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RobinZ comments on Rationality Quotes: October 2009 - Less Wrong

7 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 October 2009 04:06PM

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Comment author: RobinZ 22 October 2009 04:44:32PM *  25 points [-]

[I]n my opinion nothing occurs contrary to nature except the impossible, and that never occurs.

-- Sagredo, "Two New Sciences" (1914 translation), Galileo Galilei

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 October 2009 08:21:59PM 8 points [-]

Okay, I'm over my quota, but I really have to reproduce this from an ensuing discussion between myself and Michael Vassar, in which Michael Vassar commented that Galileo seemed to have accomplished his feats through character traits other than ultra-high-g:

"Wait, I just called myself 'not that smart, like Galileo'. What does that do to my Crackpot Index?!" -- Michael Vassar

Comment author: jimmy 22 October 2009 09:03:32PM 0 points [-]

What's the point of a quota if you're getting mostly upvotes?

Comment author: PhilGoetz 22 October 2009 09:32:51PM 3 points [-]

Perhaps that is the point of the quota?

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 22 October 2009 09:44:55PM *  4 points [-]

That would be diversity and restraint.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 23 October 2009 01:42:32AM 7 points [-]

Perhaps (he clarifies) one of the points of the quota is to prevent people from scoring lots of easy karma points via rationality quotes, which are the easiest way to get karma.

Comment author: RobinZ 23 October 2009 12:45:43AM 2 points [-]

...I am such a clod. Please adjust your votes accordingly.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 October 2009 08:17:41PM 1 point [-]

...I had no idea the art of rationality got that advanced that early!

Comment author: RobinZ 22 October 2009 08:41:44PM 1 point [-]

Hey, Darwin predicted and explained punctuated equilibrium all the way back in The Origin of the Species. It's remarkable how often the old masters hit a target generations ahead of their time. Or rather, it would be if I didn't already know that human beings don't as a rule draw the full benefit from the evidence at hand - which implies a small variation in the accuracy of the extrapolation leads to startling insight.

(Not having read the Latin - chiefly thanks to not being fluent in the Latin - I can't swear it's a perfect translation, but I saw it in the book and had to quote it.)

Comment author: FiftyTwo 29 December 2011 07:10:55PM 4 points [-]

Theres a sampling issue there, no-one talks about all the things Darwin thought of that were wrong.

Comment author: RobinZ 29 December 2011 10:35:37PM 0 points [-]

Indeed. You'll note that I did not quote Galileo's 1623 article declaring that comets were a sublunary (within the sphere of the Moon's orbit around the Earth) phenomenon, for example.

Still, I would be willing to wager that if you had modern biologists compare, say, Darwin's writings from the voyage of the Beagle to his death even to those of contemporaries such as Alfred Russell Wallace - an independent inventor of the theory of natural selection - he would fare extremely well.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 30 December 2011 01:48:25AM 1 point [-]

Do you attribute that to his greater experience and access to data, or some innately better understanding of biology?

Comment author: RobinZ 30 December 2011 06:26:06AM 0 points [-]

I think he was actually less biased. I was actually just reading John McPhee's Looking For a Ship, and McPhee quotes Darwin discussing the geology of the Valparaíso region, and notes that Darwin divines the processes that created the formations of that terrain essentially correctly ... before plate tectonics was even a theory with a name in the scientific literature. It is of course impossible to separate out to what extent his results are improved by his hesitance in publishing data without overwhelming evidence, but I would guess that his rationality was significantly above par for his era.

Comment author: gwern 31 October 2009 08:29:49PM 1 point [-]

There is a quote, though I cannot find it now, to the effect that 'It is an old parlor game among American philosophers to show that Peirce thought of something first.'

Comment author: thomblake 02 March 2010 03:46:03PM 1 point [-]

Peirce thought of something first

But he did!

Comment author: gwern 02 March 2010 04:26:40PM 1 point [-]

It's funny because it's partly true - he did an impressive amount, and stuff which has yet to be dug out of his scores of volumes - but some Peirce fans take it too far (I had one professor who the quote applied well to).