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

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

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Comment author: TheOtherDave 31 October 2016 01:46:34AM 2 points [-]

Yeah, there's a communally endorsed position on which religion(s) is/are correct ("none of them are correct"), but there is no similar communally endorsed position on which political ideology(ies) is/are correct.

There's also no similar communally endorsed position on which brand of car is best, but there's no ban on discussion of cars, because in our experience discussions of car brands, unlike discussions of political ideologies, tend to stay relatively civil and productive.

What do you think? Would the site end up with a similar "rational" political consensus if political discussion went through?

I find it extremely unlilkely. It certainly hasn't in the past.

Comment author: mirefek 31 October 2016 12:22:18PM *  0 points [-]

I find it extremely unlikely. It certainly hasn't in the past.

You mean that it didn't happen here or in the global society? Discussions about religion seems to me to be equally unproductive in general.

I can imagine that if the site endorsed a political ideology its readers would may become biased forward it (even if just by selection of readers). Surely, it is not the intent of the site. But there is a possibility that that happened with the religion issue...

Comment author: entirelyuseless 31 October 2016 02:46:07PM 0 points [-]

As you pointed out yourself, most people involved with the site at the beginning were atheists. That is because of association with a group of people who were mainly atheists from the beginning. But they did not all agree on politics.

As a consequence, discussion of politics was discouraged because it would lead to contention and disagreement among those original people.

Discussion of religion, in the sense of disparagement of religion, was not discouraged, since it would not lead to contention and disagreement, given that the original group was atheist.

But in the early years, mentioning religion without directly saying it is false or bad would almost always be heavily downvoted, even if you did not assert that it was true. That happened without there being an official norm that you could not do that, simply because of the large proportion of atheists. The only exceptions (in the early years that is) were for people who favored religion but presented themselves as having basically something like a dhimmi status in relation to atheism. That of course got rid of most people interested in discussing religion, but a norm like the politics one was unnecessary, because of the presumed agreement on atheism.

But you are right that the difference was accidental, and based on the original group characteristics. If the original group had contained a mix of religious people with diverse religious views, the site would likely be that way to this day, and direct discussion of religious topics would be discouraged in the same way that politics currently is. It has nothing to do with what views are reasonable. Some views on religion are more reasonable than others, and some views on politics are more reasonable than others, but for most people, the views that they hold on these topics are not principally motivated by reason. That applies to both religion and politics, and it applies to people on Less Wrong almost as much as to ordinary people.

Comment author: mirefek 31 October 2016 05:58:43PM *  0 points [-]

Thank you for clarifying a history of the site and the community. I expected something of that.

But I wasn't sure how much the local community is resistant to biases (and how it is confident in that), so the original question was perhaps a bit indirect.

mentioning religion without directly saying it is false or bad would almost always be heavily downvoted, even if you did not assert that it was true

So I am glad that I haven't been heavily downvoted yet. Religion is false, of course :-)

Comment author: entirelyuseless 01 November 2016 01:13:12PM 0 points [-]

That doesn't really happen much anymore, if at all, for a number of reasons, the most important one being that everyone has stopped reading this site at this point.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 01 November 2016 03:35:06PM 0 points [-]

You mean that it didn't happen here or in the global society?

I mean that it's unlikely that "the site [would] end up with a similar "rational" political consensus if political discussion went through".

Discussions about religion seems to me to be equally unproductive in general.

In the global society? I agree.

I can imagine that if the site endorsed a political ideology its readers would may become biased forward it (even if just by selection of readers).

Sure, that's possible.

But there is a possibility that that happened with the religion issue.

Sure, that's possible.

Also, let me cut to the chase a little bit, here.

The subtext I'm picking up from our exchange is that you object to the site's endorsement of atheism, but are reluctant to challenge it overtly for fear of social sanction (downvotes, critical comments, etc.). So instead of challenging it, you are raising the overt topic of the site's unwillingness to endorse a specific political ideology, and taking opportunities as they arise to implicitly establish equivalences between religion and politics, with the intention of implicitly arguing that the site's willingness to endorse a specific religious ideology (atheism) is inconsistent.

Have I correctly understood your subtext?

Comment author: mirefek 02 November 2016 04:37:33PM *  1 point [-]

Discussions about religion seems to me to be equally unproductive in general.

In the global society? I agree.

Yes, in the global society.

The subtext I'm picking up from our exchange is that you object to the site's endorsement of atheism, but are reluctant to challenge it overtly for fear of social sanction (downvotes, critical comments, etc.). So instead of challenging it, you are raising the overt topic of the site's unwillingness to endorse a specific political ideology, and taking opportunities as they arise to implicitly establish equivalences between religion and politics, with the intention of implicitly arguing that the site's willingness to endorse a specific religious ideology (atheism) is inconsistent.

Perhaps, partially. But I don't think that it is accurate. I did not choose the political topic just as a cover. I have opinions about both topics. I like controversial discussions about both of them. I consider myself as an atheist and I have my favorite political direction (I won't mention it, I respect rules of the site). It just do not seem to me that my philosophical opinions are more rational than my political opinions.

I do not object atheism of the site. I like atheist sites. But it seemed to me that the site claim to be "atheist because of rationality". If it was true it would be very nice indicator supporting my opinion. On the other hand, for example a variant of the "Committee for Skeptical Inquiry" in my (mainly atheist) country forbids itself to talk about religion and some of its major members are Christians. So I asked here and got an answer.

Comment author: ChristianKl 31 October 2016 06:49:00PM 2 points [-]

I don't think we have discussions about which political ideology is correct. Most political discussions are about other issues. I would also hold that political ideologies are mostly wrong. For most issues it's makes a lot more sense to study the issue in detail than try to have an opinion based on precached ideology.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 01 November 2016 03:25:48PM 0 points [-]

Yup, agreed with all of this. (Well, I do think we have had discussions about which political ideology is correct, but I agree that we shy away from them and endorse political discussions about issues.)

Comment author: ChristianKl 01 November 2016 05:57:41PM 1 point [-]

Someone who follow a political ideology is a hedgehog and therefore likely making bad predictions. I'm not sure whether there's a consensus but I think the "official position" to the extend that there is one, is that this is bad. EY also wrote http://lesswrong.com/lw/gz/policy_debates_should_not_appear_onesided/

Comment author: tdb 04 November 2016 12:33:28AM *  0 points [-]

I would also hold that political ideologies are mostly wrong.

Atheists don't hold that religions are mostly wrong. They hold that religious believers depend on untestable hypotheses and shield their beliefs from criticisms instead of engaging them.

What could we use as a political analog of atheism? Anarchists don't deny the existence of the state, just its benevolence.

For most issues it's makes a lot more sense to study the issue in detail than try to have an opinion based on precached ideology.

This sounds like an ideology wearing a fig leaf. When we study the issue, do we start with a blank slate, or do we have prior beliefs about facts, values and goals? Maybe you have a different interpretation of the word "ideology" than I do, but that sounds like ideology to me, and irreducible.

Comment author: CCC 04 November 2016 12:02:57PM 1 point [-]

Atheists don't hold that religions are mostly wrong. They hold that religious believers depend on untestable hypotheses and shield their beliefs from criticisms instead of engaging them.

I have come across atheists who hold - sometimes quite loudly - that all religions are completely wrong.

I have no doubt that some think as you describe, but most certainly not all.

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 04 November 2016 01:30:55PM *  0 points [-]

Atheists don't hold that religions are mostly wrong.

Wouldnt that be a special case of most beliefs being wrong?

or most issues it's makes a lot more sense to study the issue in detail than try to have an opinion based on precached ideology.

There isn't enough time to study everything in detail, but there is the option of not having an opinion about what you haven't' studied.

This sounds like an ideology wearing a fig leaf. When we study the issue, do we start with a blank slate, or do we have prior beliefs about facts, values and goals? Maybe you have a different interpretation of the word "ideology" than I do, but that sounds like ideology to me, and irreducible

if we can't help but bring our existing ideology to something we study, but that doesn't mean someone who says "study X" means "study X in terms of your ideology".

Comment author: Lumifer 04 November 2016 03:28:34PM 2 points [-]

Atheists don't hold that religions are mostly wrong.

Agnostics don't hold that religions are mostly wrong.

Considering religions wrong is precisely what differentiates atheists from agnostics.

Comment author: ChristianKl 04 November 2016 06:56:36PM 0 points [-]

If you have one ideology that you use to explain all political events you are a hedgehog. In contrast to that foxes use multiple distinct thought systems and are not committed to any single one.

Philip E. Tetlock found in his Good Judgment Project that foxes are more likely to make accurate predictions about political events than hedgehogs. Philip E. Telock wrote before EY's sequences that everybody should be a Bayesian and that being a Bayesian is about is about updating.

When it comes to the issue of whether the minimum wage reduces employment a Conservative might tell you "Of course minimum wage reduces employement" and a stereotypical Liberal "Of course the minimum wage reduces employement". I would tell you "I don't think the evidence is conclusive either way" because I don't want to let value judgements affect my beliefs about causation.