Sorted by New


Antidote to Pascal's Wager

The goal seems to be to construct a plausible entity such that, if Pascal's Wager is applied to this entity rather than to the Christian deity, it becomes an argument for atheism rather than Christianity—thus refuting the Wager by reductio ad absurdum. The payload is the first two sentences; the rest is just elaboration on the fact that knowledge about Athe would be an infohazard if taken seriously.

What false beliefs have you held and why were you wrong?

You're absolutely right. Anyone who knew about the existence of both books would also be aware of the need to clarify which he meant (unless he was deliberately testing me so he could feel smug at his superior knowledge). The chances he was simply mistaken are still pretty good.

Had I considered that possibility, and rejected it on grounds of low prior, maybe I would have been entitled to a Rationality Cookie; but alas, what actually happened was that I didn't think at all.

What false beliefs have you held and why were you wrong?

The belief was minor, but the story is entertaining:

A while ago a guy walked into the bookstore and asked me for a copy of The Art of War—by Machiavelli.

I've developed the habit of being polite when customers are mistaken about details, taking (and often inventing) every possible opportunity to help them save face, so I handed him a copy of Sun Tzu without comment—though you can be sure that internally I was feeling all kinds of smug at the chance to display my superior knowledge of extremely common classic books. He glanced at it and left—mortified, I imagined.

A few months later, I looked it up and discovered that Machiavelli did, in fact, write a treatise called The Art of War.

But that isn't the embarrassing part.

The embarrassing part is that, in the moment I went to check, what I was thinking was not "Hmm, I wonder if I could have been mistaken"; it was "Heh, I wonder if anyone else has made the same mistake as that idiot!" My error was corrected only incidentally—in the course of my efforts to reinforce it.

Tapestries of Gold

what are the ontological determinants of the arrow head positions, i.e, why are the rows where they are?

I would say they aren't. There are many ways—probably an infinite number—to divide the same blue line into rows, depending on the theories and models invoked; the six in my diagrams are just an example. I don't think the row divisions we as a civilization are given to use are privileged in any particular way.

almost anything that can happen at the microstate level will lead to that same description

The same description, yes; but the description isn't the thing. Each microstate is identical with exactly one macrostate and vice versa, could we but perceive it in full; it does often happen that the descriptions of a large set of microstates all lead to a single description of just one macrostate, but this is only a fact about the information we've chosen to omit for our own convenience, not about the reality.

all the important information about the microstate

"Important" is the key word; reality never treats anything as unimportant—only we do. I think the distinction you're making is an epistemic rather than an ontological one.

Tapestries of Gold

Hmm, I don't know that we mean the same thing by "methodological."

When has someone succeeded in producing any effect or predicting any event, specifically by invoking supernatural knowledge?

Tapestries of Gold

Well, what pushed me to write this post—in combination with the sequences here—was David Deutsch's books Fabric of Reality and Beginning of Infinity; I don't know that either is legally available online, I'm afraid.

Tapestries of Gold

I would say: "door" is an element of the map, and could be made from "wood" or "metal," and have or not have a "handle"; but this door beside me right now is an element of the territory, and is made from wood, and does have a handle. The green arrows are map, and directional; the blue line is territory, and not directional. Something I can say about the world doesn't completely determine everything else I can say about the same green strand, but something that exists in the world does completely determine what else exists along the same blue line.

I tried to make what I was getting at clearer in my edit to the OP a few minutes ago.

Tapestries of Gold

No, you're absolutely right; in fact it would seem I was changing it while you were typing this comment! Please see my reply to shminux, who had the same objection.

(Definitely lesson learned here!)

Tapestries of Gold

Examples where supernaturalism is methodologically successful? I would love to hear some!

(Not being sarcastic here; I really would.)

Load More