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What in fact we see is a very great public response to such disasters as the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

True, but first of all, the situation posited is one in which China is "swallowed up". If a disaster occurred, and there was no clear way for the generous public to actually help, do you think you would see the same response? I'm sure you would still have the same loud proclamations of tragedy and sympathy, but would there be action to match it? I suppose it's possible that they would try to support the remaining Chinese who presumably survived by not being in China, but it seems unlikely to me that the same concerted aid efforts would exist.

Secondly, it seems to me that Smith is talking more about genuine emotional distress and lasting life changes than simply any kind of reaction. Yes, people donate money for disaster relief, but do they lose sleep over it? (Yes, there are some people who drop everything and relocate to physically help, but they are the exception.) Is a $5 donation to the Red Cross more indicative of genuine distress and significant change, or the kind of public sympathy that allows the person to return to their lives as soon as they've sent the text?

This worked well for me, though it's a bit aggressive.

generally one of the smartest 2-4 kids in my class

This is interesting. Do you think your aversion to what you saw as arrogance, but which turned out to be (at least partially) accuracy, might have been overcome earlier if, for example, you'd been the clear leader, rather than having even a small group you could consider intellectual peers? Was that how you saw them?

The catch: That pro-lifers have to believe that they will not be able to get everything that they want politically, and must prioritize their goals.

I'm with you on this one, and it ties in with a point that I have used several times in discussions about abortion, regarding why pro-lifers have done such a poor job thus far of accomplishing their goals.

If a person truly believes that "life starts at conception" and that abortion is taking the life of a human being, a rational actor who values human life would take action to minimize the loss of life, correct? If the pro-life movement was doing this, they would be proposing options that would be palatable to a much greater portion of society than their current hard-line ideas, though it might still not be enough to get laws passed. They should be not just willing, but eager, to make concessions for rape and incest victims, and for cases in which the life of the mother is in danger. You can argue the slippery slope all you want, but the fact is, human beings are being killed (as they believe) while they stick to their guns.

Yes. My personal favorite was in middle school, when I tried to dispel my assigned and fallacious moniker of "human calculator" by asking someone to pose an arithmetic question and then race me with a calculator. With a classroom full of students as witnesses, I lost by a significant margin, and not only saw no lessening of the usage of said nickname, but in fact heard no repeating of the story outside of that class, that day.

Re: #3, tradeoffs of lucid dreaming,

I don't know of any studies to support this, nor have I done sufficient systematic investigation of the phenomenon, but I am a lucid dreamer, and I have noted a general trend of increased alertness and improved memory of dreams after lucid dreams. I'm not well-versed enough in the science of dreaming to propose any credible explanation for this, nor do I have evidence that memory in general is improved. However, it has been consistently true that I have better memories of lucid dreams than non-lucid ones, and I am more likely to wake up fully alert after a lucid dream than is normal for me.

I know anecdotal evidence may not carry a great deal of weight, but I hope this is helpful.

Of course, as a young person, this obstacle is largely eliminated by the context. Interact with the same group of people for a long period of time, a group through which information spreads quickly, and then develop a reputation for knowing everything. Downside: people are very disappointed when you admit you don't know something. Upside: life is easier. More important downside: you get lazy in your knowledge acquisition.

Pardon me, that falls into the grey area between typo and mistake, where the word in the brain doesn't come out on the page. I will correct it.


I'm 18, an undergraduate at University of Virginia, pre-law, and found you through HPMOR.

Rationality has been a part of me for almost as long as I can remember, but for various reasons, I'm only recently starting to refine and formalize my views of the world. It is heartening to find others who know the frustration of dealing with people who are unwilling to listen to logic. I've found that it is difficult to become any better at argument and persuasion when you have a reputation as an intelligent person and can convince anyone of anything by merely stating it with a sufficiently straight face.

More than anything else, I hope to become here a person who is a little less wrong than when I came.