I really liked this piece. I’ve been a lurker for a long time, and it’s inspired me to toss up a comment. I think the larger issue here, rather than the specific label we choose to use, is labeling ourselves at all. 'Rationalist', despite its connotations, does an adequate job at summing up our purposes. I agree with Alicorn - we know what we mean when we say it around these parts, and employing the world as a label outside of our community in most circumstances isn’t something I’d ever do without proper context.
If our mission objective is to be less wrong, overcome biases, and find rational solutions then it is a given that we should be ever cautious of groupthink. In many cases, I’d argue we are very successful at that by constantly challenging our assumptions and beliefs to get at the core of problems. At the same time, any label such as “rationalists” automatically, whether we intend it or not, creates an us-and-them false dichotomy. We wouldn’t be in this community unless we believed our approach to life’s complex situations was superior, but that’s only more reason to be extremely cautious of developing a bias.
I work a lot with academics. If we take one specific school of thought, or even one department in a university, we will likely have a group of individuals dedicated to very high level thought. Yet, as time progresses regardless of the goal, biases are internalized and groupthink occurs. Knowledge is passed down and scrutinized until “schools” of thought splinter off into more and more specialized disciplines. Meanwhile, the original assumptions are forgotten or taken as fact. I find a place like Less Wrong liberating compared to the academic discussions I’m tied into. Here we have individuals from all walks of life and with different expertise contributing to a greater understanding.
So, without boring you folks too much longer, as an example relevant to our context, I would point to violence’s place in LW’s rationality. I’m not a particularly violent person, but in several posts I’ve read over the past months, violence as a rational strategy is hardly ever considered. Even when it is mentioned in the comments, it’ll be downvoted and disregarded almost on principle. It reminds me of the Hawks and Doves scenario. If we as a group (and I realize I’m already over-generalizing by speaking for the group) internalize non-violent solutions into our identity as ‘rationalists’ believing that higher-learning will always conquer brute force, not only do we run the risk of being out-strategized in life, we run the risk of undermining everything we stood for in the first place.