Well, this explains the mystery of why that got downvoted by someone.

for example, if I substitute every reference to the superiority of atheism to theism (or the inadequacy of theism more generally) with a similar reference to the superiority of, say, heterosexuality to homosexuality (or the inadequacy of homosexuality more generally), my emotional response is basically "yeah, fuck that shit."

Firstly, you're replying to an old version of my comment - the section you're replying to is part of a quote which had a formatting error, which is why it forms a complete non-sequitur taken as a reply. I did not write that, I merely replied to it.

These examples are not at all analogous. Claims about the existence of divine agents - or the accuracy of old textbooks - are epistemological claims about the world and not up to personal preferences.

You know, I agree with you, homosexuality isn't a great example there. However, it's trivially easy to ironman as "homosexuality is moral" or some other example involving the rationality skills of the of the general populace.

Claims about preferences can by definition not be objectively right or wrong, but only be accurate or inaccurate relative to their frame of reference, to the agent they are ascribed to. Even if that agent were some divine entity. Jesus would like you to do X, but Bob wouldn't.

The fact that something is true only relative to a frame of reference does not mean it "can by definition not be objectively right or wrong". For example, if I believe it is correct (by my standards) to fly a plane into a building full of people, I am objectively wrong - this genuinely, verifiably doesn't satisfy my preferences. I may have been persuaded a Friendly superintelligence has concluded that it is, or that it will cause me to experience subjective bliss (OK, this one is harder to prove outright, we could be in a simulation run by some very strange people. It is, however, irrational to believe it based on the available evidence.)

"There is a ball in the box" - Given the same evidence, Clippy and an FAI will come to the same conclusion. Personal theist claims mostly fall in this category ("This book was influenced by being X", "the universe was created such-and-such", "I was absolved from my sins by a god dying for me").

"I prefer a ball in the box over no ball in the box" - Given the same evidence, rational actors do not have to agree, their preferences can be different.


Sexual preferences, for example.

As I said earlier, it's trivially easy to ironman that reference to mean one of the political positions regarding the sexual preference. If he had said "abortion", would you tell him that a medical procedure is a completely different thing to an empirical claim?

The reason that theists are generally regarded as irrational in their theism is because there is no reason to privilege the hypothesis that any particular age old cultural text somehow accurately describes important aspects of the universe, even if you'd ascribe to some kind of first mover.

Forgive me if I disagree with that particular empirial claim about how our community thinks.

Like watching William Craig debates, who goes from some vague "First Cause" argument all the way to "the Bible is right because of the ?evidence? of a supernatural resurrection".

"The Bible is right because of the evidence of a supernatural resurrection" is an argument in itself, not something one derives from the First Cause. However, the prior of supernatural resurrections might be raised by a particular solution to the First Cause problem, I suppose, requiring that argument to be made first.

Arguing for a first mover (no restriction other than "something that started the rest") is to arguing for the Abrahamic god what predicting the decade of your time of death would be to predicting the exact femtosecond of your death.

I guess I can follow that analogy - you require more evidence to postulate a specific First Mover than the existence of a generalized First Cause - but I have no idea how it bears on your misreading of my comment.

Such motivated cognition compromises many other aspects of one's reasoning unless it's sufficiently cordoned off, just like an AI that steadfastly insisted that human beings are all made of photons, and needed to somehow warp all its other theories to accommodate that belief.

Source? I find most rationalists encounter more irrational beliefs being protected off from rational ones than the inverse.

"homosexuality is moral"

How is that example any different, how is it not also a matter of your individual moral preferences? Again, you can imagine a society or species of rational agents that regard homosexuality as moral, just as you can imagine one that regards it as immoral.

The fact that something is true only relative to a frame of reference does not mean it "can by definition not be objectively right or wrong".

By objectively right or wrong I meant right or wrong regardless of the frame of reference (as it's usually interpr... (read more)

Welcome to Less Wrong! (5th thread, March 2013)

by orthonormal 5 min read1st Apr 20131761 comments


If you've recently joined the Less Wrong community, please leave a comment here and introduce yourself. We'd love to know who you are, what you're doing, what you value, how you came to identify as a rationalist or how you found us. You can skip right to that if you like; the rest of this post consists of a few things you might find helpful. More can be found at the FAQ.

(This is the fifth incarnation of the welcome thread; once a post gets over 500 comments, it stops showing them all by default, so we make a new one. Besides, a new post is a good perennial way to encourage newcomers and lurkers to introduce themselves.)

A few notes about the site mechanics

Less Wrong comments are threaded for easy following of multiple conversations. To respond to any comment, click the "Reply" link at the bottom of that comment's box. Within the comment box, links and formatting are achieved via Markdown syntax (you can click the "Help" link below the text box to bring up a primer).

You may have noticed that all the posts and comments on this site have buttons to vote them up or down, and all the users have "karma" scores which come from the sum of all their comments and posts. This immediate easy feedback mechanism helps keep arguments from turning into flamewars and helps make the best posts more visible; it's part of what makes discussions on Less Wrong look different from those anywhere else on the Internet.

However, it can feel really irritating to get downvoted, especially if one doesn't know why. It happens to all of us sometimes, and it's perfectly acceptable to ask for an explanation. (Sometimes it's the unwritten LW etiquette; we have different norms than other forums.) Take note when you're downvoted a lot on one topic, as it often means that several members of the community think you're missing an important point or making a mistake in reasoning— not just that they disagree with you! If you have any questions about karma or voting, please feel free to ask here.

Replies to your comments across the site, plus private messages from other users, will show up in your inbox. You can reach it via the little mail icon beneath your karma score on the upper right of most pages. When you have a new reply or message, it glows red. You can also click on any user's name to view all of their comments and posts.

It's definitely worth your time commenting on old posts; veteran users look through the recent comments thread quite often (there's a separate recent comments thread for the Discussion section, for whatever reason), and a conversation begun anywhere will pick up contributors that way.  There's also a succession of open comment threads for discussion of anything remotely related to rationality.

Discussions on Less Wrong tend to end differently than in most other forums; a surprising number end when one participant changes their mind, or when multiple people clarify their views enough and reach agreement. More commonly, though, people will just stop when they've better identified their deeper disagreements, or simply "tap out" of a discussion that's stopped being productive. (Seriously, you can just write "I'm tapping out of this thread.") This is absolutely OK, and it's one good way to avoid the flamewars that plague many sites.

There's actually more than meets the eye here: look near the top of the page for the "WIKI", "DISCUSSION" and "SEQUENCES" links.
LW WIKI: This is our attempt to make searching by topic feasible, as well as to store information like common abbreviations and idioms. It's a good place to look if someone's speaking Greek to you.
LW DISCUSSION: This is a forum just like the top-level one, with two key differences: in the top-level forum, posts require the author to have 20 karma in order to publish, and any upvotes or downvotes on the post are multiplied by 10. Thus there's a lot more informal dialogue in the Discussion section, including some of the more fun conversations here.
SEQUENCES: A huge corpus of material mostly written by Eliezer Yudkowsky in his days of blogging at Overcoming Bias, before Less Wrong was started. Much of the discussion here will casually depend on or refer to ideas brought up in those posts, so reading them can really help with present discussions. Besides which, they're pretty engrossing in my opinion.

A few notes about the community

If you've come to Less Wrong to  discuss a particular topic, this thread would be a great place to start the conversation. By commenting here, and checking the responses, you'll probably get a good read on what, if anything, has already been said here on that topic, what's widely understood and what you might still need to take some time explaining.

If your welcome comment starts a huge discussion, then please move to the next step and create a LW Discussion post to continue the conversation; we can fit many more welcomes onto each thread if fewer of them sprout 400+ comments. (To do this: click "Create new article" in the upper right corner next to your username, then write the article, then at the bottom take the menu "Post to" and change it from "Drafts" to "Less Wrong Discussion". Then click "Submit". When you edit a published post, clicking "Save and continue" does correctly update the post.)

If you want to write a post about a LW-relevant topic, awesome! I highly recommend you submit your first post to Less Wrong Discussion; don't worry, you can later promote it from there to the main page if it's well-received. (It's much better to get some feedback before every vote counts for 10 karma- honestly, you don't know what you don't know about the community norms here.)

If you'd like to connect with other LWers in real life, we have  meetups  in various parts of the world. Check the wiki page for places with regular meetups, or the upcoming (irregular) meetups page. There's also a Facebook group. If you have your own blog or other online presence, please feel free to link it.

If English is not your first language, don't let that make you afraid to post or comment. You can get English help on Discussion- or Main-level posts by sending a PM to one of the following users (use the "send message" link on the upper right of their user page). Either put the text of the post in the PM, or just say that you'd like English help and you'll get a response with an email address.
* Normal_Anomaly
* Randaly
* shokwave
* Barry Cotter

A note for theists: you will find the Less Wrong community to be predominantly atheist, though not completely so, and most of us are genuinely respectful of religious people who keep the usual community norms. It's worth saying that we might think religion is off-topic in some places where you think it's on-topic, so be thoughtful about where and how you start explicitly talking about it; some of us are happy to talk about religion, some of us aren't interested. Bear in mind that many of us really, truly have given full consideration to theistic claims and found them to be false, so starting with the most common arguments is pretty likely just to annoy people. Anyhow, it's absolutely OK to mention that you're religious in your welcome post and to invite a discussion there.

A list of some posts that are pretty awesome

I recommend the major sequences to everybody, but I realize how daunting they look at first. So for purposes of immediate gratification, the following posts are particularly interesting/illuminating/provocative and don't require any previous reading:

More suggestions are welcome! Or just check out the top-rated posts from the history of Less Wrong. Most posts at +50 or more are well worth your time.

Welcome to Less Wrong, and we look forward to hearing from you throughout the site!

Note from orthonormal: MBlume and other contributors wrote the original version of this welcome post, and I've edited it a fair bit. If there's anything I should add or update on this post (especially broken links), please send me a private message—I may not notice a comment on the post. Finally, once this gets past 500 comments, anyone is welcome to copy and edit this intro to start the next welcome thread.