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DanR comments on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2010-2011) - Less Wrong

42 Post author: orthonormal 12 August 2010 01:08AM

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Comment author: DanR 12 August 2010 07:23:48AM *  7 points [-]

Hi I found Less Wrong a few days ago when someone pointed me towards your recent list of recommended books. I followed the comment thread (particularly nodding my head at the mentions of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations which I want to read) and had a look around the rest of the blog. I liked what I saw.

I'm an American living in Cyprus, and into learning more about the Epicurean, Skeptic, Stoics and Platonic philosophies. I'm also a molecular biologist by training, and interested in ecology, ornithology, birdwatching, cooking, and philosophy of science.

For my rationality, I grew up always thinking that Christianity was a nice metaphor for issues relating to the human condition, but never thinking that anything in the Bible happened literally the way it was said. I suppose you could say that I believed in the value of belief. Watching Bill Moyers' interview with Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth changed that for me 15 or so years ago. It just clicked with my view of religion: it served as a mythic narrative, and you don't need a mythic narrative to be religious... Star Wars or any other epic myth will do nicely. So I severed the only reason I ever had to value religion and never looked back, being skeptical of dubious claims ever since by nature.

If there are any skeptics, stoics, Epicureans or other rational minds in Cyprus, please contact me!

Comment author: Oligopsony 12 August 2010 07:40:55AM 3 points [-]

My understanding is that Campbell was never well-regarded by the relevant academics and that time hasn't helped his reputation any.

This reminds me, by the by, of my own "conversion" experience: a book by the name of the Lucifer Principle by a one Howard Bloom. I read it at a young age and was dazzled by the basic idea of evolution, which had been taught to me in school and was never disputed by my church, but never with such power: I finally Got It; that from random processes patterns always emerge and are implicit, humans are just a complex pattern operating on the basis of laws mostly beyond our comprehension, &c.

Years later, I re-read it, expecting to re-unite with the wonder of my past and... was struck by how stupid it was. The arguments were moronic, the facts were wrong half the time, and so on. But I owe it a debt for making me a materialist, even if I would have dismissed it after perusing it at the library today.

Comment author: Daniel_Burfoot 12 August 2010 02:38:04PM 0 points [-]

Campbell was never well-regarded by the relevant academics

Arrgh!! Totally meaningless!

Comment author: Oligopsony 12 August 2010 03:21:56PM 8 points [-]

No, it's a good heuristic. It's good enough reason for the lay to accept anthropogenic global warming, the Holocaust, and the fact that HIV causes AIDS, to gesture at obvious examples.

Obviously not everyone can use that heuristic. Like any other, it will be wrong sometimes. But it's good enough for Bayesian updating.

Comment author: wedrifid 12 August 2010 03:37:22PM *  3 points [-]

(So perhaps "Arrgh!! Sometimes overrated!")

Comment author: DanR 12 August 2010 07:50:14AM 0 points [-]

Oh I'm not saying that Campbell was well-regarded by his peers in academia - I'm not a scholar in that field by any means and don't know anything about that. I was just saying that it woke me up to see that a developing mind can learn useful values and ideals from any kind of epic story. IOW a religion isn't necessary for our morals to take shape.

Comment author: MichaelVassar 12 August 2010 04:10:09PM 1 point [-]

I'm pretty sure I understand what Campbell was doing, and given that it was something totally cool and fundamentally opposed to what academia is about, this just shows that they could identify what he was. Ditto Tolkein and Lewis.

Basically, these are people who are intentionally creating a misleading conception of history in order to shape the identities of children who encounter it towards identifying with mankind as a whole rather than with some smaller group, NOT people who are trying to explain how things are to their readers, framed neutrally.