Comment by jonathan-doolin on Expressive Vocabulary · 2018-05-27T12:07:44.357Z · score: 16 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What is the rubric that marks the difference between a good semantic argument/point/question, and a bad semantic argument/point/question.

I would say there must be some rubric that marks the difference between "seeking clarity and understanding" and "seeking ambiguity and confusion".

Sometimes it is the person saying "I would like to mention this other definition of the word" who is seeking clarity.

Sometimes it is the person saying "Oh, come on, you know what I mean." who is seeking clarity.

And sometimes it's not necessarily about facts... It's about who get's to decide what is proper, and what is not. In each of the examples, "chemicals in food", "technology at the dinner table." one can legitimately ask--what concerns you about the chemicals in the food? What concerns you about the technology at the dinner table?

For the chemicals in the food example, what is probably a concern that they must rely on their own knowledge to decide whether each of the ingredients in the package is safe, and a lack of trust in the systems government and business have worked out to assure that foods are safe. That's actually a reasonable conversation to have, but not necessarily one you want to have before you leave the grocery store.

For "technology at the dinner table" one can probably reasonably assume that this is a question about propriety... Namely whether eating together at a dinner table constitutes a shared family experience, or if it is a multiplayer solitaire experience. Of course, one might note that the table and chairs are, in some sense, simple technology designed to support this shared family experience.

Comment by jonathan-doolin on Welcome to Less Wrong! · 2018-05-26T16:10:50.087Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hi. This is my first time to this website, and my third comment today. I've been listening to the show "Bayesian Conspiracy" and made some posts to the subreddit. So I guess I'm not a good lurker.

I was intrigued by Arandur's article entitled "The Goal of the Bayesian Conspiracy" which was essentially,

(1) eliminate most pain and suffering and inequity.

(2) develop technologies for eternal life.

The ordering here, that Arandur suggested, I thought, was quite wise. I recently saw the series "Dollhouse" and I felt like it gave a pretty good description of what would probably happen if you reversed the order.

And then I went on to read the article on "The Failures of Eld Science"... Well, skim.... Like I said, I'm not a good lurker. And then I read "Rationality as a Martial Art" which was short so I read the whole thing.

I guess I have very entrenched views on the failures of Eld science, and Rationality as a martial art, because, I've been arguing about Special and General Relativity online for about two decades, and occasionally debating biblical interpretation with Christians for most of my life.

Hide in plain sight

Before you can step forward you have to be where you are.

Don't be ashamed of your ignorance, but don't cling to it either.

Desire the things you have, commit to what you love.

Don't look for false things. Don't seek out error to make yourself look smart. Don't confuse counterattack with defense.

Stand up for what you believe in--especially when you realize you look foolish, and still believe it.

When pulled in different directions, stick with your commitments.

Get good at what you have to do. It will be more fun and people will appreciate you more.

Be clear with your meaning.

Try to understand others from their own perspectives, and with their own meanings.

Acknowledge the hypothesis. Don't confuse what you believe to be a false belief with a moral failure.

Be the heart before you be the head. Agreeing to disagree is the start of a conversation... not the end.

I have two MS degrees, one in physics, and one in math... I got them in the wrong order... as knowing how to do a differential equation would have been REALLY helpful, in physics. But I'm really good at trig, both regular and hyperbolic.

Comment by jonathan-doolin on The Martial Art of Rationality · 2018-05-26T15:06:24.331Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I do very much like the criteria of honesty here.

Comment by jonathan-doolin on The Martial Art of Rationality · 2018-05-26T14:47:29.995Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I was arguing the other day with someone online, and I said to him " I think you're trying to throw me off your scent here... You are cornered, and trying to confuse the issue by claiming I'm arguing for this idea, and you've been arguing against it. "

The truth is, that I had not cornered him. The reason I couldn't corner him was in order to corner someone in a rational debate, they have to allow themselves to become cornered... That is, they have to explain themselves so well, what their thoughts and ideas actually are that they are "nailed down".

If their ideas are valid, from a scientific perspective, then this position of being cornered and nailed down, is actually the position of ultimate strength. It is exactly the opposite of where you would want to be in a physical fight.

What is often done, in an argument with a rationalist, who is trying to be cornered and nailed down, so that he can argue from his position of greatest strength, is that the attacker, knowing that he cannot actually attack the argument being defended, must create a strawman argument.

While this does nothing to the beliefs of the person defending the argument, it does confuse other participants or bystanders in the argument, and may succeed in impugning the integrity of a person defending a true idea... e.g., put him in an illusory box that gives others an excuse not to listen to him.

So, as a rule, one can be more successful in seeking truth, by looking for the participant in the debate who is defending and explaining their own ideas, with an honest desire to be cornered and nailed down. They will not feint, or dodge, but will stand where they are, defending their ground, until such time as they are exposed to a better idea.

Comment by jonathan-doolin on The Failures of Eld Science · 2018-05-26T13:56:19.793Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was wondering the same thing, and did a search of this web site to see if I could find any definition. I could not, but it brought to mind a problem I've come across many times.

Assuming "Eld-Scientists" referred to, are the scientists of the real world, I would describe the "crisis-of-belief" in this way. Modern scientists say things like "Science does not care what you believe".

However, actually, what they generally mean by such a thing is "I do not need to acknowledge your hypothesis, because it disagrees with what I know to be true."

The crisis lies in the fact that "what one knows to be true" is actually only belief. While an Eld-Scientist MIGHT be correct in dismissing a hypothesis because it conflicts with what "he knows to be true," he is using an incorrect method of reasoning.

The true scientific method requires that you fully understand and acknowledge multiple hypotheses and test them against empirical evidence. What often happens instead, with modern science, is, for instance, a scientist will say, something like "I don't fully understand the leading theory, but I know it is true... And yours is not it, therefore I do not need to acknowledge or understand your theory." This is the crisis of belief that is going on among modern science.