On the flipside, egalitarian instincts (e.g. "justice and liberty for all", "all men are created equal") are often deemed desirable, even though many a times "deserve" stems from such concepts of how a society should supposedly be like, "what kind of society I want to live in".

There is a tension between decrying "deserve" as harmful, while e.g. espousing the (in many cases) egalitarian instincts they stem from ("I should have as many tech toys as my neighbor", "I'm trying to keep up with the Joneses", etc.).

The concept of "deserve" is only harmful to the extent people apply it to things they don't in fact deserve. In this respect, it's no different from the concept of "truth".

0pinyaka7yI think this is a different flavor of deserving. Stabilizer is using deserve to explain how people got into the current situation while you're using it to describe desirable future situation. The danger is assuming that because we are capable of acting in a way that gives people what they deserve, that in all situations someone must have already done so, so everyone must have acted in such a way that they have earned their present circumstances through moral actions.

Bad Concepts Repository

by moridinamael 1 min read27th Jun 2013204 comments

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We recently established a successful Useful Concepts Repository.  It got me thinking about all the useless or actively harmful concepts I had carried around for in some cases most of my life before seeing them for what they were.  Then it occurred to me that I probably still have some poisonous concepts lurking in my mind, and I thought creating this thread might be one way to discover what they are.

I'll start us off with one simple example:  The Bohr model of the atom as it is taught in school is a dangerous thing to keep in your head for too long.  I graduated from high school believing that it was basically a correct physical representation of atoms.  (And I went to a *good* high school.)  Some may say that the Bohr model serves a useful role as a lie-to-children to bridge understanding to the true physics, but if so, why do so many adults still think atoms look like concentric circular orbits of electrons around a nucleus?  

There's one hallmark of truly bad concepts: they actively work against correct induction.  Thinking in terms of the Bohr model actively prevents you from understanding molecular bonding and, really, everything about how an atom can serve as a functional piece of a real thing like a protein or a diamond.

Bad concepts don't have to be scientific.  Religion is held to be a pretty harmful concept around here.  There are certain political theories which might qualify, except I expect that one man's harmful political concept is another man's core value system, so as usual we should probably stay away from politics.  But I welcome input as fuzzy as common folk advice you receive that turned out to be really costly.