Excerpt from my chat with Ezra

by on April 1, 2017 at 3:14 am in Current Affairs, Economics, Education, Film, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Television, The Arts, Travel, Web/Tech | Permalink

Here is one bit, from the rapid fire back-and-forth:

Ezra Klein

The rationality community.

Tyler Cowen

Well, tell me a little more what you mean. You mean Eliezer Yudkowsky?

Ezra Klein

Yeah, I mean Less Wrong, Slate Star Codex. Julia Galef, Robin Hanson. Sometimes Bryan Caplan is grouped in here. The community of people who are frontloading ideas like signaling, cognitive biases, etc.

Tyler Cowen

Well, I enjoy all those sources, and I read them. That’s obviously a kind of endorsement. But I would approve of them much more if they called themselves the irrationality community. Because it is just another kind of religion. A different set of ethoses. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but the notion that this is, like, the true, objective vantage point I find highly objectionable. And that pops up in some of those people more than others. But I think it needs to be realized it’s an extremely culturally specific way of viewing the world, and that’s one of the main things travel can teach you.

There is much more at the link, entertaining throughout, with links to the full podcast as well.

1 carlospln April 1, 2017 at 3:19 am
2 John Thacker April 1, 2017 at 8:00 am
3 Rich Berger April 1, 2017 at 8:29 am

Yes; I notice the kids all like Uber, because (1) they don’t need to buy a car and (2) they can drink and not worry about getting a DUai.

4 ChrisA April 1, 2017 at 9:37 am

I love Uber and its various competitors for being so much better than regular taxis; 1) safer because he know that you and they are fully known to each other before you get in the car and there is a full record of the transaction 2) the cars are cleaner and the drivers more courteous because of the rating system 3) there is never any hassle about paying with a credit card 4) you can tell the driver where to go without speaking his language, 5) the cost is transparent, no guessing on meter and worrying you are being taken the long way round and 6) it pisses off a bunch of stupid leftists. What’s not to love?

5 Troll Me April 1, 2017 at 10:14 am

Uber is an affront to law and order.

It also provides higher quality outputs at a lower price, largely through 100% indifference about the economic stability of situation of the people who provide the services.

You’d think that the right wing should be more offended by Uber. But at the root, the love of shitting on people who work long hours for low pay is just irresistable to those who grew up with a silver spoon.

And guess what! On-call low-pay work is now “entrepreneurship”! Uber will also teach us all how to do business.

Bend over … just a little bit more. Not prostrate enough. Now if you could bark like a doggie at the same time please?

6 MikeP April 1, 2017 at 10:39 am

I drive for Uber occasionally and the pay isn’t bad when there’s enough demand. The riders tend to be great and it’s interesting. I’ve learned a lot about my local city doing it. When demand is surging or XL the pay can be quite good. It’s my choice and nobody is shitting on me to do it.

7 Troll Me April 1, 2017 at 11:04 am

Mike

I’m talking about the taxi drivers who work for monopoly-medallion holders.

8 Troll Me April 1, 2017 at 11:05 am

The ones who work in a situation of job stability which enables you to undercut them by competing for 15 minutes at a time when it’s convenient.

9 ChrisA April 1, 2017 at 11:47 am

Nathan
We either have a competition based market system or we don’t. I don’t see why we should uniquely protect medallion taxi drivers and let everyone else have to compete.

10 Troll Me April 1, 2017 at 2:29 pm

It’s not a black and white issue.

I like the idea of cheaper and better transportation. But if this is mainly afforded by enabling people to mine the capital they hold in their cars to subsidize low-cost transit, I’m not sure that this adds up to something that’s better in the long run.

The disruptive power of Uber certainly opened the conversation. Now between the consumer and the corporation, these independent and atomized assistants who enjoy the freedom to be on call 15 minutes at a time at a low price might be deserving of some assistance.

Among other things, the company will have to pay taxes just like everyone else, and in many jurisdictions will ultimately be prevented from doing an end run around labour rights by calling these people “contractors” of some sort or another. Soon they will be paying a large sum for sales taxes evaded in the UK.

11 anon April 1, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Why are they “deserving” of assistance? Did they suffer some calamity? Did they have brain damage which caused them to agree to do this work?

12 Alt Lite April 1, 2017 at 3:16 pm

Nathan, it is a black and white issue. Restricting production so that producers can enjoy higher prices is bad. We recognize that in some instances, as we laugh at the depression era economists who instituted cartels, there was a European steel cartel, and the British created production limits in their colonies, most notably for rubber in Malaysia. The result was that the Malays had to pay more for British steel products and British consumers had to pay more for Malaysian rubber. Everybody lost. Even on the eve of World War II, there were negotiations among Europe’s two great coal producers, Great Britain and Nazi Germany, to artificially restrict production in order to keep the price of coal high:

https://books.google.com/books?id=w5ItCgAAQBAJ&pg=PA50&lpg=PA50&dq=britain+and+germany+negotiated+coal+cartel&source=bl&ots=ygtwCe-9o5&sig=KKmnfL5oUiWXFOFMx2ZGpYrh0dM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjxvumG-4PTAhUUImMKHaM-CG0Q6AEIIDAB#v=onepage&q=britain%20and%20germany%20negotiated%20coal%20cartel&f=false

Today we know that the only proper areas to restrict production are in the service sector, to keep the prices of land, taxi services, healthcare, and education artificially high. For the benefit of the taxi drivers, of course. They need the money to be able to afford their artificially high rent. It’s not like artificially high prices for taxi services affect any working people. Only millionaires take taxis.

13 carlospln April 1, 2017 at 5:33 pm

“The riders tend to be great and it’s interesting” [SNIP]

Every ride loses money, but you make it up on volume, correct?

“I’ve learned a lot about my local city doing it”. [SNIP]

Your recently acquired knowledge doesn’t quite extend to externalities, does it?

14 byomtov April 1, 2017 at 6:36 pm

I like uber but would like them much better if they didn’t try so much sleazy stuff.

I think the basic proposition is fine. Know what the ride costs, pay with a prearranged credit card, have a driver who uses GPS to get you where you are going without needing directions. (This last is important to me. I live on a very short side street and always have to direct cab drivers, which is a pain when I am tired after a trip.) The drivers are safer for the reason ChrisA mentions and because they don’t have to carry lots of cash, and the whole system, which more or less relies on some full-timers and then some part-timers to handle peaks seems more efficient than cabs.

Do the drivers make less? I don’t know. I’ve asked and gotten various answers, most of which suggest they come out about the same, and like the different features. Remember that many medallions are not owned by the cab drivers, and the medallion system itself is not very intelligent.

All that said, I think it is reasonable to require things like background checks on drivers and safety inspections of the cars, as well as to require that the drivers, at least those who put in, say, an average of thirty hours a week, be treated as employees.

15 JWatts April 3, 2017 at 8:57 am

” 6) it pisses off a bunch of stupid leftists.”

Hypothesis

“Troll Me – Uber is an affront to law and order. .., the love of shitting on people …Bend over …”

Confirmed.

16 Daniel Weber April 3, 2017 at 11:53 am

The taxi drivers salaries haven’t changed as much as the medallion owners. The medallion owners, largely different people, have taken it in the teeth.

I’ve quit using Uber because they finally got too sleazy for me, but shifted to Lyft. Same concept, less scum.

It’s made a functioning market. When road conditions suck, instead of drivers staying home they get paid more.

This idea that Uber losing money on every ride is especially disappoint to see on an economics blog, but given the commenter not too surprising. It is, of course, wrong. Uber has a positive revenue minus COGS. It’s all the additional overhead that is too much for them. They can probably stop growing and achieve reasonable profitability.

17 The Cuckmeister-General April 1, 2017 at 3:25 am

Brilliant

18 So Much For Subtlety April 1, 2017 at 3:28 am

If there were a Straussian way to have make-work jobs but cloaked as something else, and if that were sustainable, I would consider it. I’m not sure that’s possible. But I think we need to experiment in that space more.

So we are with Paul Krugman faking an alien invasion?

It politicizes all decisions. It means business leaders have an incentive to support him, and not oppose him, which might allow him to do other terrible things. In effect, it takes away free speech within the business community. And it’s arbitrary and unfair.

You mean we are not there already? How about Chick-fil-a? You cross the Left and suddenly you can’t get permits to open to Chicago. How about Brendan Eich? We are so far down this rabbit hole there is no point wistfully hoping to go back. The only option is to choose a side.

But I would approve of them much more if they called themselves the irrationality community. Because it is just another kind of religion.

I would call that a pimp slap to Klein’s face. But I wonder if he realizes it. Well done.

19 Jan April 1, 2017 at 5:16 am

So much butthurt from you. Always.

20 Trump is Literally Hitler April 1, 2017 at 9:36 am

Yeah, *we’re* the butthurt one’s. Okay!

21 asdfg April 1, 2017 at 11:13 am

The alt right is built on resentment and inarticulate rage. It’s the font of all of it.

22 y81 April 1, 2017 at 6:44 am

Tyler doesn’t consider it censorship if people are prevented from saying things he disapproves of. That’s why campus censorship, firebombs, professors sent to the hospital, etc., doesn’t trouble him.

23 Ted Craig April 1, 2017 at 8:11 am

“If there were a Straussian way to have make-work jobs but cloaked as something else, and if that were sustainable, I would consider it.”

Isn’t that what the Army is?

24 Moo cow April 1, 2017 at 10:41 am

Plus they have school-days-to-grave socialism that many people in the red states apparently love.

25 Daniel Weber April 3, 2017 at 12:16 pm

If we are looking for make-work jobs, start with wage subsidy.

If we are looking for wage subsidy, start by first getting rid of anti-wage-subsidies, like employment taxes. Make it up with a VAT.

26 Troll Me April 1, 2017 at 10:19 am

In China a lot of people sweep the streets. Probably a lot more people sweep the streets than if the employment aspects were not considered.

But when it amounts to forcing people into all the least desirable tasks in order to “earn” their crumbs …. it’s really not a social safety net is it? More like a chain gang for those for whom things did not progress smoothly.

So … something much better than street sweeping, but without messing too much with price incentives and signals in labour markets.

27 Simonini April 1, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Are you seriously complaining that having people who collect welfare sweep the streets is too harsh?

It’s not even particularly unpleasant as jobs go, and it’s not make-work in the sense of people digging holes and filling them back in. It’s a service that is generally not worth the labor costs, but if you are paying those costs and more anyway, why not get something productive out of it?

28 Troll Me April 1, 2017 at 2:36 pm

I do not see how it contributes to their human capital.

Also, it replaces the professionals with people who have all the reason in the world to enjoy giving the state a middle finger by doing a shoddy job.

It’s not just leaves on the streets there. This often involved hauling large volumes of trash, which has been manually sorted through, to other locations.

Also, I didn’t present as a complaint. I just said what is. So … obviously you see something wrong with it?

The risk is that it could lead to a pathway where we have the equivalent of unchained chain gangs for the ostracized, stubborn or deviants, etc. So if it’s really about “make them work for it a bit”, then I’d support literally digging and filling holes before putting people on workfare for things that replace productive enterprise or activities.

Price signals, right? Don’t want to mess up the price signals? Isn’t that what we’re always hearing from those who oppose welfare?

29 Alt Lite April 1, 2017 at 3:24 pm

“I do not see how it contributes to their human capital. ”

Presumably the Nathan solution being to pay them to enroll in the local community college so they’ll earn human capital.(The exact mechanism has never been explained.)

“The risk is that it could lead to a pathway where we have the equivalent of unchained chain gangs for the ostracized, stubborn or deviants, etc. So if it’s really about “make them work for it a bit”, then I’d support literally digging and filling holes before putting people on workfare for things that replace productive enterprise or activities.”

What’s the problem with the ostracized, stubborn, or deviants doing actual work? There’d always be a possibility of switching over to private sector employment. Paying them to do work that obviously doesn’t serve any function would stigmatize them much more.

30 Troll Me April 2, 2017 at 1:52 am

Maybe enable the diamonds in the rough to apply a little polish if they want, instead of sending them off to the chain gangs?

Say, hire someone with working class mannerisms for a non working class job?

31 Will April 1, 2017 at 3:30 am

“Because it is just another kind of religion”

*vomits profusely*

Such a half-assed attempt at dismissal.

32 anon April 1, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Yeah, that was cringe-inducing for sure

33 tjamesjones April 1, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Protesting too much?

34 anon April 1, 2017 at 3:03 pm

What would that mean in this context? He actually thinks they are right but is afraid to say so for some reason?

35 rpenm April 2, 2017 at 2:57 pm

It’s not a dismissal at all. Tyler is a pro-religion non-believer.

36 Dan April 2, 2017 at 7:39 pm

Very Straussian

37 Daniel Weber April 3, 2017 at 11:58 am

Look at the basilisk event, where a bunch of futurist atheists derived God from first principles and were terrified.

SSC is a much more, er, rational take on the rational community. Plus you don’t get the feeling he’s trying to start a cult.

38 CX April 1, 2017 at 4:41 am

Calling them a religion is bizarre. Nobody who doesn’t spend excessive time in the dark corners of the internet knows who any of the “rationality” bloggers are. And yet they are deeply self-important. (I guess that is a bit messianic?)

39 anon April 1, 2017 at 12:32 pm

Which blog is bigger, this one or Scott Alexander’s?

40 Pearl Y April 1, 2017 at 4:47 am

I listened to the whole thing, it was good. I was thinking the whole time that Tyler would never spend 95 minutes listening to one interview. Or at least he’d be reading books and listening to classical music at the same time.

What was enjoyable about it was that Ezra’s direct questions helped to punch through the “front” that Tyler maintains. Putting Tyler in less comfortable contexts does a better job of revealing his actual philosophy.

I’ve only emailed Tyler a few times in 10+ years and the responses have never been more than 5 words (“Interesting thanks” “You may be right” “I wrote about this before”), so they must have been pretty stupid emails! Still, it’s very kind of him to write back, it’s sort of like baseball players signing autographs after the game.

41 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ April 1, 2017 at 7:29 am

I put it on the Hi-Fi and then walked in and out of the room as I did other things. I have a lot of free time, but yeah.

42 Sandia April 1, 2017 at 9:58 am

Random auto-repsonse.

43 Alphaceph April 1, 2017 at 5:39 am

> [The rationality community] is just another kind of religion

I think you’re committing the motte-and-bailey fallacy here, implicitly switching between a very loose and metaphorical definition of ‘religion’ and a very tight, specific one.

44 John Thacker April 1, 2017 at 8:10 am

How? Doesn’t that fallacy imply actually switching one person switching definitions? It’s not like Tyler is starting out arguing that “you people clearly believe in a lot of non-provable propositions and ethoses that not everyone shares” (his apparent definition of religion) and then later arguing (the way some might) that “this belief in moral absolutes demonstrates that you really do believe in a Supreme Being.” Seems to me more that Tyler is consistently using one definition, which he gives.

I thought it contained a rather pointed hidden critique of the Ezra Klein and Vox philosophy, as well as all those secular center-left folks who claim to believe in no ideology but objective science.

45 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ April 1, 2017 at 8:17 am

It could just be trolling. Nothing frustrates a careful, introspective, truth-seeker more than a blanket “you’re just being irrational.”

It’s cheap. It’s easy. It sets back any discussion which you find uncomfortable.

46 Jacobian April 3, 2017 at 12:13 pm

I agree, I read it as pure trolling. There are legit criticisms of the rationality community, this isn’t one. Rationalists mostly come from atheist circles, and their main tenet is “be ready to change your mind about *anything* given evidence”. Calling them a “religion” isn’t a clever argument, it’s a cheap insult, like those who think that they are oh-so-clever by pointing out how the Social Justice movement is “racist”.

Then, there’s the persistent myth of the “Bayesian zealots” who treat the LW sequences as a religious text. These zealots are a favorite subject of post-rationalists like David Chapman. Unfortunately, no one has yet seen any of them in the wild, and Tyler also refused to point any of them out by name.

I think that LWian rationality would make a poor religion by design, it is simply not comprehensive enough to replace all other worldviews and systems so people supplement it with their own. That’s why in the SlateStarCodex comment section communist rationalists argue with neoreactionary rationalists, and even Catholic rationalists with atheists. If actual religions were as tolerant of opinion diversity as Rationality is, “religion” wouldn’t be an insult.

47 Alphaceph April 1, 2017 at 8:30 pm

> “you people clearly believe in a lot of non-provable propositions and ethoses that not everyone shares” (his apparent definition of religion)

But this isn’t the definition of a “religion” – not even close. Just about any non-mainstream or outspoken idea from evolution to global warming to relativity to economic theory fits this.

So what is the word “religion” doing attached to this non-religion concept, if not motte-and-bailey?

48 John Thacker April 1, 2017 at 8:19 am

There’s a better argument that Tyler is implying that it’s the LessWrong folks who are the ones being inconsistent, or committing a type of motte-and-bailey fallacy. They set themselves up as rational because they don’t see themselves as, among other things, being a religion, but they have completely unprovable moral and other propositions one has to take on faith or otherwise simply agree to.

The archetypal modern example aren’t these folks, but the people who call themselves rational and secular and believe fervently in unfalsifiable propositions about the universe being a simulation.

49 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ April 1, 2017 at 8:51 am

“The archetypal modern example aren’t these folks, but the people who call themselves rational and secular and believe fervently in unfalsifiable propositions about the universe being a simulation.”

That’s kind of like saying the Pope and Scientology are one thing, and one can be criticized by way of the other. Are you and Tyler making the “since Scientology, religion is irrational” argument?

There is certainly overlap between schools of philosophy and religion, but there are some religions with not much philosophy. There are some philosophies with not much religion.

50 Alphaceph April 1, 2017 at 8:33 pm

> completely unprovable moral

You want proofs of moral propositions? Like, mathematical proofs?

> completely unprovable… and other propositions

Again, what are these propositions that you want a “proof” of? Perhaps a reasoned argument and some evidence is what you actually want?

51 Alphaceph April 1, 2017 at 8:40 pm

> believe fervently in unfalsifiable propositions about the universe being a simulation.

I simply don’t think that most of the people you are aiming at “fervently believe” that the universe is a simulation. Many would say they consider it to be a possibility, which I would say is totally reasonable, and has been part of western philosophy since Descartes’ “I think therefore I am”.

52 JWatts April 3, 2017 at 9:07 am

“So what is the word “religion” doing attached to this non-religion concept, if not motte-and-bailey?”

You seem to emotionally object to Tyler’s use of the word “religion”. And I would agree that it’s not a precise term. However, Tyler didn’t write a treatise on the subject. He made a comment.

53 prior_test2 April 1, 2017 at 6:28 am

‘entertaining throughout’

So, better or worse than self-recommending?

54 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ April 1, 2017 at 7:24 am

I am not sure what my relationship with the rationality bloggers really is. I approve, but I don’t often read them. I understand that not all biases are bad, but some certainly are and should be avoided.

I think I might side with rationality bloggers more than someone who says I should meet more pimps or heroin addicts, and expand my horizons.

Perhaps by invoking religion, Tyler wants a more narrow contrast, between rational atheists and the ethically religious. Fine. But I would say that there is much in common between those who ponder their place in the world, rationally and/or religiously, versus those who do not.

55 rayward April 1, 2017 at 7:37 am

I’ve already commented that the dialogue revealed how Cowen’s mind works: at supersonic speed. I often watch and listen to lectures by a well-known new testament scholar who, like Cowen, has a very appealing style in addition to a highly informed one. What’s different (as reflected in the dialogue with Ezra) is Cowen’s breadth of knowledge. He really is a preeminent public intellectual. We are inclined to assess what others say or write based on whether we agree or disagree, but knowledge isn’t so easily divisible.

56 Kalim Kassam April 4, 2017 at 12:56 am

I’m curious about which New Testsment scholar…?

57 Kieran Mccarthy April 1, 2017 at 8:42 am

Ah, Tyler. Your greatest strength is the ability to adopt and emphasize the intellectual position with greatest potential for getting people’s goat up.

58 bjdubbs April 1, 2017 at 8:44 am

Wow, so not bombing Laos and Cambodia was fake news, but these two Iraq war supporters don’t mention the biggest case of fake news of all time, WMDs in Iraq. And yet Tyler has no second thoughts at all about American exceptionalism or following the elite consensus on the Russia threat. And the precautionary principle applies to every new technology, to Trump and to climate change, to every conceivable issue but foreign wars and immigration. Amazing how that works.

59 TMC April 1, 2017 at 12:18 pm

“WMDs in Iraq”

They found both chemical weapons and yellowcake in quantity – a WMD and a precursor, so maybe not a good example.

60 prior_test2 April 1, 2017 at 2:13 pm

Well, it appears that the radical leftists in the Bush Administration don’t agree with you, drawing on the work of the Iraq Survey Group – ‘During its investigation, the ISG reported that “[a] total of 53 munitions have been recovered, all of which appear to have been part of pre-1991 Gulf war stocks based on their physical condition and residual components.” These isolated discoveries received significant media attention, and it’s likely that these overhyped reports contributed to your friends’ beliefs that Iraq really did possess WMDs. But the finds were rare, and the ISG concluded that they were not part of a significant stockpile of weapons. Indeed, after nearly two years of investigation, the ISG concluded that:

“Saddam Husayn ended the nuclear program in 1991 following the Gulf war. ISG found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the program.”

“While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter.”

“In practical terms, with the destruction of the Al Hakam facility, Iraq abandoned its ambition to obtain advanced BW [biological warfare] weapons quickly. ISG found no direct evidence that Iraq, after 1996, had plans for a new BW program or was conducting BW-specific work for military purposes.”

Experts from the three nations failed to document any existent biological or nuclear weapons and discovered only a few random chemical weapons. The ISG concluded that contrary to what most of the world had believed, Iraq had abandoned attempts to produce WMDs. In his congressional testimony, the head of the ISG, Charles Duelfer, admitted, “We were almost all wrong” on Iraq.

The ISG report was sufficient to convince the Bush administration that there were no WMDs to be found; they called off the search in 2005.’ http://www.factcheck.org/2008/02/no-wmds-in-iraq/

61 Barkley Rosser April 1, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Not they did not, TMC. You need to get real. Oh, yeah, prior to 1991, but not after. Saddam got rid of it all, although then stupidly continued to sort of pretend for his neighbors that maybe he had some.

62 Joan April 1, 2017 at 8:46 am

“But I would approve of them much more if they called themselves the irrationality community. Because it is just another kind of religion. A different set of ethoses. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but the notion that this is, like, the true, objective vantage point I find highly objectionable”

To consider rationality just as another kind of faith is to deeply misunderstand what faith and rationality are:
Faith is holding a set of belief without or despite evidence.

Tyler sounds here like a reader Eat Pray Love.
Rationality is updating a set of belief by always looking for new evidence.

63 bjdubbs April 1, 2017 at 8:50 am

Why should I update my belief set based on new evidence?

64 Troll Me April 1, 2017 at 10:23 am

Logic is a human construct. In many ways, so is rationality.

Say, following the scientific method, at least you can clearly state “this is why I think my way of answering questions is better than yours”. But it is still a construct.

This is why scientists hate philosophers (sometimes) and philosophers are (usually) unimpressed with scientists.

65 Ricardo April 1, 2017 at 11:09 am

Philosophers might think scientists make mediocre philosophers but I would be surprised if more than a few were arrogant enough to be “unimpressed” with scientists. Things like the detection of gravity waves or the discovery of the Higgs boson are not just remarkable technical feats but also conform to “risky” predictions made by general relativity and the Standard Model respectively.

66 Troll Me April 1, 2017 at 2:39 pm

I would consider those as special cases.

67 static April 1, 2017 at 9:05 am

So, so, so wrong, it’s the opposite of religion. Learning and discovering, versus learning dogma, trusting authority, etc. What a stupid thing to say…

68 Daniel Weber April 3, 2017 at 2:09 pm

I found the high school student.

69 Andreas Werckmeister April 1, 2017 at 9:33 am

I think what Tyler wants to say is, “It’s socially constructed” rather than the ham-fisted “it’s a religion.” The appraisal that he gives consists in saying that rationality is a set of contingent opinions vs. objective facts. Nothing about the sacred vs. profane or any of the classic approaches to demarcating religion and non-religion.

Although this sounds much more mundane. Music theory also falls into this category.

70 JWatts April 3, 2017 at 9:11 am

“I think what Tyler wants to say is, “It’s socially constructed” rather than the ham-fisted “it’s a religion.” ”

Yes, I think that would be more accurate phrasing.

71 ChrisA April 1, 2017 at 9:53 am

Rationalism is explicitly an ethical approach to things, so in that sense it is a religion. Other parallels; there are defined leaders, prophecies, sacred texts, and proscribed behaviours, plus fanatical members. But, to me, religion really is about subscription to some kind of non-natural world belief, or divinity and the use of faith as opposed to empiricism or logic in terms of understanding or describing reality. I think rationalism clearly fails to have these elements, so no, it is not a religion.

72 Sandia April 1, 2017 at 10:00 am

AKA The Asperger Community

73 Tom T. April 1, 2017 at 10:19 am

It’s about otherizing different value judgments as mentally ill. This was a common Stalinist tactic back in the day.

74 Troll Me April 1, 2017 at 10:28 am

But socially accepted delusions are fine.

If you think Jesus speaks to you, you’re fine. But if Jesus’ brother speaks to you? This head must be numbed by writ of law! (Or stroke of pen of some quack…)

Seriously. It’s right there in the diagnostic manual. All delusions (i.e. disagreement with the quack about their world view) are signs of mental illness unless you’re taking it from one of the main religious books.

Free to be free, so long as you think like me!

75 Thiago Ribeiro April 1, 2017 at 11:32 am

In fact, Jesus’ brother James (whose name actually means “Thiago” in English) was a very important Early Church leader. Many Catholics probably beilieve in his intervention. Now, if Jesus’ landlady or Hebrew school teacher talks to you, you probably have a problem.

76 Troll Me April 1, 2017 at 2:43 pm

Well she talked to me alright.

Behind my back at that!

(She was writing on the chalk board while talking. I think that’s why I was hearing voices. Because she was speaking while writing on the chalk board. Which voices? Why, the teacher’s voice! Every day! I’ll tell you, if there’s something that will drive you nuts, it’s a teacher talking to you with her back to you every single day!)

77 Thiago Ribeiro April 1, 2017 at 3:14 pm

That is a problem.

78 Barkley Rosser April 1, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Sorry, Thiago, but there are two transliterations of “Yakov” into English. One is “James” and the other is “Jacob.” It is “Iago” in Spanish, “Jacques” in French, we could go on. Maybe “Thiago” is Portuguese?

79 Thiago Ribeiro April 1, 2017 at 4:23 pm

James means Thiago (and other lesser names) in English, that is, it is the equivalent of the name in English. The Brazilian name Thiago comes from the Portuguese Portuguese Thiago, which comes from the Spanish Santiago (they also call him Jacobo https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mt4%3A21;&version=RVR1960; you do not see muanySpaniards actually called Iago), which means “Saint Iago”. The name Yakov actualy means “to supplant. The father of the Jewish people received this name because he was predicted to supplant his evil brother Esau. Famous Brazil writer Machado de Assis, inspired by the biblical story, wrote a book called Esau and Jacob, one of the greatest books in Brazilian literature.

80 Thiago Ribeiro April 1, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Portuguese Portuguese TIAGO.

81 Tom T. April 1, 2017 at 11:45 am

Whereas Troll Me’s value judgments are “rational” because he thought them up himself, and his brain is better than those of people who think different things.

Seriously, the anti-religious would be easier to tolerate if they displayed even the slightest self-examination.

82 Troll Me April 1, 2017 at 2:41 pm

The point is that it would lead to mutually contradictory diagnoses if the manual were applied in different cultures.

And it IS applied in different cultures.

Which means it’s mutually contradictory in its applications.

Which is extremely consistent with the tally of precisely zero scientific references.

A Hindu could be insane in America and a Christian insane in India, but both of them perfectly “rational and sane” in their respective places of origin.

83 Alt Lite April 1, 2017 at 3:29 pm

Few Christians ever claim that Jesus literally speaks to them. It’s almost always a roundabout like “I had a realization and I’ve decided it must be because Jesus inspired me to think that way, blah blah blah.”

84 Brickbats and Adiabats April 1, 2017 at 11:49 am

Is Yudkowsky known for anything other than Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality? Because I think we found out that TC reads fan fiction…

85 JWatts April 3, 2017 at 9:28 am

“Is Yudkowsky known for anything other than Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality? Because I think we found out that TC reads fan fiction…”

I read some of that. It was somewhat interesting, but it was definitely fan fiction. You got the vibe that if Harry Potter just used rationality just like I do, he would have been preeminent among those irrational wizards.

Yudowsky failed to realize or acknowledge that JK Rowling obviously and intentionally created a whimsical irrational culture that was supposed to contrast with our modern real culture. Quite a lot of actions in the book are just funny episodes occurring in a whimsical fantasy world that is more charming that logical. The books were aimed at children. By re-writing them in a rationalized way, he lost the charm and doesn’t seem to realize the charm was the major selling point.

His writing felt somewhat like Ayn Rand’s writing, whereby, the flow and character of the story was sacrificed to make a POINT. Good writer’s can nudge you toward their point of view, bad writers bludgeon you over the head with their POV.

86 Daniel Weber April 3, 2017 at 12:10 pm

The books were aimed at children.

Yes. A lot of works of fiction break down if you apply real world rules to them.

It can be fun to have a Mary Sue where someone just stomps over everything because he isn’t blinded by the fictional universe’s silly rules. For a little bit.

87 NatashaRostova April 1, 2017 at 11:58 am

Scott Alexander is pretty non-ideologue in his beliefs, if we are considering “rationality community” as an ideology.

I would say he approaches reality through the clearest scientific lens possible for a human. Yudkowsky on the other hand has some pretty ridiculous beliefs he tries to pass off as rationality, where his evidence is some
thought experiment combined with a parable.

The Less Wrong guys all have this sort of autistic cult feeling, which SSC has less of.

88 Thiago Ribeiro April 1, 2017 at 12:43 pm

“Yudkowsky on the other hand has some pretty ridiculous beliefs he tries to pass off as rationality, where his evidence is some thought experiment combined with a parable.

The Less Wrong guys all have this sort of autistic cult feeling, which SSC has less of.”

You fool! You doomed us all! Roko’s Basilisk will torture us for all eternity now! https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/LessWrong#Roko.27s_basilisk
http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/bitwise/2014/07/roko_s_basilisk_the_most_terrifying_thought_experiment_of_all_time.html

89 Troll Me April 1, 2017 at 2:46 pm

He applies higher standards of politeness to people he agrees with than people he disagrees with.

I think that can be respectable, but sufficiently frustrating to not bother.

90 anon April 1, 2017 at 3:04 pm

You mean that he is more polite to people he agrees with? Or he requires people he agrees with to be more polite?

91 Pipsterate April 1, 2017 at 7:49 pm

The second one describes Scott much better in my experience. He tries very hard to keep an ideologically diverse comment section, perhaps too hard.

92 Petar April 2, 2017 at 7:49 am

+1, as they say

93 byomtov April 1, 2017 at 6:39 pm

What is the “rationality community?” Do these people think they are Vulcans?

And what does it mean to “frontload” an idea. I know what frontloading a payment schedule is, but an idea?

And haven’t the notions of signaling and cognitive biases been around for a while?

94 Ryan T April 1, 2017 at 7:42 pm

I’m about forty minutes in and I am finding this one of the most interesting podcasts I’ve ever listened to. It reminds me a lot of Michael Crichton’s “Travels,” in which he talks about his experience at medical school, relationships, diving, hiking, spoon bending, etc. Klein took a great approach here and TC responded to it very well.

I also find that many of TC’s positions here are more easily understood than they are when expressed in his blog posts. I think it’s because Klein consistently asks for explained examples and clarifications.

95 Alt Lite April 1, 2017 at 8:54 pm

Question for Tyler, when you say you oppose the “war on drugs,” what do you mean? Do you mean “legalize the sale of everything, no matter how dangerous,” or was it just liberal virtue signalling?

96 Troll Me April 2, 2017 at 2:00 am

Maybe a desire to not waste money on costly strategies that are counterproductive relative to stated objectives?

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