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It’s been may years since I first saw this question, so my memories may not be accurate, but I think my internal thoughts went something like this: ‘Well 1.10 minus 1 is .10, but wait I know this is a trick question so … Ah! I also need to divide by 2. The answer is .05.’ And then I checked my answer by doing 1.05 + .05 and 1.05 - .05. Introspecting now on why I leaped to the idea of dividing by two, I think what I was seeing was something like: In this context “costs $1.00 more than” means Exactly $1 more than, so it’s saying that without the $1 the two things are equal and you need to divide the cost between them.

This makes me think of ordinary real life contexts where I would say “costs $1.00 (or $20 or $100) more than.” It seems possible it might be clear to both me and my listener I meant ‘at least x more than,’ ‘as much as x more than,’ or ‘approximately x more than.’ I wonder if changing the wording to “The bat costs exactly $1.00 more than the ball” would help any.

This is one problems with the absurdity heuristic. Because of deliberately starting at a point with such a long inferential distance, It can be hard to see where the error has taken place.

Sorry to be so long answering this. Not only was work busy but my husband was going through withdrawal again and that is always an all consuming time sink.

On Solomonoff induction: If we take a look at one of the facts this story proposes to explain, - We live in a world of decay, where humans and other animals have death as their destiny and the universe itself tends to disorder and destruction, but that this is bad and wrong and against the harmonies of logic and lawfulness and the timelessness of truth. This story’s proposal that the original and good state of the world was without any need for death, but that at one point one fundamental change was made, perhaps tweaking a law of conservation of information just enough so that its practical consequences are an ever increasing disorder, i.e. entropy, seems as elegantly simple answer as I can think of. This one rule change is more what I was thinking of, rather than swap out of the entire rule set, basically because it’s lower complexity. Yes, I am expecting that God re-cons the plant and animal world so that you get stable biology and ecosystems under this new rule, but i already had a sufficiently intelligent and powerful agent, with an established interest in having a sustained ecosystem, who could implement the needed changes. So I don’t see any new rules there. Nor do I think it should be surprising that quite a lot of surface changes could be occasioned by even a small change of one rule that was so fundamental.

On parallels: I can think of lots of reasons to give why Satan controlling the snake in called for by a Christological interpretation and other reasons, like dualism, that could also lead to the idea this was a good interpretation, but I’m getting the internal feeling that I’m starting to treat my arguments like soldiers on this one. People are influenced by the culture around them so I can see how a culture that finds the idea of talking snakes silly would be one of the contributing factors to the general theological preference for Satan as an external control on the snake. But this is such a subtle thing with so many dependencies that it will be hard to get even someone who has this assumption to focus on questioning the one dependency you want, the inerrancy of the Bible, rather than some other dependency, especially if you are trying to avoid a feeling of personal hostility that tends to harden people positions.

I agree that not being a Uniformitarian makes the makes the evidence harder to deal with and is generally a headache for everyone. But it should not be used to let a historical theory get away with anomaly without any hit to its plausibility, it should just reduce the size of the plausibility hit. Also several anomalies that are being explained by the same rule change only make up one plausibility hit rather than being additive.

On Christological interpretations, I agree it can get out of hand, and I'm not sure they are very valid here, But if "and He should crush your head" is going of be a prophesy about Jesus, well there isn't a story of Him dramatically crushing a snake's head, so it's got to a general stamina out His victory of death, sin, and the devil, so I do think people are using that frame to identify Satan and the serpent.

It seems to me that one change at a fundamental level could have less Kolmogorov complexity then several special case exceptions at a surface level. And that is what the bringer change sounds like to me, something at a deep level, connected to death, propagating all through the system.

Since we are already talking about going from a legged animal to a legless one, I don't see that doing it on a more massive animal can make a significant change in the complexity penalty.

I would agree that there are some Christians whose belief set could be vulnerable on the point of talking snakes. I can think of several different arguments depending on what other ideas they were holding in conjunction with their interpretation of Genesis. Using a blanket dismissal would have the advantage that you wouldn’t have to figure out which one would work on your target. But I think we would both agree it could also potentially backfire.

Concerning the issue you presented, that ”natural” snakes just can’t work like that. I think you have considerably underplayed your hand. Consider Gen 1:29-30:

Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.

That’s right, in the Garden of Eden every single animal was vegan. And ecosystems just don’t work like that. And I would go further and say that all these animals had the capacity at this time to live forever. Death didn’t enter the world till the fall. Rom. 5:12-14:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

So we are dealing with quite a big discrepancy from known biology here, and that would be a problem if I were a (Uniformitarian.)[] But fundamentalists tend to be much less Uniformitarian than main stream society. So the idea that God had a different biological system set up initially, and He changed the rules as part of the curse, seems not only plausible, but a nature part of the story.

Also it sort of seems you might be unconsciously assuming the traditional pictorial representation of a small to medium snake wrapped around a tree branch. But the text doesn't say the serpent was in the tree or give any other reference to size. I tend to picture something more like a Chinese dragon standing on all fours, shoulder to shoulder with Eve. So I don’t get the “brain box obviously too small for speech” effect from my mental picture.

(Note on the preferences for Satan controlling the snake showing an awareness that the talking snake is silly, I think this is more about emphasizing Gen. 3:15 as a Christological prophesy and generally framing the whole story as part of a Christological arch where the first Adam brings san and death and the second Adam (Jesus) brings salvation and life. Having the Devil tempting Adam and Eve here makes a parallel with Christ’s temptation in the desert and with Judas Iscariot’s temptation to betray Jesus. Finding Christological interpretations is a big motivator of Christian Theology.)

These are more gut feelings, I had already considered a lot of evidence for and against these before I found out about Bayesian updating, so the bottom line was really already written. If I tried to do a numerically rigorous calculation now, I would just end up double counting evidence. This is just a 'if I had to make a hundred statements of this type that I was this confident about, how often would I be right guess.

Fairly typically fundamentalist, I believe in young earth creationism with a roughly estimated confidence level of 70%, a large fraction of the human race destined for eternal torment at about 85% and verbal plenary inspiration at about 90%.

I'm a little more theologically engaged then average but (as is typical in my circles) that mean's I'm more theologically conservative, not less.

I’ve found the Welcome thread!

Hi, I’m Alia and I live with my husband in San Jose, California. I found this site via SlateStarCodex and having read Rationality:From AI to Zombies I think this is a fascinating and useful set of concepts and that using this type of reasoning more often is something to aspire to. I want to do more Bayesian calculations so I get more of a feel for them.

I’m also a fundamentalist* Christian. I’m perfectly ready to discuss and defend these beliefs, but I wouldn’t always bring up these beliefs in threads. I’m not trying to deceive or trick anyone, I just don’t want to derail a thread that is actually about something else. I do think it’s possible to be both a rationalist and a Christian as to stay reasonably intellectually consistent.

*(a note on why I choose the identification fundamentalist. Not long after American Christians split into mainline and fundamentalist groups, the fundamentalists got a bunch of bad press focused on certain sub-groups that were anti-intellectual. The other fundamentalists dealt with this by splitting off and re-branding themselves as evangelical. I’m not anti-intellectual and generally in the group that would self identify as evangelical, but I’m choosing to stick with the fundamentalist label for three reasons. 1) I don’t think changing the label or re-branding is a good way to deal with negative affect attached to a word. At best it just avoids the issue rather than solving the problem. 2) I don’t believe in disavowing people because they are unpopular with third parties. While I dis-agree with the anti-intellectuals on some things, the agreement on common core beliefs that lead to the fundamentalist label in the beginning is still there. 3) I think the fundamentalist label provides more clarity. The evangelicals worked hard and successfully to avoid getting over identified with and sub-group or coincidental characteristic. But as a result the label evangelical stayed vague, Individuals and groups that are more in the mainline tradition sometimes call themselves or get called evangelical. On the other hand opponents who wanted to hang on to the negative affect kept calling anything from the original fundamentalist tradition ‘fundamentalist.’ So on the I think fundamentalist will convey the most accurate idea of where I’m coming from theologically.)

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