Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Tyrrell_McAllister comments on Don't Believe You'll Self-Deceive - Less Wrong

15 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 09 March 2009 08:03AM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (54)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: Tyrrell_McAllister 09 March 2009 06:31:42PM 16 points [-]

I hope that Kurige comes back to verify this, but I'll bet that when he said

I chose to believe in the existence of God - deliberately and consciously. This decision, however, has absolutely zero effect on the actual existence of God.

he did not mean, "My belief isn't correlated with reality". Rather, I'll bet, he meant exactly what you meant when you said

telling yourself X doesn't make X true

By saying that his choice had no effect on reality, I expect that he meant that his control over his belief did not entail control over the subject of that belief, i.e., the fact of the matter.

His attribution of Orwellian doublethink to himself is far more confusing. I have no idea what to make of that. Maybe your advice in this post is on point there. But the "absolutely zero effect" quote seems unobjectionable.

Comment author: kurige 10 March 2009 09:15:45AM *  5 points [-]

His attribution of Orwellian doublethink to himself is far more confusing. I have no idea what to make of that. Maybe your advice in this post is on point there. But the "absolutely zero effect" quote seems unobjectionable.

From the original comment:

One thing I've come to realize that helps to explain the disparity I feel when I talk with most other Christians is the fact that somewhere along the way my world-view took a major shift away from blind faith and landed somewhere in the vicinity of Orwellian double-think.

I don't have the original text handy, but a quick search on wikipedia brings up this quote from the book defining the concept:

The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. … To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies.

The first sentence and the first sentence alone is the definition I had in my mind when I wrote the comment. It has been quite a while since I last read 1984 and I had forgotten the connotation that to "double-think" is to "deny the existence of objective reality." This was not my intention at all, although, upon reflection, it should have been obvious.

This was bad homework on my part; I should have looked the quote up before writing the comment. Instead of focusing on the example of morality that I used in the original comment I'm going to try to step back a bit to clarify my original point... Instead of blind-faith in religious tenants, my world-view currently accommodates two traditionally exclusive systems of belief: religion and science.

These two beliefs are not contradictory, but the complexity lies in reconciling the two.

If one does not agree with the other then my understanding of one or the other is flawed.

Comment author: Tyrrell_McAllister 10 March 2009 04:48:24PM 3 points [-]

Okay, so, when you say that you engage in "doublethink", do you mean that you simultaneously hold two beliefs that are currently "unreconciled", and which you don't yet know how to reconcile, but which you believe can yet be reconciled?

If that's right, then I would be curious to know more about this "unreconciled" relation. Can you give other example of pairs of "unreconciled" beliefs that you hold?

Comment author: HughRistik 10 March 2009 09:17:36PM 3 points [-]

I'm also having trouble seeing kurige's "doublethink."

The double-think comes into play when you're faced with non-axiomatic concepts such as morality. I believe that there is a God - and that He has instilled a sense of right and wrong in us by which we are able to evaluate the world around us. I also believe a sense of morality has been evolutionarily programmed into us - a sense of morality that is most likely a result of the formation of meta-political coalitions in Bonobo communities a very, very long time ago.

These two beliefs are not contradictory, but the complexity lies in reconciling the two.

As you observe, the beliefs are not contradictory. There are various creative ways of reconciling them, such as deism (e.g. "God started the Big Bang"). Whether these reconciliations are true, or reasonable, is another question. Yet they are internally consistent, so there is no contradiction or double-think.

Instead of blind-faith in religious tenants, my world-view currently accommodates two traditionally exclusive systems of belief: religion and science.

I think that this is the closest to a contradiction you have displayed. It doesn't seem like your form of religion excludes the claims of science, but your version of science may exclude the claims of religion.

If, in your view, science requires the use of Occam's Razor, and you think belief in God violates Occam's Razor (as I do), yet you continue to believe in God, then I think you would be engaging in double-think. Yet if you don't think that Occam's Razor is valid, or you don't think that belief in God violates it, then I wouldn't claim that you were engaging in double-think without additional information.

Comment author: Annoyance 10 March 2009 09:25:27PM 1 point [-]

"There are various creative ways of reconciling them, such as deism (e.g. "God started the Big Bang"). Whether these reconciliations are true, or reasonable, is another question."

If the purported reconciliation isn't reasonable, it's not a reconciliation, just as an asserted solution to a mathematical problem that doesn't match the requirements isn't an actual solution.

If I hit you in the head with a bat, would you accept that God was responsible because your injury wouldn't have occurred if (we presume) the universe had not been set into motion?

Comment author: HughRistik 10 March 2009 10:58:56PM *  4 points [-]

Annoyance said:

If the purported reconciliation isn't reasonable, it's not a reconciliation, just as an asserted solution to a mathematical problem that doesn't match the requirements isn't an actual solution.

First, I'm not sure what you are trying to show by your analogy to a mathematical problem, or by your question.

When I say that beliefs are reconciled, I am talking about internal consistency. Belief systems can be internally consistent without being true or reasonable.

If someone believes X and Y, and they do not contradict each other, then their beliefs are reconciled and internally consistent, even if Y is false or unreasonable. (Unless they hold another belief, Z, which implies that Y is false.)

Being wrong or unreasonable is not necessarily double-think. Do you not agree?

If we take someone who has seemingly internally consistent, but certain demonstrably false or unreasonable beliefs, then we might wonder if we could dig up a contradiction in their beliefs if we dug hard enough. Take, for instance, a theist who turns out to believe Occam's Razor. In this case, the internal consistency of their beliefs falls apart.

Yet even then, this still isn't necessarily double-think. Orwell's definition requires "holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously." If our theist never even thought about their beliefs in God and how they measured up to Occam's Razor, then this would not be double-thinking, it would be lack-of-thinking.

Comment author: Annoyance 11 March 2009 05:32:39PM 1 point [-]

"When I say that beliefs are reconciled, I am talking about internal consistency. Belief systems can be internally consistent without being true or reasonable."

They might not be true, and they might not be reasonable *in regard to a framing system of beliefs and knowledge, but they DO have to be reasonable relative to each other.

Saying that God is responsible for the existence of creation does not imply that everything that happens (including evolutionary processes) was designed by God. Evolutionary development as a concept is incompatible with the concept of intentional design. The two beliefs are not compatible with each other.

Comment author: Amanojack 14 March 2010 05:43:53AM 1 point [-]

Instead of blind-faith in religious tenants, my world-view currently accommodates two traditionally exclusive systems of belief: religion and science.

In other words, it seems you meant "doublethink" in the collective sense based on traditional sentiment, rather than in the actual sense of a logical contradiction between any one specific religious tenet A and any one specific scientific theory B. If there are no actual contradictions, "doublethink" was just an (unfortunate) turn of phrase and there is nothing to be reconciled.