In an absolute sense, you’re right: what use is blind skepticism? Society can’t function that way. I would note that I did stipulate that one should “assume bullshit” in situations where the individual is not sure the source is to be trusted, so that is not blind. Furthermore, when I say “assume bullshit”, that is not to say, “conclude that statements made by anybody I do not know to be trustworthy are inherently incorrect.” It’s more of an, “operate under the assumption that the statement is bullshit” - don’t make value judgments or decisions based on input of uncertain veracity until one does the required thinking or research (looking for agreement from known sources, etc.) I should not have assumed that process was implicitly understood. Now, in a situation where disregarding the input of unknown veracity puts me in immediate danger - it’s safer to accept the input at face value until one has a chance to, again, check it out. This is often not the case with blog posts. I don’t really need to point that out, but it’s a good end to the paragraph. As for the reductionist bit - it’s not very relevant to what I was saying; whether being “right” and “right for the wrong reasons” are morally distinct doesn’t have any bearing on whether I find people who have agreeable ideas, but no substantive reasoning, noisy and irritating. That’s really all I was trying to get at, ha ha. One could make the argument that a lack of sufficient motive and forethought renders a morally upright decision or idea moot, but that’s a little more deontology than I have in me at 2:30 in the morning, or possibly ever. I would argue that being “right” and “right for the wrong reasons” are differentiated by their consequences, but those are practical consequences, not necessarily moral ones.
Seriously, I know this is just a dumb blog floating out in the Interspace Net Ether. There is no reason for you to listen to me. I will take that freedom and run with it to tell you this useless bit of non-factoid: I don’t get mad so much about people having “bad” opinions, or disagreeing with me. Lots of people disagree with me. I disagree with my Esoteric Life Roommate all the time. What I get mad about is a lack of critical thinking. I’m crotchety about people who technically agree with me as often as I’m crotchety about people who don’t. Why do I care if you agree with me if you only got there by taking in someone else’s hot air? I don’t give a shit, that doesn’t impress me at all. All you’re good for is being manipulated by someone who thinks harder than you do.
I don’t respect that. I’d much rather talk to someone who doesn’t agree with me, but has thought it through and has something of value to contribute to a discussion. I respect thinking. If you’re wrong, I’ll beat you in a good-faith argument. That’s how that goes.
Nothing’s “right” or “wrong” just because someone else said it was. If you don’t know if you should trust a source of information, err on the side of “that’s bullshit”. I find myself just as pissed at social justice groupie bloggers as I do at people who think gender and sex are the same thing. Both groups reach those conclusions via the same means: tribalism and peer pressure. They both defend their conclusions via the same means: screaming, counterproductive frothing at the mouth, and accusing anybody who disagrees with them of “oppressing” them.
What I’m saying is that groupthink is gross, and you should sit down and seriously think through the rationale behind all of your ideas some day. Think critically. Don’t let someone else be the master and creator of your thoughts.
(With the part I just bolded. So I’m going to nitpick it for 500 words.)
One of the ten thousand blisteringly counterintuitive things about rationality is how highly it values conformity. Groupthink is a failure mode of rationality: rational actors are supposed to argue furiously, but then come to an agreement. Aumann’s agreement theorem holds that two perfectly rational actors, with knowledge of each other’s prior probabilities, will always agree. There is no room for disagreement or ambiguity in 2+2=4, and this is extended to all knowledge. Agreeing to disagree is for the weak.
(Additionally, the way you put right and wrong in quotes is ominous. The nature of truth is not a rabbit hole to be lightly explored.)
Society is a machine for generating trust. A society where everyone evaluates the statements of others with the utmost of suspicion is not a utopia, it’s Somalia. When I flip a light switch, I trust the electrician to have installed it correctly, I trust whoever made the lightbulb not to design it explode when turned on, and I trust the electric company to provide power atall. When I eat a meal in a restaurant, I trust hundreds, when I buy a plane ticket, I trust thousands.
A rationalist delights in conformity. Without compelling evidence to the contrary, there’s no reason to disagree, and the word of a domain expert also counts as evidence. (In the narrow, informational theoretical sense— Bayesian evidence is a lot more liberal than legal evidence.) The majority is right most of the time.
It’s easy to look at some of the bizarre minority beliefs held by rationalists, (The fact that all rationalists are atheists, their widely held belief that cryonics is a good idea) and conclude that the Cult of Bayes is like any other cult; that a rationalist would look at the table of contents of Nature, and say that, no, none of these papers can contain Real Truth, since they are not Wise in the same way that I am Wise.
Well, no. If Derek Lowe said that chemical compound A would give me cancer, while compound B is harmless; I’d believe him. He’s not a member of the Cult, as far as I know, but I’ve never seen him lie in the past, and I see no motivation for him to lie now. If Dr. Lowe told me to vote for politician X, I would have reason to doubt, and if he told me that it was critically important for me to give him all my money, then I would doubt even more. The manner in which you frame your argument would seem to make it impossible for Dr. Lowe to make a true statement atall.
(A reductionist would also ask what the functionaldifference is between someone who is right, and someone who is right for the wrong reasons.)
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- tyuran said: Easy to do, maybe, but harder to learn. There are lots of mechanisms working against the production of critical thinkers out there (I mean… you just mentioned tribalism, right?).
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