News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on December 17, 2011 in News

SMBC on the Gettier problem and quantum field theory.

Interview with Peter Boghossian about how professors should challenge students’ groundless (often faith-based) beliefs with facts.

New posts at Facing the Intelligence Explosion: Not Built to Think About AI and Playing Taboo with “Intelligence”.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Saved December 17, 2011 at 4:50 am

what are “facts”?
You can’t get to the facts my friend. You have different dictionaries for different purposes. Science is useful for predicting experience, but not for discovering truth in any sense of the word.


Bitches Ain't Shit December 17, 2011 at 10:26 am

Great SMBC link! Hilarious!


cory December 17, 2011 at 12:57 pm

You totally misread that mirror-image cell article. The infection was normal viruses infecting a vat of normal bacteria used to make a drug. They had to clean it up to before they could make any more, so they didn’t have enough for a few months. They are developing mirror-cell bacteria to avoid that, since normal viruses probably can’t infect them.

The existential threat was mirror-cell cyanobacteria getting into the ocean, using all of the resources, and sequestering all the CO2.


Luke Muehlhauser December 17, 2011 at 1:52 pm




Paul December 17, 2011 at 5:40 pm

I counted 15 laterals on that football play. Truly astounding. Just think what it would feel like to be on the losing team. 2 seconds to go, and you lose it on a 15-lateral play! Wow.


tom December 17, 2011 at 10:44 pm

That interview is with Peter Boghossian of Portland State University, not (the more famous) Paul Boghossian of NYU.

Inspired by the interview, I will change your beliefs on this matter by presenting facts.


Luke Muehlhauser December 17, 2011 at 11:13 pm


Fixed, thanks.


Leon December 19, 2011 at 4:15 am

It seems to me that there is an obvious and tried way around the Boghossian issue: have a philosophy class on “faith”! Boghossian says that he doesn’t label his own epistemology beyond “I believe based on evidence”, from which perspective the word “faith” can’t mean much besides “believing without evidence” or (Twain) “believing what you know ain’t so” or (Neitzsche) “not _wanting_ to know the truth”.

But lots of thinkers through history (from many non/religious traditions) have come up with different definitions of “faith”, including many for whom “faith” is not just code for “utterly opposed to my epistemology”. Exploring these might help his faith-ful listeners better put a finger on what they mean, and possibly help to convince them that they’re wrong, or that appeals to certain kinds of faith are unjustified. It’s no good just labelling faith a “cognitive disease” when you haven’t even nailed down what “faith” might mean.

Besides which, from the perspective of any well-fleshed-out epistemology (not least Bayes-style rationalism), to say nothing more than “I believe based on evidence” is pretty watery. Boghossian’s neglect of the obvious, “philosophy is a wonderfully open discipline!” solution says more about Gnu rhetoric than anything else.


Leon December 19, 2011 at 4:22 am

P.S. Luke, your post on Taboo-ing “intelligence” is great. It reminds me of a wonderful argument I read in this paper:

(That it appears in that paper also suggests to me that you could easily use a more historically significant opening hook than a panel discussion between Lanier and Yudkowsky — with all due respect!).

I’d also highly recommend giving the paper a good read if I weren’t pretty confident you had already done so. :-)


David Gerard December 25, 2011 at 6:28 am

:-D Nice to know that post was comprehended by someone. Most of the visible response is when people disagree.

Looks like your site doesn’t send trackbacks – should it?


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