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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 01 March 2010 08:47:36AM 5 points [-]

I must admit that I'm not sure why you think it was unwise to use an example where differing views exist in this forum. That was kinda the point: differing priors lead to differing views.

I'm asking the offended party to provide a better formulation since obviously they know their own side better than I do, and are thus more capable of providing a more neutral formulation.

Comment author: roland 01 March 2010 06:43:14PM 1 point [-]

Others considered their prior for "the government is ready to conduct massively risky operations that kill thousands of its own citizens as a publicity stunt",

If I understood you correctly you write "the government is ready to conduct massively risky operations that kill thousands of its own citizens as a publicity stunt" as a statement of fact. And this very fact is just one where differing views exist and that has been debated on this forum. So in order to make a point you use as a fact something that is under dispute, hence my comment. It would be possible to make the point you want to make without using any disputed facts or controversial/sensitive topics at all and therefore avoid all the controversy.

Just to put it into numbers, of the 161 comments that this post generated so far 53 where in reply to woozle's and 12 in reply to my observation on the 9/11 paragraph. This totals 53+1+12+1 == 67 comments or 41%. Almost half the comments are in regards to this issue. So at least numerically I think it is undeniable that unfortunately the discussion has been derailed. Btw, this wasn't my purpose and I assume neither it was woozle's, in fact I regret having written anything at all because I think it is futile, and as an aside have been downvoted by 40 points total. Not that I care that much about karma anyway but I have the impression that I have been downvoted mostly as a form of punishment because of my dissenting view than for not arguing according to the site's rules.

An alternative formulation I'm pulling out of my hat now, and I'm not a good writer:

Or take the debate about the existence of ghosts and other supernatural phenomena. Some people think that unexplained and otherwise suspicious things in an abandoned house have to mean that ghosts exist. Others considered their prior for "ghosts and supernatural entities exist and are ready to conduct physical operations that scare thousands of people around the world", judged that to be overwhelmingly unlikely, and thought it far more probable that something else caused the suspicious things.

One drawback of my alternative is that people who actually believe in ghosts might take offense, but AFAIK at least on this site this issue has never been a source of debate.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 01 March 2010 10:13:57PM 3 points [-]

If I understood you correctly you write "the government is ready to conduct massively risky operations that kill thousands of its own citizens as a publicity stunt" as a statement of fact.

I didn't write it as a fact, I wrote it as an assumption whose validity is being evaluated.

Here's an attempt to reword it to make this clearer:

"Others thought that the conspiracy argument required the government to be ready to conduct, as a publicity stunt, massively risky operations that kill thousands of its own citizens. They considered their prior for this hypothetical and judged it overwhelmingly unlikely in comparison to priors such as 'lots of unlikely-seeming things show up by coincidence once you dig deeply enough'."

Comment author: roland 01 March 2010 10:52:11PM 1 point [-]

Wording it that way makes it clearer that it is an assumption by the hypothetical characters. Though based on our previous discussions I suspect that it also reflects your assumption and maybe that's why you failed to clearly distinguish it from the characters' assumptions in the OP. At least myself and woozle took objection to it. Of course it is also a possibility that we are both reading impaired.