Salemicus

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Crisis of Faith

No, I didn't leave that part out.

the closer the real Paul Bunyan hews to the Bunyan of the stories, the smaller the mystery

Of course magic makes everything else more mysterious i.e. P(magical Jesus) is infinitesimal. But P(non magical Jesus) is not low. We do ask JK Rowling what non magical boy inspired Harry Potter.

Crisis of Faith

Would you say the origins of other religions become more mysterious if there never were whatever magical beings those religions posit?

Yes, of course.

The least mysterious explanation of Paul Bunyan stories is that there really was a Paul Bunyan. And the closer the real Paul Bunyan hews to the Bunyan of the stories, the smaller the mystery. P(stories about Bunyan | Bunyan) > P(stories about Bunyan | !Bunyan).

But just because a story is simple, doesn't necessarily make it likely. We can't conclude from the above that P(Bunyan | stories about Bunyan) > P(!Bunyan | stories about Bunyan).

Crisis of Faith

Neither sufficient nor necessary:

  • The origins of Christianity become more mysterious, not less, if there never was a Jesus.
  • We don't need to tie ourselves to a fringe hypothesis to posit non-supernatural origins for the Gospels.
Open thread, Nov. 02 - Nov. 08, 2015

One possible answer is to look at how the then-state-of-the-art models in (say) 1990, 1995, 2000, etc, predicted temperature changes going forwards.

The answer, in point-of-fact, is that they consistently predicted a considerably greater temperature rise than actually took place, although the actual temperature rise is just about within the error bars of most models.

Now, there are two plausible conclusions to this:

  • Those past mistakes have been appropriately corrected into today's models, so we don't need to worry too much about past failures.
  • This is like Paul Samuelson's economics textbook, which consistently (in editions published in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s) predicted that the Soviet Union would overtake the US economy in 25 years.
Actually existing prediction markets?

Stock markets. I am using them continuously (if passively).

Why people want to die

As usual, Nietzsche got there first:

The heaviest burden: What, if some day or night, a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life, as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life must return to you, all in the same succession and sequence — even this spider and this moonlight between the trees and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again—and you with it, speck of dust!’ Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god, and never have I heard anything more divine!’ If this thought were to gain possession of you, it would change you as you are, or perhaps crush you. The question in each and every thing, “do you want this once more and innumerable times more?” would lie upon your actions as the greatest weight. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?

Vegetarian/Omnivore Ideological Turing Test Judging Round!

I am a big fan of the Ideological Turing Test, and applying it to different domains, and I was happy to participate in this one. However, I wonder whether this is an appropriate domain.

I think the ITT works best when there are coherent and well-defined opposing positions, of roughly equal size and intensity. The abortion debate is a good example - while there are differences in emphasis and gradations of support, it is clear what the two sides are. Other good examples are the minimum wage debate, the global warming debate, and the debate. The ITT works worst when the positions are incoherent and ill-defined, or of grossly unequal size and intensity. "Was Tony Blair a good Prime Minister?" is a good example - it's not clear what it means to be a good Prime Minister, there are people who (dis)approve of him for diametrically opposite reasons, and his detractors are much more invested in the question than are his defenders.

Sadly, vegetarianism is much more like the latter than the former. Some people are vegetarians for health reasons, others for animal welfare reasons. Vegetarians typically feel strongly about the issue; non-vegetarians simply don't care about it, and have typically not considered the issue nearly as strongly. There is no "opposing side" to vegetarianism that would drive the ITT; all that links non-vegetarians is that they don't find vegetarian arguments compelling.

Crazy Ideas Thread, Aug. 2015

US prohibition was very successful at its goal of reducing alchohol consumption, and you are right that this is insufficiently appreciated. But it also resulted in massive organised crime. Your linked article is extremely unpersuasive on this point.

Although organized crime flourished under its sway, Prohibition was not responsible for its appearance, as organized crime’s post-Repeal persistence has demonstrated.

Ha! And lest anyone thinks I'm being unfair, that is literally its only discussion of the massive increase in organized crime caused by Prohibition. In an article that repeatedly discusses the possibility of people being socialised into different modes of behaviour, too!

Now, "don't cause a massive increase in organised crime" wasn't exactly a goal of the WCTU et al when they were campaigning for Prohibition. It was simply not on their radar, so you're kinda right that Prohibition succeeded in its goals. But looking at the implicit goals more broadly, Prohibition was a disaster, despite its success at its ostensible primary goal, in exactly the way that Lumifer's "blinking ad" example demonstrates.

Open thread, Aug. 10 - Aug. 16, 2015

Pre-commitment needs to be credible, verifiable and enforceable. If you're playing chicken, pre-commitment means throwing the steering-wheel out of the window, not just saying "I will never ever swerve, pinky-swear."

What is the relevant pre-commitment mechanism here, and how does it operate?

If anything, I would say large dealers are more vulnerable.

Vegetarianism Ideological Turing Test!

With my omnivore hat on:

I don't know what you mean by "suffering." Google defines it as "the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship." But just because you're going through pain and hardship, doesn't mean you'd rather be dead. You can be suffering in some ways, and still have a net-positive life - indeed, this is the normal meaning of suffering. Do you deny that the inhabitants of the Syrian refugee camps are suffering? Do you think they'd be better off not to have been born?

Do factory farmed animals sometimes suffer? Surely. Is their life such a constant torment that non-existence would be preferable? Surely not.

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