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Phil_Goetz5 comments on Excluding the Supernatural - Less Wrong

37 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 September 2008 12:12AM

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Comment author: Phil_Goetz5 12 September 2008 03:48:31PM 2 points [-]

I thought about this a bit more last night. I think the right justification for religion - which is not one that any religious person would consciously agree with - is that it does not take on faith the idea that truth is always good.

Reductionism aims at learning the truth. Religion is inconsistent and false - and that's a feature, not a bug. Its social purpose is to grease the wheels of society where bare truth would create friction.

For example: In Rwanda, people who slaughtered the families of other people in their village, are now getting out of jail and coming back to live with the surviving relatives of their victims in the same villages. Rwanda needs this to happen; there are so many killers and conspirators, that they can't keep them in jail or kill them - these killers are a significant part of their nation's work force. Also, this would start the war all over again.

I have heard a few accounts of how they persuade the surviving relatives to forgive and live with the killers. They agree that the only way to do this is by using religious arguments.

Perhaps a true rationalist could be persuaded to leave the killer of their family alone, on grounds of self-interest. I'm easily more rational than 99.9% of the population, but I don't think I'm that rational.

If we had a population of purely rational thinking machines, perhaps we would need no religion. But since we have only humans to work with, it may play a valid role where the irrational nature of humans and the rational truth of science would, together, lead to disaster.

Comment author: taryneast 19 December 2010 11:31:54AM 3 points [-]

Paraphrasing: It's just a lie used to manipulate people into doing what you want them to do against their natural tendencies... but because you're incapable of finding a truth that will actually satisfy them (ie it's a useful lie), it should be kept around.

Comment author: shokwave 19 December 2010 12:47:02PM 0 points [-]

That religion solves problems like "get people to accept daily life with the murderer of their family" really doesn't seem like justification, just a single positive aspect that probably doesn't outweigh the negatives. That there aren't many stronger justifications is also concerning.

To wit: The truth tells you not to jump off cliffs. That the truth is of no use to you once you have jumped off a cliff is hardly an argument against it. A useful lie telling you that you can fly will be very useful to you once you jump off a cliff, but that is hardly an argument for the useful lie when you're considering your decision regarding the cliff-jumping.