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I feel like some questions could use a way to provide an explanation for the answer, or the "other" option. Like, for example, my answer for the immigration question would be "no restriction on immigration for educated and culturally compatible people, extreme restrictions for non-educated and culturally incompatible ones", but I ended up putting in the "no options" one, as it was more like the average between "no restrictions" and "strong restrictions"

Can anyone recommend good books on teaching (preferrably not kids, but adults) ?

We haven't seen anything like evidence that our laws of physics are only approximations at all. If we're in a simulation, this implies that with high probability either a) the laws of physics in the parent universe are not our own laws of physics (in which case the entire idea of ancestor simulations fails) or b) they are engaging in an extremely detailed simulation.

It depends on what you consider a simulation. Game of Life-like cell automaton simulations are interesting in terms of having a small number of initial rules and being mathematically consistent. However, using them for large-scale project (for example, a whole planet populated with intelligent beings) would be really expensive in terms of computer power required. If the hypothetical simulators' resources are in any way limited then for purely economic reasons the majority of emulations would be of the other kind - the ones where stuff is approximated and all kinds of shortcuts are taken.

And our simulating entities would be able to tell that someone was doing a deliberate experiment how?

Very easily - because a scientist doing an experiment talks about doing it. If the simulated beings are trying to run LHC, one can emulate the beams, the detectors, the whole accelerator down to atoms - or one can generate a collision event profile for a given detector, stick a tracing program on the scientist that waits for the moment when the scientist says "Ah... here is our data coming up" and then display the distribution on the screen in front of the scientist. The second method is quite a few orders of magnitude cheaper in terms of computer power required, and the scientist in question sees the same picture in both cases.

I feel there are some significant differences between drawing Mohammed and showing the British person a picture of the salmon:

  • In case of Britain affected with the salmon ailment, it is not actually necessary to stop depicting salmon. For example, if you are a proud owner of a salmon-fisher’s blog, it is sufficient to put up a “CONTAINS SALMON” warning on the front page to prevent some unlucky Brit from wandering inside and getting a jolt. We do not stop selling peanut products because some people are allergic to them and might actually die from consuming those – we just put a highly visible “CONTAINS NUTS” label on the packaging. However, if you have a religious issue discussion blog that may contain some Mohammed art, posting a “CONTAINS PICTURES OF MOHHAMED” warning on the front page will only attract the kind of Muslims that are particularly averse to Mohammed art.

  • Another interesting point to consider is that being atheist, I do not have a duty or commandment not to draw a picture of Mohammed and neither do Christians, Buddhists, Jews or Hindus. Technically, if your commandments do not forbid it you are not committing a sacrilege. Now, waving a Mohammed pic in the Muslims’ face would be definitely a dick move, but publishing it in your blog/journal/whatever other media that a Muslim would have to actively seek out in order to be exposed should be ok.

  • A tit-for-tat argument – suppose that while Britain was affected by salmon aversion the rest of the world was struck by an aversion to cat pictures (the horror! Oh, the fluffy horror!). Now, if the British demand that we get rid of our salmon pics but keep flashing the cat pics all over the place, would you still feel that it is a dick move to keep your salmon? Getting back to the Mohammed issue, this is exactly what we see – the same Muslim groups that react most aggressively to the Mohammed pics are known for damaging and destroying various objects that hold cultural and religious value to non-Muslims. Is it right to cooperate when your opponent is known for defecting?

However, I do feel that my thinking might be influenced by a tribal-rivalry bias against Muslems. If you find anything of that sort – feel free to dig in.

Religions' centuries-long endurance is an interesting topic to think about. However, there are simpler explanations for the longevity of religious beliefs than attributing them to some sort of supernatural causes - ones involving some sort of memetic selection. I am pretty sure there are good and detailed studies out there in the internet that you could read for a more detailed argument on that, maybe even on this site, but as for a simple explanation, here is a hypothesis that I could come up with in about 5 minutes of thinking:

Here is a list of certain traits that are common to many long-surviving and wide-spread religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the most fitting examples) :

  • Indoctrination starts in the family at a young age
  • The strength of belief (especially, unreasoning belief) is considered something positive and praiseworthy
  • A large value is placed on holding this exact set of beliefs
  • Not-believers (atheists or people with differing religious views) are described as inferior
  • There are promises of reward for the faithful (in this world and after death) and punishment for the unfaithful
  • There are various well-established practices and rituals that can be seen as directly intended for increasing the strength of the belief

At least to me, those seem like the exact traits needed for a set of beliefs to become self-reinforcing and infectious, so I wouldn't be very surprised if a belief set with such traits survived a long time. Actually, I do not remember seeing a post here that would go into more depth on this, but maybe I will compose one, if I have the time and people think it is an interesting topic.

Nice review! I am actually reading through this one now. I've always felt like set theory is one of those one-point wonders of science - digging in deeply doesn't give you much benefit, but the basic stuff is the stuff you are going to run into pretty much everywhere. Guess I'll have to see what I think after I read all the way through.

One of the problems with this argument is that the such perseverence is not unique to Christianity in particular and religion in general:

  • Many religions have stories of believers' faith persisting against all odds, so this particular property can't be easily attributed to Christ exclusively.
  • Religion in general does not have a monopoly on perseverance either - people have been known to keep their ideas about the superiority of their country / government / lord / general political idea even with an overwhelming amount of evidence pointing in the other direction or even when threatened with death or torture.
  • Perserverance is not limited to noble acts, like keeping your faith in god or loyalty to your political leaders either. I am pretty sure many of us have personally observed people keeping some sort of belief (non-religious and non-patriotic) that was detrimental and unprofitable to them (even sometimes to such an extent that holding on to such belief leads to severe harm or death).
  • I was able to evaluate some of my behaviors in a more rational fashion, from a better cost/benefit viewpoint, and I was able to cognitively model and evaluate my behavior better, which was a significant help in getting rid of some unhealthy habits.
  • LessWrong helped a lot with my self-education too, being a source of inspiration and motivation and pointing me towards some cool educational resources I didn’t know about previously.
  • Found quite a lot of interesting fiction to read through LessWrong, too.
  • Useful advice on combating akrasia.
  • Helped me to systematize what I know about philosophy.

Overall, I feel that LessWrong made a noticeably significant positive impact on my life.

I wonder if any of the meetups set up a broadcast via Skype or a webinar of some sorts - I would be very curious to listen in on this one, if there is such an opportunity.

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