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CCC comments on Crisis of Faith - Less Wrong

57 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 10 October 2008 10:08PM

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Comment author: waveman 24 January 2017 02:50:17AM 0 points [-]

What to do then, when experts sometimes are infected with meme plagues, have conflicts of interest, are able to prevent alternative views from being presented?

Comment author: CCC 25 January 2017 07:45:47AM 0 points [-]

If all experts are infected with meme plagues, and are able to prevent alternative views from being presented, then you have a problem. This implies that one of the following is true:

  • Studying the subject at all carries a strong risk of meme plague infection
  • Only those pre-infected with the meme plague have the interest and/or the ability to study the subject
  • You're wrong about something - either the presence of the meme plague or its spread or... something.

You could attempt to study the subject to expert level yourself, taking appropriate anti-meme-plague precautions; but you have to be very careful that you're not shutting your ears to something that's really true (you don't want to become a climate-change-denying weather expert, after all) so you'll need to seriously consider all necessary data (maybe re-run some vital experiments). This would take significant time and effort.

I don't know what other strategy could reasonably be followed...

Comment author: Lumifer 25 January 2017 03:18:19PM 4 points [-]

If all experts are infected with meme plagues, and are able to prevent alternative views from being presented, then you have a problem.

Real-life example. A relevant quote:

A deciding factor was that I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science. Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicized academic establishment — funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards, professional recognition, etc.

How young scientists are to navigate all this is beyond me, and it often becomes a battle of scientific integrity versus career suicide (I have worked through these issues with a number of skeptical young scientists).

Comment author: CCC 30 January 2017 10:52:14AM 2 points [-]


Okay. In this particular real-life example, though, it is clear that the politicisation is in the infrastructure around the science, not in the science itself. That is to say, learning climate science is not memetically dangerous - it is simply difficult to get a paper published that does not agree with certain politics. And that is bad, but it is not the worst possibility - it means that someone merely studying climate science is safe in so doing.

So, in this particular case, the solution of studying climate science oneself, becoming an expert, and then forming a suitable opinion is a viable strategy (albeit one that takes some significant time).

(An alternative solution - which will also be a hard thing to do - is to create some form of parallel infrastructure for climate science; another magazine in which to publish, another source of funding, and so on. There will likely be serious attempts to politicise this infrastructure as well, of course, and fending off such attempts will doubtless take some effort).

Comment author: Lumifer 30 January 2017 04:19:26PM 2 points [-]

learning climate science is not memetically dangerous

If you are an autodidact and study the climate science by yourself from first principles, yes, it's not dangerous. However if you study it in the usual way -- by going to a university, learning from professors and published papers, etc. -- you will absorb the memes.

Comment author: hairyfigment 31 January 2017 01:26:19AM 0 points [-]

Oh, you actually believe this crap. Then you should be ashamed of yourself.

Comment author: Lumifer 31 January 2017 02:47:18AM 1 point [-]

Then you should be ashamed of yourself.

Request denied.

Anything else I should do?

Comment author: CCC 06 February 2017 07:59:34AM 0 points [-]

Hmmmm. Depends how ingrained the memes are in the material. Oh, you'd certainly have awareness of the memes - but accepting them is a different story, and a certain skepticism in a student (or in a professor) can probably blunt that effect quite a bit.

Even if the memes are that thoroughly integrated, though, the only effect is to make the establishment of a parallel infrastructure that much more appropriate a solution.

Comment author: waveman 11 July 2017 01:00:42AM 0 points [-]

There is another possibility: the selection process for experts eliminates diverse perspectives.

Try getting tenure as a political scientist as a conservative republican, as an example.

But there are more subtle problems. For example, the selection process for medical doctors actively screens out people with a high level of mathematical and statistical skill, knowledge and ability.

It does this by very strongly selecting for other characteristics - ability to memorize vast arrays of words and facts, physical and mental stamina. Because if you strongly select for X, it will generally be at a cost to anything else that is not strongly correlated with X.