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Morendil comments on Explain/Worship/Ignore? - Less Wrong

37 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 September 2007 08:01PM

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Comment author: Morendil 21 January 2010 12:40:42AM *  6 points [-]

I'm embarrassed to be caught using "fake explanation" as a fake explanation. Thanks for straightening that out. I'll use my own words more.

Yes, optics are enough that I can predict something. Even this late in the game for me, I occasionally find some things I hadn't really, really known before; it took experimental evidence (a rainbow caused by one of the wonderful waterfalls of Iceland) to realize that a rainbow appears centered about a point - my eyes - that moves as I move. That has a particularly wonderful effect when the rainbow is close to a full circle, as was the case that day at Skogafoss.

For some reason, I experienced that moment of playing with my personal rainbow as a minor epiphany; it had all the hallmarks of the religious experience I hear people talking about, up to "feeling at one with nature". Except that this was a reductionist epiphany, where I realized that even though I was momentarily unable to recall all the details of why this rainbow danced with me, that knowledge was mine to reconstruct if I wanted to, down to almost the rock-bottom level of explanation. I felt as if the Universe belonged to me in that instant.

Previous to that I was something of a rationalist's mysterian, if the phrase makes any sense; I had (truth be told, likely still have) traces of the "science doesn't know everything so there might be magic" attitude.

I don't know (yet) how to pass on that kind of feeling to my kids, but I hope I figure it out, for their sakes. It's a great feeling, one I'd love to share with people I love, and knowing it has a neurological basis doesn't spoil it one bit.

This was last summer, about three months before I chanced upon LW and ultimately the sequence that includes "Joy in the merely real".

ETA: folks are sending karma here and to the grand-parent, I notice; I'd appreciate, if any of those upvotes mean "might like to see that worked into a post", your replying that explicity.

I've been thinking about writing up the rainbow epiphany for a while now, but didn't know how or for whom, and though I'm writing this at 2am and probably in for more revising than I care to admit, I feel better for having gotten it out.