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Comment author: Thomas 27 April 2017 08:41:30AM 0 points [-]

He proved, that there is ALWAYS either at least one "A & ~A" (and therefore many) - either an unprovable theorem exists. Inside all those systems, which contain the "standard calculus"!

He didn't prove an actual "A & ~A", but that one always exists, if there are no unprovable theorems in those "standard calculus systems".

Comment author: gjm 27 April 2017 06:02:42PM 0 points [-]

He proved, that there is ALWAYS either at least one "A & ~A" (and therefore many) - either an unprovable theorem exists. Inside all those systems, which contain the "standard calculus"!

That isn't actually grammatical English, and unfortunately some plausible guesses at reconstructing it produce things that are completely false. So here's what Goedel actually he did: he proved that for any powerful enough system either there is at least one (hence many) A & ~A, or there are A for which neither A nor ~A can be proved by the system.

Comment author: bogus 27 April 2017 05:21:17PM 0 points [-]

The notion that God might be evil is not a mere "strawman"; it is in fact a feature of some actual religions, notably Gnostic Christianity. Of course, the Book of Job in the Hebrew Bible seems to aim at refuting this very argument, since it freely admits that God often appears to be evil from our point of view; but since he is infinitely wise and knows so many things which are entirely beyond our understanding, and has done plenty of nice things for us besides (such as laying the foundations of our very world), how can we argue against his goodness?

Comment author: gjm 27 April 2017 05:49:25PM 0 points [-]

(All this in response to the anguished questioning of a man who, in-story, has had almost everything taken away from him by -- or at least with the express permission of -- God ... for a bet.)

Comment author: ChristianKl 26 April 2017 11:05:16AM *  0 points [-]

Most universities pressure their biochemical researchers to do research that allows them to get money from the private sector.

There are political efforts to get universities to do research that benefits the private sector and that can be commercialized.

Comment author: gjm 26 April 2017 10:19:36PM 0 points [-]

Sure. I don't claim it's impossible for people in such positions to be interested (or excessively interested) in commercialization. Only that these aren't exactly prime suspects.

Comment author: David_Gerard 25 April 2017 11:13:58PM *  0 points [-]

Villiam started with a proposal to brigade Wikipedia. This was sufficiently prima facie bad faith that I didn't, and still don't, feel any obligation to bend over backwards to construct a kernel of value from his post. You certainly don't have to believe me that his words 100% pattern match to extruded crank product from my perspective, but I feel it's worth noting that they do.

I feel answering his call for brigade with a couple of detailed link- and quote-heavy comments trying to explain what the rules actually are and how they actually work constituted a reasonable effort to respond sincerely and helpfully on my part, and offer guidance on how not to 100% pattern match to extruded crank product in any prospective editor's future Wikipedia endeavours.

If you have problems with the Wikipedia article, these are best addressed on the article talk page, and 0% here. (Readers attempting this should be sure to keep to the issues and not attempt to personalise issues as being about other editors.)

Anything further will be repeating ourselves, I think.

Comment author: gjm 26 April 2017 01:15:09AM 0 points [-]

Viliam started with a proposal to brigade Wikipedia.

No, he didn't. He started with a description of something he might do individually. Literally the only things he says about anyone else editing Wikipedia are (1) to caution someone who stated an intention of doing so not to rush in, and (2) to speculate that if he does something like this it might be best for a group of people to cooperate on figuring out how to word it.

Comment author: David_Gerard 25 April 2017 11:09:49PM 0 points [-]

That's the joke, when a conspiracist calls one a "paid shill".

Comment author: gjm 26 April 2017 01:09:49AM 0 points [-]

No one called anyone a paid shill.

Perhaps I am just being particularly dim at the moment. Perhaps you're being particularly obtuse for some reason. Either way, probably best if I drop this now.

Comment author: David_Gerard 25 April 2017 06:34:16PM *  0 points [-]

I already answered #3: the true rejection seems to be not "you are editing about us on Wikipedia to advance RationalWiki at our expense" (which is a complicated and not very plausible claim that would need all its parts demonstrated), but "you are editing about us in a way we don't like".

Someone from the IEET tried to seriously claim (COI Noticeboard and all) that I shouldn't comment on the deletion nomination for their article - I didn't even nominate it, just commented - on the basis that IEET is a 501(c)3 and RationalWiki is also a 501(c)3 and therefore in sufficiently direct competition that this would be a Wikipedia COI. It's generally a bad and terrible claim and it's blitheringly obvious to any experienced Wikipedia editor that it's stretching for an excuse.

Variations on #3 are a perennial of cranks of all sorts who don't want a skeptical editor writing about them at Wikipedia, and will first attempt not to engage with the issues and sources, but to stop the editor from writing about them. (My favourite personal example is this Sorcha Faal fan who revealed I was editing as an NSA shill.) So it should really be considered an example of the crackpot offer, and if you find yourself thinking it then it would be worth thinking again.

(No, I don't know why cranks keep thinking implausible claims of COI are a slam dunk move to neutralise the hated outgroup. I hypothesise a tendency to conspiracist thinking, and first assuming malfeasance as an explanation for disagreement. So if you find yourself doing that, it's another one to watch out for.)

Comment author: gjm 25 April 2017 10:58:03PM 1 point [-]

I already answered #3

No, you really didn't, you dismissed it as not worth answering and proposed that people claiming #3 can't possibly mean it and must be using it as cover for something else more blatantly unreasonable.

I understand that #3 may seem like an easy route for anyone who wants to shut someone up on Wikipedia without actually refuting them or finding anything concrete they're doing wrong. It is, of course, possible that that Viliam is not sincere in suggesting that you have a conflict of interest here, and it is also possible (note that this is a separate question) that if he isn't sincere then his actual reason for suggesting that you have is simply that he wishes you weren't saying what you are and feels somehow entitled to stop you for that reason alone. But you haven't given any, y'know, actual reasons to think that those things are true.

Unless you count one of these: (1) "Less Wrong is obviously a nest of crackpots, so we should expect them to behave like crackpots, and saying COI when they mean 'I wish you were saying nice things about us' is a thing crackpots do". Or (2) "This is an accusation that I have a COI, and obviously I don't have one, so it must be insincere and match whatever other insincere sort of COI accusation I've seen before". I hope it's clear that neither of those is a good argument.

Someone from the IEET tried to seriously claim [...]

I read the discussion. The person in question is certainly a transhumanist but I don't see any evidence he is or was a member of the IEET, and the argument he made was certainly bad but you didn't describe it accurately at all. And, again, the case is not analogous to the LW one: conflict versus competition again.

first assuming malfeasance as an explanation for disagreement

I agree, that's a bad idea. I don't quite understand how you're applying it here, though. So far as I can tell, your opponents (for want of a better word) here are not troubled that you disagree with them (e.g., they don't deny that Roko's basilisk was a thing or that some neoreactionaries have taken an interest in LW); they are objecting to your alleged behaviour: they think you are trying to give the impression that Roko's basilisk is important to LWers' thinking and that LW is a hive of neoreactionaries, and they don't think you're doing that because you sincerely believe those things.

So it's malfeasance as an explanation for malfeasance, not malfeasance as an explanation for disagreement.

I repeat that I am attempting to describe, not endorsing, but perhaps I should sketch my own opinions lest that be thought insincere. So here goes; if (as I would recommend) you aren't actually concerned about my opinions, feel free to ignore what follows unless they do become an issue.

  • I do have the impression that you wish LW to be badly thought of, and that this goes beyond merely wanting it to be viewed accurately-as-you-see-it. I find this puzzling because in other contexts (and also in this context, in the past when your attitude seemed different) the evidence available to me suggests that you are generally reasonable and fair. (Yes, I have of course considered the possibility that I am puzzled because LW really is just that bad and I'm failing to see it. I'm pretty sure that isn't the case, but I could of course be wrong.)

  • I do not think the case that you have a WP:COI on account of your association with RationalWiki, still less because you allegedly despise LW, is at all a strong one, and I think that if Viliam hopes that making that argument would do much to your credibility on Wikipedia then his hopes would be disappointed if tested.

  • I note that Viliam made that suggestion with a host of qualifications about how he isn't a Wikipedia expert and was not claiming with any great confidence that you do in fact have a COI, nor that it would be a good idea to say that you do.

  • I think his suggestion was less than perfectly sincere in the following sense: he made it not so much because he thinks a reasonable person would hold that you have a conflict of interest, as because he thinks (sincerely) that you might have a COI in Wikipedia's technical sense, and considers it appropriate to respond with Wikipedia technicalities to an attack founded on Wikipedia technicalities.

  • The current state of the Wikipedia page on Less Wrong doesn't appear terribly bad to me, and to some extent it's the way it is because Wikipedia's notion of "reliable sources" gives a lot of weight to what has attracted the interest of journalists, which isn't your fault. But there are some things that seem ... odd. Here's the oddest:

    • Let's look at those two refs (placed there by you) for the statement that "the neoreactionary movement takes an interest in Less Wrong" (which, to be sure, could be a lot worse ... oh, I see that you originally wrote "is associated with Less Wrong" and someone softened it; well done, someone). First we have a TechCrunch article. Sum total of what it says is that "you may have seen" neoreactionaries crop up "on tech hangouts like Hacker News and Less Wrong". I've seen racism on Facebook; is Facebook "associated with racism" in any useful sense? Second we have a review of "Neoreaction: a basilisk" claiming "The embryo of the [neoreactionary] movement lived in the community pages of Yudkowsky’s blog LessWrong", which you know as well as I do to be flatly false (and so do the makers and editors of WP's page on neoreaction, which quite rightly doesn't even mention Less Wrong). These may be Reliable Sources in the sense that they are the kind of document that Wikipedia is allowed to pay attention to. They are not reliable sources for the claim that neoreaction and Less Wrong have anything to do with one another, because the first doesn't say that and the second says it but is (if I've understood correctly) uncritically reporting someone else's downright lie.

    • I have to say that this looks exactly like the sort of thing I would expect to see if you were trying to make Less Wrong look bad without much regard for truth, and using Wikipedia's guiding principles as "cover" rather than as a tool for avoiding error. I hope that appearance is illusory. If you'd like to convince me it is, I'm all ears.

Comment author: David_Gerard 25 April 2017 06:42:50PM 0 points [-]

That's fine :-) It ties in with what I commented above, i.e. conspiracists first assuming that disagreement must be culpable malice.

Comment author: gjm 25 April 2017 09:32:06PM 0 points [-]

I think you must somehow have read what I wrote as the exact reverse of what I intended. (Unless you are calling yourself a conspiracist.) TAG is not assuming that anything must be culpable malice, he is just finishing off a joke left 2/3 done.

Comment author: David_Gerard 25 April 2017 11:57:25AM *  0 points [-]

Or just what words mean in the context in question, keeping in mind that we are indeed speaking in a particular context.

[here, let me do your homework for you]

In particular, expertise does not constitute a Wikipedia conflict of interest:


While editing Wikipedia, an editor's primary role is to further the interests of the encyclopedia. When an external role or relationship could reasonably be said to undermine that primary role, the editor has a conflict of interest. (Similarly, a judge's primary role as an impartial adjudicator is undermined if she is married to the defendant.)

Any external relationship—personal, religious, political, academic, financial or legal—can trigger a COI. How close the relationship needs to be before it becomes a concern on Wikipedia is governed by common sense. For example, an article about a band should not be written by the band's manager, and a biography should not be an autobiography or written by the subject's spouse.

Subject-matter experts are welcome to contribute within their areas of expertise, subject to the guidance on financial conflict of interest, while making sure that their external roles and relationships in that field do not interfere with their primary role on Wikipedia.

Note "the subject doesn't think you're enough of a fan" isn't listed.

Further down that section:

COI is not simply bias

Determining that someone has a COI is a description of a situation. It is not a judgment about that person's state of mind or integrity.[5] A COI can exist in the absence of bias, and bias regularly exists in the absence of a COI. Beliefs and desires may lead to biased editing, but they do not constitute a COI. COI emerges from an editor's roles and relationships, and the tendency to bias that we assume exists when those roles and relationships conflict.[9] COI is like "dirt in a sensitive gauge."[10]

On experts:


Expert editors are cautioned to be mindful of the potential conflict of interest that may arise if editing articles which concern an expert's own research, writings, discoveries, or the article about herself/himself. Wikipedia's conflict of interest policy does allow an editor to include information from his or her own publications in Wikipedia articles and to cite them. This may only be done when the editors are sure that the Wikipedia article maintains a neutral point of view and their material has been published in a reliable source by a third party. If the neutrality or reliability are questioned, it is Wikipedia consensus, rather than the expert editor, that decides what is to be done. When in doubt, it is good practice for a person who may have a conflict of interest to disclose it on the relevant article's talk page and to suggest changes there rather than in the article. Transparency is essential to the workings of Wikipedia.

i.e., don't blatantly promote yourself, run it past others first.

You're still attempting to use the term "conflict of interest" when what you actually seem to mean is "he disagrees with me therefore should not be saying things." That particular tool, the term "conflict of interest", really doesn't do what you think it does.

The way Wikipedia deals with "he disagrees with me therefore should not be saying things" is to look at the sources used. Also, "You shouldn't use source X because its argument originally came from Y which is biased" is not generally a winning argument on Wikipedia without a lot more work.

Before you then claim bias as a reason, let me quote again:


Wikipedia articles are required to present a neutral point of view. However, reliable sources are not required to be neutral, unbiased, or objective. Sometimes non-neutral sources are the best possible sources for supporting information about the different viewpoints held on a subject.

Common sources of bias include political, financial, religious, philosophical, or other beliefs. Although a source may be biased, it may be reliable in the specific context. When dealing with a potentially biased source, editors should consider whether the source meets the normal requirements for reliable sources, such as editorial control and a reputation for fact-checking. Editors should also consider whether the bias makes it appropriate to use in-text attribution to the source, as in "Feminist Betty Friedan wrote that...", "According to the Marxist economist Harry Magdoff...," or "Conservative Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater believed that...".

So if, as you note, the Reliable Sources regularly use me, that would indicate my opinions would be worth taking note of - rather than the opposite. As I said, be careful you're making the argument you think you are.

(I don't self-label as an "expert", I do claim to know a thing or two about the area. You're the one who tried to argue from my opinions being taken seriously by the "reliable sources".)

Comment author: gjm 25 April 2017 05:22:17PM 1 point [-]

No one is actually suggesting that either "expertise" or "not being enough of a fan" constitutes a conflict of interest, nor are those the attributes you're being accused of having.

On the other hand, the accusations actually being made are a little unclear and vary from occasion to occasion, so let me try to pin them down a bit. I think the ones worth taking seriously are three in number. Only one of them relates specifically to conflicts of interest in the Wikipedia sense; the others would (so far as I can see) not be grounds for any kind of complaint or action on Wikipedia even if perfectly correct in every detail.

So, they are: (1) That you are, for whatever reasons, hostile to Less Wrong (and the LW-style-rationalist community generally, so far as there is such a thing) and keen to portray it in a bad light. (2) That as a result of #1 you have in fact taken steps to portray Less Wrong (a.t.Lsr.c.g.s.f.a.t.i.s.a.t.) in a bad light, even when that has required you to be deliberately misleading. (3) That your close affiliation with another organization competing for mindshare, namely RationalWiki, constitutes a WP:COI when writing about Less Wrong.

Note that #3 is quite different in character from a similar claim that might be made by, say, a creationist organization; worsening the reputation of the Institute for Creation Research is unlikely to get more people to visit RationalWiki and admire your work there (perhaps even the opposite), whereas worsening the reputation of Less Wrong might do. RW is in conflict with the ICR, but (at least arguably) in competition with LW.

For the avoidance of doubt, I am not endorsing any of those accusations; just trying to clarify what they are, because it seems like you're addressing different ones.

Comment author: Thomas 25 April 2017 07:02:19AM 0 points [-]

The not so far away superintelligence will understand. ;-)

I came to the conclusion, that most people love the infinity so deeply and strongly for a reason. Otherwise their spiritual emptiness would be really unbearable. The infinity is a leftover after their abandoned religion, or a pillar of their actual religion.

So, no rational argument would probably do here.

Comment author: gjm 25 April 2017 04:40:30PM *  1 point [-]

That's a nicely unfalsifiable bit of bulverism you've got there. I think I agree that "no rational argument would probably do", but we may not mean the same thing by that.

[EDITED to add: I see no particular problem with the use of infinities in mathematics and never have; back when I was religious, I saw the mathematical notion of infinity as clashing a little with my notion of God -- because in mathematics there is e.g. no all-surpassing maximal infinity -- and I don't recall ever, as theist or as atheist, "loving infinity deeply and strongly" or seeing mathematical notions of infinity as doing anything to create or fill "spiritual emptiness". Of course introspection is unreliable, but it's all I've got :-).]

Comment author: David_Gerard 25 April 2017 12:08:14PM 0 points [-]

despite hearing that one a lot at Rationalwiki, it turns out the big Soros bucks are thinner on the ground than many a valiant truthseeker thinks

Comment author: gjm 25 April 2017 03:53:59PM 0 points [-]

In case it wasn't obvious (it probably was, in which case I apologize for insulting your intelligence, or more precisely I apologize so as not to insult your intelligence), TheAncientGeek was not in fact making a claim about you or your relationship with deep-pocketed malefactors but just completing the traditional "irregular verb" template.

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