Eliezer- I like these ideas. I’m thinking a possible distinction between a seeker (one attempting to overcome bias) and a dogmatist (one attempting to defend bias) would be that a seeker takes a pragmatic rationality and looks for exceptions (thereby continuing to look for the deeper epistemic rationality) whereas a dogmatist takes a pragmatic rationality and turns it into an epistemic rationality by ignoring or redefining exceptions.
Am I understanding?
Constant-- deja vu is not always necessarily contentless. See the work of Ian Stevenson.
Mystical experiences are not necessarily centered around anything false-- see "The Spiritual Brain", by Beauregard (the neuroscientist who has studied these phenomena more than any other researcher.)
Eliezer, if we reduce every desire to "happiness" than haven't we just defined away the meaning of the word? I mean love and the pursuit of knowledge and watching a scary movie are all rather different experiences. To say that they are all about happiness-- well then, what wouldn't be? If everything is about happiness, then happiness doesn't signify anything of meaning, does it?
James, are you purposefully parodying the materialist philosophy based on the disproved Newtonian physics?
anonymous--I'd like to second that motion
g-- cats without heritable variation?
Where you get some of them?
The math of a subject is only valuable when one understands the basic terminology of the subject. As Chris points out, knowing when to use statistics (the basic assumptions and what the word applies to) makes something like the Doomsday Arguement good for a laugh. It is ridiculous.
On evolutionary biology--
Evolution is defined as " any change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next."
This frequency changes with each birth. So to make the definition into regular English we could say
Evolution is defined as "living things reproduce" (the fact of evolution).
In modem evolutionary genetics, natural selection is defined as "the differential reproduction of genotypes (individuals of some genotypes have more offspring than those of others)".
In English- some cats have more babies than other cats.
So the statement "It is a fact that some cats have more babies than other cats," would be the proof of evolution by natural selection as the terms are currently defined.
Doesn't that help more than a mathematical equation?
J Thomas--"in principle you ought to consider the entire state of the future universe when you set a terminal value."
Yes, and in practice we don't. But as I look further into the future to see the consequences of my terminal value(s), that's when the trouble begins.
igor--I want to defend Eliezer's bias against boredom. It seems that many of the 'most moral' terminal values (total freedom, complete knowledge, endless bliss...) would end up in a condition of hideous boredom.
Maybe that's why we don't achieve them.
Richard- I read your post. I agree with the conclusions to a large extent, but totally disagree with the premises. (For example- I think the only valueable thing is subjective experience) Isn't that amazing?
The disticintion between instrumental values and terminal values is useful in thinking about political and economic issues (the 2 areas I’ve thought about so far…)
I’m running into a problem with ‘terminal’ values, and I wonder if this isn’t typical.
A terminal value implies the future in a way that an insturmental value does not. The instrumental value is for an action carried out in a finite time and leads to an outcome in the foreseeable future. A terminal value posits all futures—this is an endless recusive algorithm. (At least I don’t have an end to the future in my thinking now).
When I ask myself, “How do I want things to be in the future?” I can carry this question out only so far, but my concept of the future goes well beyond any currently imaginable scenarios.
Some new info re: evolution you might want to consider before taking the gene view of evolution to its logical conclusions:
"Although we agree that evolutionary theory is not undergoing a Kuhnian revolution, the incorporation of new data and ideas about hereditary variation, and about the role of development in generating it, is leading to a version of Darwinism that is very different from the gene-centred one that dominated evolutionary thinking in the second half of the twentieth century."
how new thinking applies to societies
Caledonian- I agree that Newton missed opportunities to improve his models. That was not what I said, only that his belief in God didn't hinder him from doing better than those that came before.
Here's an odd question-- If we took Newton as an example-
Which is currently a greater hinderance to scientific understanding-
A belief in God, or a belief in a materialistic/mechanistic description of the universe?