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Comment author: CCC 17 August 2016 03:02:59PM 1 point [-]

...it's possible. There are many differences between our proposed worlds, and it really depends on what you mean by "more extreme". Volairina's world is "more extreme" in the sense that there are no rules, no patterns to take advantage of. My world is "more extreme" in that the rules actively punish rationality.

My world requires that elementary physics somehow takes account of intent, and then actively subverts it. This means that it reacts in some way to something as nebulous as intent. This implies some level of understanding of the concept of intent. This, in turn, implies (as you state) an observational intellect - and worse, a directly malevolent one. Volairina's can exist without a directly malevolent intelligence directing things.

So it really comes down to what you mean by "extreme", I guess. Both proposed worlds are extreme cases, in their own way.

Comment author: JustinMElms 18 August 2016 04:30:17PM 0 points [-]

Fair point.

Comment author: CCC 14 October 2014 02:34:32PM 2 points [-]

While that is a world without rationality, it seems a fairly extreme case.

Another example of a world without rationality is a world in which, the more you work towards achieving a goal, the longer it takes to reach that goal; so an elderly man might wander distractedly up Mount Everest to look for his false teeth with no trouble, but a team of experienced mountaineers won't be able to climb a small hill. Even if they try to follow the old man looking for his teeth, the universe notices their intent and conspires against them. And anyone who notices this tendency and tries to take advantage of it gets struck by lightning (even if they're in a submarine at the time) and killed instantly.

Comment author: JustinMElms 22 July 2016 11:02:37PM 0 points [-]

I like both Volairina and your takes on the non-rational world. I was having a lot of trouble working something out.

That said, while Voltairina's world is a bit more horrifyingly extreme than yours, it seems to me more probably that cause and effect simply did not exist. I can envision a structure of elementary physics that simply change--functionally randomly--far more easily than that causality does exist, but operates in the inverse. I have more trouble envisioning the elementary physics that bring that into existence without a observational intellect directly upsetting motivated plans.

All that is to say, might not your case be the more extreme one?

Comment author: Feyerabend2 05 December 2007 11:04:11PM -2 points [-]

Artyom, that is a predictable non-response. Why it is about science that grants it a monopoly on systematic honesty? Why is systematic honesty the relevant procedural virtue with regard to this question? Why do you seem so sure that only science is capable of producing worthy answers to such questions?

This blog is the most cringe-inducing example of Plato's Cave I have seen in a long, long time.

Comment author: JustinMElms 07 July 2016 03:42:42PM 0 points [-]

This comment is going on a decade old, and if you still access this account, I would be curious about your stance on your above statements now.

Comment author: Lumifer 06 July 2016 09:32:25PM -1 points [-]

I can't find any sense in ChristianKl's answer, but maybe that's just me.

My basic problem with your position is that "conventional modifications via breeding" are better described as picking from a set of random mutations those where the phenotype looks appealing. I don't know why you think it's a safe method, especially compared with making targeted genetic changes directly.

Comment author: JustinMElms 06 July 2016 10:55:05PM 0 points [-]

I completely agree that breeding methods have their own flaws, which we certainly have seen come to dangerous fruition (pun definitely intended).

I also concede that breeding is quite slow in improving a plant, where direct modification would be much faster.

I furthermore agree that direct genetic modification is the future of crop improvement. Given that we better master the techniques and better understand the genomes in play every year, eventually direct gene modification will lack any of the uncertainty that I invoke right now.

But I likewise think it is not unreasonable to say that it is more likely that we would stumble upon a sudden unfortunate side-effect of our modifications by direct modification, because we would lack the evolutionary "safeguards" that have kept biological life going so far.

In any case: I'm clearly not expressing my ideas cogently enough to be productive in this venue, and it's taken on the whiff of partisan politics. Especially awkward since I am on the same "side" as you: I think there is insufficient evidence to mandate GMO labeling, but I don't like it when "my side" refuses to engage in what I see as reasonable concerns from the "enemy." Once again: not productive.

Comment author: Lumifer 06 July 2016 08:16:39PM -1 points [-]

The argument is that ... traditional methods have a lower likelihood of unforeseen negative outcomes due to the rapid and intricate methods by which GMO are altered.

That argument doesn't seem persuasive to me. A couple of reasons why: first, I think the "likelihood of unforeseen negative outcomes" in both cases is very vague and uncertain, sufficiently so to make judgement calls about which is lower to be not very credible. Second, in the context of "it's been fine for 20 years but we're not sure about the really long term", I don't see how the "rapid and intricate" quality is relevant.

Comment author: JustinMElms 06 July 2016 09:15:20PM 0 points [-]

I would agree with you that the quoted statement is not terribly persuasive. I was simply encapsulating the actual argument at hand, instead of the straw-man argument of "method versus outcome." And while the vagueness diminishes the magnitude of the evidence, I don't believe it makes it non-zero.

To your second point:

in the context of "it's been fine for 20 years but we're not sure about the really long term", I don't see how the "rapid and intricate" quality is relevant.

I would add to ChristianKI's apt reply that while conventional modifications via breeding can eventually have monumental effects, direct genetic modification can rapidly--over the course of a single generation--have monumental effects that may have unintended side effects attached to them due to a lack of understanding of the intricacies of genetic interactions.

Comment author: Lumifer 06 July 2016 05:13:28PM 0 points [-]

here is a very clear distinction of method drawn by those terms

The question is why do you care about methods when you should care only about outcomes.

Comment author: JustinMElms 06 July 2016 07:43:43PM 1 point [-]

You will note that I said that they have the same "objectives" not necessarily the same "outcomes."

Granted, I agree that if we have two genetically and biologically identical organisms, one created by traditional methods and one created by direct genetic modification, then no, I would not care at all.

The argument is that--despite sharing the same objective of improving food production for humanity--traditional methods have a lower likelihood of unforeseen negative outcomes due to the rapid and intricate methods by which GMO are altered.

We care about differences of method because of potential differences of outcome.

Comment author: Lumifer 06 July 2016 04:19:34PM *  0 points [-]

My comment was aimed more at one side in the GMO debate rather than specifically at you.

we have a longer body of evidence for traditional food engineering (selection, cross-breeding, etc) than we do for direct genetic modification by several orders of magnitude--conservatively: 50 years compared to ~5,000 years.

This is not true. First, both "traditional food engineering" and GMO are ridiculously broad terms and it's hard to say anything meaningful which applies to the whole category. The main issue, however, is that traditional cross-breeding and such perform major genetic surgery, albeit with crude tools. Look e.g. at this -- you think it's the same corn and wheat? The Green Revolution was so successful precisely because it changed the crops grown. The wheat you're eating is very much not the same thing which was eaten thousands of years ago.

Comment author: JustinMElms 06 July 2016 04:58:19PM 0 points [-]

I think you're drawing two specious conclusions:

First, "traditional food engineering" and GMO do refer to various practices, but there is a very clear distinction of method drawn by those terms. The "traditional" method short circuits natural reproductive process to cultivate desired traits, where as GMO methods entail the direct modification of genes by means external to the reproductive process. To say that repeatedly selecting the largest head of wheat and breeding from that stock is "the same" as injecting new DNA into an organism with a gene gun is absurd in the extreme. They share the same objective, of course, but the method is wholly different.

Second, the Green Revolution was the adoption and expansion of many agricultural practices of which high-yield varieties were one important feature. Obviously, "traditional" methods can have enormous effects. For instance, turning what amounted to an edible grass into a freakish calorie battery. That said, these slow and incremental processes have at least some evolutionary safeguards built into them simply from the time it takes and the holistic, less targeted changes. Once again, we are talking about a difference of method not of objective. The fact that there was a boom of food production prior to GMO does not mean that it is the same as GMO.

Comment author: Lumifer 06 July 2016 02:34:00PM 0 points [-]

safe in perpetuity

Ain't no such animal.

I don't think that looking for forever guarantees is a useful exercise. The point was really the double standard applied to GMOs.

Comment author: JustinMElms 06 July 2016 04:06:01PM 0 points [-]

I agree: there is no "forever guarantee," especially as our life spans increase to experience new problems and our ability to detect problems improves, we discover new things that may be killing us or may have been harming us in the past.

That said: I'm unclear on the double standard you were pointing out. Was it something that I said indirectly? If that is the case, the point of my statement is that we have a longer body of evidence for traditional food engineering (selection, cross-breeding, etc) than we do for direct genetic modification by several orders of magnitude--conservatively: 50 years compared to ~5,000 years. That is A) not to say we haven't borked up a few times with traditional engineering and B) not to say that GMO are definitively less safe because they are new. It is just to say that we have definitively less evidence on the matter, and 10-20 years--less than half of a lifetime--is not a resounding endorsement.

All that said: I don't think this is even a particularly significant piece of evidence in the discussion--compared to say: reliable testing standards, risk analysis based upon the changes being introduced rather than the method of introduction, etc--as long as we can agree that 20 years of evident safety does not in itself prove that anything is certainly safe.

Comment author: Ishaan 30 June 2016 08:40:27PM *  4 points [-]

First: check whether the issue is really important: With some exceptions (voting correctly, believing the correct afterlife and not getting sent to hell) If you aren't in a position to interact with the evidence it's probably not something you meaningfully have control over. (Most things for which it is important for you to personally understand have measurable consequences to you. Why do you need the right answer to the GMO question, what would you even do with the right answer?).

Then:

-Figure out exactly what the claims really are and try not to conflate different claims (GMOs will do what, exactly?)

-Consider the possibility that the entire premise is silly ("Is God one or trinity?" "Is she a witch?") and the "consensus" is just wrong and the debate is insane. Generate some plausible third options.

-Check if the two hypotheses seem by your perception to be of roughly equal parsimony, internal logical consistency, and compliance with known evidence, and also check the third options you generated.

-Ask the basic "so, what evidence would you need to tell the difference" questions.

-all the things you mentioned (weigh expert opinions, eliminate bad arguments, eliminate experts who use bad arguments)

-look for concrete predictable things in that area, and adjacent to that area which differ according to the two hypotheses.

-If it's a political issue, try to find out what people who might plausibly be expertish in the area yet don't seem to be invested in debating the issue think about it.

-check what known superforcasters in the field think (people who have a track record of successful predictions in that area). Superforecasters need not actually be loudly engaging with the issue, just ask.

-check if people who have different types of knowledge tend to say different things (e.g. economists vs. sociologists)

-What sorts of knowledge would you need to have to answer the question vs. what sorts of knowledge do the experts in question actually have? (You might think medical doctors are qualified to talk about the effectiveness and safety of various treatments, for example, but they aren't. You want a medical researcher for that. The only difference between a medical doctor and a witch doctor is that one was trained by a curriculum developed by medical researchers and the other wasn't.)

-check for founder effects or cultural effects biasing beliefs (Again, economists vs sociologists. Also, if theologians believe in god at higher rate than biologists it might not be because of different knowledge)

What else? I mean it's a big question, you've asked after a fairly big chunk of "rationality" there.

Comment author: JustinMElms 01 July 2016 02:26:34PM 1 point [-]

Thanks, Ishaan. That was a lot of good directions to come at this from.

I especially found a few of them novel ways to eke out more confidence from an insulated problem:

If it's a political issue, try to find out what people who might plausibly be expertish in the area yet don't seem to be invested in debating the issue think about it.

check what known superforecasters in the field think (people who have a track record of successful predictions in that area). Superforecasters need not actually be loudly engaging with the issue, just ask.

check if people who have different types of knowledge tend to say different things (e.g. economists vs. sociologists)

I'll try to remember those for questions like this in the future.

Furthermore, notion that you raise struck me:

Most things for which it is important for you to personally understand have measurable consequences to you. Why do you need the right answer to the GMO question, what would you even do with the right answer?

I suppose I've never really considered why I wanted the right answer to a question, I suppose I ascribe a relatively high weight to "understand things" in my utility function. That said, thinking about it from the angle of "What would I do with the right answer": In this case, I would do is embrace/avoid GMO foods for my personal health and safety, vote to label/not-label/ban/regulate GMO, and argue for others to do the same.

Isn't that the ideal of a democratic system: an informed populace vigorously contesting in the marketplace of ideas?

Comment author: Lumifer 30 June 2016 08:22:25PM 0 points [-]

That is strong evidence that GMO does not have observable risks within 10-20 years of adoption, but it is considerably weaker evidence about what GMO adoption looks like after 30, 40, 50 years or a lifetime.

You can replace "GMO" in this sentence with a lot of things. For example, "kiwi". Or "cell phone".

Comment author: JustinMElms 01 July 2016 02:10:58PM 1 point [-]

Yes, I would agree. And I completely assent that 20 years of evincible safety can be extrapolated into "long term" (however you define that) safety more than 10 years could be. My only position in saying the above is to highlight that "It's seemed safe so far" doesn't necessarily prove that to be safe in perpetuity.

Surely you are not arguing that 20 years is the magic asymptote at which safety rises to infinity?

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