IQ 2

These are replies to Ed Powell discussing IQ. This follows up on my previous post.

I believe I understand that you’re fed up with various bad counter-arguments about IQ, and why, and I sympathize with that. I think we can have a friendly and productive discussion, if you’re interested, and if you either already have sophisticated knowledge of the field or you’re willing to learn some of it (and if, perhaps as an additional qualification, you have an IQ over 130). As I emphasized, I think we have some major points of agreement on these issues, including rejecting some PC beliefs. I’m not going to smear you as a racist!

Each of these assertions is contrary to the data.

My claims are contrary to certain interpretations of the data, which is different than contradicting the data itself. I’m contradicting some people regarding some of their arguments, but that’s different than contradicting facts.

Just look around at the people you know: some are a lot smarter than others, some are average smart, and some are utter morons.

I agree. I disagree about the details of the underlying mechanism. I don’t think smart vs. moron is due to a single underlying thing. I think it’s due to multiple underlying things.

This also explains reversion to the mean

Reversion to the mean can also be explained by smarter parents not being much better parents in some crucial ways. (And dumber parents not being much worse parents in some crucial ways.)

Every piece of "circumstantial evidence" points to genes

No piece of evidence that fails to contradict my position can point to genes over my position.

assertion that there exists a thing called g

A quote about g:

To summarize ... the case for g rests on a statistical technique, factor analysis, which works solely on correlations between tests. Factor analysis is handy for summarizing data, but can't tell us where the correlations came from; it always says that there is a general factor whenever there are only positive correlations. The appearance of g is a trivial reflection of that correlation structure. A clear example, known since 1916, shows that factor analysis can give the appearance of a general factor when there are actually many thousands of completely independent and equally strong causes at work. Heritability doesn't distinguish these alternatives either. Exploratory factor analysis being no good at discovering causal structure, it provides no support for the reality of g.

Back to quoting Ed:

I just read an article the other day where researchers have identified a large number of genes thought to influence intelligence.

I’ve read many primary source articles. That kind of correlation research doesn’t refute what I’m saying.

What do you think psychometricians have been doing for the last 100 years?

Remaining ignorant of philosophy, particularly epistemology, as well as the theory of computation.

It is certainly true that one can create culturally biased IQ test questions. This issue has been studied to death, and such questions have been ruthlessly removed from IQ tests.

They haven’t been removed from the version of the Wonderlic IQ test you chose to link, which I took my example from.

I think there’s an important issue here. I think you believe there are other IQ tests which are better. But you also believe the Wonderlic is pretty good and gets the roughly same results as the better tests for lots of people. Why, given the flawed question I pointed out (which had a lot more wrong with it than cultural bias), would the Wonderlic results be similar to the results of some better IQ test? If one is flawed and one isn’t flawed, why would they get similar results?

My opinion is as before: IQ tests don’t have to avoid cultural bias (and some other things) to be useful, because culture matters to things like job performance, university success, and how much crime an immigrant commits.

I don't use the term "genetic" because I don't mean "genetic", I mean "heritable," because the evidence supports the term "heritable."

The word "heritable" is a huge source of confusion. A technical meaning of "heritable" has been defined which is dramatically different than the standard English meaning. E.g. accent is highly "heritable" in the terminology of heritability research.

The technical meaning of “heritable” is basically: “Variance in this trait is correlated with changes in genes, in the environment we did the study in, via some mechanism of some sort. We have no idea how much of the trait is controlled by what, and we have no idea what environmental changes or other interventions would affect the trait in what ways.” When researchers know more than that, it’s knowledge of something other than “heritability”. More on this below.

I have not read the articles you reference on epistemology, but intelligence has nothing to do with epistemology, just as a computer's hardware has nothing to do with what operating system or applications you run on it.

Surely you accept that ideas (software) have some role in who is smart and who is a moron? And so epistemology is relevant. If one uses bad methods of thinking, one will make mistakes and look dumb.

Epistemology also tells us how knowledge can and can’t be created, and knowledge creation is a part of intelligent thinking.

OF COURSE INTELLIGENCE IS BASED ON GENES, because humans are smarter than chimpanzees.

I have a position on this matter which is complicated. I will briefly give you some of the outline. If you are interested, we can discuss more details.

First, one has to know about universality, which is best approached via the theory of computation. Universal classical computers are well understood. The repertoire of a classical computer is the set of all computations it can compute. A universal classical computer can do any computation which any other classical computer can do. For evaluating a computer’s repertoire, it’s allowed unlimited time and data storage.

Examples of universal classical computers are Macs, PCs, iPhones and Android phones (any of them, not just specific models). Human brains are also universal classical computers, and so are the brains of animals like dogs, cows, cats and horses. “Classical” is specified to omit quantum computers, which use aspects of quantum physics to do computations that classical computers can’t do.

Computational universality sounds very fancy and advanced, but it’s actually cheap and easy. It turns out it’s difficult to avoid computational universality while designing a useful classical computer. For example, the binary logic operations NOT and AND (plus some control flow and input/output details) are enough for computational universality. That means they can be used to calculate division, Fibonacci numbers, optimal chess moves, etc.

There’s a jump to universality. Take a very limited thing, and add one new feature, and all of a sudden it gains universality! E.g. our previous computer was trivial with only NOT, and universal when we added AND. The same new feature which allowed it to perform addition also allowed it to perform trigonometry, calculus, and matrix math.

There are different types of universality, e.g. universal number systems (systems capable of representing any number which any other number system can represent) and universal constructors. Some things, such as the jump to universality, apply to multiple types of universality. The jump has to do with universality itself rather than with computation specifically.

Healthy human minds are universal knowledge creators. Animal minds aren’t. This means humans can create any knowledge which is possible to create (they have a universal repertoire). This is the difference between being intelligent or not intelligent. Genes control this difference (with the usual caveats, e.g. that a fetal environment with poison could cause birth defects).

Among humans, there are also degrees of intelligence. E.g. a smart person vs. an idiot. Animals are simply unintelligent and don’t have degrees of intelligence at all. Why do animals appear somewhat intelligent? Because their genes contain evolved knowledge and code for algorithms to control animal behavior. But that’s a fundamentally different thing than human intelligence, which can create new knowledge rather than relying on previously evolved knowledge present in genes.

Because of the jump to universality, there are no people or animals which can create 20%, 50%, 80% or 99% of all knowledge. Nothing exists with that kind of partial knowledge creation repertoire. It’s only 100% (universal) or approximately zero. If you have a conversation with someone and determine they can create a variety of knowledge (a very low bar for human beings, though no animal can meet it), then you can infer they have the capability to do universal knowledge creation.

Universal knowledge creation (intelligence) is a crucial capability our genes give us. From there, it’s up to us to decide what to do with it. The difference between a moron and a genius is how they use their capability.

Differences in degrees of human intelligence, among healthy people (with e.g. adequate food) are due to approximately 100% ideas, not genes. Some of the main factors in early childhood idea development are:

  • Your culture’s anti-rational memes.
  • The behavior of your parents.
  • The behavior of other members of your culture that you interact with.
  • Sources of cultural information such as YouTube.
  • Your own choices, including mental choices about what to think.

The relevant ideas for intelligence are mostly unconscious and involve lots of methodology. They’re very hard for adults in our culture to change.

This is not the only important argument on this topic, but it’s enough for now.

This isn’t refuted in The Bell Curve, which doesn’t discuss universality. The concept of universal knowledge creators was first published in 2011. (FYI this book is by my colleague, and I contributed to the writing process).

Below I provide some comments on The Bell Curve, primarily about how it misunderstands heritability research.

There is a most absurd and audacious Method of reasoning avowed by some Bigots and Enthusiasts, and through Fear assented to by some wiser and better Men; it is this. They argue against a fair Discussion of popular Prejudices, because, say they, tho’ they would be found without any reasonable Support, yet the Discovery might be productive of the most dangerous Consequences. Absurd and blasphemous Notion! As if all Happiness was not connected with the Practice of Virtue, which necessarily depends upon the Knowledge of Truth.
EDMUND BURKE A Vindication of Natural Society

This is a side note, but I don’t think the authors realize Burke was being ironic and was attacking the position stated in this quote. The whole work, called a vindication of natural society (anarchy), is an ironic attack, not actually a vindication.

Heritability, in other words, is a ratio that ranges between 0 and 1 and measures the relative contribution of genes to the variation observed in a trait.

This is incomplete because it omits the simplifying assumptions being made. From Yet More on the Heritability and Malleability of IQ:

To summarize: Heritability is a technical measure of how much of the variance in a quantitative trait (such as IQ) is associated with genetic differences, in a population with a certain distribution of genotypes and environments. Under some very strong simplifying assumptions, quantitative geneticists use it to calculate the changes to be expected from artificial or natural selection in a statistically steady environment. It says nothing about how much the over-all level of the trait is under genetic control, and it says nothing about how much the trait can change under environmental interventions. If, despite this, one does want to find out the heritability of IQ for some human population, the fact that the simplifying assumptions I mentioned are clearly false in this case means that existing estimates are unreliable, and probably too high, maybe much too high.

Note that the word “associated” in the quote refers to correlation, not to causality. Whereas the authors of The Bell Curve use the word “contribution” instead, which doesn’t mean “correlation” and is therefore wrong.

Here’s another source on the same point, Genetics and Reductionism:

high [narrow] heritability, which is routinely taken as indicative of the genetic origin of traits, can occur when genes alone do not provide an explanation of the genesis of that trait. To philosophers, at least, this should come as no paradox: good correlations need not even provide a hint of what is going on. They need not point to what is sometimes called a "common cause". They need not provide any guide to what should be regarded as the best explanation.

You can also read some primary source research in the field (as I have) and see what sort of “heritability” it does and doesn’t study, and what sort of limitations it has. If you disagree, feel free to provide a counter example (primary source research, not meta or summary), which you’ve read, which studies a different sort of IQ “heritability” than my two quotes talk about.

What happens when one understands “heritable” incorrectly?

Then one of us, Richard Herrnstein, an experimental psychologist at Harvard, strayed into forbidden territory with an article in the September 1971 Atlantic Monthly. Herrnstein barely mentioned race, but he did talk about heritability of IQ. His proposition, put in the form of a syllogism, was that because IQ is substantially heritable, because economic success in life depends in part on the talents measured by IQ tests, and because social standing depends in part on economic success, it follows that social standing is bound to be based to some extent on inherited differences.

This is incorrect because it treats “heritable” (as measured in the research) as meaning “inherited”.

How Much Is IQ a Matter Genes?

In fact, IQ is substantially heritable. [...] The most unambiguous direct estimates, based on identical twins raised apart, produce some of the highest estimates of heritability.

This incorrectly suggests that IQ is substantially a matter of genes because it’s “heritable” (as determined by twin studies).

Specialists have come up with dozens of procedures for estimating heritability. Nonspecialists need not concern themselves with nuts and bolts, but they may need to be reassured on a few basic points. First, the heritability of any trait can be estimated as long as its variation in a population can be measured. IQ meets that criterion handily. There are, in fact, no other human traits—physical or psychological—that provide as many good data for the estimation of heritability as the IQ. Second, heritability describes something about a population of people, not an individual. It makes no more sense to talk about the heritability of an individual’s IQ than it does to talk about his birthrate. A given individual’s IQ may have been greatly affected by his special circumstances even though IQ is substantially heritable in the population as a whole. Third, the heritability of a trait may change when the conditions producing variation change. If, one hundred years ago, the variations in exposure to education were greater than they are now (as is no doubt the case), and if education is one source of variation in IQ, then, other things equal, the heritability of IQ was lower then than it is now.


Now for the answer to the question, How much is IQ a matter of genes? Heritability is estimated from data on people with varying amounts of genetic overlap and varying amounts of shared environment. Broadly speaking, the estimates may be characterized as direct or indirect. Direct estimates are based on samples of blood relatives who were raised apart. Their genetic overlap can be estimated from basic genetic considerations. The direct methods assume that the correlations between them are due to the shared genes rather than shared environments because they do not, in fact, share environments, an assumption that is more or less plausible, given the particular conditions of the study. The purest of the direct comparisons is based on identical (monozygotic, MZ) twins reared apart, often not knowing of each other’s existence. Identical twins share all their genes, and if they have been raised apart since birth, then the only environment they shared was that in the womb. Except for the effects on their IQs of the shared uterine environment, their IQ correlation directly estimates heritability. The most modern study of identical twins reared in separate homes suggests a heritability for general intelligence between .75 and .80, a value near the top of the range found in the contemporary technical literature. Other direct estimates use data on ordinary siblings who were raised apart or on parents and their adopted-away children. Usually, the heritability estimates from such data are lower but rarely below .4.

This is largely correct if you read “heritability” with the correct, technical meaning. But the assumption that people raised apart don’t share environment is utterly false. People raised apart – e.g. in different cities in the U.S. – share tons of cultural environment. For example, many ideas about parenting practices are shared between parents in different cities.

Despite my awareness of these huge problems with IQ research, I still agree with some things you’re saying and believe I know how to defend them correctly. In short, genetic inferiority is no good (and contradicts Ayn Rand, btw), but cultural inferiority is a major world issue (and correlates with race, which has led to lots of confusion).

As a concrete reminder of what we’re discussing, I’ll leave you with an IQ test question to ponder:

Read my followup post: IQ 3

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)


This is a reply to Ed Powell writing about IQ.

I believe IQ tests measure a mix of intelligence, culture and background knowledge.

That's useful! Suppose I'm screening employees to hire. Is a smart employee the only thing I care about? No. I also want him to fit in culturally and be knowledgable. Same thing with immigrants.

The culture and background knowledge measured by IQ tests isn't superficial. It's largely learned in early childhood and is hard to change. It is possible to change. I would expect assimilating to raise IQ scores on many IQ tests, just as learning arithmetic raises scores on many IQ tests for people who didn't know it before.

Many IQ test questions are flawed. They have ambiguities. But this doesn't make IQ tests useless. It just makes them less accurate, especially for people who are smarter than the test creators. Besides, task assignments from your teacher or boss contain ambiguities too, and you're routinely expected to know what they mean anyway. So it matters whether you can understand communications in a culturally normal way.

Here's a typical example of a flawed IQ test question. We could discuss the flaws if people are interested in talking about it. And I'm curious what people think the answer is supposed to be.

IQ tests don't give perfect foresight about an individual's future. So what? You don't need perfectly accurate screening for hiring, college admissions or immigration. Generally you want pretty good screening which is cheap. If someone comes up with a better approach, more power to them.

Would it be "unfair" to some individual that they aren't hired for a job they'd be great at because IQ tests aren't perfect? Sure, sorta. That sucks. The world is full of things going wrong. Pick yourself up and keep trying – you can still have a great life. You have no right to be treated "fairly". The business does have a right to decide who to hire or not. There's no way to making hiring perfect. If you know how to do hiring better, sell them the method. But don't get mad at hiring managers for lacking omniscience. (BTW hiring is already unfair and stupid in lots of ways. They should use more work sample tests and less social metaphysics. But the problems are largely due to ignorance and error, not conscious malice.)

Ed Powell writes:

Since between 60% and 80% of IQ is heritable, it means that their kids won't be able to read either. Jordan Peterson in one of his videos claims that studies show there are no jobs at all in the US/Canadian economies for anyone with an IQ below about 83. That means 85% of the Somalian immigrants (and their children!) are essentially unemployable. No immigration policy of the US should ignore this fact.

I've watched most of Jordan Peterson's videos. And I know, e.g., that the first video YouTube sandboxed in their new censorship campaign was about race and IQ.

I agree that it's unrealistic for a bunch of low IQ Somalians to come here and be productive in U.S. jobs. I think we agree on lots of conclusions.

But I don't think IQ is heritable in the normal sense of the word "heritable", meaning that it's controlled by genes passed on by parents. (There's also a technical definition of "heritable", which basically means correlation.) For arguments, see: Yet More on the Heritability and Malleability of IQ.

I don't think intelligence is genetic. The studies claiming it's (partly) genetic basically leave open the possibility that it's a gene-environment interaction of some kind, which leaves open the possibility that intelligence is basically due to memes. Suppose parents in our culture give worse treatment to babies with black skin, and this causes lower intelligence. That's a gene-environment interaction. In this scenario, would you say that the gene for black skin is a gene for low intelligence? Even partly? I wouldn't. I'd say genes aren't controlling intelligence in this scenario, culture is (and, yes, our culture has some opinions about some genetic traits like skin color).

When people claim intelligence (or other things) are due to ideas, they usually mean it's easy to change. Just use some willpower and change your mind! But memetic traits can actually be harder to change than genetic traits. Memes evolve faster than genes, and some old memes are very highly adapted to prevent themselves from being changed. Meanwhile, it's pretty easy to intervene to change your genetic hair color with dye.

I think intelligence is a primarily memetic issue, and the memes are normally entrenched in early childhood, and people largely don't know how to change them later. So while the mechanism is different, the conclusions are still similar to if it were genetic. One difference is that I'm hopeful that dramatically improved parenting practices will make a large difference in the world, including by raising people's intelligence.

Also, if memes are crucial, then current IQ score correlations may fall apart if there's a big cultural shift of the right kind. IQ test research only holds within some range of cultures, not in all imaginable cultures. But so what? It's not as if we're going to wake up in a dramatically different culture tomorrow...

I don't believe that IQ tests measure general intelligence – which I don't think exists as a single, well-defined thing. I have epistemological reasons for this which are complicated and differ from Objectivism on some points. I do think that some people are smarter than others. I do think there are mental skills, which fall under the imprecise term "intelligence", and have significant amounts of generality.

Because of arguments about universality (which we can discuss if there's interest), I think all healthy people are theoretically capable of learning anything that can be learned. But that doesn't mean they will! What stops them isn't their genes, it's their ideas. They have anti-rational memes from early childhood which are very strongly entrenched. (I also think people have free will, but often choose to evade, rationalize, breach their integrity, etc.)

Some people have better ideas and memes than others. So I share a conclusion with you: some people are dumber than others in important very-hard-to-change ways (even if it's not genetic), and IQ test scores do represent some of this (imperfectly, but meaningfully).

For info about memes and universality, see The Beginning of Infinity.

And, btw, of course there are cultural and memetic differences correlated with e.g. race, religion and nationality. For example, on average, if you teach your kids not to "act white" then they're going to turn out dumber.

So, while I disagree about many of the details regarding IQ, I'm fine with a statement like "criminality is mainly concentrated in the 80-90 IQ range". And I think IQ tests could improve immigration screening.

Read my followup post: IQ 2

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Banned from "Critical Rationalist" Facebook Group

Matt Dioguardi owns a Facebook group with around 5000 members. The membership believes it's an open discussion forum with relaxed rules (just post all you want that's related to Popper "in some manner"), because that's what it publicly states, in writing.

However, I was banned because I didn't like some of Matt's friends' comments and blocked them on Facebook to stop seeing their messages. I don't need toxic people in my life.

I would never dream of banning someone from the Fallible Ideas forum because they set up a mail rule to block posts by my friends Justin and Alan. Some of Matt's friends, like Justin and Alan, were moderators – so what?

Prior to that I had some posts blocked for reasons like mentioning Ayn Rand (in addition to Popper) or mentioning parenting and education (from a Popperian perspective, and in addition to talking about how to spread Critical Rationalist ideas). Discussing the moderation had been unproductive (they refused to answer clarifying questions about the policies or update the stated rules to the actual rules). Some of the forum discussions had also been unproductive (e.g. I repeatedly asked some flamers to stop harassing me, and they did the passive-aggressive version of telling me to go fuck myself – then redoubled their efforts to harrass me). I didn't flame anyone.

So I decided it was time to stop engaging with the toxic people. I knew I was at risk of being banned if I did some further action that wasn't appreciated and there was no problem-solving discussion to address it. I decided to risk this because I thought talking with the toxic people wouldn't solve problems and could actually cause problems. But they wouldn't just leave me alone. For my decision to refocus on productive discussion, and ignore everything else, I was banned. (Dioguardi stated the reason for the ban, it's not speculation.)

Some of them clearly didn't like me (e.g. one of the moderators was also one of the repeat flamers) and wanted an excuse to get rid of me. But what kind of excuse is this? Nothing was wrong with anything I posted, and they banned me anyway!

Update: They also banned anyone from posting a link to anything I wrote.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (21)

Discussion About the Importance of Explanations with Andrew Crawshaw

From Facebook:

Justin Mallone:

The following excerpt argues that explanations are what is absolutely key in Popperian philosophy, and that Popper over-emphasizes the role of testing in science, but that this mistake was corrected by physicist and philosopher David Deutsch (see especially the discussion of the grass cure example). What do people think?
(excerpted from:

Most ideas are criticized and rejected for being bad explanations. This is true even in science where they could be tested. Even most proposed scientific ideas are rejected, without testing, for being bad explanations.
Although tests are valuable, Popper's over-emphasis on testing mischaracterizes science and sets it further apart from philosophy than need be. In both science and abstract philosophy, most criticism revolves around good and bad explanations. It's largely the same epistemology. The possibility of empirical testing in science is a nice bonus, not a necessary part of creating knowledge.

In [The Fabric of Reality], David Deutsch gives this example: Consider the theory that eating grass cures colds. He says we can reject this theory without testing it.
He's right, isn't he? Should we hire a bunch of sick college students to eat grass? That would be silly. There is no explanation of how grass cures colds, so nothing worth testing. (Non-explanation is a common type of bad explanation!)
Narrow focus on testing -- especially as a substitute for support/justification -- is one of the major ways of misunderstanding Popperian philosophy. Deutsch's improvement shows how its importance is overrated and, besides being true, is better in keeping with the fallibilist spirit of Popper's thought (we don't need something "harder" or "more sciency" or whatever than critical argument!).

Andrew Crawshaw: I see, but it might turn out that grass cures cold. This would just be an empirical fact, demanding scientific explanation.

TC: Right, and if a close reading of Popper yielded anything like "test every possible hypothesis regardless of what you think of it", this would represent an advancement over Popper's thought. But he didn't suggest that.

Andrew Crawshaw: We don't reject claims of the form by indicated by Deustch because they are bad explanations. There are plenty of dangling empirical claims that we still hold to be true but which are unexplained. Deutsch is mistaking the import of his example.

Elliot Temple:

There are plenty of dangling empirical claims that we still hold to be true but which are unexplained.

That's not the issue. Are there any empirical claims we have criticism of, but which we accept? (Pointing out that something is a bad explanation is a type of criticism.)

Andrew Crawshaw: If you think that my burden is to show that there are empirical claims that are refuted but that we accept, then you have not understood my criticism.

For example

Grass cures colds.

Is of the same form as

aluminium hydroxide contributes to the production of a large quantity of antibodies.

Both are empirical claims, but they are not explanatory. That does not make them bad

Neither of them are explanations. One is accepted and the other is not.

It's not good saying that the former is a bad explanation.

The latter has not yet been properly explained by sciences

Elliot Temple: The difference is we have explanations of how aluminum hydroxide works, e.g. from wikipedia " It reacts with excess acid in the stomach, reducing the acidity of the stomach content"

Andrew Crawshaw: Not in relation to its antibody mechanism.

Elliot Temple: Can you provide reference material for what you're talking about? I'm not familiar with it.

Andrew Crawshaw: I can, but it is still irrelevant to my criticism. Which is that they are both not explanatory claims, but one is held as true while the other not.

They are low-level empirical claims that call out for explantion, they don't themselves explain. Deutsch is misemphesising.

Elliot Temple: your link is broken, and it is relevant b/c i suspect there is an explanation.

Andrew Crawshaw: It's still irrelevant to my criticism. Which is that we often accept things like rules of thumb, even when they are unexplained. They don't need to be explained for them to be true of for us to class them as true. Miller talks about this extensively. For instance strapless evening gowns were not understand scientifically for ages.

Elliot Temple: i'm saying we don't do that, and you're saying you have a counter-example but then you say the details of the counter-example are irrelevant. i don't get it.

Elliot Temple: you claim it's a counter example. i doubt it. how are we to settle this besides looking at the details?

Andrew Crawshaw: My criticism is that calling such a claim a bad explanation is irrelevat to those kinds of claims. They are just empirical claims that beg for explanation.

Elliot Temple: zero explanation is a bad explanation and is a crucial criticism. things we actually use have more explanation than that.

Andrew Crawshaw: So?

Elliot Temple: so DD and I are right: we always go by explanations. contrary to what you're saying.

Andrew Crawshaw: We use aliminium hydroxide for increasing anti-bodies and strapless evening gowns p, even before they were explained.

Elliot Temple: i'm saying i don't think so, and you're not only refusing to provide any reference material about the matter but you claimed such reference material (indicating the history of it and the reasoning involved) is irrelevant.

Andrew Crawshaw: I have offered it. I re-edited my post.

Elliot Temple: please don't edit and expect me to see it, it usually doesn't show up.

Andrew Crawshaw: You still have not criticised my claim. The one comparing the two sentences which are of the same form, yet one is accepted and one not.

Elliot Temple: the sentence "aluminium hydroxide contributes to the production of a large quantity of antibodies." is inadequate and should be rejected.

the similar sentence with a written or implied footnote to details about how we know it would be a good claim. but you haven't given that one. the link you gave isn't the right material: it doesn't say what aluminium hydroxide does, how we know it, how it was discovered, etc

Elliot Temple: i think your problem is mixing up incomplete, imperfect explanations (still have more to learn) with non-explanation.

Andrew Crawshaw: No, it does not. But to offer that would be to explain. Which is exactly what I am telling is irrelevant.

What is relevant is whether the claim itself is a bad explanation. It's just an empirical claim.

The point is just that we often have empirical claims that are not explained scientifically yet we accept them as true and use them.

Elliot Temple: We don't. If you looked at the history of it you'd find there were lots of explanations involved.

Elliot Temple: I guess you just don't know the history either, which is why you don't know the explanations involved. People don't study or try things randomly.

Elliot Temple: If you could pick a better known example which we're both familiar with, i could walk you through it.

Andrew Crawshaw: There was never an explanation of how bridges worked. But there were rules of thumb of how to build them. There is explanations of how to use aluminium hydroxide but is actual mechanism is unknown.

Elliot Temple: what are you talking about with bridges. you can walk on strong, solid objects. what do you not understand?

Andrew Crawshaw: That's not how they work. I am talking about the scientific explanation of forces and tensions. It was not always understood despite the fact that they were built. This is the same with beavers dams, they don't know any of the explanations of how to build dams.

Elliot Temple: you don't have to know everything that could be known to have an explanation. understanding that you can walk on solid objects, and they can be supported, etc, is an explanation, whether you know all the math or not. that's what the grass cure for the cold lacks.

Elliot Temple: the test isn't omniscience, it's having a non-refuted explanation.

Andrew Crawshaw: Hmm, but are you saying then that even bad-explanations can be accepted. Cuz as far as I can tell many of the explanations for bridge building were bad, yet they stil built bridges.

Anyway you are still not locating my criticism. You are criticising something I never said it seems. Which is that Grass cures cold has not been explained. But what Deutsch was claiming was that the claim itself was a bad explanation, which is true if bad explanation includes non-explanation, but it is not the reason it is not accepted. As the hydroxide thing suggests.

Elliot Temple: We should only accept an explanation that we don't know any criticism of.

We need some explanation or we'd have no idea if what we're doing would work, we'd be lost and acting randomly without rhyme or reason. And that initial explanation is what we build on – we later improve it to make it more complete, explain more stuff.

Andrew Crawshaw: I think this is incorrect. All animals that can do things refutes your statement.

Elliot Temple: The important thing is the substance of the knowledge, not whether it's written out in the form of an English explanation.

Andrew Crawshaw: Just because there is an explanation of how some physical substrate interacts with another physical substrate, does not mean that you need explanations. Explanations are in language. Knowledge not necessarily. Knowledge is a wider phenomenon than explanation. I have many times done things by accident that have worked, but I have not known why.

Elliot Temple: This is semantics. Call it "knowledge" then. You need non-refuted knowledge of how something could work before it's worth trying. The grass cure for the cold idea doesn't meet this bar. But building a log bridge without knowing modern science is fine.

Andrew Crawshaw: Before it's worth trying? I don't think so, rules of thumb are discovered by accident and then re-used without knowing how or why it could work,,it's just works and then they try it again and it works again. Are you denying that that is a possibility?

Elliot Temple: Yes, denying that.

Andrew Crawshaw: Well, you are offering foresight to evolution then, it seems.

Elliot Temple: That's vague. Say what you mean.

Andrew Crawshaw: I don't think it is that vague. If animals can build complex things like behaves and they should have had knowledge of how it could work before it was worth trying out, then they have a lot of forsight before they tried them out. Or could it be the fact that it is the other way round, we stumble in rules of thumb develop them, then come up with explanations about how they possibly work. I am more inclined to the latter. The former is just another version of the argument from design.

Elliot Temple: humans can think and they should think before acting. it's super inefficient to act mindlessly. genetic evolution can't think and instead does things very, very, very slowly.

Andrew Crawshaw: But thinking before acting is true. Thinking is critical. It needs material to work on. Which is guesswork and sometimes, if not often, accidental actions.

Elliot Temple: when would it be a good idea to act thoughtlessly (and which thoughtless action) instead of acting according to some knowledge of what might work?

Elliot Temple: e.g. when should you test the grass cure for cancer, with no thought to whether it makes any sense, instead of thinking about what you're doing and acting according to your rational thought? (which means e.g. considering what you have some understanding could work, and what you have criticisms of)

Andrew Crawshaw: Wait, we often act thoughtlessly whether or not we should do. I don't even think it is a good idea. But we often try to do things and end up somewhere which is different to what we expected, it might be worse or better. For instance, we might try to eat grass because we are hungry and then happen to notice that our cold disspaeard and stumble on a cure for the cold.

Andrew Crawshaw: And different to what we expected might work even though we have no idea why.

Elliot Temple: DD is saying what we should do, he's talking about reason. Sometimes people act foolishly and irrationally but that doesn't change what the proper methods of creating knowledge are.

Sometimes unexpected things happen and you can learn from them. Yes. So what?

Andrew Crawshaw: But if Deustch expects that we can only work with explanations. Then he is mistaken. Which is, it seems, what you have changed your mind about.

Elliot Temple: I didn't change my mind. What?

What non-explanations are you talking about people working with? When an expectation you have is violated, and you investigate, the explanation is you're trying to find out if you were mistaken and figure out the thing you don't understand.

Elliot Temple: what do you mean "work with"? we can work with (e.g. form explanations about) spreadsheet data. we can also work with hammers. resources don't have to be explanations themselves, we just need an explanation of how to get value out of the resource.

Andrew Crawshaw: There is only one method of creating knowledge. Guesswork. Or, if genetically, by mutation. Physical things are often made without knows how and then they are applied in various contexts and they might and mint not work, that does not mean we know how they work.

Elliot Temple: if you didn't have an explanation of what actions to take with a hammer to achieve what goal, then you couldn't proceed and be effective with the hammer. you could hit things randomly and pray it works out, but it's not a good idea to live that way.

Elliot Temple: (rational) humans don't proceed purely by guesses, they also criticize the guesses first and don't act on the refuted guesses.

Andrew Crawshaw: Look there are three scenarios

  1. Act on knowledge
  2. Stumble upon solution by accident, without knowing why it works.
  3. Act randomly

Elliot Temple: u always have some idea of why it works or you wouldn't think it was a solution.

Andrew Crawshaw: No, all you need is to recognise that it worked. This is easily done by seeing that what you wanted to happen happened. It is non-sequitur to then assume that you know something of how it works.

Elliot Temple: you do X. Y results. Y is a highly desirable solution to some recurring problem. do you now know that X causes Y? no. you need some causal understanding, not just a correlation. if you thought it was impossible that X causes Y, you would look for something else. if you saw some way it's possible X causes Y, you have an initial explanation of how it could work, which you can and should expose to criticism.

Elliot Temple:

Know all you need is to recognise that it works.

plz fix this sentence, it's confusing.

Andrew Crawshaw: You might guess that it caused it. You don't need to understand it to guess that it did.

Elliot Temple: correlation isn't causation. you need something more.

Elliot Temple: like thinking of a way it could possibly cause it.

Elliot Temple: that is, an explanation of how it works.

Andrew Crawshaw: I am not saying correlation is causation, you don't need to explained guesswork, before you have guess it. You first need to guess that something caused something before you go out and explain it. Otherwise what are explaining?

Elliot Temple: you can guess X caused Y and then try to explain it. you shouldn't act on the idea that X caused Y if you have no explanation of how X could cause Y. if you have no explanation, then that's a criticism of the guess.

Elliot Temple: you have some pre-existing understanding of reality (including the laws of physics) which you need to fit this into, don't just treat the world as arbitrary – it's not and that isn't how one learns.

Andrew Crawshaw: That's not a criticism of the guess. It's ad hominem and justificationist.

Elliot Temple: "that" = ?

Andrew Crawshaw: I am agreeing totally with you about many things

  1. We should increase our criticism as much as possible.
  2. We do have inbuilt expectations about how the world works.

What We are not agreeing about is the following

  1. That a guess has to be back up by explanation for it to be true or classified as true. All we need is to criticise the guess. Arguing otherwise seems to me a type of justificationism.

  2. That in order to get novel explanations and creations, this often is done despite the knowledge and necessarily has to be that way otherwise it would not be new.

Elliot Temple:

That's not a criticism of the guess. It's ad hominem and justificationist.

please state what "that" refers to and how it's ad hominem, or state that you retract this claim.

Andrew Crawshaw: That someone does not have an explanation. First, because explanations are not easy to come by and someone not having an explanation for something does not in anyway impugn the pedigree of the guess or the strategy etc. Second explanation is important and needed, but not necessary for trying out the new strategy, y, that you guess causes x. You might develope explanations while using it. You don't need the explanation before using it.

Elliot Temple: Explanations are extremely easy to come by. I think you may be adding some extra criteria for what counts as an explanation.

Re your (1): if you have no explanation, then you can criticize it: why didn't they give it any thought and come up with an explanation? they should do that before acting, not act thoughtlessly. it's a bad idea to act thoughtlessly, so that's a criticism.

it's trivial to come up with even an explanation of how grass cures cancer: cancer is internal, and various substances have different effects on the body, so if you eat it it may interact with and destroy the cancer.

the problem with this explanation is we have criticism of it.

you need the explanation so you can try criticizing it. without the explanation, you can't criticize (except to criticize the lack of explanation).

re (2): this seems to contain typos, too confusing to answer.

Elliot Temple: whenever you do X and Y happens, you also did A, B, C, D. how do you know it was X instead of A, B, C or D which caused Y? you need to think about explanations before you can choose which of the infinite correlations to pay attention to.

Elliot Temple: for example, you may have some understanding that Y would be caused by something that isn't separated in space or time from it by very much. that's a conceptual, explanatory understanding about Y which is very important to deciding what may have caused Y.

Andrew Crawshaw: Again, it's not a criticism of the guess. It's a criticism of how the person acted.

The rest of your statements are compatible with what I am saying. Which is just that it can be done and explanations are not necessary either for using something or creating something. As the case of animals surely shows.

You don't know, you took a guess. You can't know before you guess that your guess was wrong.

Elliot Temple: "I guess X causes Y so I'll do X" is the thing being criticized. If the theory is just "Maybe X causes Y, and this is a thing to think about more" then no action is implied (besides thinking and research) and it's harder to criticize. those are different theories.

even the "Maybe X causes Y" thing is suspect. why do you think so? You did 50 million actions in your life and then Y happened. Why do you think X was the cause? You have some explanations informing this judgement!

Andrew Crawshaw: There is no difference between maybe Y and Y. It's always maybe Y. Unless refuted.

Andrew Crawshaw: You are subjectivist and justificationist as far as I can tell. A guess is objective and if someone despite the fact that they have bad judgement guesses correctly. They still guess correctly. Nothing mitigates the precariousness of this situation. Criticism is the other component.

Elliot Temple: If the guess is just "X causes Y", period, you can put that on the table of ideas to consider. However, it will be criticized as worthless: maybe A, B, or C causes Y. Maybe Y is self-caused. There's no reason to care about this guess. It doesn't even include any mention of Y ever happening.

Andrew Crawshaw: The guess won't be criticised, what will be noticed is that it shouts out for explanation and someone might offer it.

Elliot Temple: If the guess is "Maybe X causes Y because I once saw Y happen 20 seconds after X" then that's a better guess, but it will still get criticized: all sorts of things were going on at all sorts of different times before Y. so why think X caused Y?

Elliot Temple: yes: making a new guess which adds an explanation would address the criticism. people are welcome to try.

Elliot Temple: they should not, however, go test X with no explanation.

Andrew Crawshaw: That's good, but one of the best ways to criticise it, is to try it again and see if it works.

Elliot Temple: you need an explanation to understand what would even be a relevant test.

Elliot Temple: how do you try it again? how do you know what's included in X and what isn't included? you need an explanation to differentiate relevant stuff from irrelevant

Elliot Temple: as the standard CR anti-inductivist argument goes: there are infinite patterns and correlations. how do you pick which ones to pay attention to?

Elliot Temple: you shouldn't pick one thing, arbitrarily, from an INFINITE set and then test it. that's a bad idea. that's not how scientific progress is made.

Elliot Temple: what you need to do is have some conceptual understanding of what's going on. some explanations of what types of things might be relevant to causing Y and what isn't relevant, and then you can start doing experiments guided by your explanatory knowledge of physics, reality, some possible causes, etc

Elliot Temple: i am not a subjectivist or justificationist, and i don't see what's productive about the accusation. i'm willing to ignore it, but in that case it won't be contributing positively to the discussion.

Andrew Crawshaw: I am not saying that we have no knowledge. I am sayjng that we don't have an explanation of the mechanism.

Elliot Temple: can you give an example? i think you do have an explanation and you just aren't recognizing what you have.

Andrew Crawshaw: For instance, washing hands and it's link to mortality rates.

Elliot Temple: There was an explanation there: something like taint could potentially travel with hands.

Elliot Temple: This built on previous explanations people had about e.g. illnesses spreading to nearby people.

Andrew Crawshaw: Right, but the use of soap was not derived from the explanation. And that explanation might have been around before, and no such soap was used because of it.

Elliot Temple: What are you claiming happened, exactly?

Andrew Crawshaw: I am claiming that soap was invented for various reasons and then it turned out that the soap could be used for reducing mortality"

Elliot Temple: That's called "reach" in BoI. Where is the contradiction to anything I said?

Andrew Crawshaw: Reach of explanations. It was not the explanation, it was the invention of soap itself. Which was not anticipated or even encouraged by explanations. Soap is invented, used in a context an explanation might be applied to it. Then it is used in another context and again the explanation is retroactively applied to it. The explantion does not necessarily suggest more uses, nor need it.

Elliot Temple: You're being vague about the history. There were explanations involved, which you would see if you analyzed the details well.

Andrew Crawshaw: So, what if there were explanations "involved" The explanations don't add anything to the discovery of the uses of the soap. This are usually stumbled in by accident. And refinements to soaps as well for those different contexts.

Andrew Crawshaw: I am just saying that explanations of the soap works very rarely suggest new avenues. It's often a matter of trial and error.

Elliot Temple: You aren't addressing the infinite correlations/patterns point, which is a very important CR argument. Similarly, one can't observe without some knowledge first – all observation is theory laden. So one doesn't just observe that X is correlated to Y without first having a conceptual understanding for that to fit into.

Historically, you don't have any detailed counter example to what I'm saying, you're just speculating non-specifically in line with your philosophical views.

Andrew Crawshaw: It's an argument against induction. Not against guesswork informed by earlier guesswork, that often turns out to be mistaken. All explanations do is rule things out. unless they are rules for use, but these are developed while we try out those things.

Elliot Temple: It's an argument against what you were saying about observing X correlated with Y. There are infinite correlations. You can either observe randomly (not useful, has roughly 1/infinity chance of finding solutions, aka zero) or you can observe according to explanations.

Elliot Temple: You're saying to recognize a correlation and then do trial and error. But which one? Your position has elements of standard inductivist thinking in it.

Andrew Crawshaw: I never said anything about correlation - you did.

What is said was we could guess that x caused y and be correct. That's what I said, nothing more mothing less.

Andrew Crawshaw: One instance does not a correlation make.

Elliot Temple: You could also guess Z caused Y. Why are you guessing X caused Y? Filling up the potential-ideas with an INFINITE set of guesses isn't going to work. You're paying selective attention to some guesses over others.

Elliot Temple: This selective attention is either due to explanations (great!) or else it's the standard way inductivists think. Or else it's ... what else could it be?

Andrew Crawshaw: Why not? Criticise it. If you have a scientific theory that rules my guess out, that would be intersting. But saying why not this guess and why not that one. Some guesses are not considered by you maybe because they are ruled out by other expectations, or ey do not occurs to you.

Elliot Temple: The approach of taking arbitrary guesses out of an infinite set and trying to test them is infinitely slow and unproductive. That's why not. And we have much better things we can do instead.

Elliot Temple: No one does this. What they do is pick certain guesses according to unconscious or unstated explanations, which are often biased and crappy b/c they aren't being critically considered. We can do better – we can talk about the explanations we're using instead of hiding them.

Andrew Crawshaw: So, you are basically gonna ignore the fact that I have agreed that expecations and earlier knowledge do create selective attention, but what to isolate is neither determined by theory, nor by earlier perceptions, it is large amount guesswork controlled by criticism. Humans can do this rapidly and well.

Elliot Temple: Please rewrite that clearly and grammatically.

Andrew Crawshaw: It's like you are claiming there is no novelty in guesswork, if we already have that as part of our expectation ps it was not guesswork.

Elliot Temple: I am not claiming "there is no novelty in guesswork".

Andrew Crawshaw: So we are in agreement, then. Which is just that there are novel situations and our guesses are also novel. How we eliminate them is through other guesses. Therefore the guesses are sui generiz and then deselected according earlier expecations. It does not follow that the guess was positively informed by anything. It was a guess about what caused what.

Elliot Temple: Only guesses involving explanations are interesting and productive. You need to have some idea of how/why X causes Y or it isn't worth attention. It's fine if this explanation is due to your earlier knowledge, or it can be a new idea that is part of the guess.

Andrew Crawshaw: I don't think that's true. Again beavers make interesting and productive dams.

Elliot Temple: Beavers don't choose from infinite options. Can we stick to humans?

Andrew Crawshaw: Humans don't choose from infinite options....They choose from the guess that occur to them, which are not infinite. Their perception is controlled by both pyshiologival factors and their expectations. Novel situations require guesswork, because guesswork is flexible.

Elliot Temple: Humans constantly deal with infinite categories. E.g. "Something caused Y". OK, what? It could be an abstraction such as any integer. It could be any action in my whole life, or anyone else's life, or something nature did. There's infinite possibilities to deal with when you try to think about causes. You have to have explanations to narrow things down, you can't do it without explanations.

Elliot Temple: Arbitrary assertions like "The abstract integer 3 caused Y" are not productive with no explanation of how that could be possible attached to the guess. There are infinitely more where that came from. You won't get anywhere if you don't criticize "The abstract integer 3 caused Y" for its arbitrariness, lack of explanation of how it could possibly work, etc

Elliot Temple: You narrow things down. You guess that a physical event less than an hour before Y and less than a quarter mile distant caused Y. You explain those guesses, you don't just make them arbitrarily (there are infinite guesses you could make like that, and also that category of guess isn't always appropriate). You expose those explanations to criticism as the way to find out if they are any good.

Andrew Crawshaw: You are arguing for an impossible demand that you yourself can't meet, event when you have explanations. It does not narrow it down from infinity. What narrows it down is our capacity to form guess which is temporal and limited. It's our brains ability to process and to intepret that information.

Elliot Temple: No, we can deal with infinite sets. We don't narrow things down with our inability, we use explanations. I can and do do this. So do you. Explanations can have reach and exclude whole categories of stuff at once.

Andrew Crawshaw: But it does not reduce it to less than infinite. Explanations allow an infinite amount of thugs most of them useless. It's what they rule out, and things they can rule out is guess work. And this is done over time. So we might guess this and then guess that x caused y, we try it again and it might not work, so we try to vary the situation and in the way develope criticism and more guesses.

Elliot Temple: Let's step back. I think you're lost, but you could potentially learn to understand these things. You think I'm mistaken. Do you want to sort this out? How much energy do you want to devote to this? If you learn that I was right, what will you do next? Will you join my forum and start contributing? Will you study philosophy more? What values do you offer, and what values do you seek?

Andrew Crawshaw: Mostly explanations take time to understand why they conflict with some guess. It might be that the guess only approximates the truth and then find later that it is wrong because we look more into the explanation of i.

Andrew Crawshaw: Elliot, if you wish to meta, I will step out of the conversation. It was interesting, yet you still refuse to concede my point that inventions can be created without explanations. But yet this is refuted by the creations of animals and many creations of humans. You won't concede this point and then make your claims pretty well trivial. Like you need some kind od thing to direct what you are doing. When the whole point is the Genesis of new ideas and inventions and theories which cannot be suggest by earlier explanations. It is true that explanations can help, I refining and understanding. But that is not the whole story of human cognition or human invention.

Elliot Temple: So you have zero interest in, e.g., attempting to improve our method of discussion, and you'd prefer to either keep going in circles or give up entirely?

Elliot Temple: I think we could resolve the disagreement and come to agree, if we make an effort to, AND we don't put arbitrary boundaries on what kinds of solutions and actions are allowed to be part of the problem solving process. I think if you make methodology off-limits, you are sabotaging the discussion and preventing its rational resolution.

Elliot Temple: Not everything is working great. We could fix it. Or you could just unilaterally blame me and quit..?

Andrew Crawshaw: Sorry, I am not blaming you for anything.

Elliot Temple: OK, you just don't really care?

Andrew Crawshaw: Wait. I want to say two things.

  1. It's 5 in the morning, and I was working all day, so I am exhausted.

  2. This discussion is interesting, but fragmented. I need to moderate my posts on here, now. And recuperate.

Elliot Temple: I haven't asked for fast replies. You can reply on your schedule.

Elliot Temple: These issues will still be here, and important, tomorrow and the next day. My questions are open. I have no objection to you sleeping, and whatever else, prior to answering.

Andrew Crawshaw: Oh, I know you haven't asked for replies. I just get very involved in discussion. When I do I stop monitoring my tiredness levels and etc.

I know this discussion is important. The issues and problems.

Elliot Temple: If you want to drop it, you can do that too, but I'd want to know why, and I might not want to have future discussions with you if I expect you'll just argue a while and then drop it.

Andrew Crawshaw: Like to know why? I have been up since very early yesterday, like 6. I don't want to drop the discussion I want to postpone it, if you will.

Elliot Temple: That's not a reason to drop the conversation, it's a reason to write your next reply at a later time.

Andrew Crawshaw: I explicitly said: I don't want to drop the discussion.

Your next claim is a non-sequitur. A conversation can be resumed in many ways. I take it you think it would be better for me to initiate it.

Andrew Crawshaw: I will read back through the comments and see where this has lead and then I will post something on fallible ideas forum.

Elliot Temple: You wrote:

Elliot, if you wish to meta, I will step out of the conversation.

I read "step out" as quit.

Anyway, please reply to my message beginning "Let's step back." whenever you're ready. Switching forums would be great, sure :)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (17)

Yes or No Philosophy Discussion with Andrew Crawshaw

From Facebook:

Alan Forrester:

Assigning weights to ideas never really fitted very well with critical rationalism. Evolution doesn't assign points to genes: they either survive and get copied or they don't. The same is true for an idea: it either solves a problem or it doesn't. This post is relevant to whether there is always a solution to a problem or if we have to weigh ideas to avoid throwing away conflicting ideas that might be okay.

BC: "The same is true for an idea: it either solves a problem or it doesn't." quote

Well who determines whether a problem is solved or not or even what is the problem? The problem of the basis, empirical or otherwise? The search for the algorithm to end all algorithms?

Elliot Temple: problems are solved, or not, in objective reality. people try to understand this with guesses and criticism, as always. there's no authorities. "who determines...?" is begging for an authoritarian answer just like "who should rule?"

BC: "A problem is perceived as such when the progress to a goal by an obvious route is impossible and when an automatism does not provide an effective answer." (W D Wall) What determines the goal?

Elliot Temple: people are free to determine their own goals, by thinking (guesses and criticism).

BC: So what point is being made?

Elliot Temple: you asked tangential questions. i answered. it was your responsibility for them to have a point.

Andrew Crawshaw: I think, Bruce, that the point is is that CR should be about either or claims about truth and falsity. What I don't understand is why this would be incompatible with measures of verisimilitude. I do not know if either Forrester or Temple are averse verisimiltude per se. I think they are critical of the idea that we can build a theory of critical preference on top of this, which was Popper's hope.

Am I right in suggesting, Elliot, that you think that we should only act under the circumstance that there is a single exit strategy, as it is called, and if there is not a single exist strategy that there are ways of making the circumstance such that there is a single exit strategy, therefore getting rid of the need for critical preferences.

Elliot Temple: Ideas either solve a problem or they don't solve it. A criticism either explains why an idea doesn't solve a problem, or fails to. There's no room here for amounts of goodness of ideas, which is a core idea of justificationism. Yes I think critical preferences are a mistake. See:

Andrew Crawshaw: Yes, I have read that. Are you saying that, given that I have a cold, and that there are two ways of alleviating it but they are incompatible solutions to alleviating this cold, ie they cannot be taken together. Say they are both to hand and both are explained as being effective by the scientific theories we have at our disposal. Would you say then that it is not right to take either?

Elliot Temple: What does "that" refer to? I gave 3 links.

Elliot Temple: > Would you say then that it is not right to take either?

no. i don't know where that's coming from.

Andrew Crawshaw: There is only one link showing. And it says Fallible ideas - Yes or No Philosophy.

Elliot Temple: all 3 links are showing, please look in the text of the post.

Andrew Crawshaw: Okay, I was just clearing up whether I might have misinterpreted you. So your theory applies only to what theories we should act on?

Elliot Temple: No. I don't know where you're getting that interpretation either. I think it would help if you quoted the text you're talking about

Andrew Crawshaw: I am responding to your reply to my comment. I asked about single exit strategies, the scenario I gave was not a single exist strategy, I was wondering how you would answer it.

Elliot Temple: Come up with a theory about what to do that you don't have a criticism of. E.g. "I should take medicine A now b/c i don't have a better idea and it's way better than nothing and it's not worthwhile to spend more time deciding". You can form an idea like that and see if you have a criticism of it or not.

Andrew Crawshaw: But you could substitute Medicine B in your theory and the situation would still be symmetrical.

Elliot Temple: So what?

Elliot Temple: If your theory is that it's best to take one medicine, but not both or neither, and it doesn't matter which one then it's ok to choose arbitrarily or randomly. you don't have a criticism of doing so.

Andrew Crawshaw: Now, you might think my question peculiar. Say I have medicine A and medicine B, everything is exactly the same as it is in the previous scenario, except that medicine B is in the bathroom and medicine A is to hand. Could this be part of preferential decision in favour of A? Even though it's not a criticism of it as a solution?

Elliot Temple: Yes. "Why would I want to go walk to the bathroom for no reason?" is a criticism. Everything else being equal (which it usually isn't), in general I'd rather not go walk to get something.

Andrew Crawshaw: But there is a difference between the two types of criticism, one is of the solution whether it would actually solve it if carried out and the other to do with whether there are other factors. The other factors being about preference.

Elliot Temple: The idea "medicine B as a solution to problem 1" and "medicine B as a solution to problem 2" are different ideas. A criticism may apply to only one of them. The criticism that i don't want to walk and get B doesn't matter for B as a solution to problem 1 (cure my illness), but does criticize choosing B for problem 2 (what action should i take in my life right now, with the situation that A and B medicines are equally good, and the only difference is one is further away and i'd rather not go get it).

This is explained at length in my Yes or No Philosophy.

Andrew Crawshaw: Isn't it slightly unhelpful to add your preference to the formulation of the problem. I mean, in otherwords, that you can just keep extending the formulation of the problem as you think about to carry it out. it seem to me no different than weighing up preferences.

Elliot Temple: Preferences need to be dealt with by critical thinking, not weighing. Weighing doesn't work. Also explained in my Yes or No Philosophy.

Elliot Temple: Weighing is also criticized in BoI and in various blog posts. Did you read the 3 I linked you? You can find more relevant posts e.g. here which is linked at the bottom of a link i gave you:

Andrew Crawshaw: Maybe I did not communicate properly. The problem is that I want to administer medicine. I have a preference...I would rather not walk. Therefore I go for medicine A. What's changed by reformulating the problem to contain the preference?

Elliot Temple: The point isn't where you notionally put the preference – it's part of the situation in any case. The point is you have a criticism of one option (walking is too hard) and not the other.

Elliot Temple: So one always can and should act on a single, non-refuted idea.

Elliot Temple: You never have to act on a refuted idea, or try to choose between non-refuted ideas by a method other than conjectures and criticism. Such an alternative method would actually be a huge problem for epistemology and basically destroy CR.

Andrew Crawshaw: The administering of medicine B has not been refuted qua alleviating my headache.

Elliot Temple: Right, I said that too.

Andrew Crawshaw: I am not sure of the difference between critical preference and your theory. Seems to be the same theory redescribed. I will have to think about it a little.

Andrew Crawshaw: Thanks for the links, I will read them more carefully over the next week.

Andrew Crawshaw: Oh, Elliot, could you give me the chapter of BoI, where weighing is criticised.

Elliot Temple: 13. Choices

Andrew Crawshaw: Thanks

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Do Thousands of Error Corrections

This is from a Fallible Ideas email.

I wrote (Sept 2017):

but i also did NOT just accept whatever DD said b/c he said it. i expected him to be right but ALSO challenged his claims. i asked questions and argued, while expecting to lose the debate, to learn more about it. i very persistently brought stuff up again and again until i was FULLY satisfied. lots of people concede stuff and then think it's done and don't learn more about it, and end up never learning it all that well. sometimes i thought i conceded and said so, but even if i did, i had zero shame about re-opening any topic from any amount of time ago to ask a new question or ask how to address a new argument for any side.

i also fluidly talked about arguments for ANY side instead of just arguing a particular side. even if i was mostly arguing a particularly side, i'd still sometimes think of stuff for DD's side and say that too. ppl are usually so biased and one-sided with their creativity.

after i learned things from DD i found people to discuss them with, including people who disagreed with them. then if i had any trouble thoroughly winning the debate with zero known flaws on my side, zero open problems, zero unanswered criticisms, etc, then i'd go back to DD and expect more and better answers from him to address everything fully. i figured out lots of stuff myself but also my attitude of "DD is always right and knows everything" enabled me to be INFINITELY DEMANDING – i expected him to be a perfect oracle and just kept asking questions about anything and everything expecting him to always have great answers to whatever level of precision, thoroughness, etc, i wanted. when i wasn't fully convinced by every aspect of an answer i'd keep trying over and over to bring up the subject in more ways – state different arguments and ask what's wrong with them, state more versions of his position (attempting to fix some problem) and ask if that's right, find different ways to think about a question and express it, etc. this of course was very useful for encouraging DD to create more and better answers than he already knew or already had formulated in English words.

i didn't 100% literally expect him to know everything, but it was a good mantra and was compatible with questioning him, debating him, etc. it's important to be able to expect to be mistaken and lose a debate and still have it, eagerly and thoroughly. and to keep saying every damn doubt you have, every counter-argument you think of, to address ALL of them, even when you're pretty convinced by some main points that you must be badly wrong or ignorant.

anyway the method of not being satisfied with explanations until i'd explained them myself to teach others and win several debates – with NO outstanding known hiccups, flaws, etc – is really good. that's the kind of standard of knowledge people need.

Anne B replied (Sept 2017):

Is this a model you recommend for the rest of us to learn? I can give it a try but I don't think it'll be easy for me for two reasons.

1) I've spent decades trying to be a person who DOESN'T argue. What I usually do when someone says something I don't agree with is stop talking about it. I don't want to rock any boats or get anyone mad at me, especially if I'm wrong.

2) I don't really believe that I could very often reach a point of understanding something so well that I could easily refute any competing arguments. I picture myself asking a question here, someone giving an answer I don't fully believe or understand, then doing a bit of arguing back and forth but never reaching a point where we both understand and agree. I'd give up long before that, not wanting to press the issue, and just "agree to disagree" in my mind. Out loud I might concede. Do you really think I could succeed at this kind of arguing? (By succeed I mean fully convince myself of anything?)

Why can I write decent sentences but Kate and most people are bad at it? (See the "Running your own life" discussion from today.)

Because I found thousands of flaws with my writing in the past (including by listening to criticism) and made efforts to fix those flaws.

I did thousands of error corrections. That's what it takes to be good at something which is moderately difficult.

doing thousands of error corrections requires an attitude towards life and learning. you have to be interested in mistakes, including small mistakes, and make changes to address them.

it also requires being able to make changes without it being a huge cost. if changing anything is super expensive, you'll only do it for BIG fixes. you need changing to be cheap to do it thousands of times.

there's no other way to build up skill. you need to be able to make changes cheaply and do thousands of them. and the changes should focus on error correction.

anyone could do this but most people don't want to. and many people have lots of anti-change stuff in their minds getting in the way. but the disinterest in error correction is problem number one. if people cared enough, then they could start a series of enthusiastic attempts to do something about their change-is-expensive problem.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (3)

Human Problems and Abstract Problems

This is an email I wrote in July 2013. I'm replying to David Deutsch (Feb 2001) who is in regular yellow quotes and was addressing the topic, Are common preferences always possible?. Two quote levels is Demosthenes (Feb 2001).

Susan Ramirez asked (Feb, 1997):

Why do you believe that it is always possible to create a common preference?

Sarah Lawrence replied (Jan, 2001)

This question is important because it is the same as - Are there some problems which in principle cannot be solved? Or, when applied to human affairs: - Is coercion (or even force, or the threat of force) an objectively inevitable feature of certain situations, or is it always the result of a failure to find the solution which, in principle, exists?

David Deutsch begins his reply:

I think that both Sarah and Demosthenes (below) somewhat oversimplify when they identify 'avoiding coercion' with 'problem-solving'. For instance, Sarah says "This question ... Is the same as[:] Are there some problems

Let's watch out for different uses of the word "problem". [This unquoted material is Elliot writing.]

which in principle cannot be solved?" Well, in a sense it is the same issue. But due to the imprecision of everyday language, this also gives the impression that avoiding coercion depends on everyone adopting the same theory (the solution, the common preference) about whatever was at issue. In fact, that is seldom literally the case, because the parties' conceptions of what is 'at issue' typically change quite radically during common-preference finding. All that is necessary is that the participants change to states of mind which (1) they prefer to their previous states, and (2) no longer cause them to hurt each other.

In other words, common preferences can often be much narrower than it may first appear. You needn't agree about everything, or even everything relevant, but only enough to proceed without hurting (TCS-coercing) each other (or oneself in the case of self-conflicts).

[This next section has two levels of quoting and is Demosthenes. The black bar indicates an additional level of quoting. Two levels means that I'm quoting David Deutsch quoting it.]

I agree that this question is important, though I would offer instead the following two elucidating questions:

In the sphere of human affairs:

  1. Are there any problems that would remain unavoidably insoluble even if they could be worked on without any time and resource limits?

  2. Are there any problems that are unavoidably insoluble within the time and resource limits of the real life situations in which they arise?

The word "problem" in both of these is ambiguous.

Problem-1: (we might call it "human problem"): "a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome"

Problem-2: (we might call it an "abstract problem"): "a thing that is difficult to achieve or accomplish"

There are problems, notionally, like going to the moon. But no one gets hurt unless a person has the problem of going to the moon. Problem-1 involves preferences, and the possibility of harm and TCS-coercion. And it is the type of problem which is solved by common preferences.

Problem-2, inherently, does not have time or resource limits, because the universe is not in a hurry, only people are.

So, are there any problems which are insoluble with the time and resource limits of real life situations? Not problem-2 type, because those do not arise in people's life situations, and they do not have time or resource limits.

And as for problem-1 type problems, those are always soluble (within time/resource constraints), possibly involving changing preferences. (BTW, as a general rule of thumb, in non-trivial common preference finding, all parties always change their initial preferences.)

An example:

problem-2: adding 2+2 (there is no time limit, no resource limit -- btw time is a type of resource)

problem-1: adding 2+2 within the next hour for this math test (now there are resource issues, preferences are involved)

Another way to make the distinction is:

problem-1: any problem which could TCS-coerce (hurt) someone

problen-2: any problem which could not possibly ever TCS-coerce (hurt) anyone

problem-2s are not bad. Not even potentially. Problem-1s are bad if and only if they TCS-coerce anyone. A problem like 2+2=? cannot TCS-coerce anyone, ever. There's just no way. It takes a different problem like, "A person asked me what 2+2 is, and I wanted to answer" to have the potential for TCS-coercion.

Notice solving this different problem does not necessarily require figuring out what 2+2 is. Solving problem-1s never requires solving any associated problem-2s, though that is often a good approach. But it's not necessary. So the fact that various problem-2s won't be solved this year need not hurt anyone or cause any problem-1s -- with their time limits and potential for harm -- to go unsolved.

I believe that the answer to question (1) is, no -- there are no human problems that are intrinsically insoluble, given unbounded resources.

This repeated proviso "given unbounded resources" indicates a misconception, I think. The answer to (2) is, uncontroversially, yes. Of course there exist disagreements -- both between people and within a person -- that take time to resolve, and many will not be resolved in any of our lifetimes.

I think this unclear about the two types problems. While it agrees with me in substance, it defers to ambiguous terminology that basically uses unsolved problem-2s to say there are insoluble problems and try to imply it's now talking about problem-1s.

There is a mix up regarding failure to solve an abstract problem like figuring out the right theory of physics (which two friends might disagree about) with failure to solve human problems, like the type that make those friends hurt each other.

It's harmless to have some disagreements that you "agree to disagree" about, for example. But if you can't agree to disagree, then the problem is more dangerous and urgent.

It's uncontroversial that people have unsolved abstract problems for long periods of time, e.g. they might be working on a hard math problem and not find the answer for a decade. And their friend might disagree with them about the best area to look for a solution.

But so what?

Human problems are things like, "I want to solve the problem this week" (maybe you should change your preference?) or "I want to work on the math problem and find good states of mind in regard to it, and enjoy making progress" (this human problem can easily be solved while not solving the harmless abstract problem).

But that has nothing to do with the question being discussed here.

Right because of the confusion over different meanings of "problem".

The fact that after 25 years of almost daily attention to the conflict between quantum theory and general relativity I have failed to discover a theory that I prefer to both (or indeed to either), does not indicate that I have "failed to find a common preference"

Right. Common preferences do not even apply to problem-2s, only problem-1s.

either within myself, or with other proponents of those theories, in the sense that interested Susan Ramirez. I have not found a preferred theory of physics, but I have found successively better states of mind in regard to that problem, each the result of successive failures to solve it.

However this view is only available to those of us who believe that for all moral problems there exists, in principle, a unique, objectively right solution. If you are any kind of moral relativist, or a moral pluralist (as many people seem to be) then you can have no grounds for arguing that all human disputes are in principle soluble.

It is only in spheres where the objective truth of the matter exists and is in principle discoverable, that the possibility of converging on the truth guarantees that all problems are, in principle, soluble.

I agree that for all moral problems

No clear statement of which meaning of problem this refers to.

there exists an objectively right solution, and that this is why consensual relationships -- and indeed all liberal institutions of human cooperation, including science -- can work. The mistake is to suppose that if one does not believe this, it will cease to be true. For people to be able to reach agreement, it suffices that, for whatever reason, they seek agreement in a way that conforms to the canons of rationality and are, as a matter of fact, converging on a truth. Admittedly it is a great impediment if they think that agreement is not possible, and very helpful if they think that it is, but that is certainly not essential: many a cease-fire has evolved into a peace without a further shot being fired. It is also helpful if they see themselves as cooperating in discovering an objective truth, and not merely an agreement amongst themselves, but that too is far from essential: plenty of moral relativists have done enormous good, and made enormous moral progress -- for instance towards creating institutions and traditions of tolerance -- without ever seeking an objective truth, or realising that they were finding one. In fact many did not realise that they were creating agreement at all, merely a tolerance of disagreement. And incidentally, they were increasing the number of unsolved problems in society by promoting dissent and diversity.

Increasing the number of unsolved problem-2s, but decreasing the number of unsolved problem-1s.

What we need to avoid, both in society and in our own minds, is not unsolved problems,

Ambiguous between problem-1s and problem-2s.

not even insoluble problems,

Ambiguous between problem-1s and problem-2s.

Also doesn't seem to be counting preference changing as a solution, contrary to the standard TCS attitude which regards preference changing as a normal part of common preference finding, and part of problem solving.

but a state in which our problems are not being solved

But this time it means problem-1s.

-- where thinking is occurring but none of our theories are changing.

I believe that the answer to question (2) is yes -- human problems that cannot be solved even in principle, given the prevailing time and resource constraint, are legion. Albeit, nowhere near as legion as non-TCS believers would have it. My main argument in support of this thesis is based on introspection: Let him or her who is without ongoing inner conflict proffer the first refutation.

This is a bit like saying, at the time of the Renaissance, that science is impossible because "let him who is without superstition proffer the first refutation". The whole point about reason is that it does not require everything to be right before it can work. That is just another version of the "who should rule?" error in politics. The important thing is not to start out right, but to try to set things up in such a way that what is wrong can be altered. The object of the exercise is not to create a chimerical (and highly undesirable!) problem-free state,

A problem-2-free state is bad. As in, not having any problems we might like to work on. This is bad because it creates a very hard problem-1: the problem of boredom (having no problem-2s to work on, while wanting some will cause TCS-coercion).

A problem-1-free state is ... well there is another ambiguity. Problem-1s are fine if one is rationally coping with them. It's not bad to have human problems and deal with them. What's bad is failure to cope with them, i.e. TCS-coercion.

How can we tell which/when problem-1s get bad? When they do harm (TCS-coercion).

To put it another way: problem-1s are bad when one acts on an idea while having a criticism of it. But if it's just the potential for such a thing in the future, that's part of normal life and fine.

but simply to embark upon actually solving problems rather than being stuck not solving any (or not solving one's own, anyway). Happiness is solving one's problems, not 'being without problems'.

"one's problems" refers only to problem-1s, but "being without problems" and "actually solving problems" are ambiguous.

In other words, I suggest that there isn't a person alive whose creativity is not diminished in some significant way by the existence of inner conflict. Or rather dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of inner conflicts.

Yes. But having diminished creativity (compared to what is maximally possible, presumably) is and always will be the human condition. Minds are fallible. Fortunately, it is not one's distance from the ideal state that makes one unhappy, but an inability to move towards it.

And if you cannot find a common preference for all the problems that arise within your own mind, it is a logical absurdity to expect to be able always to find a common preference with another, equally conflicted, mind.

Just as well, really. If you found a common preference for all the problems within your own mind, you'd be dead. If you found a common preference for all the problems you have with another person with whom you interact closely, you'd be the same person.


However, and it is an important however, to approach this goal we must dare to face the inescapable facts that, in practice, it is by no means always possible to find a common preference; that therefore it is not always possible to avoid coercion;

This does not follow, or at least, not in any useful sense. Demosthenes could just as well have make the identical comments about science:

[Demosthenes could have written:]

In the sphere of science:

  1. Are there any problems that would remain unavoidably insoluble even if they could be worked on without any time and resource limits?

  2. Are there any problems that are unavoidably insoluble within the time and resource limits of the real life situations in which they arise?

I believe that the answer to question (1) is, no -- there are no scientific problems that are intrinsically insoluble, given unbounded resources.

Right. And why should it follow from this that a certain minimum of superstition is unavoidable in any scientific enterprise, and that people who try to reject superstition on principle will undergo "intellectual and moral corrosion" if, as is inevitable, they fail to achieve this perfectly -- or even if they fail completely?

As Bronowski stressed and illustrated in so many ways, doing science depends on adopting a certain morality: a desire for truth, a tolerance, an openness to change, an awareness of one's own fallibility and the fallibility of authority, yet also a respect and understanding for tradition ... (It's the same morality as TCS depends on.) And yes, no scientist has ever been entirely free from irrationality, superstition, dogma and all the things that the canons of rationality say are supposed to be absent from a true scientist's mind. Yet none of that provides the slightest argument that a person entering upon a life of science is likely to become unhappy

Tangent: this is a misuse of probability. Whether that happens depends on human choices not chance.

in their work, is likely to find their enterprise ruined either because they encounter a scientific problem that they never solve, or because they fail to rid their own minds of certain superstitions that prevent them from solving anything.

The thing is, all these sweeping statements about insoluble problems


and unlimited resources, though true (some of them trivially, some because of fallibilism) are irrelevant to the issue here, of whether a lifestyle that rejects coercion is possible and practical in the here and now. A TCS family can and should reject coercion in exactly the same sense, and by the same means, and for the same reason, as a scientist can and should reject superstition. And to the same extent: utterly. In neither case can the objective ever be achieved perfectly, with finite resources. In neither case can any guarantee be given about what the outcome will be. Will they be happier than if they become astrologers instead? Who knows? And certainly good intentions alone can guarantee nothing. In neither case can the enterprise be without setbacks and failures, perhaps disasters. And in neither case is any of this important, because ... well, whatever goes wrong, however badly, superstition is going to make it worse.

-- David Deutsch

Josh Jordan wrote:

I think it makes sense to proceed according to the best plan you have, even if you know of flaws in it.

What if those flaws are superstition? Or TCS-coercion?

Whatever happens, acting against one's best judgment -- e.g. by disregarding criticisms of flaws one knows -- is only going to make things worse.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Discussion: Politicizing the Las Vegas Tragedy

From Facebook:

Evan O'Leary:

What is with people who don't like things to be "politicized"? Do you not want people you tribally dislike to say reasonable things because then you'll have to disagree with them because you were born with nothing but an amygdala for a brain?
EDIT: good point made in the comments, exploiting people's emotions to manipulate their political beliefs while they're in a less rational state is bad

Elliot Temple:
i take it you're insulting right wingers including classical liberals who believe in freedom regarding the issue of gun control. i'd suggest being more clear about what your point is in the future.

so, regarding gun control: instead of insulting people, i think it'd be better to try to investigate, in an objective, scholarly way, whether the factual claims in this book are correct or incorrect:

Evan O'Leary:
 I'd suggest being less paranoid, you're wrong about what I'm arguing

Elliot Temple:
 then clarify

Evan O'Leary:
 There's nothing in my post that needs clarification, people on the left get mad at the NRA for "politicizing" shootings too when they say less people would have died if one of the hostages was carrying a gun

Elliot Temple:
 do you have an example of that? for example, Hillary chose to politicize the shooting rather than accuse the NRA of politicizing. By contrast, I say many right wingers complaining about Hillary politicizing it.

Evan O'Leary:
 Sure, let me find it. There was some hostage situation in recent years when people said open carry would have prevented it

Elliot Temple:
 Hold on, let's stick to the Vegas shooting and representative examples! I'm sure somewhere in history you'll find one example.

Evan O'Leary:
 Not just open carry but also when refugees commit shootings the right politicizes it with immigration

Elliot Temple:
 Are you in favor of gun control or against it?

Evan O'Leary:
 Can't find the hostage situation rn, do you disagree with the immigration point?

I'm not sure what to think about gun control

Elliot Temple:
 I agree that the right sometimes politicizes shootings, but in my understanding the dominant trend after the Vegas shooting – which is the context of your post – was the left politicizing it and the right criticizing the politicization. If I'm mistaken because I didn't see a broad enough sample of political messaging, I'd appreciate the correction. If you saw it similarly, then wasn't your post a reaction to some right winger comments?

Evan O'Leary:
 It was caused by me seeing right winger comments and seeing a problem with the "don't politicize" part of the argument, not the "gun control has downsides" part

Elliot Temple:
 views on gun control are relevant here. e.g. consider Hillary's pivot to bringing up silencers. was that relevant and reasonable, or just unreasonably trying to use the tragedy in an unrelated way? people who have knowledge about silencers and gun rights are going to have a different perspective on Hillary's comments than someone who is neutral. Part of their reaction – which you took issue with – was due to knowledge of the issues, not tribalism and amygdalae.

Elliot Temple:
 Hunters want suppressors to prevent damage to their ears and their dogs' ears, and to be better able to hear each other and prevent dangerous hunting miscommunications. That's what Hillary pivoted to the tragedy to.

Elliot Temple:
 A reasonable response would be to call Hillary Clinton dishonest, because her comments were an attempt to shoehorn an unrelated agenda where it didn't fit and mislead the public. The discussion is ready to go straight into the mud. But do we want a bunch of mud slinging and character attacks and typical political dirty fighting to be the centerpiece of the national discussion of the Vegas tragedy? As much as I'm personally pretty willing to debate anything, I do see why people could object to this!

Elliot Temple:
 and the reason some people don't want a bunch of murder to be politicized is because of their respect for life and human dignity.

Evan O'Leary:
 What about politics inherently lacks respect for that

Elliot Temple:
 many political discussions aren't respectful of the gravity of mass murder, as i'm sure you've observed

Evan O'Leary:
 Is that because they're political?

Elliot Temple:
 Partly, yes. Some types of discussions are more known for human decency than others.

Evan O'Leary:
 The only political discussions which lack respect for life and dignity are the ones with bad political arguments

Any solution to this issue is going to be one of policy, so even if politics causes irrationality in humans, our other choice is having murder problems which don't seem less important than irrationality

Elliot Temple:
 "The only political discussions which lack respect for life and dignity are the ones with bad political arguments"

So, most of them? Do you see the problem?

Elliot Temple:
 No one is objecting to debating the issues at some point, and trying to make the discussions civil. But there are questions about the apporpriate immediate comments from public figures. Should they prioritize attempting a dirty political sound byte, or perhaps is it better to begin by saying something about their respect for human life and how sad they are about the tragedy, and then try to debate gun control issues in the normal ways afterwards?

Evan O'Leary:
 The better explanation is irrationality, not politics

Evan O'Leary:
 "Don't politicize" is a problematic criterion, and we have a better criterion, "don't be irrational"

Elliot Temple:
 People debate what is irrational or not. Being more specific is good sometimes.

Elliot Temple:
 Of course it's a problematic criterion. They aren't having extensive serious discussions with both sides engaging with each other. It's not a very intellectual forum.

Justin Mallone:
some on the left have definitely taken the tone of "fuck talking about respect for human life. now is the time for drastic political action." one example is literally not attending a moment of silence as a political protest due to insufficient gun control:

Evan O'Leary:
 A better criterion would be "don't politicize too soon after tragedies", but even that creates problems that aren't clearly improvements, because people lose political motivation after tragedies

Elliot Temple:
 that's roughly what lots of them meant, though the issue isn't entirely a matter of time. part of the issue is what you say in the time before the political debate. and your actual attitudes, not just statements.

Elliot Temple:
 and btw they primarily meant for the anti-politicization comments to apply to public figures, and people participating in the hashtags/slogans/yelling kind of politics, not discussions on serious debating forums.

Justin Mallone:
I saw a formulation of don't politicize idea from a right-winger (FYI Elliot, it was Tracinski) that just said wait 72 hours after tragedy. very modest standard but people couldn't even come close to that

Elliot Temple:
 some major voices on the left are really eager to proclaim that they know the solution to tragedies like this. some major voices on the right disagree, and think they have better solutions, but are more willing to try to set that disagreement aside briefly to have some unity in mourning.

Elliot Temple:
 can we pray together and try to think things over for a few days before we go back to squabbling over the same bitter disagreement we've been fighting about for decades?

^ I think that's a reasonable attitude.

Elliot Temple:
 can we, in the wake of the tragedy, use it as a reminder that we're on the same side, instead of using it as leverage to be divisive?

Elliot Temple:
 unfortunately i honestly don't think Hillary Clinton is on the same side as the rest of us. but i can sympathize with people who take the above kind of attitude, and i think most of the left are reasonably decent people.

Elliot Temple:

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Comments on Behavioral Genetics Lecture

These are my comments on the first 49 minutes of Behavioral Genetics II, a 2010 lecture from Robert Sapolsky at Stanford.

Around 30 seconds in, the foxes thing is wrong. He says fox breeding shows evolution moving really fast. But it's not evolution of new traits, it's just adjusting the parameters for traits which evolved in the past. Dawkins made the same mistake. See:

The takeaway is the video lecturer and Dawkins are not philosophers and they routinely get things wrong when they stray into philosophy issues without realizing it. To understand knowledge creation correctly you have to study epistemology. Evolution itself is a theory of epistemology, and many people trying to talk about it don't even know what field it belongs to. The application of evolution to biology and genes is just one implication of the more general epistemological theory.

Also, regarding fox comparisons: humans are fundamentally different than animals because humans have intelligence software (universal knowledge creation software) and animals don't.

Around 12min, the lecturer talks about genetic markers. Note those are correlations. At 14min he says people carefully checked their statistics to decide how certain they were because things like terminating pregnancies was at stake. But no amount of statistics can ever turn correlations into causations. Before advising a single person to terminate pregnancy, you must have discussions, with arguments and criticism, that try to understand the causality. The video doesn't attempt to discuss how to do this well, or mention the necessity of it. Again this is running into a philosophical issue (how to have a productive debate to seek the truth) and these people aren't philosophers and don't know what they're doing (they don't even realize when they stray out of their field, into a different field they are bad at).

Around 21min the lecturer suggests that genes can control human behavior, with no awareness that memetic evolution and intelligent decision making are the dominant issues for human behavior. He brings up extrapolating from animal genes to humans, including in the case of behavior, without realizing this huge difference. (Extrapolations from animals like that can be reasonable guesses for non-behavior issues like hair color.)

So far the lecturer hasn't said a word about gene-environment interactions or about memes. But once memes existed, they evolved faster than genes and therefore outraced genes to meet lots of selection pressures and therefore there are memes instead of genes for lots of human behaviors.

At 24:15 he brags about how a paper was in a "very prestigious" journal. He's interested in social status instead of truth. The study he talks about is just a correlation study, so who cares? And he didn't name it and they didn't bother putting a citation for it in the YouTube description. Then he talks about a second study, and it's the same thing: he just summarizes the conclusions and expects people to accept these claims without any arguments that they are true. He's just completely ignoring the gene-environment interaction issue, and memes, and it makes what he's saying misleading and unproductive.

At 26min he talks about the amygdala having to do with fear and anxiety. He buys into the standard belief about specialized brain regions for different functions. That is contradicted by the universality view. How can such a disagreement be settled? By debate. David Deutsch, myself and others have debated anyone who was willing to have a serious discussion for many years. And we've sought out people and asked if they had any criticisms of our arguments. There is no one from the other side who is able to win this debate against us. This is partly because, again, they aren't philosophers and knowing how to judge ideas in a debate is a philosophy skill. They don't know how to argue well, which is why they've accepted the wrong ideas and are unwilling to deal with criticism.

Where's the "behavioral memetics" lecture? It's not on the playlist.

I have nothing against this particular lecturer. Everything he said is standard and normal. That doesn't prevent it from containing major errors, which are known, and which a lot of people don't want to hear about. I will debate this lecturer, or whoever else, in writing, with no time limits, in a serious, scholarly way. I will continue the discussion to a conclusion instead of giving up and trying to "agree to disagree" and refusing to answer further criticisms and questions. But he won't do it.

At 40min the lecturer brings up heritability. He correctly says that people misunderstand heritability. That's typical. Experts in the field often do know what "heritability" means (they defined "heritability" totally differently than the regular word so that it'd be easier to study), but then the media misreports all the heritability studies. A great source on heritability is Yet More on the Heritability and Malleability of IQ. It has important points that the lecture leaves out.

Around 46:45 the lecturer uses the word "explained" to mean "correlated with". That's so typical and bad.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Mental Illness" Discussion with Andrew Adams

From Twitter.

Andrew Adams

What are your thoughts on having harsher regulations? E.g., making it harder for mentally ill to access guns, etc?

Elliot Temple

I favor much less regulation of guns. I am especially opposed to "mental illness" laws:

Andrew Adams

I will read up on him and will get back to you. In meanwhile I'll ask you this question, if mental disorders could be detected like. heart diseases, or kidney diseases are detected, would you favor regulation on people who show signs of severe unstable moods or psycopathy?

[quoting from Szasz manifesto] "Classifying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as diseases is a logical and semantic error". I have to disagree. The brain is a biological organism and the diseases related to it are well studied and well known. Would you give a gun to someone who showed..signs if psycopathy or borderline personality disorder for example?

Elliot Temple

i am open to regulation of medically detectable defects, like requiring someone with testably bad vision to wear glasses when driving.

it would need to be an actual medical test like for cancer, not a person judging someone's mood. preferably detectable at autopsy.

Andrew Adams

I'm glad we agree on that. I come from a human behavioral biology background, and what Szasz claims seems bizzare. I will read his writings.

Elliot Temple

Szasz agrees with that too, FYI. Though he would point out that would be a physical brain illness, not an illness of a mind.

Minds have bad ideas, which are different than illnesses.

Andrew Adams

And why brain, which is a biological organism like heart and kidney, can't cause a problem that can be called a disease? It seems to me that the fact that we can't diagnose mental diseases the way we diagnose other organs, due to its complexity, makes you to believe we can't have mental disorders. Imagine you had diabetes, and for some reason science couldn't yet see what's going on, but certainly we got all the diagnoses that a diabetic person has. Wouldn't be absurd to not call that a disease?

Elliot Temple

There are brain diseases, but they aren't "mental illnesses", they are "brain illnesses". And schizophrenia and autism are myths.

Though, as with many myths, there is some true element: some people behave in socially-disapproved ways and others want to stigmatize them.

With depression: true that some ppl r VERY sad, have MAJOR life problems. False that their bad situation, bad coping ideas, etc, is illness

it doesn't "make" me believe anything, it's one problematic issue, among many, for psychiatry.

"mind disorders" (bad ideas, a disordered mind) is a problem, but is not the same category of thing as cancer.

i think this is too hard to follow on twitter with every message divided into multiple tweets. could you reply on my blog comments?

Andrew Adams

If you hallucinate and hear sounds in your head, is that due to bad ideas? Or the way your brain is wired?

Sure. Under the same page you posted the longer answer?

Elliot Temple

i made a fresh page:

Andrew Adams

Can we please communicate through the direct message? That's much faster and we can engage each other.

Elliot Temple

i would prefer the blog. i will talk here if you're unwilling and you give me permission to quote anything here.

Andrew Adams

You can quote anything you want.

So let's see. You believe brain is a biological organ right? No souls and superstitious there, correct?

Elliot Temple


Andrew Adams

And a biological thing can get fucked up, as we are seeing with all the other things. RIght?

Elliot Temple

the mind is software and the details of the brain are irrelevant to the mind in the same way that you can run the same software on different PCs.

yes brain damage is a thing, just like e.g. a ram stick going bad.

Andrew Adams

Okay this is where I think you're wrong, with all due respect. I'll explain. The software is there because of the way the brain is wired. It's not something separate built on top of those neurons. Your behavior is due to the wiring. That's why if the wiring gets screwed up, you have no way to upgrade the software. Those two are not independent.

It's like saying to a diabetes, person: man stop it with the insulin thing. It's getting really annoying.

Elliot Temple

How did you find me? Have you read David Deutsch?

Andrew Adams

I found you through Deutsch. I haven't read his books yet, but I've listened to his interviews and are somewhat aware of his positions.

Elliot Temple

The computer's behavior is due to the data on the disks, the wiring of the CPU, etc. It's not something separate either. If you hit computer components with a hammer, it affects the software that's running.

So the cases remain analogous.

hardware and software bugs are different things. both exist. right?

and there are also features which some people don't like and call bugs

Andrew Adams

But software is just instructions for the cpu, which is the hardware. If you damage the cpu, the hardware is not gonna perform as usual. Do you agree?

The software I meant

Elliot Temple

i agree that hitting a cpu or brain with a hammer can screw up the software currently running.

Andrew Adams

The software is not gonna perform as ususal

Okay. Then if the wiring is screwed up due to anomalies that we observe throughout the biological organisms, does that make that make what's happening an illness?

Elliot Temple

if there's physical brain damage, that's an illness or injury.

Andrew Adams

But it doesn't have to be a hammer hitting your brain. It's more subtle than that. The wiring can be screwed up.

It's a biological thing again. Anomalies exist.

Elliot Temple

Yes, for example in my non-expert understanding, Alzheimer's involves some brain damage which causes some memory loss issues.

Andrew Adams

You don't have to hit it from outside to screw it up.


It's the wiring that gets screwed up, hence bugs in the software.

Environment can influence your wiring.

Elliot Temple

for example, an environment with radiation. sure.

Andrew Adams

But some disorders have proven to have like 80% genetical cause.

Elliot Temple

correlation isn't causation.

Andrew Adams

It's a causation study.

Elliot Temple

have you read the studies you're referring to?

Andrew Adams


Elliot Temple

ok link one you think contains no flaws.

which involves a typical "mental illness"

Andrew Adams

Behavioral geneticists did experiments with schizophrenia. They did it on twins that were adopted at birth.

I'll find the links and send it to you

Elliot Temple

i've read studies too, as has Szasz. Schizophrenia will work fine.

just one, please.

Andrew Adams

I mean even if it's done by environment, doesn't make your argument stronger. Do you agree? No matter the cause, something is screwed up up there.


Elliot Temple

i don't think i've stated my case. i began earlier by saying that hardware and software problems are different categories of things, and both are real. do you agree?

Andrew Adams

I don't thing software is separate from hardware in the brain. All the behaviors we have is due to neurons connections to each other. As I said, software is just a set of instructions for the cpu, but the difference in the brain is that the software is not programmed separately, but also hardwired in the neurons. Say you're kind person, right? I can theoratically open your mind, change a few neuron, and you become evil. We could do that if we had the technology right?

And again, whether the behaviour is shaped by genes or environment is irrelavant.

Elliot Temple

you can also open up a computer and edit stuff to change what it does. that's the same thing.

Andrew Adams

So do you agree neurons getting screwed up is not really different from brain damage?

Elliot Temple

you can arrange your neurons in a bad configuration by forming bad ideas. you can make unwise life decisions, believe a bunch of crap from a cult, and it physically affects the arrangement of your neurons. this – people having ideas, for better or worse – is different than Alheizmers or brain cancer.

Andrew Adams

No!!! You shouldn't be an evil person to have your wiring screwed up!

Elliot Temple

the data in a computer can be screwed up due to a hard disk malfunction or due to software that writes bad data. one is a hardware error, one is a software error. they are different things.

Andrew Adams

Why do you assume only evil things are the only environmental factors that cause brain problems?

Elliot Temple

i didn't assume that. i'm trying to say that bad ideas exist. you seem to be resisting this and saying it's all just neurons.

i'm trying to use the simplest, most clearcut cases as initial examples.

people get indoctrinated into cults, and that's not an illness. right?

Andrew Adams

I'm not denying people can believe in bad ideologies and get brainwashed. But for some it's just the wiring that can be genetically or by a certain environment or by nutrition for example screwed up.

Do all people that have diabeties have had bad diets in their life?

Absolutely not.

It's sometimes merely genetic.

Elliot Temple

i'm not trying to say all people, at this time. i'm trying to establish a category exists and some stuff is in it. some people are healthy and join a cult and it's a big mistake and it has some physical affect on their neurons (e.g. they form memories of cult ideas, which then physically exist in their brain), but it's still not an illness or brain damage. it's a different thing. right?

Andrew Adams

If you were born with one of your neurons for example only one centimeter to one side, you could become a more violent person. Do you agree that?

It's just biology.

There was a man that murdered his whole family and then went to street and mass murdered a bunch of people. They opened his brain for autopsy and they found out he had two tumors in is brain.

and tumors are not the only thing that can cause that.

Elliot Temple

can you answer my question?

Andrew Adams

You can be genetically born with some kind of screwed up neurons.

I answered it. I agree that ideologies can change your neurons.

But those are not the only cases.

Some people can't just help it.

It's like saying to a diabetic person to stop it with his insulins

Elliot Temple

And you agree that ideologies are not brain damage or illness, even when a neuron changes?

Andrew Adams

brain damage IS chagne of neurons

Elliot Temple

so you think that all people adopting bad ideologies count as brain damaged and ill?

Andrew Adams

Not all changes are brain damage, but brain damage is a change in neurons

You can change your neurons and become too generous and kind

Elliot Temple

so you agree that a person can adopt a cult ideology, have neurons change, but they are not ill and are not brain damaged?

Andrew Adams

First, the fact that they have done evil things could be due to the way their neurons were wired in the first place. I mean, couldn't choose your original brain wiring could you? Second, there is a difference between adopting cult like behavior and the diseases that are categorized as mentally ill. People get moody, see things, get depressed, get anxious. These are not things you see on TV or cults and adopt.

Elliot Temple

Why won't you give a straight answer?

Andrew Adams

The fact that they first joined the cult is due to the wiring of their brain.

Elliot Temple

do you think most people are brain-damaged or not?

Andrew Adams


By that definition

I don't beleive in free will

You are nothing but the wiring of your brain

Elliot Temple

do you think most people have brain illnesses/diseases? and so you would call most people "mentally ill"?

Andrew Adams

and 90% of the environment you grew up in you didn't choose

Most people have different wirings that most don't lead to extreme behavior, but some of them are extereme. So all people are mentally ill, but only some are in the extreme side.

There is no such thing as perfect wiring

Elliot Temple

you're not using words in the way psychiatry in general does, nor the way Szasz does. this makes the discussion difficult.

Andrew Adams

Some are lucky and don't get bad wirings due to anomalies.

Some due

Do you believe in genetics?

Elliot Temple

i believe i have genes.

that question isn't very clear.

Andrew Adams

and do you believe genes determine the wiring of your initial brain?

Elliot Temple

mostly, yes. there may be some other factors in the womb.

Andrew Adams

prenatal effects true. Which you didn't choose.

So if I'm a person who by chance are born by a screwed up wiring.

am i considered ill if my behavior lead to extreme bad causes that is hurful?

Elliot Temple

are you a native English speaker?

Andrew Adams


I'm typing very fast too, my spelling and grammar are not as bad

Elliot Temple

I don't think your genes control your whole life. I think people make decisions in their life, and they're responsible for lots of what happens in their life.

Andrew Adams

But the wiring that you originally inherit is genetical, right?

Elliot Temple

Your genes create an initial brain with an intelligent mind. They set that up. If they didn't do that, you'd be screwed. But once you have that, then you have a chance to think for yourself.

The operation of your intelligent mind, not your genes, control most of what happens in your life, such as what ideas you accept.

To understand a person's life, you need to analyze how intelligence works, rather than genes.

And to know much about a person, you usually need to look at their ideas not their neurons.

Andrew Adams

But you are denying that the early years of your life and the original wiring can have huge impact.

If you were born with a set of neurons that made you a little more agressive in school, or a little less IQ, or little more depressed.

Elliot Temple

The original wiring has the impact: creates intelligence software. Your early years have a big impact because your intelligence is actively learning and thinking during that time.

Andrew Adams


Elliot Temple

IQ is a myth.

Andrew Adams

Did you choose to be born to your family?

Elliot Temple


Andrew Adams

So those crucial early years that you didn't have control over may set your neurons up in a way that can lead you to join a cult in the future. Or the way your original neurons were determined by your genes.

Elliot Temple

Having bad parents is hard and I think they can have some partial responsibility for what their children do, especially at younger ages.

However, you can still make good life choices even if you have bad parents. Especially once you're an adult and free to control your own life.

Andrew Adams

Is it possible that someone is born with a brain that is genetically wired a little screwed up?

Elliot Temple

You have power over what happens in your life. Everything isn't determined by fate.

Andrew Adams

Not fate, but genes and the environment you were didn't choose at early lives.

Elliot Temple

I don't think anyone is born a little screwed up, no. Either you have functioning intelligence software or you don't. There's no such thing as 95% intelligent.

That's not Szasz's idea btw. It was developed by David Deutsch and I.

Andrew Adams

What kind if reasoning is that? Are all people the same height or midget?

The brain is biological

Elliot Temple

It has to do with universality, which is covered in DD's books.

Andrew Adams

What universality?

Universality of computation?

Elliot Temple

there are other types of universality besides computation, such as universal knowledge creators (intelligences).

Andrew Adams

If you were born autistic, could you be the person you are now?

Elliot Temple

i think autism is a myth.

Andrew Adams

In what sense?

Elliot Temple

some parents don't like their children, and fight with them. they call those children "autistic" to stigmatize them.

Andrew Adams

What?! Are you serious?

Elliot Temple

it has nothing to do with a brain problem. it's just a disagreement, a moral conflict.

this is DD's view too.

Andrew Adams

Have you met an autistic person?

Elliot Temple

i have met a person who has been called autistic, yes.

Andrew Adams

Well, attributing all your ideas to DD doesn't make them right.

So you think a moral conflict caused that?

Elliot Temple

why don't you read this and point out which statement is false?

DD's views are not automatically true, but you shouldn't call them unserious.

Andrew Adams

Asperger is not autism

Elliot Temple

so do you think DD is correct about everything in that article?

Andrew Adams

what year was this written?

Elliot Temple

1997 like it says

it doesn't matter.

Andrew Adams

It matters!

Read this

20 years ago

Elliot Temple

what about it?

Andrew Adams

Totally different symptoms than what dd was mocking 20 years ago. A lot has changed.

Elliot Temple

no, it's the same thing as before, e.g. "Talk a lot, usually about a favorite subject. One-sided conversations are common. Internal thoughts are often verbalized." is exactly the kind of thing DD was mocking.

how is talking a lot about your favorite subject an illness?

Andrew Adams

Asperger they say is a mild case of autism, so symptomes are the watered down symptomes of autism. If you have ever seen an autistic child, how could you say it's due to a moral conflict?

Scientific american 2017

Elliot Temple

what exactly do you think could not be a parent-child conflict?

Andrew Adams

regarding autism

Elliot Temple

by autism-linked genes they mean correlated. as before, if you have a causation study, provide a link.

Andrew Adams

Let's say even it is due to parents. Does that make the person ill due to his parent's actions that he didn't choose?

Elliot Temple

in order for something to be shown to cause autism, autism would also need to be carefully defined.

Andrew Adams

How about the way they all look and act?

Elliot Temple

i don't see what hating your parents, and not being a total conformist, has to do with being ill.

Andrew Adams

that's due to moral conflict too?

Elliot Temple

i don't know what looks and actions you're referring to.

Andrew Adams

But you were saying everyone can choose the right path and stuff

Elliot Temple

in my understanding, the people called "autistic" look and act in a wide variety of different ways. they aren't all the same.

Andrew Adams

Just watch autistic kids on youtube

Elliot Temple

i have

Andrew Adams

And you think they are all due to bad parentin?


Elliot Temple

in short, yes.

Andrew Adams

Okay even let's say you're right and autism is 0% genetical and due to moral conflict of parents.

Elliot Temple

and in many cases, i don't think anything is wrong with the kid.

i think the kid is fine and the parent just doesn't like him.

Andrew Adams

They can't have eye contact, they don't react facially or understand emotions, they can't think big picture,

I've met them and they all had the same problems.

You can't deny it's problem

Elliot Temple

some people don't like to make the socially normal amount of eye contact. i don't see anything wrong with that.

Andrew Adams

Do you believe they are abnormal?

Elliot Temple

some people called autistic seem completely normal in the videos on youtube. others seem abnormal, yes, but i don't see anything bad about not making eye contact.

i don't think everyone should be a conformist who spends their whole life trying really hard to fit in and be normal.

learning what facial expressions to make, in what situations, so that people think you're normal is a skill. some people are more interested in other skills.

Andrew Adams

Is there any mental disease that you attribute to genetics?

Elliot Temple

no. all the ones with genetic, disease or injury causes are already called regular illnesses, like Alzheimer's, not "mental illnesses" like schizophrenia and autism

Andrew Adams

How about down syndrome?

Elliot Temple

that's a defective chromosone. regular illness.

Andrew Adams

So genes can get screwed up but not neurons in the brain


Elliot Temple

people are very mean to down syndrome persons similar to how they treat "autistic" people, though. that part is similar.

Andrew Adams

So genes can get screwed up but not neurons in the brain?

Elliot Temple

bad ideas aren't caused by genes.

good ideas also aren't caused by genes. genes set up intelligence software. from there, you have to look at how intelligence and ideas work, not at genes.

it's like if you buy a house, you don't blame the construction workers for when you yell at your wife in the house.

the genes are the construction workers.

they built the brain in the first place, but that doesn't mean they're controlling it later.

Andrew Adams

So a gene can make you like a down syndrome kid but the same gene structure that code for neurons can't in any way make you more aggressive or psychopathic?

Why do you assume that?

Elliot Temple

i'm not assuming it, it's implied by what's currently known about epistemology, computation, science, etc

i've studied it extensively.

Andrew Adams

Send me a study that says genes have no affect in how the neurons function later in life

Elliot Temple

my argument doesn't consist of a study.

it consists of understanding concepts like universality.

and putting them together to help you analyze and interpret various evidence, studies, behaviors, etc

why don't you send me a correct genes cause (not correlated) mental illness study? you said you had one. i don't think they exist. prove me wrong?

Andrew Adams

Elliot Temple

if you want to understand my argument, you should start by reading DD, szasz and

Andrew Adams

I just sent you a scientific study

You are taking two people and denying what the whole community of geneticists and neuroscientists beleive

that genes have affects, if not most

You believe a down syndrome kid can be born like that due to a single gene, but the millions of genes that code for intelligence have no way of affecting the way nerurons will function in future life

Elliot Temple

i'm not judging which people have how much authority, i'm looking at arguments

i've gotten a copy of the study you sent and will take a look

Andrew Adams

Just read the abstract

Elliot Temple

did you read the whole paper?

Andrew Adams

I'm not saying genes are 100%

Yeah. I even studied that in class at stanford

Elliot Temple

ok, why would i only read the abstract?

i don't understand

Andrew Adams

but even if they are 5%

Ok read the whole thing if you want.

Elliot Temple

not everything comes in amounts. let's talk about how many houses are haunted by a ghost. you can't just say "well it may not be 100% but at least 5%"

Andrew Adams

But you are the one who says the affect is zero

I'm just saying even if that's the case, that it's zero percent, that most scientist would caught at you because of it, can lead to mental illnesses that are not only caused by your actions.

5% i meant here*


The same way a single gene can cause down syndrome

why is brain an exception to biology?

explain that to me?

Elliot Temple

i read the abstract. it says it's a meta correlation study. that's what "concordance" means. i also looked at the start and it doesn't attempt to define "schizophrenia".

i agree that many people would laugh at me. that's not an argument.

Andrew Adams

tell me why a singel gene can cause down syndrome but not affects neurons?

Elliot Temple

down syndrome is different than you think.

let's try to stick to one thing at a time. this study first.

Andrew Adams

No you refused to give a study so let's talk

Elliot Temple

i'm talking about the study you gave.

Andrew Adams

yeah what about it?

Elliot Temple

you said it was a causation (not correlation) study, but the abstract says it's a correlation study.

Andrew Adams

How is it correlation?

Elliot Temple

it studies concordances (correlations) between genes and being diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Andrew Adams

They separate twins at birth, and measure if they both get schizophrenia

how's that correlation?

Identical twins

But you didn't tell me how down syndrome is different

Elliot Temple

the point of a twin study is to say they have the same genes, so if they both get schizophrenia that's evidence that schizophrenia is caused by genes. right?

one thing at a time please.

Andrew Adams



Elliot Temple

and they separate them. cuz if they are raised by the same parents, you could blame the parents.

Andrew Adams


Or the environement

Elliot Temple

that's what a correlation study means.

it's saying "when X happened, Y happened".

or when X happened, Y is more likely to happen

X is having certain genes, and Y is being diagnosed with schizophrenia

Andrew Adams

So two identical twins get separated at birth, and most get schizophrenia later on.

Is it chance that all those parents raised them schizophrenic?

Elliot Temple

it's wrote down when X happened, and wrote down when Y happened, and we analyzed the data and then we found a correlation.

do you understand that this is a correlation study?

Andrew Adams

It's a correlation yeah. But controlled.

How can you explain this study?

Elliot Temple

ok, so why did you tell me it wasn't a correlation study?

did you not know what correlation means until today?

Andrew Adams

Why does it matter?

tell me

How do you explain the study?

Elliot Temple

you were mistaken. i'm trying to find out what happened.

Andrew Adams

Of course they're not gonna find out genes by twin separation

Elliot Temple

we're having a debate, and you were wrong, and then you don't want to talk about it at all?

Andrew Adams

So my mistake of saying causation ruins the whole study for you?

Explain the study to me

Elliot Temple

i'm trying to find out what's going on. why did this mistake happen? i don't know what it means yet.

if you didn't know what a correlation is before today, then your understanding of every study you read in the past is unreliable.

regarding correlations, you should read this:

Andrew Adams

Explain the study

Elliot Temple

this article will explain to you a lot of things about correlations so you can understand the study better.

Andrew Adams

You lost the debate so you're trying to attack me personally

Explain teh study

Elliot Temple

i can't explain it to you because you don't have the background knowledge to understand the issues. you need to learn more. when i tried to give explanations earlier, you didn't understand. you need to read more. read this to find the answer to the study:

Andrew Adams

You're the one who said you don't go by scientific studies and you have your own rules.

Elliot Temple

i don't go by flawed studies when i know the flaws.

the webpage explains some of the flaws with correlation studies.

Andrew Adams

Explain the study to me then

Why when they're separated they still get schizophrenia?

Elliot Temple

there are lots of possibilities. i can't tell you exactly what happened. it's not known.

if you read the webpage, then you can find out what some explanations of the study are.

Andrew Adams

And you still haven't answered why down syndrome can be caused by a single gene but genes have no affect on your neurons' functions in future life.

Elliot Temple

we're still talking about this.

and the answer has to do with universality, which you haven't read about yet.

Andrew Adams

Sure because you can't answer that

Tell me about it

Elliot Temple

i think you're getting angry and impatient, and it's very hard to give you a lecture covering thousands of pages of material, requiring years of study, when you're in a bad mood and hostile.

Andrew Adams

So neurons are not bound to biology because of universality?

Elliot Temple

minds are universal knowledge creators. there can't be minds with 99% of the universal repertoire b/c there is a jump to universality.

but you don't know what this means. it's in BoI.

Andrew Adams

Minds are just a biological organism that can get flawed due to genes.

Elliot Temple

that isn't a counter-argument. it doesn't say why my understanding of the jump to universality is wrong, or my epistemology is wrong.

Andrew Adams

So you can't summarize your universality argument in 2-3 sentences?

Elliot Temple

minds are universal knowledge creators. there can't be minds with 99% of the universal repertoire b/c there is a jump to universality.

that is 2 sentences.

Andrew Adams


Elliot Temple

i can't teach you the contents of the book BoI in 2-3 sentences.

Andrew Adams

Alright. Well, I enjoyed the conversation. I'll read that. I had no intention of fighting or something like that. And I don't debate to win.

I admit that my knowledge is limited and I can be wrong. So what you say might be right.

I'll read it

Elliot Temple

you should read this to learn about correlations

it's very important to this field.

Andrew Adams

Are you angry?

Elliot Temple


Andrew Adams


Elliot Temple

in a gene-environment interaction, sometimes it wouldn't happen at all unless BOTH the gene and that part of the environment were there. in that case, it's incorrect to say the gene causes 40% of it. it couldn't happen at all without the environmental factor. what you have to do is figuring out what the gene actually does, and what part of the environment is involved, what the causal mechanism is.

the problem with the twin studies is they don't do this. they don't know the answer.

plus they are correlating with schizophrenia diagnoses, which is different than schizophrenia (which isn't even defined)

there are no studies which do this with autism or schizophrenia. all the published studies are just correlations without understanding it.

an example of a gene-environment interaction is: a gene makes infants cry more during the first 3 months, and then does nothing. parents in our culture are meaner to infants that cry more. this meanness results in higher rates of ADHD diagnoses in school later. correlation studies would report this as finding a gene for ADHD, but that's incorrect.

Andrew Adams

I understand the study is not perfect and it's a correlation. You didn't expect them to find the actual genes in a twin studies did you?

Elliot Temple

you said you had a study about the causes.

i knew there aren't any. that's why i challenged you.

Andrew Adams

And I didn't quote this studies as the final truth, but a little bit of evidence that genes play some role.

Elliot Temple

it isn't any evidence. it's the same as the ADHD study example.

there are many other problems with correlation studies, which you can learn about at the link.

Andrew Adams

To say that correlation study completely meaningless is absurd. It sheds some lights on the topic for furthur studies.

Elliot Temple

calling something absurd isn't an argument.

look at the ADHD example. it sheds NO light on ADHD

Andrew Adams

I explained why it's absurd in the nest sentence


Elliot Temple

claiming it sheds light is not an argument that it sheds light. that's an assertion.

Andrew Adams

I'm not here to defend that study again. You've gotten preoccupied with that and have ignored all other things I've said.

Elliot Temple

you are defending that type of study

Andrew Adams

You told me about universality and how it makes brain different from other organisms

Elliot Temple

but you don't have any arguments which address what i said or the link i gave.

Andrew Adams

I'm gonna study that

Elliot Temple


Andrew Adams

So universality will explain to me why down syndrome is affected by a gene by neurons' functions in the future life of a person are not affected by any gene. I'm not challenging it. Just making sure that's what you're saying.


Elliot Temple

it is a part of the explanation. there's a lot of things to understand.

Andrew Adams

What else?

Elliot Temple

i think it works better to start with IQ and why that's wrong.

Andrew Adams

Why IQ?

IQ is just a test

Elliot Temple

because the idea behind IQ is that some people are 10% smarter than other people.

Andrew Adams

What does it have to do with mental illness?

Elliot Temple

and this is due to genes or hardware.

and we can use universality to see that that is false.

it's a simpler argument than trying to talk about down's syndrome.

Andrew Adams

Some people could be wired to be faster at learning or doing mathematical computations but I don't believe in quantifying it the way IQ does.

Elliot Temple

from understanding universality, we can find out that all people are capable of learning the same things.

that includes people who are claimed to have lower IQs or down syndrome.

their genes gave them the same capabilities as everyone in else in terms of what things they can learn, what knowledge they can create, what they can think of.

Andrew Adams

But can it be harder for some people?

Elliot Temple


it's harder for people with brain damage like alzheimer's. and it's harder for people after they have bad ideas.

Elliot Temple

but they aren't born with it being harder for them (except in RARE cases of being born brain damaged)

Andrew Adams

And what's the evidence for universality?

Elliot Temple

it's more a logical argument. but we have built universal computers.

Andrew Adams


But we have faster computers, right?

Some have better specs

Elliot Temple

this makes almost no difference to the lives of most people

Andrew Adams

But you just said all people learn at the same rate

Elliot Temple

no, i said they are capable of learning the same things

and most people don't max out their CPU

they use maybe 10% of their brain's computing capacity

Elliot Temple

so it doesn't matter if it's slightly slower or faster.

Andrew Adams

Oh okay I get what you mean by universality

Elliot Temple

b/c there is more they aren't using

Andrew Adams

All things that compute are eventually capable of learning all things that there is

Elliot Temple

and no one cares if you write a great book in 37 months or 36 months. being slightly faster isn't what makes a genius.

Andrew Adams

So the fact that some people are faster is biological?

Elliot Temple

that is possible, but it doesn't really matter.

stuff like "autism" isn't thinking 3% slower than someone else.

Andrew Adams

Oh okay.

Elliot Temple

and bad ideas make people 1000x better or worse at thinking.

or good ideas

so it's the ideas that are important

Andrew Adams


Thank you

Elliot Temple



Andrew Adams

I'll read more on it

Elliot Temple

i don't know a lot about down syndrome. it's possible they think significantly slower and it matters. more likely, i think, is that a brain defect causes random errors. genes can't control you like telling you to be a Republican, but if genes build your brain wrong it can cause random data to be deleted or changed sometimes which makes it harder and slower to think (you have to spend more time double checking things, kinda like using checksums)

random error doesn't make someone have certain opinions or be aggressive.

i don't think stuff like "autism" and "schizophrenia" is related to physical brain problems, but down syndrome could be.

i don't think it's like the "mental illnesses" from what i know.

it's more objective and consistent, and has a medical test.

instead of just talking to someone and then lots of different psychiatrists would reach different conclusions about the same person.

Andrew Adams

I see

watch this please and let me know what you think

Elliot Temple

90 minutes? hmm. will you sign up for my newsletter and discussion forum in return? :)

Andrew Adams

First 40 minutes would suffice actually


Elliot Temple


i may not watch for a few days. i'll post some comments to my forum or blog.

i will also get this conversation posted somewhere

Andrew Adams

Just signed up for the newsletter.


Do I have to have a yahoo account to join the group?

Elliot Temple

no, you can also send a blank email to [email protected] and then confirm

Andrew Adams

Awesome just joined the group too

I look forward to your thought on the video

Elliot Temple

ok :)

Andrew Adams

Hi, this just crossed my mind. What do you think of savants?

Like these two guys for example

Elliot Temple

brains are computers. mostly "savants" do stuff that's actually pretty easy to do with a PC like memorizing things or math. it's just a bit of a quirk to organize their mind differently than most people and are able to use some hardware features that other people are bad at using.

most people don't want to do the things savants do. they aren't interested.

some people memorize hundreds of pokemon names and various facts about them all. but if you do digits of pi, people get way more impressed for some reason.

others memorize hundreds of bible quotes. remembering lots of stuff is actually pretty common.

Andrew Adams

I see. Thanks.

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Word Use As Social Copying

People commonly use words without knowing their meanings. Instead of learning what a word means, people observe others and learn what situations the other people use that word in. People commonly use words by social copying instead of by understanding their meaning.

This is a very bad method. It's one of the reasons people write incoherent stuff so often.

They do the same thing with quotation marks. They don't know what quotation marks mean, and they copy other people misusing them.

I've observed frequent misuse of quotation marks, by many people, in a variety of contexts. I've been trying to figure out what's going on. Sometimes the quotation marks seem to be italics, and other times they seem to mean "add the text 'so called' before this word or phrase". They're used in many other incorrect ways, too.

I've tried asking people about their grammar usage, but they're unable to give coherent answers.

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Discussion Group

Want more content? There are lots of great posts to read at the discussion group. I write lots of them. It's like reading blog posts, but there's more!

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