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thomblake comments on Politics is the Mind-Killer - Less Wrong

71 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 18 February 2007 09:23PM

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Comment author: thomblake 25 January 2012 09:59:53PM 14 points [-]

You seem to be asserting that people in general care less about politics than they should. I would challenge that assertion; it seems unlikely on the face of it.

As noted in OP, we had much more impact on politics (and its close neighbor, tribal signalling) in the ancestral environment than we do now, and it was much more directly a matter of life-and-death. Thus, we are hard-wired to care about politics to a greater extent than we should.

You're new here, and so you're not used to our community norms - in those cases, we try to cut people some slack. But it really seems to me that you're not ready to be making contributions; try to restrict yourself to asking questions that might further your understanding of rationality. You appear to be incapable of seeing that your enemies are not evil aliens - you describe communists as 'idiots', as though there is no way an intelligent, well-meaning person could believe that communism is a good system of governance*. I shall refer you to this chestnut from G.K.Chesterton:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."

So it is with opposing viewpoints. Policy debates should not appear one-sided. If you do not understand how an intelligent, well-meaning person can have a position, and it's a position that lots of people actually hold, then you do not understand the position yet.

If you really want to post about politics rather than rationality, there are plenty of forums for that - many more than there are for rationality. If you do continue to post here, I would be very grateful if you made your comments short, to-the-point, and on-topic.

*As a minor footnote, note that what you were really commenting on is people's responses to one question on an informal survey, which many people criticized for not doing a great job of carving up the space of political ideology.

Comment author: RPMcMurphy 27 March 2015 08:46:43PM -2 points [-]

This is one of the objectively most wrong comments that's ever been written. A hell of a lot of people went to gas chambers, gulags, and death camps believing this sort of pure, undiluted bullshit (of the highly-dangerous-to-continuing-health variety). Just think about it. You wrote:

So it is with opposing viewpoints. Policy debates should not appear one-sided. If you do not understand how an intelligent, well-meaning person can have a position, and it's a position that lots of people actually hold, then you do not understand the position yet.

So, if you were defending Jews in 1930s Germany, by this "reasoning," you'd be wrong. If you were defending runaway slaves in 1850s America, same thing. If you are defending American prisoners in today's America, same thing.

Even a semi-literate reading of History shows us that the consensus is very often wrong, for reasons exposed scientifically by Milgram's famous "false electroshock" or "obedience to authority" experiment(s). To find out more about why and how the consensus has been wrong, you need to learn the first thing about the Enlightenment, and how it was different from the even more wrong medieval time periods. (For example, religion isn't a good source of authority, and resulted in over 800 years of "trial by ordeal" in England, among creatures whose neocortices were at least as developed as our own.)

...Unless the point you're making is that we've reached the pinnacle of democratic organization in our society. That's a claim I'd be happy to debate, seeing as to how in the North in 1850 there was no "voir dire" but there was such a thing in 1851, (and still is) and the Fugitive Slave Law was unenforceable for the first part of 1851, and became enforceable after voir dire was instated. Voir dire is still what has allowed prosecutors to enforce the laws that libertarians (such as Eliezer Yudkowsky) see as illegitimate, to this day. (He may or may not know that, but that's in fact the mechanism.)

Comment author: dxu 27 March 2015 09:36:23PM *  2 points [-]

I think you are seriously misinterpreting thomblake's comment.

So, if you were defending Jews in 1930s Germany, by this "reasoning," you'd be wrong. If you were defending runaway slaves in 1850s America, same thing. If you are defending American prisoners in today's America, same thing.

No, he'd be right. A position's popularity doesn't guarantee its correctness. That being said, it would be a mistake to claim he'd be obviously right; that just isn't the case, or else there wouldn't have been so many people arguing for the consensus position in the first place. If you are pro-abortion and say things like, "Anti-abortionists are stupid and mistaken and not worth listening to at all!" you aren't worth listening to, because odds are very likely you haven't taken the time to properly think about the anti-abortionists' position. Likewise if you are anti-abortion, and say things like, "Pro-abortionists are idiots; there's no way a well-meaning, intelligent person could be in favor of abortion!"

Even a semi-literate reading of History shows us that the consensus is very often wrong

Again, see above. The consensus may be very often wrong, but it cannot be obviously wrong. If a consensus position was obviously wrong, it wouldn't have become the consensus position in the first place. Arguments against the consensus position are perfectly fine as long as they are charitable and (reasonably) objective; arguments of the form "this is obviously stupid" are a major sign of mind-killing, and factually false.

Comment author: Jiro 28 March 2015 08:37:59AM *  0 points [-]

If you do not understand how an intelligent, well-meaning person can have a position, and it's a position that lots of people actually hold, then you do not understand the position yet.

Unless "I think the intelligent, well-meaning person is making an error due to cognitive bias, ignorance, or being lied to" counts as understanding them, I do not understand how an intelligent, well-meaning, person can believe in

-- homeopathy

-- The US political version of intelligent design

-- 9/11 conspiracy theories

These are positions that lots of people actually hold. Do I fail to understand these positions?

Comment author: thomblake 15 July 2015 08:13:02PM 0 points [-]

Indeed, understanding the particular error in reasoning that the person is making is not merely sufficient but necessary for fully understanding a mistaken position. However, if your entire understanding is "because bias somehow" then you don't actually understand.

And you should be careful about accepting the uncharitable explanation preemptively, as it's rather tempting to explain away other people's beliefs and arguments that way.