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Comment author: torekp 06 May 2016 01:28:14AM 0 points [-]

Likewise, there may not be any agenty dust in the universe. But if your implied conclusion is that there are no agents in the universe, then your conclusion is false.

This. I call the inference "no X at the microlevel, therefore, no such thing as X" the Cherry Pion fallacy. (As in, no cherry pions, implies no cherry pie.) Of course more broadly speaking it's an instance of the fallacy of composition, but, this variety seems to be more tempting than most, so it merits its own moniker.

It's a shame. The OP begins with some great questions, and goes on to consider relevant observations like

When we are sad, we haven't attributed the cause of the inciting event to an agent; the cause is situational, beyond human control. When we are angry, we've attributed the cause of the event to the actions of another agent.

But from there, the obvious move is one of charitable interpretation, saying, Hey! Responsibility is declared in these sorts of situations, when an agent has caused an event that wouldn't have happened without her, so maybe, "responsibility" means something like "the agent caused an event that wouldn't have happened without her". Then one could find counterexamples to this first formulation, and come up with a new formulation that got the new (and old) examples right ... and so on.

Comment author: gjm 06 May 2016 02:06:33AM -1 points [-]

The OP has explicitly denied committing the cherry pion fallacy here. I confess, though, that I'm not sure what point the OP is making by observing that grinding the universe to dust would not produce agenty dust. I can see two non-cherry-pion-fallacy-y things they might be saying -- "agency doesn't live at the microlevel, so stop looking at the microlevel for things you need to look further up for" and "agency doesn't live at the microlevel, but it's produced by the microlevel, so let's understand that and build up from there" -- but I don't see how to fit either of them into what comes before and after what the OP says about agenty dust. Gram_Stone, would you care to do some inferential-gap bridging?

Comment author: ChristianKl 05 May 2016 05:32:06PM -1 points [-]

he already GOT what he wanted. Many people left as a result of his campaign, and Less Wrong entered something of a downward spiral from which it never fully recovered.

I don't think Eugine wanted to destroy LW at that point in time.

Comment author: gjm 05 May 2016 11:10:45PM -1 points [-]

I take it OW meant not "Eugine wanted to destroy LW, and got what he wanted" but "Eugine wanted to make LW unpleasant for people with sociopolitical opinions very different from his and drive them away from LW, and got what he wanted -- and that destroyed LW".

I agree that Eugine surely didn't want to destroy LW at that point. I have no idea what he wants to do to it now.

Comment author: CynicalOptimist 05 May 2016 09:59:31PM 1 point [-]

I think the original poster would have agreed to this even before they had the realisation. The point here is that, even when you do listen to an explanation, the absurdity bias can still mislead you.

The lady in the story had an entire conversation about evolution and still rejected it as absurd. Some ideas simply take more than 20 minutes to digest, understand and learn about. Therfore after 20 minutes of conversation, you cannot reasonably conclude that you've heard everything there is. You cannot reasonably conclude that you wouldn't be convinced by more evidence.

It's just like any bias really. Even when you know about it and you think you've adjusted sufficiently, you probably haven't.

Comment author: gjm 05 May 2016 11:04:09PM 0 points [-]

I agree with all of that. But there's a limit to how much effort you can reasonably be expected to put into considering whether something that seems absurd to you is really not-absurd. I suggest that that depends on what other evidence there is for its non-absurdity. E.g., in the case of evolution, it's highly relevant that it's endorsed by the great majority of biologists, including biologists belonging to religions whose traditions contain stories that prima facie conflict with evolution.

There are a lot of super-smart Christians too, which I think it's reasonable to take as evidence that Christianity can't rightly be dismissed simply because its tradition contains a story about a talking snake. On the other hand, there aren't so many super-smart talking-snake-believers -- even among Christians, most[1] of the cleverest and most educated don't take the story as indicating that there was ever a talking snake -- which suggests that treating a literal reading of the talking-snake story as absurd probably isn't unreasonable.

[1] Though certainly not all.

Comment author: CynicalOptimist 05 May 2016 10:00:37PM 0 points [-]

Incidentally, does this prime number have to be expressed in Base 10?

Comment author: gjm 05 May 2016 10:58:23PM 0 points [-]

Every base is base 10.

(There is no prime number ending with a 2 in binary. Other than that, you're fine.)

Comment author: Lumifer 05 May 2016 06:43:05PM *  1 point [-]

According to this, at least some ancient-ish Hebrew commentators thought

According to your own link, some commentators thought that the snake was an intelligent humanoid, some thought it was Satan in the flesh, and some thought that Genesis was... mistaken about the snake speaking.

All it shows is that the variety of interpretations is wide. "Not an unthinkable thought" is a remarkably low bar, at this level pretty much anything goes.

So that's exactly the point of people saying "ha ha, your religion has a talking snake in it"

That's a stupid point, of the same kind as "the Pope wears a silly hat, ha-ha, he must be really dumb". It's just agitprop. I don't see any reason to pay attention to such "points", do you?

Comment author: gjm 05 May 2016 09:13:26PM -1 points [-]

"Not an unthinkable thought" is a remarkably low bar

For sure. My point is that the culture Genesis 3 came out of was one that had at least some inclination to accept the idea of talking snakes, which makes it more plausible that the talking snake in Genesis 3 was intended to be understood as, well, an actual talking snake (which is how, at face value, the story describes it) rather than a puppet of the Devil, or a metaphor for human curiosity, or whatever.

Comment author: Lumifer 05 May 2016 06:45:58PM 1 point [-]

why, then, that indicates that those subsequent readers or listeners had terrible epistemic hygiene

Translation: they were human.

I don't know of any large populations with non-terrible epistemic hygiene.

Comment author: gjm 05 May 2016 09:08:11PM -1 points [-]

I don't know of any large populations with non-terrible epistemic hygiene.

The relevant issue is not the epistemic hygiene of the populations, but of (so to speak) the process by which any given body of ideas reaches us. In the case of the Bible, on entirelyuseless's (plausible) hypothesis we find that at least some of it reached us (in its role as Sacred Scripture, no less) by being treated as reliable history by people who had no good reason to think of it as more than a fable.

Not every body-of-ideas exhibits such crass indifference to truth in its history, though of course it's by no means only religious ones that do.

Comment author: Lumifer 05 May 2016 06:55:11PM 2 points [-]

My impression is that it accelerated the departure of lefty and/or female LWers by more than a hair.

Any specifics?

One lefty female comes to mind, but I believe she left LW basically because she didn't find NRx (and possibly HBD) pushback acceptable. It was more like she didn't want to be in the same forum with people holding such views.

Such departures, IMHO, cannot and should not be helped.

Is there anyone who left LW specifically because of karma harassment?

Comment author: gjm 05 May 2016 09:05:37PM *  -1 points [-]

It's hard to tell; people don't usually bother saying why they're going. But I can offer someone saying they almost left because of a single incident of mass-downvoting. And daenerys (who has since left LW) saying that mass-downvoting is discouraging her from participating much, though at that point she evidently had no plans to leave altogether.

And, over on Slate Star Codex (where there are no links to individual comments; sorry), go to this thread and search for "Because I got mod-bombed" you'll find ialdabaoth saying that's why they left LW; if you read other comments near that one you'll find a bunch of other people saying they left and/or are considering leaving because they don't like how it feels to get heavily downvoted; they aren't (I think) talking about Euginification, but if (1) it's common to be pushed away from places like LW because being heavily downvoted is unpleasant, and (2) there is someone around throwing heavy downvoting at people whose politics he doesn't like, there's an obvious conclusion to draw.

I don't know the politics (or, in several cases, the gender) of the people I'm pointing at, so I am not going to claim them as examples of "lefty and/or female LWers" specifically; but, again, if we have evidence (1) that mass-downvoting encourages people to leave and (2) that mass-downvoting is preferentially targeted at those who are lefty and/or female, then there's an obvious conclusion to draw.

[EDITED to add:] I am pretty sure I remember other people saying things like "I got mass-downvoted and it makes me feel really negative about LW and I hardly post here any more", but the above is all that a few minutes' googling turned up and more research than that seems unwarranted. Also, while looking I found this study of the impact of voting on user behaviour, which doesn't find that downvoting drives people away (but doesn't, I think, look at all at the sort of mass-downvoting LW suffers from); I am linking it here (1) because cherry-picking is bad and (2) because it's an interesting paper anyway.

Comment author: Dagon 05 May 2016 04:39:03PM 3 points [-]

small-group politics is as mindkilling as large-group politics. I'd like to hear a lot less about the topic (though I do support software changes to make bad actors less harmful, such as tracking votes to be able to undo banned-account voting, and soft-bans where the target doesn't realize it's banned - it can vote and post, but nobody else ever sees).

I don't agree that he's had all that much impact, I was around for the original harassment - it was annoying, but didn't change the direction of movement - the diaspora had already started. It may have accelerated things a hair.

The difference now may be that LW has lost enough thought leaders and original posters for "finger on the scale" manipulation to actually have an effect. I'd argue that to the extent it's true, we're already dead.

Comment author: gjm 05 May 2016 05:03:30PM -1 points [-]

My impression is that it accelerated the departure of lefty and/or female LWers by more than a hair.

There really isn't that much on LW about this -- if it seems like a lot, I think it's more because there's so little other content on LW.


That was actually done to Eugine at one point. He quickly noticed it, and freaked out.

Comment author: jennabouche 05 May 2016 03:30:15PM 0 points [-]

Did you see the links in OP's post? As I clarified, links take readers away from a page. Who knows whether they will then become distracted by a link on that new page, etc., etc., and then you lose readers unnecessarily. Links should be purposeful, meant to verify data/claims.

Pictures, like links, should center around the main purpose of the post but again, purposefully. The pic from Elf, for example, added nothing to the post (that's not even a quote from the movie) and said something we already know: OP wants us to donate. No new information. I said something like the hedgehog would be more acceptable given it adds a bit of personality while the hedgehog hails from the area being discussed--a weak connection, but something light people can enjoy.

Again, from my experience in journalism, very few articles need more than one picture, and if you're going to put a picture in it better add to the point, not just stand as something pretty to look at and get distracted from the piece.

Comment author: gjm 05 May 2016 03:54:15PM 0 points [-]

links take readers away from a page

Whether that's a problem depends on whether your goal is to be useful to your readers or to keep your readers on your page. It will be the latter if you run an ad-supported site and your only goal is to maximize your revenue. In other circumstances, it might be the former.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 05 May 2016 02:30:13PM -3 points [-]

Nancy isn't the dragon, necessarily; she's far too nice. The dragon is in that people like her, and her getting targeted is going to upset some people.

Hell, I'm annoyed.

Comment author: gjm 05 May 2016 02:40:06PM -3 points [-]

How will that do Eugine any harm? He seems to have mostly given up on actually posting visibly Eugine-y things, and to be concentrating on mass-downvoting his enemies with a shadowy network of sockpuppets. Ordinary LW users can't do very much about that however annoyed they may be.

I suppose they could engage in mass-upvoting of comments from users he's been targeting, but that wouldn't in any useful sense solve the problem and would probably just result in Eugine gradually accumulating more sockpuppets to drown out their noise with more of his own.

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