A Fable of Science and Politics

In the time of the Roman Empire, civic life was divided between the Blue and Green factions.  The Blues and the Greens murdered each other in single combats, in ambushes, in group battles, in riots.  Procopius said of the warring factions:  "So there grows up in them against their fellow men a hostility which has no cause, and at no time does it cease or disappear, for it gives place neither to the ties of marriage nor of relationship nor of friendship, and the case is the same even though those who differ with respect to these colors be brothers or any other kin."  Edward Gibbon wrote:  "The support of a faction became necessary to every candidate for civil or ecclesiastical honors."

Who were the Blues and the Greens?  They were sports fans—the partisans of the blue and green chariot-racing teams.

Imagine a future society that flees into a vast underground network of caverns and seals the entrances.  We shall not specify whether they flee disease, war, or radiation; we shall suppose the first Undergrounders manage to grow food, find water, recycle air, make light, and survive, and that their descendants thrive and eventually form cities.  Of the world above, there are only legends written on scraps of paper; and one of these scraps of paper describes the sky, a vast open space of air above a great unbounded floor.  The sky is cerulean in color, and contains strange floating objects like enormous tufts of white cotton.  But the meaning of the word "cerulean" is controversial; some say that it refers to the color known as "blue", and others that it refers to the color known as "green".

In the early days of the underground society, the Blues and Greens contested with open violence; but today, truce prevails—a peace born of a growing sense of pointlessness.  Cultural mores have changed; there is a large and prosperous middle class that has grown up with effective law enforcement and become unaccustomed to violence.  The schools provide some sense of historical perspective; how long the battle between Blues and Greens continued, how many died, how little changed as a result.  Minds have been laid open to the strange new philosophy that people are people, whether they be Blue or Green.

The conflict has not vanished.  Society is still divided along Blue and Green lines, and there is a "Blue" and a "Green" position on almost every contemporary issue of political or cultural importance.  The Blues advocate taxes on individual incomes, the Greens advocate taxes on merchant sales; the Blues advocate stricter marriage laws, while the Greens wish to make it easier to obtain divorces; the Blues take their support from the heart of city areas, while the more distant farmers and watersellers tend to be Green; the Blues believe that the Earth is a huge spherical rock at the center of the universe, the Greens that it is a huge flat rock circling some other object called a Sun.  Not every Blue or every Green citizen takes the "Blue" or "Green" position on every issue, but it would be rare to find a city merchant who believed the sky was blue, and yet advocated an individual tax and freer marriage laws.

The Underground is still polarized; an uneasy peace.  A few folk genuinely think that Blues and Greens should be friends, and it is now common for a Green to patronize a Blue shop, or for a Blue to visit a Green tavern.  Yet from a truce originally born of exhaustion, there is a quietly growing spirit of tolerance, even friendship.

One day, the Underground is shaken by a minor earthquake.  A sightseeing party of six is caught in the tremblor while looking at the ruins of ancient dwellings in the upper caverns.  They feel the brief movement of the rock under their feet, and one of the tourists trips and scrapes her knee.  The party decides to turn back, fearing further earthquakes.  On their way back, one person catches a whiff of something strange in the air, a scent coming from a long-unused passageway.  Ignoring the well-meant cautions of fellow travellers, the person borrows a powered lantern and walks into the passageway.  The stone corridor wends upward... and upward... and finally terminates in a hole carved out of the world, a place where all stone ends.  Distance, endless distance, stretches away into forever; a gathering space to hold a thousand cities.  Unimaginably far above, too bright to look at directly, a searing spark casts light over all visible space, the naked filament of some huge light bulb.  In the air, hanging unsupported, are great incomprehensible tufts of white cotton.  And the vast glowing ceiling above... the color... is...

Now history branches, depending on which member of the sightseeing party decided to follow the corridor to the surface.

Aditya the Blue stood under the blue forever, and slowly smiled.  It was not a pleasant smile.  There was hatred, and wounded pride; it recalled every argument she'd ever had with a Green, every rivalry, every contested promotion.  "You were right all along," the sky whispered down at her, "and now you can prove it."  For a moment Aditya stood there, absorbing the message, glorying in it, and then she turned back to the stone corridor to tell the world.  As Aditya walked, she curled her hand into a clenched fist.  "The truce," she said, "is over."

Barron the Green stared incomprehendingly at the chaos of colors for long seconds.  Understanding, when it came, drove a pile-driver punch into the pit of his stomach.  Tears started from his eyes.  Barron thought of the Massacre of Cathay, where a Blue army had massacred every citizen of a Green town, including children; he thought of the ancient Blue general, Annas Rell, who had declared Greens "a pit of disease; a pestilence to be cleansed"; he thought of the glints of hatred he'd seen in Blue eyes and something inside him cracked.  "How can you be on their side?" Barron screamed at the sky, and then he began to weep; because he knew, standing under the malevolent blue glare, that the universe had always been a place of evil.

Charles the Blue considered the blue ceiling, taken aback.  As a professor in a mixed college, Charles had carefully emphasized that Blue and Green viewpoints were equally valid and deserving of tolerance:  The sky was a metaphysical construct, and cerulean a color that could be seen in more than one way.  Briefly, Charles wondered whether a Green, standing in this place, might not see a green ceiling above; or if perhaps the ceiling would be green at this time tomorrow; but he couldn't stake the continued survival of civilization on that.  This was merely a natural phenomenon of some kind, having nothing to do with moral philosophy or society... but one that might be readily misinterpreted, Charles feared.  Charles sighed, and turned to go back into the corridor.  Tomorrow he would come back alone and block off the passageway.

Daria, once Green, tried to breathe amid the ashes of her world.  I will not flinch, Daria told herself, I will not look away.  She had been Green all her life, and now she must be Blue.  Her friends, her family, would turn from her.  Speak the truth, even if your voice trembles, her father had told her; but her father was dead now, and her mother would never understand.  Daria stared down the calm blue gaze of the sky, trying to accept it, and finally her breathing quietened.  I was wrong, she said to herself mournfully; it's not so complicated, after all.  She would find new friends, and perhaps her family would forgive her... or, she wondered with a tinge of hope, rise to this same test, standing underneath this same sky?  "The sky is blue," Daria said experimentally, and nothing dire happened to her; but she couldn't bring herself to smile.  Daria the Blue exhaled sadly, and went back into the world, wondering what she would say.

Eddin, a Green, looked up at the blue sky and began to laugh cynically.  The course of his world's history came clear at last; even he couldn't believe they'd been such fools.  "Stupid," Eddin said, "stupid, stupid, and all the time it was right here."  Hatred, murders, wars, and all along it was just a thing somewhere, that someone had written about like they'd write about any other thing.  No poetry, no beauty, nothing that any sane person would ever care about, just one pointless thing that had been blown out of all proportion.  Eddin leaned against the cave mouth wearily, trying to think of a way to prevent this information from blowing up the world, and wondering if they didn't all deserve it.

Ferris gasped involuntarily, frozen by sheer wonder and delight.  Ferris's eyes darted hungrily about, fastening on each sight in turn before moving reluctantly to the next; the blue sky, the white clouds, the vast unknown outside, full of places and things (and people?) that no Undergrounder had ever seen.  "Oh, so that's what color it is," Ferris said, and went exploring.


Moderation Guidelines: Reign of Terror - I delete anything I judge to be annoying or counterproductiveexpand_more

I have had this experience several times in my life; I come across clear enough evidence that settles for me an issue I had seen long disputed. At that point my choice is to either go back and try to persuade disputants, or to continue on to explore the new issues that this settlement raises. As Eliezer implicitly advises, after a short detour to tell a few disputants, I have usually chosen this second route. This is one explanation for the existence of settled but still disputed issues; people who learn the answer leave the conversation.

Just as a thought experiment, I'm going to compare "moving on to new problems" to "moving on to new activities after having briefly opposed one large problem." (For example: tyranny, aging, AGI development).

Robin claims he doesn't generally "go back and try to persuade disputants." This is essentially "political disengagement." People who do engage politically often learn about the incumbent powers' (FBI, CIA, D & R Parties) long history of infiltrating anti-government movements. They then often realize that their favored anti-government movement is externally-controlled, and then leave. (If you're not familiar with this trend, ask intelligent and empathic old-timers who have been "in and out of politics" much of their lives. For instance, ask an old man, or woman, who has read, understood, and agreed with what Orwell wrote in "1984" what "turnover" was like in the movement they participated in. Ask them about exposed FBI informants, etc.)

Interestingly, if such people hadn't left their social movements, but had stuck around until interested new arrivals swelled their ranks, they'd eventually be an unstoppable political force (even if not a majority). This is one reason why uncaring sociopaths dominate politics, when there's no good reason to allow them to continue to do so (the cost in stolen wealth and opportunity we all pay is immense). Here are some anti-government movements that have recently been infiltrated by enforcers of the political status quo:

1) AIM (American Indian Movement) - by FBI Informant Douglas(s) Durham, pictured here. The complete story is told in Peter Matthiessen's excellent book "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse."

2) Every motorcycle gang that doesn't require a murder to be committed in front of live witnesses, (including one that requires passive and active sex with a great dane). This is according to the originator of the FBI profiling program, John Douglas, in his book "Mindhunter." This information was also unearthed by Hunter S. Thompson for his book "Hell's Angels."

3) The Government of Minnesota - has a permanent CIA operative who is known to only the governor, and does not change with elections, according to former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura. In this video, Ventura speculates (logically) that MN is not the exception to the rule, and that there exists a set of unelected CIA operatives in every State government, which doesn't change with elections. (Someone such as myself says "Ah, that's where the ability to steal money is seated. That's the seat of power. If a governor wanted to, they could challenge the power of the Federal Reserve by legalizing competing currencies. They could challenge the prison industrial complex by legalizing all "mala prohibita," and they could challenge the educational and military industrial complexes by refusing to contribute soldiers to draft registration and the military industrial complex. Therefore, the State-implanted CIA exists to ensure that this doesn't happen. The CIA's charter says they are not to be operational inside of the USA. What other legitimate reason would there be for this charter, which acts as a limit on government, to be a lie?)

4) Radical Environmentalist "Anarchists" - FBI Informant Brandon Darby agitated stupid young environmentalists, set them up, and then had them raided for possessing two "molotov cocktails" (bottles of gasoline with rags stuffed in them). (Entrapment schemes were also accomplished by a female FBI informant named "Anna" sleeping with gullible young men, and then convincing them to say stupid things on tape.)

5) Ross Perot was derailed by (government? insane?) operative Russell Verney in 1992. It was Verney's idea, as his "head of security," to publicly claim Perot's daughter's life had been threatened. He later claimed this was to win sympathy from the public. Instead it just called off the campaign for crucial months, and the once-strong campaign fizzled out.

6) Libertarian Party in 2008 (derailed by operatives Bob Barr and Russell Verney. Note the similarity to the name of the man who derailed Perot's 1992 campaign. It's the same guy. How was he involved in another "alternative" presidential campaign after sabotaging Perot's campaign? I guess most people's memories are "too short to help them prevail in politics.") --2008 was the year that Ron Paul made his "last hurrah" by running for president as a true advocate of limited government. The Libertarian Party has recurring ballot access in over 25 States. If they had seized the opportunity to nominate a small-L libertarian, they might have had enough money left over from the expensive process of attaining ballot access to run a serious campaign. Barr and Verney assured this would not happen. An early supporter of Barr's candidacy on the LNC was Bill Redpath, who directs the expenditure of ~95% of the money raised by the LP (used to attain ballot access).

In some ways, the "emergent order" of individuals joining and then leaving the Libertarian Party (and other anti-government movements) is like the networks of neurons in Robin Hanson's brain "continuing on" to new problems. I imagine that "continuing on" to new problems is a good thing for Robin, because he's paid (in money and respect) to continuously think up novel thoughts, and publish his ideas. Robin is not paid to directly engage, defeat, and reduce tyranny. (This is nothing against Robin, it's just to differentiate Robin's efforts from the stated goals of political movements and parties.)

Anti-government political movements, however, advertise themselves as "an alternative," when no such alternative actually exists. In this way, those political movements actually act in service of the existing establishment, in the following ways: 1) Individuals who oppose the government are then able to be carefully observed, to see how effectively they operate. This provides useful feedback to the government, about how much time and attention they need to direct to negating the effects of their opposition. (Because the new individuals are operating in a new environment, they're often not aware of the infiltrators to the movement or party, and are taken in by them, and misdirected.) 2) The individuals who have participated in these anti-government movements then view themselves to have "tried and failed" at the "only available avenue for change." (Of course, this isn't true, but more difficult avenues for change are then ignored with a "cleaner" conscience.) Ie: the alternative movements act as a "pressure release" for anti-government sentiment. 3) The establishment has a continual "false choice" even for people who aren't willing to settle for an establishment (D or R) false choice. 4) This isn't "planned," per se. It's not a conspiracy, per se. It's the natural structure of human networks that contain large numbers of sociopaths. All the sociopaths do is act in the interested service of their ability to steal (If an action, law, person, or office increases their ability to steal, they defend and protect it).

...continued below...

Sociopaths are therefore a superior collective organism (when unchallenged) to the social order of libertarians and individualists: just like smart humans use farm animals to labor for them in captivity, sociopaths use the rest of human labor so they don't need to work as hard. Just like those dumb farm animals, empath conformists labor for sociopaths until they get cancer, heart attack, or a stroke, and die. The sociopath government maximizes the yield from their chattel by allowing them the illusion of limited freedom and investment, while proscribing actions that would allow an individual to live to the age of wisdom. This purpose is served by the AMA, FDA, MIB (medical information bureau), combined with both property taxes and inflation. Medicine is continually defined as narrowly as possible, because insurance companies have enough money to (by lobbying the government) narrow the definitions of medical health enough to avoid paying for expensive new innovations (which ultimately leads to the "death panels" political argument inherent in "the Affordable Care Act" or "Obamacare"). This means that most individuals will not be able to save enough to live an unbounded lifespan, and even those who can save enough will come into direct conflict with a government, court system, etc. that views them as rightless chattel, when they are old, and least able to defend themselves and their property. While not overtly "planned," this system is also not opposed by those who uncover it and understand it. Anyone who opposes the operation of any "cog" in this system runs afoul of the system's enforcers (the growing number of pseudo-legal agencies, offices, judges, and prosecutors).

While it's good to keep transitioning to new thoughts and new problems with a portion of one's resources, doing this until death simply results in death. At some point, it makes sense to stop jumping from subject to subject, or activity to activity, and say "this is important enough to dedicate myself to winning a victory." Eliezer Yudkowsky has clearly made this decision with regard to developing (or helping to develop) an artificial general intelligence that is not bent on destroying humanity. Others have made this decision with regard to the abolition of the star chamber, of slavery, and of alcohol prohibition. There really aren't two legitimate positions on the prior subjects, even if they were "controversial" at the time. A consensus is possible, and a consensus large enough actually does result in a cure. In all of the prior cases, the government position was that mass theft from politically weak groups was "good." The government fought its opposition hard, but finally lost.

It might also be good to notice that coercive collectivism (by denying us the wealth and access to cutting-edge medical treatments) is our primary current cause of death and (otherwise) preventable suffering. If we fail to notice this and defeat it, this is the cause of death most likely to cause us to lose.

Losing to sociopaths, however "range of the moment" or "narrowly" intelligent they are, would be irrational.

Proper democracies figure this out very quickly, without being "programmed" to do so. (But yes, sure, the component parts are programmed.)

If there is any value for Lesswrong, it would be to care about and disseminate a better way of doing things at many hierarchical levels. The calculation for each individual to work on things they are good at is virtually unquantifiable, because there are too many "hidden variables." I can't speak to many of the subjects on this blog, but a focus on making libertarian movement smarter, being a part of their institutional memory, and working to interfere with the punishment of innocent individuals (as the prior-noted successful movements once did) seems to be a good partial use of resources.

When we act to defend liberty for all, we will have liberty for ourselves. One by-product of liberty, is immense wealth in "the voluntary sector," due to the regained or "maximized" ability to save wealth. Virtually all savings are now stripped away by those who print the money, and render illegal all competition.

I don't have time to offer up an explanation of why I believe Hayek's economics are correct. He filled large books with his arguments, and those arguments have convinced me.

I always ask myself: If I was born into a family that held slaves, would I favor (up-rank, prioritize, adopt) abolition? Would I do this at the cost of "looking cool" and fitting into a social network?

At least this train of thought gives me an answer to one of my questions. :)

Bon chance, Lesswrong-heirs.

You forgot a few cases:

Loretta the Green looked at the sky and said: It is blue. Therefore, it is not the sky. Despite its inmensity, its openness, and those things that look like tufts of white cotton. Now that I think of it, those things don't look quite like cotton.

Bob the Groovy Blue said: Wow. Wait until I tell everyone that it's pink. (He was on acid, as usual).

Ed the Green said: Damm, it's not green. It's black.

Frank the Blue said: Hooray, it's not green. It's black.

(Obviously the last two arrived at night)

And finally John the Ecumenical said: Like I've always said. It's cerulean!

I suspect some Greens will take a spectral analysis of cerulean, point out that it differs from standard blue paint and that there's some green in it, and argue that the sky really is green after all. A new debate might start on the proper definitions of "blue" and "green."

BTW, what happens if the sky is overcast and gray?

I once told a friend, "I think I'm a Daria, but I know the correct answer is Ferris". Then I realized the absurdity of that statement, and had much pondering to do.

Healthier for what? Or 'why do you think this?' I should ask. Because it seems clear to me that Ferris's reaction is more fun, and more beneficial for being right about stuff. This is why I am curious.

Open question for anyone who agrees with Mr.Davis.

(four years, seven months later)

I was wrong. As I recall, the sentiment that prompted me to write the grandparent was that Daria actually cares about whether the sky is blue or green, whereas Ferris is just wireheading on idle curiosity and doesn't actually care about the sky at all. I said that Daria's attitude was healthier because I thought it was appropriate to feel some shock and horror upon discovering that one of your most cherished beliefs is false.

But in retrospect, this is stupid. Daria is failing to distinguish between the map and the territory: if she actually cares about the sky, then the horrifying realization shouldn't be that she has to relinquish her belief that the sky is green, but rather that the sky is in fact blue, and that fixing this state of affairs is likely to be an extremely difficult engineering problem if it's physically possible at all. On the other hand, if what Daria really cares about is tax or divorce laws, or the shape of the Earth, or fitting in with her friends and family who perform the behavior of asserting that the sky is green, then those are different problems that need to be handled separately from the question about what color the sky is.

Ferris is going to get killed the moment he meets Aditya. Daria is going to be tentatively welcomed as a new ally.

But what causes others to welcome you is not always the best attitude. I also don't see why Aditya would kill him, as he wasn't a green and is likely to readily admit that the sky is blue.

"What causes others to welcome you" is almost always the right answer for anyone who lives in the real world and isn't a hermit.

Or the crevice breaks through the ground and into a thickly covered rain-forest. Low and below, as far and high as the eye can see, all is green with tree-cover.

There are no clouds. The definition of the sky included clouds. Therefore, the green cover, (assuming, of course, that they did not realize the plants for what they were,) would not be thought of as the sky.

"I have had this experience several times in my life; I come across clear enough evidence that settles for me an issue I had seen long disputed. "

What if you made an error in judgement at that point, not having access to all the relevant facts, and the particular matter under dispute is of great importance to discovering the truth about reality?

Isn't that "settles for me" exactly what we see happening when people are unwilling to look at facts that might challenge their current mental models? Couldn't this lead to a cul-de-sac?

"In the time of the Roman Empire, civic life was divided between the Blue and Green factions".

That's wrong. In the later centuries of the Roman Empire, civic life was divided between the Red, White, Blue and Green factions. The first two vanished in the early part of the Byzantine Empire, so the description is true of the period of the Byzantine Empire under consideration (which still called itself the Roman Empire).

There is some reason to believe that the factions were more than just sporting associations, also handling some militia functions for the defence of Constantinople.

I've only read edited Gibbon and limited other references and they never got specific about it that I read, but when I think about it for a second, it seems very likely that rabid sports fans of a very practical militaristic sport might often have more physical and professional ties to it than just as sports fans or partisans by accident or tradition. It also makes sense out of the brother against brother rivalry alluded to, if people's real jobs and/or semi-military gangs are involved....if career, ambition, social status come into it, not just cheering a side and random hooliganery.

Is it just me, or did Ferris have the best reaction? It seems to me that if everyone reacted this way to learning something so exciting, the world would be a much better place. it doesn't say what Ferris believed earlier, but perhaps the point is that it doesn't matter. What matters is the magic of the reality, not how it relates to prior conceptions.

Ferris definitely had the most pro-science reaction. I worry about drawing conclusions about the "best" approach out of these archetypes. Ferris is the one that doesn't think for a moment about the societal impact his discovery will have. That's OK, but it's not necessarily a good guiding principle for behavior. Everyone depicted had realistic reactions that would be viewed as better or worse by different groups.

I'm not saying that you're wrong - at all. My very first reaction was that Ferris is "right." But I think which one we think of as "right" says a lot about our existing values.

Gregory looked at the sky contemplatively, arms folded across his chest. "It all seems very obvious to me," he said "that if anyone was REALLY concerned about the color of the sky, what they ought to have done was sent scouts to the surface immediately to determine who was correct, instead of arguing pointlessly without any evidence."

With a disgusted snort, he returned underground.

Even trying to work out what the colour of a spectrum resulting from Rayleigh scattering would be, would be better than nothing. (I once did that without even knowing I was doing that -- I was trying to determine what colour a black body would be in the limit of infinite temperature.)

"Rachel glanced at the sky only once, briefly, before turning to study the expressions of the others who have inevitably followed her outside. She sees incredulity, defeat, unabashed wonder...

She proceeds to gather those with the most angry expressions into a group, and leans in to whisper something to them.

"Now the likelihood is that we can tell everyone back inside that the sky is green. All we'd have to do is make sure none of the Blues ever make it back, and we can say that they died in the earthquake. How many of you are able to pretend to be former Blues that have been converted? The rest of you can help seal up the entrance..."

Nice parable, but the author has stacked the deck. The Blues and Greens were originally divided over the issue of the color of the sky. These groups then developed their own cultures and attitudes that had nothing to do with what they believed was the color of the sky, though they were thus identified. The world had evolved to a point that the Blues and Greens had developed mutual tolerance based on a deeper understanding of their common humanity. I suspect that in this new "secular" world, most people viewed the origins of their group name as fictive or ultimately unimportant and the news of the discovery of the True Color would not materially change their lives. The remaining Fundamentalists would, of course, respond in a variety of ways as outlined in the post and comments. It could get ugly but would probably not effect things too much. As the author notes, the discovery of a vast new world waiting to be exploited, would make the people see gold more than it would blue or green.

Zarathustra running through the streets of their underground city screaming: "WHERE IS THE SKY?"

There are examples supporting and against your hypothesis. Most groups I can think of right now which engage in open and bitter vocal warfare are unlikely to erupt into violence even if new evidence totally destroyed one position. Arguably the reason that things are less volatile now is that intelectual debates have opened up for everyone, the culture of misinformed idealogical warfare using biased studies has desensetized people to the point where whether or not the founding principle of your beliefs is supported by the evidence no longer matters. In another culture this might not be the case, the greens and blues very well could start a civil war to settle things if one side felt betrayed by reality.

I am not assuming you're wrong klfwip, but I would like some examples of times that ideology was the cause of mass warfare. It seems to me that ideology is usually just the justification for actions intended to produce material results.

  • I don't think sociohistorical scholars can really believe that fascism would have risen without the threat of communism pushing the corporate class to pour massive amounts of money into fascist parties.

  • The crusades wouldn't have happened without the Pope trying to expand his influence and gain wealth for the church through control of religious sites and artifacts

  • Nobody would care about the dumb question of corporate personhood if corporations hadn't poured billions of dollars directly and indirectly into using the litigation of Citizens United to increase their own influence

Whether religion was ultimately the "cause of the crusades" is debatable, but it was the reason used to sell it to the masses. Surely a similar scenario could occur in the "blue vs green" debate outlined above.

It seems to me that ideology is usually just the justification for actions intended to produce material results.

The ideology wants material results, though, so how do you separate them?

Matt, yes of course, one should be very cautious about drawing conclusions contrary to a large community of discussion.

Is it just me, or does this strike anyone as very similar to the God debate? Some differences are obvious (the sky's colors don't have books of morals and "history" on their sides, e.g.) but the allusion to hatred and war seems apt.

It seems to me, though, that if we were to flesh this comparison out, neither Ferris's or Daria's responses seem entirely correct (although they are the only two that make an attempt to act as rationally as possible.) Consider Richard Dawkins: A man obviously motivated by science and discovery (Ferris), but yet a man who also feels it necessary to evangelize on behalf of a seemingly obvious proposition (that the universe is able to function without a God).

In order that maximum rational discourse and action may be achieved, it is necessary to synthesize Ferrisian and Darian action into Dawkinsian action.

How about Gloop, who considers the possibility that the fact that the sky is blue now has no actual bearing on what the color of the sky might have been when the scraps of paper were written? He can entertain the possibility that the composition of the atmosphere might have changed during all the time people spent underground, so he establishes a laboratory to investigate if A) what particles were present in the air at the time the paper was written and B) if they were able to scatter blue or green light more efficiently?

The Blues and Greens were Catholics and Monophysites (I forget which was which). They once united and almost overthrew the emperor Justinian (his wife persuaded him not to flee) but Narses set them against each other and crushed their revolt.

Gordon, High Pontiff of the First And Last Temple of Greenism, gasps — but then he remembers the first paragraph of the Greenist Catechism: "Tell the truth always, for the Blue Devil is the Father of Lies. Truth is good, because God the Green commands it. Lying and hypocrisy — living by untruth, yet seeming truthful by all outward signs , and benefiting richly thereby — are the ways of the Blues and of their father the Devil." The God of Greenism, the Father of Truth, has lost Gordon's allegiance. Gordon, now inwardly Blue, joyfully returns to his luxurious suite in the Temple, where he prepares his next sermon: "The Sky IS Green" and plans other ways to inspire his devout, trusting followers to revive the ancient Anti-Blue Crusades.

Consider a slightly different story. Eddin and Ferris come across a strange gas cylinder and both look at the warning labels the cylinder has.
Eddin: Ah. Explosive. I better handle this carefully then.
Ferris: Ah. Explosive. I really need a ciggarette now...

I'd go with Eddin as being the more rational reaction. Ferris sees, and understands there's more to be learned, but doesn't seem to make any effort to internalise or actually understand this knowledge. Both explore, but in diferent ways. At the end of the day though, neither immediate reaction is bad. No one is required to learn something in a single moment. What matters is whether they have other reactions (and specifically, each other's reactions) in the minites, hours, and days to follow.

The color of the sky isn't really that important, though. Especially considering the discovery of a previously unknown world, making an effort to internalize and understand the color of the sky comes with a high opportunity cost.

How so? Would internalizing and understanding the color of the sky prevent him from exploring?

I would argue that the color of the sky does matter because all of the other reactions described are realistic reactions, and the shape of their society will be altered by this new information. It's possible that any other discovery he makes on the surface will never actually come to be appreciated or used by the rest of humanity as they fight while he's in the wilderness if he doesn't take into consideration what will happen when others see the sky..