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Kaj_Sotala comments on What is Bayesianism? - Less Wrong

81 Post author: Kaj_Sotala 26 February 2010 07:43AM

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Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 28 February 2010 09:47:11AM 2 points [-]

Sorry. I was merely trying to provide an example, not to snipe. If you want to provide a reformulation of that paragraph that better reflects your views, I'll change it.

Comment author: woozle 28 February 2010 06:05:03PM *  -1 points [-]

Kaj, I've always enjoyed your posts, so I felt bad picking on you and I apologize if I jumped down your throat. It seemed time to say something about this because I've been seeing it over and over again in lots of otherwise very rational/reality-based contexts, and your post finally pushed that button.

For reformulating your summary, I'd have to go read the original discussion, but you didn't link to it.

It's not that it needs to reflect my views, it's that I think we need a more... rigorous? systematic?... way of looking at controversies.

Yes, many of them can be dismissed without further discussion -- global warming denial, evolution denial, holocaust denial, et freaking cetera -- but there are specific reasons we can dismiss them, and I don't think those reasons apply to 9/11 (not even to the official story -- parts of it seem very likely to be true).

Proposed Criteria for Dismissing a Body of Belief


  • a "claim" is an argument favoring or supporting the body of belief
  • a "refutation" is a responding argument which shows the claim to be invalid (in a nested structure -- responses to refutations are also "claims", responses to those claims are also "refutations", etc)

Essential criteria:

  • the work has been done of examining the claims and refuting them
  • no claims remain unrefuted

A further cue, sufficient but not necessary:

  • those promoting the ideology never bring up the refutations of their claims unless forced to do so, even though there is reason to believe they are well aware of those refutations

Any objection to those ground rules? The first set is required so that the uninformed (e.g. those new to the discussion) will have a reference by which to understand why the seemingly-persuasive arguments presented in favor of the given belief system are, in fact, wrong; the final point is a sort of short-cut so we don't waste time dealing with people who are clearly being dishonest.

I submit that, by these rules, we can safely dismiss (at a minimum) global warming denial, evolution denial, Young Earth theories, Biblical literalism, holocaust denial, HIV denial, and anti-gay rhetoric... but not the 9/11 "truth movement".

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 28 February 2010 09:02:36PM 1 point [-]

Sure, no problem.

The original 9/11 discussion began as a thread in The Correct Contrarian Cluster and was then moved to The 9/11 Meta-Truther Conspiracy Theory.

Your criteria sound good in principle. My only problem with them is that determining when a claim has really been refuted isn't trivial, especially for people who aren't experts in the relevant domain.