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Comment by jentryjones on One Sided Policy Debate - The Science of Literature · 2013-12-27T11:08:49.641Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My grandfather has actually been trying to get a book published for years, and has been walled by this system by every publisher he's ever tried. He has related the plot of the book to me before. Basically, it is the tale of a number of different personalities and their interaction with the American steel industry from the 1880s to the 1970s. It's a rather long book, too, nearing 600 pages.

They've been telling him that they won't publish his book because it doesn't fit with the 24-month projection of reader's interests, and I think that's a load of bologna. When is a mass audience ever going to be interested in a comprehensive historical-fiction of the American steel industry? His plot is sufficiently obscure that only a niche audience would ever want to read, whether it was published in a big year or a small year. Plus, he's my grandfather, and he's pretty old, too. There's only so many years left for him; what if none of them align with his book's topic? Getting his book published would likely become the work of one of his children or grandchildren.

So, I personally don't like the system because I have a personal bias. It might bolster sales, but I don't give a damn. I look around my local bookstore and hardly any of the popukar literature books interest me at all. Most of my reading comes from classics and scientific journals. Though I may not be the typical case, I wonder how effective this system really is.

Comment by jentryjones on Open thread for December 24-31, 2013 · 2013-12-27T02:01:23.545Z · score: -10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

My father and I decided to celebrate a new holiday in place of Christmas called Rationalismas. We still exchange presents, but without any hypocrisy or talk of the baby Jesus. It's also on the 31st, as a celebration of the conclusion of an old year and the hopeful beginnings of a new one. Very secular.

We even put all the presents under a red, white, and blue freedom tree.

Comment by jentryjones on December Monthly Bragging Thread · 2013-12-15T14:18:15.540Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Keep up the pace, my friend. Self-improvement is virtuous.

Comment by jentryjones on How to not be a fatalist? Need help from people who care about true beliefs. · 2013-12-12T18:15:22.685Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Could you explain how this solves the issue of fatalism? It is obvious that everything that happens and will happen is subject to physical laws that cause its happening to be possible. But the author of that post does not seem to advance the argument that everything that will occur is determined to occur inevitably — which is what the doctrine of fatalism claims to be true, in my understanding of it. Unless I missed something, I don't see how this solves the conundrum that is fatalism.

Comment by jentryjones on Reasons to believe · 2013-12-12T02:23:51.433Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How much time do you have to earnestly dedicate to researching the well-accepted theories of random scientific fields (T = X)? How much time would it take to actually research the well-accepted theories of ALL the scientific fields to a sophisticated level (T = Y)? If Y exceeds X, then you just have to live with taking some things on faith, my friend.

To illustrate this point, look no further than food safety. It is absolutely essential to our well-being to have safe food, and for many of us, I would reckon it does not even make our radar. I know it didn't make mine until right now. I just automatically trust my food to be safe because it is approved by the FDA, which is comprised of professionals with a much greater knowledge of food safety than me. If I literally cannot live without food, yet I can't be bothered to know even the most basic principles of food safety since I'm busy with other subjects, then I find it perfectly reasonable to trust well-accepted scientific theories as a foundation for relatively unessential things like personal philosophy. If I did not believe so, then I would be a complete hypocrite.

Comment by jentryjones on How to not be a fatalist? Need help from people who care about true beliefs. · 2013-12-12T01:05:30.046Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't believe I entirely understand the point of view of fatalists.

Like all other animals, the behavior of humans is essentially the output of a great many number of inputs, much of it which can be explained physiologically. For example, chemicals in the air will bind to receptors in a rat's olfactory system which will in turn communicate to the rat all of the scents of its surroundings. An empty stomach will activate a rat's sympathetic nervous system that will cause it to search for food. Add a certain stimulus to the environment -- say, cheese -- and the hungry rat will gravitate towards it, eventually consuming it. Humans are very similar to mice in this pursuit of food, and if all actions (or outputs) were the results of similar simple physiological inputs, then I would be more inclined to accept fatalism.

But not everything can be explained in such a manner. Say I numbered 0 through 9 some odd assortment of chores I don't really want to do. Among them might include cleaning up my cluttered room, emptying the dishwasher, and sorting the pantry. I roll a balanced ten-sided dice or run a RNG simulator and the number I receive is 6. Six, however, was the number assigned to the most unpleasant task of all, scrubbing the toilet. Yet I still find some way to scrub the toilet despite it not contributing to survival or reproduction, not being a pleasant task, and being completely out of my direct decision.

As another example, I decide completely out of hand that I must begin to eat an apple a day because I want more natural vitamins in my diet. Was it my deficiency of vitamins that physiologically alerted me to the fact that I need more apples in my life? If not, how was I able to convince myself to eat more apples?

How exactly was I fated to scrub the toilet or eat the apples? Was there some malevolent being out there controlling the dice so it would land on 6? Or was it determined in some secular way that I was intended to roll a 6, despite a 90% chance that I would not? Did some benevolent being nudge me in the direction of apples, because it knew I was lacking essential vitamins? Or did my lack of vitamins provoke some unknown physiological response that caused me to think the thought, "I need more apples in my diet"?

The bottom line is that determinism, fatalism, and the like are not things that can be measured or observed using natural instruments. They cannot be theorized with mathematical proofs based on current understandings of science. They aren't extrapolated conclusions based on relevant evidence. So, they're superstition. Are they not?