:22:24.565Z · score: -7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

My experience with Homo Sapiens (from reading about repressive regimes) is that they will say anything to keep from being killed.

If somebody holds a gun to your head and says, "all you have to say is 'I just made up this little story about my invisible friend, Joe Bob', and I will set you free", what are you gonna say? If you'd made it up, why not admit it, and go free?

This was the situation the apostles and other 1st century martyrs faced during the persecutions. Yet they all went to their deaths. That doesn't impress you?

Comment by featherlessbiped on Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story · 2011-12-31T05:14:02.196Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wikipedia has decent material answering your implied question in parentheses.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_myth_theory

See also the related articles. Cheers!

Comment by featherlessbiped on Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story · 2011-12-31T05:10:26.596Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

FYI, this seemed decent:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_myth_theory

The preponderance of the evidence would seem to be that he really did exist.

Comment by featherlessbiped on Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story · 2011-12-31T04:41:41.769Z · score: -8 (14 votes) · LW · GW

"Very surprised", indeed. The thousands of first-century Christian martyrs would be very surprised, too at this unfortunate news from our PhilosophyTutor.

FeatherlessBiped update: I withdraw the argument. As David_Gerard notes, it is not a real argument.

Comment by featherlessbiped on Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story · 2011-12-31T01:40:53.650Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the portion of your reply that was respectful!

What you may not appreciate is that some RC beliefs, while incredible to outsiders, nevertheless are logically inseparable from other beliefs that are shared with other Christians; once abandoned, other cracks form, and it all falls down, including parts which are widely accepted as true.

RC is, as you say, the religion which "tried hardest to rationalise" all its beliefs, depending on the absolute minimum of non-rational arguments (i.e., from sacred scripture or human authority). It does this with a vocabulary which, I admit, is extremely challenging to the uninitiated. (Aristotelian/Thomistic logic and hylemorphism.) Nonetheless, within that philosophical system, it is quite consistent. It's like picking up a book on string theory -- you ain't gonna "get it" on the first pass (nor the second pass, in all likelihood.)

(Sorta off-topic) I was not aware that people doubted the existence of the founder of Buddhism. If he did not exist, could a reasonable religion be attributed to him? :-)

Comment by featherlessbiped on Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story · 2011-12-31T01:03:47.214Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What I am talking about is my claim that the RC religion integrates religious and non-religious knowledge to an extent I have not seen in any other religion. Is this the claim you say is nonsense?

Comment by featherlessbiped on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2012) · 2011-12-31T00:55:49.790Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

(Reposted from the wrong thread, per Kutta's suggestion)

If by "rationalist", the LW community means someone who believes it is possible and desirable to make at least the most important judgements solely by the use of reason operating on empirically demonstrable facts, then I am an ex-rationalist. My "intellectual stew" had simmered into it several forms of formal logic, applied math, and seasoned with a BS in Computer Science at age 23.

By age 28 or so, I concluded that most of the really important things in life were not amenable to this approach, and that the type of thinking I had learned was useful for earning a living, but was woefully inadequate for other purposes.

At age 50, I am still refining the way I think. I come to LW to lurk, learn, and (occasionally) quibble.

Comment by featherlessbiped on Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story · 2011-12-30T23:42:58.624Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

WRT to de-Catholicising your mother: it has been rightly said that Catholicism is the most rational and consistent of all the religions. So, it would be a pity if you dissuaded her from Catholicism and inadvertently landed her in a less rational religion!

Comment by featherlessbiped on Tell Your Rationalist Origin Story · 2011-12-30T23:36:38.001Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If by "rationalist", the LW community means someone who believes it is possible and desirable to make at least the most important judgements solely by the use of reason operating on empirically demonstrable facts, then I am an ex-rationalist. My "intellectual stew" had simmered into it several forms of formal logic, applied math, and seasoned with a BS in Computer Science at age 23.

By age 28 or so, I concluded that most of the really important things in life were not amenable to this approach, and that the type of thinking I had learned was useful for earning a living, but was woefully inadequate for other purposes.

At age 50, I am still refining the way I think. I come to LW to lurk, learn, and (occasionally) quibble.

Comment by featherlessbiped on Rationality Quotes: March 2011 · 2011-12-30T23:01:01.483Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"ETA: In the modern world, most of the positive arguments for the existence of God are (of course) fatally flawed."

Interesting that you would say "most". Can we assume you mean there are arguments with merit? Thanks.

Comment by featherlessbiped on Best of Rationality Quotes, 2011 Edition · 2011-12-30T22:46:51.902Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Whether Chesterton gets a positive meme or not, he remains awesome! He had a singular talent for focusing a blazing spotlight on various kinds of intellectual foolishness. More remarkably, for someone of such immense literary and intellectual accomplishment, he had an unshakable faith in the good sense of the "average man".

Comment by featherlessbiped on [Transcript] Tyler Cowen on Stories · 2011-12-30T22:29:51.495Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Cowen's talk reminds me of something C.S. Lewis mentioned in one of his books (perhaps it was "Miracles"): what he called, "picture-thinking".

Lewis noted that when we think about God, for example, many people will think of a kindly old, Caucasian man with a long white beard, sitting in a chair somehow anchored among fluffy white clouds. They will do this even though they know that God is invisible, certainly not male, nor Caucasian.

Lewis' point was that it's OK to have the picture in your head, as long as you know it is not literally true. We can posit that the picture may be true and useful in certain other respects (for example, for teaching that God wants to love and be loved as a "father", and that the kindly old man with the beard image helps us remember that).

The same should be applied to any stories; it ought to be OK to mentally organize certain of our mental storehouse of facts and opinions by telling ourselves stories, just as long as we don't mistake the story for "the whole enchilada", nor categorically rule out some story which, on the surface, appears to conflict with it.

Just as a good artisan or technician has a well-stocked toolbox and selects his tool with forethought and uses it with care, the intellectually well-stocked thinker uses multiple tools, ideally in a conscious way.