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Vladimir_M comments on Scientific Self-Help: The State of Our Knowledge - Less Wrong

138 Post author: lukeprog 20 January 2011 08:44PM

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Comment author: Vladimir_M 25 January 2011 02:58:39AM *  3 points [-]

I find this topic fascinating not only because of its practical utility, but also because it presents a dissection of complex human social interactions in a way that's uniquely suitable for study and reaching genuine and reliable insight. Nothing even remotely like that, to my knowledge, has ever come out of any other attempt to study human social behavior.

Alas, the dissection analogy can be extended to people's reactions to it. Just like the prevailing religious opinion in ancient times was appalled at the idea of desecrating dead bodies even for the good of science, so the modern respectable opinion, even in venues like LW, is appalled at the idea that these aspects of human life -- which are in our society treated with an extreme level of both idealization and ideologization -- can be analyzed in such an undignified and desecrating but nevertheless correct way.

Comment author: [deleted] 25 January 2011 05:02:53PM 14 points [-]

so the modern respectable opinion, even in venues like LW, is appalled at the idea that these aspects of human life -- which are in our society treated with an extreme level of both idealization and ideologization -- can be analyzed in such an undignified and desecrating but nevertheless correct way.

This idea -- that everyone skeptical of PUA is simply too prudish to handle the truth -- sounds like a self-flattering way to avoid engaging with critics on a substantive level. I haven't seen a single comment here that can be accurately described as "appalled at the idea that these aspects of human life...can be analyzed." By contrast, many of the comments that raise some criticism of PUA, or simply register skepticism, start by ceding that skeptic can see helpful or useful aspects to the techniques.

However, PUA is not settled science, and the idea that the simplified evopsych theories behind PUA represent incontrovertible and unassailable truth -- that's a statement of faith, not reason.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 25 January 2011 11:59:06PM *  -2 points [-]

I think "prudish" is a completely wrong characterization of the problem here. The idea that this aspect of human life is surrounded by some sacred mystery and that it works (or could or should work) according to some idealized principles, as well as the tendency to instantly sniff out and be struck by the ideological implications (intended or not) of people's expressed opinions about it, are not at all limited to people who could be described as "prudish" in any meaningful way.

Now, of course that such biases will usually not manifest themselves in a transparent way, especially not in a place like this. Rather, they take the form of biased treatment of evidence, judging people's attitudes and behavior with unusual and inconsistent ethical standards, turning up one's sensitivity to offense, etc., etc. For a lot of evidence of these phenomena, see the numerous discussions in which the commenter HughRistik, who has a particular interest and expertise in this area, has had to deal with them. (He writes with great clarity and invariably treats his interlocutors with saintly patience and kindness, and these biases are thus especially apparent in his discussions.)

Also, regarding the folk evo-psych theories often heard in this context, I agree that they are more often than not just idle speculation; in fact, I don't have very high opinion even about much of the academic evolutionary psychology. I am much more interested in first establishing an accurate phenomenological view of things before moving on to any such speculation.

Comment author: R3dpill 25 January 2011 02:21:06PM -1 points [-]

"even venues like LW are appalled at the idea that these aspects of human life -- which are in our society treated with an extreme level of both idealization and ideologization -- can be analyzed in such an undignified and desecrating but nevertheless correct way."

which begs the question: what is LW for if not for being rational and confronting the truth?

Comment author: Abisashi 25 January 2011 04:36:51PM 0 points [-]

Do you mean "raises the question?"

Comment author: TheOtherDave 25 January 2011 04:43:46PM 1 point [-]

Actually, the quote does beg the question... the connotations of "even" presuppose certain answers to the question of what venues like LW are for.

Comment author: wedrifid 25 January 2011 04:52:35PM 1 point [-]

What struck me was that it presupposed a level of "idealization and ideologization" in related areas far below that of the general population.

Comment author: Abisashi 25 January 2011 04:50:17PM 0 points [-]

You are right. It's strange to see "begs the question" used properly for a change, I couldn't puzzle it out when I read it before.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 25 January 2011 04:58:04PM 0 points [-]

(nods) I know what you mean: I would have quietly assumed it was a misuse as well if you hadn't raised the question and made me consider it explicitly; I was surprised to realize that it needn't be.

Comment author: Oligopsony 25 January 2011 05:00:05PM 1 point [-]

modern respectable opinion, even in venues like LW, is appalled at the idea that these aspects of human life -- which are in our society treated with an extreme level of both idealization and ideologization -- can be analyzed in such an undignified and desecrating but nevertheless correct way.

Actually, I think the question-begging turn here is in "correct." Perhaps the referenced ways of dissecting human relations are correct and perhaps they are not, but it does not seem to be the case that what the author refers to as "modern respectable opinon" (whether justly or unjustly) consider it to be so. Thus it does not seem that they are, in fact, appalled that "these aspects... can be analyzed in such an undignified and desecrating but nevertheless correct way."