How to deal with Santa Claus?

by jkadlubo1 min read22nd Dec 201467 comments

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Related: The Santa deception Is Santa real On the care of young rationalists

All of the other takes on this topic start from a point, when a child (usually 5-9 years old) asks "Is Santa real?" Nobody yet asked "how to raise my child Santa-free?" What to say, when a two-year-old, who just noticed that there is this character on TV asks "will he come to me, too?" A toddler may not yet understand the concept of lie, of pretending, of things not physically existing. How to tell her, what will happen, what to expect, how and why other children behave differently?

 

My three-year-old daughter discovered Santa last spring, which finally forced me to think: how to deal with it? Ignoring the thing worked for three years, but what now? I live in an extremely catholic country (Poland), so I cannot be completely blunt about it. 

In the end I decided to call it "the fairy-tale of [Santa] Claus." For me it has a lot of advantages: this is a story that can be told, retold, reinvented and everybody knows it. In addition, since the name includes the phrase "the fairy-tale", it has just as much validity as the tale of the Red Riding Hood or any TV character that she likes.

I tested some of her beliefs about "Miko". I opened the box with books intended for gifts in front of her. When she wanted to read some of them, I explained that she cannot yet read her book, because she'll get it on Christmas Eve. She asked "is it from Miko?" and I replied that in some way it is, but I bought it. She didn't insist on reading it right now. A few days ago she helped me wrap some of the gifts. She commented that action "Miko brought these so we can wrap them and give them as gifts from Miko." 

Malcolm told me, that he likes best the strategy, when you say that Santa Claus is a game that everyone plays. People pretend that there's a big guy in a suit who does the thing, and if you ever let down the pretense to your friends, you lose the game. I'm not entirely convinced by this strategy - it may be too complicated for a 2- or 3-year old (since my daughter didn't wrap her mind around the information that I bought the books).

What are other strategies that you use? Or which ones you don't like? Why?

 

 

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Honestly, for the vast majority of children I don't think it matters what you tell them. Personally I find it interesting to lie and see what age they figure it out at. I regularly lie, use sarcasm, tease, etc... to children as a way of messing with them, as one might to a gullible friend. It's a game, and I think young children benefit from being exposed to a rich behavioral repertoire.

However, I can imagine a certain sort of child who takes it a little too seriously - so you basically have to use discretion. Never, ever tell a real lie to a child, where something real is at stake, if you want them to trust you. If you think the kid is putting real importance to the idea of santa such that they'd actually be upset when they figured it out, don't lie to them. Don't take the game too far.

I guess it helps if the child knows that you are in the habit of tricking them into believing ridiculous things and playing mind games, as is often the case for kids who I associate with. That doesn't mean that the children know it's a game - I often say things that are true but sound ridiculous to avoid that situation. It's that they are uncertain about whether I'm telling the truth or that I'm messing with them, and that uncertainty is in itself a game.

It start with little lies like "I ate your toy...oh wait, it's coming out of my ear" and gradually escalates to more plausible things like "there's a rabbit leaving chocolate eggs everywhere". You're aiming for a situation such that they're comfortable with it and when they figure it out, they feel like "Gaah you got me" rather than hurt. And then they keep playing along.

It seems like fathers everywhere do this thing about where they tell lies to their children to see what they will believe. Is it that universal? If so, does that say something about it being hardwired?

My own favorite one was from when I took my kids and my parents to eat at a restaurant. My daughter, who was about two, loved macaroni and cheese. She was hungry and discontent at how long the food was taking. My father calmly explained to her that it took a while for the cooks to "pull all the little legs off the macaronis." Her eyes got big and started to tear up as she presumably visualized macaronis having their legs pulled off. A quick retraction was in order. I doubt she was indelibly scarred.

I don't know if it's hard wired, but I think pretty much everyone in our family was told an unusual circumstance concerning their birth (you had a prehensile tail, you were found on the doorstep, you were bought from Babies R Us, etc) which was maintained as long as possible. Play in general is certainly hard-wired, so why not play with the truth?

The macaroni story has an interesting side consideration though - what are you planning on telling her about where meat comes from? (Assuming she eats meat).

I told mine as soon as I thought she'd comprehend the meaning of the words, wanting to see what the pseudo-tabula-rasa would think about the idea of eating animals, but I guess she had figured it out due to it being called "fish" and "chicken" and we don't really eat other meats. She did seem mildly discomforted when confronted with it but not enough to stop eating - pretty much how adults react.

On the poor little macaronis, I think she visualized them having their legs pulled off while still alive. She had already discovered the joy that is bacon, and I think she knew more than Homer Simpson about its tasty source.

(Bacon is my one-word rebuttal to all claims of vegetarian superiority. Also my one-word attempt to convert all orthodox jews and muslims. I'm always surprised it doesn't work 100% of the time.)

First, don't sweat the small stuff, and this issue is definitely the small stuff., Second, you seem to be doing OK by putting Santa on the same level as talking animals, TV cartoons and other make-believe characters. There is no need to emphasize that Santa is not real, as long as you treat him the same way as Bugs Bunny and the Little Mermaid. Eventually she'll figure out what's real and what is less so, as most people do. If it so happens that she figures out that Santa Claus is not real and informs her peers instead of the other way around, that's perfectly OK. Just don't push the issue.

As much as I agree with the second part of your comment, I think that mentioning the small stuff is important. I know this topic is quite trivial compared to the AI topics that have overtaken LW, but we don't have to change young people into critical thinkers when they reach puberty, we can work from the very first years. And on LW there is next to nothing about parenting.

Unless you're using the myth to manipulate behavior ("better be good or Santa won't bring you any presents!"), the stakes are very low.

Somewhat seriously: Isn't the Santa myth a great opportunity for a child to learn that they will be misled by authority figures for ambiguous cultural reasons?

[-][anonymous]6y 4

Yes!

There seems to be this metality that the worst thing we could do to a child is misinform them, such as tell them about creationism without supplying the conclusion its wrong.

Basically, the idea is, we send kids to school, and we teach them what we know, and we teach them not to question it, and then we throw them into the world of advertising and propaganda and what? Hope they learned to be critical somewhere in between believing our teachers have gospel truth?

That's a totally unrealistic expectation.

Hypothetically (since I'm not a parent), I'd want to be somebody my kids could trust to give them the no-BS answers. Absolutely prepare them for the fact that the world is full of those who will seek to mislead and brainwash them, but you don't have to start by doing it to them at home. When I was a kid (admittedly rather older than is under discussion here; I was around 9) my parents and I would explicitly go through the newspaper looking for propaganda that we could analyze for impact and for the bias or mistaken belief it intended us to have, and why. I'm pretty sure I could have handled it earlier; by age five I was fairly comfortable with the concept of fiction vs. non-fiction, and by six I'd already sorted the first part of Genesis into the first category...

This does run the risk of the kid picking up any biases that you have yourself, though, on account of "well, they never told me to be skeptical about that" but there's nothing wrong (and plenty right) with teaching them to be skeptical even of their parents' views... just don't do it by lying to them about easily verifiable facts.

You mean: "Just don't do it by lying to them about not easily verifiable facts" right?

Lying to your kids about certain classes of things is a great game, which, as others have pointed out, adults seem almost hard-wired to play. It's a great way to stimulate a child's inquisitive nature, in a safe and fun way. Adults will often tell their kids tall stories, or make up nonsense explanations for every day phenomenons, or play out fantasies as if they are real (Santa Claus falls in this latter category).

But for this game to work, the things you lie about should be both unimportant and easily verifiable. Lying about something important ("Your mom just died. Haha, I'm joking, she's in the next room") is just dickish, and will probably leave the kid traumatized. But the lie should also be obvious. If the kid neither expects nor suspects the lie, then where is the game? Then you're just lying to your your kid, full stop.

So regarding Santa Claus, the way you lie about him is important. If you tell your kids he's real while making no attempt to hide the fact that he isn't, it'll just be a grand game for your kids. But if you tell them he's real, insist he's real, and go out of your way to keep your kids from discovering the truth, then your game has turned into deception, and your kids probably won't thank you for it later.

Lying to your kids about certain classes of things is a great game, which, as others have pointed out, adults seem almost hard-wired to play.

And the same kind of lying by elder siblings to younger ones is even more widespread.

The set of all statements does not neatly partition into Honest Statements of Fact Meant to Strengthen You Through Knowledge and Dishonest Lies Meant to Deceive and Weaken You.

People will tell you all sorts of things. Some of those things are trying to describe the real world, like a map or a science book does. Some of those things are stories. Some of them are songs or poetry. Some of them are analogies or metaphors.

And yes, sometimes people do tell lies so they can trick you, weaken you, or push you around. Figuring out whether that is going on is a really hard problem that a lot of adults can't solve consistently. People really do get tricked by con-artists, fake charities, medical quacks, and other liars. And that's not because the people who get tricked are stupid; it's because some people are really good at lying.

But stories, folktales, and myths aren't the same as malicious lies. They're not literally true, but that doesn't mean they're evil. We have to think about each particular story to tell whether we like what it says or not.

We know that characters in stories aren't real in the sense that books and houses are real. But if someone asks you whether Dorothy Gale is from Kansas or from Washington, you'd say she's from Kansas. If someone asks you if Anansi is smart or stupid, you would say Anansi is smart. If someone asks you if Harry Potter is a wizard or a muggle, you'd say he's a wizard. Even though you know that Dorothy is not a real girl, and that Anansi is not a real spider, and neither Harry Potter nor wizards are really real.

There are a lot of stories that try to teach you a lesson. Speaking of spiders, remember Peter Parker? "With great power comes great responsibility." That's a lesson that's still worth learning, even though Spider-Man is just pretend.

But there are other stories with lessons that aren't so great. There are stories that teach that everyone is alone and that nobody cares about anyone else. That's just not true. There are stories that teach that you should only care about people who agree with you on everything, and that everyone else is a horrible person who deserves to be tortured. That's a dumb idea that causes a lot of hurt in the world.

So when we look at a story, like the Santa Claus story, we can ask, "What good does this story do?" Does it tell us how people want to be kind and give each other things? Does it mess people up, by telling them that they have to accept gifts they don't want? Does it make people scared and guilty, or happily surprised?

Or ... a story might be good for one person and bad for another person. Or it might depend on how you tell it.

I think among all your examples, the Santa Claus story is unique in our society in that adults tell it to children with a completely straight face and actual intent to deceive. And they get angry at adults who tell children the truth about it. Or children who tell younger children the truth. Or sometimes even children who admit knowledge of the truth.

That seems very different to me from a typical myth or fable.

(Of course, I scope this to our society because one society's myth is another society's religion, so all these things are a bit relative.)

I think a lot of people view religion that way. A noble lie to keep adult children in line.

I think some people who oppose religion view it that way, but I would be surprised if there was a substantial contingent of people who are themselves atheists, but nevertheless view religion as a valuable tool to control the masses.

I can imagine maybe a small number of high-level US Republican strategists thinking that way. But not any large number of people.

but I would be surprised...

I'm not so sure anymore. There are lots of these social lies/delusions. I'm increasingly wondering if the world isn't full of con men, sniggering up their sleeves at me when I take their insane dogmas as earnest expressions of what they believe.

Maybe they're not insane. Maybe I'm just too credulous.

Yes, but these days the con to push isn't religion but "social justice".

It's certainly one of the strong, competing ideologies.

And there have got to be plenty of conscious cons, just because it would be so lucrative. But there seems to be very intense commitment in the rank and file.

Hanlon's Razor.

I wouldn't call it malice.

Social creatures lie for advantage.

Davis' Razor:

Never attribute to stupidity or insanity what is adequately explained by advantage.

When I told my first family that we're not going to baptise our son and we'll raise him atheist (and implicated the same for any future children), my father asked: then how will you teach him morals, what is good and bad? Only religion can do that!

Note how in the context of a church, with adults bringing their children, even if you primarily intend the Noble Lie for your children, you can hardly fail to notice that they're are some adults just as credulous as the children. Likely you'll think that the Noble Lie Show is a good thing for those credulous adults as well.

And isn't that kind of the point of a faith community? To reinforce each other's faith?

Drill that kind of thinking in them when they're young, so it will stick when they're older. Santa/Jesus are pretty well interchangeable for children.

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good, for goodness sake

You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming, to town

I don't think it's just a strange coincidence that Santa leaves a lump of coal in your stocking.

I think among all your examples, the Santa Claus story is unique in our society in that adults tell it to children with a completely straight face and actual intent to deceive.

Apparently so; but not the intent to maliciously deceive — to deceive in order to weaken and exploit, in the manner of a con-artist or quack.

My point was that the intended epistemic status of statements made in everyday life, especially around children, is not all that clear. It requires analysis — indeed, literary analysis — to figure out what is a truth claim, what is a fictional canon, what is a parable or metaphor, and what is just pure pretend.

People cry over fictional deaths — children and adults, too. That involves some sort of participation, suspension of disbelief, or perhaps entering into the story (eitsing, a possible antonym of Hofstadter's "jootsing" or jumping out of the system). This is not unusual or pathological in the slightest. It is a normal part of human culture.

Being able to drop into a role, participate in play-acting or ritual, and so on — that's a social skill.

And they get angry at adults who tell children the truth about it. Or children who tell younger children the truth. Or sometimes even children who admit knowledge of the truth.

Maybe this is the point on which the apparent disagreement here turns. I'm aware of the story that parents do this, but I've never actually seen it — neither in my own (Christian, American) upbringing, nor others I've seen.

Mind you, I have seen parents be upset when someone mocked their child for thinking Santa was real, or made the child disappointed or anxious with the revelation. But that's a bit of a different thing; the upset seems explicable by the child's unhappiness.

But the idea "many or most (Christian, American) parents actually become upset when their kid finds out that Santa is a story" seems to me to itself be part of the story.

I have no evidence for 'most', and no hard evidence for 'many', but I can tell you I've witnessed it, so I have evidence for 'more than none at all'.

Just tell her the truth. Don't lie to children.

Children have deepseated evolved instincts to trust what adults tell them. One owes it to them to return that instinct with the truth.

The only real question should be then whether you ask her not to tell other kids.

The only real question should be then whether you ask her not to tell other kids.

I really do not like the idea of encouraging children to lie to their peers. If forced to choose between lying to children about Santa, and encouraging them to lie, I think I would choose to lie to them.

Why is it better for an adult to lie to a child than for a child to lie to other children? I mean, they're both wrong, but I'm not sure that I agree it's better to violate a child's belief that their parents are a trustworthy source than to encourage a bad habit (lying) in the child. After all, by that argument, sometimes it is better to lie. Not that a child young enough to seriously entertain the possibility of Santa is going to understand the distinction, but I think that the best option is the third one: tell them the truth ("fairy tale" works pretty well; a parent already needs to explain the concept of fiction) and don't tell them to lie (you can tell them that other people might be upset if you tell them the truth, but that feels like a sort of weighty idea to drop on a young child).

Agreed, though it's not so much about "owing" them the truth as it is to prove their instinct to trust you right, not wrong. A much stronger foundation for your future parental relationship.

The only real question should be then whether you ask her not to tell other kids.

"Some people like to believe that such stories are real. Believing the story makes them happy, like when you pretend-play you're Darth Vader in Star Wars. They may become sad, or even mad at you, if you tell them the truth. That's why when you hear someone say something wrong, you don't have to correct him/her right away. However, if you are asked for your opinion, you can tell them the truth. If people become angry at you because you answered truthfully, you tell daddy, and he's gonna beat them with a stick, ahem, and he's gonna talk to them."

Don't like to children.

Freud would have loved that.

I don't want her to lie or believe falsehoods, but I cannot just say "it's a lie most adults tell children" (yet). Aside from her ability to understand such a complicated statement, there are other, very catholic, children in the family. Children, who got two cardboard versions of the Bible for their second birthday (because the first one was still too advanced). I think the "fairy-tale of Claus" does this quite well.

The thing is all of the other takes on this topic start from a point, when a child (usually 5-9 years old) asks "Is Santa real?" Nobody yet asked "how to raise my child Santa-free?" What to say, when a two-year-old, who just noticed that there is this character on TV asks "will he come to me, too?" A toddler may not yet understand the concept of lie, of pretending, of things not physically existing. (I think I'll just add this part to the post)

For the sake of adding one additional data point to the discussion: my parents told me Santa Claus didn't exist. I don't remember being harmed by that knowledge.

But this is one of the things that's hard to say without either having children of having studied their psychology (and I have done neither). But personally I'd choose to tell them the truth.

How would you phrase that truth to a 2-year old?

Just tell her the truth. Don't lie to children.

Children have deepseated evolved instincts to trust what adults tell them. One owes it to them to return that instinct with the truth.

Kinda-sorta relevant.

I request evidence for the following assertion:

Children have deepseated evolved instincts to trust what adults tell them.

I think that, at the very least, that statement is far too broad, because it ignores stranger anxiety. Did you mean "what parents (or the equivalent figures) tell them"?

Yes, replace "adults" with "parents/equivalent figures".

Another important question if you choose to tell the truth, is what do you do about other adults that lie to your own kids.

Would it be reasonable to request other adults not to lie to your children?

Would it be reasonable to ask lying adults to correct themselves or even apologize to your children?

A friend of mine was raised with the knowledge of Santa Claus being a part of what goes along with Christmas for lots of people, but not actually real. Apparently they met one of the dressed up Santa's around town as a three year old and...

Santa: (stereotypical santa greeting)

Friend: I was a rabbit for Holloween.

Santa: Tough customer, eh?

The relevant post on Marginal Revolution.

Two quotes in particular. One is by Will Wilkinson:

Well, we’re atheists. I don’t intend to proselytize atheism to my kid, because I’m not interested in getting him to believe anything in particular. What I’m interested in is teaching him how to reason in a way that maximizes his chances of hitting on the truth. Now, one of the most interesting truths about the empirical world is that there are all these powerful systems of myth that are kept afloat by a sort of mass conspiracy, and humans seem disposed to pick one from the ambient culture and take it very seriously. But it can be hard to get your head around the way it all works unless you participate in it. Santa is a perfect and relatively harmless way to introduce your child the socio-psychology of a collective delusion about the supernatural. The disillusionment that comes from the exposure to the truth about Santa breeds a general skepticism about similarly ill-founded popular beliefs in physics-defying creatures.

and the other is by Tyler Cowen:

I say why not leave them guessing, hovering in a state of Bayesian Santa doubt? My parents never told me Santa “was real,” but they didn’t tell me he “wasn’t real” either, so I slid rather gracefully into my Santa non-belief. I don’t recall ever feeling disillusioned by a sense of loss and in fact those presents kept on coming. I even had a clearer sense of the appropriate channel for making gift requests, what’s not to like about that?

Malcolm told me, that he likes best the strategy, when you say that Santa Claus is a game that everyone plays. People pretend that there's a big guy in a suit who does the thing, and if you ever let down the pretense to your friends, you lose the game.

I'm guessing there are lots of games like that going on. It's the essence of social organization.

It seems just too implausible that everyone in an ideological tribe believes the crazy things they profess, and there is always evidence of less public discussions endorsing the Noble Lies.

Smile and say "You figure it out" :-)

[-][anonymous]6y 3

You can tell your kid there is no such thing as Santa Clause.

You can tell your kid you will never lie to them. Everything you tell them is the truth.

But what if you're wrong? What if you aren't the perfect embodiement of knowledge?

At what point do you teach a kid to think, instead of just trusting their teachers?

But what if you're wrong? What if you aren't the perfect embodiement of knowledge?

Why are you confusing the issue by bringing up non-deliberate falsehoods and treating them as if they're the same as lies?

Trusting other people not to lie and trusting other people to be correct int heir belief are two different things and two different lessons.

[-][anonymous]6y 1

Because the resolution in both cases is the same: a critical thinker.

A critically-thinking skeptic can deduce the truth in both cases, but that doesn't make the cases anywhere close to equivalent. Accidental falsehoods shouldn't engender nearly the same degree of distrust that deliberate falsehoods should, and teaching anybody (a child being absolutely no exception) to not trust anybody is impractical for both you and the student. There are degrees of trust. Learning to recognize lies is important for a different reason than learning to recognize mistakes is important. You aren't always going to be able to determine the correct answer by critical thinking alone; personal reputation and recognition of an agenda also play a role.

[-][anonymous]6y -1

Accidental falsehoods shouldn't engender nearly the same degree of distrust that deliberate falsehoods should

I'm not sure what trust has to do with this.

Are you saying that people we trust are always right?

That critical thinking isn't necessary for kids? That they should just trust we are right?

You say " don't lie to them about verifiable facts".

Are verifiable facts the same as truth? No more, no less?

Can all truth be stated in a logically sound manner that is backed up by verifiable facts?

Doesn't that sound more like empiricism than rationalism?

I never even came close to stating that "the people we trust are always right". You appear to be viewing the word "trust" entirely too much as a binary state. Tabooing that word for now...

Since we can't always spend the time and effort to verify a claim, it's important for people (and thus important to teach children) to be able to quickly assign a probability to the likelihood that a person is correct when they say something. There are a number of factors that can go into such a calculation, and they will differ based on the statement and the speaker. A person who has a known history of trying to deceive others should be assigned a lower prior probability of correctness than a person who has not shown such a history. A person who makes a large number of honest mistakes should also be assigned a lower probability than somebody who doesn't. However, that is where the similarities end.

An ardent young-earth creationist's views on geology should probably be assigned a very low prior probability of correctness, but if that same Y.E.C. has a PhD in economics, their views on something like inflation should probably be given a higher probability of correctness than those of most people. When you know the speaker has a tendency towards non-malicious incorrectness in a given area, you can use that information to discount their beliefs in that area without writing off everything the person says in all areas. You should still be skeptical of anything they say that seems unlikely, and you should expend the effort on verifying the claim that is appropriate to your live and the value of your time and effort given the probability that they are correct (taking into account things like how well peer-reviewed the position is, whether it contradicts common sense, etc., but also considering how well the person can be expected to know the field and whether they have any known reason to deceive people about it). All else being equal, there's no reason I know of to have a greater expectation that a Y.E.C. is incorrect about inflation than somebody who is not a Y.E.C.

For a person who has a known history of intentional deceit, it makes sense to use a lower prior probability of correctness for everything they say. A politician's promises are an excellent example; without going into any actual political side, I think we can all agree that politicians are far more likely to make false promises and deceptive claims than the average person who is not in (or striving for) a similar position of popular authority. There is reason to assign a lower prior probability of correctness to almost anything a politician says (publicly) than there is for an otherwise-equal non-politician.

Now step back from the broad categories of things like Y.E.C.s and politicians, and consider the people around you in your daily life. Most of them will have no motive to intentionally deceive you, but some will. Many of them will have biases towards incorrect positions in a lot of areas, but it would be inefficient (and socially awkward) to act as though a friend who has a known bias about a sports team as though they're a pathological liar about non-sports-things just because they're completely blind to that team's quality and you've caught them in a number of false claims about the team that they should have known were false. On the other hand, some people just are unreliable about things, or think it's funny to convince people of lies for no purpose but their own amusement, or have developed a reason to want to hurt you personally and will say whatever they think will have that effect. It is important to be able to tell the difference between those people and those who merely sometimes make honest mistakes.

[-][anonymous]6y -4

Since we can't always spend the time and effort to verify a claim, it's important for people (and thus important to teach children) to be able to quickly assign a probability to the likelihood that a person is correct when they say something.

Well, I guess that all depends.

Do you care about the truth, or is it convenient to except the established authorative answer?

Here's an example:

An ardent young-earth creationist's views on geology should probably be assigned a very low prior probability of correctness, but if that same Y.E.C. has a PhD in economics, their views on something like inflation should probably be given a higher probability of correctness than those of most people.

You realize that "inflation" creates most of the large scale structure of the universe is a fraction of a nanosecond?

Let's get this pefectly straight.

The Earth created in 7 days = BAD

The entire Universe created in a fraction of a nanosecond by unlimited amounts of Dark Energy = GOOD

That's honestly what you're selling here?

http://www.nature.com/news/big-bang-blunder-bursts-the-multiverse-bubble-1.15346

(I realize you meant inflation in the economic sense, I just thought the connection was too good.)

inflation

Given the presence of the word "economics" in the sentence in question, I can't help thinking you have misunderstood what CBHacking meant by "inflation".

I realize you meant inflation in the economic sense

Oh, wait. So ... you knew what you were saying was nonsense, but the opportunity was just too great because ... you think it's obvious that a leading scientific theory is less credible than young-earth creationism and think it's important to pretend to laugh at someone saying otherwise?

Blimey.

www.nature.com

Er, you do realise (don't you?) that all that's saying is that one particular experimental result that some people said was probably evidence for inflation turned out to be ambiguous? And that this leaves the credibility of inflation no worse than before the experiment in question was done?

[-][anonymous]6y 0

I wrote the part about YEC and inflation before realizing he meant inflation in another sense.

But I think that just draws attention to the question.

How much time do we spend coming up with excuses not to critically investigate claims, and at what point do we critically investigate the claims?

I consider myself a critical rationalist, ala Karl Popper.

What type of rationalists aren't critical? Non-critical rationalists? Selectively critical rationalists?

Why select when you are going to think critically and when you are not? Why not think critically all the time?

How much time do we spend coming up with excuses not to critically investigate claims, and at what point do we critically investigate the claims?

That would be a question of "value of information", which actually I think is a somewhat neglected topic in LW's collective writings on rationality.

But I get the impression that you're asking this not as an interesting general question, but because you think some category of claim isn't being critically investigated as it should be, and that people are coming up with excuses instead of doing so. If so, would you like to say briefly and clearly what claims you think those are and what your reasons are for thinking they're being avoided?

What type of rationalists aren't critical?

Dunno. You say that as if there are people declaring proudly that they are non-critical rationalists, but I don't see that. Again, could you be more explicit?

Why not think critically all the time?

Limited resources.

[-][anonymous]6y -1

But I get the impression that you're asking this not as an interesting general question, but because you think some category of claim isn't being critically investigated as it should be, and that people are coming up with excuses instead of doing so.

If I drew attention to several claims, and in the rare and unprecedented circumstance you actually agreed with me, then all that would do is prove those several claims needed more critical examination.

My point is we shouldn't be afraid to critically examine everything.

Any we shouldn't be afraid of developing a child's critical thinking skills, and we don't need to teach them to trust our knoweldge. (If our knowledge is any good, they'll trust it for their own reasons.)

(If you really want an example, that idea that inflation creates the entire cosmic web in a trillionith of a picosecond is a good start.)

My point is we shouldn't be afraid to critically examine everything.

Who is saying otherwise? (This seems rather like a rhetorical technique Tooby and Cosmides accuse Stephen Jay Gould of using: "But I tell you the sun really does rise in the east".)

And we shouldn't be afraid of developing a child's critical thinking skills

Who, please, is saying that we should be afraid of developing a child's critical thinking skills, and in what context?

that idea that inflation creates the entire cosmic web in a trillionth of a picosecond

I've no problem with examining that critically, but I think this is an exercise best done by professional theoretical physicists, whose current position appears to me to be that it's probably right. (Though not that it's necessarily well described by the words you happened to use.) If you disagree with that, would you like to say what you consider stronger evidence against taking inflation seriously than the rough consensus of theoretical physicists is for taking it seriously?

(For clarity: I am not claiming, nor do I believe, that there is anything like unanimity among theoretical physicists that inflation is correct. Neither do I claim it's definitely correct. The usual position appears to me to be that it gives a description of the early universe that fits a lot of otherwise puzzling observations, but that in the absence of more direct evidence than we seem likely to get any time soon we can't upgrade it much beyond "plausible and a reasonable working hypothesis". Is that what you're objecting to, or are you objecting to some much stronger claim of certainty and if so who's making that claim?)

If I drew attention to several claims, and in the rare and unprecedented circumstance you actually agreed with me, then all that would do is prove those several claims needed more critical examination.

Do you agree that 2+2=4? So do I. Under that logic, that claim needs more critical examination.

If you really want an example, that idea that inflation creates the entire cosmic web in a trillionith of a picosecond is a good start.

This is the second time you've criticized inflation. What is your objection to inflation other than that it doesn't fit your intuition? Human intuition works very well on the medium scale, not so much on the very small or very large scales.

You could raise your kids entirely in atheism and forget about Christmas altogether.

Let me point out that not having a holiday when everyone around you does, and, in particular, not getting presents when everyone around you does, is not going to make your kids happy.

There is a reason why e.g. Chanukkah stopped being a minor Jewish holiday and became a major Jewish holiday.

You could raise your kids entirely in atheism and forget about Christmas altogether.

Let me point out that not having a holiday when everyone around you does (...) is not going to make your kids happy.

Poland is one of very few countries in the world, where you can be sentenced to prison for hurting somebody's religious feelings. Of course, only catholic religious feelings count. It's a country where even atheists baptize their children, because everybody does so. My son is the first child in the history of his school to not attend religion classes (and those are not religion classes, those are catholicism classes, and they are organized by the Church, so the teachers are not really subordinates of the headmasters).

Until we move out of the country, there is no way to avoid Christmas. This is of course my particular situation, but I can easily imagine more people in similar "trouble".

I don't see much need to avoid Christmas. It's really an old pagan holiday, celebrating the winter solstice, that the Church took over and adapted for its purposes (a very common move for the Catholic Church, by the way). No one who looked into the matter thinks Jesus was actually born at the end of December and I think it's viable to accent the "holiday" aspects (the tree, the lights, etc.) and downplay the religious aspects (the Advent, the Nativity displays, etc.)

Poland is one of very few countries in the world, where you can be sentenced to prison for hurting somebody's religious feelings.

That's not unusual.

Of course, only catholic religious feelings count.

Ok, that part is unusual. In most countries it's only Muslim feelings.

I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness (whom do not celebrate most American/Christian holidays) and me having to opt out of holiday activities at school was a constant huge embarrassment that shaped my social world in negative ways to this day, decades later.

You could have an "atheist Hanukkah" and choose New Year's Eve or the winter solstice as a gift-giving occasion, although new year's may have some communist connotations and the solstice probably has some pagan connotations.

(Read "may" as ~40% confident and "probably" as ~70% confident.)

Believing in Santa was not acceptable to my Christian fundamentalist parents. However, they also had the excuse of being immigrants, so they implied (and perhaps it's even true) that believing in Santa was not common in their culture: "The children in this country think that Santa is real. I don't know why their parents want them to believe in fairytales!" I was never told to hide the truth from other kids, and I don't recall if the subject ever came up in my interactions with other kids. We still had Christmas gifts, a tree, sang Christmas songs, and even took pictures sitting on Santa's lap at the mall. I just understood that it was all for the sake of participating in fun customs.

I think the main result of this was to teach me to feel comfortable with being different. But there were lots of other things in my upbringing as well that had this same effect.

Just tell your children that rationalists figured out that the presents get under the tree through random chance.

Well, children, it's works like this. Santa Claus comes and offers you the choice between one box and two boxes...

I prescribe Invader Zim.

[-][anonymous]6y -1

Santa is merely real. His true name is Eliezer

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