Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

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

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

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (312)

You are viewing a single comment's thread. Show more comments above.

Comment author: thomblake 21 April 2009 08:01:30PM *  2 points [-]

But atheism isn't actually the default. A person must begin study at some point in his life - you start from where you actually are. Most people I'm aware of begin their adult lives as theists. Without a compelling reason to change this belief, I wouldn't expect them to.

Comment author: Annoyance 21 April 2009 08:15:24PM -2 points [-]

"But atheism isn't actually the default."

Well... yes, it is. I do not know of any theistic infants. Actually, I'm not aware that infants have any beliefs as such.

Young children seem predisposed to attribute things to powerful but non-present entities, but I'm fairly certain there are logical fallacies involved.

The fact that many people accept certain concepts as given without questioning them thoroughly - or at all - does not constitute a justification for believing those things. I have often heard the claim that philosophy does not attempt to examine premises but only to project and study the consequences of the premises people bring to it; I consider that to be one of the reasons why 'philosophy' is without merit.

Comment author: JGWeissman 21 April 2009 10:49:19PM 4 points [-]

It seems that Annoyance and thomblake are using different definitions of "default".

Annoyance uses it the same as null hypothesis, the theory with the smallest complexity and therefore the best prior probability, that any other theory needs evidence to compete with. In this sense, atheism is the default position, supposing that the universe follows mindless laws of nature without the need for initial setup or continuous intervention by any sort of intelligent power is simpler than supposing the universe acts the same way because some unexplained deity wills it. This definition is useful to figure out what our beliefs ought to be.

Thomblake seems to mean by "default", the belief one had when achieving their current level of rationality, that they will keep until they find a reason to change it. For most people, who are introduced to a religion at young age before they get a chance to learn much about anything approaching rationality, some sort of theism would be this default. This definition is useful to figure out why people believe what they believe, and how to convince them to change their beliefs.

Now, I am not sure what we mean by "sanity", but I think someone who maintains a default position (in thomblake's sense) that they would not have adopted if first presented in their current level of rationality, while they may benifet from achieving an even higher level of rationality (or simply haven't reviewed all their default positions), they are not necessarily incapable of achieving the higher level.

Comment author: Annoyance 22 April 2009 04:19:51PM 0 points [-]

I'm not even entirely sure that we're all using the word 'atheism' to refer to the same things.

This highlights the problems that arise when people use the same terminology for different concepts.

Comment author: MrHen 21 April 2009 08:19:40PM 1 point [-]

Well... yes, it is.

You keep doing this. Simply stating the opposite of another statement is not helping. Even if you clarify a little later it seems to be indirectly and without a solid response to the original point.

Comment author: Annoyance 21 April 2009 08:20:56PM -2 points [-]

That's why you need to read the sentences following the one you quoted.

Comment author: MrHen 21 April 2009 08:26:52PM *  1 point [-]

Well... yes, it is. I do not know of any theistic infants. Actually, I'm not aware that infants have any beliefs as such.

Infants without beliefs do not last long. They get beliefs eventually. Trying to argue this point just pushes the relevant stuff up the tree and makes the argument about semantics that are not particularly useful for the topic at hand.

And... are you saying that the null hypothesis is whatever an infant believes? How is that useful? I think it degrades definitions of things like "atheism" by saying that if you make no choice it is the same as making the correct choice. Coming to the correct conclusion for the wrong reason is the wrong solution.

Young children seem predisposed to attribute things to powerful but non-present entities, but I'm fairly certain there are logical fallacies involved.

The null hypothesis could be wrong. Logical fallacies are irrelevant.

The fact that many people accept certain concepts as given without questioning them thoroughly - or at all - does not constitute a justification for believing those things. I have often heard the claim that philosophy does not attempt to examine premises but only to project and study the consequences of the premises people bring to it; I consider that to be one of the reasons why 'philosophy' is without merit.

This is irrelevant to the topic. So, at the end, I spent my time telling you your comment was mostly irrelevant. I should just downvote and bury it like I did the other one.