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Comment author: DeVliegendeHollander 05 March 2015 08:59:47AM *  3 points [-]

This is all true, but to stick to your examples, the don't seem to be working very hard on this kind of thing around here apparently were are almost at full equality already, and the second, if done well, is largely just values and morality education, not much mythology.

Now, on the plus side, I do see half-believer churches trying to give people moral education where there is no secular alternative or it does not really motivate them. Look, talking about universalistic ethics based on either rational logic or a generic feeling of universal empathy works only for some people, largely for people who feel they have a surplus, they live in safety, and their upbringing was not very traumatic either. For the rest you need to make it emotionally more motivating and more relatable. Very often, you need to drop the universalistic aspect as it is very, very hard to understand, from that background and angle i.e. why care about someone just because he is human, they find it easier to do it tribal. Very, very often I see people who were raised to care only about themselves, and even the idea to look out for your tribe (fellow compatriots, fellow coreligionists, whatever) is an improvement.

All too often I see kids from Budapest or Bratislava having horribly broken values, basically nothing you would realize as ethics, respecting nothing but money and power, having an every man for himself, rob or get robbed view, and I do see religious ethics having an improvement there. One thing that is working fairly well even in America is prison conversions. I do not have stats and hand, but my impression is they do prevent recidivism. The more a whole society looks like deteriorating into gangsta mores, the more useful religion looks like. I have read 50 Cents autobio and basically he was saying in between the lines that in the most desperate black ghettos in America generally only kids from religious families have what it takes to resist the allure of criminality. That many a black mother things there it is either the church or the prison. And yes, over here, I saw "gypsy pastoring" working, i.e. priests working over Roma subcultures, village-end favellas practically, where every second male was an ex-convict and yes, recidivism improved, finding work and sticking to it improved, alchoholism improved, wife-beating improved, things like this improved. Or look into how the Irish in America went from a universally hated underclass to respected people - it was priests, the good kinds of priests, the kinds of priests who focus more on training everybody to behave functionally than on mythology: there are plenty a situation where lies like "stop getting drunk all the time and beating the wife or the devil will take you away" DOES result in increased utility for all.

Intellectuals are better off atheists. But I am not at all sure it is ideal for all, at this current stage of human development. Some people really need that sort of a "if the police does not catch you in this life the devil will in the next" kind of message.

The ideal solution for the short term would be designer religions, carefully engineered by skeptical intellectuals as Plato-style noble lies. In the long term, everybody should be intellectual and then we can drop the whole thing but that requires economic plenty, economic safety, non-traumatic upbringing, functional families etc.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 05 March 2015 10:32:24AM 1 point [-]

All too often I see kids from Budapest or Bratislava having horribly broken values, basically nothing you would realize as ethics, respecting nothing but money and power, having an every man for himself, rob or get robbed view, and I do see religious ethics having an improvement there.

Seems to me this happens mostly at dysfunctional families. But there are many of them. Otherwise, there is this "what would my parents think of me?" factor.

In a society where families are fragmented, religion can serve a role of a substitute family.

Comment author: advancedatheist 05 March 2015 04:24:39AM -3 points [-]

What will "religion" look like in the next 100-300 years?

This comes up in the new Edge discussion between Yuval Noah Harari and Daniel Kahneman;


In terms of history, the events in Middle East, of ISIS and all of that, is just a speed bump on history's highway. The Middle East is not very important. Silicon Valley is much more important. It's the world of the 21st century ... I'm not speaking only about technology.

In terms of ideas, in terms of religions, the most interesting place today in the world is Silicon Valley, not the Middle East. This is where people like Ray Kurzweil, are creating new religions. These are the religions that will take over the world, not the ones coming out of Syria and Iraq and Nigeria.

The film Prometheus, for example, intrigued me by showing a single woman, an archaeologist character named Elizabeth Shaw (played by the Swedish actress Noomi Rapace), who wears a cross and professes her christian faith at a time when christianity has gone into decline, so that christian believers have become relatively uncommon. Yet she sleeps with a man on the space ship, showing that she practices a liberal morality by traditional christian standards. Does this show where "christianity" could go during its long twilight in the "Jesus who?" age?

BTW, I like tweaking unsophisticated christians who believe in this "end times" nonsense by saying, hey, I believe in the rapture, too: I can see that christians have already started to disappear.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 05 March 2015 09:19:39AM *  1 point [-]

The options seem to be:

  • less education,
  • more complex rationalization, or
  • more compartmentalization.

On the other hand, unless there is some really amazing improvement in education (one that would make people not only better remember the teachers' passwords, but also understand physics and rationality on the gut level), I could imagine the religion in 300 years to be pretty much the same as it is today.

If people can imagine Santa Claus and microwave oven existing in the same universe, they can also imagine Santa Claus and quantum teleporter existing in the same universe.

Comment author: Anders_H 05 March 2015 06:28:36AM 1 point [-]

As a non-physicist who has read the non-technical parts of LW discussions on quantum mechanics, I find the argument for MWI over Copenhagen convincing: From what I gather it is uncontested that Copenhagen adds additional complicating assumptions which don't make falsifiable predictions. If that is true, it is certainly a good reason to prefer MWI

My stupid question is as follows: Can someone give an intuitive explanation if why we don't interpret this stochastically? Ie that someone wrote a simulation that selects an Everett branch at random from a distribution given by the Schroedinger Equations, and that this branch is the only one that is realized?

This may have been covered before, but I don't know the terminology well enough to find it. If that is the case, a link to previous discussion would be greatly appreciated!

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 05 March 2015 09:13:36AM *  2 points [-]

a simulation that selects an Everett branch at random from a distribution given by the Schroedinger Equations

At which moment do you select the random branch?

The equations say that each branch has an "amplitude"; and unlike probabilities, these amplitudes are complex numbers. Which means that two nonzero amplitudes added together can produce a zero outcome. (As in: "yes, it is possible that 'A and X' happens, and it is also possible that 'A and not X' happens, but 'A' is completely impossible".)

This effect almost completely disappears at larger scale, because what we define as a "state" on the large level includes zillions of possible states on the small level (for example, the state "the chair is in the middle of the room" corresponds to zillions of possible combinations of particles), and these large states interact just like classical probabilities, because of some mathematical laws about large numbers and complex numbers.

So yes, on larger scale we can pretend that the world is randomly selected from all the possible branches. It just doesn't make sense on the small scale... which is exactly how the quantum effects were discovered, because we were originally thinking in terms of probabilities, and then we couldn't explain the double-slit experiment.

Comment author: g_pepper 04 March 2015 11:15:57PM 0 points [-]

Interesting. I think that a lot of people assume that religion is more likely to encroach on public life in the US than in Europe. However, based on your experience, it sounds like that may not be universally true. Even in the bible-belt, US schools are quite free of religious dogma (with the relatively uncommon exception of an evolution disclaimer).

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 05 March 2015 09:00:25AM *  3 points [-]

In USA there is a long history of "fight" between religion and state, so the situation seems stable, both sides protect their trenches.

In Europe, it totally depends on country. In post-Communist countries, during communism the religion was kinda illegal (unfortunately, atheism doesn't automatically imply rationality), so now people don't have the "antibodies"; but the degree of religiousness varies a lot. For example, Slovakia and Poland are highly religious, while Czech Republic is mostly atheistic.

It probably also depends on the political system. When there are multiple political parties, there is usually a larger coalition necessary to win the election. And there is usually one religious political party, which sometimes gets to the parliament, which allows them to make laws favouring the church.

(To give you a realistic example, imagine that the political powers at some moment are something like: 40% Communists, 9% Nazis, 5% Catholics, and the remaining 46% are a few small "sane and civilized" political parties together. Communists and Nazis are natural allies. Catholics can go either way, but for the sake of long-term image they would rather associate with the civilized side. However, their price for joining is that the winning coalition must sign a treaty with Vatican, giving various advantages to the church, financial and in education. In situations like this, keeping church and state separate is impossible.)

Comment author: Omid 05 March 2015 02:39:31AM 2 points [-]

How do I make a hash? In case I'm using the wrong word, I want to encrypt a message, then put the encrypted message in a public place, then decrypt the message in a way that proves that I actually encrypted a message (I didn't just write a nonsense string and later retcon an encryption scheme that makes it meaningful).

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 05 March 2015 07:58:36AM 0 points [-]

I think the correct words are "digital signature", and there is a free program PGP who should be able to do it. There is also an EnigMail extension for the Thunderbird mail client, which automatically signs e-mail and verifies e-mail signatures.

Sorry, I don't understand this topic well, so I can only give you these pointers.

Comment author: g_pepper 04 March 2015 10:40:12PM *  0 points [-]

Church tries to infuence politics, to get money from state, and to teach religion at schools. -- It is especially the last part which makes me extremely angry (as a former teacher): If we don't teach imaginary animals, or imaginary continents at school, why the fuck do we teach imaginary fairy-tale creatures?

Do you really think that this is currently an issue in the US public schools? If so, what sort of examples have you encountered? My kids are in public schools in a bible-belt state, and I have not seen anything of a religious nature in their schoolwork or materials. If churches are trying to get religion into the classroom, they don't seem to be very successful, as far as I can tell.

Edit: as soon as I submitted, I thought of an example, thankfully not from the school district that my kids go to - some school districts require disclaimers in the biology textbooks stating that the theory of evolution is only a theory (or something like that). Is this the sort of thing that you mean? Are there examples other than this?

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 04 March 2015 10:57:45PM 4 points [-]

Do you really think that this is currently an issue in the US public schools?

Sorry, I was speaking about Central Europe, or more specifically Slovakia. Edited the comment. We do not have the bible-belt situation here, but on the other hand, we also never had the official state and church separation. So the boundaries are flexible, and recently the church is gaining power.

Comment author: Vaniver 04 March 2015 05:24:46PM 1 point [-]

(I'll update this post when we have a more precise release date.)

I strongly recommend releasing it on the 14th or 15th, and advertising it at the HPMoR wrapup. What additional resources would that require?

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 04 March 2015 10:40:44PM *  1 point [-]

I think it should be linked from the last chapter of HPMoR.

Comment author: UnrequitedHope 04 March 2015 03:55:56PM 1 point [-]

How does "calmness" work? Calmness in this context means that a person has an easy-going view on life, is likely to be free of stress and whatever you feel when there's chilly wind in a fall evening and you're sitting feeling tranquil (tranquility sounds like a good word)

I'm just like that (although people often tell me they think I'm feeling something else) and I wonder how does it work?

Another point of interest to me is what separates true tranquility from x-induced tranquility? I had a conversation with a coworker and she said that people who use this-and-that to feel better are trying to escape/deny something. I half-agree with it because it does make sense (although that feels a little bit like substance abuse) and half-disagree because I don't want to make judgements. I've smoked some but were also drinking alcohol at the same time and was told it's "the same high" so I don't know how smoking feels (or know how it feel, or maybe it depends on what you smoked, etc. My sample isn't exactly impressive.

So, my questions are: What makes people calm & cool? (tranquility is a way to describe it) What separates people who are naturally calm & cool from those who use other methods to achieve it?

Oh, and how stupid is this question?

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 04 March 2015 10:31:54PM 1 point [-]

What makes people calm & cool?

What works for me: relax the muscles; breathe deeply; stop the inner screaming; take time; imagine a larger context.

What separates people who are naturally calm & cool from those who use other methods to achieve it?

Probably habits. I would guess some people have a habit of doing the things like I mentioned; other people like me have to consciously remind themselves to do it.

But it also depends on the environment. It is easier to be calm if you have no real problems (unless you already have strong habits from the past when you had).

Comment author: DeVliegendeHollander 04 March 2015 09:24:47AM *  1 point [-]

Why does everybody seem to be so worked up about whether religion is true or not and call it theism or atheism? My Central European experience is that it is largely an institution, custom, habit, social expectation, identity, a way of expressing things and all that, but people did not really believe for 150 years at least, so it is not really something meant to be true for a long time now. I know there are people in the US Bible Belt who still mean it, and they have angry atheist children, but how comes the majority of Internet discussion kinda revolves around them? How many people on LW want to approach the topic from the angle Max Weber and similar scholars did?

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 04 March 2015 10:21:27PM *  5 points [-]

Looking at people around me (EDIT: Central Europe), there are not so many hardcore believers (although I have already met a few of those, too), but there are many... I would call them "half-believers". People who believe they believe, and who follow the commands of the religious leaders when doing it is cheap. For example, despite what religion says about sex, they have as much sex as the atheists, only they later ask God to forgive them. They visit church once in a long time, for example only for Christmas, weddings, and funerals. Etc.

But in my opinion, even those half-believers can do a lot of damage. For example, they obey their religious leaders when the cost is paid by someone else. Does my pastor tell me to avoid premarital sex? Uhm, I will pretend I want to avoid it... then I will do it... and then I will confess my sins and ask forgiveness, just like all my friends do. Does my pastor tell me that homosexual marriage offends God? Well, since I am not a homosexual, I will follow God's will at this point.

Church tries to infuence politics, to get money from state, and to teach religion at schools. -- It is especially the last part which makes me extremely angry (as a former teacher): If we don't teach imaginary animals, or imaginary continents at school, why the fuck do we teach imaginary fairy-tale creatures? If I knew I had a colleague who teaches children that 2+2=5, I would consider it my ethical duty to get them fired, but when I have a colleague who teaches the same children about gods and angels, I am supposed to shut up a pretend that nothing weird is happening? Fuck no.

Just because our problems are not as big as in the Bible Belt, it doesn't mean they don't exist.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 04 March 2015 09:39:53PM *  26 points [-]

Oh. I was expecting something like...


Chapter 116, alternative version

Harry spun his Time-Turner and returned six hours into the past. Then he took his broomstick and hurried towards Hogwarts.

This time he decided not to repeat his usual mistake. If Lord Voldemort could learn, so could Harry. He didn't have to solve all the problems of the world alone. And Professor Quirrell, his alter ego, was not the only available option.

He hesitated a bit before knocking on Headmaster Dumbledore's door. This is going to be so awkward, he thought. He tried to imagine what to say. Hello, Headmaster. Professor Quirrell is Lord Voldemort, and I have killed him in the future. By the way, it was me in Azkaban, sorry about it, I didn't know back then. Anyway, you are going to die in the mirror soon. To avoid a time paradox, could you just send a copy of yourself or something? Please hurry, we don't have time, you have to trust me! Ironically, that would sound really insane, but Harry now trusted Headmaster Dumbledore to be able to deal with the news. Dumbledore was willing to sacrifice his own life, if it meant destroying the Dark Lord, but Harry hoped there would be a way to avoid it. The timeline had to proceed as Harry had experienced it, but if it turned out that what Harry believed to be real people were instead merely convincing illusions, then no one had to die. Maybe he could also save Lucius Malfoy, or even all the Death Eaters.

Then Harry noticed the door was open. He slowly walked inside the dark and seemingly empty room. Maybe he should write a message and leave it on the desk...

The door suddenly shut. A person standing in the dark was pointing a magical wand at Harry.

"Drop your wand immediately. Then don't move. We have to talk."

Harry's brain was so shocked that only afterwards he realized his fingers have already obeyed the command automatically.

"Yes, Harry, always playing one level higher than you," Professor Quirrell said, smiling. "I see you have returned from the future, which obviously means that my plans didn't work as expected. That is an admirable achievement. Now you are going to explain me all that happened in future, in Parseltongue. And then I will see what I can change to preserve your experiences while giving myself a more favourable outcome."


This is the second part of your exam. You have 60 hours. Your solution must allow Lord Voldemort to survive the following six hours without creating a paradox in timeline, without losing his consciousness or magical abilities. Otherwise you will get a shorter "Voldemort was defeated and they all lived happily ever after" ending.

The following chapters 117, 118, 119, and 120 will contain the remaining four parts of the exam, where you will solve even more complicated problems from the viewpoint of Headmaster Dumbledore, Hermione, Severus Snape, and Minerva McGonagall. The last chapter 121 will contain a surprising revelation that all of them are actually horcruxes of Baba Yaga. Oops, sorry for spoilers.

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