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Author Topic: Anyone Going the Reason Rally?
Raymond Arnold
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I'm considering heading here. Anyone else planning on going?

http://reasonrally.org/about/

Over the past 10 years I've transitioned from identifying as an agnostic, to as an atheist, to as a humanist. All the labels are still accurate (and essentially always have been), it's just a matter of what I'm focusing on.

Right now I'm not that interested in what isn't true. I'm much more interested finding, shaping or creating communities that reflect my values, which are working to solve problems other than prejudice against atheists. I've been checking out existing groups in NYC. My sense so far is that the secular humanist framework is a solid foundation around which to build a worldview, but it only gives you a vague notion of how to approach problems, not how to actually solve them.

Hoping to network and meet some likeminded people at the rally.

[ January 27, 2012, 06:14 PM: Message edited by: Raymond Arnold ]

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Bella Bee
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Sounds good, shame that the location is a little far away from me! I know what you mean about heading from identifying as atheist to humanist - I'm a lot more relaxed these days about being an 'out' non-believer.

Since my grandfather's humanist funeral (the best funeral I've ever been to, if there is such a thing) I've been more positive about my non-belief and what us non-believers can do as a community for the world. To achieve good aims for the betterment of humanity and this world - the only world we have - during the only life we think we've got - we do need to build ties and work together.

Plus, I'm pretty pro-religion and pro-believer in the best sense, so that kind of angry Dawkins atheism doesn't appeal to me any more. Weirdly, since moving to a Catholic country I seem to know more atheists than ever.

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Strider
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A bunch of people from my old humanist group will be there, but sadly I'm too far away to make it.
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Jeff C.
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Nope. I believe in God so I'm probably not allowed in [Frown]
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Dan_Frank
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I'm on the wrong end of the country. [Frown]
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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
Originally posted by Jeff C.:
Nope. I believe in God so I'm probably not allowed in [Frown]

I don't think there will be a test.

(But it is likely that you would not enjoy it all that much)

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Dan_Frank
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Hey Raymond, I'm curious if you've had any experiences talking to Popperian critical rationalists. I've got a feeling they may not really be your cup of tea, but I could be wrong. Based on what I've seen they seem like a much smaller subset of the rationalist/humanist communities than the Bayesians, but they have some interesting stuff to say about seeking truth and solving problems.
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AchillesHeel
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
quote:
Originally posted by Jeff C.:
Nope. I believe in God so I'm probably not allowed in [Frown]

I don't think there will be a test.

(But it is likely that you would not enjoy it all that much)

I think it would go something like this.

“Fee, fi, fo, fum,
I smell the blood of a Christian man,
Be he dead, be he living, with my brand,
I’ll dash his brains from his brain-pan.”

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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
Hey Raymond, I'm curious if you've had any experiences talking to Popperian critical rationalists. I've got a feeling they may not really be your cup of tea, but I could be wrong. Based on what I've seen they seem like a much smaller subset of the rationalist/humanist communities than the Bayesians, but they have some interesting stuff to say about seeking truth and solving problems.

I haven't met a self-identified Popperian. I'm not too concerned with how you subject your ideas to scrutiny so long as you're making some attempt. Actually caring about Bayes Theorem was among the last shifts I made into the Less Wrong memeplex, and even now I don't actually apply it in my daily life (not practical). What I like about Bayesianism is treating things as probabilities, rather than true or false beliefs.
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Jeff C.
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quote:
Originally posted by AchillesHeel:
quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
quote:
Originally posted by Jeff C.:
Nope. I believe in God so I'm probably not allowed in [Frown]

I don't think there will be a test.

(But it is likely that you would not enjoy it all that much)

I think it would go something like this.

“Fee, fi, fo, fum,
I smell the blood of a Christian man,
Be he dead, be he living, with my brand,
I’ll dash his brains from his brain-pan.”

Lol I think that's probably pretty accurate.
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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
Hey Raymond, I'm curious if you've had any experiences talking to Popperian critical rationalists. I've got a feeling they may not really be your cup of tea, but I could be wrong. Based on what I've seen they seem like a much smaller subset of the rationalist/humanist communities than the Bayesians, but they have some interesting stuff to say about seeking truth and solving problems.

I haven't met a self-identified Popperian. I'm not too concerned with how you subject your ideas to scrutiny so long as you're making some attempt. Actually caring about Bayes Theorem was among the last shifts I made into the Less Wrong memeplex, and even now I don't actually apply it in my daily life (not practical). What I like about Bayesianism is treating things as probabilities, rather than true or false beliefs.
Interesting! I think one of the biggest objections Popperians have with Bayes is that they don't think there is such a thing as a justified true belief. Not that they don't believe in truth, but they reject justificationism. The concept of fallibility is core to critical rationalism, but many people misunderstand this to think that they don't think anything is true. Rather, they always remain willing to hear new criticism that they are wrong, and adopt new theories when they can't counter the criticism.

But you know what, I'm totally not going to do these concepts justice. Have you read any Popper? As far as philosophers go, he's very good on readability and writes with minimal obfuscation (which in my opinion is a huge problem of most philosophers) so his stuff is actually very easy to pick up and put down on a whim. You may want to give it a try (or, alternatively, chat with some Popperians).

If you're not interested enough to do either of those things, that's cool, but I'd recommend avoiding reading synopses of his work as a substitute, as I'm of the opinion that every synopsis I've ever read woefully misunderstood him and criticized him in ways that totally miss his point.

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Raymond Arnold
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Is there a good place you recommend for chatting with Popperians? I could use to talk to other groups of critical thinkers. One reason the Less Wrong memeplex hijacked me so effectively was that I had never been to a forum with standards that high before (if you post something you can't back up, you get heavily downvoted and criticized, and the post fades away into obscurity in a seamless, organic way that doesnt require moderation)

I've been aware that I'm getting a lot of availability/confirmation bias about certain things lately, but didn't know else to go. (to be fair, I didn't look very hard.)

[ January 28, 2012, 03:37 PM: Message edited by: Raymond Arnold ]

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Dan_Frank
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As far as I know there aren't any communities as robust as Less Wrong. [Frown]

Most of the interactions I have had with them were via email lists... not sure how you feel about those. They're obviously a lot less fluid than the forum style... although I know a couple of Popperians who tried to engage on Less Wrong and were of the opinion that they got downvoted into obscurity not because people were offering legit criticism, but simply because what they were saying was unpopular. The advantage to an email list in this context is that both the original post and the criticism remain easily visible. The downside is that moderation is necessary to ensure the list owner's high standards.

Anyway, if you're amenable to joining a list, I might be able to recommend one. These days I'm on several lists that are full of critical rationalists, but none specifically devoted to discussing critical rationalist philosophy, so I'd do a little digging to see where would be the best place to get a better understanding of them.

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Dan_Frank
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Raymond: Is the email in your profile accurate? If so, check your email. If not, let me know. [Smile]
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Raymond Arnold
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Yup, got the e-mail. Thanks for the link! I'll check it out.
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Raymond Arnold
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I've been following the Popper mailing list for a while. Periodically almost get sucked into an argument, but so far have thought better of it. I'm honestly not sure where the disagreement is.

They say that explanations should be "good" (which seems to mean involve a clear causal connection between the observed evidence). This is definitely true, and is mostly covered by Occam's Razor - the more you have to presuppose for a hypothesis, the less likely it is to be true.

They say induction doesn't exist, because we don't have a working understanding of how it works. I don't have the background necessary to argue with that, but ultimately, if I can look at a pattern of events and make useful predictions, I don't care what the actual process was that much (obviously it's better if I can explain it and refine it, but they often say things like "induction is meaningless... you should just brainstorm a bunch of ideas and test them," which seems to be missing the point. "Brainstorm" is approximately as vague a process as "induction."

They've ridiculed Bayesianism (because it's vague and inductive). And I think it WOULD be valuable for me to wade into that discussion, to hear an opposing point of view, as well as force myself to explain my viewpoint better. But a Bayesian "worldview" is not actually all that important to me, apart from the general idea that beliefs are measured in probability and expected value. They seem to care about understanding underlying scientific laws for their own sake. I care about that, but I acknowledge it as an asthetic preference. The reason I think most people should care about underlying universal laws is that they're useful. But oftentimes, other, more obvious beliefs are more useful and that's fine.

I could feel my tribal loyalties rankling as I read the thread, and that's silly. I shouldn't be tribally affiliated with a decision theory. So that may be good practice. But when you strip away the tribal loyalties and taboo all the buzzwords, I'm not sure there's an actual argument to be had.

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Dan_Frank
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Raymond, it's super interesting to read your take so far. That was awesome! [Big Grin]

The only thing I would say that I think you may have misunderstood so far is their opinion of induction. I wouldn't characterize their position as "because we don't understand how it works," and more that it doesn't actually work, even though intuitively we may feel like it does.

Popper explains this really well in Conjectures and Refutations. I think that, although I know there are some vigorous discussions of induction happening on the list, without asking questions or reading the book you may be missing some of the nuance in those discussions. Brainstorming isn't really a required practice (except maybe inexplicitly).

Although it's the kind of argument that you have to have a very particular interest in to feel like getting involved (that's why I'm not involved, heh) so I totally understand why you haven't.

Oh, one final thing: "Good" explanations have more to do with their ability to withstand criticism. Often this can be because of a clear connection with observed evidence, but that's not specifically a requirement (though obviously if observed evidence contradicts an explanation that's a pretty damning criticism all by itself).

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ricree101
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Did anyone wind up going?

I'd have liked to, but making it out to DC just wasn't an option right now.

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Itsame
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I had never heard of these Less Wrong folk before, but the wiki is laughably doctrinaire. I wonder if they realize how close it comes to the irrational aspects of religion that they condemn.

"So is the project of rationality solved? Indeed not. First, probability theory and decision theory are often too computationally expensive to run in practice - it wouldn't take a galaxy-sized computer, so much as an unphysical computer (much larger than the known universe). And second, it's not always clear how the math applies - even in theory, let alone the practice.

But we do know that violations of Bayesianism - even "unavoidable" violations due to lack of computing power - carry a price; a family of theorems demonstrates that anyone who does not choose according to consistent probabilities can be made to accept combinations of bets that are sure losses, or reject bets that are sure wins (the Dutch Book arguments); similarly, Cox's Theorem and its extensions show that anyone who obeys various "common-sensical" constraints on their betting probabilities must be representable in standard probability theory.

In other words, Bayesianism isn't just a good idea - it's the law, and if you violate it, you'll pay some kind of price."

This is quite similar to statements such as "If you sin, you'll go to hell". It's quite amusing, really. It interprets Bayesianism as indicating that there's a necessary relationship between not acting in accordance with a Bayesian account of rationality and negative results. Even if this tends to be the case, there can certainly be cases where the results turn out to be in one's favor as a result of violating this "law". It is probabilistic, after all.

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Raymond Arnold
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I did go. Had a lot of fun, met up with friends from around the country and got random people at the rally to join me singing a humanist folk song.

The rain did suck.

@Jon Hecht:

The point isn't that magical bayes faeries come and punish you for not using the rule. The point is that if you use math wrong, you will get wrong answers, as a necessary consequence of how math works. Whether this matters depends on what kind of problem your solving, and what tools you're using to solve it. Sometimes your intuition can process things better than explicit calculations, other times your intuition will tend to be wrong.

If you're making a gamble, and you think your likelihood of winning is 50%, and instead it's only 10%, that can have important consequences. Could you still win? Sure, but you're going to end up losing more often. Just because a fact is probabilistic doesn't mean it's not important.

I acknowledge that Less Wrong has a major PR problem and the wiki tends to come across as obnoxious.

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Itsame
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"Could you still win? Sure, but you're going to end up losing more often. Just because a fact is probabilistic doesn't mean it's not important."

I agree that the probabilistic aspect is actually quite important. Your sentence should read "Sure, but you're *probably* going to end up losing more often." Laws of nature may be probabilistic (e.g., DM Armstrong's account), and there may be laws about probabilities, but here the negative consequences are designated as a matter of fact rather than probability.


Edit: Besides which, we certainly tend not to think of laws as probabilistic. If we were to, then saying that the probabilistic account is the law is redundant. Either that sentence is uninformative or it says something quite bizarre.

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Raymond Arnold
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I don't think we disagree on anything significant.
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Itsame
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I was just trying to express my amusement at what is likely just poor phrasing by a somewhat incompetent editor. I didn't mean to impugn either the community as a whole or yourself--just the wiki, or at least that page.
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Boothby171
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I was there!

Excellent rally, lots of people attending, even in the rain. Peaceful, no fights, the WBC and similar protesters kept pretty much to themselves, and I don't think they were pestered too much.

I wish* I had come here (Hatrack) to see who else was going--it would have been fun to meet up.

Maybe next time.

Steve

*yeah, as if wishing to modify space-time actually worked

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Raymond Arnold
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Too bad we missed each other!
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