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In response to Thou Art Godshatter
Comment author: Eric_Falkenstein 14 November 2007 02:46:54AM 0 points [-]

As a chicken is a way for an egg to create another egg, I would like to 'tell my genes to jump in a lake', as Steven Pinker puts it, but considering so many of my preferences are in sync with my genes, I have the feeling they are very good at getting me to rationalize their preferences. I don't think there's intrinsic meaning in anything, but when I see connections, or patterns, in music or jokes or anything, that I haven't noticed before, I find that meaningful, pleasurable in a way my genes can't understand. But my love for my kids, and the meaning it gives me, clearly the gene gremlins are at work

Comment author: Eric_Falkenstein 06 November 2007 10:50:01PM 11 points [-]

Gould's rhetorical strategy was straight from the Marxist book he was influenced by as a child: the status quo is reactionary, bad, and monolithic; revolutionaries are good; everyone is a vector of the Hegelian dialectic except 'us'. So he had no problem setting up caricatures as opponents, a bunch of speciecentric believers in progress and eugenics, biased beyond belief.

His Mismeasure of Man is a great example of his methods. His criticism mainly centers on pre-1940 work as if their sloppy methods and biases render human biodiversity disproven: By that logic, Pasteur, Mendel, Millikan, Flemming, Freud, Eddington all should have negative signs attached to anything they asserted (see Einstein's Luck). He employed the rhetoric of emphatic reassertion "Say it five times before breakfast tomorrow: ‌ Human equality is a contingent fact of history". He dwelt on anecdotes, such as a question from a 1917 IQ test (Who was Christie Mathewson?), though there was subsequently a huge amount of research on much better tests when he wrote this in 1980. IQ is important, and you can measure it.

Straw men. Repetition. Ad hominem attacks. Totally ignoring the better arguments from your opponents. That was his style.

Comment author: Eric_Falkenstein 17 August 2007 06:26:30PM 2 points [-]

per the Black Swan:

The set of potential multicolored variations of Swans is infinite (purple, brown, grey, blue, green, etc). We can not prove any one of them do not exist. But every day that proceeds where we don't see these swans gives us a higher probability they do not exist. It never equals 1, but it's darn close.

The problem with the Black Swan parable is not that it's untrue, but rather unimportant. The set of things we have no evidence of is infinite. To then pounce across an unexpected observation (eg, a Black Swan, that Kevin Federline is a relatively good parent, last week's liquidity run on mortgage lenders), and say, "aha! You were all wrong!" merely sets up a staw man, that everything we reasonably don't anticipate and plan for is assumed to have had a probability of zero.

In reality, when you want to pay money for extreme events you overpay, that is, the implied probability is overweighted because sellers can't insure against these events. London bookmakers offer only 250-1 odds against a perpetual motion machine being discovered, 100-1 that aliens won't be proven. In option markets you have a volatility smile so that extreme events get higher and higher implied volatilities as you move away from the mean, meaning their probability is not assumed Gaussian.

The bottom line is that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" merely uses hindsight to attack a caricature of beliefs, and seems to suggests something practically important. In practice, people lose money on lottery tickets (or hurricane insurance, or buing a 3-delta put), so exploiting this is a fool's game.