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The Problem Of Apostasy

10 Raw_Power 19 July 2012 10:27AM

So I have been checking laws around the world regarding Apostasy. And I have found extremely troubling data on the approach Muslims take to dealing with apostates. In most cases, publicly stating that you do not, in fact, love Big Brother (specifically, that you do not believe in God, the Prophet, or Islam), after having professed the Profession of Faith being adult and sane (otherwise, you were never a Muslim in the first place), will get you killed.

Yes, killed. It's one of the only three things traditional Islamic tribunals hand out death penalties for, the others being murder and adultery. 

However, interestingly enough, you are often given three days of detainment to "think it over" and "accept the faith". 

Some other countries, though, are more forgiving: you are allowed to be a public apostate. But you are still not allowed to proselytize: that remains a crime (in Morocco it's 15 years of prison, and a flogging). Though proselytism is also a crime if you are not a Muslim. I leave to your imagination how precarious the situation of religious minorities is, in this context.

How little sense all of this makes, from a theological perspective. Forcing someone to "accept the faith" at knife point? Forbidding you from arguing against the Lord's (reputedly) absolutely self-evident and miraculously beautiful Word? 

No. These are the patterns of sedition and treason laws. The crime of the Apostate is not one against the Lord (He can take care of Himself, and He certainly can take care of the Apostate) but against the State (existence of a human lord contingent on political regime). 

And the lesswronger asks himself: "How is that my concern? Please, get to the point." The point is that the promotion of rationalism faces a terrible obstacle there. We're not talking "God Hates You" placards, or getting fired from your job. We're talking fire range and electric chair.

"Sure," you say, "but rationalism is not about atheism." And you'd be right. It isn't. It's just a very likely conclusion for the rationalist mind to reach, and, also, our cult leader (:P) is a raging, bitter, passionate atheist. That is enough. If word spreads and authorities find out, just peddling HPMOR might get people jailed. And that's not accounting for the hypothetical (cough) case of a young adult reading the Sequences and getting all hotheaded about it and doing something stupid. Like trying to promote our brand of rationality in such hostile terrain.

So, let's take this hypothetical (harrumph) youth. They see irrationality around them, obvious and immense, they see the waste and the pain it causes. They'd like to do something about it. How would you advise them to go about it? Would you advise them to, in fact, do nothing at all?  

More importantly, concerning Less Wrong itself, should we try to distance ourselves from atheism and anti-religiousness as such? Is this baggage too inconvenient, or is it too much a part of what we stand for?

"The Book Of Mormon" or Belief In Belief, The Musical

6 Raw_Power 14 February 2012 02:48PM

This song is... beautiful... Tragically so... It's like someone took some of the sequences here and made a checklist of everything that's wrong with religion, and why it still works and why it can stir the heart of noble, brave, generous people... The main character is a Mormon missionary, he was always groomed to be a believer, and his cheering and professing was rewarded, and he was happy. Then he was sent to some warzone in Africa, to convert people there to his faith (And I believe that in 1978, God changed his mind about black people! You can be a Mormon!). Except the people really aren't interested in what he preaches, and might easily shoot him in the head for it (But "What's so scary about that?", when you have an immortal soul and know you are doing the right thing? Whatever the outcome, you win!). But, see, that's okay, as long as he believes wholeheartedly and without a shred of doubt, everything will be fine... (You cannot just believe part way, you have to believe in it all. My problem was doubting the Lord's will, instead of standing tall!). Of course, if it does not turn out fine, that's all your fault for not believing enough...

You know, I'd like to say something smart to start the discussion over, but right now I'm just feeling too emotional... You know what, I'll just post the lyrics for the song, and let you guys suggest the adequate potholes for every instance of... blatant, obvious, categorized insanitiy irrationality that this song demonstrates...



Ever since I was a child I tried to be the best
So, what happened?
My family and friends all said I was blessed
So, what happened?
It was supposed to be all so exciting to be teaching of Christ 'cross the sea,
But, I allowed my faith to be shaken.
Oh, what's the matter with me?

I've always longed to help the needy
To do the things I never dared.
This was the time for me to step up
So, then, why was I so scared?

A warlord who shoots people in the face.
What's so scary about that?
I must trust that my Lord is mightier
And always has my back.
Now I must be completely devout
I can't have even one shred of doubt...

I believe that the Lord, God, created the universe.
I believe that He sent His only Son to die for my sins.
And I believe that ancient Jews built boats and sailed to America
I am a Mormon,
And a Mormon just believes.

You cannot just believe part way,
You have to believe in it all.
My problem was doubting the Lord's will
Instead of standing tall.

I can't allow myself to have any doubt.
It's time to set my worries free.
Time to show the world what Elder Price is about!
And share the power inside of me...

I believe that God has a plan for all of us.
I believe that plan involves me getting my own planet.
And I believe; that the current President of The Church, Thomas Monson, speaks directly to God.
I am A Mormon,
And, dang it! a Mormon just believes!

I know that I must go and do
The things my God commands.
I realize now why He sent me here.

If You ask the Lord in faith,
He will always answer you.
Just believe in Him
And have no fear!

I believe that Satan has a hold of you
I believe that the Lord, God, has sent me here
And I believe that in 1978, God changed his mind about black people!
You can be a Mormon..
A Mormon who just believes!

And now I can feel the excitement.
This is the moment I was born to do.
And I feel so incredible
To be sharing my faith with you.

The Scriptures say that if you ask in faith,
If you ask God Himself he'll know.
But you must ask Him without any doubt
And let your spirit grow...

I believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob.
I believe that Jesus has his own planet as well.
And I believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri.
If you believe, the Lord will reveal it.
And you'll know it's all true. You'll just feel it.
You'll be a Mormon
And, by gosh!
A Mormon just believes!
Oh, I believe.
I believe.



Okay, now with the actual performance. Try not to laugh, and fail...

But this kinda raises an interesting question. Why is it, in fact, so thrilling, to share a faith that one actually doubts, with other people? Is it some sort of resonance? Like, "whew, he believes too, that's evidence towards me being right and this being true, right?". What's that, Affective Death Spiral, Uncritical Supercriticality, or not exactly either but something related? And why is it that it does not happen with certain other faiths, such as, say, the Church of England, or Judaism?

Also, a guy with the sheer agape of Elder Price could easily work for some other humanistic enterprise, such as an NGO... But why is it that I just can't imagine someone singing

"I belieeeeve, into the UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948!

I beliieeeeeeve that every man has a right to live,

And I beliieeeeeve that every person was born equal before the law!

Just belieeeeeve that every man should be able to travel freely (within their country)!

I do belieeeeeve that every person has a right to property!

I am a (???????), and I've got reasons why I believe!"


No, seriously, why is it that non-religious movements seem to lack this oomph, this particular eagerness, that the religious are often portrayed bearing? There's untapped human potential, here, friends, and we're letting it go to waste. Reversed stupidity is not intelligence. So, how do we infuse this kind of zeal, of enthusiasm, into, say, the Less Wrong brand of Secular Humanism? Here's a challenge for ya: edit "I Believe" to fit your actual creed (no need for it to be consensual here). Don't be afraid to sound silly, what you're supposed to carry carry across is emotional passion that compels people to follow you.


Learned Helplessness

3 Raw_Power 13 November 2011 04:55PM

I stumbled upon this interesting little video. It links to many others on the same topic, which I found surprisingly interesting, and would like to discuss. What is it that makes one lose confidence when they see others succeed at the tasks they fail, to the point of being unable to preform tasks that they otherwise should know how to do? Could it be that this phenomenon holds parts of the key to failure rates throughout the education systems worldwide, as well as other self-destructive, irrational reaction-to-failure phenomena throughout one's life?


BTW, maybe we should be able to post Youtube videos on-page?

Why do people commit mathematical mistakes? What are the mechanisms behind them?

4 Raw_Power 07 September 2011 09:57PM

I'm mostly asking this open question to those among us who are well-versed in developmental psychology (I'm mostly thinking of children) . Although, failing the actual scientific research on the topic, I guess some testable hypotheses would be great too.

Beware The Believer, or a study in depth of recursion

3 Raw_Power 30 July 2011 08:37PM

I submit to the good people of Less Wrong this wonderful video. Is it a parody of scientifism? A parody of creationist parodies of scientifism? How deep does the recursion go? (those who already know, don't spoil the fun for the rest!).

Discussion: Ideas for a Lesswrongian anticipation Sci-Fi set in 2060

0 Raw_Power 12 July 2011 06:35AM

So, the usual bet is that the GAI, both F and UF will be created at around that time at the latest. I'd like to set a novel, a thriller, right at that critical moment where everything could be lost or won, and humanity is in the balance. But human societies and the way they interact with each other will have changed a lot by then. So, well, I haven't read throughly enough here to understand how far we are anticipating what will happen. Not just the friendliness of AI development, but our own impact in the world, and how it will react when it finds out about us and our goals, and takes them seriously.

So I was wondering if you'd help me out here with some brainstorming. I'm looking for some seminal ideas for how the world will look like by then. We don't need to be 100% precise, although keeping the pieces of the setting vague by avoiding Burdensome Details is a way of avoiding glaring mistakes, and gives a Lord Of The Rings, Ruins In The Distance feel of false depth. Don't hesitate to suggest seemingly weird but actually reasonable ideas: the future I want to build is a Weirdtopia. The point is to frighten, wonder, and suck the reader in.

Let's see, for a start: cryogenics and cybernetics are a solved problem, and people's heads are being resurrected and put on mechanical bodies by default (they could ask for recreated biological bodies, but usually after the first tantrums... they don't ^_^). The audience can be given someone to identify with through a Temporal Fish Out Of Water, one of the resurrected Human Popsicles. The funny part is that, even though that person happens to be a transhumanist AND a singularitarian, they hadn't surpassed the Shock Level (I think that's what Yudkowsky called it when you were enthused with an idea because you don't think of it as normal yet?), and they are only marginally less freaked out by the world they find themselves into than the normal sci-fi fan readers (or even the mainstream ones, if this ends up so good as to have any).

Discussion: Counterintuitive ways of teaching knowledge

-6 Raw_Power 08 July 2011 09:02PM

If Miss Frizzle could do it, why couldn't we? Do we really have to be rational all the time in order to teach rationality?breaking the rules of reality within the realm of a work of fiction and making the protagonists (or the audience if it's a videogame) figure the new rules out for themselves... Actually now that I think of it videogamers are very used to adapting themselves to entirely new sets of physics on a weekly basis... but no-one has ever made them stop and think about it for a while, AFAIK.

 I think *Methods of Rationality* does this job pretty well, but it'd be nice if there were more fiction in this style, and not just *fan*fiction at that. Alicorn's *Luminosity* also goes through an itneresting route: it applies rationality to interpersonal relationships, character exploration, group dynamics, and *applied* powers, and a lot of this it does better than *Methods* (which relies quite a lot on archetypes, to the detriment of realism but also for great benefit of glorious awesomeness, and it's kind of a holdover from the source material).  But *Luminosity* falls rather short of exploring the deeper theoretical implications of such a world.

Note how *none* of these books are for kids. Child psychology is noticeably different from that of a late teen or an adult. There are some concepts they can't even *grasp*. A series of works that would teach them the key rationalist virtues and some rational ways of looking at their environment and improving their lives would be great. I'm not talking about writing books intended towards geeky kids (awesome though such a thing may be), but about teaching rationality in a way that'd be appealing to *all* kids.

In that sense, *The Magic Bus* taught us a lot about valuing curiosity, not taking the first possible explanation, and generally having fun discovering the laws of reality... in incredibly unrealistic and science-breaking ways (which were dutifully pointed out in a special section after each episode, in which they generally managed to both make us understand that there was more to the stuff we saw than what they showed us, but that sometimes it was okay to take an Artistic License to get the point across... something people like Sheldon Cooper seem chronically unable to grasp, and I'm told there are people who share those opinions in Real Life...). *My Little Pony: Friendship*, on the .other hand, taught a lot on being rational in facing daily troubles, especially regarding friendship... but, well, here again, the situation is rather mutated by the fact that those are ponies living in a pony world with strange pony rules...

This might actually help carry the point across *better*. By making the stories take place in fantastic setting, we avoid the kids superimposing their prejudices, preconceptions and heuristics to the material presented: instead, their minds become more open to new possibilities, and this is a wonderful opening to plant some wonderful Aesops...

... Wait, is this an instance of using the Dark Arts to teach the Art then?


I'm not suggesting we be emotionally or creatively repressed, that has nothing to do with being rational. I just wonder how exactly one can allow themselves artistic license in a way that allows people to have fun learning stuff without having the fun bits detracting from the general message.


Ah, also, here is one example on how to do it wrong, from My Little Pony of all places:

In ''My LittlePony Friendship Is Magic'', research magician Twilight Sparkle disregards repeated observational evidence of Pinkie Pie's "Pinkie Sense" because it's not Sufficiently Analyzed Magic. Then, under the influence of severe repeated head trauma and possible stress-induced brain anyeurism, she concludes that it "just makes sense," and that you just have to choose to believe in things you don't understand. In defense of the show, after the inevitable Internet Backlash, the creator of the show, Lauren Faust, apologized, saying that that wasn't meant to be the moral to take away from the episode.

Admittedly, I've seldom seen a Curiosity Stopper better than an Argumentum Ad Baculum where the proverbial Baculum is weilded by reality itself, but that's not addressed as Twilight's motive to stop worrying and love the Pie.


Find yourself a Worthy Opponent: a Chavruta

33 Raw_Power 06 July 2011 10:59AM

You've been on Less Wrong for a while. You've become very good at a lot of stuff. Specifically, arguing. You win arguments. All the time. Effortlessly. And the worst part is, you often win for the wrong reasons. Perhaps there were counters to your propositions. Perhaps you failed to mention a very important, non trivial premise, and your public accepted your shaky proposition with as much enthusiasm as if it had been rock-solid, if not more.

They have failed you. You now know that, if you want to remain objective, to keep your grip on reality, to keep your mind sharp and your guard high, you need a Worthy Opponent, someone who's on the same level as you, who's as different in ideology and character from you as possible, who will not hesitate to point out any and every flaw your propositions would have, and would in fact go out of their way to contradict you, just for fun. This intellectual sparring will strengthen you both, and make you more careful in actual debate, on the public arena, whether you choose to use the Dark Arts or not.

Quoth JoshuaZ: In many forms of Judaisms one often studies with a chavruta, with whom one will debate and engage the same texts. Such individuals are generally chosen to be about the same background level and intelligence, often for precisely the sort of reason you touch upon [I paraphrased that in the two first paragraphs] (as well as it helping encourage them to each try their hardest).

A couple of interesting excerpts from the wikipedia artilce:

Unlike conventional classroom learning, in which a teacher lectures to the student and the student memorizes and repeats the information back in tests, and unlike an academic academy, where students do individual research,[5] chavruta learning challenges the student to analyze and explain the material, point out the errors in his partner's reasoning, and question and sharpen each other's ideas, often arriving at entirely new insights into the meaning of the text.[1][6]

A chavruta helps a student stay awake, keep his mind focused on the learning, sharpen his reasoning powers, develop his thoughts into words, and organize his thoughts into logical arguments.[7] This type of learning also imparts precision and clarity into ideas that would otherwise remain vague.[8] Having to listen to, analyze and respond to another's opinion also inculcates respect for others. It is considered poor manners to interrupt one's chavruta.[9]

In the yeshiva setting, students prepare for and review the shiur (lecture) with their chavrutas during morning, afternoon, and evening study sessions known as sedarim.[2] On average, a yeshiva student spends ten hours per day learning in chavruta.[11] Since having the right chavruta makes all the difference between having a good year and a bad year, class rebbis may switch chavrutas eight or nine times in a class of 20 boys until the partnerships work for both sides.[12] If a chavruta gets stuck on a difficult point or needs further clarification, they can turn to the rabbis, lecturers, or a sho'el u'mashiv (literally, "ask and answer", a rabbi who is intimately familiar with the Talmudic text being studied) who are available to them in the study hall during sedarim. In women's yeshiva programs, teachers are on hand to guide the chavrutas.[13]

Chavruta learning tends to be loud and animated, as the study partners read the Talmudic text and the commentaries aloud to each other and then analyze, question, debate, and defend their points of view to arrive at a mutual understanding of the text. In the heat of discussion, they may wave their hands or even shout at each another.[14] Depending on the size of the yeshiva, dozens or even hundreds of chavrutas can be heard discussing and debating each other's opinions.[15][16] One of the skills of chavruta learning is the ability to block out all other discussions in the study hall and focus on one's study partner alone.[2]

In the yeshiva world, the brightest students are highly desirable as chavrutas.[17] However, there are pros and cons to learning with chavrutas who are stronger, weaker, or equal in knowledge and ability to the student. A stronger chavruta will correct and fill in the student's knowledge and help him improve his learning techniques, acting more like a teacher. With a chavruta who is equal in knowledge and ability, the student is forced to prove his point with logic rather than by right of seniority, which improves his ability to think logically, analyze other people's opinions objectively, and accept criticism. With a weaker chavruta, who often worries over and questions each step, the student is forced to understand the material thoroughly, refine and organize his thoughts in a logical structure, present his viewpoint clearly, and be ready to justify each and every point. The stronger chavruta helps the student acquire a great deal of information, but the weaker chavruta helps the student learn how to learn. Yeshiva students are usually advised to have one of each of these three types of chavrutas in order to develop on all three levels.[7]

Given the pattern their interactions have followed online in the past, one could easily think of classifying Yudkowsky and Hanson's relationship as an informal chavruta. And perhaps we should follow their example: Endoself expressed the desire for such a companion, and suggested that we at Less Wrong establish some similar institution.

Honestly, I don't just think this institution should be introduced into Less Wrong. I think it need to be introduced into every educational system. The way the article is written (though I suspect bias since there isn't even the slightest criticism), it sounds like the most freaking awesome way of studying ever.

Now, here in Lesswrong, we can usually count on each other to read the arguments properly and point out any fauts there may be. It's kind of a collective effort. Therefore, I'm not quite sure we need such an institution on the site proper, since we seem to function like a huge hydra of a chavruta right now. Which we shall demonstrate right now, as usual, in the comments section, where I'll be impatiently waiting for feedback from both Jews and Gentiles.

Dark Arts: Schopenhauer wrote The Book on How To Troll

8 Raw_Power 05 July 2011 01:13PM

AKA "The Art Of Controversy" AKA "The Art Of Always Being Right" AKA "Dialectic Eristic". Here's a pretty fun, illustrated version of the text, in actual Troll terms]. Here's an audiobook.

EDIT: In this article I adopt a bit of a Devil's Advocate attitude. I'm not entirely convinced of what I'm suggesting, but I'll try to give it my all to make it look at least worth considering. I might get carried away at some points and overtly relish the villainy like a mad Britannian prince, which is unsightly, and, more importantly, unwarranted, so please forgive that. I'll leave those elements in, so that this is a Self Demonstrating Article.

So, the rationale is as follows: sometimes you get in an argument with someone. You're not quite sure you're right. You're not quite sure he's right. Even if you play fair, there's no guarantee it's the truth that'll come out. A few hours later, you could think up of an argument that would have saved your cause, you just failed to think of it during the discussion itself. And usually it's not just a matter of finding the truth.

First, it's a matter of "being right". If you want to clash intellects, there's no more violent, crude, intimate way than this. When you're proven wrong in a discussion, especially in public and in a way that makes you look like an idiot, your ego could get hit hard. Not to mention your status. Back when this book was written, people killed themselves, and each other, over this stuff.

Second, beside your own pride and life, there might be stuff bigger than yourself riding on this. You just can't afford to stick to the truth, or to give up just because the other side has better arguments. You gotta win, in the eyes of the public, no matter what.

This book makes a fairly good job of singling out different tricks to bullshit your way into winning an argument. Or at least stall for time and take your opponent off-balance and distract them while you think of something legitimate to say. Let's review a non-comprehensive list of the tricks he proposes (the cartoon site and the full text are much more adequate, having one or many examples per case and being very eloquently phrased by the writer himself.

Let's classify them by blocks:

  • Attacks to the opponent's morale:
    1. being an openly unfair and insolent prick just to piss them off. 
    2. claiming vicotry in an authoritative, assertive voice, despite the argument going against you
    3. interruptions and diversions, derailing
    4. if they're angry about some particular argument, rub it against their faces until they lose it: it's probably a weak point in their defense. Same thing if they are being evasive.
    5. invoking arguments that use obscure sources and are hard to check
    6. appeal to consequences: show them that defending their argument means going against their own interests in a way they didn't think of. They'll drop it like a hot potato.
    7. confuse the hell out of your opponent through nonsensical pompous speech that sounds authoritative
    8. personal attacks and insults
  • Strawmanning (making the opponent say something they didn't actually say, amking their position look worse than it actually is): then attacking the strawman. Also, making your position look better than it is.
    1. By overgeneralization and slippery slopes
    2. Exploiting double meanings, homonyms, unclear definitions
    3. Using loaded words, buzzwords, and guilt by association.
    4. Using false dichotomies ("with us or against us") and other false syllogisms to extract outrageous things from your opponent's proposition that weren't even there in the first place
  • Checkmate: the cleaner sort of tactic, and the most humiliating, they rely on making the opponent sabotage themselves. The favored type of method of the Ace Attorney games as well as the more heroic court drama.
    1. Getting the opponent to admit to your premises (or even the premises of your premises) one after the other, without letting them know that they lead to your conclusion all along. Then draw it. It's safer to draw it yourself, but it's more fun to make *them* draw it and then watch their expressions as the absolute horror of what they've just done dawns on them. Mwa ha ha. One way of doing this is by using questions, Socrates-style, possibly in disorder so they stay off-balance. An especially fun way to do this is getting them to say no to propositions you fake needing him to agree on, then submitting the antithesis of what they just negated, which they'll have no choice but to admit.
    2. Using one counterexample to blow up an entire generalization, which crumbles like a house of cards. Especially effective if the counterexample is a Black Swan your opponent isn't familiar with.
    3. Using their very arguments against their thesis, mostly by pointing out implications they missed. Especially fun if the argument is false in the first place, but is part of the core dogma of whatever cult, party, or group the opponent pledges allegiance to.
    4. Angering the opponent into strawmanning their own position through exaggeration by way of exasperated reaction to your incessant bugging. ("YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH")
  • Jumping to conclusions:
    1. Making the opponent admit to the premises, then making the conclusion yourself, sometimes by generalizing his admissions to specific cases as admissions to a general truth
    2. Begging the question
    3. Using a faulty proof to reject the wole proposition
  • Just plain make do with bullshit:
    1. Your opponent uses a sophistic nonsense argument. Instead of taking the time of exposing it for what it is, you just counter it with bullshit of your own
    2. Appeal to authority rather than reason.
    3. "It applies in theory, but not in practice". If the theory does not apply, it means it is wrong, period.
  • Escapes and getaways, sometimes of the cowardly sort:
    1. Petitio Principi: refusing to admit an argument that would immediately lead to the opponent's desired conclusion by exploiting the fact that your opponent and audience didn't notice that little step and confused the premise with the conclusion and claiming it begs the question. One of the more subtle of the bunch.
    2. Defense by subtle distinction: if your opponent has blasted part of your proposition, claim to have been misunderstood, and squeeze and narrow the original proposition down to something your opponent didn't get to disprove. Save face, salvage what you can.

I'm just surprised Schopenhauer isn't an Internet idol by this point. I'm also pleasantly surprised at how our discussions avert most of this stuff, most of the time. Then again, our motivations are different from the usual, are they not? But what about our relation to the general public? Suppose one of us accepted an invitation at O'Reilly's? What about convincing people to donate when there just isn't time to convince them of how important our cause is or how we are the right people to carry it out (not to mention we're not quite consensual or certain on either ourselves)?

Spartans were famed for their laconic way of communicating. In fact, the term was named after them. It was an actual course in their education: teachers would mock them and provoke them, and the kids would be punished harshly unless they could respond quickly, forcefully and wittily. I think we should train ourselves on this. There is a time and a place for careful deconstruction of the opponent's arguments, and careful weighting of what is right and wrong. There's another for trusting in the heuristics you're following and acting on them now. Sometimes you just have to win, and worry about the truth later. So we should learn to identify when exactly the gloves should come off, and learn how to take them off quickly, so that we are never taken off-guard. If the very existence of humanity is riding on this project, I think a little verbal swashbuckling is the *least* we can allow ourselves in terms of consequentially moral leeway.

Not that just sticking to the truth is entirely ineffective, but opponents aren't always as malleable as the one in that example, we're not all as smart and witty as Eliezer, and sometimes the inferential distances are just too huge not to resort to Dan Browned, Conviction By Counterfactual Clue, or Lies To Children for the sake of expediency (there's an entire rule in Schopenhauer's book dedicated to the case of debating of technical matters before an untrained public, and he provides a really good example, to boot).


This article suggests that learning about, and perhaps embracing the dark arts may be a useful if not outright necessary necessary means to achieve our goals. The author, on the other hand, isn't so sure. However, at the very least, I think we should know about this stuff, if only in a Defense Against The Dark Arts way, and make and study a list of similar, more contemporary works that would give us a better results-to-time-investment ratio in learning these tricks and others, and, more importantly, their counters.


BTW, Robert Greene's books, despite being rather unscientific, are very promising in that regard. Their advice is fairly useless if you want to apply it, but once you've gone through all the contents (and there's a lot of stories there) you'll be on guard against practically anything: it's really hard to beat the Epic Fails he lists there, which are all the more epic because usually they involve smart, perceptive, strong, powerful people, and they all still fall for the exact same tricks, over and over again. If only because they are fascinating narrative anthologies, and a very fun intellectual read, and we are very much in favor of fun and intellectualism, right?

Also, for those that have followed this article from the start, notice how the successive rewrites make it a self-demonstration of the "defense by subtle distinction" rule. Whether its use here was legitimate or not is left to the reader.


EDIT: As usual TVTropes never fails to pleasantly surprise. Here is their wittily written, fairly comprehensive list of fallacies: they called it You Fail Logic Forever. Remebember that fallacies are just part of the Dark Arts of Winning Debates, and a very dangerous bluff if your opponent calls you out on them, second only to counterfactual arguments.

The RPG Thread

11 Raw_Power 27 June 2011 05:22PM

I thought maybe playing RPG's might help us get to know each other outside meet-ups. Specifically, I found this particular game of interest to this community: it is in many ways the antithesis of everything we stand for... which is why I think we rationalists, of all people, would appreciate it the most. It might also be a useful tool for elaborating collective thought experiments in a playful way (among many other things, it's one of the few gaming systems where roleplaying an artificial superintelligence trying to break out into the real world would be a perfectly plausible and context-relevant and plot-justifiable scenario), and help us expand and explore our idea-space further and deeper. Anyone interested in starting a game somewhere?

Other RPG's and suggestions are of course absolutely welcome.

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