I just realized what bothers me about this quote. It seems boil down to Elster trying to admit that he was wrong without having to give credit to those who were right.

I think you've boiled away Elster's message there. He's vivifying a general observation about (meta-)motivated cognition (the first quoted sentence) with an embarrassing personal example (the following sentences).

5gjm5yYup, he appears to be doing that. On the grounds that he has other reasons for thinking they don't deserve credit for it. Rather than commenting on the credibility of that in Elster's specific case (which would depend on knowing more than I do about Elster and about the anti-communists he paid attention to), I'll remark that there certainly are cases in which most of us here would do likewise. (Not literally zero credit, but extremely little, which I think is also what Elster's doing.) For instance: * One of your friends is an avid lottery enthusiast and keeps urging you to buy a ticket "because today might be your lucky day". He disdains your statements that buying lottery tickets is a substantial loss on average and insists that he's made a profit from playing the lottery. (Maybe he actually has, maybe not.) Eventually you give in and buy one ticket. It happens to win a large prize. * Another of your friends is a fundamentalist of some sort and tells you confidently that the current scientific consensus on evolution is all bunk. Any time she reads of any scientific claim about evolution she is liable to tell you confidently that in time it'll be refuted by later research. One day, a new discovery is made that refutes something you had said to her about evolution (e.g., that X is more closely related to Y than to Z). * Another worships the ancient Roman gods and tells you with great confidence that it will rain tomorrow because he has made sacrifice to Jupiter, Neptune and the lares and penates of his household. You are expecting a dry day because that's what the weather forecasts say. It does in fact rain a bit.

Rationality Quotes Thread March 2015

by Vaniver 1 min read2nd Mar 2015235 comments


Another month, another rationality quotes thread. The rules are:

  • Please post all quotes separately, so that they can be upvoted or downvoted separately. (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments. If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
  • Do not quote yourself.
  • Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, HPMoR, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Robin Hanson. If you'd like to revive an old quote from one of those sources, please do so here.
  • No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.
  • Provide sufficient information (URL, title, date, page number, etc.) to enable a reader to find the place where you read the quote, or its original source if available. Do not quote with only a name.