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Comment author: buybuydandavis 25 July 2017 09:22:44PM 1 point [-]

The OP is an interesting twist on the usual "Dark Arts" political argument.

It is commonplace as an extended exercise in confirmation bias to poison the well.

I wanted to work on this essay more carefully, and find out all the different ways in which Adams subverts the truth and sound reasoning.

Seek, and ye shall find, o' confirmation bias.

But "the well" is not just Scott himself, but his epistemological method. This is much more powerful than just attacking the person, as it provides a fully general counterargument to dismiss anything Scott Adams has to say as "Dark Arts".

He is a bad person, for engaging in the Dark Arts, and all his arguments are bad, because they are Dark Arts.

Comment author: Stabilizer 25 July 2017 09:43:47PM *  0 points [-]

You're right: it was probably wrong of me to ask people to only find errors in his reasoning. It is indeed an invitation to fall under the spell of confirmation bias. It would've been better to also ask people to find places where he makes good arguments.

Where I disagree with you is the claim that attacking someone's epistemological method is necessarily the same as attacking the positions they hold. (Though, I agree with you that it might be interpreted that way.) In a different comment, I try to make it clear that my goal was not necessarily to attack particular positions that Adams holds (though I disagree with him on many positions), but to point out the methods that he uses that might be persuasive to some folks, but ought not to be persuasive, because these methods are not truth-seeking.

Adams uses several techniques (listed in the post) that could be used to argue for any position—even one that I wholeheartedly agree with. I suspect that in such a case I might not be quite so enthusiastic to point out the flaws in the reasoning. But as someone trying to be more truth-seeking, I ought to be sensitive to bad argumentation in those cases as well.

Comment author: Eitan_Zohar 24 July 2017 09:39:13AM *  0 points [-]

Hmm, his argument that stars can never be seen anywhere at high altitudes (excepting the 'fraudulent' NASA photographs) doesn't yet have an unambiguous counterexample I could find. He doesn't deny that the stars must be higher than the atmosphere but think they only become visible near the ground.

But the articles on the solar equinox and the solstice are probably the best on the whole site. Or they just seem that way to me, because I don't know enough math to refute them.

Comment author: Stabilizer 24 July 2017 06:41:41PM 0 points [-]

Stars become invisible at high altitudes because the Earth becomes very bright compared to the stars. This happens because when you are higher up, you see more of the sunlight reflected by the Earth. This happens because at higher altitudes more of the Earth is visible to you. Thus, your eyes or your cameras cannot distinguish the relatively dim light of the stars. The sky still appears black because there is no atmosphere to make the light scatter and give you feeling of being light outside that you experience on the surface of the Earth. You can see the stars if you are on the night side, you have good cameras, and you set the focal point to the sky.

I'll get to the equinox thing later.

Comment author: dogiv 24 July 2017 03:22:50PM 1 point [-]

This doesn't actually seem to match the description. They only talk about having used one laser, with two stakes, whereas your diagram requires using two lasers. Your setup would be quite difficult to achieve, since you would somehow have to get both lasers perfectly horizontal; I'm not sure a standard laser level would give you this kind of precision. In the version they describe, they level the laser by checking the height of the beam on a second stake. This seems relatively easy.

My guess is they just never did the experiment, or they lied about the result. But it would be kind of interesting to repeat it sometime.

Comment author: Stabilizer 24 July 2017 06:20:32PM 0 points [-]

Thanks. You're right. I mis-interpreted their experiment as written. I'll try to read it again to see what's going on and see if it's explicable.

Comment author: Eitan_Zohar 22 July 2017 03:25:58PM 2 points [-]

Thank you! That's the kind of thing I'm looking for.

Comment author: Stabilizer 24 July 2017 03:56:09AM 0 points [-]

Sure. His arguments look pretty easy to refute using some basic physics and some Google searches. Let me know if you find any other argument of his that you find particularly compelling and I'll take a crack at it.

Comment author: Elo 22 July 2017 09:00:41AM 0 points [-]

Oh God I suck that's really bad of me. Will fix.

Comment author: Stabilizer 22 July 2017 05:21:59PM 1 point [-]

You might want to correct: "And we forget so easily that 50 lifetimes ago we were nothing."

Comment author: Stabilizer 22 July 2017 07:42:05AM *  4 points [-]

Umm... 12000/25 is 480. Not 48. All the other numbers in the discrete human lifetimes section should be multiplied by ten. Not as impressive as you might've thought. Still, kinda impressive I suppose.

Comment author: Stabilizer 22 July 2017 05:04:03AM *  4 points [-]

I don't have time to refute each of arguments, because there're too many. But consider number 5 in your list. He describes a laser experiment that he claims cannot be accounted for on the current picture of the Earth. But if you think it through, it is perfectly well accounted for.

Here's the version of the experiment performed by the two Polish guys on a lake. They place two stakes 2km apart. The stakes have lasers attached to them at 30 cm height from the surface of the water. They measure the height above the surface of the point at which the laser beams meet and find it to be 39-40cm above the surface of the water.

Wild Heretic claims, on the basis of this diagram, that on the convex Earth theory (i.e., the widely accepted theory) one should expect the height from the water at the point where the lasers meet to be smaller that the height at which the lasers are mounted. But Wild Heretic's diagram misrepresents the state of affairs. Here is a better representation I drew and associated calculations that I did, which show that the convex Earth theory correctly predicts that the laser beams would meet approximately 38cm above the surface, which is very close to the observed 39-40cm.

EDIT: As dogiv points out below, I mis-interpreted the experiment. So the argument above is not a refutation of the experiment as described.

Comment author: James_Miller 21 July 2017 01:52:25AM *  11 points [-]

(1a) Adams never claims that Trump is a good person, and consequently this wasn't a point of disagreement between him and Harris and thus not relevant to their conversation.

(1b) Yes, that's my opinion as well. What's relevant is what we should do about climate change, and as Adams pointed out even if all the climate change stuff is true, the economics doesn't necessarily support taking immediate action.

(2) This is more two conditions have to be true than Motte and Bailey. It's like a legal argument that my client didn't do X, but even if he did do X it wouldn't have been a crime.

(3) Yes, but Adams was honest about this. I think Adams takes a consequentialist view of morality and so, for example, thinks it would be OK for Trump to lie if it helped our economy or harm ISIS. Adams wants his audience to understand the worldview of a master persuader, and from this worldview facts are often not relevant. Also, it's too simple to say that Trump lies when Trump says something that Trump knows is false, but which Trump also knows that his audience knows is false. This is more emotional signaling.

(4) Disagree. I love Sam Harris's podcasts but I think Harris has a case of Trump derange syndrome, and it was fantastic of Adams to point this out. Getting Harris to make Hitler / exorcist comparisons was very telling. Rationalist should point out when they think others are suffering from confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance.

(5a) Yes Adams makes an unfalseafiable claim, but a claim that seems theoretical reasonable.

(5b) Since Trump has made no apparent effort to lock Hillary up, this seems right. But I admit Trump's pre-election call to lock Hillary up greatly troubled me.

(5c) Trump has sacrificed a lot of time, and knowingly accepted a lot of insults to become president and at age in which he seems unlikely to be able to personally benefit much from having been president. Lots of Americans really do think that Trump is saving American civilization, and it seems reasonable that Trump is one of those people.

(6a) It's know known that the 17 agency figure was an error. I think even the NYT has admitted this.

(6b) Yes, and this seems relevant.

"He is an ethical and epistemological relativist: he does not seem to believe in truth or in morality."

Adams doesn't think that true and morality play much of a role in political persuasion. Adams thinks that most people greatly overestimate how much their own personal opinions are influenced by truth and morality. Adams is trying to correct this massive flaw in human nature by giving his readers/viewers/listeners some of the secrets of master persuaders.

This is an example of Adams using the dark arts.

It might have worked.

Comment author: Stabilizer 21 July 2017 07:55:12PM 1 point [-]

A general point: I fear Adams attributes positions and beliefs and intentions to Trump which, from Trump's actions and public statements, are not justifiably attributable to Trump.

Comment author: WalterL 21 July 2017 03:10:18PM 5 points [-]

I dunno man. I feel like 'practitioner of Dark Arts' is a sneaky way to describe 'rationalist who disagrees with me'.

Surely, as a rationalist, you are also a relativist, yeah? Like, you get that there is no giant stone block with the One True Morality on it somewhere? Like, when you say that Adams doesn't believe in morality...you agree with him, right?

Comment author: Stabilizer 21 July 2017 07:43:53PM *  3 points [-]

I don't necessarily disagree with all Dark Arts practitioners. By a Dark Arts practitioner, I just mean someone who uses rhetorical techniques to win debate points, without particular regard for the truth. What they're defending may or may not be true.

In the case of Scott Adams, in my view, most of what he is defending is false. But that's a different debate. In this post, I just wanted to highlight the techniques he uses. I try not take a particular position with respect to his claims; I probably don't succeed.

I'm neither a moral relativist nor an epistemological relativist. I suspect you probably reject epistemological relativism—i.e., you probably believe there are statements (e.g., 2+2=4) that are unambiguously true or false.

Not being a moral relativist does not mean I believe there is a giant stone block with the One True Morality on it. Indeed, the existence of such a stone block is a poor account of the nature of morality for the reasons highlighted by Socrates in the Euthyphro. The nature of morality is a contentious issue, and I won't pretend to be an expert. But having heard several arguments, I think moral relativism is untenable, mainly because it's an unlivable thesis. Sometimes you just need to say something is straightforwardly wrong: e.g., if you torture an innocent person for hours to alleviate your boredom. Here is an argument I'm convinced by.

Comment author: Stabilizer 20 July 2017 11:55:11PM 0 points [-]

I wanted to comment here, but the comment became so long that I decided to make it a separate article.

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