A prophet is without dishonor in his hometown
I'm reading the book "The Year of Living Biblically," by A.J. Jacobs. He tried to follow all of the commandments in the Bible (Old and New Testaments) for one year. He quickly found that
- a lot of the rules in the Bible are impossible, illegal, or embarassing to follow nowadays; like wearing tassels, tying your money to yourself, stoning adulterers, not eating fruit from a tree less than 5 years old, and not touching anything that a menstruating woman has touched; and
- this didn't seem to bother more than a handful of the one-third to one-half of Americans who claim the Bible is the word of God.
You may have noticed that people who convert to religion after the age of 20 or so are generally more zealous than people who grew up with the same religion. People who grow up with a religion learn how to cope with its more inconvenient parts by partitioning them off, rationalizing them away, or forgetting about them. Religious communities actually protect their members from religion in one sense - they develop an unspoken consensus on which parts of their religion members can legitimately ignore. New converts sometimes try to actually do what their religion tells them to do.
I remember many times growing up when missionaries described the crazy things their new converts in remote areas did on reading the Bible for the first time - they refused to be taught by female missionaries; they insisted on following Old Testament commandments; they decided that everyone in the village had to confess all of their sins against everyone else in the village; they prayed to God and assumed He would do what they asked; they believed the Christian God would cure their diseases. We would always laugh a little at the naivete of these new converts; I could barely hear the tiny voice in my head saying but they're just believing that the Bible means what it says...
How do we explain the blindness of people to a religion they grew up with?
Europe has lived with Christianity for nearly 2000 years. European culture has co-evolved with Christianity. Culturally, memetically, it's developed a tolerance for Christianity. These new Christian converts, in Uganda, Papua New Guinea, and other remote parts of the world, were being exposed to Christian memes for the first time, and had no immunity to them.
The history of religions sometimes resembles the history of viruses. Judaism and Islam were both highly virulent when they first broke out, driving the first generations of their people to conquer (Islam) or just slaughter (Judaism) everyone around them for the sin of not being them. They both grew more sedate over time. (Christianity was pacifist at the start, as it arose in a conquered people. When the Romans adopted it, it didn't make them any more militaristic than they already were.)
The mechanism isn't the same as for diseases, which can't be too virulent or they kill their hosts. Religions don't generally kill their hosts. I suspect that, over time, individual selection favors those who are less zealous. The point is that a culture develops antibodies for the particular religions it co-exists with - attitudes and practices that make them less virulent.
I have a theory that "radical Islam" is not native Islam, but Westernized Islam. Over half of 75 Muslim terrorists studied by Bergen & Pandey 2005 in the New York Times had gone to a Western college. (Only 9% had attended madrassas.) A very small percentage of all Muslims have received a Western college education. When someone lives all their life in a Muslim country, they're not likely to be hit with the urge to travel abroad and blow something up. But when someone from an Islamic nation goes to Europe for college, and comes back with Enlightenment ideas about reason and seeking logical closure over beliefs, and applies them to the Koran, then you have troubles. They have lost their cultural immunity.
I'm also reminded of a talk I attended by one of the Dalai Lama's assistants. This was not slick, Westernized Buddhism; this was saffron-robed fresh-off-the-plane-from-Tibet Buddhism. He spoke about his beliefs, and then took questions. People began asking him about some of the implications of his belief that life, love, feelings, and the universe as a whole are inherently bad and undesirable. He had great difficulty comprehending the questions - not because of his English, I think; but because the notion of taking a belief expressed in one context, and applying it in another, seemed completely new to him. To him, knowledge came in units; each unit of knowledge was a story with a conclusion and a specific application. (No wonder they think understanding Buddhism takes decades.) He seemed not to have the idea that these units could interact; that you could take an idea from one setting, and explore its implications in completely different settings. This may have been an extreme form of cultural immunity.
We think of Buddhism as a peaceful, caring religion. A religion that teaches that striving and status are useless is probably going to be more peaceful than one that teaches that the whole world must be brought under its dominion; and religions that lack the power of the state (e.g., the early Christians) are usually gentler than those with the power of life and death. But much of Buddhism's kind public face may be due to cultural norms that prevent Buddhists from connecting all of their dots. Today, we worry about Islamic terrorists. A hundred years from now, we'll worry about Buddhist physicists.
Reason as immune suppression
The reason I bring this up is that intelligent people sometimes do things more stupid than stupid people are capable of. There are a variety of reasons for this; but one has to do with the fact that all cultures have dangerous memes circulating in them, and cultural antibodies to those memes. The trouble is that these antibodies are not logical. On the contrary; these antibodies are often highly illogical. They are the blind spots that let us live with a dangerous meme without being impelled to action by it. The dangerous effects of these memes are most obvious with religion; but I think there is an element of this in many social norms. We have a powerful cultural norm in America that says that all people are equal (whatever that means); originally, this powerful and ambiguous belief was counterbalanced by a set of blind spots so large that this belief did not even impel us to free slaves or let women or non-property-owners vote. We have another cultural norm that says that hard work reliably and exclusively leads to success; and another set of blind spots that prevent this belief from turning us all into Objectivists.
A little reason can be a dangerous thing. The landscape of rationality is not smooth; there is no guarantee that removing one false belief will improve your reasoning instead of degrading it. Sometimes, reason lets us see the dangerous aspects of our memes, but not the blind spots that protect us from them. Sometimes, it lets us see the blind spots, but not the dangerous memes. Either of these ways, reason can lead an individual to be unbalanced, no longer adapted to their memetic environment, and free to follow previously-dormant memes through to their logical conclusions. (To paraphrase Steve Weinberg, "For a smart person to do something truly stupid, they need a theory." Actually, I could have quoted him directly - "stupid" is just a lighter shade of "evil". Communism and fascism both begin by exercising complete control over the memetic environment, in order to create a new man stripped of cultural immunity, who will do whatever they tell him to.)
The vaccines: Updating and emotions
How can you tell when you have removed one set of blind spots from your reasoning without removing its counterbalances? One heuristic to counter this loss of immunity, is to be very careful when you find yourself deviating from everyone around you. I deviate from those around me all the time, so I admit I haven't found this heuristic to be very helpful.
Another heuristic is to listen to your feelings. If your conclusions seem repulsive to you, you may have stripped yourself of cognitive immunity to something dangerous.
Another reason converts are more zealous than people who grew up with a religion is that conversion is a voluntary act, whereas being born into a religious family is not. Converting to a religion late in life is a radical move, one that generally requires a certain amount of zeal and motivation to begin with, so converts are pre-selected to be zealous.
I've come at this from a similar angle that is, I think, different in the details; and that is rationality as a failure of compartmentalization - the attempt to take everything you hear seriously.
Michael Vassar, again, has a similar angle which is different in the details: nerds result from failing to learn the nonverbal rules of adulthood that are different from the verbal rules.
Many people enjoy reading books and watching films where the lead characters form a small group, pitted against all the odds to try to save the world. Many people - secular people - pay lip-service to the idea that every person in the world is equally important, and that we should value the life of an African peasant farmer as equal to our own.
It seems, however, that most people don't actually take these notions seriously, because their actions seem to have little to do with such beliefs.
One day, a bunch of nerds got together and started a project called the Singularity Institute, and they actually took seriously the notion that they should try to save the world if it really was threatened, and that the lives of others should be assigned equal weigh to their own. Almost everyone else though they were really weird when they started to try to act on these beliefs.
This is a terribly counter-productive attitude to have. I don't think trying to save the world is what people found weird. Lots of people, especially young people, have aspirations of saving the world. People think the Singularity Institute is weird because SIAI's chosen method of saving the world is really unconventional, not marketable, and pattern matches with bizarre sci-fi fantasies (and some of the promoters of these fantasies are actually connected to the institute). If you think the pool of potential donors are all hypocrites you make it really difficult to bring them in.
There is a point I am trying to make with this: the human race is a collective where the individual parts pretend to care about the whole, but actually don't care, and we (mostly) do this the insidious way, i.e. using lots of biased thinking. In fact most people even have themselves fooled, and this is an illusion that they're not keen on being disabused of.
The results... well, we'll see.
Look, maybe it does sound kooky, but people who really genuinely cared might at least invest more time in finding out how good its pedigree was. On the other hand, people who just wanted an excuse to ignore it would say "it's kooky, I'm going to ignore it".
But one could look at other cases, for example direct donation of money to the future (Robin has done this).
Or the relative lack of attention to more scientifically respectable existential risks, or even existential risks in general. (Human extinction risk, etc).
See, e.g. Eliezer writing in 2000:
"There is no abused child, no oppressed peasant, no starving beggar, no crack-addicted infant, nocancer patient, literally no one that I cannot look squarely in the eye. I'm working to save everybody, heal the planet, solve all the problems of the world."
Michael Vassar also has Memes and Rational Decisions, which seems very close to the original post.
On the whole a very good post. But here --
-- you misunderstand the position that you're criticizing. The claim of the geneticists is not that race does not exist, but rather that it doesn't map to the joints at which geneticists, qua geneticists, find it particularly useful to carve reality. But when trying to understand the social world, within which your kid in Detroit is steeped, Race is certainly a useful way to carve reality. And this is all that people mean when they say that Race is a social concept, not a genetic one.
That struck me as a stunning nonsequitur. The kid in Detroit has no possible way of knowing how much of what they see is genetic versus environmental - unless they go online and read the scientific literature. Offering that sort of surface observation as evidence is on the level of "any kid in Detroit can see the Earth is flat".
Surely they could very easily observe that people with dark skin typically have parents with dark skin.
Some of the people making the claim probably have a more nuanced interpretation in mind. Many people repeating the claim have the simple interpretation in mind; or may have the nuanced interpretation, but are stating it in a way that they hope will be misinterpreted, yet give them plausible deniability.
I don't remember now what the original "respectable geneticists" said. I have seen a summary of their work in Science magazine that used the simple interpretation. Does anyone have a link to some of the original publications?
I'm not sure if Phil got the details right - but there are definitely a whole bunch of otherwise well-educated people who happily spout politically-correct nonsense on the issues of race and equality as though it was actually scientific truth. They typically cite Lewontin - but they ignore Lewontin's fallacy.
I don't think you understand Watson's point of view.
If I understand Watson correctly, he thinks the evidence suggests that the average IQ of native Africans is below 100. He didn't say that all Africans have IQs below 100. I don't know why you think he'd care that he's descended from a black person. Presumably he thinks a substantial minority of Africans still have higher IQs than 100, so if he really cares about the IQ of his black ancestor, it's still plausible that s/he had a high IQ.
But why would anyone care about the IQ of their ancestors? Even if you do think there are racial cognitive differences, there are better ways to measure your own IQ than to guess based on the race of your ancestors.
True, we should have more faith in our own demonstrated intelligence. But humans place values on things, and then make associations, and then have feelings. Under the circumstances, I would not expect him to have the level of detachment you suggest.
Anyway, I didn't mean to sound gleeful. (I'll edit my original statement a bit to try to fix that.) Or, rather, what glee I had was motivated not by my liberal, forward-looking views on race, but by my impression that Watson is full of himself. I approve of scientists making politically-unpopular statements when based on evidence.
I suspect that the same people who want to say there is no such thing as race, also would enjoy saying that Watson is 1/6 "black".
Are you suggesting that Watson's statements were not based on evidence?
In the controversial comments that led to his retirement, Watson claimed of those in Africa:
‘‘all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really.''
The lower average test scores of Africans is surely an undisputed scientific fact.
Whatever you think about Watson, in this case, he had the scientific evidence firmly on his side - as far as any scientific issue was concerned.
But it's fact that "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours"? That is, not only is there a difference in IQ distribution, that difference is so significant that "all our social policies" are not going to help them.
I remember reading something by Flynn explaining that people with IQs below 70 today still have problems functioning even though they might score in the average range if given an IQ test normed on a population from the same country decades ago. From this I gather that the correlation between IQ and how well someone can function breaks down when you compare different populations.
In order to conclude that Watson's quoted remark is scientific fact, you must not only prove that Africans have lower average IQ test scores, but you must prove that:
This interferes with our social policies towards Africa in some way.
Any evidence we draw about the capabilities of Africans with a certain IQ must be based on studies on the same population, not on Americans or Europeans or whatnot with the same IQ.
It's unlikely that such a broad sweeping statement like "all our social policies", applied to the whol... (read more)
Can we please not have this discussion here? Posters here are posting under their real names or lasting pseudonyms, so they can't defend the un-PC arguments without making numerous crimethink statements that could rebound against them in real life. So those who advance the PC arguments will wind up shadowboxing with those who don't fear retaliation or reputational costs, and we won't get a real honest discussion.
Questions of race and intelligence will be settled decisively within 5 or 10 years when large scale whole-genome sequencing studies are done.
Oh, look honey! It's someone who thinks zealots are willing to change their minds when presented with overwhelming evidence!
That's nice, dear.
While I'm not sure if avoiding the discussion altogether is an optimal solution I do share your frustration. It took me a while to realise that using my real name here was a bad idea. We aren't all that much less wrong.
I know. I knew when I was writing that. The ideas in that paragraph were just forming as I typed them out, which is why I attributed cause where I didn't mean to.
Something closer to what I mean: It's fine to discuss intelligence differences between race. My intro psych textbook has a long discussion about it. People have an uproar when, instead of saying, oh, here's what the test results are, here's what the results of experiments that shed some insight into the cause of the differences (ie environment vs. genetic), and leaving it at that, someone says that there's a difference in IQ and that that explains social inequity.
So, yeah, they're objecting because it's racist, not because it challenges institutions or policies (other than the institution of denying racial difference, which to me seems relatively rational considering all the sources of bias that would cause people to make too much of racial difference). But it's not racist just because he says Africans have done poorly on IQ tests but because he defaults to assuming that that's enough to be "gloomy about the prospects of Africa".
Furthermore, his quote in this piece of the interview:... (read more)
Taboo side. Complex empirical issues do not have sides. Humans, for their own non-truth-tracking reasons, group into sides, but it's not Bayesian, and it has never been Bayesian.
Or we think we group up into sides, but I'm not even sure that's true. You write that the egalitarians are nuanced and present evidence, whereas the human biodiversity crowd (or whatever words you want to use) are just apologists for their favorite narrative, but there are a lot of people who have the exact opposite perspective: that the hbd-ers are honest and nuanced and the egalitarians are blinded by ideology. But in fact, there are no sides physically out there: rather, there are only various people who have studied various facets of the topic to various degrees and who believe and profess various things for various reasons. And this question of what various people believe is distinct from the question of what's actually true.
I realize that this kind of aggressive reductionism isn't very predictively useful---that indeed, I'm probably just a few steps above saying, "Well it's all just quarks and leptons anyway." But ... (read more)
Upvoted, because you make the case well that we shouldn't identify with sides when discussing issues like this.
But you're not really using "Taboo" in the sense that Eliezer described. "Sides" do exist as social phenomena. They are a certain sort of coalition that people group into when they engage in public discourse. As you say, sides exist for non-truth-tracking reasons. However, like race, we need the concept of sides to talk about social dynamics, so, like race, sides exist.
(Of course, they exist as nothing more than certain configurations of the pieces of the stuff out of which reality is made.)
Rather than refusing to try to be consistent in my own beliefs, I find it far more useful to notice what kinds of beliefs most people don't really take seriously enough to be clear about what they mean, to bother to follow through with the most simple sorts of implications, and so on.
IIRC, the position of the Catholic Church is that the death and resurrection of Jesus fulfilled the Covenant and freed humans from the obligation to live according to the Jewish law of the Old Testament. In other words, sometimes the blind spots are explicitly acknowledged and handwaved away instead of being overlooked.
Good point. Protestants also say that. Although note that Christians sometimes cite Old Testament commandments as if they still applied today. Even "Be fruitful and multiply", which was just for Adam & Eve. Also note that for many years the Catholic Church demanded obedience to the commandment not to charge interest on loans, which is an Old Testament commandment. Ironically, primarily (only?) Jews charged interest on loans.
Well, the command not to charge interest on loans in the Old testament was only within your own people: e.g. a Jew shouldn't charge interest from a fellow Jew, but he could charge interest from non-Jews as much as he liked.
Now, the Christians view themselves as the "new chosen people", so they couldn't charge interest from each other, so the banking system had to be performed by Jews, who could - in clean conscience and following their religious beliefs - loan/charge interest from non-Jews(Christians).
In short, the whole "irony" is lost once you actually study the specific commandments and the historical context of the described situation.
Another relevant fact is that, for most of Islam's history, Islamic nations were militarily equal or superior to anyone that they were likely to come into contact with. Islam was a religion founded by conquerers, not by the conquered, and being in a position of profound weakness compared to Western (Christian/Jewish/secular) civilization is something that's simply never happened to them before. Radical Islam could very well be simply the Islam of the fourteenth century faithfully reproduced in the modern era, and the fact that it tends to involve suicide bombings instead of conquering armies is a matter of circumstance rather than ideology. I suspect that, if the Christianity of the fourteenth century, or the Judaism of the first century, were to be faithfully reproduced today, it would be equally horrifying.
I'm not so sure. One point Sam Harris has made (can't find the source atm) is that the Lebanese are in roughly the same position with respect to Israel as the Palestinians, but the Lebanese are predominately Christian rather than Muslim, and commit almost no terrorist acts. Harris argues that it's like a lab experiment where you put two oppressed peoples next to each other, but with different religions and watch what happens.
Sam Harris actually specifically cites Palestinian Christians. (Who do exist.)
So, there is a hidden component in levels of belief: together with stated level of certainty, bland "truthiness" of a statement, there is also a procedural perspective, with the statement applying with different power in different contexts. This more nuanced level of belief is harder to see and harder to influence: take "belief in belief" as a special case; on one hand there is certainty, on the other it refuses to speak of the real world.
Compartmentalization seems to be the default method for managing "quoted" beliefs: instead of keeping track of what evidence there is for what, just start directly believing everything, but in narrow contexts. If the facts check out, collections of new pieces of knowledge pass coherence checks and gain influence. Insanity remains in the quarantine indefinitely, and even if within its crib it calls the shots, it is a mistake to interpret it as accepted by the person as a whole. When an aspect of most people is insane, it is so by design, part of the never-ending process of reevaluation.
This mechanism is also probably what's responsible for people not even caring to distinguish positive assertions from the negative one... (read more)
Related: Nerds Are Nuts
Well written and thought provoking. Reading this, I was reminded of a Douglas Adams essay/speech abut Balinese rice farmers and the way their religion is highly suitable to growing rice. The gods that they cite as reasons for this or that aren't necessarily real and some of the practices may actually be useless, but the end product is a very successful harvest. You might ask a rice farmer why he decided to plant this plant here. His answer could involve some custom that if the moon does this and the chickens do that, I need to put a plant here. That's obviously silly, but it doesn't mean the plant shouldn't be there. The customs and beliefs are the basis for how they do things and how they do things is good for growing rice.
I went back and reread the essay and noticed that I remembered it a little wrong. I also noticed that this isn't some interesting overlap between what you and he are thinking about. What you call the memetic immune system he calls an "artificial god". Actually, I think that your concept is a subset of the artificial god. You seem to assume his position of the artificial god and use it to construct this immune system idea. I think that you would enjoy the piece: http://www.biota.org/people/douglasadams/
I take it, the author doesn't know many Orthodox Jews..?
"The conservatism of a religion - it's orthodoxy - is the inert coagulum of a once highly reactive sap." -Eric Hoffer, the True Believer
Love your post: religion as virulent namb-shub. See also Snow Crash by Stephenson.
This sounds like Burke for the 21st Century,
"prejudices and prescriptions and presumptions are the instruments which the wisdom of the species employs to safeguard man against his own passions and appetites."
I suppose this can also explain why new cults, from Born-again Christians to the Scientologists and extreme environmentalists, seem so much more harmful than the boring old Church of England and the like. How fast do we think these counter-beliefs can arise?
Great post, thanks, upvoted.
So most any value-core will go evil if allowed to unfold to its logical conclusions. This sounds correct to me, and also it sounds just like the motivation for FAI. Now your argument that humans solve this problem by balanced deterrence among value-cores (as opposed to weighing them together in one utility function) sounds to me like a novel intuition applicable to FAI. We have some researchers on the topic here, maybe they could speak up?
When you make every part of a balanced system more powerful without an overseeing process maintaining balance you don't get a more powerful balanced system, you get an algae bloom.
An interesting observation! An objection to it is that this approach would require your AI to have inconsistent beliefs.
Personally, I believe that fast AI systems with inconsistencies, heuristics, and habits will beat verifiably-correct logic systems in most applications; and will achieve general AI long before any pure-logic systems. (This is one reason why I'm skeptical that coming up with the right decision logic is a workable approach to FAI. I wish that Eliezer had been at Ben Goertzel's last AGI conference, just to see what he would have said to Selmer Bringsjord's presentation claiming that the only safe AI would be a logic system using a consistent logic, so that we could verify that certain undesirable statements were false in that system. The AI practitioners present found the idea not just laughable, but insulting. I said that he was telling us to turn the clock back to 1960 and try again the things that we spent decades failing at. Richard Loosemore gave a long, rude, and devastating reply to Bringsjord, who remained blissfully ignorant of the drubbing he'd just received.)
If it's this argument, it's wrong. It is based on the claim that soap films solve the Steiner problem, which they don't. I tried this myself for four pins; here is a report of six-pin soap-film configurations. The soap film, obviously, only finds a local minimum, not a global one. But finding a local minimum is computationally easy.
Elsewhere, in a paper that detracts from the credibility of the journal it appears in, he argues that people can perform hypercomputation, on the grounds that we can imagine people performing hypercomputation. (Yes, I read all 24 pages, and that's what it comes down to.)
Judging by Google, the only wide use of the word "hyperset" in mathematics is in non-well-founded set theory. If that is what he was talking about, it's equiconsistent with the usual sort of set theory and has no more significance for AI than the choice of programming l... (read more)
But conversely, Christianity became a lot more militaristic when it became the state religion. Listen e.g. to Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast Thor's Angels (free as of 01/2014; 4h long).
-> What about e.g. the fatwa over Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, or blasphemy laws, or whatever? Th... (read more)
My guess is that his name is "A. J. Jacobs" and not "A. J. Acobs"
Not only does this work when someone is trying to follow his religion rationality, it also works when someone is trying to follow rationality rationally.
In other words, not only can becoming more rational lead you to discard the cultural antibodies to religion without discarding the religion, becoming more rational can lead you to discard the cultural antibodies to all sorts of crazy ideas without discarding the crazy ideas. It works for non-religious crazy ideas as well as for religious ones. It even works when the crazy ideas are themselves "ratio... (read more)
I've found being very careful when you find yourself deviating from everyone around you to be excellent advice, and I do so whenever I can - the first time I deviate in a certain way, after which it gets filed under confirmed ways in which I act differently. That seems to keep the cost of doing so manageable even for the quite abnormal.
I agree with everything you say, but you vascillate between somewhat contradictory positions: that the default is to have disconnected beliefs; or that the default is to have particular "antibodies" preventing action on particular "beliefs." Could you elaborate on this?
I do agree that both are important phenomena. I think the default is disconnected beliefs. I'm not clear on the prevalence and role of "antibodies." Maybe they're just for over-verbal nerds infected with the Enlightenment. But I think they're more general.
Don't drink the Kool-Aid ;)
Prevalent communicable diseases usually don't kill their hosts, because those that do (like Ebola) tend not to spread, and thus are not prevalent.
There have been multiple recorded instances of cults ending in mass suicide, as well as a gamut of other harms to adherents. Those that don't implode from their virulence may spread and survive, eventually becoming old enough to graduate and be called "religions" (i.e. prevalent cults).
Sounds like exactly the same mechanism to me.
As a Christian who is pretty familiar with the history of Christianity (less so with Islam, and embarrassingly ignorant as to Buddhist thought), I would suggest that perhaps the point on adult converts being radical needs some nuance.
From a Christian perspective, the AJ Jacobs experiment is intended to make any religion look idiotic, due to a very woodenly literal interpretation of what it means to follow the commands of the old and new testaments.
Although there may be some adult converts who do such actions, this seems pretty abnormal, and although adult ... (read more)
This article seems relevant: "Clever sillies: Why high IQ people tend to be deficient in common sense."
The author argues that high IQ people solve problems by using abstract reasoning instead of evolved common sense. Moreover, general intelligence is mainly useful for solving evolutionarily novel problems, and can actually be a hindrance for problems which were a regular part of the evolutionary environment (for example, social situations). Hence, when facing problems where humans have evolved behavioral responses, smart people who apply abstract reasoning and override common sense often end up doing silly things.
Unfortunately, it's by Bruce Charlton. I've noticed that whenever this hypothesis comes up, it seems to be solely used as a political cudgel to attack liberals - which means I trust the paper as far as I can throw it.
(Why is the 'clever silly' idea always used to attack things like diversity, and not equally abstract and historically unprecedented shibboleths of the right like untrammeled free markets?)
I have read something very similar to this someplace else before reading this article (on a side-note. This is the very first article I ever read completely on Less Wrong, and had I not contracted H1N1 at the end of September I would have joined Less Wrong at that time).
I too have read A Year Living Biblically. Mostly so that I would have ready material should I ever have to talk to my Evangelical Aunt and Uncle who are busy preparing a huge number of people in Texas for the Rapture and Second Coming of Christ (Hoo boy?!?).
I seem to recall in the article t... (read more)
Interesting. So I guess the idea is we have immunities that 'wrap' memes so toxic that our incomplete rationality might be subverted by them and instead ensure that those ideas simply don't interact with the rest of it? So that neither is rational thinking allowed to attack them, but neither are they 'allowed' to extend their influence?
Your point about educated fundamentalists has been made elsewhere.
Its possible that some of the geneticists merely think it is good to perform (to steal Hopefully Anonymous' favorite word) such a belief, perhaps for Straussian reasons. Hence the popularity of the replacement term among many scientists "population".
I am skeptical of any epistemics that conflate memetic survival with truth, even weakly. Mostly because acting on certain beliefs can destroy evidence for other beliefs. Partly because I can think of no reason that all truths should intersect with anthropocentrism. An example of the former might be the destruction of native american agricultural and hunting techniques by the destruction of the environment. An example of the latter might be, more contentiously, natalism vs antinatalism. If antinatalism is true it still loses me... (read more)
That's the point. In (protestant) Christianity, the old law was a standard that humans could never follow. But the old law had to be paid in blood. So God became human himself, so that he could pay in blood a law that only he could live up to.
It sounds like the author accidentally LARPed as an orthodox Jew.
That is a brilliant point. I also loved you description of the Buddhist monk taking questions from a Western audience. The image of incompatible knowledge blocks is a great one, that actually makes a lot of sense of how various ideologically conditioned people are able to functionally operate.
The example that comes up for me is a... (read more)
Depends on what do you call "radical Islam", but I think that a bit of study of Islam's early history should disabuse you of that notion.
I think your main point - that selective application of rationality could be dangerous - is true. But the question then is how often is it dangerous? And in what way should we apply rationality? Should we not apply rationality because it could be dangerous? I think the article would have been much better if these questions were brought up, and addressed.
I get the sense that applying rationality is usually more good than bad. Although I don't really know enough about radical religions to say if it's true for them too.
You said, "The history of religions sometimes resembles the history of viruses. Judaism and Islam were both highly virulent when they first broke out, driving the first generations of their people to conquer (Islam) or just slaughter (Judaism) everyone around them for the sin of not being them. "
I am not familiar with that history of early Judaism. Can you cite any references I can read about it? (I do admit I have not read the entire old testament, perhaps it's in there?) By the way, I have heard that Roman Catholics are actively discouraged from reading either testament directly.
It is because of the potential in posts like this that I wish that Less Wrong had an edit queue, or that the wiki were used as an edit queue. Do you have plans to write a longer version?
Considering religious belief as virus suggests a larger pattern expressed in the physical world as a whole, does it not? Do our beliefs reflect that pattern or is our perception of the pattern inate?
Regarding religious belief as viral suggests a larger pattern expressed in the physical world as a whole, does it not? Do our beliefs reflect that pattern or is our perception of the pattern inate to our humanity?