The Pleasures of Rationality

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 27, 2011 in Rationality

There are many pleasant benefits of improved rationality:

I’d like to mention two other benefits of rationality that arise when working with other rationalists, which I’ve noticed since moving to Berkeley to work with Machine Intelligence Research Institute (first as an intern, then as a staff member).

The first is the comfort of knowing that people you work with agree on literally hundreds of norms and values relevant to decision-making: the laws of logic and probability theory, the recommendations of cognitive science for judgment and decision-making, the values of broad consequentialism and x-risk reduction, etc. When I walk into a decision-making meeting with Eliezer Yudkowsky or Anna Salamon or Louie Helm, I notice I’m more relaxed than when I walk into a meeting with most people. I know that we’re operating on Crocker’s rules, that we all want to make the decisions that will most reduce existential risk, and that we agree on how we should go about making such a decision.

The second pleasure, related to the first, is the extremely common result of reaching Aumann agreement after initially disagreeing. Having worked closely with Anna on both the rationality minicamp and a forthcoming article on intelligence explosion, we’ve had many opportunities to Aumann on things. We start by disagreeing on X. Then we reduce knowledge asymmetry about X. Then we share additional arguments for multiple potential conclusions about X. Then we both update from our initial impressions, also taking into account the other’s updated opinion. In the end, we almost always agree on a final judgment or decision about X. And it’s not that we agree to disagree and just move forward with one of our judgments. We actually both agree on what the most probably correct judgment is. I’ve had this experience literally hundreds of times with Anna alone.

Being more rational is a pleasure. Being rational in the company of other rationalists is even better. Forget not the good news of situationist psychology.

[cross-posted on Less Wrong]

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{ 109 comments… read them below or add one }

josefjohann October 27, 2011 at 10:04 pm

If you don’t mind my asking, are you still using modafinil? I’m sure there are other places to get testimonials but I probably would value yours above others.

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zaybu October 28, 2011 at 2:44 pm

You still need to examine the premises of your worldview. Hitler, within his own worldview, was rational, ditto for Stalin. Christians and Muslims can both be rational once you accept their worldview. The conflict arises between worldviews. So it stands to reason that if you hang out with people who share your own worldview, you will feel comfortable. But I think you are making a mistake if you don’t examine the premises of your own worldview.

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Luke Muehlhauser October 29, 2011 at 12:27 am

josefjohann,

Yes, perhaps a couple times a week.

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Luke Muehlhauser October 29, 2011 at 12:29 am

zaybu,

You haven’t remotely tried to understand what I mean by the word “rationality.” I did provide links.

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slappy October 29, 2011 at 1:04 am

Luke Muehlhauser wrote:

You haven’t remotely tried to understand what I mean by the word “rationality.” I did provide links.

Luke, confusion is bound to continually arise given the common parlance. Might I suggest you taboo the word “rationality” and replace it with an alternate string of letters, let’s say “insanity”.

One string of letters is as good as any other, and if common parlance is of no matter (as long as we communicate), the term “insanity” should serve just as well while in taboo mode.

If any Yudder should object, they should refer to the sequences; we are not here to argue the meaning of a word… …The point of attaching sequences of letters to particular concepts is to let two people communicate. If I tell you that the string of letters in the word “insanity” has the same meaning as what Yudders attach the string of letters “rationality” – we have communicated and there can be no objection from the Yudders.

But I’d guess that almost all Yudders would object to attaching a string of letters that has negative connotations in common parlance. How handy then that Yud picked a string of letters than has positive connotations in common parlance and co-opted all of that goodwill to his obscure (relative to common parlance) definition.

So, Yud and all the Yudders ought not to pout and be all cranky, they picked the perfect string of letters to cause confusion until the end of time. It nearly beats Plantinga’s co-opting of the term “warrant”. Don’t hold your next pee break waiting for the confusion to die down over this sort of maneuver. Sure, you pointed to a link for your obscure definition of a common term. Hope you like doing that a lot if you expect your movement to have any sort of non-fringe appeal.

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zaybu October 29, 2011 at 6:37 am

zaybu,
You haven’t remotely tried to understand what I mean by the word “rationality.” I did provide links.

Luke, I have, but none of your definitions critically examine the premises of your worldview. Those premises are presuppositions that one might or might not be aware of. For instance, Hitler presupposed that the German people were superior. In his mind, that was a given. In that worldview, Jews and other races were inferior, hence from that starting position, Hitler’s behavior can be construed as being rational, that is, in the common definition of the word rational. Your definition of rationality, tho’ slightly different than its common usage, still does not address the existence of that worldview and its premises.

Here’s your definition of rational: “believing, and updating on evidence, so as to systematically improve the correspondence between your map and the territory.” Now, you are Hitler and you believe that Jews are inferior, a given in your worldview. There are tons of ways that you will skew the data to prove your assumptions. In your own mind, you have updated the evidence and you believe that it maps perfectly that Jews are indeed inferior. You are logical and rational in drawing the final solution for the Jews.

What I’m pointing out is that you must be critical of your fundamental “(belief ), and (your updating) on evidence, so as to systematically improve the correspondence between your map and the territory.” Without that critical examination you can be a Christian believing you are rational; you can be a Muslim and believe you are rational, etc.

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PDH October 29, 2011 at 7:02 am

slappy wrote,

Luke, confusion is bound to continually arise given the common parlance. Might I suggest you taboo the word “rationality”and replace it with an alternate string of letters, let’s say “insanity”.

One string of letters is as good as any other, and if common parlance is of no matter (as long as we communicate), the term “insanity” should serve just as well while in taboo mode.

If any Yudder should object, they should refer to the sequences; we are not here to argue the meaning of a word… …The point of attaching sequences of letters to particular concepts is to let two people communicate. If I tell you that the string of letters in the word “insanity” has the same meaning as what Yudders attach the string of letters “rationality” – we have communicated and there can be no objection from the Yudders.

But I’d guess that almost all Yudders would object to attaching a string of letters that has negative connotations in common parlance. How handy then that Yud picked a string of letters than has positive connotations in common parlance and co-opted all of that goodwill to his obscure (relative to common parlance) definition.

So, Yud and all the Yudders ought not to pout and be all cranky, they picked the perfect string of letters to cause confusion until the end of time. It nearly beats Plantinga’s co-opting of the term “warrant”. Don’t hold your next pee break waiting for the confusion to die down over this sort of maneuver. Sure, you pointed to a link for your obscure definition of a common term. Hope you like doing that a lot if you expect your movement to have any sort of non-fringe appeal.

OK, let’s do that.

Epistemic insanity = trying to have true beliefs.
Instrumental insanity = trying to achieve one’s goals

Now please provide some actual reasons why I shouldn’t want to have true beliefs or achieve my goals, regardless of what words we use to describe these things.

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PDH October 29, 2011 at 7:14 am

zaybu wrote,

Luke, I have, but none of your definitions critically examine the premises of your worldview. Those premises are presuppositions that one might or might not be aware of. For instance, Hitler presupposed that the German people were superior. In his mind, that was a given. In that worldview, Jews and other races were inferior, hence from that starting position, Hitler’s behavior can be construed as being rational, that is, in the common definition of the word rational. Your definition of rationality, tho’ slightly different than its common usage, still does not address the existence of that worldview and its premises.

Here’s your definition of rational: “believing, and updating on evidence, so as to systematically improve the correspondence between your map and the territory.” Now, you are Hitler and you believe that Jews are inferior, a given in your worldview. There are tons of ways that you will skew the data to prove your assumptions. In your own mind, you have updated the evidence and you believe that it maps perfectly that Jews are indeed inferior. You are logical and rational in drawing the final solution for the Jews.

What I’m pointing out is that you must be critical of yourfundamental “(belief ), and (your updating) on evidence, so as to systematically improve the correspondence between your map and the territory.” Without that critical examination you can be a Christian believing you are rational; you can be a Muslim and believe you are rational, etc.

If Hitler updated on the evidence available to him he would have quickly seen that Aryans were unlikely to be significantly superior to non-Aryans. In fact, he shouldn’t have privileged that bizarre hypothesis in the first place.

You can certainly be religious and believe that you are rational (or ‘insane,’ if you prefer to use slappy’s childish term) but can you actually believe that the universe was created by an intelligent being without straying very far away from the underlying probability theory that governs effective reasoning? Do you have enough evidence to show that that hypothesis is more plausible than the others?

The Less Wrong community has spent a very great deal of time setting out and defending their worldview. Bayesian Epistemology is about as secure as anything in epistemology can reasonably be expected to be. I certainly know of nothing superior.

I will keep questioning my presuppositions but until someone presents me with an alternative more likely to lead me to true beliefs I’m going to stick with the best bet available to me.

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zaybu October 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm

If Hitler updated on the evidence available to him he would have quickly seen that Aryans were unlikely to be significantly superior to non-Aryans. In fact, he shouldn’t have privileged that bizarre hypothesis in the first place.

You’re speaking from your own worldview, not Hitler’s. There was a whole slew of “scientists” who delivered a constant flow of data that tended to confirm Hitler’s worldview, and these “scientists” were far from being idiots.

LINK: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/3540339/How-Hitler-perverted-the-course-of-science.html

You can certainly be religious and believe that you are rational (or ‘insane,’ if you prefer to use slappy’s childish term) but can you actually believe that the universe was created by an intelligent being without straying very far away from the underlying probability theory that governs effective reasoning? Do you have enough evidence to show that that hypothesis is more plausible than the others?

I’m an atheist, so it would be difficult for me to defend a theist’s rationality. However, if you talk to some of them, they quite know how to defend themselves, even though from my own worldview, they don’t make sense.

I will keep questioning my presuppositions but until someone presents me with analternative more likely to lead me to true beliefs I’m going to stick with the best bet available to me.

Unsurprisingly, Theists will have a similar answer.

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Rorschach October 29, 2011 at 6:04 pm

This is one of the best posts on your blog. Great work, luke. I have a question, if you have time to answer:
Were the pre-darwinian and the pre-einsteinian scientific community rational in rejecting darwinism and relativistic effects?
Lets assume that there have never been found empirical experimental evidence for relativity. At what point should our skepticism go, and how do we assign a prior probability to this extremely counter intuitive claim? 50% 50%?

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Quietus October 29, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Sorry. I’m a bigger fan of Romanticism than I am of the Enlightenment.

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MarkD October 29, 2011 at 6:27 pm

There may be a resolution to some of the criticisms of the use of rationality described here by looking at the epistemic stance that guides estimating the priors of the premises and updates probabilities given more evidence. This loops back in a non-trivial way to Bayesian arguments. Was there at least one Jew (substitute X race/ethnicity/religious believer) who didn’t fit the theoretical stereotypes? Is the evidence concerning IQ explainable in any other way? Is the notion of special creation defeatable by one or more alternative theories? In each case, the prior probability of the presumption or premise is weakening, but only if the intellectual stance is that evidence and alternative theories should be regarded neutrally and with a mild application of a coherentist strategy.

Perhaps we can create a new phrase like “Post-Bayesian Rationality” that captures this kind of rationality. Interesting question is whether it is virtuous to believe such things? Does PBR result in better societies and individuals? Here’s a problematic case: if we take a minimalist filtering approach to global warming via human action, we would likely conclude that the problem space is sufficiently variable and the naysayers’ opinions are robust enough that we should not act at the present time. As the updating continues and evidence flows in, that might change, but might still be too weak a signal to warrant mass regulation.

Same with the coming robot apocalypse. Still, PBR fulfills a definitional requirement for intellectual honesty and is at least as good as any other way of trying to understand the past or predict the future by my lights.

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PDH October 30, 2011 at 8:07 am

zaybu wrote,

You’re speaking from your own worldview, not Hitler’s. There was a whole slew of“scientists” who delivered a constant flow of data that tended to confirm Hitler’s worldview, and these “scientists” were far from being idiots.

LINK: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/3540339/How-Hitler-perverted-the-course-of-science.html

I’m an atheist, so it would be difficult for me to defend a theist’s rationality. However, if you talk to some of them, they quite know how to defend themselves, even though from my own worldview, they don’t make sense.

But in your response to Luke you implied that Hitler could have followed the Less Wrong approach to rationality honestly and still arrived at the conclusion that Jews were inferior to Germans.

So, it was that worldview and not the theist’s worldview that I had to defend. I don’t doubt that it is possible for people with false beliefs to come up with tortuously elaborate excuses for them.

The mere existence of opposing worldviews does nothing to show that a given one is faulty.

Unsurprisingly, Theists will have a similar answer.

Is there any equivalent of Cox’s theorem on the theistic worldview? Are there Dutch Book arguments? Is there anything comparable to Solomonoff Induction?

If not I put it to you that I can give a better account of my worldview that they can give of theirs. Just saying, ‘different people have different points of view and they really believe them’ doesn’t add anything to the discussion.

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zaybu October 30, 2011 at 8:52 am

But in your response to Luke you implied that Hitler could have followed the Less Wrong approach to rationality honestly and still arrived at the conclusion that Jews were inferior to Germans.

Hmm…not exactly. My argument is that you can’t expect Hitler to behave as if he would adopt your worldview. In Hitler’s woridview, the Less Wrong approach, if it would exist, would be carried out quite differently than in your worldview. My point is that it would not lead Hitler to question or even doubt the premise of his own worldview. The question you are raising now is, what do you mean by “honestly”? This is always a point of contention when people argue from different worlviews. Atheists accuse theists to be hypocrites, and vice-versa, theists accuse atheists of being hypocrites.

Just saying, ‘different people have different points of view and they really believe them’ doesn’t add anything to the discussion.

I’m trying to point out that people starts with a given set of beliefs, on which they have developped a worldview. And within it, they can be very rational. Luke said that he was comfortable when he was surrounded by people whom he thought they were rational. What I think he forgot to include in this comfort is that he is also with people who happen to share a good deal of his worldview.

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PDH October 30, 2011 at 9:52 am

But zaybu, if Hitler is not following the Less Wrong approach then his actions have no bearing on whether the Less Wrong approach is sensible or not.

What you’ve shown is that just calling oneself ‘rational’ doesn’t automatically protect oneself from becoming a genocidal dictator. Agreed.

What you need to show is that, for example, “believing, and updating on evidence, so as to systematically improve the correspondence between your map and the territory,” places one in significant danger of becoming a genocidal dictator. But Hitler didn’t do that whereas Luke has made a sincere effort to, so I don’t see how the example is relevant at all. And given the provocative nature of the analogy that you’ve made – comparing Luke with one of the most notorious dictators in history and thereby evoking very powerful emotions against him – I really think that that is a fairly grave omission.

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zaybu October 30, 2011 at 10:57 am

But zaybu, if Hitler is not following the Less Wrong approach then his actions have no bearing on whether the Less Wrong approach is sensible or not.

What you’ve shown is that just calling oneself ‘rational’ doesn’t automatically protect oneself from becoming a genocidal dictator. Agreed.

What you need to show is that, for example, “believing, and updating on evidence, so as to systematically improve the correspondence between your map and the territory,” places one in significant danger of becoming a genocidal dictator. But Hitler didn’t do that whereas Luke has made a sincere effort to, so I don’t see how the example is relevant at all. And given the provocative nature of the analogy that you’ve made – comparing Luke with one of the most notorious dictators in history and thereby evoking very powerful emotions against him – I really think that that is a fairly grave omission.

Far from me to compare Luke to Hitler, if you follow my argument, it is that every human being is in that boat, and that includes the likes of Hitler, Stalin… and also Gandhi, Mandela, etc.

As to show that Luke’s definition of rationality places one in significant danger of becoming a genocidal dictator, that would depend on the worldview one starts from, and that was my point from the beginning. The bottom line is that you can’t use the rationality argument — even if you do what Luke has done by redefine rationality — against someone whose mode of operation falls under a different worldview.

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PDH October 30, 2011 at 11:50 am

zaybu wrote,

Far from me to compare Luke to Hitler, if you follow my argument, it is that every human being is in that boat, and that includes the likes of Hitler, Stalin… and also Gandhi, Mandela, etc.

As to show that Luke’s definition of rationality places one in significant danger of becoming a genocidal dictator, that would depend on the worldview one starts from, and that was my point from the beginning.The bottom line is that you can’t use the rationality argument — even if you do what Luke has done by redefine rationality — against someone whose mode of operation falls under a different worldview.

You’ve not come close to showing anything remotely like that. You’ve not provided examples of Hitler using Bayesianism in such a way that it led him to commit atrocities.

At best you’ve shown that someone who isn’t rational could call himself rational and that’s only because it’s such a trivial conclusion that I just conceded it for the sake or argument. Technically, you didn’t even show that, it’s just that nobody disagrees with it in the first place.

The question is whether or not Bayes works and you haven’t given us any reason to think that it doesn’t.

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zaybu October 30, 2011 at 2:12 pm

You’ve not come close to showing anything remotely like that. You’ve not provided examples of Hitler using Bayesianism in such a way that it led him to commit atrocities.

You’ve got me there as I have no idea how Hitler’s mind worked, let alone what he would have done with Bayes probability theory.

The question is whether or not Bayes works and you haven’t given us any reason to think that it doesn’t.

It’s not a question that Bayes doesn’t work, it’s a question that it won’t necessarily lead someone to question the premises of his/her own worldview. If you think that it necessarily leads to such scrutiny, then you would need to show how it does.

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PDH October 30, 2011 at 2:54 pm

If Hitler is not acting in the way that Luke is acting then how does your Hitler analogy help your case against Luke?

OTOH, if Hitler had put the sort of work into his worldview that Less Wrong has put into theirs then he would indeed have quickly found some very seriously problems with his worldview.

You are providing examples of someone who isn’t actually being rational as an argument against rationality on the grounds that the person thinks of himself as rational. But showing that Hitler thinks of himself as rational is not enough! You would have to show that he actually was being rational as Luke defines the term.

I don’t care about the uninteresting fact that people sometimes have different worldviews. What I care about is whether or not those worldviews are actually correct.

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Adito November 3, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Rorschach


Were the pre-darwinian and the pre-einsteinian scientific community rational in rejecting darwinism and relativistic effects?


Lets assume that there have never been found empirical experimental evidence for relativity. At what point should our skepticism go, and how do we assign a prior probability to this extremely counter intuitive claim? 50% 50%?

I think I can answer this one. Yes, they were rational in rejecting both those theories. We should accept new theories when the evidence in their favor outweighs the evidence in favor of the currently best supported theories. Depending on the field and status of the theories in question this can take a long time and a lot of evidence. I don’t know of any precise way to do this, we’re not computers so weighing evidence is difficult.

A good example of how this works is in the current controversy over whether neutrinos can go faster than the speed of light. One result suggests this but it runs counter to other results and would overthrow many well supported theories in physics. How to weigh the evidence here is obvious. We should now have a little less faith in the current theories of physics but still believe the evidence is in their favor by a large margin.

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ZAROVE November 4, 2011 at 12:09 am

I think that what zaybu is saying, and that you are not addressing, is that we can be inherently biased on even a subconscious level and think that our Beliefs are Logical or Rational when they aren’t. Of course you agree…when it comes to Theists, but somehow Atheists or at least those following the less Wrong approach, don’t do this.

But how do you know Bayesian Logic leads inevitably to the same basic conclusions you have, or share as a group? Bayes himself was a Presbyterian Minister, and doesn’t seem to have ever wavered in that regard. If Bayes himself never became an Atheist using the Bayesian method, why should we assume everyone else would in today’s world? Or will you fall on the point that he lived in the 18th Century and say Modern Evidence would lead us to Atheism? The problem with this is that many who employ Bayesian methodology are, in fact, not Atheists today. The group you belong to is a very narrow one that has its own group Identity. Why should that Group be immune from the same general communal thinking and guidance into conformity that regulates other Social Groups? Why do we assume that each member of the “Less Wrong” Community you belong to is actively independent in the search for the evidence? It seems that this club you belong to is simply creating its own Doctrinal orthodoxy and persuading by Consensus all members. That may be very powerful in group, but how well does that stand up in the Outside World? Oh that’s right, you shut off consideration to examine that question by the easy answer that if someone else is not convinced by your stated Logical Chain, they must be Irrational.

That must make it a lot easier.

I’m not really convinced of the merits of the Group that you promote. I don’t see it as any different than the plethora of other organisations, including the Churches of Christ I grew up in, that have no clearly defined Hierarchy but seem to all arrive at the Same conclusions based on common discussion and consensus.

In fact, Social Group Identity plays a vital role in psychology, as Group Affiliation tends to have a powerful impact on participants who immerse themselves in it.

What you are basically describing is a Group that has resolved to “Find the Truth” by agreeing with each other after a Lengthy discussion about relevant Topics, and that works toward gaining agreement by constantly rewording or re-examining a topic till everyone agrees they are comfortable with that conclusion.

That is not really the same thing as proving your beliefs are the only Logical or Rational ones available, or even that they are in fact Logical or Rational. Just slapping the label “Rational “ onto something doesn’t make it Rational, and assuming that all Reason leads to a singular conclusion in a Complex world is just not Realistic.

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ZAROVE November 4, 2011 at 12:26 am

Oh. One last thing. As venerated as Science is, people do often become attached to their Ideas and often refuse to let them go.

Also, if Neutrinos can travel Faster than Light won’t effect anyone’s beliefs about the overall Nature of the Universe in terms of their Daily Lives or Identities. It’s not an Equivalent question to, say, if God exists or if Abortion is Morally Justifiable. Those questions really remain unchallenged by new Discovery that something may Travel Faster than Light. I know you said “We shouldn’t assume they did “ and no I am not misreading, I’m illustrating a point. There is much less emotional connection to Einsteinian Relativity than to something like Secular Humanism or Christianity. It shapes the way Modern Physics and Astronomy work, but not the way we live our lives or the meaning of our Lives.

Heck, it doesn’t even effect the overall question: Do we live in a Universe that was Created by some Outside Agent? Or is it all just pure Chance?

Most Scientific Discoveries simply won’t effect these discussions.

If I am a Doctor and discover a new Chemical Compound that Fights Cancer, I’d be Hailed as a Hero if it pans out, not seen as an Harbinger out to ruin Christianity or Islam. F I am an Astronomer and discover evidence that the Universe is smaller than we think, or perhaps larger, no one will take a look at that Evidence and say “Gee, I guess God doesn’t exist after all” as a result.

Moral Questions are far more tricky. Look at Same Sex marriage. Mist Atheists today in western Culture support full gay Rights including Same Sex Marriage. Its even called “The Rational position” by some who contrast themselves to those or deluded Religious People who oppose it for no reason at all. Its just self evident that Homosexuality is a natural, normal Variant of Human Sexuality, and that Marriage rights should be extended to them as a result. Opposing this is Irrational.

I even bet your “Less Wrong” group would say the same thing.

HOWEVER… Historically Atheists did not support Homosexuality, and were themselves rather insistent that ti was a Disease. H.G. Wells was hardly a Friend of Christianity but he didn’t advance Homosexuality. He did advance Eugenics though, based on Darwinism and the idea that we can breed a better Race.

The Soviet Union actually Criminalised Homosexuality as well, and even today in Former Soviet Bloc Nations like Russia many Atheists, perhaps most, are not supportive of Gay Rights. Many are outspoken Critics of it.

Gettign back to Wells and his Views, or even the Soviet ones, I can say that Atheistic opposition to Homosexuality can be Rational following Bayes Theorum.

Sex may be enjoyable but the main reason for this is to get us to engage in it. The real purpose of Sex is to make babies. Its also True that we can expand a Population thus expand the workers base. Homosexuality is disruptive as it is not procreative. In a world driven by a Culture that emphasises breeding superior examples and seeking to populate, Homosexuality would itself be at least strongly discouraged as it doesn’t further the Social Aims set up.

Why would that be Irrational according to the Less Wrong Methodology? Can you guarantee that this couldn’t happen?

Come to think of it, men can impregnate numerous women whilst a woman can be pregnant by only one man at a Time barring some unusual circumstances. So, why not let our Studs mate with multiple Mares? Why is Polygamy less Logical than Monogamy? Of course women wouldn’t be able to sleep around like that, we need them to stay faithful so we can tell who the Fathers are without expensive Gene testing and to give clear responsibility to the Father in assisting in Childrearing. That also is Logical.

How do you decide if Abortion is Morally wrong or not using this method? The whole issue rests on whether or not the Pre-Born Fetus is a Person with Equal Rights. You can’t look at either side and just declare them Irrational and solve the problem, and I doubt discussion via Consensus will lead to a clear resolution except in a tightly controlled Group that already share several basic presumptions.

It just seems to me that you find this Group more Rational simply because you share the Groups basic beliefs, not because it can be demonstrated that you are, in fact, more Rational than someone who disagrees.

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PDH November 4, 2011 at 10:18 am

ZAROVE, the question of ‘why do we believe these things rather than those things?’ is the very question that epistemology tries to address. It is a general problem that will face every group of people in the world and every individual person, including you. We rely on our answer to this question almost constantly throughout our entire lives and it has a bearing on every single decision that we make. Now, you can just throw up your hands and say, ‘well, all beliefs are equally valid,’ in which case the belief that giving me £1,000 will make you King of the Universe is just as valid as the belief that it won’t, so I look forward to your donation.

Or, alternatively, you can think extremely hard about the core questions of epistemology and try to find the best account of it, which as far as I can see is Bayes by miles.

Rationalists don’t ‘shut off’ complaints by just calling them irrational. They explain why they are irrational. That’s the whole point of it. It’s not just a word, it’s a method that either works or fails to work. Yes, the framework within which they make that call might be wrong but you have to show why. Bayesians have put a tremendous amount of work into defending their epistemology.

And that’s what you have to do. You have to provide an account of epistemology that is superior to Bayes. An account with some equivalent of Cox’s Theorem, the Dutch Book arguments, Solomonoff Induction etc. and explain to me how the underlying logic works, as Less Wrong has done at painstaking length. You can’t just say, ‘look, here are some people from history who thought that they were rational but gosh they did all kinds of horrible things, therefore a completely different set of people with entirely different views on epistemology must be wrong, as well.’

Gettign back to Wells and his Views, or even the Soviet ones, I can say that Atheistic opposition to Homosexuality can be Rational following Bayes Theorum.

Sex may be enjoyable but the main reason for this is to get us to engage in it. The real purpose of Sex is to make babies. Its also True that we can expand a Population thus expand the workers base. Homosexuality is disruptive as it is not procreative. In a world driven by a Culture that emphasises breeding superior examples and seeking to populate, Homosexuality would itself be at least strongly discouraged as it doesn’t further the Social Aims set up.

Why would that be Irrational according to the Less Wrong Methodology? Can you guarantee that this couldn’t happen?

Can I guarantee that it wouldn’t happen? No. Can I show that it would extraordinarily less likely to happen with a community that understood Bayesian Epistemology? Yes. Do I really need to join the dots for you? Can you honestly not see any problems with the argument above that any half-competent rationalist would not immediately spot?

OK, what you refer to as ‘the social aims’ is absolute horseshit. An incredibly implausible, scarcely coherent premise, arrived at through fallacious reasoning and supported by nothing whatsoever. You provide us with no reason to think that any such things exists or that we should care about it if it did and your entire argument – which is an utter mess, as you formulate it – depends on it, therefore it fails.

You have managed to show only what happens when people don’t think about why they believe what they believe. We’re interested in what happens when they do.

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ZAR November 4, 2011 at 11:31 am

Using profanity and dismissing my comments as unsubstantiated is precisely what I said you would do, but simply saying my post was Irrational doesn’t make it Irrational does it? Then again you ask the equally daft question as to how I’d know something like that would happen. I don’t have o show it would happen, it’s already happened. It’s the largest chunk of Human History in most Cultures that ever existed. Not that it matters as my point was not that such beliefs were inevitable, only possible in a Rational mind.

You know the real Irony is, you just proved my point. Why do you think employing Bayesian logic will make my statements about Homosexuality less likely? The only reason I can see for this is that you accept a very modern Notion of Gay Rights, which ultimately depends upon our Cultural Inclinations more than Science and Reason.

Why should your subjective view about Homosexuality overtake the last 10’000 or so Years of Human History? After all, while some Cultures were accepting of Homosexuality, the vast majority that ever existed were not. You can say “Those other Cultures were Irrational” to your hearts content, but the only way you can make it stick is by making assumptions about Homosexuality and then proceeding form a value system that validates it. EG, to assume its an inherent an unchangeable aspect of ones genetic makeup, which has not been proven and has no Evidence, it common to support gay rights, as is our Love of Modern Democracy and Equality. How we define “Equal Rights” and protection has itself changed Drastically and is not the same a s it was in the 18th or 19th or even early 20th Century.

I really don’t see how Bayesian logic makes acceptance of Homosexuality more likely.

But I do see how you using words that don’t really mean what you think they do to create a mental framework in your head is very much a part of your own existence.

You call yourself a Rationalist for example. However, you aren’t really a Rationalist. I know this because of other blog posts you have made praising Science and Empiricism as the only way we can understand our world accurately. That is the exact opposite of Rationalism, a term which has a very specific definition as a Philosophical Stance that denies Empiricism as the sole means of knowing the world.

Indeed, Rationalism and Empiricism have always been at odds. See this Article from the Stanford Encyclopaedia Of Philosophy.

So why do you call yourself a Rationalist? Its clear that you aren’t really a Rationalist.

I believe its because there is a Trend within Modern Atheism to emphasis just how Rational and Logical Atheists are as contrasted to Theists, or “Religious people”, and the term “Rationalist” has been Hijacked to depict this supreme Rationality. But the implicit nature of such use of the word is that you perceive yourself as more Rational than others based solely on your own set of beliefs you have decided are Rational, and you refuse to accept that people can be just as Rational and not agree with your base assumptions.

But if you start with the assumption that you are a Rationalist and those we who are “Religious” are not, and that no Religious belief can be Rationally defended, then you do cut yourself off from anything approaching Honest Dialogue.

You call my proposed statements about Homosexuality Horse dung, and say its based on nothing and clearly Irrational. Its not. Sex makes babies, men’s bodies fit with woman’s, and procreation seems to be the entire point. Why is it irrational to say that and not Irrational to say that two men or two women, who do not have genetalia that fits perfectly and cannot reproduce, should be accepted as Romantic Couples? In fact, the entire idea of a Romantic Couple didn’t even exist till the 19th Century Romantic Era, and in the 17th century and before most marriages were in some way Arranged.

Why is that less Rational than today’s Romantic Love? How is Romantic Attachment itself Logical or Rational?

You say this is baseless, but its not. If I wanted to breed a superior Human Race like I would Horses or Dogs then why not breed the best Genetic Samples together? And why not let a prime Stud mate with multiple women?

Why is that baseless or Irrational when its not baseless and Irrational when we do it with other Animal Species?

The only reason it seems so is because of our modern Cultural Expectations, not our dispassionate Reason and devotion to Observed Truth.

You say you are interested in the question fo what happens when people examine their beliefs and ask why they believe something, but you don’t really seem to be. You instead seem interested in reproducing what happens in your own head in someone else’s, and when this fails to transpire you claim that they did something wrong or aren’t really questioning their beliefs, for it cannot be the fault of Reason itself!

Of course the word “Fault” assumes an error, which you only think is Error because the people fail to live up to what you expect them to, so must not have Truly Questioned why it is they believe what they believe.

But why should we accept that if people begin to question why they believe what they believe, they will end up with the same conclusions you have? Why do you think the mere process of questioning why you believe certain things leads inexorably to the same conclusions you have arrived at? Conclusions which seem to be themselves emergent from a specific Cultural Climate.

I have sat down and examined all my beliefs before, every last one, considered all alternatives I know, and subjected them to deep analysis. I still don’t agree with you on a lot, so I suppose this mean I didn’t really examine my beliefs, Right?

But how do you know I didn’t examine my beliefs and ask why it is I believe what I believe simply because I didn’t come to the same basic conclusion as the Less Wrong Group has? What is your basis for external Conformation?

Becoming angry and using profanity, dismissing what I’ve said as nonsense and calling me Irrational won’t make these objections less Palpable. It just seems you are shielding your beliefs from Critical Examination, whilst pretending they are the result of Critical Examination and that your own to correction. But we al know you have some conclusions in Mind beforehand that you don’t really challenge, and will instead make excuses for. We know as we’ve sent he Evidence, and because you are Human and that’s part of being Human. I don’t think Bayesian Theorem alters the basic Humanity you possess.

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ZAR November 4, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Oh one mroe thing, i didnt say “Gosh these peopel form hisotry did horrible things and thought they were Rational so you must be wrogn too”, rather my enture point is that Rationality is not Monolithic and the assumption that Rational People will always arrive at the same conclusions is itself preposterous.

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PDH November 4, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Using profanity and dismissing my comments as unsubstantiated is precisely what I said you would do, but simply saying my post was Irrational doesn’t make it Irrational does it? Then again you ask the equally daft question as to how I’d know something like that would happen. I don’t have o show it would happen, it’s already happened. It’s the largest chunk of Human History in most Cultures that ever existed. Not that it matters as my point was not that such beliefs were inevitable, only possible in a Rational mind.

I used one word, ‘horseshit,’ that could be construed as profane. I then went on to clarify precisely what was horseshit about the argument concerning homosexuals that you have and how a person who believes such a thing is not acting in a rational way. You seem to have missed this bit.

You call my proposed statements about Homosexuality Horse dung, and say its based on nothing and clearly Irrational. Its not. Sex makes babies, men’s bodies fit with woman’s, and procreation seems to be the entire point.

The reason we have the biology that we do is because of evolution. Evolution is not concerned with giving us correct ethics except to the extent that it affects the propagation of genes and cannot, therefore, be used to support ethical premises of the sort that you propose (as many theists often argue when atheists attempt to do this).

Suppose we had evolved such that we reproduced via rape. Suppose that human males could not become aroused unless females were unwilling, making reproduction otherwise difficult. Would it then follow that rape was good? No, because the argument depends on the false premise that if our biology happens to be a certain way then that is the way it is supposed to be and we have to just accept it.

Why is it irrational to say that and not Irrational to say that two men or two women, who do not have genetalia that fits perfectly and cannot reproduce, should be accepted as Romantic Couples? In fact, the entire idea of a Romantic Couple didn’t even exist till the 19th Century Romantic Era, and in the 17th century and before most marriages were in some way Arranged.

It’s irrational because it’s built on an implausible, unsupported premise arrived at through fallacious reasoning.

You call yourself a Rationalist for example. However, you aren’t really a Rationalist. I know this because of other blog posts you have made praising Science and Empiricism as the only way we can understand our world accurately. That is the exact opposite of Rationalism, a term which has a very specific definition as a Philosophical Stance that denies Empiricism as the sole means of knowing the world.

I don’t have a blog, so I find it unlikely that you have read blog posts of mine, in which I say such things. Moreover I have explicitly denied such attitudes several times in comments on this blog.

The distinctions between rationality and empiricism are not as important to Bayesians, for obvious reasons. We’re interested in the logic underlying evidence-based reasoning, as expressed by, for example, Bayes Theorem, itself.

I have sat down and examined all my beliefs before, every last one, considered all alternatives I know, and subjected them to deep analysis. I still don’t agree with you on a lot, so I suppose this mean I didn’t really examine my beliefs, Right?

Have you considered Bayesian Epistemology? If so, why did you reject it and what do you use instead? SAE? Reformed epistemology?

Note that this is not an invitation to give another speech about the dangers of believing things too strongly and what has happened to various groups of people historically who believed themselves to be rational.

What I’m asking for is an actual objection to one of the principles that they espouse. For example, you might challenge Bayesian Epistemology using the Problem of Old Evidence.

Becoming angry and using profanity, dismissing what I’ve said as nonsense and calling me Irrational won’t make these objections less Palpable. It just seems you are shielding your beliefs from Critical Examination, whilst pretending they are the result of Critical Examination and that your own to correction. But we al know you have some conclusions in Mind beforehand that you don’t really challenge, and will instead make excuses for. We know as we’ve sent he Evidence, and because you are Human and that’s part of being Human. I don’t think Bayesian Theorem alters the basic Humanity you possess.

No doubt I fall short of perfection but some accounts of epistemology remain better than others. I’ll ask again: Can you provide a better account of epistemology than Bayesian Epistemology? If you can, you needn’t bother with your elaborate psychological profiles of myself and other rationalists. You can just give actual objections.

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PDH November 4, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Oh one mroe thing, i didnt say “Gosh these peopel form hisotry did horrible things and thought they were Rational so you must be wrogn too”, rather my enture point is that Rationality is not Monolithic and the assumption that Rational People will always arrive at the same conclusions is itself preposterous.

My argument doesn’t depend on rational people always arriving at the same conclusions, only on there being some methods of arriving at the truth that are better than others.

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ZAROVE November 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I had mistaken you for Luke.

That said, you seem oblivious to what I’m actually saying, and a large part of this is that you won’t let go of the premise that if someone was wrong they weren’t; Rational somehow. I’m not arguing that historical Groups thought they were rational but really weren’t, I’m arguing that they were Rational but still arrived at very different conclusions than we do today. Both H.G. Wells and Adolph Hitler were Rational in approaching the idea of Human Selective breeding, for instance. You really can’t fault their Logic in terms of the idea of selective breeding, you can only oppose some of the things they advocated, such as the eventual extinction of most Races deemed inferior, on Moral grounds or other subjective ideals.

And that’s where you miss my primary point: I am not arguing that these people are or were Irrational, but think they are Rational. I am arguing that Rationality is not the same ting as believing in Modern Social Values.

There is no reason to think that someone who opposes Homosexuality is being irrational. There is no real reason to presume belief in God is Irrational. Many of the things you say are irrational are only deemed Irrational because they contradict the specific line of thought you are employing, not because the people who hold those beliefs are actually being Irrational. You really shouldn’t think that way regarding disagreement as it does lead to an isolation of your beliefs from real Scrutiny. Your beliefs are deemed Rational abed solely on you adhering to them and subjecting them to a token test of fidelity.

The way you approach this, you basically deem specific beliefs as automatically Irrational on the basis that they fall out of accordance with what you personally have come to accept and your self aggrandised notions that you use Bayesian Epistemology and thus must have subjected your beliefs to the rigours of Logic and found them to be rational. You don’t even consider how this process alone can be manipulated.

You also ask ultimately meaningless questions such as why I reject the use of the Bayesian Theorem. I never said I did. Its like how you think I’m saying “these people were irrational but thought they were Rational’. You’re reading into my words a set of predetermined biases on your part and not really discussing what I’ve actually said.

My point is, you can’t use Bayesian Theorem itself to arrive at the idea that Homosexuality is OK. You can in fact use Bayesian logic and come to the opposite Conclusion. Bayes Theorem Simply doesn’t inexorably lead to a singular outcome and is still ultimately dependant on the Starting Presumptions.

You can’t arrive at Atheism using it either, for the same reason.

And that’s my point. Logic, any Logic will ultimately be determined by its Starting Presumptions. Bayesian Methodology will lead to very different conclusions if you change those basic initial parameters.

I will repeat myself, I am not saying “These people may think they are Rational but really aren’t”, I’m saying they can use the same Logical method you do, Bayesian in this case, and still arrive at fundamentally different conclusions than you do.

That doesn’t make them Irrational, it only means they disagree with you.

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Rorschach November 4, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Sex may be enjoyable but the main reason for this is to get us to engage in it. The real purpose of Sex is to make babies. Its also True that we can expand a Population thus expand the workers base. Homosexuality is disruptive as it is not procreative. In a world driven by a Culture that emphasises breeding superior examples and seeking to populate, Homosexuality would itself be at least strongly discouraged as it doesn’t further the Social Aims set up.

Oh… Homossexuals can adopt. Problem solved. Also, there is the problem of over- population. So a bit of homossexuality wont hurt anyone.

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Zar November 4, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Ror, the “Homosexuals can adopt” line doesn’t fit into the eugenicists view I presented does it? They still aren’t passing on their genes, and if you value that over other considerations then Homosexuality in itself ceases to be justifiable on Rational Grounds. Adopted Children are still not going to further your own Genetic Line.

Overpopulation isn’t a problem either if we get rid of all undesirables, like what Wells or Hitler proposed.

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Rorschach November 4, 2011 at 4:09 pm

They still aren’t passing on their genes, and if you value that over other considerations then Homosexuality in itself ceases to be justifiable on Rational Grounds.

Well, in that case, gay couples can use artificial insemination. Sperm donation, in the case of lesbos, and egg donation if you are gay. Also, nobody is preventing us heterossexuals to reproduce. So, im pretty sure makind would survive.

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ZAROVE November 4, 2011 at 6:46 pm

That still doesn’t tell me why opposition to Homosexuality is Irrational.

The problem with this is, you are starting with the presumption that it is always Irrational to oppose Homosexuality and you can easily work around it by saying “They can adopt” or “They can reproduce artificially”. But if the culture values genetic breeding, it likely wouldn’t like the cost ineffective method you propose and would ask why such an expense should be spent when they can have normal sex with the opposite gender much more cheaply. Homosexuality would serve no purpose and thus its rational to at least discourage it, if not to outright condemn it.

Just because you disagree with the stance doesn’t mean that someone who holds said stance is irrational.

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Kellyn November 4, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I don’t think anyone will disagree with the following: “If you believe that morality is maximizing what you call “genetic breeding”, then homosexuality is wrong and a rational agent with this value system would act to discourage it.”

So let’s try another statement we can all agree on: “If morality is maximizing happiness while respecting individual freedoms, homosexuality is not wrong and we should not discourage it.”

A rational agent with a utility function embodied by the first statement will disagree with a rational agent with the second utility function about which policy to enact. Fortunately, no humans actually think that morality is ‘maximizing genetic breeding’.

I fail to see how this is a refutation of rationality.

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ZAROVE November 4, 2011 at 11:39 pm

First off, I’m not trying to refute Rationality. I don’t know why the posters here think I am. What I’m driving at is that Rationality is not going to lead to exactly the same conclusions in everyone. One can be perfectly Rational and oppose Homosexuality, or support it. It depends on the operational set of assumption the chain of Reason is based upon. So I will repeat myself, I am not saying these people think they are Rational but aren’t, I’m saying that they are Rational but simply function from different base assumptions than the other Group.

That said, I do disagree with your other statement. If you define Morality as generating happiness and personal Freedom you can still oppose Homosexuality Rationally if you find it doesn’t promote Happiness or well being, or believe that people are better capable of Happiness should they not be Homosexual.

There is no Logical, Rational reason to assume that if you value Happiness and Individual freedom over all else you must automatically support Homosexuality. Rather, you have to add to that a belief that Homosexuality actually does lead to Happiness and is an issue purely of personal Individual Choice. If you don’t have the second assumption in place, then its not guaranteed that making the Pursuit of happiness and Individual Freedom will automatically lead to support for Homosexuality.

Not that it matters since anyone who bases Morality on Happiness is on irrational grounds anyway. I know Sam Harris said we should, but Harris is wrong. His Moral Theory has been refuted by numerous Philosophers or Ethicists. Sometimes in Life we are required to do things that are unpleasant, and the nature of those choices may preclude our personal Happiness or even our well being. A man who throws himself on a Grenade to protect others, for example, isn’t looking toward is own Happiness. Meanwhile, a Serial Killer may derive great joy in killing people, but I doubt anyone would say he should have that Right.

Our Morals should be based on what makes life more conducive for ourselves and each other as a community, not on Happiness.

This is not to say we should not consider Happiness at all, but Happiness should not be the Core of Morality.

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zaybu November 5, 2011 at 6:39 am

I agree with Zarove that logic is insufficient to examine one’s premise. That was the basis of my original post. You can be an Ayn Rand and come to a rightwing position of atheism, or Karl Marx and reach a socialistic position of atheism, and there are thousands of other worldviews, theistic or atheistic, all of them quite logical, and anyone in any of these worldviews can be very rational to the point of being an extremist.

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PDH November 5, 2011 at 8:32 am

Zarove,

I haven’t ever said that rationalists will never be wrong – of course, they will – nor am I simply defining anyone who disagrees with me as irrational. I don’t recall ever saying anything like this. What I have said is that we should use the best methods available to us and that a Bayesian with Occamic priors who is familiar with Less Wrong’s material is going to outperform others when it comes to arriving at true beliefs.

Less Wrong have been quite explicit about their methods and have elaborated on them at length. Moreover, they spend a great deal of time examining human psychology and the ways in which it goes awry so that they can better themselves. It’s almost the whole point of the community. Just look at the Sequences or Luke’s articles or the painstaking examination of cognitive biases etc. Look at the sources they draw upon and all the work that has been done in probability theory, information theory, psychology etc. upon which they draw.

What you are doing is providing examples of people who didn’t do any of these things and using this as an argument against Luke’s views. And when I point this out you accuse me of simply defining rationality in such a way that anyone who does not agree with me must be irrational. No, I’m defending rationality as defined by Luke and Less Wrong, which is a specific thing against which you have provided no arguments at all. If you want to show that Luke and Less Wrong are not correct you have to show what’s wrong with their views, not the views of completely different people.

You have utterly failed to do this.

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PDH November 5, 2011 at 8:40 am

I agree with Zarove that logic is insufficient to examine one’s premise. That was the basis of my original post.

Of course, logic is insufficient! We’re not Vulcans.

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ZAR November 5, 2011 at 12:30 pm

PDH, I’m not supplying examples of people who did not use Bayesian Methodology. Rather, I’m saying the employment of Bayes Theorem is not sufficient to predict the outcome of the process of Reason. The whole point of my posts is that someone can use Bayes and still arrive at a conclusion fundamentally opposed to someone else using Bayes. There is no actual reason why we should assume that using Bayes Theorem will lead us to Atheism, especially in light of the fact that Bayes himself was not an Atheist. There is no real reason to suppose that using Bayes Theorem would lead one to acceptance of Homosexuality, or abortion rights, or even things like Democracy.

Someone can use the same method that the Less wrong club uses and still arrive at fundamentally different conclusions about specific topics.

Saying I’m providing examples of people who don’t use Bayes Theorem is thus wrong, as my whole point is that Bayes Theorem won’t lead you inexorably to a singular conclusion that everyone else will arrive at should they also use Bayes.

And that’s the point, I’m not citing what’s wrong with Luke’s views because I’m not discussing his Views, I’m discussing how Methodology doesn’t lead to a fixed outcome in terms of Logical Systems and all Logical Systems ultimately depend upon the premises which they start from.

To assume that people who, say, conclude that Homosexuality is a behaviour that should be discouraged have not critically examined their beliefs is absurd. You have no basis for supporting the assertion that anyone who critically examines the issue of Homosexuality and asks “Why do I believe this” will instantly give up the belief that Homosexuality is wrong. You assume that using the Less Wrong method they will, but have nothing to base this on other than the fact that you personally don’t find Homosexuality to be wrong. How do you know that using the Less Wrong Method and asking “Why do I believe this” will force someone into acceptance of Homosexuality? Why can’t someone just as readily justify opposition to Homosexuality precisely because they have Critically Examined their beliefs?

In fact, Critical Examination of ones beliefs is a part of many Religious Traditions people here would call Irrational and blindly followed. Just look at how Thorough the Examination of Conscience is in Catholicism.

What if a Catholic asks “Why do I believe what I believe” and uses the Less Wrong method only to wind up a more committed Catholic? If you think this is impossible and that using the less wrong method must inevitably lead to rejection of Theism in general, you’d have to explain why without falling on the usual Trope that there are no Rational Arguments for God’s existence, because I can show you several such arguments.

In fact, the Father of Rationalism, Rene Des Carte, used nothing but Logic Alone to arrive at a firm conviction that God existed. You call yourself a Rationalist, and I’d wager you think anyone who believes in God is not Rational, yet Rene Des Carte is the foundation of a lot of the methodology used today in basic Critical Thinking.

If Rene Des Carte can create an Argument for God’s existence based on Logic and Reason alone, why can’t someone else?

It’d also be foolish to assume that Des Carte didn’t use the Less Wrong Method so doesn’t count, given that Des Carte’s method was actually far more thorough. Des Carte rejected EVERYTHING and then subsequently asks his questions.

The point I am making is this: Using exactly the same methodology as the Less Wrong Club uses, I can actually arrive at social, political, or Religious Views that are quiet the opposite of the Less Wrong Clubs members. All I have to do is start with a different Premise than they do.

All Logical Systems rest on Premises. None work independently of them. The Less Wrong Club still has to operate on Premises that are shared in the Group, that won’t be shared by everyone else. Having a different Starting Premise is not, however, the same thing as not using Bayes Theorem. Its instead using Bayes Theorem but starting with different Assumptions as the basis of the string of Logic.

There is no guarantee that using the Less Wrong method will lead to a specific outcome.

By the way, as I’ve stated before, you are not a Rationalist, and I do wonder why it’s become popular for Atheists to call themselves this when it’s very clear that the fundamental tenets of Rationalism are contradicted.

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Kellyn November 5, 2011 at 12:35 pm

“There is no Logical, Rational reason to assume that if you value Happiness and Individual freedom over all else you must automatically support Homosexuality.”

… Right. But now we’ve reduced this from a moral question to an empirical one: Which policies do maximize happiness and individual freedom? We can look at the evidence and conclude that respect for homosexuals is in fact obviously better than repression. Rationality means that we look at the data in an open-minded manner instead of desperately clinging to our previous beliefs.

So: “We ought to do that which maximizes happiness and personal freedom.” – Values statement, not all rational people will agree.
“In the United States today, allowing gay marriage increases happiness and person freedom.” – Factual statement. By Aumann’s Agreement Theorem, all rational Bayesians sharing their evidence will end up agreeing on this.

I agree that Harris oversimplifies metaethics, and that morality is not happiness alone, which is why I didn’t propose that as a moral system.
I actually do not think we have a substantive disagreement.

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Kellyn November 5, 2011 at 12:41 pm

zaybu:

You are persistently misunderstanding the meaning of “rationality”. I think it might be helpful if we Taboo the word and just talk about what we mean. I suggest we also Taboo Nazi references, which are rarely helpful.

Not all people who evaluate beliefs based on their truth-value and predictive power will agree on everything, because they have different information.
Two people who evaluate beliefs based on truth value and predictive power who share the same information will end up agreeing on factual questions.
They will not necessarily agree on moral questions.
Moral questions are still important.

Do we disagree on anything substantive?

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PDH November 5, 2011 at 12:53 pm

None of that addresses my argument, Zarove. Moreover, your post is exceedingly long and tedious and just rehashes points that you have already made and which I have already addressed, several times already. For example, you keep emphasising again and again that ‘There is no guarantee that using the Less Wrong method will lead to a specific outcome.’ You make this point several times in that one post alone even though I’ve pointed out multiple times that my argument doesn’t rely on it in any way.

I’m defending rationalism as Luke and Less Wrong define it – not as it was historically defined – and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that you have no idea what is meant by this. You talk as if this is conversation is taking place hundreds of years ago and cite people like Descartes and Bayes as if these people were examples of Less Wrong and its methods. You then provide arguments against these outdated ideas and take yourself to have provided a substantial critique of Less Wrong. Bayesian Epistemology is more than just a theorem and Less Wrong is more than just Bayesian Epistemology, though that is a huge part of it.

Most of the major principles on which it depends are defended at length in the Sequences and elsewhere and by other thinkers not affiliated with Less Wrong. Providing examples of people who do not share these principles is no argument at all against people who do.

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ZAR November 5, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Kellyn, it’s the insistence on Empiricism that ultimately proves that the posters here are not Rationalists. I hope you know that.

That said, you really haven’t made Morality Empirical by asking what Maximises Happiness and personal freedom. Both Happiness and Personal freedom are abstract terms that have no definite value in themselves. You really can’t measure happiness or freedom in any sensible way in a collection of individuals.

Look at your assumption about Homosexuality. You said that Respect for Homosexuals leads to better results that suppression. Well, does it? What data are you actually using to prove this? Its not “Obviously” better to show respect for Homosexuality since you have to first demonstrate that the Homosexual is better off as Homosexual and is indeed Maximised in Happiness as such.

We don’t even really know what causes Homosexuality. There is no evidence that it is innate and unchangeable, even though it’s become Politically Correct to view it as such. There have been people who say they have Changed. Should we consider them liars?

Plus, what about people who are morally opposed to Homosexuality? Do you just force them to comply with the States Wishes? Back home in the UK this actually happens, and a Small Bed and breakfast owner made the News because they were sued for refusing a single room for a gay couple. They are Christians and do not find Homosexuality Morally acceptable. Because of this, they were forced to pay something like 5000 Pounds in Damages, all because they lived according to their own Moral Views. While you may support gay Rights, and thus think this was the right thing and applaud the outcome because the couple were Homophobic Bigots, I do have to ask how forcing them to act against their own Moral Conscience and making them complicit in something they find as Sin Maximises their Happiness and well being? In this case you favour the Homosexual Couple over the Rights of the Property Owners. I don’t find that maximising Happiness at all.

Going back to those who say they have changed, whether or not you believe tem, what if someone actually is not happy with their Homosexuality? What if they want to Change? Would it be maximising their happiness to force them to remain Homosexual? Of course you could counter with the statement that we should try to get them to accept who they really are and thus accept their Homosexuality, but what if they don’t want to? Should we let them be free to change their Sexual preference, or at least try to? Either way you run into problems. If you say that the attempt to change is damaging and should be discourages you limit the personal freedom of those who do want to change, and if you let them seek change you have to thus admit the legitimacy of their feelings and thus moral opposition to Homosexual conduct.

Those sorts of moral issues are not as simple and clear cut as Sam Harris depicted in “The Moral Landscape”, and ultimately lead to an unsustainable method for arriving at an absolute Moral Standard.

It’s not even a factual Statement that allowing Same Sex marriage increases personal freedom and Happiness. Again you have to prove that the Homosexual is actually Happy, that marriage will increase that Happiness, and that it really is an issue of pure personal Freedom. You can’t do that.

If I start with the premise that Homosexuality is a symptom of a neurosis, just like the Medical Literature said prior to the mid 1970’s, for instance, then I’d say that allowing Same Sex Marriage only increases the neurosis’s Hold and makes the Patient worse. If I operate from that vantage, then allowing Same Sex Marriage just flat out is not a way to increase Happiness. If I sincerely believe that Homosexuality is a symptom of a mental Disorder, then any attempt to further advance it will be understood as increasing in the long term mental deterioration of those who engage in it.

Given the changeable nature of Academia, there is no guarantee that Homosexuality will be supported as a natural, Normal, and Healthy variant of Human Sexuality in 20 years, much less 100. What happens if the current Trend in acceptance of Homosexuality goes the same way that Free Love and Hippies went?

Your still gauging what you think produces Happiness from a Mythology that see’s gays as the Victims and anyone who opposes them as Homophobic Villains and not considering their perspective.

You really can’t Empirically demonstrate “Happiness and personal freedom’ on this or any other Topic. That’s the largest fundamental flaw to Sam Harris’s Book.

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ZAR November 5, 2011 at 1:10 pm

PDH-

None of that addresses my argument, Zarove. Moreover, your post is exceedingly long and tedious and just rehashes points that you have already made and which I have already addressed, several times already. For example, you keep emphasising again and again that ‘There is no guarantee that using the Less Wrong method will lead to a specific outcome.’ You make this point several times in that one post alone even though I’ve pointed out multiple times that my argument doesn’t rely on it in any way.

But if the argument doesn’t rely on this, then what’s the point? If using the less Wrong methodology can still lead to beliefs you disagree with, then it’s not really True that Objective truth and rationality are solely defined by the less Wrong Club’s own beliefs.


I’m defending rationalism as Luke and Less Wrong define it – not as it was historically defined –

My point is, the way Luke and the less Wrong club define it is wrong. The word has a specific definition that is still used today in Philosophy.

Some rather self important Atheists hijacked the term as they thought that their veneration of Reason made them rationalists and it helped to show how they contrasted to Religious People as religion is Irrational, but that’s not really what the word means.


and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that you have no idea what is meant by this.

Actually I do, I just want the use of the word abandoned as its actual definition should be used instead. Otherwise, when I call myself a rationalist people get confused.


You talk as if this is conversation is taking place hundreds of years ago and cite people like Descartes and Bayes as if these people were examples of Less Wrong and its methods.

Without Bayes then there would be no Bayesian Theorem. If the less Wrong Club uses the Bayesian Theorem, Bayes is relevant. Bayes would not have developed his Theorem if not for Cartesian Philosophy, though.

So, I’m not sure why you think that they aren’t Relevant as they are the basis for the method used. Otherwise, they aren’t using Bayes Theorem.


You then provide arguments against these outdated ideas and take yourself to have provided a substantial critique of Less Wrong. Bayesian Epistemology is more than just a theorem and Less Wrong is more than just Bayesian Epistemology, though that is a huge part of it.

Well I’ve said from the Start its “More than just Bayes”, but the point you miss is, the bits added include operational Biases. Yes I know the Less Wrong Method has a Scrupulous Test to rid itself of Biases, but how do you rid yourself of a Foundational Bias if said Bias is the premise you base your Logic on?

Unless you are all knowing, then You can’t have a Premise without a Bias, and must have a Premise to produce any Logical System.


Most of the major principles on which it depends are defended at length in the Sequences and elsewhere and by other thinkers not affiliated with Less Wrong. Providing examples of people who do not share these principles is no argument at all against people who do.

My argument is not with “These principles” as much as the assumption that the Conclusions arrived at by the Less Wrong Club are in any way More Logical or likely to be Right than anyone else using Logical methods and examining their beliefs, but arriving at different conclusion.

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PDH November 5, 2011 at 1:58 pm

PDH-

My point is, the way Luke and the less Wrong club define it is wrong. The word has a specific definition that is still used today in Philosophy.

Some rather self important Atheists hijacked the term as they thought that their veneration of Reason made them rationalists and it helped to show how they contrasted to Religious People as religion is Irrational, but that’s not really what the word means.

Call it ‘Wilbur’ if it bothers you. There is no ‘one true’ definition of the word. It’s the Less Wrongian definition that we’re interested in and that is a very long way away from classical definitions. We’re interested in whether a particular method actually works or not.

Actually I do, I just want the use of the word abandoned as its actual definition should be used instead. Otherwise, when I call myself a rationalist people get confused.

Abandon away. I don’t care what you call it.

Without Bayes then there would be no Bayesian Theorem. If the less Wrong Club uses the Bayesian Theorem, Bayes is relevant. Bayes would not have developed his Theorem if not for Cartesian Philosophy, though.

So, I’m not sure why you think that they aren’t Relevant as they are the basis for the method used. Otherwise, they aren’t using Bayes Theorem.

It’s like saying ‘special relativity is wrong because Sir Isaac Newton didn’t believe in it and modern physics is based on his work.’

A lot has happened since then.

Well I’ve said from the Start its “More than just Bayes”, but the point you miss is, the bits added include operational Biases. Yes I know the Less Wrong Method has a Scrupulous Test to rid itself of Biases, but how do you rid yourself of a Foundational Bias if said Bias is the premise you base your Logic on?

Look, the nature of epistemology is such that it’s exceptionally hard to defend it because epistemology is our account of what knowledge is and where it comes from so it seems like we need some epistemological principles already before we can assess its effectiveness. It will always, therefore, involve some degree of circularity.

However, this is a general problem with every possible approach to epistemology and the question of ‘why do we believe these things instead of those things?’ still needs to be answered. The idea behind Bayesian Epistemology is that epistemology is basically probability theory (or ought to be). This can be defended by Cox’s theorem and by the Dutch Book arguments. It also fits our intuitions extremely well and, more importantly, demonstrably outperforms its rivals. You can gain a very strong grasp of the underlying logic without knowing much maths and it provides astonishing insights into the nature of knowledge, evidence, plausibility etc.

It is the best account of epistemology of which I’m aware. It may not be perfect but everything else that I’ve come across is worse. By all means continue to examine and question the central assumptions behind it but it’s simply false to imply that Less Wrong hasn’t spent any time doing this. Much of its content, particularly the Sequences, is devoted to doing just this and they are hardly the only people to have written about Bayesian Epistemology. Study it for yourself, it’s impressive stuff.

Unless you are all knowing, then You can’t have a Premise without a Bias, and must have a Premise to produce any Logical System.

My argument is not with “These principles” as much as the assumption that the Conclusions arrived at by the Less Wrong Club are in any way More Logical or likely to be Right than anyone else using Logical methods and examining their beliefs, but arriving at different conclusion.

I’m not sure what you mean by ‘More logical’ but the whole point of good epistemology is to help us form more accurate beliefs about the world. When we call a belief more probable that is essentially what we mean: that it is more likely to be true. So, it absolutely should help people arrive at the truth more often than people who do not use it.

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Rorschach November 5, 2011 at 2:26 pm

They are Christians and do not find Homosexuality Morally acceptable. Because of this, they were forced to pay something like 5000 Pounds in Damages, all because they lived according to their own Moral Views

Their moral views are, well, completely retarded. C’mon, man, we are better than that trash ”morality” people excerpt from a supersticious book written 2000 years ago. Wasn’t jesus who said love your neighbor? So, we’re supposed to disobey that commandment just because the next person have a different sexual orientation?

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ZAROVE November 5, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Ror, you just proved my point. You basically decreed that someone’s morals are “retarded” and thus have no actual problem overriding them. You don’t even take into consideration that not 20 years ago their views were pretty much the normal ones for basically everyone. You don’t even consider the fact that many people still hold to those Moral Values and can Logically defend them.

No, their views are “retarded”, so somehow their morals don’t count.

If this was the 1960’s though you’d likely agree with their” retarded” morals, or heck even the 1970’s or 1980’s, you’d likely agree with their “retarded” views yourself.

You also contradict yourself when you dismiss the Bible as a “Superstitious book written 2000 years ago” then try to use Jesus’ word from said book in order to somehow show how wrong they are. Of course the Bible isn’t superstitious or even a book, and most of its older than 2000 years.

Also, if you believe Homosexuality is wrong, then how is facilitating a Homosexual relationship “loving thy neighbour”? Is it really logical to assume these people hated the gay couple just because they had a different sexual orientation? Is opposition to Homosexuality always caused by hatred? By this logic we can say that if I ran a bed and Breakfast and said “No smoking” then I’m displaying my hatred of smokers.

Opposition to Homosexual behaviour is not the same thing as hatred of Homosexual persons. There are no rational grounds to say this. If you truly believe Homosexuality is harmful, then refusing to facilitate Homosexual Couples harmful actions is not motivated by Hatred. In fact, renting them the room would fit the description more since you are basically saying “ I don’t care about you so will let you destroy yourself”.

Finally, you can’t prove that such a thing as Sexual Orientation even exists. Its not really a Scientific Designation, it was created out of Political expediency to replace “Sexual preference” when the Gay Rights movement decided to link itself to the Civil Rights Movement and push the idea that Homosexuality was like race. The word “Preference” assumes choice and they wanted to depict Homosexuality as innate and unchangeable, but as I said earlier, there is no actual evidence for this either.

So other than your crude dismissals of the Bible based on ridiculous caricature and misinformation about it designed to make it seem ridiculous, and your hypocritical use of the Bible to try to condemn people on the basis of a dubious assumption, you really have no actual counter to my point.

Sam Harri’s “Scientific” view on Morality remains subjective and not Empirical and ultimately rests on whoever gets to determine what “Happiness and well being” should be served and whose “Happiness and well being ” can be sacrificed.

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ZAROVE November 5, 2011 at 8:36 pm

PDH, there is only one true definition of the word “Rationalist”. If you tried using the word in any other way in a Philosophy class you’d be laughed at. Just because a lot of Modern Atheists are self righteous and want to use words they think depict themselves as superior intellects doesn’t mean they can rewrite the languages of the world just to suit their own Vanity.

You can’t call yourself a Rationalist simply because you are an Atheists who goes on about Logic and reason, because that is not what the word means.

Further, the implication that belief in God makes someone Irrational is just arrogance and undermines the use of the word further.

Your comments about Special Relativity also make no sense whatsoever. I said that Bayes used Bayes Theorem, just like the Less Wrong Club, but was not an Atheist, and you counter that with Isaac Newton not believing in Relativity? How does one really resemble the other? Newton did not believe in Relativity, and so did not use the Equations that take it into consideration, while the Less Wrong Club does use Bayes Theorem. The two are not really the same at all.

Its also odd that you’d say “A lot has happened since then”, because that still doesn’t alter the fact that Bayes Theorem is still the same, and the less Wrong Club still use’s it. So do many Modern Christian Theologians and Philosophers.

Bayesian Theorem is not a surefire way to generate Atheism, even using today’s Knowledge. It can’t even guarantee agreement on things we as a society think of as unquestionable such as Democracy or Equal Rights.

The Less Wrong Club is ultimately importing its own Cultural biases and base assumptions into the Equation and using them as a Starting point. It doesn’t matter that part of their process is to eliminate biases by asking “Why do I believe what I believe” since they still have to start from some point before a logical Chain can be forged.

The less Wrong Clubs Logic and Consensus will still be determined by their Starting Assumptions. There is no way to avoid this. You also can’t really use the Formulaic based on specific assumptions to test those assumptions.

All I’m arguing is that what Luke finds to be “other rational people” are in reality only perceived to be more rational because they share common beliefs, not simply common methods. You could have a Roman catholic group that uses exactly the same Methods and Luke wouldn’t feel as Comfortable with them, but they’d be just as Rational as the less Wrong Club.

You could have an Evangelical Christian group that uses exactly the same methodology, and thus be just as rational, that he’d not feel as comfortable with. Or a Sunni Muslim Group. Or an Orthodox Jewish Group. Or a Buddhist Group. His comfort is not generated by these people being actually Rational, but by them sharing common beliefs.

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Kellyn November 5, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Could you stop triumphantly refuting Sam Harris? If you didn’t notice, I agreed with you that he oversimplifies metaethics.

“Does homosexuality maximize happiness and personal freedom?” is an empirical question. Here’s a couple hundred pages of evidence: https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/cand/09cv2292/files/09cv2292-ORDER.pdf This all supports my argument that allowing gay marriage does indeed maximize happiness and personal freedom, and has virtually no negative consequences.

You say, “What if I believe homosexuality is a neurosis?” Well, that’s an empirical assertion, and it’s empirically wrong.

You say “What about people who want to discriminate against homosexuals, won’t they be less happy?” (paraphrasing).
Didn’t freeing slaves make the slaveowners less happy? Didn’t integrating schools make racist whites less happy? Usually the benefit to a discriminated group outweighs the hurt feelings of people who wanted to keep on discriminating against them.

If you were rational, and reviewed the evidence, you would conclude that allowing gay marriage maximizes happiness and personal freedom.

I’m not going to respond to the rest of your rant, since I actually don’t believe any of the positions you ascribe to me.

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Zar November 5, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Kellyn, you can’t prove that acceptance Homosexuality is going to lead to Greater Freedom and Happiness by citing Courts and call that Empirical. I can dig up old Court Records that say Black People are obviously inferior to Whites. I can also cite Studies done by Princeton University that prove this, and several other notable Universities.

And that’s simply because you cited Slavery. One of the most disingenuous claims made about Gay rights is that it’s just like Fighting Racism. It’s nothing at all like Racism to oppose Homosexuality. Homosexuality is Behaviour, not an appearance. One man being black is not like two men having sex. There really is no comparative basis.

Even still, just because Lawyers can cook up text doesn’t make it Empirical. There is no Empirical Evidence for the claim that Acceptance of Homosexuality will lead to greater Happiness and Freedom simply because both terms are subjective and ill defined, and because in the end it still hinges on you treating Homosexuality as the same sort of thing Race is. Its not.

All you have done here is shown a very fallible court document that could easily be overturned in the Future. That is not Science and that is not Empiricism.

There are reports on the CDC that prove that Homosexual Men are the Highest Risk Group for various Diseases, for example. That counts as Empirical evidence doesn’t it?

That’s why these sorts of debates even happen to begin with, because you can’t prove Empirically what will make people happy or feel more free, but can always make one sided arguments based on a modern cultural Zeitgeist and presume its some unquestionable absolute Truth.

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PDH November 6, 2011 at 9:07 am

Zar wrote,

PDH, there is only one true definition of the word “Rationalist”.

No. There is no ‘one, true definition’ of any word. There is no Platonic dictionary with the real definitions written in it. If you don’t want to call the Less Wrong approach rationality then don’t. I don’t care. But you have to provide arguments against the actual principles that they actually espouse, not the principles espoused by other people who called themselves rationalists in antiquity.

There are specific principles here, many of which are not shared by historical rationalists and you do have to address those principles, by whatever name you choose to call them.

Your comments about Special Relativity also make no sense whatsoever. I said that Bayes used Bayes Theorem, just like the Less Wrong Club, but was not an Atheist, and you counter that with Isaac Newton not believing in Relativity? How does one really resemble the other? Newton did not believe in Relativity, and so did not use the Equations that take it into consideration, while the Less Wrong Club does use Bayes Theorem. The two are not really the same at all.

They’re a very close analogy. Bayes may have known his own theorem but he didn’t know Bayesian Epistemology, which, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, is more than just a theorem and wasn’t developed until much later. And there’s more to Less Wrong than just Bayesian Epistemology, too. For example, Bayes didn’t know about Solomonoff Induction or cognitive biases or evolutionary psychology or coherent extrapolated volition utilitarianism etc.

This is important because you keep saying things like, ‘Bayes’ theorem alone won’t prove blah blah blah,’ but I’m not defending Bayes’ theorem alone so your arguments are just irrelevant.

And it’s because you don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re attacking a straw-man – some hypothetical person who lives in the Enlightenment period and thinks that Logic with a capital ‘L’ is sufficient to answer all questions. No such people post here.

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Rorschach November 6, 2011 at 10:37 am

ZAR,
Unfortanetly im am not a moral relativist. I am perfectly rational in calling their moral views ”retarded” because according to moral realism moral statements can be reduced to factual statements. Now, returning to applied ethics, i am saying that there is no rational moral excuse to discriminate and to private homossexuals from their civil rights.

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ZAROVE November 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm

PDH, you seem to prove that the reason why I want the words to be used Properly is so important. You somehow think that by saying you are not a Rationalist that you are Irrational. But is that what I’m actually saying? The whole point in my specifically stating that you and Luke are not Rationalists is to separate from the word the idea that all Rational people are Rationalists, and conversely the notion that Atheists properly deserve the title “Rationalist” in juxtaposition to “Religious people” as its often used. The actual definition of the word has nothing to do with whether One is Rational or not, so much as it is a Philosophical position that states that the content of our Minds exceeds the information we glean from our Five Senses and thus our Rational minds must extend beyond mere sensory experiences. By saying you are not a Rationalist, I’m saying you do not believe that your Mind does, in fact, exceed in awareness and knowledge that which it gains by direct observation.

I subsequently don’t have to prove the less Wrong Club is Irrational because that’s not really my argument.

My argument, which you seem to dance around yet never address, is that the Methods used by the Less Wrong Club may be used by some other group that nevertheless arrives at a Fundamentally opposite conclusion. There is no basis for the assumption that the Less Wrongs methodology will lead one to a specific outcome.

Its not so much a Critique of the Method as it’s a Critique of Luke’s assumption that the Method leads to absolute Truth in and of itself and worse, he assumes he and the Less Wrong Group are “Rational people” as opposed to other people he encounters outside of the Less Wrong Confines. The implication is that somehow everyone else is not as Rational as he is. After all, he stated in his post that its pleasant to spend Time with “Other Rational people” which automatically means that people not of the Less Wrong Beliefs would be deemed as Irrational, at least to an extent. I find that presumption rather arrogant, and the Presumption that the Less Wrong methodology itself must lead inevitably to the “Truth” and that they got it All Right equally Arrogant.

I really don’t think other people are as Irrational as Luke presumes them to be, and don’t think the Less Wrong Group is as totally unbiased as it would like to think itself. I would simply say that Luke’s own assumptions are based on a personal Prejudice.

As for Bayes and shat he knew, the Supposed Limits on Bayes aren’t themselves acceptable. A lot of Modern Psychological Principals were known to Ancient Greek Philosophers or the Early Church Fathers, though not described in the same terms as we do. I even had a Psychology Teacher say he was impressed by how many Saints described Cognitive Development long before people like Jung or Skinner showed up.

Cognitive Biases were discussed by Augustine, and for that matter the Bible itself discusses them. I’m afraid they were well known, they simply were not quantified by Modern Science till much later.

Not that it matters as my original point still stands. There is no Logical Reason to assume that the Less Wrong Conclusions will be more Right than anyone else’s, or that employing the same Methodology they use will always generate the same specific Conclusions. All Logical Systems rest entirely upon their Foundational premises, and that’s a weakness Logic can never overcome as you can never question the Premises of the Logic being used by the Logic being used.

The Less Wrong club thus serves as a way for like minded people to iron out differences by generating groupthink consensus, and is not some grand House of rationality that stands alone in the world as a shinning Light.

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ZAR November 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm

ROR-

You write this…

“Unfortanetly im am not a moral relativist. “

But, neither are most people who oppose Homosexuality. That really doesn’t address the Topic of the Thread though, and I fear that you prove how Irrational you are if you think that you now have to Defend Homosexuality rather than discuss the real topic. Remember, the Topic was about Rationality and how its not a supreme Arbiter of Truth and doesn’t Automatically Lead to the same Conclusions. Its not really about Homosexuality at all.


I am perfectly rational in calling their moral views ”retarded” because according to moral realism moral statements can be reduced to factual statements.

But you aren’t perfectly Rational in calling their Views Retarded. Calling them “Retarded” is just a Juvenile insult designed to demean them and to thus sweep their arguments under the rug without addressing them. You can’t make the problem go away by doing that though, nor can you Truthfully claim to be Rational in such a state.

Then again, you also think that if someone opposes Homosexuality they must hate the Homosexual, and that the Bible is a 2000 Year old book of Superstition, and demand to be seen as Rational.

One of the biggest blights on Atheism today is the presumption that Rationality is linked to simply being an Atheist and accepting basic Humanist Assumptions, and after this you can denigrate Christians or the Bible, and occasionally other groups, with obviously Childish Taunts in Liu of Real Arguments with no real grasp of what they really believe in, misrepresent their beliefs, and present nothing but a Caricature but still be seen as driving all your conclusions from Logic and Reason.

But, you aren’t Rational. The moment you called the Bible a 2000 Year Old Book of Superstition you lost that claim. When you went further and judged people for not living by Jesus’ Commandments in the Bible by jumping to the unwarranted conclusion that refusal to rent a room to a gay couple so they could have gay sex translated to outright hatred of said Gay Couple any pretence of Rationality dissolved.’

You aren’t Rational, Rorshach, Rational people can see past their own views and properly address those of others. All you can dio is rely on petty mockery and cheap Caricature and insult. You can’t claim Rationality based on that.


Now, returning to applied ethics, i am saying that there is no rational moral excuse to discriminate and to private homossexuals from their civil rights.

But do Homosexuals have specific Civil Rights to rent a bedroom so they can engage in Homosexual Conduct from those who find Homosexual Conduct Morally offensive? If so, where do those rights come from? Why do the Rights of the Homosexual override the Moral Considerations of the Property Owner?

And does this cover other behaviours? If this same couple said they do not permit smoking in their Bed and Breakfast, would that be seen as Discrimination against Smokers? Would you demand the Civil Rights of Smokers be protected? If not, why not?

Homosexuality is often compared to Race, but its nothing like Race. People don’t Discriminate against Homosexuals in the same Way they do against those of other Races. Homosexuality is opposed as a behaviour. Why on Earth should someone’s Behaviour be enshrined as a Civil Right over the objections, even strong moral Convictions of others?

Shouldn’t the Property Owner be granted Civil Right to Conscience?

What your effectively doing, Rorshack, is forcing people to live by the Moral Codes you dictate for them. How on earth is that Fair?

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PDH November 6, 2011 at 5:24 pm

PDH, you seem to prove that the reason why I want the words to be used Properly is so important. You somehow think that by saying you are not a Rationalist that you are Irrational.

Well, obviously by definition anyone who is not a rationalist is irrational.

But we’re interested in whether that’s a bad thing or not, which depends on the definition that we’re using. If by ‘rational’ you mean, ‘made of polystyrene,’ then it’s not such a big deal if you call someone irrational. I wouldn’t be offended if someone said that I wasn’t made of polystyrene.

Likewise, I have no more problem admitting that I am not a rationalist by your quaint and antiquated definition of the word than I do with admitting that I don’t wear pantaloons.

What I’m interested in is whether or not you have some specific objection to the methods that Less Wrong actually promotes. Do you have such an objection?

When Luke uses the word he has something specific in mind. He means other people who use the methods espoused by Less Wrong. That’s a bit of a mouthful so he uses the word rationalist as shorthand, given that he can count on most of the readers of this blog having the necessary context to understand what he means by this. That plainly was asking a bit much in your case. But we can use any words that we like and still address whether or not the methods work, which is the only important issue here.

The historical characters who populate your analogies do not use these methods so they have little to no relevance to the discussion.

I subsequently don’t have to prove the less Wrong Club is Irrational because that’s not really my argument.

You have to show that their methods don’t work, which you haven’t done. I’ve already told you that I don’t care about what words you use to describe them. At this point, I’ll be happy if I never hear the word ‘rational’ again, to be frank.

My argument, which you seem to dance around yet never address, is that the Methods used by the Less Wrong Club may be used by some other group that nevertheless arrives at a Fundamentally opposite conclusion. There is no basis for the assumption that the Less Wrongs methodology will lead one to a specific outcome.

This assumption is not being made and nothing in my argument depends on it. I’ve said this many, many times now.

I need only claim that some methods for arriving at the truth are superior to others and that we should use them when we can, to minimise the kind of errors against which you warn in such melodramatic fashion throughout your ramblings.

As for Bayes and shat he knew, the Supposed Limits on Bayes aren’t themselves acceptable. A lot of Modern Psychological Principals were known to Ancient Greek Philosophers or the Early Church Fathers, though not described in the same terms as we do. I even had a Psychology Teacher say he was impressed by how many Saints described Cognitive Development long before people like Jung or Skinner showed up.

Cognitive Biases were discussed by Augustine, and for that matter the Bible itself discusses them. I’m afraid they were well known, they simply were not quantified by Modern Science till much later.

Are you now honestly suggesting that we have not made significant advancements in the area of cognitive science since the time of Ancient Greek philosophers, some of whom notoriously believed that the brain was an organ for cooling the blood?

And what about all the other stuff I mentioned, some of which has direct bearing on these issues. Take Solomonoff Induction, for example. Ray Solomonoff was born in 1926, so it seems unlikely that Augustine knew that much about his work. Additionally, I can’t fully remember off the top of my head, but I seem to recall being quite disappointed by the bible’s accounts of things like probability theory, information theory, computer science and so on, as well.

Wouldn’t you say that significant progress has been made in these areas and the others that I have mentioned? You don’t actually believe, I’m sure, that it was only a failure to ‘quantify them with modern science’ that held these historical figures back (though that, in and of itself, would be a fatal objection to your position)?

Not that it matters as my original point still stands. There is no Logical Reason to assume that the Less Wrong Conclusions will be more Right than anyone else’s [...]

It kind of does matter because you have to show that the methods defended by Less Wrong don’t work and your favourite way of doing this is to attempt to provide examples of people from the past who came to contrary conclusions using the same methods. So one would naturally assume that these people were, you know, using the same methods.

But none of them were. Which is a problem.

Presumably, you don’t think that all propositions are equally likely, right? For example, you don’t think that the proposition that pressing the letter ‘e’ on your keyboard will explode the universe is as likely as its negation?

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Rorschach November 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm

You aren’t Rational, Rorshach, Rational people can see past their own views and properly address those of others. All you can dio is rely on petty mockery and cheap Caricature and insult. You can’t claim Rationality based on that.

Thats wrong. Have you ever seen house?

But, you aren’t Rational. The moment you called the Bible a 2000 Year Old Book of Superstition you lost that claim

But it is. Its permeated with unscientific and nonsensical claims. But i suppose that doesnt count, because those parts were just ”metaphorical”, right?

But do Homosexuals have specific Civil Rights to rent a bedroom so they can engage in Homosexual Conduct from those who find Homosexual Conduct Morally offensive?

Well, obviously. Besides, why should they think that? They surely wouldn’t see the intercourse itself, so whats the problem? I personally dont like skinheads. But i wouldnt refuse to give them a room.

Homosexuality is often compared to Race, but its nothing like Race. People don’t Discriminate against Homosexuals in the same Way they do against those of other Races. Homosexuality is opposed as a behaviour

Nobody choses what its gonna to excitate the hypothalamus. Have you ever heard of the researches of a genetic component of homossexuality?

What your effectively doing, Rorshack, is forcing people to live by the Moral Codes you dictate for them. How on earth is that Fair?

Nobody is forcing anyone to do anything. Nobody is requiring that you like homossexuals. We are just saying that discrimation is wrong.

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ZAR November 6, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Ror, I will leave your comments in regular, my former ones in italics, and my new ones in Bold for this post.

Please follow along as I dissect this post.


You aren’t Rational, Rorshach, Rational people can see past their own views and properly address those of others. All you can dio is rely on petty mockery and cheap Caricature and insult. You can’t claim Rationality based on that.

Thats wrong. Have you ever seen house?

House is a TV show. House is not real. House proves nothing.


But, you aren’t Rational. The moment you called the Bible a 2000 Year Old Book of Superstition you lost that claim

But it is. Its permeated with unscientific and nonsensical claims. But i suppose that doesnt count, because those parts were just ”metaphorical”, right?

You are wrong because that’s not what the Bible is. As I already explained earlier its not even a 2000 Year old book. Also, calling it non-scientific and nonsensical is meaningless since you aren’t really even trying to evaluate it honestly. Your blatant use of “Its metaphorical, right?’ as a catch all excuse proves that you are intellectually bankrupt in this matter.

This is an A priorri Assumption you make that prevents any actual discussion on the topic of the Bible because you’ve decided ahead of Time to find it irrational nonsense. That fact alone makes you Irrational.


But do Homosexuals have specific Civil Rights to rent a bedroom so they can engage in Homosexual Conduct from those who find Homosexual Conduct Morally offensive?

Well, obviously. Besides, why should they think that? They surely wouldn’t see the intercourse itself, so whats the problem? I personally dont like skinheads. But i wouldnt refuse to give them a room.

You seem to have a problem understanding basic legal Concepts, or even basic Logic. So let me spell it out for you. If the couple announces that they are a gay couple on Holiday and want a room it’s a given that they are engaged in a relationship you find morally offensive. It’s not morally offensive to you because you think you would be forced to watch it, but because you oppose to the actions they perform. By renting them a room to facilitate a morally reprehensible relationship you become complicit in it.

If you have firm moral convictions and sincere belief that Homosexual conduct is harmful to the participants, then refusal of participation in said conduct by facilitating it is really not about denial of Civil Rights, its about exercising your own Moral Conscience and living in accordance to your own convictions.

As to what you would do with Skinheads, Great, but that’s you. Why should someone else have to be like you?


Homosexuality is often compared to Race, but its nothing like Race. People don’t Discriminate against Homosexuals in the same Way they do against those of other Races. Homosexuality is opposed as a behaviour

Nobody choses what its gonna to excitate the hypothalamus. Have you ever heard of the researches of a genetic component of homossexuality?

I’m a psychology Major. The problem with being a psychology Major id that I have seen such research, which is why I know that the people on the net who insist Homosexuality ha a proven genetic component have not spent any Time at all even reading the summaries of the research. To date there are no actual indicators that there is a genetic component to Homosexuality. Nothing at all links it to genetics at all that we can actually show you. Most of the Internet sites that say there are such pieces of Evidence still rely on the Hammer studies from the 1990’s or a couple of other outdated ( and sometimes Fraudulent) peeves of already overturned research. Other than that no, I am not aware of it. As of right now we have no actual knowledge of the exact cause of Homosexuality.

Incidentally, we do have some reports of peoples Sexual preferences changing over Time, and its not likely to be as fixed as Political forces want it to be in anyone.


What your effectively doing, Rorshack, is forcing people to live by the Moral Codes you dictate for them. How on earth is that Fair?

Nobody is forcing anyone to do anything.

Once you force them to rent a room to someone you are forcing them to do something. That’s pretty obvious and I’d think you wouldn’t miss that.M

Nobody is requiring that you like homossexuals. We are just saying that discrimation is wrong.


Except that forcing people to rent a room to a gay couple so they can engage in a homosexual relationship is also discriminatory to those who do not approve of such conduct. And Homosexuality is Conduct.

So you aren’t really saying Discrimination is wrong, since you allow people who don’t agree with you to be discriminated against.

I still wonder idf you even know what the original point of this illustration was though. Nonetheless you prove why I don’t buy the Rationality Argument. Anyone can claim to be rational, including those who clearly aren’t like you.

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ZAR November 6, 2011 at 6:27 pm

PDH, you really illustrate one of the fundamental flaws with Modern Atheism. You try too hard to depict everything into singular linear progression that fits neatly into modern talking points, regardless of how irrational those actual patterns of discussion actually are.

PDH, you seem to prove that the reason why I want the words to be used Properly is so important. You somehow think that by saying you are not a Rationalist that you are Irrational.
Well, obviously by definition anyone who is not a rationalist is irrational.
No, one who is not a Rationalist is simply not a Rationalist. Again, the term “Rationalist” doest mean “One who uses Rationality”.

Rationality and Rationalism are not the same thing.

But we’re interested in whether that’s a bad thing or not, which depends on the definition that we’re using. If by ‘rational’ you mean, ‘made of polystyrene,’ then it’s not such a big deal if you call someone irrational. I wouldn’t be offended if someone said that I wasn’t made of polystyrene.
Likewise, I have no more problem admitting that I am not a rationalist by your quaint and antiquated definition of the word than I do with admitting that I don’t wear pantaloons.
Except my Quaint and Antiquated Definition is the one still used by actual Philosophy Classes. The one you use is basically used by Arrogant Atheists who want to say “We’re smarter than Religious People” but who don’t use Rational thoughts to support this, they are simply “Rational” because they are Atheists.

How is that a real, valid Definition?

What I’m interested in is whether or not you have some specific objection to the methods that Less Wrong actually promotes. Do you have such an objection?

It should be obvious by now that my objection is to the members conclusion that the use of their Method makes them somehow “Less wrong”, or as Luke put it makes them “Rational” whilst others are not.

My Objection is that all Logical Systems will in the end rest on Foundational Premises, and will not lead to Truth all on their own.

I don’t see why you can’t comprehend this.

When Luke uses the word he has something specific in mind. He means other people who use the methods espoused by Less Wrong. That’s a bit of a mouthful so he uses the word rationalist as shorthand, given that he can count on most of the readers of this blog having the necessary context to understand what he means by this. That plainly was asking a bit much in your case. But we can use any words that we like and still address whether or not the methods work, which is the only important issue here.

But Luke only calls himself a Rationalist for the same Reason Richard Dawkins calls himself a Rationalist, it’s based on the presumption that somehow Atheism has made them Rational and all Religious People are Inferior Irrational Fools. It’s really just a sort of label based on the Mythology that links Atheism to Reason. There is nothing backing this other than shallow Rhetoric.

You still don’t get to redefine words to suit your Ego.

The historical characters who populate your analogies do not use these methods so they have little to no relevance to the discussion.

Except that they serve as the Foundation of the System…

I subsequently don’t have to prove the less Wrong Club is Irrational because that’s not really my argument.

You have to show that their methods don’t work, which you haven’t done. I’ve already told you that I don’t care about what words you use to describe them. At this point, I’ll be happy if I never hear the word ‘rational’ again, to be frank.

But I don’t Even have to show that their Methods don’t work. All I have to do is Remind everyone that all Logic will depend on its Premises, and no Logical System will ever be a fool proof way to ensuring ones own beliefs are accurate.
That is actually the basis of my entire conversation here.

My argument, which you seem to dance around yet never address, is that the Methods used by the Less Wrong Club may be used by some other group that nevertheless arrives at a Fundamentally opposite conclusion. There is no basis for the assumption that the Less Wrongs methodology will lead one to a specific outcome.
This assumption is not being made and nothing in my argument depends on it. I’ve said this many, many times now.
I need only claim that some methods for arriving at the truth are superior to others and that we should use them when we can, to minimise the kind of errors against which you warn in such melodramatic fashion throughout your ramblings.

But no method is actually Free of the Biases of the Original Premises on which the Logic is based. Luke’s own Biases, even if he claims to examine them, can’t be truly Examined and Verified or Rejected if they serve as the Basis of the Logical Chain to begin with.

As for Bayes and shat he knew, the Supposed Limits on Bayes aren’t themselves acceptable. A lot of Modern Psychological Principals were known to Ancient Greek Philosophers or the Early Church Fathers, though not described in the same terms as we do. I even had a Psychology Teacher say he was impressed by how many Saints described Cognitive Development long before people like Jung or Skinner showed up.
Cognitive Biases were discussed by Augustine, and for that matter the Bible itself discusses them. I’m afraid they were well known, they simply were not quantified by Modern Science till much later.

Are you now honestly suggesting that we have not made significant advancements in the area of cognitive science since the time of Ancient Greek philosophers, some of whom notoriously believed that the brain was an organ for cooling the blood?

I am saying that if you do more research and actually Read something like the Church Fathers you will see Modern Psychology paralleled in terms of Human Development and Identification of specific patterns of Thought.
You know what is said, Nothing New under the Sun, and all that…

And what about all the other stuff I mentioned, some of which has direct bearing on these issues. Take Solomonoff Induction, for example. Ray Solomonoff was born in 1926, so it seems unlikely that Augustine knew that much about his work. Additionally, I can’t fully remember off the top of my head, but I seem to recall being quite disappointed by the bible’s accounts of things like probability theory, information theory, computer science and so on, as well.

I never said Augustine knew of Solomonoff’s work, I said the same basic understanding of the Human mind was available to them based on Direct Observation and accumulated years of experience.
You can feel Free to stop being Disingenuous now…

Wouldn’t you say that significant progress has been made in these areas and the others that I have mentioned? You don’t actually believe, I’m sure, that it was only a failure to ‘quantify them with modern science’ that held these historical figures back (though that, in and of itself, would be a fatal objection to your position)?
No.

Rather, rejecting the Wisdom of some of the Ancient Writers in such Times as the Renaissance and the Enlightenment lead to Stagnation that was only later recovered. While it is True that some things are discovered now that did not exist then, my basic position is that they knew a lot more than we give them Credit for, especially in how the Human Mind works and Stages of Development in the progress of Mental Growth.

Not that it matters as my original point still stands. There is no Logical Reason to assume that the Less Wrong Conclusions will be more Right than anyone else’s [...]
It kind of does matter because you have to show that the methods defended by Less Wrong don’t work and your favourite way of doing this is to attempt to provide examples of people from the past who came to contrary conclusions using the same methods. So one would naturally assume that these people were, you know, using the same methods.
My method is more simple than that. Its repeated often enough I’d think youd’ not miss it.

Its three simple statements.
1: All Logical methods are Reliant upon the Base Assumptions made at the Outset, and thus are only as Reliable as the Initial Assumptions made.

2: Logical Methods cannot be used to test the Foundational Assumptions on which they are based.

3: Luke is not as unbiased as he thinks he is. It is clear he has some idea of what “Should” be discovered by Rational people and has joined a club of Like Minded Individuals, who in the end create a Consensus based upon an Earlier Shared belief system, which really only Harmonises Minor discrepancies.
The real Goal is not to Find Truth, it is to ensure the survival fo the base Logical Framework created by several Predetermined Conclusions.

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PDH November 6, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Zar rambled,

PDH, you really illustrate one of the fundamental flaws with Modern Atheism. You try too hard to depict everything intosingular linear progression that fits neatly into modern talking points, regardless of how irrational those actual patterns of discussion actually are.

I really don’t. It’s you who wants to put everything into black and white terms that have not been relevant for hundreds of years.

No, one who is not a Rationalist is simply not a Rationalist. Again, the term “Rationalist” doest mean “One who uses Rationality”.

Rationality and Rationalism are not the same thing.

What does this gibberish have to do with anything?

Have I not made it abundantly clear that I have no interest in debating what the ‘true’ definition of the word ‘rational’ (or ‘rationality’ or ‘rationalism’ or whatever) is? Do you have an objection to the methods used by Less Wrong or not?

If it bothers you so much STOP USING IT.

<blockquote Except my Quaint and Antiquated Definition is the one still used by actual Philosophy Classes. The one you use is basically used by Arrogant Atheists who want to say “We’re smarter than Religious People” but who don’t use Rational thoughts to support this, they are simply “Rational” because they are Atheists.

How is that a real, valid Definition?

I don’t care what definitions philosophy classes are using, I care about the ones that I am using. Again, call it whatever you want, you have to show what’s wrong with it if you want to refute the Less Wrong position.

It should be obvious by now that my objection is to the members conclusion that the use of their Method makes them somehow “Less wrong”, or as Luke put it makes them “Rational” whilst others are not.

My Objection is that all Logical Systems will in the end rest on Foundational Premises, and will not lead to Truth all on their own.

I don’t see why you can’t comprehend this.

It’s because it’s irrelevant, Zar. I’ve spoken at length about my epistemological principles (I’m assuming this is what you mean by ‘Foundational Premises’) and Less Wrong has spoken at even greater length. You have not provided any objection to them.

Even if we grant that this argument works (I don’t) you have provided a fully general argument against anything and everything and yet you still need an epistemology just to have this conversation with me. And Bayesian Epistemology is better defended than anything else I know.

But Luke only calls himself a Rationalist for the same Reason Richard Dawkins calls himself a Rationalist, it’s based on the presumption that somehow Atheism has made them Rational and all Religious People are Inferior Irrational Fools. It’s really just a sort of label based on the Mythology that links Atheism to Reason. There is nothing backing this other than shallow Rhetoric.

You still don’t get to redefine words to suit your Ego.

There is nothing backing your statement here but rhetoric. Tedious rhetoric that we’ve heard dozens of times already.

I say it again, if the word bothers you so much DON’T USE IT. But you still have to show what it is actually wrong with the actual position to which Luke holds.

Except that they serve as the Foundation of the System…

No, not even then. Not if the system is about much more than that and the additional material is the main point of controversy.

But I don’t Even have to show that their Methods don’t work.

Of course you do. That’s what the argument is about. If Bayesian Epistemology is correct then we have a means of arriving at true beliefs more reliably. So you have to show that it doesn’t work.

All I have to do is Remind everyone that all Logic will depend on its Premises, and no Logical System will ever be a fool proof way to ensuring ones own beliefs are accurate.
That is actually the basis of my entire conversation here.

And it’s flawed, for reasons discussed at length.

But no method is actually Free of the Biases of the Original Premises on which the Logic is based. Luke’s own Biases, even if he claims to examine them, can’t be truly Examined and Verified or Rejected if they serve as the Basis of the Logical Chain to begin with.

I’ve spoken about this. All epistemology is necessarily circular at least to some extent. That doesn’t mean it’s all equally valid. Bayesian Epistemology has as strong a foundation as anything in epistemology can reasonably be expected to have.

I am saying that if you do more research and actually Read something like the Church Fathers you will see Modern Psychology paralleled in terms of Human Development and Identification of specific patterns of Thought.
You know what is said, Nothing New under the Sun, and all that…

You must be joking if you think that the bible’s account of human psychology seriously rivals that of modern science.

I never said Augustine knew of Solomonoff’s work, I said the same basic understanding of the Human mind was available to them based on Direct Observation and accumulated years of experience.

Which is flat out false. We know vastly more about human psychology now than we have at any other point in human history.

No.

NO?

Rather, rejecting the Wisdom of some of the Ancient Writers in such Times as the Renaissance and the Enlightenment lead to Stagnation that was only later recovered. While it is True that some things are discovered now that did not exist then, my basic position is that they knew a lot more than we give them Credit for, especially in how the Human Mind works and Stages of Development in the progress of Mental Growth.

‘More than we give them credit for’ is one thing. More than we know today? That’s just absurd.

My method is more simple than that. Its repeated often enough I’d think youd’ not miss it.

Its three simple statements.
1:All Logical methods are Reliant upon the Base Assumptions made at the Outset, and thus are only as Reliable as the Initial Assumptions made.

2: Logical Methods cannot be used to test the Foundational Assumptions on which they are based.

3: Luke is not as unbiased as he thinks he is. It is clear he has some idea of what “Should” be discovered by Rational people and has joined a club of Like Minded Individuals, who in the end create a Consensus based upon an Earlier Shared belief system, which really only Harmonises Minor discrepancies.
The real Goal is not to Find Truth, it is to ensure the survival fo the base Logical Framework created by several Predetermined Conclusions.

1. The assumptions required for Bayes to work are about as rock solid as it’s going to get, see Cox’s Theorem to get a sense of what is needed. Every other epistemology is worse. They’re also things that are fairly obviously true. I won’t claim total certainty but I’m not seriously worried that they might be wrong.

2. Because of the above, circularity is not too much of a problem. Circular doesn’t mean false, remember. This is just a fully general argument against all epistemology, and doesn’t really help us. When you’ve got SI solutions to the problem of induction and stuff like that, it’s time to recognise that this is about as good as it’s going to get.

3. No, the real goal really is to find the truth, or get as close to it as we can. Thus, we want to use the best available method. That’s Bayesian Epistemology, so far as I can see.

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ZAR November 6, 2011 at 7:25 pm

I’ve read other pages on this blog, I’m sorry but Luke is not here to dimply find the Truth. All one has to do is look at his refutation of Christianity to realise how weak his actual arguments are.

I should rather contend that he is using the appearance of Logic in a formalised system to argue for his beliefs, which is not the same thing as seeking out Truth dispassionately, and is a basic flaw to a lot of the so-called systems to discover Truth. In the end, they only really go where we guide them, and Luke has certain ideas he wants to guide himself to, that he wants to legitimate using this system.

Its impossible for me to take seriously the claim that its Purely disinterested truth when I’ve read his other Arguments.

And that brings us to David Hume. Yes he’s another old dead guy but, he did have a fun little quote, Reason is the Slave of Passion. He uttered this Line of sheer Brilliance in scoffing at the Enlightenments praise of reason, which they claimed would do the same thing the less Wrong Club claims. The problem lies in the assumption that there is such a thing as a disinterested dispassionate Human mind based on nothing but Raw Reason alone. Reason is most often used to justify beliefs we already have, not to seek out Truth.

The very fact that Luke identifies himself as a Rationalist, precisely because h is an Atheist and wants to depict himself as superior to Religious People, automatically reveals bias. Has he asked himself “Why do I believe that I am more rational than they are”? Even if he does, what’s to really stop him from simply manipulating the system in order to arrive at a preferred belief then using the systems supposed controls that are intended to eliminate Biases to grant extra Authority to his pre-determined beliefs?

Further, it still doesn’t matter what Logical System you use, the base assumptions are still vitally important. By base assumptions, I don’t mean Cox or Bayes at all, I mean things like “I exist’ and “If objects are dropped they fall”. Luke adds to this “Atheism is True” at least on a subconscious Level, and imports several other Western Cultural beliefs as well.

The result will be that instead of seeking truth, he will seek Logical Consistency using the methods he and his less Wrong Club employ.
Creating a Logically Consistent mental image of the world is not, however, the same thing as arriving at the Truth.
Here is what the term “Rationalist; means today, by the way.

http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/rationalism
its not an antiquated definition.

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zaybu November 7, 2011 at 6:40 am

The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, then freedom of thought becomes impossible.

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PDH November 7, 2011 at 8:33 am

zaybu wrote,

The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, then freedom of thought becomes impossible.

I agree, which is why I’m not proposing anything of the sort. In fact, I’ve explicitly endorsed the principle of always questioning one’s assumptions.

But when the dust settles, we still have to do the best that we can with what is available to us and it is simply wrong to say that all methods of finding the truth are equivalent.

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PDH November 7, 2011 at 9:14 am

Zar wrote,

Further, it still doesn’t matter what Logical System you use, the base assumptions are still vitally important. By base assumptions, I don’t mean Cox or Bayes at all, I mean things like “I exist’ and “If objects are dropped they fall”. Luke adds to this “Atheism is True” at least on a subconscious Level,and imports several other Western Cultural beliefs as well.

Assumptions like ‘If objects are dropped they fall’ are not foundational ‘base’ assumptions. A person who subscribes to Bayesian Epistemology would believe such things only to the extent demanded by probability theory, which will depend on the evidence available to her.

It is inductive not deductive reasoning that people rely on most heavily in their day to day lives and it is on that basis that Luke rejects theism. Bayesian Epistemology provides an account of this inductive or evidence based reasoning. Cox’s Theorem, on the other hand, shows that the laws of probability theory can be derived from three extremely basic ‘assumptions’ to continue using your terminology. That’s where deductive reasoning comes into the picture.

Gravity is a well-supported belief within the framework of Bayesian Epistemology. Your views on homosexuality are not. These are not foundational epistemological principles. They are based on evidence and that is what you would need to provide if you wanted a Bayesian to accept something so ludicrous as that argument on homosexuality.

Here is what the term “Rationalist; means today, by the way.

http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/rationalism
its not an antiquated definition.

Zarove, it’s not just an issue of it being antiquated, it’s an issue of it being irrelevant. It’s not what Luke is arguing for. And I say it again, if you don’t want to call Luke’s position rationalism THEN DON’T CALL IT THAT.

There are two things, right:

1. The way that you are defining rationalism.
2. The way that Luke is defining it.

These are completely different and you have only ever provided arguments against 1. When I point this out you just insist that your definition is the only correct one. This is gibberish but even if it wasn’t, I could just say, ‘fine. Call Luke’s position something else, you still have to explain what it is wrong with it.’

You are attacking a position to which he does not subscribe.

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joseph November 7, 2011 at 10:02 am

Brief interjection in a fascinating game of verbal ping-pong:

@ZAR
1. Is it impossible, or possible, to use cheap caricature and insults rationally, by your preferred definition.

2. What would you use in place of Less Wrong-style Rationality, or Boo-Boo-Kitty-F!çk (if you want to deny it is Rationality, and use a place holder word, but mostly because I like Kevin Smith films and am somewhat childish).

@PDH

1. Do you think Less Wrong-style Bayesian Epistemiological Rationality can generate contradictary answers?

2. Do you think it matters?

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ZAROVE November 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm

PDH, You miss the points of my argument. So lets break this down.

1: You say both Luke and I are correct in what the word Rationalist means. Well, no, I’m right and Luke is wrong. Luke is using the self serving Neo-Atheist definition designed to depict his own views as Rational and other people, Notably “the religious” , as irrational. Luke’s very use o the word prevents him from considering that those irrational Religious People may actually be Rational, or have rational Arguments for their beliefs. No, He is a Rationalist out of contrast to Religion, and thus Religion can never be rational. This rather flawed and self serving mentality can further be extended past that tired debate onto other topics. What would stop Luke from pronouncing those who vote for candidates he doesn’t like as Irrational base don’t he idea that he chose his candidates as a Rationalist? What stops him from declaring people Irrational for disagreeing with a pet Scientific Theory? Or personal moral view? Or even what Art is nice? While I don’t think Luke would take it quiet as far as Art, I can see him making similar presumptions about Politics, and Culture, and Morals, and Philosophy, and thus developing a rather condescending approach to Life that allows him to think himself somehow above those mere Irrational Peons who have not arrived at “The Truth’ via Reason as he has. I don’t really think the idea that Religious people are Irrational is even a good base assumption.

When Atheists started calling themselves Rationalists based purely on the Mythology surrounding their atheism that says they use reason and Logic rather than faith, they ultimately began to Shield their own views from Criticism or internal examination, no matter if they insist they allow such questions to be asked, because the operational assumption is that they are Rational in all their endeavours precisely because they hold specific Views. The Conclusions, not the Thought processes that lead to the Conclusions, are now what is deemed as the measure of Rationality.

It leads to ridiculous situations where people like our Friend Rorshack can think he’s being rational for his blind support for Homosexual Rights even though its clear by now to all other Readers that he has not considered any other possibility and is simply arguing for his Position, a position he never Questions.

It’s the same with all of us to an extent, I suppose, but the problem with calling yourself a Rationalist when you mean what Luke does is largely that it obscures the reality.

And, when people actually hear someone else describe themselves as rationalists, who contradict the very basis on which Luke claims to be a rationalist, it will make the word absolutely meaningless. How can a Rationalist be defined as someone who used Science and Empirical Data alone to discover the Truth of the World, like today’s Rationalists like Luke do, when others are rationalists precisely because they reject Empiricism.

Lukes definition is wrong. It doesn’t matter that how he uses the term has a specific meaning, because its still a specific meaning that contradicts what the word Rationalist actually means and is still further used to only inoculate his conclusions from actual Scrutiny and criticism.

2: I doubt Luke Questions certain assumptions. I bet he’s like Rorshack, though not quiet as extreme, and certainly not as unwilling to allow disagreement. But hats not saying much.

I find that Luke argues like an Archetypical Lawyer rather than as an Archetypical Scientist or Archetypical Philosopher when it comes to proving Christianity is not True, for example. Perhaps those essays were written a while back and he no longer stands by them, but I have read no repudiation from him in regards to any former mistakes in his Logic, so must conclude he still stands by them.

What do I mean by Archetypical though? It is needful in understanding where ‘m headed. In reality, Lawyers, Scientists, and Philosophers are all people and thus don’t always operate perfectly in line with how their fields are envisioned to work. Much like how a King may be in Philosophy Imagined as a Servant and protector of his People and thus must embody the Highest Moral Virtues, but we know Kings, and for that matter Politicians today, do not always do that. The Archetypes endure however. A Scientist is suppose to use the Scientific method alone to discover principles in Nature that have been observed and the Philosopher must use Strings of Logic to make coherent the ideas about how the world works, and offer a Logically consistent explanation of things. While not all succeed in reality in either the Objective, or, more importantly here, the purity of mental purpose, the Archetypes always do. This is why they are Archetypes. But the Archetype of a lawyer is not the same as the Archetype for either a Philosopher or a Scientist. The Lawyers goal is to defend his Client and the principle behind his Thinking is merely to find an Argument to support his Premise. The lawyer starts with his Conclusion then shapes his Argument around the Conclusions he wants us all to arrive at.

The truth of course is that most of the Time most people in most Fields, owing to Human nature and a desire to be proven Right in what we either already believe in, or want to believe, will become lawyers and not Philosophers or Scientists. Luke is no Exception. His Arguments for why Christianity cannot be true are unimpressive because they collapse the moment they are examined. Now granted I haven’t read each one but the ones I have read rely on Sophistry and twists of Logic, which illustrates only that Luke had already arrived at his Conclusion that Christianity was not true prior to crafting his Arguments and simply generated the Arguments to support his Conclusions.

Take, as a small example, the claim that God cannot be both all Knowing and have free Will. ( lets not side trail as we did with Homosexuality, I am not going to discuss this in full detail here, but may elsewhere if I have the Time) The basic premise is flawed. It assumes that if God knows his own future he knows his own Choices and thus cannot change his Mind thus doesn’t have Free Will. The reason this is flawed is for the same basic reason that the Argument against Human free Will with God’s Omniscience fails. It assumes foreknowledge is dictation. Simply knowing what you will do is not the same thing as being forced to do said thing.

God knowing hat I will do next week doesn’t mean God has forced me to do what I will do next week. God knowing what he will do in 1000 years is not the same as god’s decision to do whatever action it was was not freely made.

The argument is bad. It is unconvincing and rests on a faulty premise. Yet, it’s a common argument on the Internet against belief in God.

There are of course other arguments he uses but there is no need to examine them here in any detail, suffice to say any honest observer will note that Luke began with his Conclusion then sought arguments to support said Conclusion. Now it may be True that eh was once a Christian, and if memory serves, an Evangelical Christian, but even if for the sake of Argument I allow that his initial conversion to Atheism was based on sincere Questions, that doesn’t eliminate the fact that today his Arguments exist to serve his newfound Faith, and his Arguments against Christianity are simply the product of him starting with the conclusion that Christianity is false, and seeking to refute it. He has become a prosecuting Attorney , looking for arguments to condemn the Defendant as Guilty, and is not being objective.

And that is merely on his own Blog. What other Biases may he hold?

But he can use his Less Wrong Method to both give support to his opposition to Christianity, and, afterward, to bolster the claims that his rejection is Logical and Rational, and not only that, but the Truth. But since all Logical methods rely on the base assumptions, all Logical systems can be used to Argue for a Premise one desires to be True. If you open with the assumption that Christianity is False, then proceed to find Justifications for that, then using Bayes and Cox and whatever else you use will still lead you only to further support of your original contention because you are employing the method to create a Logically Consistent argument for a specific position.

The moment you claim that because you sued a Logical Methodology, regardless of what it is, and therefore have eliminated Biases ad arrived at what is most probably the Truth in regards to a subject that you are yourself passionate about it becomes suspect.

The same methods can be used to prove Christianity is True. Or that Peter Jones should be President and not John Smith. Or that grey Aliens are really abducting people. Logic rests upon the imput we feed it and if we start with our desires, our desires will end up logically consistent and justified, but not necessarily actually True.

Add to this the arrogance of assuming that you are a Rationalist and hanging out with other Rational people, as opposed to those not in your Club who you see as at best less Rational than you are, and you really don’t have a mechanism for outside perspectives to have any credibility before you, you end up shielding yourself in your views because you are “More Rational than the Rest’ and have arrived at “The most probable Truth”.

Given that the word Rationalist is misdefined and abused to facilitate that end, I as a Rationalist can but mourn.

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ZAR November 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Joseph, some nice questions. I’ll try to answer.

@ZAR

Hello.

1. Is it impossible, or possible, to use cheap caricature and insults rationally, by your preferred definition.

My definition of what?

If asked in general, I wudkl say that cheap insult and caricature cannot be used. Expensive is the only way to go!

That said, mockery is not an argument. One can use Mockery after an argument to highlight a point, and the point would remain viable, but if the argument rests on Mockery, or if mockery is used to make the objection seem better than it is, then all you have succeeded in doing is covering up the weakness of your own arguments.

I prefer to use insults sparingly, and prefer not to misrepresent others Ideas.


2. What would you use in place of Less Wrong-style Rationality, or Boo-Boo-Kitty-F!çk (if you want to deny it is Rationality, and use a place holder word, but mostly because I like Kevin Smith films and am somewhat childish).

You seem to misunderstand my argument. I have no problem with Bayesian Theorem or Cox, and am not familiar enough with the methods they use in how they combine various elements to make a solid comment. But I have studied Philosophy and formal Logic. I am also a Psychology Major. I don’t think the Logical Method is necessarily flawed; my point is that one can still arrive at an incorrect conclusion based on it even if one is optimally Rational. Rationality does not mean you arrive at the same conclusions as other Rational People. It doesn’t even mean you will arrive at the same conclusions if given the same information. Rationality doesn’t lead to a singular conclusion, and still depends on ones starting premises.

And that’s operating ideally. What if the people aren’t Rational, but use the Method? And on that I should remind everyone that Bayes Theorem on Probability is not “Rationality’, it is a Mathematical Theorem designed to help us determine Probability. While it is the product of a Rational Mind, it can be used by an irrational one. Logical Methods are not in and of themselves Rational, and Rationality cannot be confused with a Method of Logic. There is a distinction.

The Less Wrong Method is not “Rationality”, it is a Method of Standardised Logic that is suppose to Foster Rationality, but as with all Logical Systems all you can really do is create Uniformity and consistency in a Given Argument. Uniformity and Consistency is a Hallmark of Rational Thought, but it is not exclusive to Rational Thinking. The Mad Hatter in Alice In Wonderland used Logic but was Irrational, as an example of how one can use Logic to support Irrational premises and still create Consistency.

I think we need to keep in mind that Logic and Rationality are distinct Items.

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PDH November 7, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Joseph,

Your probability distributions depend on the available information and different people have access to different information, so if everyone was using Bayesian Epistemology we would still all have different beliefs. However, as we update on new information as it becomes available to us we would expect – with certain reasonable assumptions – that probability distributions start to converge towards the truth. Gets a lot more complicated than that, though!

See also Aumann’s agreement theorem.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aumann%27s_agreement_theorem

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ZAROVE November 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm

PDH, Dr. Stephen Hawking remarked once that, even if the Universe was predetermined and we were on an upward march toward funding answers, there is no guarantee that we would be predetermined to arrive at the correct Answer.

The problem with your current assertion is twofold.

1: You assume that if we all had exactly the same information and all used the Less Wrong Method, we’d all agree, and the cause for differing beliefs rests solely on different access to information. But that’s not True. Sometimes people who have the same information still arrive at different conclusions. It happens all the Time.

Just look at the debate between gradualism and Punctuated Equilibrium in Evolutionary Biology. Those who hold either views all have access to the same information, and I doubt the less Wrong method would generate agreement.

2: You also assume that somehow consensus after using this method gets us “Closer to the Truth’. But what if the cons4nsus makes a mistake? It’d then take a dissenter who has reviewed the conclusion and arrived at a new one to step up. Ideally the group would reconsider, but realistically, given Humanity’s propensity, all you would do is create a Heretic going against the Dogmas of the church, proverbially.

Once an idea is settles and accepted by everyone, someone coming along with a disagreement won’t be listened to and will be seen as a nutter.

There is no guarantee that a method that helps us create consensus will get us closer to the Truth, it only means we will have a logically consistent view on the knowledge we have shared by all. It doesn’t guarantee us anything close to “The Truth” will be what we agree with each other on.

The Truth is not Democratically Decided.

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PDH November 7, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Zarove wrote,

1: You say both Luke and I are correct in what the word Rationalist means. Well, no, I’m right and Luke is wrong.

How can you still not get this? Are you a human being or some kind of highly specific chat bot?

Here, read this and tell me what it says: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/69/Captcha.jpg

Luke is using the self serving Neo-Atheist definition designed to depict his own views as Rational and other people, Notably “the religious” , as irrational. Luke’s very use o the word prevents him from considering that those irrational Religious People may actually be Rational, or have rational Arguments for their beliefs. No, He is a Rationalist out of contrast to Religion, and thus Religion can never be rational. This rather flawed and self serving mentality can further be extended past that tired debate onto other topics. What would stop Luke from pronouncing those who vote for candidates he doesn’t like as Irrational base don’t he idea that he chose his candidates as a Rationalist? What stops him from declaring people Irrational for disagreeing with a pet Scientific Theory? Or personal moral view? Or even what Art is nice? While I don’t think Luke would take it quiet as far as Art, I can see him making similar presumptions about Politics, and Culture, and Morals, and Philosophy, and thus developing a rather condescending approach to Life that allows him to think himself somehow above those mere Irrational Peons who have not arrived at “The Truth’ via Reason as he has. I don’t really think the idea that Religious people are Irrational is even a good base assumption.

I’ll say it again, for, what? The fourth time? Fifth? I’ve lost count.

Anyway, IF THE WORD ‘RATIONALIST’ BOTHERS YOU SO MUCH THEN STOP BLOODY USING IT.

I mean, Holy Moly, what is wrong with you?

Lukes definition is wrong. It doesn’t matter that how he uses the term has a specific meaning, because its still a specific meaning that contradicts what the word Rationalist actually means and is still further used to only inoculate his conclusions from actual Scrutiny and criticism.

Of course it matters how he uses the term because THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE DISAGREEING WITH!

What kind of person thinks that it doesn’t matter what his opponent believes? Someone who has constructed a straw-man argument because he is unable to address the actual argument being used, that’s what kind of person.

Anyone else would realise that in order to show that someone was wrong they have to, you know, show that that person was actually wrong. They wouldn’t put words in their mouth on the grounds that other people use the word ‘rationalist’ in different ways, therefore that must, must, MUST be what their opponent believes, as well. They certainly wouldn’t persist in this shameful misrepresentation after dozens of posts in which it was painstakingly pointed out to them that this was not the case. And they definitely wouldn’t write 1600+ word rants about nothing whatsoever and then fail to address even a single one of the actual points being made.

2:I doubt Luke Questions certain assumptions.

Oh, well OK, then. That’s enough for me. Oh wait, there’s more…

I find that Luke argues like an Archetypical Lawyer rather than as an Archetypical Scientist or Archetypical Philosopher when it comes to proving Christianity is not True, for example. Perhaps those essays were written a while back and he no longer stands by them, but I have read no repudiation from him in regards to any former mistakes in his Logic, so must conclude he still stands by them.

What do I mean by Archetypical though? It is needful in understanding where ‘m headed. In reality, Lawyers, Scientists, and Philosophers are all people and thus don’t always operate perfectly in line with how their fields are envisioned to work. Much like how a King may be in Philosophy Imagined as a Servant and protector of his People and thus must embody the Highest Moral Virtues, but we know Kings, and for that matter Politicians today, do not always do that. The Archetypes endure however. A Scientist is suppose to use the Scientific method alone to discover principles in Nature that have been observed and the Philosopher must use Strings of Logic to make coherent the ideas about how the world works, and offer a Logically consistent explanation of things. While not all succeed in reality in either the Objective, or, more importantly here, the purity of mental purpose, the Archetypes always do. This is why they are Archetypes. But the Archetype of a lawyer is not the same as the Archetype for either a Philosopher or a Scientist. The Lawyers goal is to defend his Client and the principle behind his Thinking is merely to find an Argument to support his Premise. The lawyer starts with his Conclusion then shapes his Argument around the Conclusions he wants us all to arrive at.

The truth of course is that most of the Time most people in most Fields, owing to Human nature and a desire to be proven Right in what we either already believe in, or want to believe, will become lawyers and not Philosophers or Scientists. Luke is no Exception. His Arguments for why Christianity cannot be true are unimpressive because they collapse the moment they are examined. Now granted I haven’t read each one but the ones I have read rely on Sophistry and twists of Logic, which illustrates only that Luke had already arrived at his Conclusion that Christianity was not true prior to crafting his Arguments and simply generated the Arguments to support his Conclusions.

Take, as a small example, the claim that God cannot be both all Knowing and have free Will. ( lets not side trail as we did with Homosexuality, I am not going to discuss this in full detail here, but may elsewhere if I have the Time) The basic premise is flawed. It assumes that if God knows his own future he knows his own Choices and thus cannot change his Mind thus doesn’t have Free Will. The reason this is flawed is for the same basic reason that the Argument against Human free Will with God’s Omniscience fails. It assumes foreknowledge is dictation. Simply knowing what you will do is not the same thing as being forced to do said thing.

God knowing hat I will do next week doesn’t mean God has forced me to do what I will do next week. God knowing what he will do in 1000 years is not the same as god’s decision to do whatever action it was was not freely made.

The argument is bad. It is unconvincing and rests on a faulty premise. Yet, it’s a common argument on the Internet against belief in God.

There are of course other arguments he uses but there is no need to examine them here in any detail, suffice to say any honest observer will note that Luke began with his Conclusion then sought arguments to support said Conclusion. Now it may be True that eh was once a Christian, and if memory serves, an Evangelical Christian, but even if for the sake of Argument I allow that his initial conversion to Atheism was based on sincere Questions, that doesn’t eliminate the fact that today his Arguments exist to serve his newfound Faith, and his Arguments against Christianity are simply the product of him starting with the conclusion that Christianity is false, and seeking to refute it. He has become a prosecuting Attorney , looking for arguments to condemn the Defendant as Guilty, and is not being objective.

And that is merely on his own Blog. What other Biases may he hold?

But he can use his Less Wrong Method to both give support to his opposition to Christianity, and, afterward, to bolster the claims that his rejection is Logical and Rational, and not only that, but the Truth. But since all Logical methods rely on the base assumptions, all Logical systems can be used to Argue for a Premise one desires to be True. If you open with the assumption that Christianity is False, then proceed to find Justifications for that, then using Bayes and Cox and whatever else you use will still lead you only to further support of your original contention because you are employing the method to create a Logically Consistent argument for a specificposition.

The moment you claim that because you sued a Logical Methodology, regardless of what it is, and therefore have eliminated Biases ad arrived at what is most probably the Truth in regards to a subject that you are yourself passionate about it becomes suspect.

The same methods can be used to prove Christianity is True. Or that Peter Jones should be President and not John Smith. Or that grey Aliens are really abducting people.Logic rests upon the imput we feed it and if we start with our desires, our desires will end up logically consistent and justified, but not necessarily actually True.

Add to this the arrogance of assuming that you are a Rationalist and hanging out with other Rational people, as opposed to those not in your Club who you see as at best less Rational than you are, and you really don’t have a mechanism for outside perspectives to have any credibility before you, you end up shielding yourself in your views because you are “More Rational than the Rest’ and have arrived at “The most probable Truth”.

Given that the word Rationalist is misdefined and abused to facilitate that end, I as a Rationalist can but mourn.

…but it’s all crap. If anyone was interested in your rants, they’ve now heard them enough times to be sick of them. Actual objections, provide them, please.

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ZAR November 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm

PDH, I did provuide an actual objectiion. You seem incapable of graspign it. So Ill repeart it in brif. Luke has made his own beleifs inviolable and incapable of brign critiissedby drapign thm int he Authority of “Logic and Reason”. His beelfis are nto synonymosu with Rationality itself. He fails to see that his own Startign points may have guides his conclusions and is unlikely to let go of his Biases even ifhe says he does, and that is what undermines all Logical Systems in the end.

I don’t see why thats so hard to follow.

Oh and his use of the word Rationalist is irritatign as its partof the above proccess.

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PDH November 7, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Zarove wrote,

PDH, Dr. Stephen Hawking remarked once that, even if the Universe was predetermined and we were on an upward march toward funding answers, there is no guarantee that we would be predetermined to arrive at the correct Answer.

The problem with your current assertion is twofold.

1: You assume that if we all had exactly the same information and all used the Less Wrong Method, we’d all agree, and the cause for differing beliefs rests solely on different access to information. But that’s not True. Sometimes people who have the same information still arrive at different conclusions. It happens all the Time.

Just look at the debate between gradualism and Punctuated Equilibrium in Evolutionary Biology. Those who hold either views all have access to the same information, and I doubt the less Wrong method would generate agreement.

Actually, no. Aumann’s agreement theorem shows that, and I quote from the wiki link posted above, “two people acting rationally (in a certain precise sense) and with common knowledge of each other’s beliefs cannot agree to disagree. More specifically, if two people are genuine Bayesian rationalists with common priors, and if they each have common knowledge of their individual posteriors, then their posteriors must be equal.”

(Note how the article says, ‘in a certain precise sense,’ which is literally what Luke means by rationality, hence the importance of addressing what he’s actually saying, regardless of how the term is used elsewhere).

2: You also assume that somehow consensus after using this method gets us “Closer to the Truth’. But what if the cons4nsus makes a mistake? It’d then take a dissenter who has reviewed the conclusion and arrived at a new one to step up. Ideally the group would reconsider, but realistically, given Humanity’s propensity, all you would do is create a Heretic going against the Dogmas of the church, proverbially.

Once an idea is settles and accepted by everyone, someone coming along with a disagreement won’t be listened to and will be seen as a nutter.

There is no guarantee that a method that helps us create consensus will get us closer to the Truth, it only means we will have a logically consistent view on the knowledge we have shared by all. It doesn’t guarantee us anything close to “The Truth” will be what we agree with each other on.

The Truth is not Democratically Decided.

Of course it isn’t. The truth isn’t ‘decided’ by our beliefs, our beliefs are decided by the truth. The truth is what it is. It is our beliefs that change becoming closer to it as we gain more information about the system (provided that our priors are sensible and that we update on that information in the proper way in accordance with Bayes’ theorem).

That absolutely is what Bayesian Epistemology aims to show, which is why you absolutely do have to provide a real objection to it.

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PDH November 7, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Zar wrote,

PDH, I did provuide an actual objectiion. You seem incapable of graspign it. So Ill repeart it in brif. Luke has made his own beleifs inviolable and incapable of brign critiissedby drapign thm int he Authority of “Logic and Reason”.

No, he hasn’t. This is just a bare assertion from you. As a Bayesian Luke has to proportion his beliefs to the evidence, which means that there is a very simple way of changing his beliefs: provide him with sufficient evidence.

His beelfis are nto synonymosu with Rationality itself. He fails to see that his own Startign points may have guides his conclusions and is unlikely to let go of his Biases even ifhe says he does, and that is what undermines all Logical Systems in the end.

What evidence do you have for this accusation? He’s spent a great deal of time questioning his starting points and has written about it at length.

I don’t see why thats so hard to follow.

It’s not hard to follow. It’s just wrong.

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PDH November 7, 2011 at 1:13 pm

And it all has nothing to do with whether Bayesian Epistemology works or not, which is the only relevant issue.

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ZAR November 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm

PDH, if Luke was such a Bayesian that he had to always conform his views to evidence, then why are his arguments that show why Christianity can’t be true still supported by him when none of them stand up to scrutiny and many rely on nothing but Sophistry?

In Theory all I have to do is show him evidence, in practice he will always bend his interpretation of the Evidence toward his preferences and Biases.

That’s the point.

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PDH November 7, 2011 at 3:01 pm

To the extent that he does that he is straying from Bayes, which tells us by exactly how much we should update our probability distributions. None of us, of course, are ideal Bayesians, we can only approximate the rules as best we can and will always fall short.

However, I think he’s a great deal closer to those rules than you are, here. I don’t recall him relying to any great extent on supposed logical contradictions between God’s free-will and His omniscience, for example. Rather, I’d imagine that the extremely high Kolmogorov complexity of theism is a much bigger factor.

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Zar November 7, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Oh, and PDH, I doubt the Kolmogorov complexity has anything to do with Luke’s decision. In case you’d missed it, I’m pretty sure Luke’s desire to be an Atheist stems from events prior to his love affair with Bayesian Methodology.

I’d wager it had more to do with personal philosophy as well as the aforementioned “people who used ridicule and insult” to “get him to se reason”. In his own words of the account, it seems like he swapped over for emotional reasons as well as being persuaded by argumentation, not pure Mathematical Logic.

But the presumption that h uses bayes on everythign and is supremely logical will prev ent him from critically evaluating his claims, just as it will rpevent you from such.

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ZAROVE November 7, 2011 at 3:41 pm

PDH, you suspect he’s closer because you are biased towards his position. That doesn’t ameliorate that his arguments (plural, I used one as an example and then didn’t present it wholly) are bad. He’s not an ideal Bayesian simply because he will always import his Biases and desires into the equation, and so will everyone else. Combine that with the fact that Bayesian methods won’t work at all until you feed them Data and the data selection and assumptions about the data will inevitably lead the method, not the other way round, AND the fact that sometimes multiple outcomes will be available and people will prefer to then read into it which one they prefer and you end up with the unreliability that I’ve been speaking about.

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Rorschach November 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm

You aren’t Rational, Rorshach, Rational people can see past their own views and properly address those of others. All you can dio is rely on petty mockery and cheap Caricature and insult. You can’t claim Rationality based on that.

Of course i am. If i were not, i would be a theist. Now, given that you reached to the conclusion that those are mutually exclusive characteristics, i can surely tell that you’re not.

This is an A priorri Assumption you make that prevents any actual discussion on the topic of the Bible because you’ve decided ahead of Time to find it irrational nonsense. That fact alone makes you Irrational.

It’s stupid(both of the testaments). I am sorry, Thats not open to discussion. Zombies who fly into heaven, Noah’s ark, genesis…
There is a reason why we exclude a priori that possibility, its just a quality filter. I can even ponder about kalam, the hard problem of consciousness and even about a bayesian aproach to the ressurection, but when you mention the bible, the discussion ends.

It’s not morally offensive to you because you think you would be forced to watch it, but because you oppose to the actions they perform. By renting them a room to facilitate a morally reprehensible relationship you become complicit in it.

If you have firm moral convictions and sincere belief that Homosexual conduct is harmful to the participants, then refusal of participation in said conduct by facilitating it is really not about denial of Civil Rights, its about exercising your own Moral Conscience and living in accordance to your own convictions.

As to what you would do with Skinheads, Great, but that’s you. Why should someone else have to be like you?

Incredible. Why dont you do that?That is, if you are okay with being sued. I am sure you would be a hell of a hotel manager, in refusing to give a room for everyone who have a different life style and who doesnt share the same ideologies than you.

To date there are no actual indicators that there is a genetic component to Homosexuality. Nothing at all links it to genetics at all that we can actually show you. Most of the Internet sites that say there are such pieces of Evidence still rely on the Hammer studies from the 1990’s or a couple of other outdated ( and sometimes Fraudulent) peeves of already overturned research. Other than that no, I am not aware of it. As of right now we have no actual knowledge of the exact cause of Homosexuality.

Incidentally, we do have some reports of peoples Sexual preferences changing over Time, and its not likely to be as fixed as Political forces want it to be in anyone.

Thats great. If it is just a arbitrary psychological condition, then why on earth there would be homossexuals at all? To suffer discrimination? Surely not. And that just show youre ignorance about the subject: we have, independent of hamer:
-Differences in the average size of INAH-3 of gay from heterossexual(http://members.aol.com/slevay/hypothalamus.pdf)
-Different reactions to fluoxetine(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006899304011473)
-Differences in the response to AND and to EST(http://www.pnas.org/content/102/20/7356)
This is just to quote a few of Neurobiological differences between gay an a non gay brain, wich suggest homossexualityis alittle more than strictly psyco disorder. Not to quote the impact of the exposure to testosterone in sexuality(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prenatal_hormones_and_sexual_orientation)
Morever, even if it is, does that justify discrimination? Surly not.

I still wonder idf you even know what the original point of this illustration was though. Nonetheless you prove why I don’t buy the Rationality Argument. Anyone can claim to be rational, including those who clearly aren’t like you.

Sure, we have been arguing about two different subjects. Regarding the rational discussion, we have reached an impass: Are questions of aplied ethics worthy of rationable avaluations? Evidently yes, if you are a moral realist. So i can say you are irrational in not giving a room for gays just as i can say you are irrational in not believing in special relativity. If you cant even understand that, then the conversation is over.

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PDH November 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Zarove wrote,

Oh, and PDH, I doubt the Kolmogorov complexity has anything to do with Luke’s decision. In case you’d missed it, I’m pretty sure Luke’s desire to be an Atheist stems from events prior to his love affair with Bayesian Methodology.

I’d wager it had more to do with personal philosophy as well as the aforementioned “people who used ridicule and insult” to “get him to se reason”. In his own words of the account, it seems like he swapped over for emotional reasons as well as being persuaded by argumentation, not pure Mathematical Logic.

But the presumption that h uses bayes on everythign and is supremely logical will prev ent him from critically evaluating his claims, just as it will rpevent you from such.

His original reasons for becoming an atheist are not that important. His ‘love affair with Bayesian Methodology’ ought to still have corrected his beliefs if they were significantly wrong. As it happens, though, it makes the case for theism much worse.

You would do better in arguments generally if you spent more time attacking your opponent’s arguments and less time attacking you opponents.

PDH, you suspect he’s closer because you are biased towards his position. That doesn’t ameliorate that his arguments (plural, I used one as an example and then didn’t present it wholly) are bad.

You don’t think that God has extraordinarily high Kolmogorov complexity, then?

He’s not an ideal Bayesian simply because he will always import his Biases and desires into the equation, and so will everyone else. Combine that with the fact that Bayesian methods won’t work at all until you feed them Data and the data selection and assumptions about the data will inevitably lead the method, not the other way round, AND the fact that sometimes multiple outcomes will be available and people will prefer to then read into it which one they prefer and you end up with the unreliability that I’ve been speaking about.

Yes, the information available to us affects our beliefs, as it should. Otherwise, you are simply ignoring evidence.

To show that theism is more plausible than its negation on Bayes you have to provide sufficient evidence, which has not been provided. Arguments against theism, that demonstrate that it is extremely implausible are just the icing on the cake i.e. more evidence against the hypothesis.

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ZAROVE November 7, 2011 at 4:37 pm

PDH, Bayesian Methods don’t make the case for Theism worse. If they did, why do Bayesian Theologians exist? Or Bayesian Philosophers who believe in God? You could say that they have not subjected their Theism to the scrutiny of the Equation, but can’t I say the same for Luke? There is no reason for us to assume Luke has actually Tested his Atheism against Bayes, and even if he had no real Reason to believe his conclusions are the only ones someone can arrive at. And that’s the point, you make an A Priori Assumption that Theism is Illogical before you start, and that will in the end colour the entire process, rendering it unreliable.

Also, this is not me attacking my opponents rather than his Arguments, this topic is about how Luke thinks. The entire subject matter is about how reliable and Rational he and his Less Wrong Club are. If I don’t question his ability to arrive at Truth via dispassionate Reason or his Ability to rid himself of Biases, then there is no discussion at all.

The whole topic is about how Luke feels comfortable around “Other Rationalists” and wants others to share in the “Joy of Rationality”, so the entire subject is about just how Rational Luke is and how Rationality is expressed in his Club.

Its nonsense to claim this is attacking an opponent and not his Arguments. Its like saying a Prosecutor is attacking the defendant and not the Crime.

Also, PDH, no, not really; I don’t think God has a High Kolmogorov complexity. Why should I? It’s not like its even been addressed in this thread and again, I don’t want to go off on another Tangent but, it reminds me of other “Complexity” claims. I mean, Dawkins tried to do something similar ( Yes I know its different too) when he claimed that if the Universe had to be designed due to complexity, o did God. Dawkins argument fails because he presumes God is complex, in the same sense the Argument from Design says, when the Truth is that a Non-Corporeal being with no moving parts is not complex. So Dawkins foundational criticism is wrong. Well, so is yours. There is no real reason to see God’s existence as really all that much more complex than anything else in terms of probability. Why should I?

As to evidence for Theism, this isn’t exactly the Thread where that would; be expected but I find it disingenuous to say no evidence has been supplied given the sheer amount of Evidence debated routinely in Academia. While I am not saying Atheism is itself utterly Irrational, its sheer stupidity to think that no Evidence exists at all for Theism when you can readily go to any Library and find a great many books that shows you evidence. You may not be convinced of it, but it is there, and it is sufficient for Rational Warrant.

The “Icing” though…well by Luke’s Arguments the Icing is best off the Cake, since it’s a very bad Icing, rendering the Cake inedible.

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PDH November 7, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Zar wrote,

PDH, Bayesian Methods don’t make the case for Theism worse. If they did, why do Bayesian Theologians exist? Or Bayesian Philosophers who believe in God?

Numerous reasons. Wrong priors, ignoring evidence, using Bayes in some specific cases but not as a general epistemology etc. I didn’t say that everybody used it equally well. For example, I’ve seen Richard Swinburne, a very intelligent fellow, give God a prior of 0.5!

Which is blatantly absurd and the main point of contention. You’re focusing once again on Bayes Theorem, when there is much more to this issue than that alone, important as it is.

There is no reason for us to assume Luke has actually Tested his Atheism against Bayes [...]

Yeah, there is. He’s written about it many times.

… and even if he had no real Reason to believe his conclusions are the only ones someone can arrive at. And that’s the point, you make an A Priori Assumption that Theism is Illogical before you start, and that will in the end colour the entire process, rendering it unreliable.

You’re slipping back into logic again. We’re talking about evidence. Prior information is not the same as ‘A Priori’ knowledge.

Also, this is not me attacking my opponents rather than his Arguments, this topic is about how Luke thinks. The entire subject matter is about how reliable and Rational he and his Less Wrong Club are. If I don’t question his ability to arrive at Truth via dispassionate Reason or his Ability to rid himself of Biases, then there is no discussion at all.

I didn’t say it was always invalid but your focus on character assassination has led you to make several mistakes in this debate. Such as, in this case, acting like Luke’s original reasons for rejecting theism are the same as his current reasons.

Also, PDH, no, not really; I don’t think God has a High Kolmogorov complexity. Why should I? It’s not like its even been addressed in this thread [...]

But it has been addressed by Luke on several occasions in the past and he has cited it as his main reason for thinking that theism is false. So, if you want to show that Luke is being unreasonable to reject theism, you have to show that his reasons for doing so are inadequate, which in this case means demonstrating that God’s Kolmogorov complexity is not as high as he claims that it is.

and again, I don’t want to go off on another Tangent but, it reminds me of other “Complexity” claims. I mean, Dawkins tried to do something similar ( Yes I know its different too) when he claimed that if the Universe had to be designed due to complexity, o did God. Dawkins argument fails because he presumes God is complex, in the same sense the Argument from Design says, when the Truth is that a Non-Corporeal being with no moving parts is not complex. So Dawkins foundational criticism is wrong. Well, so is yours. There is no real reason to see God’s existence as really all that much more complex than anything else in terms of probability. Why should I?

You say that it reminds you of Dawkins’ argument but then concede that it is a very different concept. However, you still seem to act as if a refutation of Dawkins’ argument (which, btw, Luke has explicitly criticised on several occasions on this site) is a refutation of the other, when of course it isn’t anything of the sort.

The main reason for thinking that God’s Kolmogorov complexity is monstrously high is that God is conceived of as an intelligent being and intelligence is literally the most complex thing in the known universe. If you were to write your hypothesis out as a computer program, the program would be ludicrously huge. To assert that intelligence is simple is to utter nonsense but to get rid of intelligence reduces theism to uselessness.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with the metaphysical complexity of God and it makes no difference how many moving parts there are or if He’s non-corporeal or anything like that. It is purely a matter of Kolmogorov complexity.

As to evidence for Theism, this isn’t exactly the Thread where that would; be expected but I find it disingenuous to say no evidence has been supplied given the sheer amount of Evidence debated routinely in Academia.

I find it disingenuous to imply that I had said ‘no evidence’ has been supplied when what I actually said was that sufficient evidence had not been supplied.

The point of asking for evidence is to show that your hypothesis is more plausible than its rivals. There is no magic bar which must be reached at which point one attains ‘Rational Warrant,’ there is only a probability distribution. Suppose one hypothesis has a probability of 0.1, another of 0.6 and a third of 0.3 and these are mutually exclusive and exhaustive. Well, in that case a Bayesian is 10% sure that the first hypothesis is true, 60% sure that the second hypothesis is true and 30% sure that the third is true.

To quote someone more from your preferred timeframe, “When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should have really happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of the testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.”

So, evidence would have to be something for which there is not a simpler, more probable explanation than theism and there would have to be enough of it to overcome the minuscule prior.

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Zar-The Brain Guy November 7, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Ror, for one who disparages the Bible, you also serve to prove it contains Great Truth. In proverbs 18:2, it says the following:: A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.: That’s you.

Really, tossing about words like Zombie to describe a resurrected Jesus just shows how you can repeat juvenile Idiocy and can’t even get your horror monsters correct. By the way, a Zombie is still dead. A Zombie by definition is a walking corpse. A Zombie is not a resurrected person who is now fully alive. Being restored to life from the Dead is not becoming a Zombie. If your too shallow and simple to bother to even check that fact, how reliable are the rest of your comments? You clearly think you can just list things out and say “see that’s not rational’, but that’s not how civilised and educated Adults commence with dialogue.

Of course you are not a Civilised and Educated Adult.

You think saying that if you were not rational you’d be a Theist as if that’s cute. But it’s really only further proof of how absolutely abysmal your critical thinking is. You basically assume that being an Atheist, on its own, all by itself, proves you are rational, as if the test of whether or not someone is rational rests solely on if they believe in God. Do you realise how foolish that is? Not only do rational people believe in God, but there are Irrational Atheists. its absurd to think ones personal belief on one topic defines them as Rational or Irrational.

You clearly know nothing of the Bible and want to simply berate ir using simplistic cartoonish representations, which somehow you think makes you seem automatically cleaver.

Then again, you can’t really grasp law either and it’s the same simplistic standard. So if you reply again, I won’t even entertain this notion, but reveal to you the Truth of my entire argument. I shouldn’t need to as I’ve gone over it at length above with the much more astute PDH who at least has not bothered to engage in the legal Arguments on Homosexuality as he’s realised that this was never the Issue. But I’ll for this current time address these with you here.

It’s not morally offensive to you because you think you would be forced to watch it, but because you oppose to the actions they perform. By renting them a room to facilitate a morally reprehensible relationship you become complicit in it.
If you have firm moral convictions and sincere belief that Homosexual conduct is harmful to the participants, then refusal of participation in said conduct by facilitating it is really not about denial of Civil Rights, its about exercising your own Moral Conscience and living in accordance to your own convictions.
As to what you would do with Skinheads, Great, but that’s you. Why should someone else have to be like you?

Incredible. Why dont you do that?That is, if you are okay with being sued. I am sure you would be a hell of a hotel manager, in refusing to give a room for everyone who have a different life style and who doesnt share the same ideologies than you.

This also highlights why you aren’t rational and is right up there with assuming that if you oppose Homosexual acts you must be motivated by Hatred of gay People.

let me bullet point it for you.

1: There is a difference between being strongly morally opposed to something specific, and turning down everyone who disagrees with you. Only an idiot thinks that if someone would, say, turn down Skinheads from a Hotel that he will only accept people who have the same Lifestyle and ideals as he does. It may well be that many people of many lifestyles, religion, and practice frequently rent rooms from him. You have no Logical reason to assume that refusing Skinheads means he’d refuse Jehovah’s Witnesses. The whole basis of your claim is therefore flawed.

You forget to take into account that strong moral opposition to something is not the same thing as simple disagreement. Without the ability to make this distinction and the tendency to jump to an irrational conclusion that all people not like the Hotel owner must thus also be refused by him just further illustrates why you are not rational.

2: I know you’d be sued now, but I’m a Libertarian and don’t think that it’s Right. I think people should have the unquestionable Right to serve who they will, provided they own the place and its a Private Industry. No I do not extend this to Hospitals or other necessary Services. Yes the Police should protect all from harm, no Firemen should put out all Fires… but no one needs to stay in a bed and breakfast for a Holiday to survive. No one needs to be able to buy a Vanity Item form one particular shop.

I say let the owners make their own decisions.

3: Logic is when you take into accounts all known facts, not when you jump to unfounded conclusions based on extremism.

Now, as to this…

To date there are no actual indicators that there is a genetic component to Homosexuality. Nothing at all links it to genetics at all that we can actually show you. Most of the Internet sites that say there are such pieces of Evidence still rely on the Hammer studies from the 1990’s or a couple of other outdated ( and sometimes Fraudulent) peeves of already overturned research. Other than that no, I am not aware of it. As of right now we have no actual knowledge of the exact cause of Homosexuality.
Incidentally, we do have some reports of peoples Sexual preferences changing over Time, and its not likely to be as fixed as Political forces want it to be in anyone.

Your answer is foolish too.

Thats great. If it is just a arbitrary psychological condition, then why on earth there would be homossexuals at all? To suffer discrimination? Surely not.

1: I did not say it was Arbitrary.

2: People suffer from adverse psychological States all the Time that are not inherent or untreatable. IE, Depression, Post traumatic Stress Disorder, and Neurosis are all (usually) either Developmental or occur after severe Stresses or life experiences once one reaches Maturity. Homosexuality need not be Chosen in the same way we choose which clothes to wear when we wake up to still have Primarily Psychological roots as opposed to being Congenital.

3: if I have sated that we do not know the cause of Homosexuality, that mans we do not know he cause and all else past this is Speculation.

And that just show youre ingorance about the subject: we have, independent of hamer:
I’ve seen most of this before; I used Hammer as a single example of why junk science is used often online.


-Differences in the average size of INAH-3 of gay from heterossexual(http://members.aol.com/slevay/hypothalamus.pdf)

Lavays work was already discredited. he didn’t even have proper controls set up and some of the cadavers he tested were only Presumed Homosexual. There have been no reported duplications of Lavays work. Lavay was also suspected of Bias given he is a gay Rights campaigner.

but even he said his work didn’t show Homosexuality to be Genetic c or innate.

From Wikipedia. yes its not reliable either but moreso than what you presented.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_LeVay
LeVay’s finding was widely reported in the media.[3] LeVay cautioned against misinterpreting his findings in a 1994 interview: “It’s important to stress what I dind’t find. I did not prove that homosexuality is genetic, or find a genetic cause for being gay. I dind’t show that gay men are born that way, the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work. Nor did I locate a gay center in the brain. The INAH3 is less likely to be the sole gay nucleus of the brain than a part of a chain of nuclei engaged in men and women’s sexual behavior.”[4] Some critics of LeVay questioned the accuracy and appropriateness of his measurements, saying that the structures are difficult to see in tissue slices and that he measured in volume rather than cell count.[5] Nancy Ordover wrote in her 2003 book American Eugenics that LeVay has been criticized for “his small sample size and for compiling inadequate sexual histories.”[6]

We don’t know that his results were valid, Not that it’d matter since we also know from the brain studies we have for over 50 years now that brain Tissues can reshape themselves according to how they are used. A Fighter Pilot has several differences in his Brain tot hat of an Average Man, including the Hypothalamus, but no one thinks he was born a Natural Fighter Pilot. Even if Lavay’s tests were verified, how would you go about proving that the Smaller Hypothalamus in some men was inherent from birth and not the result of the Homosexuality?


-Different reactions to fluoxetine(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006899304011473)

OK, this ones (finally) new to me. But I don’t see how Anti-Depressant behaviour is going to prove Homosexuality is innate. Anti-Depressants, fluoxetine is an ingredient in many by the way, react differently in mentally healthy people and the chronically depressed, and different in Pipolars than in PTSD. What would that prove even if True, exactly? That homosexuals have different neural connections and perhaps brain chemistry? We’d expect that anyway, just as they behave differently than heterosexuals. That doesn’t prove its innate though./


-Differences in the response to AND and to EST(http://www.pnas.org/content/102/20/7356)

wow…what a revelation…Homosexuals are attracted to different Pheromones. Wouldn’t that be necessary in order to be Homosexual though? It still doesn’t prove that those responses are Genetically derived.


This is just to quote a few of Neurobiological differences between gay an a non gay brain,

Except some of them aren’t Neurological and some of the gay symptoms exist in nongay brains, especially the uncertain reaction to fluoxetine. Given how the Brain itself can be reshaped and rewired dependant on how it is used, most of these tests really only show normative variations we’d expect from someone who behaves differently since the Brain would have to fashion itself in a specific way in order to actually make engagement in these behaviours normal. It doesn’t prove the Brain came that way Pre-Packaged.

wich suggest homossexualityis alittle more than strictly psyco disorder.

No, because the same thing can be said of Brains of people suffering Post traumatic Stress Disorder, Neurosis, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Chronic Depression, and a host of other maladies that can quiet readily develop over Time and need no special genetic Explanative added to them.

I mean, by this Logic we may as well believe that a Soldier who went off to war and now has Trouble functioning due to high Anxiety Rates and constant flashbacks was “Born that way’ because his Hypothalamus, Forebrain, and Midbrain will all react differently than a Normal Brain would. Do you even know how the Brain works?
This is the work of Evidence that the media eats up and the man on the Street is Awed by, but I’ve studied Psychology for nearly five years now and this is meaningless garbage. Its what we’d expect from any behavioural pattern, the Brain has to reconfigure to make the behaviour even possible to carry out on a regular basis. Even learning to write your name with a Pencil changes the shape of your Brain.

Are you really this unaware of the Science behind all this?

While I’m not saying that the above proves Homosexuality is not Innate, I am saying that there is no Evidence that it is innate and what you’ve presented here is just not supportive of your conclusions.

Twin Studies however are indicative that its not, at least, totally genetic since more Identical Twins with one Gay Sibling find the other Straight, than both Gay.

You left that one out. If Homosexuality were purely Genetic we’d expect a least a 90% correlation, not a 45% at best. And that’s with volunteer sampling with a high possibility of selection Bias.

Not to quote the impact of the exposure to testosterone in sexuality(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prenatal_hormones_and_sexual_orientation)

You do now that this is still an unproven Theory, right?


Morever, even if it is, does that justify discrimination? Surly not.

But we discriminate all the Time. Again, what about Smokers? If the Bed and Breakfast did not allow Smoking on their Premises, would that not be Discrimination? And guess what, Smokers brains look different and react differently too. There are even studies that show a Smokers Brian reacts differently to fluoxetine.

Homosexuality is behaviour, which is not likely to be Purely Genetic. It may have no Genetic component at all. It’s not really something that one can’t find Moral opposition to. The idea that all Rational people must accept Homosexuality is a modern Cultural Trait, not one based on disinterested Logic.

Now, I said this…”I still wonder if you even know what the original point of this illustration was though. Nonetheless you prove why I don’t buy the Rationality Argument. Anyone can claim to be rational, including those who clearly aren’t like you.”

You said…in Bold this Time…
Sure, we have been arguing about two different subjects. Regarding the rational discussion, we have reached an impass: Are questions of aplied ethics worthy of rationable avaluations? Evidently yes, if you are a moral realist. So i can say you are irrational in not giving a room for gays just as i can say you are irrational in not believing in special relativity. If you cant even understand that, then the conversation is over.

But what’s the actual Basis for even assuming Homosexuality can’t be Rationally opposed on Moral Grounds? Your evidence that it’s Genetic was shot to Hell. You have no basis for the claim that its innate, and no reason to think someone is Irrational for following their own Deeply Held Moral Views beyond personal, and ultimately subjective personal opinion. You only think that makes you a Moral Realist because you read it in Sam Harris’s book, but he’s not even a Realist as he can’t see the glaring flaws to his Theory.

You aren’t a realist either, just as you aren’t really Rational.

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ZAR November 7, 2011 at 5:57 pm

PDH, when I mention names you say it doesn’t matter yet you do.

But let me ask, without naming names, why should I take a very intelligent fellow at his word when he gives the Probability of God a 0.5%? What did he base this on other than being an Intelligent follow? Another Intelligent fellow who shall remain nameless created a mathematical Evidence for Gods existence, and yet another really intelligent fellow who use to be an Atheist recently became a Deist.

I don’t buy the argument that people reject God’s existence because there is no Evidence, and I don’t buy Luke only remaining an Atheists because of Logic either, or that his Initial reasons for becoming an Atheists are entirely based upon nothing but unassailable Logic. The whole point is that you are starting with a Bias. You want Atheism to be True, and thus use Logic to create a Probability Equation in which God becomes highly Improbable. But someone else can do the same thing and make God’s existence nearly assured. I’m not convinced either way, because I know full well that you can create AN ARGUMNT FOR ANYTHING, AND EVEN THE MOST Rational and Logical of Minds can create Probability Charts that only serve their own Vanity and special Interests. I see no real Reason why I should think that there is not sufficient evidence for Gods existence simply because you said so, or someone who is a rather intelligent chap who shall remain nameless said so, or Luke said so. It’s all rather like Rorshacks fluoxetine. Addiction. I jest of course, I don’t know if he’s on the stuff for real but he starts with the desire to prove Homosexuality is Innate and so cobbles together selective Evidence, or rather believes in what he finds on the net that tells him what he wants to Hear. To him, it seems apparent. Homosexuality must be Genetic, Science has even said so. But so someone whose studied the Brain, his evidence is lacking. As someone whose been in the Hallowed Halls of Academia, I also know that assurances from Logic based on people who have vested or personal interest in the Question is dubious.

I don’t believe the Probability of God’s existence is as low as 0.5%. I don’t think he who shall not be named is unbiased and I think he created his Calculations based on his own Assumptions, with a desired outcome in Mind. I feel that he simply structured the Equation in such a way as to reach the desired effect. Can you prove me wrong?

Why should I take Luke’s word for it that his system is Free of Biases and leads to Truth and that he is not subject to manipulating the System to simply verify his own preferred view on the World?

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PDH November 7, 2011 at 6:49 pm

It has nothing to do with the way that the equation is structured. If by ‘equation’ you mean Bayes’ Theorem, I likely don’t disagree with Swinburne on that. The point of contention is the prior probability that we assign to theism.

To say that God has a probability of 0.5 is to say that you have enough discriminating information (i.e. evidence) to raise the hypothesis to a probability of 0.5.

Just by looking at the other possibilities consistent with the same evidence (simple scientific world descriptions like the Standard Model + gravity or String theory all the way up to equivalent hypotheses like an Evil God) we can see that it can’t have a probability of 1/2 until such a time as these hypotheses are ruled out by discriminating evidence. If there were, say, a million other possibilities and literally no reason to prefer any one over the others then the probability would be 1 in a million, in other words we should assign a probability of 999,999 in a 1,000,000 to it being false. However, there is very good reason to think that theism is especially implausible because of its Kolmogorov complexity.

The prior should be much lower than 0.5.

Then we look at the evidence for and against, such as Evil, resurrection accounts etc.

Which is all to say that there are reasons for assigning certain priors, one cannot simply choose any numbers that one wants. Remember, every time you believe in something you are disbelieving in something else. To say that a theistic world description has a probability of 0.5 is to say that its competitors can’t possibly have a probability > 0.5. If it has a probability of 0.6, then the probability of its competitors all told can’t be more than 0.4 and so on. Other people will want to know why you are saying that their hypotheses are probably false.

Assertions don’t exist in a vacuum, they have logical relationships with mutually exclusive assertions. In other words, they can’t all be right.

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ZAROVE November 7, 2011 at 10:20 pm

PDH, I’ve always found Probability Formulas rather poor indicators on questions like the existence of God, simply because they aren’t based on Anything. How do you chart this Probability, exactly? DO you compare Universal Systems Created by a god and contrast them to those which weren’t? On what actual facts is the Equation based?

You say that all existing evidence suggests other answers than God, but what Evidence? How is that even measured? What are you saying is explained better by something else but God? You mention yet again Kolmogorov complexity, but haven’t even bothered to define “God”, which is a likely better starting point. Why does God’s Kol Complexity seem to Great to you, exactly?

I wager you have no real Answer. In fact I’d wager you don’t know much Theology. I bet this is based entirely on a Caricature of God held by certain Atheists who think refuting God should be easy. Perhaps not as horribly Garish as “Sky Daddy” but not better by a vast degree. That’s why I doubt that the Probability Equation that shows God is only 0.5 likely is just not all that impressive. Its likely formulated on several assumptions that themselves aren’t proven True and perhaps even some wrong ones.

If the person who formulates the Probability Argument is an Atheist before he begins it, and if he is the same sort of Atheist as Luke or you who have invested a good deal of Time in trying to debunk Theism, then why should we not suspect that the Equations are simply an attempt to give Greater Authority to ones own beliefs? Why believe that the Equations are actually impartially Drawn up?

Further, if I am correct and simple things like God are disdained or Assumptions that are not Facts are treated as Facts, that later end up wrong, the Probability Equation itself becomes simply useless.

So why should I Trust it? What is it based on Really?

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joseph November 8, 2011 at 1:19 am

@PDH & Zar
hankyou both for answering me.

My interpretation is something like this.

Zar says L.W.Rationility* can lead to contradictary conclusions, if prior information is different. PDH shares this view, but says a) there are numerous checks and balances to reduce the likelihood of this b) as knowledge increases the situation improves.

Zar does not offer an alternative methodology, suggesting that though it’s not perfect, it may still be the best around (or be built upon).

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PDH November 8, 2011 at 10:43 am

So why should I Trust it? What is it based on Really?

It’s based on maths, ultimately. That and the logical relationships between propositions. A and not-A can’t both be true at the same time, so if A has a probability of 1 then not-A must have a probability of 0. If A is 0.7 then not-A can’t be more than 0.3. So, if the plausibility of one hypothesis is raised, it affects the others.

PDH, I’ve always found Probability Formulas rather poor indicators on questions like the existence of God, simply because they aren’t based on Anything.How do you chart this Probability, exactly? DO you compare Universal Systems Created by a god and contrast them to those which weren’t? On what actual facts is the Equation based?

You say that all existing evidence suggests other answers than God, but what Evidence? How is that even measured?

Evidence is something that you would expect to see if a hypothesis is true but wouldn’t expect to see if it was false. Bayes’ Theorem allows us to measure exactly how strong the evidence is, provided we have certain information.

For a more detailed discussion, see http://yudkowsky.net/rational/bayes

Or look at the some of the example uses in the wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayes%27_theorem

What are you saying is explained better by something else but God?You mention yet again Kolmogorov complexity, but haven’t even bothered to define “God”, which is a likely better starting point. Why does God’s Kol Complexity seem to Great to you, exactly?

Well, if you define God as an intelligent being then intelligence is the most complex thing known to man, so that’s that.

If you don’t define God as an intelligent being it’s hard to see how to distinguish the hypothesis from any other naturalistic hypothesis. I mean, suppose that the universe emerged from some kind of unintelligent, non-contingent aether. This would just be a scientific hypothesis like any other (scientists believed in a kind of aether prior to Einstein, for example).

Theism ultimately has to distinguish itself from hypotheses like that one.

I wager you have no real Answer. In fact I’d wager you don’t know much Theology. I bet this is based entirely on a Caricature of God held by certain Atheists who think refuting God should be easy. Perhaps not as horribly Garish as “Sky Daddy” but not better by a vast degree. That’s why I doubt that the Probability Equation that shows God is only 0.5 likely is just not all that impressive. Its likely formulated on several assumptions that themselves aren’t proven True and perhaps even some wrong ones.

The prior probability of God should be vastly less than 0.5. That was the ridiculously high prior chosen by a theologian.

If it can be shown that it is grossly implausible that an intelligent being created the universe, that would take care of basically all the theistic views I’m interested in. Even deism would perish. There are some conceptions of theism that I don’t care to refute, of course, such as pantheism, which I regard as basically just a fancy name for naturalism. Write it out as a world description and it would look pretty much the same.

But if you’re not talking about an ontologically special, intelligent being then you’re not talking about the kind of God I’m trying to refute, so I don’t really care. Again, if you want to call it God, that’s fine, so long as you then spell out what it is that you actually believe in. Maybe I disbelieve that, as well, but I wouldn’t call it God unless it has at least those properties that I have mentioned.

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ZAROVE November 8, 2011 at 11:18 am

But, PDH, how do you know what an Intelligent Agent would do if said Agent could Create the Universe? Why does the Universe seem more like its not the product of Intelligence, exactly? What result would you expect from intelligence that you don’t expect from nonintelligence when it comes to defining the Rules of reality that the intelligence is suppose to Author?

Further, wouldn’t the expectation of how design of the Universe should be also be contingent on what said Intelligence wanted to do? I mean, if the Intelligence simply wanted a Universe in which everything worked smoothly and without much variation, if any, then perhaps you have a point, but what if the Intelligence wanted to create a Universe that allowed for Random Chance and a good deal of deviation?

Plus, as we have no experience with laws of Physics other than the laws in our own, real universe, how can we say that an intelligent being would be expected to have done something different than we see?

I don’t see how you can base the probability of God’s Existence on our observed facts and claim its more probable that there is no intelligence behind it, because you still have to create a rather lengthy chain of suppositions about how you think someone else should have done something which in turn is based on what you think said intelligences motive must have been. If God didn’t even bother planning out the Universe till he decided to make Man and just made this stuff for the Hell of it, we’d see a lot of the usual objections many Atheists online raise disappear in regards to this Topic, for example.

Given that we can’t really say that other laws of Physics would be better or that our laws are not what an intelligence would have produced, and given that we have to speculate on God’s Motive for creating the Universe in the First Place, as well as grapple with our own limitations on Knowledge and incapacity to see things from his rather not Human perspective, I really find any Mathematical Equation that purports probability of God’s Existence that rest son what “ought’ have been done if the Universe was intelligently Designed ( no Pun intended) to be dubious.

Of course the same applies to these sorts of arguments for Gid’s existance. We can’t use the Universe as it exists now as a base and say “it woudl have been liek this if God existed”, nor the reverse, “It would be liek this if God didn’t”, its just arbitrary and based on our own expectations and frames odf references, which suffer fromt he fact that this is the Only Univrse we’ve ever seen. We raly don’t know what “ought” to be in it and what “ought” to not.

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PDH November 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm

If the hypothesis is that vague then there can’t be any evidence for it, either, as this would require you to have knowledge of how you expect God to behave. Which means that your hypothesis makes no testable predictions and doesn’t explain anything.

But it was more the complexity of the hypothesis that I was interested in, which has a bearing on its prior probability. The posterior probability is what you end up with after you’ve looked at the evidence. That’s what Bayes’ Theorem tells you. If nothing that we could possibly observe would be evidence against God then nothing that we possibly observe would be evidence for Him, either (this is another consequence of Bayes).

For example, why would you think that God would make a universe? One explanation sometimes offered is that God loves His creations and so wants to build a universe for them to live in. Well, love is an extremely complicated emotion that is a part of human psychology and if we wrote it out as a computer program it would be a fairly huge program. So, you might say, ‘well, OK, maybe God doesn’t love.’ But then,

a) This negates a hugely important aspect of most theology (with some Christians, for example, going as far as to say that God is love) and means that one of God’s main attributes, His omni-benevolence is false. This would be enough to show that mainstream theism is false in and of itself. (Although, it is deeply bizarre that the creator of the universe would have this aspect of human psychology that evolved in a species of primates, 13.7 billion years into the life of the universe on one pale blue dot, largely as a consequence of sexual reproduction. God is bodiless, he has no sexual organs, no brain and there is no-one with whom He could mate. Why would He have love? Or jealousy? Or anger? These are all highly complex and rare phenomena but theism depends on God being able to do things like this. And that’s just one aspect of intelligence. To say that God is not intelligent at all is to say that He isn’t God by any of the usual standards under discussion.)

…and…

b) You then have no explanation for why God made the universe, which was supposed to be one of the things that theism explains. But we now have no reason to expect that any one thing as opposed to any other will occur on theism, rendering it effectively useless as a hypothesis.

So, it’s a dilemma. If you say that God is intelligent then you end up with staggeringly high Kolmogorov complexity AND you then have to explain things like Evil and the Scale Problem etc. If you say that He doesn’t have intelligence, then theism becomes just an unneeded additional hypothesis that explains nothing. Furthermore, as I said before, it’s no longer God in the sense that I mean and I’ve basically succeeded in refuting the hypothesis against which I was arguing.

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ZAROVE November 8, 2011 at 1:31 pm

PDH, you are now confusing my doubt on any extant probability Equation with me saying there is no Evidence or the concept we are discussing, in this case God, is too Vauge. I’m not saying that art all, I’, saying that you can’t use an Equation to determine the Probability of God’s existence considering that God would be a Foundational item. If God created the Universe and all else is contingent on God’s creative Act, then we are products of that same Act, even if it was just an initial creative Act, have no outside frame of Reference from which to draw up the probability of existence without it. You have the same Problem with any model that states the Universe got Started by purely Naturalistic means with no creator at the Helm. There is no external frame of Reference that we can use to gauge the probability of the event we are ourselves dependant on in order to have observations in the First Place.

Or, in other words, we can’t gauge the Probability that the Universe was formed by this process instead o f that process because as the products of said Process with no observational Data from something that was not the product of it we are limited in our perception to the end result only.

I also don’t think Love is all that Complex, nor do I think that Complexity alone is an argument against God. I don’t even buy the idea that Theism is unnecessary if God is unintelligent. If God has no Intelligence at all and is simply the name of the Overall Laws of Nature, God is still God and is, in that case, the very subject of the Natural Sciences. To say God is unimportant after identifying God as the name applied to the Universe as a Whole and the Laws that Govern it makes the Universe and the Study of said Laws meaningless and unnecessary.

It just seems you want to work too hard to make Atheism seem the Most Rational, or perhaps only Rational conclusion, and these arguments become Overwrought precisely because of this.

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PDH November 8, 2011 at 2:21 pm

PDH, you are now confusing my doubt on any extant probability Equation with me saying there is no Evidence or the concept we are discussing, in this case God, is too Vauge. I’m not saying that art all, I’, saying that you can’t use an Equation to determine the Probability of God’s existence considering that God would be a Foundational item. If God created the Universe and all else is contingent on God’s creative Act, then we are products of that same Act, even if it was just an initial creative Act, have no outside frame of Reference from which to draw up the probability of existence without it. You have the same Problem with any model that states the Universe got Started by purely Naturalistic means with no creator at the Helm. There is no external frame of Reference that we can use to gauge the probability of the event we are ourselves dependant on in order to have observations in the First Place.

Or, in other words, we can’t gauge the Probability that the Universe was formed by this process instead o f that process because as the products of said Process with no observational Data from something that was not the product of it we are limited in our perception to the end result only.

You don’t need an ‘outside frame of reference’ to talk about probability on the Bayesian interpretation of probability. It is the rules that govern good reasoning and how likely it is that our hypotheses are correct given the information available to us. We always have limited information and we can always assign probabilities based on that information.

The less information we have about the system, the greater the information entropy will be and the less probable theism will become as there will then be trillions of rival hypotheses with which it must compete. The only way to rescue theism from this is to provide enough discriminating information (i.e. evidence) to show that theism is more plausible than all of the other mutually exclusive hypotheses.

I also don’t think Love is all that Complex, nor do I think that Complexity alone is an argument against God.

You don’t think that love is complex because you are not conscious of the cognitive processes that produce it. Try programming a machine to do it. In fact, ask anyone in AI how hard it is to program an intelligent machine and how large the program would likely have to be to get a sense of the complexity of intelligence.

I don’t even buy the idea that Theism is unnecessary if God is unintelligent. If God has no Intelligence at all and is simply the name of the Overall Laws of Nature, God is still God and is, in that case, the very subject of the Natural Sciences. To say God is unimportant after identifying God as the name applied to the Universe as a Whole and the Laws that Govern it makes the Universe and the Study of said Laws meaningless and unnecessary.

A theist whose conception of God is equivalent to ‘the laws of nature’ is called a naturalist. You have essentially just conceded that we’re right. This is why I don’t bother trying to refute pantheism as it is just another name for what I already believe.

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Rorschach November 8, 2011 at 2:29 pm

You think saying that if you were not rational you’d be a Theist as if that’s cute. But it’s really only further proof of how absolutely abysmal your critical thinking is. You basically assume that being an Atheist, on its own, all by itself, proves you are rational, as if the test of whether or not someone is rational rests solely on if they believe in God. Do you realise how foolish that is? Not only do rational people believe in God, but there are Irrational Atheists. its absurd to think ones personal belief on one topic defines them as Rational or Irrational.

It may not be a sufficient condition for rationality, but surely is a necessary one.

You clearly know nothing of the Bible and want to simply berate ir using simplistic cartoonish representations, which somehow you think makes you seem automatically cleaver.

I dont need to read the bible entirely to aprehend that its a lot of mythological supersticious bullshit. Again, I can debate kalam, leibniz, fine tuning and divine command theory, but i refuse to belive that anyone can take seriously a book written by ignorant ancient people who had no idea of how the world works.

I did not say it was Arbitrary.

2: People suffer from adverse psychological States all the Time that are not inherent or untreatable. IE, Depression, Post traumatic Stress Disorder, and Neurosis are all (usually) either Developmental or occur after severe Stresses or life experiences once one reaches Maturity. Homosexuality need not be Chosen in the same way we choose which clothes to wear when we wake up to still have Primarily Psychological roots as opposed to being Congenital.

Well, if it is not arbitrary, that sums up my point. They didnt chose to become homossexuals, remember that this is a conter argument. Its just as irrational to discrimate someone by race as it is by discriminating by a non arbitrary psycological condition. So, are you saying that we should discriminate then just because they have a different behavorial pattern? And that they should try to change who they are? Well, i may not be rational, but you, zeb, is morally bankrupt.

But what’s the actual Basis for even assuming Homosexuality can’t be Rationally opposed on Moral Grounds? Your evidence that it’s Genetic was shot to Hell. You have no basis for the claim that its innate, and no reason to think someone is Irrational for following their own Deeply Held Moral Views beyond personal, and ultimately subjective personal opinion. You only think that makes you a Moral Realist because you read it in Sam Harris’s book, but he’s not even a Realist as he can’t see the glaring flaws to his Theory.

Yes, i knew you were not a moral realist. Why should it be opposed? Why it is right to discriminate? The burden of proof is on you. There is no good reason to oppose it.
Religious people are by far the most intolerant and homophobic persons that i have ever encoutered. Its funny how the same people that follow the love your neighboor commandment are the first to be homophobic. Look, we are more evolved than that stupid supersticious book.

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ZAR November 8, 2011 at 2:32 pm

PDH, I hold now a masters in Psychology and will have a Doctorate in a year or Two, I don’t need lectures in regards to thought processes.

That still doesn’t make Love complex though, it makes it complex to process, and there is a distinction. I also don’t think you know quiet what Love actually is.

Just like you don’t know what your talking about in terms of Naturalism and your claim that I just conceded that God is meaningless. No I didn’t. I didn’t even say that this was my own View. I also don’t think you understand pantheism. Not all Pantheists believe God is unintelligent, for example.

Its pretty clear that you have a fatal flaw in your thinking that leads to to try to reduce everything down to your own view, and that you lack any subtle understanding of anyone’s beliefs outside of your own conclusions.

This brings me back to my complaint, as it seems to me you simply use the idea that you use Bayes theorem and whatever else and therefore must be simply dispassionate in seeking the Truth and are merely analysing the Evidence impartially. It’s obvious you don’t and the way you even understand the Evidence is Biased in favour of a certain viewpoint you hold.

It also doesn’t change the fact that Probability can only be measured between two or more competing claims if we have seen examples of how things work. We have never seen the origin of the Universe before, and have nothing to compare it to. How can one Hypothetical Model on an unprovable and unobservable event be more likely than another? And what’s the basis for comparison with something we’ve never experienced anyway? I mean, how do you go about establishing Probability when you can’t even comprehend the alternatives?

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PDH November 8, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Zar wrote,

PDH, I hold now a masters in Psychology and will have a Doctorate in a year or Two, I don’t need lectures in regards to thought processes.

That still doesn’t make Love complex though, it makes it complex to process, and there is a distinction.

It makes it complex to describe in terms of probability theory. The fact that one can earn a doctorate in psychology in the first place ought to be an indication of how complex psychology is.

Just like you don’t know what your talking about in terms of Naturalism and your claim that I just conceded that God is meaningless. No I didn’t. I didn’t even say that this was my own View.

Let me amend the statement slightly: if all that you mean by God is a set of natural laws then your beliefs are equivalent to those of naturalists.

So, if you are using that definition of theism, you have conceded that naturalism is true.

I also don’t think you understand pantheism. Not all Pantheists believe God is unintelligent, for example.

Undoubtedly, there are many different conceptions of pantheism. I was referring to naturalistic pantheism.

Its pretty clear that you have a fatal flaw in your thinking that leads to to try to reduce everything down to your own view, and that you lack any subtle understanding of anyone’s beliefs outside of your own conclusions.

I don’t see how that is the case at all.

Rather, my argument was presented as a dilemma. If you use a definition of God that appeals to intelligence or human-like psychology then you raise its Kolmogorov complexity and expose it to falsification. If you don’t, then you run the risk of failing to distinguish it from naturalism or providing an entirely useless hypothesis that makes no testable predictions and explains nothing.

This brings me back to my complaint, as it seems to me you simply use the idea that you use Bayes theorem and whatever else and therefore must be simply dispassionate in seeking the Truth and are merely analysing the Evidence impartially. It’s obvious you don’t and the way you even understand the Evidence is Biased in favour of a certain viewpoint you hold.

I don’t claim to be dispassionate or impartial. I claim that Bayesianism is an ideal to work towards.

It also doesn’t change the fact that Probability can only be measured between two or more competing claims if we have seen examples of how things work.

This is simply false. We are, all of us, always reasoning under uncertainty. The information is always limited and we can always assign probabilities. And there is always one, and only one, correct probability distribution given the information available to you at that moment. It may be difficult to work out but it is there.

Remember, we’re talking about the epistemic probability, the probability from our perspective, which depends on the information available to us. If there is virtually no information on the system, then that is bad news for theism.

We have never seen the origin of the Universe before, and have nothing to compare it to. How can one Hypothetical Model on an unprovable and unobservable event be more likely than another? And what’s the basis for comparison with something we’ve never experienced anyway? I mean, how do you go about establishing Probability when you can’t even comprehend the alternatives?

If there are a million mutually exclusive explanations and no reason to prefer any one over any other then the probability of a given explanation is one in a million, so we should conclude that it is almost certainly false. That’s what would happen if it really was the case that we knew absolutely nothing about the universe that is relevant to this situation. We w0uld be assigning a very small prior to theism until such a time as it distinguishes itself from the pack of possibilities.

But even in the absence of any evidence at all we know that simple hypotheses are more likely to be correct than complex ones.

Suppose that two aliens come down from outer space with no knowledge at all of human culture and they see a box of cereal. So, these creatures are in a similar situation to the one you describe. They have almost no relevant information (we assume for the sake of argument). Here is how they might proceed.

Alien One says, ‘I believe that there is some kind of nutritional substance in this box.’

Alien Two says, ‘I believe that there is some kind of nutritional substance and an argophorical splorg machine in this box.’

Now, it is more likely that Alien One is correct than it is that Alien Two is correct. Why? Because the second hypothesis contains all the same information as the first plus some other stuff. Alien Two has specified that not only must the box contain a nutritional substance but some kind of strange, alien device, as well. Every time you add specificity to a hypothesis its probability goes down.

This is why astrologers will say, ‘you will meet a tall, dark stranger,’ but they won’t say, ‘you will meet a man named Benedict Chester Worthington Snodgrass III at 4:23:42PM at the following co-ordinates…’

It’s too specific. Too many things all have to go right in order for it to be true. This is the mathematical basis for the principle of parsimony, which says that the simplest explanation that fits the data is more likely to be true. This is why.

And this is why the Kolmogorov complexity of the hypothesis is so vitally important.

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ZAR November 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Ror, I often wonder how you can say something like Religious People being the most Intolerant people you know with a Straight Face after bigotedly attacking the Bible based on what amounts to as Childish Taunts. I mean, how often do we have to be told that the people who write the Bible were ignorant and didn’t know how the world worked before we really get to ask, how do you know they didn’t? Literally every example of how they “Got it wrong” I’ve ever encountered was itself wrong. While you have not in my exchange with you stated the below example, I’d not be surprised if you believe it, or even if you use it later. But to illustrate my point, and not have to debate on it, I know you didn’t say this, however, many Times I’ve heard Atheists, Wiccans, and assorted persons who want to Criticise the Bible say that the Bible teaches that the Earth is Flat. This is of course not True and the supporting Evidence, such as Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream, are nonsense. And that’s just one example.

The Bible is a Collection of books by a Multitude of Authors, not a Single Book. How its read depends on which book you read in it. You cannot read the Book of Psalms in the same way you’d read the Book of Joshua, and cannot read Joshua like you would Ecclesiastes. The Books are too different.

All that said, its obvious to someone, like me, who has Read it that the Biblical Authors did understand the world they lived in, and the information does hold Value to Modern Readers. It is equally obvious that you have no Interest in anything other than depicting it as wholly useless based upon your own Ideological needs and wants. You have made the Bible a Target because it helps you think yourself superior and helps to provide you with an Identity, not because it actually is.

Your attack son it though are discriminatory and Prejudicial, and render your support for Homosexuality all the more Hypocritical.

This leads me to my second part of this. The purpose in discussing Homosexuality earlier was to show that Rational people can arrive at different conclusions. You of course are not Rational enough to even realise that and still can’t concede that a Rational person can Morally Oppose Homosexuality for a Variety of Reasons, and instead conflate your vies with “Being Rational’. You even think being an Atheist is necessary for being Rational, and by Atheist you don’t simply mean you don’t believe in God you include a host of other assumptions that you think defines being an Atheist.

That is the Epitome of being Irrational, and I would say that your Tacit support for Homosexuality is itself not Rationally based. All you are doing is promoting Homosexuality because it’s what your “Suppose” to do as n Atheist. You didn’t out any thought into it, and the arguments to support Gay Rights are sought after only after you have arrived at the conclusion.

Now, before I am misunderstood I am not saying all supporters of Homosexuality are Irrational, I am however saying you are not Rational and your support of Homosexuality is nit based on Reason.

I will now be using you as an illustration.

Whether Right or Wrong, ones thoughts can be Irrational. One can arrive at a Correct Conclusion but via Irrational Means, or be perfectly Rational and Wrong. Rationality only means that you can correct errors and are more likely to find the correct Answers.

In that way you provide a good illustration, just as you illustrate how people can dupe themselves into thinking they are Rational when all they are doing is being selective abut what they accept.

I mean, in your post you even conflate Arbitrary with Choice, and seem to assume that if Homosexuality is not a Choice like eating Eggs in the Morning or wearing a Blue Tie instead of a Red one it must be inherent. Do you even realise how Irrational and illogical that line of thought is? Its not like it’s a clear Black And White issue of it being purely chosen or Purely genetic, and that’s not how the Human mind works. In fact, the word “Arbitrary” doesn’t even mean “Choice’, it means that no real thought went into something and its picked basically at Random. Homosexuality CAN be a Choice like a Blue Tie instead of a Red one, and still not be Arbitrary if the man or woman who chooses Homosexuality did so intentionally and with forethought.

You can’t even get the basic terms right, much less see into the nuances of Human Thought. No, to you, Homosexuality is either Genetic and immutable, or it’s a Free Choice like using a Burger at McDonalds. That sort of oversimplistic thinking just can’t possibly be described as Purely Rational.

Incidentally we DO Discriminate based on Different behavioural patterns. What if I had a behavioural pattern that said I want to walk around naked? What if I liked to pull a Herman Cain and sexually harass women? What if I told you I enjoyed talking really loudly in Movie Theatres? Not only would I be discriminated against based on my behaviour, but people would actively try to change said behavioural patterns. Heck, as a Psychologist I’m suppose to work on change in behavioural Patterns in patients. You don’t even consider that aspect of your argument, which is nothing but an impassioned plea based on a mythology of victimhood borrowed from the Civil Rights Era.

Then again, you repeat how Hypocritical “Religious people” are by saying that they are the First to say Love Thy Neighbour then they end up Homophobic. You are still using that argument despite the fact that I’ve already addressed it and you haven’t countered the address. How is that Rational?

Why it is Rational to assume Moral opposition to Homosexuality must be base don Hatred? If its not base don Hatred, then how do those Religious People prove they are Hypocritical? If it’s not based on Hatred, then their opposition is not a Failure to Love their Neighbours. In fact, if they think the Homosexuality is harmful, then it’s a Moral Imperative to oppose it out of Love for those so afflicted by it. What you describe as Homophobia would thus in Reality be an expression of the very Love you deny they have. But you can’t even see past your own petty philosophical needs and self interested Ideology to grasp even that simple concept.

I fully expect you to try the bad Science in the future on someone else now as well, because we both know you won’t let a failed argument go.

By the way, it’d be nice to see you respond to the Science…

Which concludes this. You are not a realist, for you do not take into account the reality. You are simply a demagogue promoting a sectarian view and calling that Reality, irrespective of the Facts at hand.

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Zar November 8, 2011 at 3:45 pm

PDH, if you are not impartial or unbiased, then your biases will lead your application of Logic. You have just conceded my point.

And your comments about Astrology have just conceded my point about your narrow scope. Astrologers don’t tell you “you will meet a tall, dark stranger” rather than ‘you will meet a tall, dark stranger,’ but they won’t say, ‘you will meet a man named Benedict Chester Worthington Snodgrass III at 4:23:42PM at the following co-ordinates…’ I actually use to have an Astrology program on my Computer, and was fascinated by it, as I am in most Ancient things. I enjoy learning what use to be believed and why, and sometimes dabble in the now discredited Sciences, of which Astrology is one of the shinning examples with the longest and most illustrious History, and is the Great mother of the Modern Science of Astronomy.

The problem with learning is in this case though is that, I know for a fact that even in the Ancient World the Theory behind Astrology was never about making accurate predictions. Rather, Astrology was understood as simply the Stars aligning to create favourable conditions for something to happen, and thus increasing their likelihood. This is why on the advice of Astrologers, Kings knew when Merchant guilds would be favourable to tax increases or when the mood of an enemy army would be low as well as their fighting vigour, or when luck would favour his own army. But Astrologers never made accurate, detailed predictions, or even vague ones. They always limited themselves to “If you take this action now, while the Stars are Aligns, you should overcome your obstacles and be victorious because your peak energy is highest when Neptune and Mars Align”. That may sound like equal nonsense to you, but the theory is that the Universe is connected and predictable. Its less that the Stars give you power or influence you, but that they are signs that indicate when the flowers will be in bloom and when mens own power will ripen or sour, along with their fortunes.

The reason astrologers never give specific details is because the Theory itself forbids even vague ones, and vague ones show up only in Newspapers. Astrology only tells you when Optimal Times to act are, or if you are compatible with specific endeavours or with certain people. It was never meant to predict the future in an absolute and certain way.

This is not to say there was no predictive element to it, but the Ancients believed that the Future course of events was largely fated. Unlike today, they did not believe in Determinism or total free Will, but some combination of both. While you were free to make some choices, certain key events were destined, both for you personally and for the world in general, that could not be averted. Only how those events played out could be altered, not the events themselves. Its sort of like a Writer, who has a framework for a Story in mind. The Characters before he writes may still do anything, provided some specific events happen to them. Not all their actions are fixed, but some things are.

What does this have to do with the rest of the topic? Simple, your bias and lack of information on Astrology made Astrology less probable. While I’m not saying it is actually probably True now, I am saying that if I believed in Astrology your comments would not have given me pause to think about it. You were wrong about what its suppose to do, and do not understand its underlying Theory.

Given that none of us Understand the Creation of the Universe or how it “ought” to look in different circumstances, all I’m saying is that I doubt your equational use on Probability can be that effective.

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PDH November 8, 2011 at 5:44 pm

PDH, if you are not impartial or unbiased, then your biases will lead your application of Logic. You have just conceded my point.

That was never in question and, as I’ve said several times, nothing in my argument depends on it. No points have been conceded.

And your comments about Astrology have just conceded my point about your narrow scope. Astrologers don’t tell you “you will meet a tall, dark stranger” rather than ‘you will meet a tall, dark stranger,’ but they won’t say, ‘you will meet a man named Benedict Chester Worthington Snodgrass III at 4:23:42PM at the following co-ordinates…’ I actually use to have an Astrology program on my Computer, and was fascinated by it, as I am in most Ancient things. I enjoy learning what use to be believed and why, and sometimes dabble in the now discredited Sciences, of which Astrology is one of the shinning examples with the longest and most illustrious History, and is the Great mother of the Modern Science of Astronomy.

The problem with learning is in this case though is that, I know for a fact that even in the Ancient World the Theory behind Astrology was never about making accurate predictions. Rather, Astrology was understood as simply the Stars aligning to create favourable conditions for something to happen, and thus increasing their likelihood. This is why on the advice of Astrologers, Kings knew when Merchant guilds would be favourable to tax increases or when the mood of an enemy army would be low as well as their fighting vigour, or when luck would favour his own army. But Astrologers never made accurate, detailed predictions, or even vague ones. They always limited themselves to “If you take this action now, while the Stars are Aligns, you should overcome your obstacles and be victorious because your peak energy is highest when Neptune and Mars Align”. That may sound like equal nonsense to you, but the theory is that the Universe is connected and predictable. Its less that the Stars give you power or influence you, but that they are signs that indicate when the flowers will be in bloom and when mens own power will ripen or sour, along with their fortunes.

The reason astrologers never give specific details is because the Theory itself forbids even vague ones, and vague ones show up only in Newspapers. Astrology only tells you when Optimal Times to act are, or if you are compatible with specific endeavours or with certain people. It was never meant to predict the future in an absolute and certain way.

This is not to say there was no predictive element to it, but the Ancients believed that the Future course of events was largely fated. Unlike today, they did not believe in Determinism or total free Will, but some combination of both. While you were free to make some choices, certain key events were destined, both for you personally and for the world in general, that could not be averted. Only how those events played out could be altered, not the events themselves. Its sort of like a Writer, who has a framework for a Story in mind. The Characters before he writes may still do anything, provided some specific events happen to them. Not all their actions are fixed, but some things are.

What does this have to do with the rest of the topic? Simple, your bias and lack of information on Astrology made Astrology less probable. While I’m not saying it is actually probably True now, I am saying that if I believed in Astrology your comments would not have given me pause to think about it. You were wrong about what its suppose to do, and do not understand its underlying Theory.

Given that none of us Understand the Creation of the Universe or how it “ought” to look in different circumstances, all I’m saying is that I doubt your equational use on Probability can be that effective.

Zar, everything you just said was completely irrelevant. I made no comment whatsoever on whether or not astrology was true, it makes no difference to this debate. I compared one possible prediction that an astrologer might make with an another to illustrate a point about why more specific hypotheses are less likely to be true. The point being that such considerations suggest which priors to use in the absence of any other information.

You can take the word ‘astrologer’ out of that analogy entirely and just focus on the hypotheses themselves. One is more likely to be correct than the other. That’s all that matters.

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Zar November 8, 2011 at 6:02 pm

But my point is, you can’t make such a Probability Assessment in situatiosnthat require the whole of the matter to be utterly beyind our expeirnces. That is what woudl be required in the case of whether God exists, though.

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PDH November 8, 2011 at 6:28 pm

A probability assessment is always based on incomplete information. It would be useless otherwise since we are not omniscient. And if we were omniscient we wouldn’t need epistemology in the first place because we’d already know everything.

The whole point of Bayesian Epistemology is to show us how to reason under uncertainty. It tells us what probabilities to assign given the information available to us.

And given the information available to us we should be assigning a very low probability to the proposition that God exists.

Firstly, because we know that highly complex hypotheses are vastly less probable than simple ones.

Secondly, because even if we could not do this there are trillions of other non-theistic, mutually exclusive hypotheses that can’t be ruled out, either, and at most only one of them can be true. So, if we really have no other information that could raise the plausibility of the hypothesis we should again assume that it is almost certainly false. If you have a million mutually exclusive, equally plausible hypotheses then the probability that a given one is true is 1/1,000,000.

In other words, not only does saying that ‘God is utterly beyond our experiences’ prevent you from then raising its probability, the low probability derives from the lack of evidence in the first place. You need evidence to show why everybody else’s hypotheses are wrong and yours is right. If there’s no reason to prefer your hypothesis over the others, we have to split our probability mass evenly over all the possibilities, with the result that theism will end up with a minuscule prior. Evidence is the only thing that can save it from this fate, so I’d think twice before saying what you’ve just said.

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ZAROVE November 9, 2011 at 12:32 am

PDH, I also made no comment as to whether or not Astrology was true, only that you don’t understand it.

I studied it for Historical reasons, not because I am a devotee.

That said, why should we trust your mathematical formulaics on how God is not Probable? If you are Both Biased as to the conclusion you wish to arrive at and if at the same Time you do not know formal Theological concepts, and if there is no actual way we can even remotely begin to address what we’d expect from a designed as contrasted to undersigned world, I really don’t see how anything you present would be reliable.

I mean, from your Biases alone we know you desire the outcome to be a low probability that God exists, so simply creating a formula that says what you desire is hardly going to come off as completely self reliant. I also don’t see how you can even begin to approach the problem of probability since you don’t really know the options, even things like the big bang are speculative in nature, and may be wrong.

You also say there are trillions of Non-Theistic explanations, I don’t think there agree Trillions. More than two or three? Sure, I’d give that, but not Trillions. I’d also counter with the point that you seem to Treat Theism as a singular possibility, but if multiple “What if” Scenarios can be generated based on what we know that do not require a god, then each “What if’ that does require a god would be counted as a separate answer as well. If you conflate the Existence of God with the sheer number of Theories on how the Universe is formed, I’d even better here are more Theistic Theories on how the Universe formed with gods guidance than there are those Theories that propose the Universe emerging without Theistic help.

Not that any of that matters as I do not know of any Non-Theistic explanation that is inherently Non-Theistic. IE, the Big Bang Theory was formulated by a Priest, and while Atheists have in the past and at present accepted the Theory and even used it as the basis for how the Universe could have emerged with no god, the Big Bang Theory doesn’t actually Rule out God.

Most of the “Non-Theistic’ explanations are the same as the Theistic ones minus God. Virtually all of them actually still allow for the possibility that God exists and started the process of Creation, at least of some things. Even Steady State theory, long a favourite both of Scientists and Philosophers, especially those who wanted a universe with no god in it, doesn’t preclude the Existence of God or a god or multiple gods. Any naturalistic explanation you can offer could still be simply the way in which God chose to work, rather than a purely chance occurrence based on laws of nature that occurred without intelligent guidance. None of them are thus really “non-Theistic” explanations; they are instead explanations that can be used by a Non-Theist.

I also think you misunderstand what I meant by beyond our Experiences. I didn’t mean that God is alone in being beyond them, the Creation of the Universe is beyond our Experience. It happened prior to our existence and could not have been contingent upon the Laws of nature that govern us as that’s when those Laws formed. Well, unless those Laws are themselves Eternal. But we can’t know that they are. We can’t even know that he law of gravity will continue to work during our Lifetime. Sure it’s a safe be that it will, its what we presume will happen base don it not in recorded history ever doing anything else, but there is no guarantee. However, while the assumption that he laws of nature as they are now won’t change is rational based on all available Evidence, it is not rational to presume the origin of those Laws must be itself contingent upon them. Its not rational to assume that we can accurately predict the probability of anything prior to the establishment of our frame of reference. It is therefore Irrational to assume God’s existence must have a low probability because we have more unknown variables than we have established Facts.

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PDH November 9, 2011 at 10:24 am

That said, why should we trust your mathematical formulaics on how God is not Probable? If you are Both Biased as to the conclusion you wish to arrive at and if at the same Time you do not know formal Theological concepts, and if there is no actual way we can even remotely begin to address what we’d expect from a designed as contrasted to undersigned world, I really don’t see how anything you present would be reliable.

I mean, from your Biases alone we know you desire the outcome to be a low probability that God exists, so simply creating a formula that says what you desire is hardly going to come off as completely self reliant. I also don’t see how you can even begin to approach the problem of probability since you don’t really know the options, even things like the big bang are speculative in nature, and may be wrong.

You also say there are trillions of Non-Theistic explanations, I don’t think there agree Trillions. More than two or three? Sure, I’d give that, but not Trillions. I’d also counter with the point that you seem to Treat Theism as a singular possibility, but if multiple “What if” Scenarios can be generated based on what we know that do not require a god, then each “What if’ that does require a god would be counted as a separate answer as well. If you conflate the Existence of God with the sheer number of Theories on how the Universe is formed, I’d even better here are more Theistic Theories on how the Universe formed with gods guidance than there are those Theories that propose the Universe emerging without Theistic help.

Theism is a subset of the possibilities including, for example, Christianity, Islam, Judaism etc. Atheism or ¬Theism is everything else. Every world description that makes no reference to a God or gods from simple scientific world descriptions like SM+Gravity or String Theory all the the way up to ridiculous things like the Flying Spaghetti Monster and everything in between. There are trillions of possibilities that you are just ignoring.

If you are going to say that all of those other possibilities are wrong, which is what you are saying when you say that theism is true, then you need to rule them out with evidence. That’s what evidence is for.

Whether I’m biased or not is irrelevant. You have to provide enough evidence to raise the probability of the hypothesis above that of its rivals.

Not that any of that matters as I do not know of any Non-Theistic explanation that is inherently Non-Theistic. IE, the Big Bang Theory was formulated by a Priest, and while Atheists have in the past and at present accepted the Theory and even used it as the basis for how the Universe could have emerged with no god, the Big Bang Theory doesn’t actually Rule out God.

Most of the “Non-Theistic’ explanations are the same as the Theistic ones minus God. Virtually all of them actually still allow for the possibility that God exists and started the process of Creation, at least of some things. Even Steady State theory, long a favourite both of Scientists and Philosophers, especially those who wanted a universe with no god in it, doesn’t preclude the Existence of God or a god or multiple gods. Any naturalistic explanation you can offer could still be simply the way in which God chose to work, rather than a purely chance occurrence based on laws of nature that occurred without intelligent guidance. None of them are thus really “non-Theistic” explanations; they are instead explanations that can be used by a Non-Theist.

BBT + theism is different from theism on its own. Write them out as a world description and you will see that one has much more bits of information than the other – all the God stuff is absent from the scientific world description.

There are three things:

A on its own.
B on its own.
A and B together.

A and B together is a third, distinct hypothesis that is neither A on its own nor B on its own. And at most only one of them can be right.

The one with the lowest Kolmogorov complexity (i.e. the simplest) will be more likely to be correct. Adding theism onto a scientific world description like the standard model + gravity would drastically reduce its probability for no reason at all.

I also think you misunderstand what I meant by beyond our Experiences. I didn’t mean that God is alone in being beyond them, the Creation of the Universe is beyond our Experience. It happened prior to our existence and could not have been contingent upon the Laws of nature that govern us as that’s when those Laws formed. Well, unless those Laws are themselves Eternal. But we can’t know that they are. We can’t even know that he law of gravity will continue to work during our Lifetime. Sure it’s a safe be that it will, its what we presume will happen base don it not in recorded history ever doing anything else, but there is no guarantee. However, while the assumption that he laws of nature as they are now won’t change is rational based on all available Evidence, it is not rational to presume the origin of those Laws must be itself contingent upon them. Its not rational to assume that we can accurately predict the probability of anything prior to the establishment of our frame of reference. It is therefore Irrational to assume God’s existence must have a low probability because we have more unknown variables than we have established Facts.

The less we know – the higher the information entropy – the lower God’s probability will be.

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PDH November 9, 2011 at 10:32 am

Reposted, as the last post didn’t format properly.

That said, why should we trust your mathematical formulaics on how God is not Probable? If you are Both Biased as to the conclusion you wish to arrive at and if at the same Time you do not know formal Theological concepts, and if there is no actual way we can even remotely begin to address what we’d expect from a designed as contrasted to undersigned world, I really don’t see how anything you present would be reliable.

I mean, from your Biases alone we know you desire the outcome to be a low probability that God exists, so simply creating a formula that says what you desire is hardly going to come off as completely self reliant. I also don’t see how you can even begin to approach the problem of probability since you don’t really know the options, even things like the big bang are speculative in nature, and may be wrong.

You also say there are trillions of Non-Theistic explanations, I don’t think there agree Trillions. More than two or three? Sure, I’d give that, but not Trillions. I’d also counter with the point that you seem to Treat Theism as a singular possibility, but if multiple “What if” Scenarios can be generated based on what we know that do not require a god, then each “What if’ that does require a god would be counted as a separate answer as well. If you conflate the Existence of God with the sheer number of Theories on how the Universe is formed, I’d even better here are more Theistic Theories on how the Universe formed with gods guidance than there are those Theories that propose the Universe emerging without Theistic help.

Theism is a subset of the possibilities including, for example, Christianity, Islam, Judaism etc. Atheism or ¬Theism is everything else. Every world description that makes no reference to a God or gods from simple scientific world descriptions like SM+Gravity or String Theory all the the way up to ridiculous things like the Flying Spaghetti Monster and everything in between. There are trillions of possibilities that you are just ignoring.

If you are going to say that all of those other possibilities are wrong, which is what you are saying when you say that theism is true, then you need to rule them out with evidence. That’s what evidence is for.

Whether I’m biased or not is irrelevant. You have to provide enough evidence to raise the probability of the hypothesis above that of its rivals.

Not that any of that matters as I do not know of any Non-Theistic explanation that is inherently Non-Theistic. IE, the Big Bang Theory was formulated by a Priest, and while Atheists have in the past and at present accepted the Theory and even used it as the basis for how the Universe could have emerged with no god, the Big Bang Theory doesn’t actually Rule out God.

Most of the “Non-Theistic’ explanations are the same as the Theistic ones minus God. Virtually all of them actually still allow for the possibility that God exists and started the process of Creation, at least of some things. Even Steady State theory, long a favourite both of Scientists and Philosophers, especially those who wanted a universe with no god in it, doesn’t preclude the Existence of God or a god or multiple gods. Any naturalistic explanation you can offer could still be simply the way in which God chose to work, rather than a purely chance occurrence based on laws of nature that occurred without intelligent guidance. None of them are thus really “non-Theistic” explanations; they are instead explanations that can be used by a Non-Theist.

BBT + theism is different from theism on its own. Write them out as a world description and you will see that one has much more bits of information than the other – all the God stuff is absent from the scientific world description.

There are three things:

A on its own.
B on its own.
A and B together.

A and B together is a third, distinct hypothesis that is neither A on its own nor B on its own. And at most only one of them can be right.

The one with the lowest Kolmogorov complexity (i.e. the simplest) will be more likely to be correct. Adding theism onto a scientific world description like the standard model + gravity would drastically reduce its probability for no reason at all.

I also think you misunderstand what I meant by beyond our Experiences. I didn’t mean that God is alone in being beyond them, the Creation of the Universe is beyond our Experience. It happened prior to our existence and could not have been contingent upon the Laws of nature that govern us as that’s when those Laws formed. Well, unless those Laws are themselves Eternal. But we can’t know that they are. We can’t even know that he law of gravity will continue to work during our Lifetime. Sure it’s a safe be that it will, its what we presume will happen base don it not in recorded history ever doing anything else, but there is no guarantee. However, while the assumption that he laws of nature as they are now won’t change is rational based on all available Evidence, it is not rational to presume the origin of those Laws must be itself contingent upon them. Its not rational to assume that we can accurately predict the probability of anything prior to the establishment of our frame of reference. It is therefore Irrational to assume God’s existence must have a low probability because we have more unknown variables than we have established Facts.

The less we know – the higher the information entropy – the lower God’s probability will be.

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ZAR November 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm

PDH, if Theism is distinct from Theism + something else, then you have just made a nonargument. No one, not even the Young Earth creationists, believe in Theism + Nothing. Unless of course you think that Creationism counts as Theism + nothing because God spoke the world into existence, but by this Logic then God + Big Bang is not really God + big Bang if God caused the Big Bang. Its only God + Big Bang if God did not cause the Big bang, but merely used its aftermath to Create the Universe as he saw fit. If God created the Big Bang, how is that substantively different from “God made the Earth in Seven literal Days’ in terms of your Probability Assessment? The distinction is still God + Nothing. All that’s changes is what God decided to do and how much Time it took to get to us here today.

The trouble with your probability assessment is that God could have Created the Universe in as many ways as the Non-God Theories propose. I really don’t see why God become less probable against things like String Theory or any other modern Theory, simply because I do not see how they really undermine God’s existence in and of themselves. For every Theory that proposes the Universe came about without God, there is one that says God created it. In fact, often it’s the same Theory overall just modified slightly too either Accommodate God or to remove him.

Each Theory as to how God created the Universe counts as one separate Theory, and there are just as many of them as nontheistic Arguments.

So how do you determine which is more probable, based on sheer number of Theories?

There are in the end more Theistic explanations than Non-Theistic ones. So I suppose God has a Higher Probability than Atheism.

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PDH November 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm

PDH, if Theism is distinct from Theism + something else, then you have just made a nonargument. No one, not even the Young Earth creationists, believe in Theism + Nothing. Unless of course you think that Creationism counts as Theism + nothing because God spoke the world into existence, but by this Logic then God + Big Bang is not really God + big Bang if God caused the Big Bang. Its only God + Big Bang if God did not cause the Big bang, but merely used its aftermath to Create the Universe as he saw fit. If God created the Big Bang, how is that substantively different from “God made the Earth in Seven literal Days’ in terms of your Probability Assessment? The distinction is still God + Nothing.All that’s changes is what God decided to do and how much Time it took to get to us here today.

The trouble with your probability assessment is that God could have Created the Universe in as many ways as the Non-God Theories propose. I really don’t see why God become less probable against things like String Theory or any other modern Theory, simply because I do not see how they really undermine God’s existence in and of themselves. For every Theory that proposes the Universe came about without God, there is one that says God created it. In fact, often it’s the same Theory overall just modified slightly too either Accommodate God or to remove him.

Lol. Obviously, it’s not theism + nothing. It’s theism + all the stuff that we already believe in, like photons and electrons and general relativity etc. The stuff that is already in the scientific world description.

The point being that you can just cut off theism with Occam’s razor. And that’s precisely what Solomonoff induction is: a more sophisticated version of Occam’s razor.

The simplest theory is the one with the lowest Kolmogorov complexity.

Each Theory as to how God created the Universe counts as one separate Theory, and there are just as many of them as nontheistic Arguments.

So how do you determine which is more probable, based on sheer number of Theories?

There are in the end more Theistic explanations than Non-Theistic ones. So I suppose God has a Higher Probability than Atheism.

No, there aren’t.

But even if there were, you would still have the monstrously high Kolmogorov complexity to deal with.

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ZAR November 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm

PDH, Occams razor has become a rather prominent part of Atheism, but its one of those Ironic points like Bayes in that it was created by a Christian.

I also don’t buy it. Occams Razor says the simplest explanation is usually true, and you assert that God makes the equation needlessly complex. Well I’m still not convinced of that. I don’t see why God would be more complex an explanation than sheer chance based on a highly improbable chain of events. I still only sees an Atheist making that assertion to make his own Atheistic vision seem more rational than a Theistic Alternative. I find God to be a much more simple explanation than many that I’ve heard from Atheists, and really just don’t see why we should understand God as adding needless complexity. You certainly have not demonstrated this is a fact. I know you think you have, but you haven’t.

The trouble is you seem to want to create the definition of God as complex in order to shore up your assertion which exists in the service of your base assumption. It becomes an excuse, not an argument, at that point.

Also, you say there aren’t more Theistic explanations than nontheistic ones, but the truth is, yes there are. For every non-Theistic Theory you can advance, I can advance a Theistic one. I’d go so far as to say I can advance Three for every One that you could propose. You underestimate it.

And I still do not see God as all that complex.

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PDH November 9, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Zar wrote,

PDH, Occams razor has become a rather prominent part of Atheism, but its one of those Ironic points like Bayes in that it was created by a Christian.

I also don’t buy it. Occams Razor says the simplest explanation is usually true, and you assert that God makes the equation needlessly complex. Well I’m still not convinced of that. I don’t see why God would be more complex an explanation than sheer chance based on a highly improbable chain of events. I still only sees an Atheist making that assertion to make his own Atheistic vision seem more rational than a Theistic Alternative. I find God to be a much more simple explanation than many that I’ve heard from Atheists, and really just don’t see why we should understand God as adding needless complexity. You certainly have not demonstrated this is a fact. I know you think you have, but you haven’t.

I have demonstrated it at length and I’m sorry but you’ve been totally unable to provide any rebuttal to it. The simplest world description is basically the Standard model of particles plus gravity and when you write this out as a world description it comes to about 10 pages in C. And that’s it. That’s all you need. Everything in the entire universe is just some combination of these things. See, for example, this discussion of ToEs:

To keep the discussion simple, let uspretend that standard model (SM) + gravity (G) and string theory (S) both qualifyas ToEs. SM+Gravity is a mixture of a few relatively elegant theories, but contains about 20 parameters that need to be specified. String theory is truly elegant, but ensuring that it reduces to the standard model needs sophisticated extra assumptions (e.g. the right compactification).

SM+G can be written down in one line, plus we have to give 20+ constants, so lets say one page. The meaning (the axioms) of all symbols and operators require another page. Then we need the basics, natural, real, complex numbers, sets (ZFC), etc., which is another page. That makes 3 pages for a complete description in first-order logic. There are a lot of subtleties though: (a) The axioms are likely mathematically inconsistent, (b) it’s not immediately clear how the axioms lead to a program simulating our universe, (c) the theory does not predict the outcome of random events, and (d) some other problems. So to transform the description into a C program simulating our universe, needs a couple of pages more, but I would estimate around 10 pages overall suffices, which is about 20’000 symbols=bytes. Of course this program will be (i) a very inefficient simulation and (ii) a very naive coding of SM+G. I conjecture that the shortest program for SM+G on a universal Turing machine is much shorter, maybe even only one tenth of this. The numbers are only a quick rule-of-thumb guess. If we start from string theory (S), we need about the same length. S is much more elegant, but we need to code the compactification to describe our universe, which effectively amounts to the same. Note that everything else in the world (all other physics, chemistry, etc,) is emergent.

http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0912/0912.5434v2.pdf

Theism isn’t needed anywhere in this picture. Adding a God to the mix is completely unnecessary and increases the complexity to a ridiculous extent.

The trouble is you seem to want to create the definition of God as complex in order to shore up your assertion which exists in the service of your base assumption. It becomes an excuse, not an argument, at that point.

I’ve told you, you can define God however you like, but if you define Him as an intelligent being the Kolmogorov complexity will be huge and if you don’t define Him as an intelligent being, you face all the other problems we’ve discussed at length.

It’s a dilemma. Either way you face insurmountable problems.

Also, you say there aren’t more Theistic explanations than nontheistic ones, but the truth is, yes there are. For every non-Theistic Theory you can advance, I can advance a Theistic one.I’d go so far as to say I can advance Three for every One that you could propose. You underestimate it.

And you can do the exact same thing with the FSM or any other random entities you care for. You are simply dismissing all of the alternatives without good reason because you personally don’t want to believe in them.

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Zar November 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm

PDH, you say adding Theism to the equation makes it more complex, but I don’t think it does. The reason is because all you need to do is consider for a moment the probability of those particles aligning on their own in such a way as to make life possible or even stars to form, and estimate that against the probability of something directing them to that end. God is not added to the equation that otherwise exist perfectly well without him, God is a solution to one of the problems in the Equation. No, not the only possible one, but not the least probable either. Its not “that ten page equation or that same ten page Equation with God’, its “That ten page Equation with no explanation of why the particles behaved as they did and no real reason other than blind chance that they aligned as they did, or an intelligent force guiding the progress of the Particles.”

So, I don’t see God’s reasoned as adding complexity, as the situation will be complex either way. Even your charge that intelligence itself is complex is a bit disingenuous as the complexity of sheer randomness producing such an organised system that we see is not really less than that of Intelligence.

Saying that adding God to it is unnecessary is just not a convincing statement either, since I can just as readily make a simpler equation that explains the same things that requires God. It still boils down to you seeing things a specific way as dictated by your own biases and preconceptions.

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PDH November 9, 2011 at 5:40 pm

PDH, you say adding Theism to the equation makes it more complex, but I don’t think it does. The reason is because all you need to do is consider for a moment the probability of those particles aligning on their own in such a way as to make life possible or even stars to form, and estimate that against the probability of something directing them to that end. God is not added to the equation that otherwise exist perfectly well without him, God is a solution to one of the problems in the Equation. No, not the only possible one, but not the least probable either. Its not “that ten page equation or that same ten page Equation with God’, its “That ten page Equation with no explanation of why the particles behaved as they did and no real reason other than blind chance that they aligned as they did, or an intelligent force guiding the progress of the Particles.”

So, I don’t see God’s reasoned as adding complexity, as the situation will be complex either way. Even your charge that intelligence itself is complex is a bit disingenuous as the complexity of sheer randomness producing such an organised system that we see is not really less than that of Intelligence.

Adding to a world description necessarily makes it more complex unless the thing that you are adding has a probability of 1, which theism most certainly does not. This is a consequence of the conjunction rule of probability theory.

With the world description as it is you will get everything that we currently see. The lifespan of the universe plays out as it has done according to our best theories, with the evolution of galaxies, stars, life all being beautifully described by the underlying physics. Everything else reduces to this, it is all emergent requiring no extra code at all. It’s not blind chance, it’s scientific law. That is the explanation. Adding extra code to the world description is entirely unnecessary and would explain nothing that isn’t already explained.

And that is as simple as we can currently get it.

Saying that adding God to it is unnecessary is just not a convincing statement either, since I can just as readily make a simpler equation that explains the same things that requires God. It still boils down to you seeing things a specific way as dictated by your own biases and preconceptions.

I’m afraid that you would not be able to do this. Your ‘equations’ would be more complex. It has nothing to do with biases or preconceptions but rather with the rigorous mathematical account of simplicity that I have described.

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PDH November 9, 2011 at 6:37 pm

And I think this is a good place to wrap this up.

You have made several accusations against Luke and atheists generally, claiming that we are biased and ignorant of our opponents’ views. These took the form of several long rants. Even when you actually bothered to engage with a point you usually found some opportunity to slip in these allegations somewhere.

But it seems to me that we can give a much better account of our beliefs and the reasoning behind them than you can of yours. The weight of evidence overwhelmingly supports our position, which is by far the simplest and most plausible. I have given a highly detailed account of this, whereas you have not provided any basis at all for your beliefs or even told us what your epistemology is or why we should accept it. Furthermore, you are hardly free of biases yourself and are obviously committed to theism to the extent that you will simply flat out refuse to even consider the possibility that you might be wrong. Finally, you have demonstrated yourself to be utterly ignorant of what we actually believe. You had no idea what Bayesian Epistemology was, had never heard of Solomonoff Induction and clearly have read little to none of the Less Wrong material. You straw-manned our position on several occasions.

And I have largely refrained from pointing any of this out, preferring to simply focus on the relevant issues themselves. I think I have provided as good an account of my beliefs as can be expected under the circumstances but this debate is now beginning to eat into my time to an unacceptable extent.

Your accusations against us are baseless. We have put a lot of thought into our position and are more than capable of defending it.

If you are genuinely interested in the issues we have been discussing, I invite you to read Eliezer’s posts at Less Wrong. A good place to start might be this article: http://lesswrong.com/lw/jp/occams_razor/

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ZAR November 10, 2011 at 6:24 pm

PDH, with an Equation with as many Variables in it such as the Existence of the Universe, how can you really be certain that God makes such an equation more complex? Even the idea that intelligence is complex is something to dispute.

You of course say I’m adding God thus making the world description more complex, but not really. Your “World description’ doesn’t really just remove God; it replaces God with something else. I still don’t see why God would be more complex than yoru something else that replaces God.

I also don’t really think complexity is a sign of error, since the Universe we live in is complex, even if the overall laws that govern it are simple. Which brings me back to intelligence. Intelligence is not really complex, its still made up of smaller things like individual thoughts and in a brain at least electron exchange.

What your saying is that simple worlds are favoured over complex ones, but our world is not simple. By this Logic a world without trees is more simple than one with thus more probable, but we know there are trees so what’s the point? We know the world we live in is complex, and we know that even if that complexity is emergent from simple roots that complexity is still there and makes our world less probable by your estimation than a simpler world. Should I really see our own world as less probable than some other though? What of your interpretation of Occam is wrong?

This really is in the end simply someone attempting to make Atheism more likely True than Theism, by making it sound more probable. However, it remains unconvincing as it contradicts even what we see every day in our own lives.

Why should I accept that God is less probable than random chance based on your assertions that are themselves unsupported? Why is this more rational or more probable than God’s existence? It all still hinges on basic presuppositions you selected in order to arrive at a preferred conclusion.

You also say this:

“You have made several accusations against Luke and atheists generally, claiming that we are biased and ignorant of our opponents’ views. These took the form of several long rants. Even when you actually bothered to engage with a point you usually found some opportunity to slip in these allegations somewhere. “

I didn’t make any allegations against Atheists that doesn’t apply to everyone who is not an Atheist. My point was the Human factor in your Thinking, not “Atheists are stupid”.

But if you want to argue something, you can, and its easy to argue for something and make it sound rational, but that doesn’t make it actually Rational, actually more probable, or closer to being True.

If a Christian begins with the presupposition that God exists then wants to prove this Logically, he can use the same Bayesian methodology the less Wrong Club uses to create a Logically coherent Argument in his Favour, and even built it so that God’s existence is far more probable than an Atheistic vision of the Universe. But because of his Selection bias an d ability to guide the process, one can legitimately question his supposition.

The same applies to Atheists, and it is not an Atheists problem but a Human one, but one roo many Atheists ignore in the blind belief that they have a Monopoly on Logic and reason and somehow their assertions are correct. Just look at Ror above.

Its simply arrogant to say something like this…

“But it seems to me that we can give a much better account of our beliefs and the reasoning behind them than you can of yours. The weight of evidence overwhelmingly supports our position, which is by far the simplest and most plausible. I have given a highly detailed account of this, whereas you have not provided any basis at all for your beliefs or even told us what your epistemology is or why we should accept it. Furthermore, you are hardly free of biases yourself and are obviously committed to theism to the extent that you will simply flat out refuse to even consider the possibility that you might be wrong. Finally, you have demonstrated yourself to be utterly ignorant of what we actually believe. You had no idea what Bayesian Epistemology was, had never heard of Solomonoff Induction and clearly have read little to none of the Less Wrong material. You straw-manned our position on several occasions.”

If what I’ve said applies to all humanity, I’m not really shunning the possibility of Bias on my part am I? All I’m saying is that the self assurance of how right you are in your conclusion may well blind you to any potential flaw to your thinking, and the assertion that all Evidence is in your favour and all Logic supports you is only going to prevent you from critically examining your methods because your conclusion is dogma and the method becomes subservient to the end of promoting the “Rational ‘ conclusion you have arrived at beforehand.

By the way, the reason I haven’t bothered telling you what my beliefs are or tried to defend them is because that’s not really the point of this thread, I am questioning whether or not Luke really is arriving at a less wrong conclusion, not actually discussing his conclusion. Even if Atheism is true, that doesn’t mean you have arrived at the Atheistic position via Logic and seeking the most probable answer.

That is not about my commitment to Theism, or anyone else’s to Atheism, its about Human Nature and the very process of thought we rely upon.

I simply don’t think Luke is really going to be “less wrong’ and will instead simply drape his conclusion in Bayesian terminology so as to make it appear unassailable and correct, and to thus further justify his position as if he has examined it without Bias and arrived at the only logical or most probable outcome when the fact is he guided the selection process of information and how it should be interpreted to favour one outcome over the other.

We are most in Danger of error when we decide that our methodology is infallable.

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