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According to that article, there seem to be two commonly used explanations for why he did that. One of them is that he was showing that he could, and the other is that he was warning his listeners to be like that tree. I'm definitely not the most qualified person to say which is right, but I would lean towards the second because in addition to it fitting better with the rest of what I remember the New Testament saying about him, he also apparently told a parable that was almost exactly the same and pretty much always interpreted interpreted that way, so he seemed to like that metaphor.

As the Christians tell the story, Jesus Christ could walk on water, calm storms, drive out demons with a word. It must have made for a comfortable life: Starvation a problem? Xerox some bread. Don't like a tree? Curse it. Romans a problem? Sic your Dad on them.

In fairness to Christianity, I feel like I ought to point out that according to the Gospels, Jesus didn't use those powers to make his life more comfortable. Not only do we not see any instances of him doing this (at least, I don't recall any, and it doesn't fit with my understanding of the New Testament; if anyone does have a counterexample, then that would be welcome), the Temptations show him actively refusing to use his supernatural abilities for selfish purposes, even harmless ones like feeding himself. (To clarify, I don't believe he had any supernatural abilities to begin with, but I feel like it's worth mentioning).

If you refused to kill your firstborn, you wouldn't be smitten with a thunderbolt, you'd be told you had passed the test, and were truly worthy.

If this is so, then I have to question why Abraham got the same response for not refusing to kill the first child resulting from his marriage.

I just want to say that it was hilariously confusing to see "I'm Eliezer Yudkowsky!" coming from you out of context in the Recent Comments Bar.

Do people who believe in God tend to really believe in God?

I would just like to point out that Nick's "definition of an atheist" was to "n[o]t believe in God. Polytheists do believe in a god, and another god, and then some more, so of course that isn't atheism. As for animism, that's completely compatible with belief in God, but I'd say it's also compatible with atheism. It's not rational, but there are certainly atheists in the world who aren't rational. I'm often annoyed at all the connotations that go along with atheism; really, it's hardly a category at all. It's like the article here about selling nonapples:, I didn't see anything in that particular quote from Samuel Harris that seemed irrational, either, although I fully admit that I know very little about him, so for all I know, he might be).

Perhaps it wouldn't affect the choice. For instance, if you have two reactors, and the only thing you've been told about them is which is more likely to melt down, then (assuming you don't want waste or nuclear meltdowns), you'll prefer the one that produces less waste regardless of whether you draw any illogical conclusions from the data you have, because the conclusions will be based on the emotions you have already. However, unless I am mistaken, this blog is about rationality in general, not just in decision-making. Many of the people here (including myself) probably want their information to be accurate just for the sake of accuracy, not just because of its influence on decisions. For them, this is important whether or not it will affect their decisions.

Evolution favors the attitudes that make us most likely to produce viable offspring. If this is one's own main goal, then I suppose logical fallacies should be accepted if they have a clear evolutionary basis and still seem likely to contribute to that goal. However, whether or not it's efficient to place reproduction as one's top priority depends on various circumstances, including emotions. From what I've read by Eliezer Yudkowsky, it seems like being accurate in his ideas is more important to him. In that situation, just because a belief helps us survive long enough to reproduce does not mean that it is "useful," and "criticizing evolution" isn't really what he's doing. Evolution /isn't/ a designer, and it /isn't/ always completely efficient (not that any designer is), but even if it is completely efficient in this case, the efficiency is towards a goal he does not share, so it isn't necessarily relevant to him.