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Rationality quotes January 2012

9 Post author: Thomas 01 January 2012 10:28AM

Here's the new thread for posting quotes, with the usual rules:

  • Please post all quotes separately, so that they can be voted up/down separately.  (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments.  If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
  • Do not quote yourself.
  • Do not quote comments/posts on LW/OB.
  • No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.

Comments (462)

Sort By: Controversial
Comment author: Will_Newsome 01 January 2012 08:39:52AM 0 points [-]

Reply to Objection 3. Free-will is the cause of its own movement, because by his free-will man moves himself to act. But it does not of necessity belong to liberty that what is free should be the first cause of itself, as neither for one thing to be cause of another need it be the first cause. God, therefore, is the first cause, Who moves causes both natural and voluntary. And just as by moving natural causes He does not prevent their acts being natural, so by moving voluntary causes He does not deprive their actions of being voluntary: but rather is He the cause of this very thing in them; for He operates in each thing according to its own nature.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Question 83, Article 1

Comment author: Konkvistador 10 January 2012 06:16:22PM 1 point [-]

Is this down voted because it has the word "God" in it?

Comment author: Desrtopa 10 January 2012 06:59:52PM 1 point [-]

Well, I downvoted it because it essentially replaces one ungrounded assumption (or rather, the answer to a wrong question,) with another ungrounded assumption. It's an exercise in rationalization, not rationality.

Comment author: thomblake 10 January 2012 06:29:11PM 4 points [-]

It doesn't really have the form of a "rationality quote". It's too long to be quotable, not directly bearing on rationality, and doesn't give rationality-warm-fuzzies like "that which can be destroyed by the truth should be".

That said, probably yes.

Comment author: Konkvistador 10 January 2012 06:46:19PM *  2 points [-]

It doesn't really have the form of a "rationality quote". It's too long to be quotable, not directly bearing on rationality, and doesn't give rationality-warm-fuzzies like "that which can be destroyed by the truth should be".

I think it is hard to dispute that several such statements have been upvoted in recent rationality quote threads.

Comment author: Ciphermind 18 January 2012 02:49:02AM *  1 point [-]

Beauty is no quality in things themselves. It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.

-- David Hume

Comment author: [deleted] 18 January 2012 03:03:27AM 1 point [-]

If he didn't use the word "merely," this would be an even more amazing rationality quote than it already is.

Comment author: gwern 18 January 2012 08:08:42PM 0 points [-]

I don't think it's very good either way. It's just a flat statement - presumably it was the thesis or conclusion to some long chain of arguments proving it. But as a quote? It is not very memorable, or witty, or a novel argument or any of the usual criteria I judge our quotes on.

Comment author: MarkusRamikin 01 January 2012 08:41:55AM 1 point [-]

Each man would like to be happy. But if you try to make it so that all men can be happy, each will grab you by the hands like one whose aching tooth is being pulled.

Bolesław Prus, "The Pharaoh" (translation mine)

Comment author: Spectral_Dragon 15 January 2012 09:17:30PM 1 point [-]

"People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it's true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People's heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool." -- Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander from the book "Wizard's first rule" by Terry Goodkind.

Comment author: David_Gerard 16 January 2012 12:34:08AM 3 points [-]

This is a useful quote when one remembers to apply it to oneself. "You know how transparently full of shit everyone else is? Guess how stupid you are yourself."

Comment author: paper-machine 15 January 2012 11:51:07PM 3 points [-]

In case this gives anyone the false impression that the Sword of Truth series is good, let me advise you: it isn't. What starts out as a decent premise devolves into the most convoluted argument for Objectivism since Rand herself.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 January 2012 12:33:08AM 0 points [-]

In case this gives anyone the false impression that the Sword of Truth series is good, let me advise you: it isn't. What starts out as a decent premise devolves into the most convoluted argument for Objectivism since Rand herself.

I'd have to confirm that. It started out decent but I tired of the series a few books in.

Comment author: TimS 16 January 2012 01:26:42AM 2 points [-]

I didn't notice the Objectivism, since the S&M and scat play drove me away first. The first book was enjoyable.

Comment author: gwern 15 January 2012 11:40:29PM 1 point [-]
Comment author: scmbradley 03 January 2012 11:13:21PM *  -1 points [-]

it is clear that each party to this dispute – as to all that persist through long periods of time – is partly right and partly wrong

— Bertrand Russell History of Western Philosophy (from the introduction, again.)

Comment author: Manfred 04 January 2012 08:05:54PM 1 point [-]

Generalization'd.

Comment author: [deleted] 01 January 2012 12:04:04AM *  3 points [-]

Human behavior is predictable if sad. As much as we like to delude ourselves we are rational thinkers we usually tend to fall back on habit and mental shortcuts. You can easily train your brain to overcome this but it does take some work on your part. So it probably isn’t going to happen. But I’ll do my part trying to point out your many and varied shortcomings and you can go along, nodding wisely and congratulating me on my benevolent teachings while all the while planning to ignore me and do things the same way as before. [...]

The family house you grow up in is what you see as normal. That is the definition of shelter in your life. If you encounter a new product, that first price is what you use as a “normal” one. So everything can suffer from your first encounters ( or look better in comparison ). This is why most people won’t look for shelter. They look for a house. Or an apartment. Whatever they are used to. They are not used to finding a way to keep the elements out, they are used to finding a house or apartment. This is the way it is done and any suggestion otherwise is ignored. They might pretend to be open to new ideas but once they find fault with any way other than their own they can claim to be objective while remaining safely cocooned in their normal world.

People don’t look at how to get from one point to another. They don’t look at the need for transportation, they look at the need for a car. So by comparison shopping for cars they ignore scooters or bicycles or public transport or even carpooling. They are used to having a car and that is the only way to do it. People don’t look at how to become secure, they look at how to make money. To them money equals security and there is no other way. They ignore being out of debt, they ignore decreasing dependence on a paycheck ( note I said decrease, not eliminate ). They ignore all but getting money. This is how it was done before and it is how they are going to continue to do it.

~James Dakin, throwing the anchor overboard

Comment author: Nominull 01 January 2012 07:30:38AM 1 point [-]

There is something to be said for the wisdom of crowds. Information cascades are a thing, but the reason they happen is that it's rational for each individual to go along with the crowd, and you're not going to form a new equilibrium by yourself.

Comment author: Kutta 01 January 2012 11:23:25AM *  9 points [-]

Most people you know are probably weak skeptics, and I would probably fit this definition in several ways. "Strong skeptics" are the people who write The Skeptics' Encyclopedia, join the California Skeptics' League, buy the Complete Works of James Randi, and introduce themselves at parties saying "Hi, I'm Ted, and I'm a skeptic!". Of weak skeptics I approve entirely. But strong skeptics confused me for a long while. You don't believe something exists. That seems like a pretty good reason not to be too concerned with it.

Edit: authorial instance specified on popular demand.

Comment author: MixedNuts 02 January 2012 02:28:32AM 14 points [-]

The next sentence is

It's not like belief in UFOs killed your pet hamster when you were a kid or something and you've had a terrible hatred of it ever since.

Skeptics will tell you that yes, it did. Belief that the Sun needs human sacrifices to rise in the morning killed their beloved big brother, and they've had a terrible hatred of it ever since. And they must slay all of its allies, everything that keeps people from noticing that Newton's laws have murder-free sunrise covered. Even belief in the Easter bunny, because the mistakes you make to believe in it are the same. That seems like a pretty good reason to be concerned with it.

Comment author: James_K 02 January 2012 03:31:11AM 11 points [-]

Indeed. In fact there's a website: What's the Harm? that explains what damage these beliefs cause.

Comment author: Yvain 02 January 2012 05:40:15AM *  12 points [-]

More accurately, Yvain-2004

Comment author: Nornagest 01 January 2012 02:06:20AM *  5 points [-]

By convention there is color, by convention sweetness, by convention bitterness; but in reality there are atoms and space.

-- Democritus

Comment author: Will_Newsome 05 January 2012 02:40:57AM 6 points [-]

We made our oath to Vavilov
We'd not betray the solanum
The acres of asteraceae
To our own pangs of starvation

"When The War Came", by The Decemberists

(from memory, will fix any errors later)

Comment author: David_Gerard 05 January 2012 08:50:56AM 18 points [-]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolai_Vavilov

"While developing his theory on the centres of origin of cultivated plants, Vavilov organized a series of botanical-agronomic expeditions, collected seeds from every corner of the globe, and created in Leningrad the world's largest collection of plant seeds. This seedbank was diligently preserved even throughout the 28-month Siege of Leningrad, despite starvation; one of Nikolai's assistants starved to death surrounded by edible seeds."

Comment author: Will_Newsome 05 January 2012 11:59:11AM 3 points [-]

Thank you kind sir.

Comment author: HonoreDB 09 January 2012 08:25:39PM -2 points [-]

I can’t be interested in form for form’s sake. Form is like mathematics: a model which might be applied to various sets of data. Form is seductive: form can be perfect. But there’s no justification for form (in the experiments and investigations) unless its used to expose content which has meaning. The result of an experiment is the meaningful content. Information is content. Content is fictional. Content is messy, like the universe it's unfinished and furthermore it becomes obsolete so quickly when multiplied by time. Form is reduplicable, content is not reduplicable. Fiction has meaning but only in a given instant of time. Lee Lozano

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 10 January 2012 10:11:09AM 4 points [-]

It's clear to infer what he's getting at, but this reminds me of nothing quite so much as Timecube.

Comment author: James_Miller 01 January 2012 02:57:20AM *  3 points [-]

Life can be a challenge. Life can seem impossible. It's never easy when there's so much on the line. But you and I can make a difference. There's a mission just for you and me.

Former U.S. Presidential Candidate Herman Cain who was quoting from the movie Pokémon 2000.

A Pokémon quote Cain didn't repeat:

I pitted them against each other, but not until they set aside their differences did I see the true power they all share deep inside. I see now that the circumstances of one's birth are irrelevant; it is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.

Comment author: GabrielDuquette 01 January 2012 03:01:09AM 0 points [-]

Perhaps he needs a new direction. Is SIAI hiring?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 05 January 2012 04:30:08AM 4 points [-]

Never work against Mother Nature. You only succeed when you're working with her. --Cesar Milan, quoting his grandfather in Cesar's Way, a book about rehabilitating dogs

Comment author: [deleted] 01 January 2012 12:46:20AM *  4 points [-]

Professor: So, the invalidation of the senses and cognition as a means of knowing reality is a common thread through eastern mysticism and platonic philosophy. We will study the resurgence of these ideas within secular western philosophies starting with the explanation of how it's impossible to know things "as they are" versus things as they are within the bounds of our minds.
Phone: Beep Beep Beep ♪
Professor: See you on Monday.
(He answers)
Professor: Yes?
Wife: Honey, Angelica is having trouble with her vision. I'm going to use some of the rainy day account to take her to the optometrist.
Professor: Hahah! Actually, vision is merely a sense that supplies the mind with perceptions, interpreting with all biases and forming only-
Wife: Honey.
Professor: Oh. Yes dear. Go ahead.

~Jay Naylor, Original Life

Comment author: gwern 01 January 2012 01:25:43AM 1 point [-]

'withing'. Also, I don't entirely understand - is the point that the professor, contra his students, argues in the reliability and objectivity of vision and then turns around and argues the opposite against his wife?

Comment author: katydee 01 January 2012 05:21:49AM *  5 points [-]

I think the point is that the professor's stated philosophical beliefs (that sense-perceptions are an invalid means of knowing reality) contradict his commonsense desire for his daughter to have good vision, and thus his elaborate arguments are shown to be disconnected from reality.

Comment author: James_Miller 01 January 2012 02:45:56AM *  7 points [-]

The existence of gray does not preclude the existence of black and white.

The existence of dawn and dusk does not preclude the existence of noon and midnight.

I'm not sure who originally said this but I vaguely remember the quotes from law school.

Comment author: CharlieSheen 20 January 2012 09:58:54AM 2 points [-]

Nemo iudex in causa sua.

A latin proverb, and I think part of Roman law, it means no-one should be a judge in their own cause.

Comment author: lukeprog 09 January 2012 08:42:23PM 2 points [-]

Nominal essences are all the essences that science needs, and some are better than others, because they capture more regularity in nature.

Dan Dennett

To explain: a "nominal essence" is just an abstract idea that humans have decided to use to pick out a particular type of thing. This is contrasted with a more Aristotelean view of essence.

Comment author: Grognor 01 January 2012 01:33:05AM *  9 points [-]

A man said to the universe:
"Sir, I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation."

-Stephen Crane

Comment author: J_Taylor 18 January 2012 11:01:21PM *  5 points [-]

If only the dead people who god did not save, could return and give their opinion of a god.

-Gene Ray, The Wisest Human

http://www.timecube.com/timecube2.html

Comment author: tingram 01 January 2012 12:41:45AM *  8 points [-]

They often do [scramble the reels] at art houses, and it would seem that the more sophisticated the audience, the less likely that the error will be discovered.

--Pauline Kael, Zeitgeist and Poltergeist; or, Are Movies Going to Pieces?

Related

Comment author: Patrick 26 January 2012 12:49:42PM 3 points [-]

It doesn't matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.

-- Deng Xioaping

Comment author: RobinZ 26 January 2012 09:01:31PM 1 point [-]

Duplicate, but I like your translation better.

Comment author: [deleted] 25 January 2012 07:24:26AM -3 points [-]

If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.

-Henry David Thoreau

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 25 January 2012 07:44:21AM 2 points [-]

What does this have to do with rationality?

Comment author: taserian 19 January 2012 05:45:29PM *  -3 points [-]

If your chief goal, as a thinking person, is to find a path to making yourself right, you may never amount to much of a thinking person, but you can never be disappointed.

- Ta-Nehisi Coates

(Edited to remove objectionable and politically biased commentary)

Comment author: Alejandro1 19 January 2012 06:48:29PM 3 points [-]

I think you would have done better quoting just the second sentence, which is indeed a sharp rationality quote and needs no context to be appreciated. To include the previous sentence is just inviting downvotes for politics-is-the-mindkiller reasons. (Both in the plain level that conservatives might confuse it for "rah liberals" quote, and in the meta level that some people dislike any mention of ordinary politics in LW regardless of sides.)

Comment author: J_Taylor 18 January 2012 10:51:49PM *  3 points [-]

Thinking about thinking makes thinking thoughtful.

-Cleverbot

http://cleverbot.com/cleverness

Comment author: [deleted] 05 January 2012 05:42:47PM 3 points [-]

Lack of experience diminishes our power of taking a comprehensive view of the admitted facts. Hence those who dwell in intimate association with nature and its phenomena grow more and more able to formulate, as the foundations of their theories, principles such as to admit of a wide and coherent development: while those whom devotion to abstract discussions has rendered unobservant of the facts are too ready to dogmatize on the basis of a few observations.

-Aristotle, On Generation and Corruption

Comment author: Arran_Stirton 04 January 2012 04:57:26AM *  6 points [-]

While this quote isn't directly about rationality, it reminds me a good deal of Tsuyoku Naritai!.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

~ Theodore Roosevelt, The Man in the Arena

(Edit: Just to clarify as some might misinterpret the posting of this to be a knock on rationality, the relevance of this quote is that what counts is trying to solve problem. While with hindsight it's easy to say how (to pick a mundane example) one might work out the area under a curve once you already know calculus, it's not so easy to do it without that knowledge.)

Comment author: gjm 01 January 2012 11:45:18AM 6 points [-]

The English mob preferred their calendar to disagree with the sun than to agree with the pope.

Attributed to Voltaire (referring of course to the Gregorian calendar reform) though evidence that Voltaire actually said or wrote any such thing seems scanty. Reversed stupidity is not intelligence.

Comment author: GabrielDuquette 01 January 2012 02:51:00AM *  20 points [-]

AUGUSTUS: I've had premonitions. Premonitions of death.

FABIUS MAXIMUS: We all have them.

AUGUSTUS: No, no, no. This is serious. Listen, old friend, let me tell you. Two weeks after we came back from you know where, I was in Mars Field giving a libation. A little ceremony. You remember?

FABIUS MAXIMUS: I remember, but I wasn't there.

AUGUSTUS: No? Well. nearby, there's a temple built in memory of Marcus Agrippa.

FABIUS MAXIMUS: Yes, I know it.

AUGUSTUS: An eagle circled me five times, then flew off and settled on the "A" of Agrippa's name.

FABIUS MAXIMUS: Well. Caesar...

AUGUSTUS: No, don't lie to me. It's clear what it means. It was telling me that my time had come and that I must give way to someone by the name of Agrippa.

FABIUS MAXIMUS: Postumus?

AUGUSTUS: Who else?

FABIUS MAXIMUS: Did you consult an augur?

AUGUSTUS: No. I don't need an augur.

FABIUS MAXIMUS: Well. you're not an expert on the interpretation of signs.

AUGUSTUS: Then listen to this. The following day, lightning melted the "C" on my name on a statue nearby. It struck the "C" off "Caesar". Do you follow? What does "C" mean?

FABIUS MAXIMUS: A hundred.

AUGUSTUS: A hundred. Exactly! Livia saw it. She went to an augur to find out what it meant. She wouldn't tell me, but I forced it out of her. It means that I have only a hundred days to live. I shall die in a hundred days.

(long pause)

FABIUS MAXIMUS: Or weeks.

AUGUSTUS: Eh?

FABIUS MAXIMUS: Why shouldn't it be weeks? Or months? Why shouldn't it mean that you'll live to be a hundred?

--I, Claudius, "Poison Is Queen"

Comment author: Will_Newsome 03 January 2012 02:10:27AM *  3 points [-]

Because days is the Schelling point interpretation, and if gods are communicating with you they'll probably go for the Schelling point. Lightning implies Zeus-Jupiter, so Augustus should look into historical examples of Zeus talking to people to see if Zeus tends to be misleading in ways similar to those Fabius warns of; in fact the augur had probably already considered things like this before speaking with Livia. And Fabius should trust the augur, who is a specialist in the interpretation of signs and probably has more details of the case than he does. I mean seriously, what are the chances that the letter C would get struck by lightning? We are beyond the point of arbitrary skepticism. Deny the data or trust the professionals. (I'm not familiar with the series in question, I'm just filling in details in the most likely way I can think of.)

ETA: Wait, maybe Fabius is trolling Augustus/me? ...Nice one Fabius! I approve of your trolling. Downvote retracted. (Oh yeah and this is an excuse to link to the Wiki article on assassination markets.)

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 09 January 2012 10:39:42AM *  5 points [-]

Fabius actually seems a little irrational in this quote. At first he objects to Augustus's interpretation because Augustus is not an expert on the interpretation of signs, which is reasonable. But then when Augustus does have an intepretation that's coming from an augur, Fabius still continues to question it, pitting his view against expert opinion like it was still just the opinion of Augustus. Since it is not established that Fabius would be an augur himself, this seems like motivated cognition / not properly updating on evidence.

Alternatively, it could be that Fabius doesn't actually believe in omens, but in that case first appealing to the need to get an expert opinion is pretty dishonest.

Of course, Alejandro's comment below does clarify that Livia is probably lying about the augur's testimony, but I'm going by the quote as it was posted (and as most people probably read/voted it).

Comment author: Thomas 09 January 2012 10:56:52AM *  1 point [-]

Fabius does not want to argue with a fool more than it is necessary. He engages the heavy guns only when needs to, this time at the end of the dialogue.

My kind of a (dishonest you say) guy.

Comment author: taelor 15 January 2012 11:24:01AM *  7 points [-]

And now my labor is over. I have had my lecture. I have no sense of fatherhood. If my genetic and personal histories had been different, I should come into possession of a different lecture. If I deserve any credit at all, it is simply for having served as a place where certain processes could take place. I shall interpret your polite applause in that light.

--B.F. Skinner

Comment author: imbatman 11 January 2012 03:19:36PM 4 points [-]

"A man's gotta know his limitations." - Dirty Harry

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 11 January 2012 03:28:28AM *  8 points [-]

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.

C.S. Lewis, Introduction to a translation of, Athanasius: On the Incarnation

Comment author: Bugmaster 11 January 2012 04:08:31AM 1 point [-]

Or, you know, some new books with a fresh outlook. Just saying.

Comment author: MixedNuts 11 January 2012 02:21:12PM 5 points [-]

Not written yet.

Comment author: gwern 18 January 2012 08:11:13PM 8 points [-]

If I may continue it:

...Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united-united with each other and against earlier and later ages-by a great mass of common assumptions….None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books."

From http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/athanasius/incarnation/incarnation.p.htm

Comment author: Desrtopa 17 January 2012 05:15:32PM 1 point [-]

Not likely to be much help if the new outlook is built upon the old in such a way that the mistakes of the old outlook are addressed by the new, but the mistakes of the new were not raised to the point of being able to be addressed within the old.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 17 January 2012 06:28:21PM 4 points [-]

True, on the other hand, I suspect people around here tend to massively overestimate how often that happens.

Comment author: Alicorn 09 January 2012 06:04:02PM 12 points [-]

If some persons died, and others did not die, death would indeed be a terrible affliction.

--Jean de la Bruyère

Comment author: gwern 18 January 2012 08:14:30PM 0 points [-]

But we all die, so that makes death alright?

Comment author: Grognor 08 January 2012 10:04:25AM 4 points [-]

What interest, zest, or excitement can there be in achieving the right way, unless we are enabled to feel that the wrong way is also a possible and a natural way, — nay, more, a menacing and an imminent way? And what sense can there be in condemning ourselves for taking the wrong way, unless we need have done nothing of the sort, unless the right way was open to us as well? I cannot understand the willingness to act, no matter how we feel, without the belief that acts are really good and bad.

-William James

Comment author: Maniakes 03 January 2012 08:24:54PM 12 points [-]

I replied as follows: "What would you think of someone who said, "I would like to have a cat, provided it barked"? [...] As a natural scientist, you recognize that you cannot assign characteristics at will to chemical and biological entities, cannot demand that cats bark or water burn. Why do you suppose that the situation is different in the "social sciences?"

-- Milton Friedman

Comment author: gwern 03 January 2012 10:09:27PM 2 points [-]

cannot demand that cats bark or water burn

One of these things is not like the others, one of these things does not belong.

Comment author: MixedNuts 02 January 2012 02:20:33PM 13 points [-]

The ultimate theological question is: ‘Where does the Sun go at night?’.

The answer that so many civilisations agreed for so long was: ‘The Sun is driven by one of the gods, and at night it goes under the Earth to fight a battle. There is at least some risk that the god will lose this battle, and so the Sun may not rise tomorrow’. It’s something the human race understood was a cast iron fact before they knew how to cast iron. It survived as the working model twenty-five times longer than the four hundred years we’ve understood the Earth goes around the Sun.

Lance Parkin, Above us only sky

This is less a rationality quote than a "yay science" quote, but I find that impressive beyond words. For millenia that was a huge and frightening question, and then we went and answered it, and now it's too trivial to point out. We found out where the sun goes at night. I want to carve a primer on cosmology in gold letters on a mountain, entitled something in all caps along the lines of "HERE IS THE GLORY OF HUMANKIND".

Comment author: J_Taylor 01 January 2012 08:35:29AM 27 points [-]

“A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.”

  • Friedrich Nietzsche
Comment author: Will_Newsome 02 January 2012 05:04:28AM *  2 points [-]

That would seem to be an odd notion of "faith"; is the translation untrue to the original or is Nietzsche just being typically provocative? (I also personally don't see how the quote is at all profound or interesting but that's a separate issue and more a matter of taste.)

Comment author: tingram 01 January 2012 12:39:11AM *  18 points [-]

Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.

--Bruce Lee

Comment author: MixedNuts 02 January 2012 02:39:19AM 5 points [-]

That seems rather applause-lighty. The reversal is abnormal; who would say "Use some things that don't work"? Maybe in some traditionalist cultures "Resist the appeal of using things that work but come from unworthy places" would sound wise, but on LessWrong it would likely get stares.

Comment author: Desrtopa 17 January 2012 04:17:29PM *  2 points [-]

"Use only that which works" is obvious enough to be unhelpful, but "take it from any place you can find it" was pretty novel in the context in which he proposed it, and still is to a lot of people in a lot of domains.

The existence of the Traditional branch of Jeet Kune Do (as opposed to the Concepts branch,) which exclusively teaches the martial art as Bruce Lee practiced it at the time of his death, is testament to the strength of humans' tendency to behave counter to this advice.

Comment author: fortyeridania 02 January 2012 12:04:37PM 10 points [-]

Songs can be Trojan horses, taking charged ideas and sneaking past the ego's defenses and into the open mind.

John Mayer, Esquire (the magazine, not the social/occupational title)

Comment author: gwern 01 January 2012 07:58:04PM 17 points [-]

"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death"

--1 Corinthians 15:26

(I wonder what Eliezer would've made of it - as far as I know, he never read Deathly Hallows and so never read about the tombstone.)

Comment author: Eneasz 13 January 2012 07:34:57PM 6 points [-]

He lifted a hand, his index finger pointing upward. "How many fingers am I holding up?" I paused for a moment, which was more consideration than the question seemed to warrant. "At least one," I said. "Probably no more than six"

-Kvothe, The Name of the Wind

Comment author: GLaDOS 06 January 2012 09:42:21AM 18 points [-]

In questions of this appalling magnitude, I find the best way to "overcome bias" is often to find perspectives which seem to make each answer obvious. Once we recognize that both A and B are obviously true, and A is inconsistent with B, we are in the right mindset for actual thought.

--Mencius Moldbug

Comment author: gwern 18 January 2012 08:18:45PM 2 points [-]

Remember sources please; "How Dawkins got pwned (part 7)", 8 November 2007

Comment author: GLaDOS 19 January 2012 07:02:35PM 0 points [-]

You have a thing for Moldbug too, don't you? ^_^

Comment author: Manfred 19 January 2012 07:37:43PM 0 points [-]

This sounds like bad advice. In Moldbug's application of it, for example, making things "obvious" corresponds to making bad arguments - arguments that, in some alternate reality, possibly made of straw, would correspond to some possibly straw person who found the argument very obvious. And then you say "well, obvious argument #1 is awful, so by process of elimination let's go with obvious argument #2! Q.E.D."

Comment author: arundelo 01 January 2012 10:28:31PM 6 points [-]

[I]ntractable problems are not a good reason to attempt impossible "solutions".

-- Eric Raymond

Comment author: wedrifid 01 January 2012 10:34:54PM 6 points [-]

Don't shut up and do the impossible!

Comment author: Alejandro1 01 January 2012 07:54:02PM 6 points [-]

Am I sure that there is no mind behind our existence and no mystery anywhere in the universe? I think I am. What joy, what relief it would be, if we could declare so with complete conviction. If that were so I could wish to live forever. How terrifying and glorious the role of man if, indeed, without guidance and without consolation he must create from his own vitals the meaning for his existence and write the rules whereby he lives.

Thornton Wilder, The Ides of March.

Comment author: gwern 01 January 2012 01:28:47AM 18 points [-]

"When picking fruit, an excellent first choice is the low-hanging ladderfruit. It is especially delicious."

--Frank Adamek

Comment author: lukeprog 09 January 2012 08:27:32PM 2 points [-]

While you're there, enjoy the laddergoat.

Comment author: CaveJohnson 19 January 2012 10:59:04PM 7 points [-]

Men ... are easily induced to believe that in some wonderful manner everybody will become everybody's friend, especially when some one is heard denouncing the evils now existing in states, suits about contracts, convictions for perjury, flatteries of rich men and the like, which are said to arise out of the possession of private property. These evils, however, are due to a very different cause—the wickedness of human nature.

--Aristotle

Comment author: torekp 02 January 2012 01:00:11AM *  7 points [-]

"Hit 'em where they ain't". --Douglas MacArthur commenting on his island-hopping strategy in WW2.

Comment author: [deleted] 01 January 2012 12:17:44AM 14 points [-]

Science isn't just a job, it's a means of determining truth. Methods of determining truth that aren't trustworthy in the laboratory don't become trustworthy when you leave it. There is no doctrine of applying scientific methodology to every aspect of one's life, you either follow trustworthy methods of investigation or you don't, and "follow trustworthy methods of investigation" is the core of science.

~Desertopa, TVTropes Forum

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 11 January 2012 05:18:07PM 8 points [-]

The problem with "electability" is that it requires voters to set aside their own feelings on the basis of what they think other people will think in a general election months in the future. The problem with this is that people are generally bad at predicting what other people will think and feel and are lousy at predicting the future. As a result, voters in primaries who focus on electability either vote based on regurgitated popular wisdom of the moment, or on an assumption that other people won't respond to the same things that they respond to in a candidate. Neither is a particularly good predictor. However, since it is impossible to rerun the election after the fact with the other candidate, it is not something easily disproved.

osewalrus

Comment author: Alejandro1 06 January 2012 12:36:20AM 8 points [-]

As an experimental psychologist I have been trained not to believe anything unless it can be demonstrated in the laboratory on rats or sophomores.

Steven Pinker, Words and Rules

Comment author: MixedNuts 07 January 2012 10:28:05AM 7 points [-]

Invertible fact alert: I can't tell if Pinker means that as (mostly) a good or a bad thing!

Comment author: gwern 18 January 2012 08:22:49PM 6 points [-]

I take it as ha ha only serious. Pinker knows that people are generally appallingly inaccurate and believe untruthful things, and that psychology is right to throw out every other belief and only depend on what it has rigorously verified; but he also knows the rigorous verification has been done on weird subjects and so psychology has thrown out a lot of correct beliefs as well. Accepting this tension is the mark of an educated man, as Aristotle says.

Comment author: nshepperd 07 January 2012 11:17:43AM 5 points [-]

Given the history of psychology as a field, I'd assume he's praising the merits of experimental evidence.

Comment author: quinox 01 January 2012 01:46:52AM *  18 points [-]

"Is it hard?"

"Not if you have the right attitudes. It’s having the right attitudes that’s hard."

-- Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Comment author: Konkvistador 15 January 2012 08:44:11AM 10 points [-]

Each age would do better if it studied its own faults and endeavoured to mend them instead of comparing itself with others to its own advantage.

--James Anthony Froude

Comment author: imbatman 10 January 2012 11:21:33PM 11 points [-]

"A Confucian has stolen my hairbrush! Down with Confucianism!"

-GK Chesterton (on ad hominems)

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 01 January 2012 08:05:18PM *  11 points [-]

As in the Roman empire age, the theoretical concepts, taken out of the theories assigning their meaning and considered instead real objects, whose existence can be apparent only to the initiated people, are used to amaze the public. In physics courses the student (now unaware of the experimental basis of heliocentrism or of atomic theory, accepted on the sole basis of the authority principle) gets addicted to a complex and mysterious mythology, with orbitals undergoing hybridization, elusive quarks, voracious and disquieting black holes and a creating Big Bang: objects introduced, all of them, in theories totally unknown to him and having no understandable relation with any phenomenon he may have access to.

Lucio Russo, The Forgotten Revolution: How Science Was Born in 300 BC and Why it Had to Be Reborn

Comment author: Manfred 03 January 2012 10:38:17AM *  9 points [-]

Some people will always have to take most of natural science on authority. Sure you can make that sound bad, but to me it sounds like "children take 9*9=81 on authority! spoooooky."

Ye gots to wiggle yer fingers when ye say it.

Comment author: Alicorn 06 January 2012 09:19:01PM 12 points [-]

"This has been a good day... I haven't done a single thing that was stupid..."

"Have you done anything that was smart?"

--Peanuts (Nov. 23, 1981) by Charles Schulz

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 10 January 2012 09:33:38PM *  13 points [-]

In short, they made unrealistic demands on reality and reality did not oblige them.

Cory Doctorow talking about DRM, but I think there are some wider applications.

Comment author: gwern 18 January 2012 08:13:09PM *  3 points [-]

Reminiscent of one of my favorite Bruce Schneier quotes.

Comment author: torekp 02 January 2012 12:50:30AM 26 points [-]

"Never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake." -- Napoleon Bonaparte

(This has been mentioned before on LW but not in a quote thread. I figured it was fair game.)

Comment author: paper-machine 05 January 2012 03:51:50AM *  14 points [-]

A critical analysis of the present global constellation -- one which offers no clear solution, no "practical" advice on what to do, and provides no light at the end of the tunnel, since one is well aware that this light might belong to a train crashing towards us -- usually meets with reproach: "Do you mean we should do nothing? Just sit and wait?" One should gather the courage to answer: "YES, precisely that!" There are situations when the only truly "practical" thing to do is to resist the temptation to engage immediately and to "wait and see" by means of a patient, critical analysis.

Slavoj Žižek, Violence, emphasis added. Admittedly not the most clear elucidation of the subject of how urgency (fabricated or otherwise) should affect ethical deliberation, but see also his essay "Jack Bauer and the Ethics of Urgency" -- if you're into that sort of thing.

Comment author: fortyeridania 02 January 2012 12:03:22PM 14 points [-]

The truth is common property. You can't distinguish your group by doing things that are rational, and believing things that are true.

Paul Graham, Lies We Tell Kids

Comment author: wedrifid 02 January 2012 01:59:13PM 11 points [-]

The truth is common property. You can't distinguish your group by doing things that are rational, and believing things that are true.

It would seem that if no other humans are behaving rationality and your group is behaving rationally then even Sesame St could tell you which of these things is not the same.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 03 January 2012 08:57:42AM 2 points [-]

It would seem that if no other humans are behaving rationally

then you're probably insanely wrong.

Comment author: wedrifid 03 January 2012 09:11:54AM *  1 point [-]

then you're probably insanely wrong.

Why do you say that? That doesn't sound true. Humans are monkeys - I should be surprised if a group of monkeys acts perfectly rational. I suggest that any insanity that however insane I may be this issue is straightforward.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 03 January 2012 09:17:16AM *  -2 points [-]

Trust in me, just in me. Dude people are still doing karmassassination! Even without voting buttons on profile pages. Crazy.

Why do you say that? That doesn't sound true. Humans are monkeys - I should be surprised if a group of monkeys acts perfectly rational.

Assuming infinite cognitive resources or something? What's your standard?

Comment author: wedrifid 03 January 2012 09:25:06AM *  0 points [-]

Assuming infinite cognitive resources or something? What's your standard?

Does it matter? If the standard chosen is such that humans behave perfectly rationally according to it then they are completely free of bias and 'rational' has taken on a bizarre redefinition to equal to whatever humans are already achieving. The time to be particular about whether rational means 'optimal use of cognitive resources' or 'assuming infinite cognitive resources' is when the behavior in question is anywhere remotely near either.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 03 January 2012 09:34:20AM 1 point [-]

This idea of rationality is somewhat broken because we lack baselines except those we get from intuitive feelings of indignation or at best expected utility calculations about how manipulable others' belief states are. We have no idea what 'optimal use of cognitive resources' would look like and our intuitions about it are likely to be tinged with insane unreflected-upon moral judgments.

Um I don't think we significantly disagree about anything truly important and this conversation topic is kinda boring. My fault.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 03 January 2012 10:04:43AM *  0 points [-]

Apparently they stopped after downvoting about 30 comments. Maybe it was too much work.

Comment author: wedrifid 03 January 2012 09:30:39AM 2 points [-]

Trust in me, just in me.

No? You don't even try to be trustworthy here!

Comment author: Will_Newsome 03 January 2012 09:38:10AM *  -2 points [-]

Of course I do. I barely ever lie here in the morally relevant sense of the word lie. I'm not even sure if I've ever purposefully lied here. That would be pretty out-of-character for me.

Comment author: wedrifid 03 January 2012 06:55:12PM 5 points [-]

Of course I do.

The evaluation of whether it is sensible to "trust in you, only you" isn't based only on whether you are lying. When you aren't even trying to communicate on the object level the interpretation of your words consists of creating a probability distribution over possible meanings vaguely related to the words that could correspond to what you are thinking. I can't trust noisy data, even if it is sincere noisy data. I mean, given the sentence "Trust in me, just in me" I only had 60% confidence that you meant "I attest that the next sentence is veritable" (more now that you are talking about how you never lie).

I barely ever lie here in the morally relevant sense of the word lie. I'm not even sure if I've ever purposefully lied here. That would be pretty out-of-character for me.

Trustworthiness isn't just a moral question. Choosing what to trust is a practical question.

For what it is worth of course I believe that you are likely experiencing karmassassination. I noticed that some of your non-downvote-worthy comments are taking a hit.

Even without voting buttons on profile pages. Crazy.

It takes the assassin a few more clicks. But if they want to assassinate I don't expect that it would stop them. Actually that feature removal is just damn annoying. I often read through the comments of users that I like/respect/find-interesting. Naturally I'm even more likely to want to vote up comments from such a stream than I am when reading the general recent comments stream. So now I have to go and open up each comment specifically and vote it up.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 04 January 2012 01:16:49AM 0 points [-]

Upvoted, good point re noise and trust.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 04 January 2012 01:18:10AM 0 points [-]

I'm so glad that "re" is a word.

Comment author: roystgnr 05 January 2012 08:19:01PM 3 points [-]

If no other groups of humans are behaving as rationally as yours is, then it's likely no other humans are capable of easily identifying that your group is the one with the high level of uniquely rational behavior. To the extent that other groups can identify rational behaviors of yours, they will have already adopted them and will not consider you unique for having adopted them too.

You can signal the uniqueness your group by believing and doing things that are both rational and unpopular, but to most outsiders this only signals uniqueness, not rationality, because the reason such things are unpopular is because most people don't find them to be obviously rational. And the outsiders are usually right: even though they're wrong in your particular actually-is-rational case, that's outnumbered by the other cases which, from the outside, all appear to be similar arational group-identifying behaviors and rationalizations thereof. E.g. at first glance there's not a huge difference between "I'm going to get frozen after I die", "I don't eat pork", "I avoid caffeine and hot drinks", etc.

Comment author: peter_hurford 01 January 2012 11:23:36PM 44 points [-]

"if we offer too much silent assent about mysticism and superstition – even when it seems to be doing a little good – we abet a general climate in which skepticism is considered impolite, science tiresome, and rigorous thinking somehow stuffy and inappropriate. Figuring out a prudent balance takes wisdom.”

– Carl Sagan

Comment author: tingram 01 January 2012 12:38:52AM *  44 points [-]

Everyday words are inherently imprecise. They work well enough in everyday life that you don't notice. Words seem to work, just as Newtonian physics seems to. But you can always make them break if you push them far enough.

--Paul Graham, How to Do Philosophy

[surprisingly not a duplicate]

Comment author: khafra 03 January 2012 05:02:23AM 30 points [-]

An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.

-- H. L. Mencken, describing halo bias before it was named

Comment author: Will_Newsome 04 January 2012 01:08:40AM 4 points [-]

Do roses make for good soup? They make for good chocolate.

Comment author: scmbradley 17 January 2012 05:11:59PM 3 points [-]

I've had rosewater flavoured ice cream.

I bet cabbage ice cream does not taste as nice.

Comment author: majus 13 January 2012 05:26:04PM 8 points [-]

I like the pithy description of halo bias. I don't like or agree with Mencken's non-nuanced view of idealists. it's sarcastically funny, like "a liberal is one who believes you can pick up a dog turd by the clean end", but being funny doesn't make it more true.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 17 January 2012 06:30:30PM 1 point [-]

The point is that idealists suffer from a halo bias around their chosen ideal.

Comment author: gwern 01 January 2012 01:24:02AM 15 points [-]

“The general method that Wittgenstein does suggest is that of ’shewing that a man has supplied no meaning for certain signs in his sentences’.

I can illustrate the method from Wittgenstein’s later way of discussing problems. He once greeted me with the question: ‘Why do people say that it was natural to think that the sun went round the earth rather than that the earth turned on its axis? I replied: ‘I suppose, because it looked as if the sun went round the earth.’ ‘Well,’ he asked, ‘what would it have looked like if it had looked as if the earth turned on its axis?’

This question brought it out that I had hitherto given no relevant meaning to ‘it looks as if’ in ‘it looks as if the sun goes round the earth’.

My reply was to hold out my hands with the palms upward, and raise them from my knees in a circular sweep, at the same time leaning backwards and assuming a dizzy expression. ‘Exactly!’ he said.”

–Elizabeth Anscombe, An Introduction To Wittgenstein’s Tractatus (1959); apropos of a recent Scot Sumner blog post

Comment author: gwern 01 January 2012 01:28:20AM 17 points [-]

"Don't ask whether predictions are made, ask whether predictions are implied."

--Steven Kaas

Comment author: cousin_it 09 January 2012 04:32:27PM *  18 points [-]

Chu-p’ing Man studied the art of killing dragons under Crippled Yi. It cost him all the thousand pieces of gold he had in his house, and after three years he'd mastered the art, but there was no one who could use his services. - Chuang Tzu

So he decided to teach others the art of kiling dragons. - René Thom

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 01 January 2012 03:53:09PM *  29 points [-]

...when you do have a deep understanding, you have solved the problem and it is time to do something else. This makes the total time you spend in life reveling in your mastery of something quite brief. One of the main skills of research scientists of any type is knowing how to work comfortably and productively in a state of confusion.

-Anon http://www.quora.com/What-is-it-like-to-have-an-understanding-of-very-advanced-mathematics#ans873950

(emphasis mine)

Comment author: Stabilizer 02 January 2012 05:58:19PM 30 points [-]

The road to wisdom? — Well, it's plain
and simple to express:
Err
and err
and err again
but less
and less
and less.

--Piet Hein

Lesswrong!

Comment author: Lightwave 01 January 2012 12:24:52PM *  35 points [-]

Do not accept any of my words on faith,
Believing them just because I said them.
Be like an analyst buying gold, who cuts, burns,
And critically examines his product for authenticity.
Only accept what passes the test
By proving useful and beneficial in your life.

-- The Buddha, Jnanasara-samuccaya Sutra

Comment author: Nick_Roy 02 January 2012 04:11:06AM 2 points [-]

Good instrumental rationality quote; not so good for epistemic rationality.

Comment author: lukeprog 12 January 2013 06:50:23PM 2 points [-]

We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.

George Orwell

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 29 January 2012 11:41:14AM 8 points [-]

A stoic sage is one who turns fear into prudence, pain into information, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking.

Nasim Taleb

Comment author: CharlieSheen 25 January 2012 11:55:12PM *  16 points [-]

It’s not a good idea for members of the faith-based community like Hitchens to proclaim things like: Science proves we’re all genetically equal, so therefore you shouldn’t be beastly toward people of other races. The obvious flaw in this strategy is that eventually people will figure out that you are lying about what the science of genetics says, and therefore, by your own logic, that discredits the perfectly valid second half of your assertion.

--Steve Sailer

Comment author: Booty4Bayes 25 January 2012 11:58:14PM 7 points [-]

Good chop, bro.

Comment author: lukeprog 25 January 2012 10:26:25PM 10 points [-]

I do not pretend to start with precise questions. I do not think you can start with anything precise. You have to achieve such precision as you can, as you go along.

Bertrand Russell

Comment author: [deleted] 25 January 2012 07:09:11AM 6 points [-]

Being right in the sense of being correct is not sufficient to win. Political technology determines political success. Learn how to organize and how to communicate. Most political technology is philosophically neutral. You owe it to your philosophy to study how to win.

Morton Blackwell

Comment author: Nornagest 25 January 2012 07:14:24AM *  2 points [-]

I might have upvoted the first sentence of this -- it's accurate, at least, if a little unproductive -- but out of context the rest is difficult to parse and might imply some seriously problematic attitudes. I take it political technology means something along the lines of "rhetoric"?

Comment author: [deleted] 25 January 2012 10:28:48AM *  0 points [-]

I might have upvoted the first sentence of this -- it's accurate, at least, if a little unproductive The rest of the quote is the productive portion.

-- but out of context the rest is difficult to parse and might imply some seriously problematic attitudes.

Sure, it probably does, on the part of Blackwell. He is something of a fairly mindless conservative, not much of a libertarian, and he supports central bankers. But this part of his philosophy is worthy. He believes that if you're in a fight for your life, you should fight hard. ...Similar to Penn Jillette's advocacy of evangelism, even evangelism that he personally disagrees with. If the stakes are high, then even those on the wrong side of the stakes should value their position enough to fight for it, or change their opinion.

I take it political technology means something along the lines of "rhetoric"?

Not necessarily so. Rhetoric is far from the only means of shifting a vote. It is one tool, there are many, many others. In fact, almost any vote can be shifted, given enough effort. Enough effort can be directed at nonvoters to mobilize them, etc...

So, if you're trying to do something important (such as end slavery, release the victimless crime offenders from prison, etc...) you should learn how to win elections, since that's easier than engaging in violence commensurate with the level of importance attached to the issue.

At some point, vital issues of life or death decay to violence (Civil War), if there is no political solution forthcoming. ---The victimized eventually refuse to stay victimized, or worse, the victimizers refuse to settle with too little victimization. (And then you have the Hutus outlawing Tutsi firearm possession, and hacking them apart with machetes.)

Comment author: Patrick 23 January 2012 05:11:30PM *  10 points [-]

Ninety per cent of most magic merely consists of knowing one extra fact.

Terry Pratchett

Comment author: MagnetoHydroDynamics 23 January 2012 08:39:58AM -1 points [-]

My dear Adso, we must not allow ourselves to be influenced by irrational rumors of the Antichrist, hmm? Let us instead exercise our brains and try to solve this tantalizing conundrum.

-- William of Baskerville, Played by Sean Connery, Name of the Rose (1986)

Comment author: FiftyTwo 23 January 2012 05:02:25AM -1 points [-]

Reverend Theo: Wow, you really do think you've become a God.

Petey: I'm just trying to do what I think a god would do if he were in my position.

Schlock Mercenary MONDAY JULY 31, 2006

Comment author: CaveJohnson 22 January 2012 07:06:14PM 3 points [-]

There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking.

--Alfred Korzybski

Comment author: fburnaby 23 January 2012 01:41:18PM 1 point [-]

It seems most common to mix those two modes as convenient.

Comment author: CaveJohnson 19 January 2012 10:59:42PM *  11 points [-]

We should venture on the study of every kind of animal without distaste; for each and all will reveal to us something natural and something beautiful.

--Aristotle

Comment author: tut 19 January 2012 07:31:23PM 6 points [-]

What we perceive today as elegant, natural selection created as simply as gravity creates a river. The water will flow downhill, every other parameter is free.

John Hawks

Comment author: Konkvistador 19 January 2012 06:05:29PM 8 points [-]

Idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality, the costs become prohibitive.

--William F. Buckley

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 19 January 2012 07:40:41AM *  9 points [-]

Part of the reason atheism looks the way it does now, and is so lacking in warm fuzzies like "Love and Completeness are Your Spiritual Right," is because it is a refuge for people who think warm fuzzies are bullshit.

-- Dave Gottlieb

Comment author: Konkvistador 02 February 2012 03:14:11PM *  -1 points [-]

But warm fuzzies are bullshit.

Comment author: GabrielDuquette 02 February 2012 03:38:33PM 2 points [-]

Why?

Comment author: Konkvistador 03 February 2012 03:12:35PM *  1 point [-]

I haven't once in my life made a good decision based on feel good thinking. Naturally I may be an outlier but overall models of the world that "feel good" are generally wrong models. I value having a accurate map even if it isn't useful (yes having a wrong map can be instrumentally valuable, and a positive outlook actually often is).

Also warm fuzzies are one of the easiest way to manipulate someone. When someone tries to shower me with them I nearly indistinctly try to counterbalance them. Hm, now that I think of it that pattern matches to being a cynic.

Comment author: MinibearRex 08 February 2012 03:35:28AM 1 point [-]

I haven't once in my life made a good decision based on feel good thinking.

I would have expected things to go your way every now and then simply by chance.

Comment author: GabrielDuquette 03 February 2012 05:42:48PM *  1 point [-]

But... feeling good for non-bullshit reasons is desirable, no?

(I do the counterbalancing thing too, but with the aim of editing praise so that it falls where I truly deserve it.)

Comment author: atorm 30 January 2012 08:57:44PM 0 points [-]

What about people who want to reject the claims of religion but still want warm fuzzies? Maybe atheism wouldn't get such a bad rap in the public eye if it felt more welcoming for people who want truths but also want the sense of community provided by religion.

Comment author: faul_sname 02 February 2012 12:30:45AM *  0 points [-]

Paganism? It seems like one of the more accepting groups, and you don't need to actually believe to celebrate/be in a community.

Comment author: BobDylan 19 January 2012 11:06:53PM 0 points [-]

So true, I totally think that way.

Comment author: CaveJohnson 18 January 2012 07:36:34PM 15 points [-]

Most people are theists not because they were "reasoned into" believing in God, but because they applied Occam's razor at too early an age. Their simplest explanation for the reason that their parents, not to mention everyone else in the world, believed in God, was that God actually existed. The same could be said for, say, Australia.

--Mencius Moldbug

Comment author: gwern 18 January 2012 08:06:32PM 7 points [-]

Please remember sources; this is from "How I Stopped Believing in Democracy", 31 January 2008.

Comment author: CaveJohnson 18 January 2012 08:18:45PM *  5 points [-]

Is it conventional to add sources when it is an on-line? Sorry didn't know that was expected, since it wasn't in the posting rule set. Will remember to add sources in the future.

BTW gwern sometimes your attention to detail is as unnerving as it is helpful and impressive.

Comment author: gwern 18 January 2012 08:37:52PM 0 points [-]

Is it conventional to add sources when it is an on-line source?

I thought it was, but then, I may be interested only because it makes it easier in the future to track down citations if there is a title and URL (and because if I click on a URL, it goes into my archive bot).

BTW gwern sometimes your attention to detail is as unnerving as it is helpful and impressive.

It's just time-wasting... Heck, I time-waste on my time-wasting, I'm supposed to be adding citations on how people are biased against spaced repetition even when their scores are better with SR to my respective article.

Comment author: Konkvistador 18 January 2012 07:16:40PM 7 points [-]

No matter if it is a white cat or a black cat; as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat.

--Deng Xiaoping

Comment author: Konkvistador 17 January 2012 04:32:55PM *  8 points [-]

I am often wrong. My prejudices are innumerable, and often idiotic.

--H.L. Mencken

Comment author: CharlieSheen 14 January 2012 09:18:22AM *  10 points [-]

We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.

-Winston Churchill

Comment author: gwern 14 January 2012 05:52:50PM 3 points [-]

The rest of the story is interesting; from http://www.winstonchurchill.org/learn/speeches/quotations

—House of Commons (meeting in the House of Lords), 28 October 1943. The old House was rebuilt in 1950 in its old form, remaining insufficient to seat all its members. Churchill was against "giving each member a desk to sit at and a lid to bang" because, he explained, the House would be mostly empty most of the time; whereas, at critical votes and moments, it would fill beyond capacity, with members spilling out into the aisles, in his view a suitable "sense of crowd and urgency."

An apt comparison would be Napoleon's reconstruction of Paris with broad straight streets, I think. (Code is Law.)

Comment author: satt 14 January 2012 02:48:17PM 1 point [-]

"We are shaped and fashioned by what we love." — Goethe

Comment author: HonoreDB 10 January 2012 07:48:23PM *  22 points [-]

...some people requested that I be prohibited from studying. One time they achieved it through a very holy and simple mother superior who believed that studying would get me in trouble with the Inquisition and ordered me not to do it. I obeyed her for the three months that she was in office in as far as I did not touch a book, but as far as absolutely not studying, this was not in my power. [...] Even the people I spoke to, and what they said to me, gave rise to thousands of reflections. What was the source of all the variety of personality and talent I found among them, since they were all one species? [...] Sometimes I would pace in front of the fireplace in one of our large dormitories and notice that, though the lines of two sides were parallel and its ceiling level, to our vision it appears as though the lines are inclined toward each other and the ceiling is lower in the distance than it is nearby. From this it can be inferred that the lines of our vision run straight, but not parallel, to form the figure of a pyramid. And I wondered if that was the reason that the ancients questioned whether the earth was a sphere or not. Because although it seemed so, their vision might have deceived them, showing concave shapes where there were none. [...] Once I saw two girls playing with a top, and hardly had I seen the movement and the shape when I began, in my insane way, to consider the easy movement of the spherical shape and how long the momentum, once established, remained independent of its original cause, the distant hand of the girl. Not content with this I had flour brought and sprinkled on the floor in order to discover whether the spinning top would describe perfect circles or not. It turned out that they were not perfect circles but spirals that lost their circular shape to the degree that the top lost momentum.

Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz, 1691 (tr. Pamela Kirk Rappaport)

Comment author: Vaniver 09 January 2012 11:11:58PM 2 points [-]

But, above all, it is expected that the attention of instructors to the disposition of the minds and morals of the youth under their charge will exceed every other care; well considering that though goodness without knowledge is weak and feeble, yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous, and that both united form the noblest character, and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind.

John Philips, 1781

Comment author: Karmakaiser 09 January 2012 04:33:02PM *  12 points [-]

"A “lie-to-children” is a statement which is false, but which nevertheless leads the child’s mind towards a more accurate explanation, one that the child will only be able to appreciate if it has been primed with the lie." "Yes, you needed to understand that” they are told, “so that now we can tell you why it isn’t exactly true." It is for the best possible reasons, but it is still a lie".”

--(The Science of Discworld, Ebury Press edition, quotes from pp 41-42)

Comment author: Konkvistador 08 January 2012 05:03:52PM 16 points [-]

... if anyone thinks they can get an accurate picture of anyplace on the planet by reading news reports, they're sadly mistaken.

--Bruce Schneier

Comment author: Anubhav 08 January 2012 05:16:29AM 13 points [-]

Imagine willpower doesn't exist. That's step 1 to a better future.

Second slide of this powerpoint by Stanford's Persuasive Tech Lab.