One thing I've noticed is that in nearly any controversy where the adherents of the heterodox position show signs of basic mental stability, the arguments for heterodoxy are stronger than the arguments for orthodoxy. In the rare cases where this is not true - for instance, creationism - I can take this as a strong indicator of orthoxy (at least against the particular heresy in question.) but how am I to take the general pattern? Should I be more skeptical of orthodoxy in general - of the likelihood of truth coming to orthodoxy given the standards of public... (read more)

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You'll want to read an earlier Yvain blog post, then, explaining "many reasons to expect that arguments for socially dominant beliefs (which correlate highly with truth) to be worse than the arguments for fringe beliefs (which probably correlate highly with falsehood)".

3[anonymous]7ySee this [] and this []. I think it's a version of Berkson's paradox: if a position is both heterodox and not supported by any strong arguments, it's very unlikely that people with “basic mental stability” will embrace it in the first place. See also: “The Majority Is Always Wrong []” by EY.
8satt7yIs this true? A priori I could see this go either way, and my personal experiences don't add much evidence here (I can't recall many controversies where I've probed deeply enough to conclusively weigh orthodoxy against heterodoxy). A weaker statement I'm more sure of: the arguments for orthodoxy one hears from most people are weaker than the arguments for heterodoxy, because most people have little reason to actually look up whatever factual basis the orthodoxy might have. (I've seen someone make this point somewhere on Yvain's blog but can't remember who.) For example, I haven't bothered to look up the precise scientific arguments that'd justify my belief in plate tectonics, but a shrinking earth [] theorist probably has, if only to launch a counterattack on them. (Corollary: I'd have a good chance of losing an argument with a shrinking earth theorist, even though plate tectonics is, well, true.)

[LINK] Why taking ideas seriously is probably a bad thing to do

by David_Gerard 1 min read5th Jan 201343 comments


Yvain's blog: Epistemic learned helplessness.

A friend in business recently complained about his hiring pool, saying that he couldn't find people with the basic skill of believing arguments. That is, if you have a valid argument for something, then you should accept the conclusion. Even if the conclusion is unpopular, or inconvenient, or you don't like it. He told me a good portion of the point of CfAR was to either find or create people who would believe something after it had been proven to them.

And I nodded my head, because it sounded reasonable enough, and it wasn't until a few hours later that I thought about it again and went "Wait, no, that would be the worst idea ever."

I don't think I'm overselling myself too much to expect that I could argue circles around the average high school dropout. Like I mean that on almost any topic, given almost any position, I could totally demolish her and make her look like an idiot. Reduce her to some form of "Look, everything you say fits together and I can't explain why you're wrong, I just know you are!" Or, more plausibly, "Shut up I don't want to talk about this!"