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Comment author: TheOtherDave 01 November 2016 03:35:06PM 0 points [-]

You mean that it didn't happen here or in the global society?

I mean that it's unlikely that "the site [would] end up with a similar "rational" political consensus if political discussion went through".

Discussions about religion seems to me to be equally unproductive in general.

In the global society? I agree.

I can imagine that if the site endorsed a political ideology its readers would may become biased forward it (even if just by selection of readers).

Sure, that's possible.

But there is a possibility that that happened with the religion issue.

Sure, that's possible.

Also, let me cut to the chase a little bit, here.

The subtext I'm picking up from our exchange is that you object to the site's endorsement of atheism, but are reluctant to challenge it overtly for fear of social sanction (downvotes, critical comments, etc.). So instead of challenging it, you are raising the overt topic of the site's unwillingness to endorse a specific political ideology, and taking opportunities as they arise to implicitly establish equivalences between religion and politics, with the intention of implicitly arguing that the site's willingness to endorse a specific religious ideology (atheism) is inconsistent.

Have I correctly understood your subtext?

Comment author: mirefek 02 November 2016 04:37:33PM *  1 point [-]

Discussions about religion seems to me to be equally unproductive in general.

In the global society? I agree.

Yes, in the global society.

The subtext I'm picking up from our exchange is that you object to the site's endorsement of atheism, but are reluctant to challenge it overtly for fear of social sanction (downvotes, critical comments, etc.). So instead of challenging it, you are raising the overt topic of the site's unwillingness to endorse a specific political ideology, and taking opportunities as they arise to implicitly establish equivalences between religion and politics, with the intention of implicitly arguing that the site's willingness to endorse a specific religious ideology (atheism) is inconsistent.

Perhaps, partially. But I don't think that it is accurate. I did not choose the political topic just as a cover. I have opinions about both topics. I like controversial discussions about both of them. I consider myself as an atheist and I have my favorite political direction (I won't mention it, I respect rules of the site). It just do not seem to me that my philosophical opinions are more rational than my political opinions.

I do not object atheism of the site. I like atheist sites. But it seemed to me that the site claim to be "atheist because of rationality". If it was true it would be very nice indicator supporting my opinion. On the other hand, for example a variant of the "Committee for Skeptical Inquiry" in my (mainly atheist) country forbids itself to talk about religion and some of its major members are Christians. So I asked here and got an answer.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 31 October 2016 02:46:07PM 0 points [-]

As you pointed out yourself, most people involved with the site at the beginning were atheists. That is because of association with a group of people who were mainly atheists from the beginning. But they did not all agree on politics.

As a consequence, discussion of politics was discouraged because it would lead to contention and disagreement among those original people.

Discussion of religion, in the sense of disparagement of religion, was not discouraged, since it would not lead to contention and disagreement, given that the original group was atheist.

But in the early years, mentioning religion without directly saying it is false or bad would almost always be heavily downvoted, even if you did not assert that it was true. That happened without there being an official norm that you could not do that, simply because of the large proportion of atheists. The only exceptions (in the early years that is) were for people who favored religion but presented themselves as having basically something like a dhimmi status in relation to atheism. That of course got rid of most people interested in discussing religion, but a norm like the politics one was unnecessary, because of the presumed agreement on atheism.

But you are right that the difference was accidental, and based on the original group characteristics. If the original group had contained a mix of religious people with diverse religious views, the site would likely be that way to this day, and direct discussion of religious topics would be discouraged in the same way that politics currently is. It has nothing to do with what views are reasonable. Some views on religion are more reasonable than others, and some views on politics are more reasonable than others, but for most people, the views that they hold on these topics are not principally motivated by reason. That applies to both religion and politics, and it applies to people on Less Wrong almost as much as to ordinary people.

Comment author: mirefek 31 October 2016 05:58:43PM *  0 points [-]

Thank you for clarifying a history of the site and the community. I expected something of that.

But I wasn't sure how much the local community is resistant to biases (and how it is confident in that), so the original question was perhaps a bit indirect.

mentioning religion without directly saying it is false or bad would almost always be heavily downvoted, even if you did not assert that it was true

So I am glad that I haven't been heavily downvoted yet. Religion is false, of course :-)

Comment author: TheOtherDave 31 October 2016 01:46:34AM 2 points [-]

Yeah, there's a communally endorsed position on which religion(s) is/are correct ("none of them are correct"), but there is no similar communally endorsed position on which political ideology(ies) is/are correct.

There's also no similar communally endorsed position on which brand of car is best, but there's no ban on discussion of cars, because in our experience discussions of car brands, unlike discussions of political ideologies, tend to stay relatively civil and productive.

What do you think? Would the site end up with a similar "rational" political consensus if political discussion went through?

I find it extremely unlilkely. It certainly hasn't in the past.

Comment author: mirefek 31 October 2016 12:22:18PM *  0 points [-]

I find it extremely unlikely. It certainly hasn't in the past.

You mean that it didn't happen here or in the global society? Discussions about religion seems to me to be equally unproductive in general.

I can imagine that if the site endorsed a political ideology its readers would may become biased forward it (even if just by selection of readers). Surely, it is not the intent of the site. But there is a possibility that that happened with the religion issue...

Comment author: mirefek 31 October 2016 12:48:26AM 0 points [-]

Hi,

I am a bit surprised that contemporary politics is kind of suppressed here (by FAQ). Well, I understand the reason that it is a controversial topic in society. I get that people tend to be biased in it. This is just because it is such a wide topic and lot of people have a political standpoint. I agree that it is probably better to train rationality on less known topics.

So, what is confusing me?

I think that there is another topic with a similar controversy level in society: Religion. I can see the analogy. In my view, arguing with a religious person is similar to arguing with a political "opponent". Both topics are very complex (from philosophical standpoints through world issues to daily life). There can be many misinterpretations, lot of uncertainty, and other problems.

Isn't the "Quaker Republican" example an argument against discussing religion as well? I think that the article could be simply modified. "A Christian may read your blog so be careful and do not address the philosophy as a whole piece", "you should rather discuss ancient religions", and so on.

Despite of it, I did not met a warning before promoting atheism here. Why?

I can see a correlation. By surveys, readers of the site mostly consider themselves as atheists but their political leanings are colorful (social democratic, liberal, libertarian). Yet, the causality is not so clear for me. What do you think? Would the site end up with a similar "rational" political consensus if political discussion went through?

Comment author: mirefek 29 October 2016 10:36:55PM 1 point [-]

I expect that "truth" in this context just mean "opinion what the truth is" which can not be easily verified nor refuted and despite of it both debaters are pretty confident in their opinions. In this case a response can be something like "I would prefer word "opinion" but I hope we understand each other ;-)"

For more accurate response I need some examples. I don't realize coming across this phrase in a discussion.

Comment author: hairyfigment 22 October 2016 10:32:19PM 0 points [-]

I don't think you've responded to my linked comment. But OK, looking up a result in a math book could count as an experiment, as could any method by which you might learn about dyslexia or whatever you suspect might be confusing you. If you don't believe anything like that could happen to you, either you made that judgement based on experience and science or you are very badly misguided.

Comment author: mirefek 23 October 2016 04:41:34PM 0 points [-]

To be honest, your comments confuse me. I knew about the link but I didn't see a connection between the link and experimental method and where the citations in the link came from. I am not sure what you mean by "anything like that" in your last comment and I am not very interested in it.

But I prefer to keep the original problem: If looking up a result in a math book could count as an experiment what is the (broader) definition of an experiment, then?

Comment author: hairyfigment 22 October 2016 07:53:27PM 0 points [-]

Ahem. I can think of many ways that some broadly defined "experimental method" could come into play there.

Comment author: mirefek 22 October 2016 08:32:08PM 0 points [-]

Please, be more specific. I am not sure exactly what are you responding to. Do you mean that a math proof (or knowledge of it) can be considered as experimental method in some sense?

Comment author: Raemon 21 October 2016 10:59:14PM *  0 points [-]

The point was less about the physical world applications of 2+2=4, and more about the fact that any belief you have is ultimately based on the evidence you've encountered. In the case of purely theoretical proofs, it's still based on your subjective experience of having read and understood the proofs.

Humans are sometimes literally insane (for example, not being able to tell that they're missing an arm). Also, even the best of us sometimes misunderstand or misremember things. So you need to leave probability mass for having misunderstood the proof in the first place.

(The followup to this post is this one: http://lesswrong.com/lw/mo/infinite_certainty/ which addresses this in some more detail)

Comment author: mirefek 22 October 2016 12:55:14AM 1 point [-]

I see. It seemed to me that it was about the experimental method which did not fit to a mathematical statement. I understand the possibility of being mistaken. I was mistaken many times, I am not sure with some proofs and I know some persuasive fake proofs... Despite this, I am not very convinced that I should do such things with my probability estimates. After all, it is just an estimate. Moreover it is a bit self-referencing when the estimate uses a more complicated formula then the statement itself. If I say that I am 1-sure, that 1 is not 1/2, it is safe, isn't it? :-D Well, it does not matter :-) I think that I got the point, "I know that I know nothing" is a well known quote.

Comment author: mirefek 21 October 2016 04:38:42PM 2 points [-]

Hi, I am a mathematician and I guess most mathematicians would not agree with this. I am quite new here and I am looking forward to reactions of rationalists :-)

I, personally, distinguish "real world" and "mathematical world". In real world, I could be persuaded that 2+2=3 by experience. There is no way to persuade me that 2+2=3 in mathematical world unless somebody shows me a proof of it. But I already have a proof of 2+2=4, so it would lead into great reform of mathematics, similar to the reform after Russel paradox. Just empirical experience would definitely not suffice. The example of 2+2=4 looks weird because the statement holds in both "worlds" but there are other paradoxes which demonstrate the difference better.

For example, there is so called Banach-Tarski paradox, (see Wikipedia). It is proven (by set theory) that a solid ball can be divided into finitely many parts and then two another balls of the same size as the original one can be composed from the pieces. It is a physical nonsense, mass is not preserved. Yet, there is a proof... What can we do with that? Do we say that physics is right and mathematics is wrong?

Reasonable explanation: The physical interpretation of the mathematical theorem is just oversimplified. This part of mathematics does not fit to this part of physics. The false statement about physics is just different from the true mathematical statement.

But the Banach-Tarski paradox has no physical equivalent. We can not test it empirically, we can just believe the proof. This is probably what I would think if my experiences showed me that 2+2=3. It would appear that in our real mysterious world just 2+2=3 but in mathematical world, which was designed to be simple and reasonable, still 2+2=4.

Similarly, we can guess whether and how the physical universe is curved, yet the Euclidean space will be straight and infinite by definition, no matter what we will experience.

Sure, it can be argued that if mathematics does not reflect the real world then it is useless. Well, set theory is a base for almost all math fields. Even though the particular result called Banach-Tarski paradox have no practical use, more complicated objects in the mathematical universe are used in physics well. Restriction to just "empirically testable" objects in mathematics is a counter-intuitive useless obstacle. In such view, there is no sixth Ackermann number or the twin prime conjecture has no meaning. I can barely imagine such mathematics.

I understand that you may want a simple way to handle theists but abandoning abstract mathematics (or calling it "false") is definitely not a wise one.

Comment author: Tem42 09 October 2016 12:26:55AM 0 points [-]

If we are the only civilisation to exist in the history of the Earth, then we will probably become extinct not in mild way, but rather in a way which will prevent any other civilisation from appearing. There is higher probability of future (man-made) catastrophes which will not only end human civilisation, but also prevent any existence of any other civilisations on Earth.

I don't believe that this follows. It is surprising that we are apparently the only civilization to so far appear on Earth, but if we accept that we are, we should not assume that we have accomplished this by destroying the future.

However, while I feel strongly that this is this case, I do not feel confidant that I can express it in a way that would be understood by someone who does not agree with me.

If someone could explain clearly why I am right, or alternatively, why I am wrong, I would greatly appreciate it.

(For context, here is what I would write given my currently semi-formed understanding: "while it makes sense to compare ourselves to a time-line independent view of the world to test the probability that our assumptions about the world are correct, it does not make sense to assume that our assumptions about the world will guide the future.")

Comment author: mirefek 16 October 2016 10:12:02PM *  0 points [-]

I agree with you, I think that I have the same problem with the article. Probability theory can not be used in such a way.

Every planet with some civilizations have a first one. People of the first civilization always wonder why they are first.

It does not mean anything for the future. Especially, it does not imply whether there will be other civilizations afterward.

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