Comment by smijer on Archimedes's Chronophone · 2013-08-17T12:13:21.857Z · LW · GW

70 comments so far, and none of them, "Holy Shit! I'm talking to Archimedes!"

... which I suppose he would hear as "Ye Gods! I'm talking to Plato"...

Comment by smijer on Imperfect Voting Systems · 2012-07-22T14:39:21.895Z · LW · GW

My morning coffee hasn't kicked in... I wonder what the significance is that no voting system can be "perfect". Is it a fluke of math, or does it say something about the coherence of our value systems as they pertain to electoral systems?

I should also express my view that a plurality voting system that allows only two parties to thrive in practice is probably the worst of all worlds where it concerns voting systems. I believe the polarizing effects of a system that requires exactly two parties are a large component of the set of difficulties that make it so politics is the mind-killer.

Comment by smijer on A Parable On Obsolete Ideologies · 2012-07-15T02:33:24.946Z · LW · GW

Oh - this is a veiled critique of conciliatory attitudes toward religion? I though it was a direct critique of conciliatory attitudes toward political ideologies - and I was going to disagree with it. I think I detect a dark side to lumping all political ideologies together under the category of "poltitical ideology" and ignoring the specific reasons why political ideologies can become harmful or anti-rational.

Now that I see that this was a veiled critique of religion (or a specific religious grouping?) I think my reservations still stand.

What would it look like if we neglected the fundamental differences between religions - or even between sects of a "single" religion, such as Christianity? How would that distort our view of sects that never adopted doctrines like Biblical inerrancy and instead focused on an altruistic message embedded in an ancient narrative? Would we make the simplistic assumption that these sects viewed the Bible in the same way as the more reactionary sects except that certain passages were to be taken as "metaphorical"?

Would we have any hope of coping constructively with the bewildering array of beliefs, epistemologies, ethics, meta-ethics, values, emotional responses and activities that can loosely be regarded as "religious"?

Worse yet, would we fail to notice the mechanisms by which some religious (or political ideologies) become especially prone to bad belief and bad behavior? Will we believe that something magical about the name "church" or the activity of counting a rosary has some sort of harmful essence of itself? Will we be unable to constructively suggest to people who find value in religion that they are better served to divorce religion from dubious orthodoxies and to reconsider any rules they may be following which limit the freedom to inquire critically?

Comment by smijer on Religion's Claim to be Non-Disprovable · 2012-07-01T03:19:35.018Z · LW · GW

Personally, it isn't something I waste my time on... as I mentioned earlier - it is still a mistake, in terms of strict probability, to believe that there have been miracles from God. It just isn't a specifically anti-scientific mistake. The act of making it is not evidence that a person is unscientific - merely that they are not reasoning well.

Comment by smijer on Guardians of the Truth · 2012-06-10T12:16:10.289Z · LW · GW

Did Chuang Tzu know that much about the ancient history of humans, really?

Comment by smijer on Are Your Enemies Innately Evil? · 2012-05-21T20:24:37.545Z · LW · GW

The person who originally claimed that "they hate us for our freedom" was probably referring to a Western, enlightenment notion, called by that name.

The thing that the Muslim university student praises and calls freedom is apparently an Islamic religious idea, corresponding very roughly to the sort of freedom a recovering addict craves from his addictions.

If the words were tabooed, then you would probably see the coherence of both points of view, and I think, could fairly assert that Islamists really do "hate our freedoms" in a sense, so long as you don't allow this approximation to carry more than its fair burden of explanatory weight (as certain former POTUSs have done).

Comment by smijer on Rationality Quotes May 2012 · 2012-05-05T18:18:47.919Z · LW · GW

I'm not sure Chesterson deserves the epithet of apologist. Christian yes... evangelist, of a sort. I see him as a cut above the apologist class of Christian commentators.

Comment by smijer on Ontologial Reductionism and Invisible Dragons · 2012-04-18T23:57:20.650Z · LW · GW

Coming late... enjoying this discussion. I haven't read much from Jewish apologists. Balofsky seems a cut above his Christian counterparts. But my question is about your mention of a non-extant history mentioned in 23:28. How do we know this is a non-extant history, and not a reference to Chronicles?

Comment by smijer on Religion's Claim to be Non-Disprovable · 2012-02-08T02:47:39.603Z · LW · GW

Indeed it may.

Comment by smijer on Religion's Claim to be Non-Disprovable · 2012-02-08T02:35:59.097Z · LW · GW

Thank you.

Comment by smijer on Religion's Claim to be Non-Disprovable · 2012-02-08T02:35:04.111Z · LW · GW

Either an incredibly powerful agent such as the one described in the Bible exists and acts upon the world, or he doesn't. If he exists, and if he pops in from time to time to perform miracles,

Not "time to time" - I was addressing the specific claim of one resurrection event in history. We might not expect to have any evidence of such an event preserved at all, and certainly none better than the type of documentary evidence adduced to it.

then we should see some evidence of him doing that.

Agreed - however, there is a correllation between the frequency and mode of such interventions and the amount and quality of evidence we should expect. It doesn't make sense to think this is happening at all, but it isn't anti-scientific to believe that it has and maybe does happen in subtle ways and/or at rare times.

Comment by smijer on Religion's Claim to be Non-Disprovable · 2012-02-08T02:07:08.451Z · LW · GW

Sorry - I still haven't figured out why standard html doesn't work here, or how to do blockquotes...

  • "Well, UU is definitely on the 'accommodationist' side," Generally, yes

-"which means that, when asked 'Are there supernatural things?', it answers 'Shut up, debate is intolerance'." I'm pretty sure it doesn't mean that. I fall closer to the accommodationist side, and I gladly answer, "no, probably not" to that question.

-"Okay, chewing pellets could plausibly be lumped in with chewing one's cud, though I am Not Happy about things becoming "imagery" the second they're literally false." I'm not a big fan of Christian apologetics - especially of the sort that like to claim that there are no errors in the Bible, but to hold that "rabbits chew their cud" is an example of a falsehood in the Bible requires you assume that the phrase so translated literally means rumination of partially digested material in exactly the way that ruminant species do. This is a terrible assumption, since the language belonged to people who did not understand rumination: why would they have a term term in their vocabulary that literally describes a process they didn't understand?

There are many examples of real errors in the Bible... it just looks dumb to cite something as an error based solely on an assumption that ancient languages will somehow embed modern classification systems.

-"But science can and does prove that such agents just don't happen." To fix your argument: science proves that such agents don't arise under ordinary physical law. Any number of elements of rational thought make the existence of such an agent improbable, but that doesn't make it specifically anti-scientific to believe in such an agent.

-"requires rejecting the claim 'Induction works'," Nonsense - it merely requires asserting that induction can fail outside the boundaries for which it should apply (in the case of science, outside the boundaries of natural law).

Comment by smijer on Religion's Claim to be Non-Disprovable · 2012-02-08T01:09:20.792Z · LW · GW

I am a Unitarian Universalist, and I am confused.

I don't make a habit of claiming UUism to be non-disprovable, but now that I think about it... The seven principles affirmed by the UU association are statements of values, not empirical claims. I have a hard time thinking of anything UUs generally hold to in terms of doctrine at all... So, what's to disprove?

We don't even have ethics in common. Only values, and the most controversial subject of those values is "the interdependent web of all existence", which we agree to "respect". Even there, I doubt many of us would argue against evidence that there are bits of existence that are not interdependent.

I have a lot of other quibbles with the article. Somehow this one slipped past my radar for a long time. On the principle that the rationalist fixes their opponents arguments for them, it doesn't seem to come to a high standard. It almost seems to treat arguments as soldiers. (I mean rabbits chewing cud? It's not just easy to see that this type of language conveys imagery: if you've ever seen a, rabbit, you know exactly what imagery it is conveying)...

On other boards, I've seen arguments treated very much like soldiers. It's one reason I don't visit Jerry Coyne's site any longer. Science cannot disprove historical miracles, for instance. Yes, science can prove dead people cannot rise again... but it cannot prove that an agent with the power to suspend or violate the laws of nature could not perform the trick.

So, I argue against the claim that acceptance of such a belief, of itself, is a rejection of science. For very narrow cases, there really is a separation between the "magesteria". One of the things I enjoy about less-wrong is that the focus is moved away from whether belief is "scientific" or not and onto the question of whether it is "true" or not. While the resurrection almost certainly isn't true, it is almost as certainly true, on Bayesian grounds, that belief in resurrection as a function of the power of a super-natural God is not a rejection of science. On Coyne's board (and some other "anti-accommodationist" boards), the first truth is embraced, and the second is an enemy soldier.

Comment by smijer on [LINK] "Prediction Audits" for Nate Silver, Dave Weigel · 2012-01-10T16:11:30.052Z · LW · GW

Thank you. I will check it out.

Comment by smijer on [LINK] "Prediction Audits" for Nate Silver, Dave Weigel · 2011-12-31T00:25:01.124Z · LW · GW

Is there a free / registration only prediction market game? I'm too poor to gamble real money, but I'd like to see something that will allow gambling for points or some such, and introduce it to my circle of friends. Something that allows a wide variety of categories of bet, with the ability to add your own well-quantified predictions.

Comment by smijer on Is every life really worth preserving? · 2011-12-24T16:48:41.350Z · LW · GW

I appreciate the support.

Comment by smijer on Is every life really worth preserving? · 2011-12-24T14:13:00.210Z · LW · GW

If the value of not saving a life is the same as the value of killing someone, that's fine. We can do that exercise and re-frame in terms of killing, and do the consequentialist calculation from there. The math is the same. If the goal is to bring ourselves to calculate from the heightened emotional perspective associated with killing, though, it is time to drop that frame and just get back to the math.

In terms of the opening post, the math is going to be similar even for the creation of all possible minds. If we have a good reason to restore every mind that has lived, it seems very probable that we have the exact same reason to create every mind that has not lived.

I'm not sure I see what that value is, though. Even if I want to live forever - and continue to want to live forever right up to the point that I am dead... One second after that point, I no longer care. At that point, only other living minds can find value in having me alive. It's up to them if they want to invest their resources in preserving and re-animating me or prefer to invest more of their resources in keeping themselves alive and creating more novel new minds through reproduction.

Comment by smijer on Pluralistic Moral Reductionism · 2011-06-06T02:28:22.976Z · LW · GW

Stealing often means wrongful taking of property... but point well taken.

Comment by smijer on Some Claims Are Just Too Extraordinary · 2010-12-28T01:16:33.191Z · LW · GW

I have a question about the problem of recursion here. If I observe a blue sky and I observe a group of scientific papers claiming that it is green, how much more likely is it that my observation of the sky is what is wrong than that my observation or understanding of the scientific articles are what is wrong?