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ciphergoth comments on Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism - Less Wrong

105 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 21 April 2009 02:44AM

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Comment author: ciphergoth 21 April 2009 05:54:03AM 0 points [-]

I think we should start saying explicitly that this is an atheists-only community.

It's not that we don't want to help theists become more rational; we do. But this website isn't primarily an outreach mechanism; it's a facilitator for discussions among people who are already on board with the basics of what we're about. And those basics absolutely rule out theism and other supernatural stuff. I think we could say fairly categorically that if you don't understand why theism is ruled out, you're not ready to post here.

Comment author: Nick_Tarleton 21 April 2009 12:58:36PM 7 points [-]

I would be at least as concerned about initially repulsing atheists who don't feel that they want to be part of an overly-exclusionary community, as about driving out intelligent theists.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 21 April 2009 07:06:49AM 3 points [-]

I doubt anyone needs to be warned that their argument for religious faith would have to be exceptional indeed to earn a positive response here.

Comment author: ciphergoth 21 April 2009 07:41:21AM 4 points [-]

I'm proposing something stronger than that: it's not appropriate to post arguments for religious faith here at all. In fact, I'm proposing something stronger than that: if you don't understand why theism is ruled out, you're not ready to post here at all.

Comment author: gjm 21 April 2009 11:49:15AM 13 points [-]

it's not appropriate to post arguments for religious faith here at all.

Agreed, with reservations. (Some might be useful examples. Some might be sufficiently persuasive prima facie to be worth a look even though we'd be astonished if they turned out actually to work.)

if you don't understand why theism is ruled out, you're not ready to post here at all.

If theism were just one more thing that people can easily be wrong about, perhaps you'd be right. As it is, there's huge internal and external pressure influencing many people in the direction of theism, and some people are really good at compartmentalizing; and as a result there are lots of people who are basically good thinkers, who are basically committed to deciding things rationally, but who are still theists. I don't see any reason to believe that no one in that position could have anything to offer LW.

Once again: Would you want to keep out Robert Aumann?

Comment author: ciphergoth 21 April 2009 12:10:20PM 4 points [-]

Would you want to keep out Robert Aumann?

Um. No. Busted.

Still, we can agree that Aumann is not on board with the programme...

Comment author: Jack 21 April 2009 10:33:00AM *  5 points [-]

I think it is a huge mistake to assume that someone who is irrational in one area isn't perfectly rational in other areas. I can easily imagine an intelligent theist writing helpful posts on nearly every subject that comes up here. The fact that he's making errors when it comes to his thinking on God is totally beside the point. Creationists I'd be considerably more skeptical of- but I don't think its impossible to imagine a good post on say keeping your brain healthy, or rhetorical tricks for convincing people coming from people with very wrong views in other areas. If a theist came here I take it you should down vote his/her bad arguments for theism and upvote any positive contributions they make. End of story.

Learning someone is a theist might be bayesian evidence that they are fools but its not strong enough evidence to prevent entry to the community even before seeing what the person has to offer.

Comment author: ciphergoth 21 April 2009 10:57:21AM 4 points [-]

I don't see what we have here as a bag of tricks you can use to improve your rationality, but a programme that forms a coherent whole, as I set out here. To be a theist is to fail to grasp the whole thrust of the programme.

Comment author: Jack 21 April 2009 11:21:48AM 0 points [-]

I'm not sure that is the case. To be a biblical literalist waiting for the rapture is certainly to have nothing in common with the programme. But there are theists who could share your concerns about the effect of our biases and who could make helpful contributions to that cause. And even though this isn't a deconversion website I think if you want to evangelize for the rationalist project having a community that is open and friendly even to those who still have some irrational beliefs left over is really important. Would you let in questioning theists? Fideists?

Comment author: ciphergoth 21 April 2009 11:39:35AM *  2 points [-]

If we're so keen on outreach, why aren't we talking about it?

EDIT: I should add that I wouldn't want to leave the impression that my typical picture of a theist is some thundering fundamentalist; I have several pagan and liberal Christian friends, and they are smart and lovely people. Still, the Escher-brained things they say when you try and talk about the subject discourage me from the idea that they're going to help us move things forward.

Comment author: cousin_it 21 April 2009 01:26:58PM *  8 points [-]

Superhappies would ask you, in the name of fairness, to invent a symmetric rite of admission for atheists. Some Bayesian-obvious truth that would sound similarly unacceptable to their social circle.

For example, we atheists could get a taste of theists' feelings by declaring aloud that "women/blacks and men/whites don't have equal intelligence on average" and watching the reactions. A "bigoted" version of Dawkins or Eliezer could arise and argue eloquently how this factual statement is irrelevant to morality, just like the issue of god's existence. That was inflammatory on purpose; you could go for something milder, like the goodness of monarchy relative to democracy.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 21 April 2009 03:41:11PM -2 points [-]

For cooperation to arise, the opposing side needs to have relative advantage. For the theists to ask atheists to argue for theism, they should consider atheists to be better at arguing for theism than they are. Fairness is not just about symmetry, but also about cooperation. And cooperation requires improvement in the outcome for all sides.

Comment author: cousin_it 21 April 2009 04:02:41PM 2 points [-]

I wasn't asking atheists to argue for theism. And I don't understand your reply at all. Could you explain?

Comment author: Jack 21 April 2009 11:52:22AM 0 points [-]

I confess I don't understand what you mean by this. Are you wondering why more people haven't commented on that post? Why I haven't commented on that post?

Does this have something to do with our previous exchange?

Comment author: ciphergoth 21 April 2009 12:08:16PM 0 points [-]

Good questions. I guess I am venting my frustration that my lovely post has had so few comments. It feels like that there's a conversation to be had about the whole subject that we keep nibbling at the edges of in exchanges like this when we should be driving hard for the center. If my post is a poor way to start on that, someone should make a better one.

So to tie that back into our exchange, I feel like I'd be better armed to discuss who we should be encouraging to post here in the name of outreach if we'd had a discussion on what sort of outreach we might do and what role this website might play in that.

However, it's also more than possible that I have entirely the wrong end of the stick, in which case I'd appreciate guidance on where the right end might be found :-)

Comment author: Jack 21 April 2009 02:21:56PM 2 points [-]

You're right that debating factors the effect outreach would be a lot easier if we had criteria for what effective outreach means.

I think people prefer posts that go a long way toward making some argument- in contrast with those that just ask for input. Even if people like the question they're less likely to promote the post. But your comment outlining the programme got a lot of karma. Why not make that into a full post and talk about the sorts of things you'd like our goals to be.

One other possibility is that its just too soon to do outreach. Maybe we need more time to mature and systematize our ideas.

Comment author: ciphergoth 21 April 2009 02:36:45PM 0 points [-]

I didn't want to do that because I wanted to discuss everyone's ideas, not just my own which I'm not wholly confident of, but you might be right that it would be a better way forward. Thanks.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 21 April 2009 02:32:41PM *  4 points [-]

I think we could say fairly categorically that if you don't understand why theism is ruled out, you're not ready to post here.

I feel like repeating myself here: just don't foster the discussion concerned directly with religion. We don't fight religion, we fight for people's sanity. Otherwise, it's like not allowing sick people to a hospital. In most cases, good hygiene within the community should be enough to keep the patients from harming each other.

Comment author: ciphergoth 21 April 2009 04:54:14PM 8 points [-]

So part of the question is whether this is a hospital or a medical conference.

Comment author: MBlume 21 April 2009 05:20:43PM 3 points [-]

Data point: I followed a link to OB from reddit, got (largely) cured, and am now doing my best to assist the doctors.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 21 April 2009 05:24:44PM *  0 points [-]

Fair enough. More specifically, the problem is in the efficiency of this criterion: yes, there is a correlation, but is a rule worth enforcing, would it hurt more than help? So, I guess the point comes down to me not considering this particular feature as salient as you do.

Comment author: thomblake 21 April 2009 05:16:23PM 0 points [-]

So in essence, you're asking whether this is:

  1. a place for experts on rationality to come and discuss / build on important developments, or

  2. a place for people who need rationality to come and get better

ne?

Comment author: ciphergoth 21 April 2009 05:25:06PM *  3 points [-]

The distinction isn't quite as simple as I'm making - we are all actively fighting our own and each other's irrationalities - but I still think there's a line that can be drawn of whether a person is fundamentally in tune with the rationalist values that this site is all about.

However, I am given pause by the fact that everyone except Annoyance seems to disagree with me.

Comment author: komponisto 21 April 2009 10:44:38PM *  6 points [-]

I agree with you in a weak sense . My position is that while we shouldn't officially exclude theists from participation, we should nevertheless be free to take atheism completely for granted -- as would be manifested, for instance, in unhesitatingly using theism as a canonical example of irrationality. The kind of theist who will be welcome here is the kind who can handle this.

Comment author: Furcas 21 April 2009 11:02:13PM *  4 points [-]

One good reason to, if not exclude theists, then at least minimize their presence here, is the very real possibility that they could become a large minority. Once their number has reached a certain percentage of the LW community, it's almost a certainty that they will team up with agnostics and atheists who believe in belief to enforce deference towards their beliefs; by constantly chiding vocal anti-theists, or simply by making it known that they are theists once in a while, they will make it rude to state that theism is, in fact, irrational. This isn't a new phenomenon, it's one that already exists in nearly every society in the Western world, as well as most internet communities. I'd hate to see it take hold at Less Wrong too.

Comment author: ciphergoth 22 April 2009 10:50:16AM 3 points [-]

Probably this is a better idea than the one I started with - there's a distinction between an atheist community and an atheist-only community, and the former may be wiser.