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The_Jaded_One comments on How to talk rationally about cults - Less Wrong Discussion

6 Post author: Viliam 08 January 2017 08:12PM

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Comment author: The_Jaded_One 09 January 2017 09:02:04PM 7 points [-]

Since downvoting is disabled, I'll criticize you instead.

This sentiment indicates to me that LW needs a bit of a culture change. It's a decent article, I feel informed by having read it. Probably not perfect and not a Yvain level insight about the world. But why do you want to downvote it? Couldn't you just not upvote it?

Comment author: ChristianKl 10 January 2017 10:52:31AM 3 points [-]

It's a decent article, I feel informed by having read it.

Many propaganda pieces make a person feel informed by reading them.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 11 January 2017 03:45:52AM 3 points [-]

They write propaganda, you spread awareness, I fact-check. Is it possible to rigorously define the difference between these, or do they mainly vary by connotation? If the latter, perhaps it'd be better to stick to labels like "true" and "false".

Comment author: ChristianKl 11 January 2017 03:39:35PM 0 points [-]

There's writing that makes a person felt informed after reading it by giving the person easy answers to complex questions and there's writing that tries to communicate complex facts about reality. Both can be right or wrong.

The standard of "feeling informed" is bad for judging the quality of a political argument. Plenty people feel informed after watching Zeitgeist.

You can make people feel informed when you tell them it's all due to the Jews, but that's no justification for the political speech and the created feeling in no way justifies the political speech that's used for persecution. And this political narrative in the OP is used presently in France for persecution of organisations like the Landmark forum.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 11 January 2017 04:03:58AM 0 points [-]

It's possible to fool people's sense of "feeling informed".

For instance, LSD seems to often induce a sense of insight and significance ... including sometimes attributing cosmic meaning to the patterns perceived in the pebbles in a concrete wall.

Or, for that matter, as some of the psychological studies described in Cialdini's Influence or Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow appear to have failed to replicate, what is there to say about the sense of feeling informed that accrued to many of us who took them to be insightful?

Comment author: chaosmage 10 January 2017 02:37:02PM *  2 points [-]

I want to downvote it because it lazily rehashes outdated clich├ęs.

This type of description of "cults" has always had a bunch of problems. Let's be generous and disregard the "cult" label (although it is entirely discredited in the scientific study of what is now referred to as New Religious Movements) because we can replace it with some other word. Still, this does not look at actual existing cults at all. People's Temple self-destructed almost 40 years ago. There are thousands of other cults (tens of thousands if you include Asia) and this description disregards all of them. It has no basis of data whatsoever.

What it has is a "checklist" of criteria that are very fuzzy and offer no clarity on what is or isn't a cult. All these do is provide a lot of threatening language to reinforce the idea that cults are dangerous. Which is not a proven fact. There's solid evidence certain specific group have certain specific dangers - Scientology is the big one. But "cultishness" in general, i.e. basically religiosity with heightened tribalism, is not established to be dangerous. [Edit: Not established to be more dangerous than mainstream religion.] And this type of "cult checklist" narrative distracts from this simple fact by just piling vague threatening assertions onto vague threatening assertions.

I would downvote this anywhere, but on LW, where we're supposed to think critically, check our sources and believe only what we have good reason to believe, it seems particularly inappropriate.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 10 January 2017 04:38:53PM 0 points [-]

I agree with your definition of "cultishness" as "religiosity with heightened tribalism." I think it is very, very obvious that this is more dangerous than mainstream religion and not something that needs some special method to "establish."

Comment author: bogus 10 January 2017 05:14:46PM 0 points [-]

"religiosity with heightened tribalism." I think it is very, very obvious that this is more dangerous than mainstream religion

Well, that depends what you mean by "mainstream religion" then, doesn't it? I mean, obviously Taoism, Buddhism (most varieties thereof, at least) and even Sufi Islam are not particularly dangerous, but some mainstream religions are in fact intensely tribal.