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This is a discussion topic for Alan Forrester. Other people are welcome to make comments. Alan has agreed not to post anonymously in this topic.

Elliot Temple on April 24, 2019

Messages (62)

Alan, what are you goals? And plans to achieve them?

curi at 12:16 PM on April 24, 2019 | #12200 | reply | quote

#12200 I'd like to start commenting more on stuff I'm reading and improve my ability to understand and criticise it.

Alan at 12:24 AM on April 25, 2019 | #12213 | reply | quote

Do you have an idea of what problems you currently have with that and want to fix?

Anonymous at 12:30 AM on April 25, 2019 | #12214 | reply | quote

Hey Alan.

What are some of the most important relationships in your life?

Anonymous at 2:01 PM on April 25, 2019 | #12218 | reply | quote

> Do you have an idea of what problems you currently have with that and want to fix?

I'm trying to read things quickly so I don't stop to comment. That's a bad idea cuz I'm not chewing enough.

Alan at 12:04 AM on April 26, 2019 | #12220 | reply | quote

> Hey Alan.

> What are some of the most important relationships in your life?

I don't have any IRL friends.

I don't have a girlfriend and don't want one. I don't like dependence.

I limit work interactions to work topics. The people I work with are lefties.

I limit other interactions to the minimum possible level too cuz most British people are lefty.

Alan at 12:28 AM on April 26, 2019 | #12221 | reply | quote

> I limit other interactions to the minimum possible level too cuz most British people are lefty.

if that's the main reason (lefty), why not attend some sort of right-wing meetup groups?

Anonymous at 12:35 AM on April 26, 2019 | #12222 | reply | quote

> I'm trying to read things quickly


are you resistant to changing?

did you just identify this issue the other day and now you will try changing and see how that goes?

i vary my reading speed and method a lot depending on the material and my goals.

Anonymous at 12:36 AM on April 26, 2019 | #12223 | reply | quote

Modern Physics versus Objectivism

I just read Peikoff's "The DIM Hypothesis" where there is an chapter on physics. There he argues a poor epistemology underlying much of modern physics.

Here are some comments regarding this as well as quotes from Peikoff that I was able to find:


Could you comment on Piekoff's arguments and your, and yours too, Curi, thoughts on the matter? You two coming from a background in both physics and philosophy might bring me better understanding of the issue.

Anonymous at 3:34 AM on May 2, 2019 | #12263 | reply | quote

Peikoff should stop commenting on modern physics, of which he is ignorant.

He can't tell the difference btwn e.g. quantum theory being bad or a particular school of thought about quantum theory being bad. And he lacks the knowledge to evaluate the correctness of physics claims himself.

For example, I recall Peikoff trashing the uncertainty principle[1]. His understanding of it was what you'd read in a magazine. It's true that there are bad ideas about it, but that doesn't make it false. I, by contrast, have personally understood it this much:


[1] lecture 12 of http://www.peikoff.com/courses_and_lectures/philosophy-of-objectivism/

curi at 1:31 PM on May 2, 2019 | #12264 | reply | quote


I read Chapter 6 of "The Dim Hypothesis". His views on quantum theory in that chapter are vague and are on the level of what you would read in a bad popular science book on quantum physics. He is not well informed about quantum physics and shouldn't be writing about it.

Peikoff's section on Einstein is bad. It has a lot of very short quotes, so it's difficult to tell whether Peikoff is presenting Einstein's views correctly. He also makes claims about general relativity with no quotes from Einstein as evidence:

“On the one hand, the structure can cause material objects to accelerate, which is what we identify as gravity; on the other, a body large enough can warp the space around it, thereby requiring other bodies to follow the new curvature. According to Einstein, all these interactions are knowable, because all of them can be derived from mathematical axioms. From his equations, he says, he can deduce the structure of space at any time and place, and one can then deduce how space and matter will affect each other. These deductions are possible, according to general relativity, because space is a non-physical entity. It does have definite attributes, but all of them are quantitative in nature and can be stated as a set of equations. Space in Einstein’s sense is not reducible to relationships among physical objects; it is not a sum of places; it is a purely geometrical entity, a form of mathematics.”

Peikoff has neglected all of the literature on quantum physics, relativity, and the history and philosophy of those subjects. Some of that literature has good information in it. This includes information about issues like what Einstein thought and why, which is relevant to doing good scholarship. It also includes information about what quantum physics and relativity actually imply about how the world works, which is relevant for doing good philosophy.

Alan at 11:38 PM on May 2, 2019 | #12269 | reply | quote


Thank you both. Could you expand on, in short, in layman terms, what he misjudges and what mistake lead him to the things he writes?

Also what are some particular schools of thought about quantum theory that are bad, and why are they bad?

I have "magazine level" knowledge of quantum theory, so I might have a faulty interpretation of concepts; but would quantum field theory be one of the good, replacing the bad wave particle duality that implied electrons being at two locations at the same time (Peikoff's representation?)?

Does anything in quantum theory contradict Objectivism? I reckon not, since at least Curi considers himself an Objectivist.

Anonymous at 10:21 AM on May 3, 2019 | #12270 | reply | quote

David Deutsch's books have quantum physics explanations, especially FoR ch2. http://beginningofinfinity.com/books

curi at 11:38 AM on May 3, 2019 | #12271 | reply | quote

#12271 Thx. I will make sure to read it next.

Anonymous at 12:27 PM on May 3, 2019 | #12274 | reply | quote

Alan, gonna follow up on #12223 ?

Also what do you think of this? http://blog.rongarret.info/2014/09/are-parallel-universes-real.html

Anonymous at 11:14 PM on May 11, 2019 | #12339 | reply | quote

Garret claims a specific paragraph in FoR, which he quotes, is wrong. Reading what he says now:


Thoughts, Alan?

Anonymous at 11:25 PM on May 11, 2019 | #12340 | reply | quote

I wrote this reply to Garret, which is now in the moderation queue:


> 1. I find it disingenuous to claim that the theory of shadow photons is "a.k.a. quantum theory." The theory of shadow photons is in fact a.k.a. Hugh Everett's relative state formulation of quantum mechanics, which was later renamed the many-worlds interpretation by Bryce DeWitt.

DD has argued publicly that MWI *is* quantum theory. He has reasons for that terminology, and the details of what he means are available to interested parties (and already known to you, anyway), so I don't see the problem. He does use other terminology sometimes to avoid confusion.

> and then accept as essentially inarguable the proposition that parallel universes are causally connected on a microscopic level by virtue of their macroscopic configurations

They aren't, they are connected or disconnected on a microscopic level by virtue of their microscopic configuration. But when objects macroscopically differ, we know they are part of "separate universes" without needing to look at microscopic details. The macroscopic states are due to the microscopic states, and give us a shortcut to knowing some things about the microscopic states.

If you have further questions about DD's books, or want to share your understanding of the epistemology or physics for criticism, or want to read other's thoughts, I invite you to join the successor forums to the FoR, BoI, and TCS[1] forums. DD wrote thousands of posts in the past and you can talk with the people who best know his work. http://fallibleideas.com/discussion

[1] TCS is DD's theory of parenting and education based on applying Critical Rationalism. See e.g. http://fallibleideas.com/taking-children-seriously and https://curi.us/tcs/

curi at 11:41 PM on May 11, 2019 | #12341 | reply | quote

#12340 The author of this blog has a standard misconception about the relationship between the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) and quantum mechanics (QM):

> It seems plain to me that such an "explanation" of QM gets you exactly nowhere.

He thinks the MWI is supposed to explain QM. The MWI is just an account of the structure of physical reality according to QM. In other words, given that QM is true, parallel universes exist. The MWI is not supposed to explain why QM has the features it has.

The specific feature of the MWI that the author objects to is stated here:

> RG: I know you probably hear this a lot, but I believe I have found a serious flaw in the theory of shadow photons. In a nutshell, the rules of motion for shadow photons are governed by the macroscopic configuration of *our* universe. If a slit is open in *our* universe, both tangible and shadow photons pass through. If a slit is blocked in *our* universe, both tangible and shadow photons are blocked. It seems to me there are only two possibilities: either the macroscopic configuration of *our* universe governs the movement of shadow photons (in which case shadow-scientists must be mightily puzzled why their tangible photons sometimes pass through solid objects, and sometimes fail to pass through open slits), or we have to postulate that only shadow photons from universes whose macroscopic configuration matches our own can interact with our tangible photons.


> DD: The latter is, to a good approximation, the case.


> RG: But if we postulate this, then shadow photons from universes whose macroscopic configurations do not match ours cannot interact with our universe in any way, and therefore by your own criteria do not exist. Or have I missed something?


> DD: You're claiming there's an inadequacy in the criterion for existing that I presented, not a flaw in the 'theory of shadow photons' (which is aka quantum theory). However, that criterion was not intended as a criterion of what *doesn't* exist. If it were used in that way, then we would have to classify all the photons that have left the sun, and passed the Earth, and are never going to strike anything in the future, as being nonexistent.

RG has misunderstood the relevant chapter of FoR, chapter 4, which states that:

> If, according to the simplest explanation, an entity is complex and autonomous, then that entity is real.

According to the simplest explanation of single particle interference, the multiverse is complex and autonomous, so it is real.

Now, there are many papers explaining that if you put a system in a superposition and then measure the observable with respect to which the system is superposed, then you prevent interference between the different terms of the superposition, such as:


As a result of this, while there are other versions of the experiment with different setups they don't interfere with the version we see because they are being monitored by the environment. And if those different versions of the experiment had different effects on the interfering photon then these different versions of the photon would indirectly have information about their state copied into the environment and so would be unable to interfere. If RG finds this unbelievable, then he thinks QM is unbelievable.

Alan at 2:53 PM on May 12, 2019 | #12353 | reply | quote

> I'm trying to read things quickly

What method(s) of reading do you use, at what speeds?


> Alan, gonna follow up on #12223 ?

Anonymous at 9:30 PM on May 25, 2019 | #12512 | reply | quote

> What method(s) of reading do you use, at what speeds?

I usually skim unless I'm having trouble understanding the material.


> why?

I haven't been finding the stuff I read interesting. So I usually just want to get the reading finished.

> are you resistant to changing?

I'm not seeing much prospect for improvement at the moment.

> did you just identify this issue the other day and now you will try changing and see how that goes?

I think I need to come up with a project so I'll have a reason to select specific stuff and to comment on stuff I read.

Anonymous at 3:16 AM on May 27, 2019 | #12517 | reply | quote

> I think I need to come up with a project so I'll have a reason to select specific stuff and to comment on stuff I read.

That makes sense. So what have you been doing about that? Do you have any brainstormed candidates? Criticisms that are already leading to rejecting most potential projects so it's hard to think of any that would work? Any clear goals or values that motivate you?

PS sign your name when posting in this topic

Anonymous at 10:08 AM on May 27, 2019 | #12525 | reply | quote

Alan, why don't you participate in the grammar learning discussions/project or the Mario Odyssey speedrunning project?

curi at 10:38 AM on June 11, 2019 | #12731 | reply | quote

Why don't you post the books you read with a paragraph or more of thoughts/comments.

Anonymous at 10:35 AM on June 18, 2019 | #12791 | reply | quote

Alan, what do you think about random sampling and CR?

Anonymous at 11:45 AM on June 30, 2019 | #12938 | reply | quote

random sampling

A sample can only be random with respect to some specific characteristic of a physical system. In addition, you need some explanation that sez the sample should be random that you can criticise and test to avoid fooling yourself about its testability.

And if you want a random sample for some experiment, you should have an idea in mind to test before you do the experiment. If you go looking through some group selected out of a population you can find traits that are statistically associated even if they are causally unrelated.

There is a further problem. If you try to do an experiment on human behaviour and you reveal some statistical regularity people can change to undermine that regularity, or to increase it. If the subject finds out that the experimenter wants a particular result he may act to bring it about. Or people may figure out that acting in some specific way costs them money and change their behaviour.

Alan at 11:44 PM on June 30, 2019 | #12939 | reply | quote

#12939 Where'd you learn that stuff?

> A sample can only be random with respect to some specific characteristic of a physical system.

Do you mean one characteristic, or can it be two? Three? A trillion? Infinity?

Anonymous at 12:56 PM on July 1, 2019 | #12944 | reply | quote

Alan, what do you think of this video?


> The physics that allowed for metaphysics

Anonymous at 9:15 PM on July 11, 2019 | #13042 | reply | quote

#13042 I think the video is not very good at explaining the author's position. For example, I think he thinks the text on the slide at 21 seconds into the video is wrong, but the video doesn't clearly state that.

The discussion of the physics is accurate.

Alan at 12:32 AM on July 12, 2019 | #13044 | reply | quote

Some of my favorite quotes from Alan Forrester


"The term 'water' is a name that applies to all water everywhere in space and time. This implicitly assumes that some theory about water is true everywhere in space and time including the specific basic statement under consideration. There is no way of justifying that assumption so basic statements can't be justified."


"Solipsism poses a problem for you being independent of other people and objects. If other people and objects are part of your mind then why shouldn’t *they* control *you*?" [emphasis asterisks added]


"predictions are a means of testing an account of what is happening in reality, they are not the whole point of having a theory. For example, lots of dinosaurs were never fossilised. The existence of those dinosaurs doesn't lead to any particular prediction, but it is a consequence of the theory that dinosaurs existed and of the mechanisms of fossilisation. You can't separate that consequence from the rest of the theory and ignore it without ruining the explanation that the dinosaur theory provides."


"The simulation hypothesis (SH) is false and also empirically untestable. The theory of computation explains that any physical system can be simulated by a universal computer, including any computer. So if the SH is true it will be impossible for us to learn anything about the hardware running the simulation. This means that the SH is untestable. The SH that it is impossible for us to understand how the world works because we can't understand anything about how the real world works: that is, we can't know anything about the simulator. The SH is also incapable of explaining anything about how the world works because we can't know anything about the hardware and so no feature of how the world we see around us can be explained by that hardware."

Note: Alan seems to be saying that any genuine explanation of how stuff works must attribute the behavior to the properties of the physical hardware.

"Deutsch's criticism of the simulation argument can be found on pp. 11-12 of It from Qubit. A universal computer only requires a physical system capable of performing a particular limited set of operations, which can be performed by a very wide range of physical systems, e.g. - vacuum tubes and silicon chips. So if we're a program running on a computer we can't know anything about the underlying hardware, i.e. - the real laws of physics. So the simulation argument is anti-scientific since it sez we can't understand anything about the real laws of physics."

"If you say you are a brain in a vat, then you have no way of knowing what the real world is like, even in principle. As such, nothing about the alleged real world outside the vat plays any role in explaining anything that you can observe. So it amounts to slapping an unexplained complication on your existing explanations and it can be eliminated."

"The simulation hypothesis relies on the idea that physical systems can be simulated on a universal computer. Any universal computer can do the same set of operations as any other universal computer, regardless of what hardware each computer uses. So The simulation hypothesis makes no predictions, since there is no way for us to tell what hardware we are running on. As such, the simulation hypothesis explains nothing."

"ALAN: Because of universality, if the universe were a computer, we could never know anything about the hardware. Any hardware capable of doing the simple gates mentioned above can simulate any physical system we could observe, so we can't tell what hardware is actually used. In other words, if the great simulator theory was true it would be impossible for us to discover the laws of physics.

NIR: What about the alternative statement that the observable universe is a computation?

ALAN: In that case, too, by the above argument, it would be impossible in principle to discover the real laws of physics, and we might as well go back to believing in Poseidon."


"Every time you have an alleged explanation in terms of god's priorities, it can easily be rewritten as an explanation without god. For example, "God wants energy to be conserved in chemical reactions" can be rewritten as "energy is conserved in chemical reactions." And if you can't state god's priorities well enough to come up with such a translation, then your explanation sucks anyway and you should admit you don't know what you're talking about."

"Why should god's preferences just make stuff happen that those preferences have no apparent connection to?"

"If the laws of physics (or whatever) are god's commands, then either: 1) God is just imposing them out of a whim, in which case you don't really have an explanation. You're just saying something that's equivalent to "shit happens". Or, 2) God has reasons for setting the laws of physics (or whatever) to be the way they are. And if there is an independent reason then it can be realized by something else. For example, if the reason god had picked for designing biological systems the way they are is to make copies of their genes, then that can be realized by evolution. So you don't actually need god as an explanation."

"God is just a bad idea occasionally associated with stuff for which we have other terms. (Laws of physics, objective morality.) So god doesn't matter at all."

"The existence of God is a bad explanation for anything. This is explained in "The Beginning of Infinity" (BoI) and in many other places. The problem was outlined by Plato in Euthyphro, but he only applied the argument to justice when it can be applied to anything. One of the following must be true. (1) The thing to be explained is the way it is because God said so and for no other reason, which is a bad explanation. (2) The thing to be explained is the way it is because God has some reason to like it that way, in which case that reason works as an explanation without God's existence. Anything that can only ever be used in bad explanations doesn't exist, so God doesn't exist."

"There are problems with the idea that god is the source of morality pointed out in Plato's dialogue Euthyphro. If some moral act is good just because god says so, that's a bit unsatisfactory. If it's good for some other reason and god advocates doing good for that reason, then that other reason explains why the act is good rather than god."

"Theism can be discarded because there are unanswered criticisms of theism and no serious prospect of any answers to those criticisms. See, for example, Plato's dialogue Euthyphro. Socrates points out that a theistic explanation of right and wrong has the following problem. There are two options for such an explanation. (1) Some idea or action is right because the gods say so and for no other reason, in which case we might as well say "shit happens" and give up on explanation. (2) Some idea or action is right independently of god and god just endorses something that is already true. But in that case, god doesn't have anything to do with the explanation of right and wrong. Similar arguments can be constructed for any subject allegedly explained by god."

"If the whole physical world is to be explained as one big simulation with the answers being fed in from the outside, then physics is inherently totally useless since the simulator can make the world appear to obey any set of laws of physics he likes. As such, your theory does absolutely nothing to explain the real laws of physics. What you have done is to shift the burden of explanation onto this simulator and his reasons for doing what he does. Of course, this is indistinguishable from believing in god in all but name, so I'm just going to call him god. Suppose the explanation is 'God believes X', a better explanation is 'the laws of physics respect principle X.'"

"It is true to say that Intelligent Design is irrefutable. However, that's the least of its problems. The reason Intelligent Design is irrefutable is that it is a terrible explanation of the complexity of life on Earth. If the Intelligent Designer was God, then he could have created the world any way he liked and so Intelligent Design contributes nothing to any explanation of what the world actually is like. If the Designer wasn't god, the theory is still untestable in the absence of an explanation of what technology they had available to them. More pressing, however, is the fact that there is a vast amount of internally consistent evidence that can be explained in remarkable detail by evolution."

"The specific physical mechanism that the creationists propose may or may not be a scientific theory. The idea that god made that mechanism operate isn't a scientific theory and isn't testable, because no explanation is given, or can be given, to tie god to that mechanism."

"God is a bad explanation. If you want to explain some issue X using god, then there are two possibilities. Either X is the way it is just because god says so, in which case we might as well say “shit happens”. Or X is the way it is because god has a reason Y for liking it that way. In that case, any mechanism that respects the principle Y will do just as well as god, so god is not necessary. For example, if god happens to favour the existence of genes that copy themselves in their environment, then natural selection explains the attributes of genes better than god. So god can be rejected since it is no good as an explanation. Since god can be eliminated from any worthwhile explanation, god is a bad explanation and we can do without god. So the objective truth is that god doesn’t exist."

"If god did X for some reason Y, then any non theistic explanation that respects Y will do better because that explanation will say specific things about how the world works so you can look for problems with it, and possibly solve other problems too. The god explanation says nothing specific about how god does Y, and so has no other implications and solves no other problems. If god has no reason for doing X, or we can't understand the reason, then we might as well just give up on explanation and say "shit happens"."

"First, the designer idea is ruled out by the criteria for solving the problem. If you say that complex things require explanation then something complex enough to design a whole universe just postpones the explanation."

"Second, there is absolutely no substance to the theistic explanation, it is just the assertion that god did it. This doesn't rule out any way the world could have been made and so doesn't explain anything about the way the world actually works. You might as well say that you made the universe, or that it just popped into existence five minutes ago out of nothing."

"Third, suppose that you did come up with a mechanism or principle or something for selecting a particular universe. Then that mechanism could explain what's going on without a god. For example, Lee Smolin has proposed that black holes give rise to new universes and so there is a set of universes on which selection pressure acts to maximise the set of future possible universes. Now, leaving aside whether this is right or wrong, if it was right, why would the god idea be relevant? You could say "god said this would happen" but you could also just say it did happen and the latter would be better for the previous reasons."

"If God made the world he could have done it any way he liked. He could have made it 6000 years ago (or 5 seconds ago) and make it look billions of years old. Creationism doesn't exclude any conceivable state of affairs and so cannot explain anything about how the world works. Why do humans and chimps have about 96% of their DNA in common? God did it. Why? Dunno. God be godding. If we're going to accept that as an explanation, we might as well give up and just say "shit happens" and be done with it."

"The existence of God wouldn't solve any problems. Suppose that God is proposed as an explanation of Z. We have two options. (1) God made Z the case on whim in which case we might as well just say shit happens and be done with it. (2) God made Z the case for some reason, in which case we can just propose that reason as the explanation for Z. For example, if we say God made frogs to spread frog genes then we can just say that frogs evolved to spread frog genes."

"God could have designed the laws of physics to be anything he liked. So there is no constraint on what god could do. Design theories don't pick out any particular state of affairs as the only possible state of affairs and so they explain nothing. As a result of this, they also predict nothing and no prediction can be considered a test of any design theory."

"First, suppose that we say we require an explanation for the existence of the universe and that god creating it is the explanation. Then why doesn't the existence of god require an explanation?

Second, god can't play any role in any explanation, including any explanation of the existence of the universe. Perhaps God had some reason for making the world the way it is, in which case we can just say the world is that way because reason X. For example, if he made eyes so that we can move around without bumping into stuff any mechanism that would respect the priority of not bumping into stuff will do, God is not necessary. For example, if not bumping into stuff helps spread genes for not bumping and genes for bumping don't spread, then evolution can explain non-bumping."

"A more accurate criticism of the idea of God would point out that it doesn't solve any problems. If God made the laws of morality or science or whatever a particular way for some reason, then any physical mechanism that respects that principle would explain the same phenomenon. For example, if God made organisms to keep their genes in existence, then evolution explains their behaviour better than God. And if God had no reason for making the world behave a particular way then we might as well say "shit happens" rather than go to the trouble of postulating God. So God's existence solves no problems. And since God introduces lots of problems, like the problem of evil, the idea should be ditched."

"Two possibilities. (1) God made the world the way he did because he just wanted to, in which case creationism explains nothing. (2) God had to make the world a certain way for some reason X, in which case X explains why the world works the way it does, not God."

"The specific physical mechanism that the creationists propose may or may not be a scientific theory. The idea that god made that mechanism operate isn't a scientific theory and isn't testable, because no explanation is given, or can be given, to tie god to that mechanism."

"There are two possibilities, both of which are fatal to theistic explanations of morality. (1) God invented morality on a whim, in which case we might as well just say that shit happens and dispense with god. (2) God invented morality for some reason, e.g. – because acting in some ways is better for us medically than acting in other ways. (I am not advocating this standard, just using it as an illustration.) But then we might as well just say that we should act morally because of that reason, e.g. – we should act morally because doing so will be better for us medically than acting otherwise."


"Popper doesn't have to account for the origin of his epistemology. Where it comes from is irrelevant, all that matters is whether it solves problems."

"Popper's ideas are not circular reasoning. Saying "I guess X. I guess Y. I guess X and Y are incompatible. I guess that means my ideas are problematic." is not circular and that's all that is required to make Popper's ideas work."

"In the context of any specific argument some standard of evaluation and some ideas are used. But they are conjectures and can be refuted by criticism in subsequent arguments. There's no circularity because there's no attempt at justification."


"Probabilities are tested using relative frequencies. Since laws of physics, biology etc are universal theories, you would need multiple copies of the whole of physical reality to test probabilities of theories, which makes no sense."


"Induction is supposed to be a method that does the following. (1) It starts with experimental data or observations. (2) From those observations it somehow gets a theory. (3) Further observations somehow show the theory is true or probably true.

The problems start with the first step. What are you supposed to observe and why? What experiments are you supposed to do and why? How are you supposed to construct an experiment without knowing what to look for?

The second problem is that no number of observations is equivalent in any sense to a theory. It's not even equivalent to an explanation of a single event never mind an explanation of how the whole world works. Your experimental equipment records some events that happen during the experiment and not others. The unobserved events in general contribute to the outcome so that if you get them wrong you mess up the experiment. For example, you may observe the distribution of electrons reflected from an object in an electron microscope, but you don't observe the electrons while they are at the object you're trying to look at, nor while they are in flight. You guess that the electrons are not doing anything unintended and you learn about faults by seeing that the results look wrong if you do stuff wrong.

The third step is also impossible for the same reason, and also because a theory refers to events that nobody could ever observe, e.g. - nobody was around 70 million years ago to observe an actual dinosaur."


"A person is fallible. An idea is either right or wrong."


"Rationality isn’t about the content of your positions, it’s about how you hold them."

"Acting rationally consists of not acting on ideas that have not survived criticism and in looking for ways to criticise and improve current ideas."

"The standard of rationality is not whether you have justified a belief but whether you would reject it if it was successfully criticised and whether you are interested in looking for criticism. It is not enough simply to state that there might conceivably be some unknown criticism or some unknown alternative solution of some problem. That would be true for absolutely any position you adopt and so that standard is worthless for criticising anything."

"What is required is rationality: being willing to correct mistakes and change how you behave to spot and correct more mistakes."


"You can assign probabilities to events in the light of a theory. You can then judge a theory adversely if it predicts a low probability for some set of experimental results. You can't assign a probability to a theory. That would require a measure over the set of all possible theories, and no such measure exists."


"Or you can say that argument is somehow justified by experiences (psychologism)."


"Money doesn’t measure a quantity called value. There is no quantity called value. Rather, when you make an exchange you just prefer the thing you get to the thing you give up."


"Any person might create some knowledge that would make you better off directly or indirectly. You have no way of predicting who will do this or how much it might benefit you. So you try to avoid running people over."


"A theory is ad hoc if it was invented to solve a particular problem and has no implications beyond that problem."


"The adult has taken an action that makes him responsible for helping the child become independent. The child has no corresponding responsibility to the adult."


"Guns produce neither safety nor danger. They're tools that can be used well or badly."

"Guns have legitimate uses and can be used safely. And we have institutions for dealing with people who don't use them safely. So guns should be legal."


"The appropriate way to stop corporations or anyone else from using the government as you describe is to restrict what the government is allowed to do. Any activity that does not require the use of force is none of the government's business. That is, the government should only be involved in defence of persons or property, and nothing else."


"the simulation enables you to work out the consequences of a guess about the equation of motion of a system in cases where you could not work it out yourself. The simulation produces predictions that can be tested with the actual system."


"That's what a law is: it is a rule such that if you break that rule force may be used against you."


"Something is subjective if it depends on a particular subject. The sensations that I happen to be having as I sit here typing are subjective. If I were not here they wouldn't happen. Something is objective if it doesn't depend on the existence of a particular subject."


"Free will is a moral idea about how we ought to deal with people: that is, we ought to treat people as if they act on ideas. If a person does something bad you don't act as if it was an accident. Rather, you should treat him as if he might do it again. By contrast, a rock doesn't have ideas and if it falls down and hurts somebody there's not much point in locking it up or talking to it."

"The pro-free-will position I take runs as follows. If you deliberately break the wine bottle, then you have some explanation for why you did it. For example, you might be angry at the bottle's owner. You have some set of ideas about what sort of actions you want to do. Some people deal with their disagreements without getting angry and breaking wine bottles. The only difference between you and them is that they have some explanation about why breaking wine bottles and that sort of thing is a bad idea and you don't have that explanation. But, given a suitable explanation, you would change your mind about breaking the wine bottle. Your ability to change your mind in this way is free will. Since you have the ability to change your mind, the fact that you haven't means there is something wrong with your ideas about how to act and you should be treated accordingly. People should be more cautious about dealing with you because of that flaw in your ideas until you fix that flaw."

"Free will is primarily a moral idea, not a metaphysical idea. If a rock falls off a cliff and kills somebody, there is no point in talking to the rock to try to persuade it to refrain from killing people in the future. In addition, there is no particular reason to expect the rock to kill more people in the future. But if a person kills somebody, then the killer may kill other people in the future because that murder is a result of what he values. For example, if Jim finds Bob in bed with Jim's wife and murders Bob, then he may murder somebody else in the future out of sexual jealousy. As a result, it can be a good idea to lock up a murderer to stop him from enacting his values, e.g. - to stop Jim from killing his wife. In addition, it is possible for a person to change his mind about what to value. So discussing why murder was bad in that situation might change Jim's mind about what he should do in the future. Free will is about the fact that is possible for a person to have values, and to change those values as a result of critical discussion. To say that this is all just atoms moving about or something like that privileges a particular kind of explanation of how the world works. But there are other kinds of explanations that feature abstractions like computation, thought, institutions and so on. Those explanations are indispensable to even discuss issues like what sort of political system we have, how we do science and that sort of thing. To use those explanations in terms of abstractions and deny free will doesn't make much sense."


"Scientific progress starts with a problem: an incompatibility between existing theories, or between existing theories and experimental data."


"[...] philosophical problems arise initially from problems in other fields, such as politics or science."


"It's not necessary for anybody to know of the existence of a problem for a problem to be solved."


"You might be wrong about whether some idea solves a problem or not. The way you investigate that is by looking for criticism of that position. The criticism is also a proposed solution to a problem. If it eliminates your idea then it has solved the problem of you having a bad idea."


"You can't make predictions without explanations. You have to have an explanation of how the experimental apparatus works and how the laws to be tested apply to this particular setup.

And there are cases in which the laws say you can't predict some stuff, e.g. - in general you can't predict whether a particular computer program will halt. So should we discard all such laws?"

"First to do any experiment you need an explanation of what's supposed to be going on in reality to produce the results. Only such an explanation can make the experimental results relevant to judging anything. For example, if you are trying to trap atoms in a magneto optical trap to measure some transition with high precision and you have misunderstood the magnetic fields in the trap then you may not see any atoms. But there is no way even to describe this situation without referring to lots of stuff you haven't measured such as the magnetic fields in the trap."

"we must have an explanation of what counts as repeating the same experiment to do induction, but induction provides us with no means to get that explanation."


"Solutions to problems often have reach: that is, they have implications for problems other than those they were invented to solve. For example, general relativity was invented to solve theoretical problems to do with gravity, but it is now used to help do GPS calculations. The human brain may have evolved to solve one problem and ended up solving others by accident."

"Furthermore there is no reason to think our ability to explain how the world works is bounded. The creation of knowledge is an evolutionary process in the sense that it requires producing variations on current knowledge and then selecting among those variations according to whether they solve problems. We can't work out the consequences of a particular variation in advance of doing the required work. So we can't systematically avoid finding better ideas unless we decide to stop producing knowledge entirely."


"All evidence is information judged in the light of some theory as being relevant to some current controversy."

"Evidence is information relevant to judging an idea. A common idea is that evidence can be used to prove or make it more likely to be correct or something like that, but that idea is false. Any argument starts with premises and rules of inference, which the argument doesn't prove or make probable: they are guesses. As a result everything that follows from them is also a guess. Evidence can contradict a guess, but it can't prove the guess. So evidence is always information that could have refuted your guess."

"Since evidence takes an explanation for granted, it can hardly prove the explanation true or probably true or anything like that."

"Evidence is just a particular kind of argument that could contradict one of your ideas that involves observations."


"The alternative to allowing businesses to choose their customers, is to have somebody use force to make a business serve a customer. But then whatever prejudices the force user has will be enforced, and it will be very difficult for anybody to stop them without violence."


"Arguments are important because they propose links between ideas. If those links are accurate accounts of reality, then we have understood something about how the world works. If they are not accurate, we may learn something by looking at their flaws."

"The point of an argument is to propose that something or other is the case in a clear way that can be criticised."


"> Why should we trust our rationality and thinking, and our observations and deductions?

We shouldn't. We should look for flaws in them. Finding such flaws and correcting them is the only way to create knowledge."


"You can't avoid that problem by hedging. If you're going to say anything about any subject, then you have a position, and hedging obscures that. For that reason, hedging is dangerous."

"If you’re not willing to advocate for your idea as if it were true, or act on it as if it were true, then you may not find some flaw in it. So you might keep bad ideas longer."


"Fooling yourself that you’ve solved problem X requires knowledge Y. Y is not the same knowledge as the solution to problem X, but it’s not the case that any old idea will do the same job. Y might be false in the sense that it doesn’t solve the stated problem, but it is a true description of what will fool you."


"> I understand if “right” means it solves the problems. But I don’t understand if “right” means perfect truth.

It is true that the idea in question solves the problem."

"Either a particular idea solves the problem the person has in mind or it doesn’t. If it solves that problem, then it is contextually true."


"There can be two true answers. There can be two solutions to the same problem. You might happen to think of one of them first and follow that idea. But if you had thought of the other you would have gone with that one instead. There’s no particular reason to think that the first idea you happened to come up with would be better than the second, except by virtue of happening to come along first."


"An experiment involves looking for a situation in which two or more different ideas about how the world works make different predictions. You then either set up that situation or look for an existing system that realises that situation."

"The point of an experiment is to test a theory. If you do an experiment and your theory predicts result X and you don't get that result, then your theory is in trouble. Either you did the experiment wrong, or you misinterpreted the result or the theory is wrong."


"an experimental result is a conjecture about what happened at a particular region of space and time."

"You can't do a good experiment without having an explanation of how it works."


"An observation is a guess about what happened in some particular region of space and time and the causes of that event."

"An observation is a record of events that happened in some particular region of space and time."

"If the reference to sense data is eliminable then it should be eliminated [from our definition of what a basic statement is]. There's lots of stuff you can't sense that you can measure. For example, you can't see neutrinos or sense them in any other way but measurements of the number of neutrinos are about neutrinos, not about numbers recorded in a computer attached to a neutrino detector."


"without a theory of what's going on, you don't know what observations will give you useful information."

"you can't start with observations because without a theory you have no guidance on what to observe."

"[The process of science] can't start by observing stuff since some things you could observe will be irrelevant. For example, there may be a particular number of atoms in the pen sitting on my desk, but it's not worth observing how many since it has no relevance to anything important."


"Another important issue is the link between the observation and the theory. Under what conditions does the theory predict X and are those conditions realised in your experiment?"

"an experiment can't be any good if it is testing bad explanations. If you don't have an account of what is happening in the real world to produce the results of the experiment, then it tells you nothing."


"A non-universal theory is a problematic explanation. If a theory doesn't apply universally then either there is an explanation of why it doesn't apply or there is no such explanation. If there is an explanation then that explanation is universal. If there isn't then your theory has a serious problem that should be fixed: it has an unexplained qualification."

"Good paths forward make general claims. General claims solve more problems and are easier to criticise than more limited claims. So if they are right they are very useful, and if they are wrong it is easier to find the flaw."

"As far as intellectual positions are concerned you should look for the strongest claim not ruled out by criticism. If the position is correct it’s useful. If the position is wrong you have more ways to spot problems with it."

"From the point of view of somebody who knows of no alternative to Newton's theories, and does not know of situations that are inconsistent with those theories, why would he qualify those theories? If he qualified those theories then that would get in the way of him working out what's wrong with them. What he ought to do is guess they are universally applicable and work on that basis until he has a specific criticism that says otherwise."


"An explanation is an account of what exists in reality and how and why."

"An explanation is not an event or a set of events. It is an account of how the world works and as such it places restrictions on what sort of events can take place and why. [...] Without an explanation there isn't even an allowed set of events."

"Explain = provide an account of why some feature of the world is the way it is. For example, an explanation of the colour of an apple would give an account of how that colour evolved by natural and artificial selection, what sort of chemicals are involved in it having that colour and stuff like that. An explanation of why X brand of crisps is packaged in the way it is packaged would refer to things like the cost of the packaging, what consumers are willing to pay for and so on."


"A theory is an explanation - an account of what is happening to bring about events."


"A criticism is an argument that an idea doesn't solve a problem. That argument is either right or wrong and if it is wrong then it is a failed criticism."

"A criticism of a position is an account of why that position fails to solve the problem it purports to solve."

"A criticism is an argument explaining why some idea is false. The criticism might point out that the idea clashes with some other idea or that there is an alternative to the idea that solves other problems too. It doesn't show that an alternative to the idea is true or probably true. Criticism is relevant to truth but it doesn't show that an idea is true."


"You can't completely cleanly separate goals and methods. Thinking that you should adopt a particular method shapes some of your goals. If the method is bad so are some of the goals."


"Criticisms can have flaws, which is why they should be independently criticisable. That is, the criticism should say something about something other than the idea you're trying to criticise so that the criticism can be checked. That is one reason why "you're just wrong" is a bad argument."


">it’s bad to have ideas that are not intended to solve problems. (is this right?)

The issue is whether the idea *actually* solves a problem not whether

you intended for it to do so.

However, if you can't identify any problem to which a particular idea

is a solution, then that is a criticism of the idea."


"It is often the case that we decide critically between two ideas using a number. Let's say that I have two laser designs A and B and laser B has a narrower linewidth and I want a laser with a narrower linewidth. Then there is a measure by which laser B is better than laser A."


"You can take an idea to be true if you like, as long as you are willing to throw it out in the light of criticism."

"The agnostic position is that neither the theist nor the atheist can prove his position (which is true, but is also true of all other ideas), and that he ought to be neutral. To those who believe in justification, this appears rational, but in reality, it is anti-rational. Taking a position is important for making progress since the position thus taken can then be criticised and improved. Refusing to take a position is a dead end."

"If you haven't looked into an issue the appropriate position is to have no position because there is a criticism of the idea that you should adopt a position: you haven't considered any of the relevant arguments."

"In a particular case the facts might be consistent with both sides' conclusion being correct, in which case they are both wrong. For example, a witness to a crime might report that he came across the suspect next to the broken window of a jewellery store. The prosecution might say that he did it using this evidence. The defence might say he did not do it because he was just standing next to the window rather than putting jewels in his pockets. But they would both be wrong. Without more information the suspect's presence next to the broken window doesn't mean much. The suspect might have heard a window breaking and come running to see if anybody got hurt, so the prosecution could be wrong. The suspect might have heard the witness coming and decided to stop putting jewels in his pockets, so the defence would also be wrong. If the defence and the prosecution made no further arguments you would have to say they are both wrong on this point."

"[An] atheist is taking a clear position that lays his views open to criticism. The agnostic does not admit that theism is refuted by the criticisms of the idea of God, and he is fudging. The agnostic ignores criticisms and does not state a clear position, both of which are irrational."


"The way to judge whether a particular unobservable entity is real is to test the explanation that implies its existence and if that explanation survives the test then you should judge it is real."

"When should you say something is real, or that an event happened? When the only existing explanation that has survived criticism is that the thing in question is real or the event happened."

"The "universe" is everything that exists. And you can tell whether something exists by whether it plays a role in some explanation of how the universe works"

"The appropriate way to figure out whether something exists is whether it features in explanations in a way you can't eliminate. If you try to eliminate parts of your explanation you can't do without, you are just labelling them as not real. The attachment of that label is an unexplained complication of your explanation. For example, fairies feature in some explanations of the photos of the Cottingley fairies and that sort of thing, but you can explain those photos without fairies. So fairies don't exist."


"the fact that I download a copy of an intellectual product does not deprive the maker of the use of his copies. Second, a person can independently create the same idea and if he does so why should he not be able to use it? Third, there is no hard and fast line between ripping off intellectual property and producing an original contribution."


"Hume's argument against causation is wrong. He claimed that you only see one event succeeding another, but that doesn't prove that they are causally connected and so causation is bunk. [...] Causation is an idea that solves problems, so it is knowledge. The idea that X causes Y can be tested by looking for instances where X occurs and Y does not."


"Furthermore, your perceptions are not just showing the world the way it is. Rather, they introduce many layers of interpretation. This is what gives rise to optical illusions. Your visual system makes assumptions about the way the world works, so if you know those assumptions you can produce misleading effects by making suitable images or models."


"Logic is not based on human reasoning. It is a set of explanations about how to argue fruitfully."


"It is perfectly possible for an idea to solve some problem and so to constitute knowledge without it being true, so knowledge need not be true either."


"Reason involves settling disputes non-violently and only accepting an idea as a solution to a problem if you have no criticisms of it."


"Information is a term for properties of physical systems that can be understood independent of the substrate in which it happens to be instantiated. For example, a controlled not gate takes two bits, flips the second if the first is 1 and performs the identity operation on the second bit if the first is zero. Any physical process that does this is a controlled not gate regardless of the material of which it is composed. There are non-trivial explanations concerning information that can't be derived from other laws of physics."


"Let's suppose you start without knowing that there is any difference between you and the outside world. You might try to do stuff and notice that the results are not always what you intend. You then guess that the parts of the world that didn't do what you want are not part of you."

"Suppose I take a picture of a particular object, an apple, say, from various angles and then show you those pictures. There is no way to look at those pictures and say that it follows from the pictures alone that they are all pictures of the same object. You have to take the pictures and a load of guesses. So the idea that they are all pictures of the same object doesn't follow from the pictures. You can't even say the identity of different views of an object from visual percepts let alone an abstraction like space.

Also, different people do have vastly different ideas about space and time and this is exposed when you get down into the weeds of discussions of space and time in physics and philosophy. This results in many different positions about space and time: relationalism, substantivalism and disputes about locality in quantum mechanics."


"Thoughts are abstractions but they always have to be instantiated in some material."

"Beliefs are just abstractions: they are patterns that can be instantiated in any physical system that obeys certain restrictions, e.g. - it can retain the same state over time, the state can easily be read out and error corrected and that sort of thing."


"There is at least one decision you have made without weighing the costs and benefits: the decision to assess your other decisions in terms of costs and benefits. So it must be possible to make decisions without weighing costs and benefits or you would never have made any decisions at all."


"Humans are capable of creating new explanatory knowledge, animals are not. You have something to gain from acknowledging another person's rights because that person might use his rights to create knowledge or products that would benefit you. An animal can't do that, so it doesn't have the same claim to rights."


"An animal can't understand what is happening to it and so can't interpret the pain as being bad. The idea that something is bad is a sophisticated interpretation of experiences that only arises in the light of a lot of knowledge. For example, one reason people suffer is that they can imagine all the stuff they won't be able to do as a result of injury or death, unlike animals. Animals are robots programmed to propagate genes. To do this, genes program their vehicles to move away from stuff that will damage the vehicle, refrain from using damaged body parts so they can heal, signal danger to relatives and other stuff like that. They bear more resemblance to characters in a computer game than to people."


"Embryos that don't have brains can't think and so can't offer improvements and shouldn't have rights. At some time between the development of the brain and when the child starts speaking, he starts creating knowledge"

"You say that I don't explain my position that you shouldn't give rights to things unless they are capable of doing interesting stuff but that I haven't supported this. If another being is not capable of doing anything interesting that might change my mind about something what difference would it make if I give it rights? I would be wasting my time and effort by changing my behaviour for no benefit."


"The many worlds interpretation is not realist in the sense of requiring all observables to be single valued but it is realist in the sense of thinking that there is a world independent of our measurements of it."


"It is possible that the proven beyond reasonable doubt standard makes the situation worse because people are trying to act on the false idea that they can prove stuff, but I don't know whether that is the case. A more reasonable standard would be that if you can think of any explanation for what happened that has not been successfully criticised by the prosecution, then you should not convict."


"It is necessary to have money to run a political campaign and it is unrealistic to expect people to donate and get nothing in return. The way to deal with this is to require that all discussions, whether by e-mail or phone or in person or whatever, concerning donations should be recorded and posted on the net. If it isn't recorded the politician has to return the money or he will not be allowed to run."


"The idea of the experience machine doesn't make sense. If you are being given some sensation the only thing that makes the sensation pleasant is your interpretation of it. And your interpretations will change as you create knowledge. So the machine would have to be able to predict the growth of knowledge to anticipate what you're going to want. But that's impossible. If you could know today what knowledge you will have tomorrow you would already have it. As the machine creates new knowledge about how to pleasure people, people will respond to that by learning about how the machine has adjusted itself. Since the machine can't predict its own future knowledge, it can't predict the knowledge that people will develop in response and it can't give them pleasure. So the experience machine can't work."


"It is true that morality is about how to make decisions and so doesn't arise until there are beings that can make decisions, but this is not the same as morality being in the mind."

"You ask about the end to which choices should aim. One of the choices you have to make is what ends you should favour. I don't think there is some finite set of ends among which you should pick. Rather, you can and should aim for unbounded improvement, including improvement of your ends."

"Any particular choice uses some preference, but that doesn't imply that any particular preference will be preserved for longer than is required to make a decision."

"As I explained under some circumstances you can make a decision by reconsidering a goal, under others you may do it by reconsidering the means. Since either of those can be reconsidered as part of a decision morality is not directly about either of them since you need to have a way of making a decision about whether you should reconsider the goal or reconsider the means."

"Every time you make a bad choice there is some bad way of deciding that you enacted to make that choice. If you don't address how you made the decision you can't improve.

And every condemnation of an action includes some condemnation of how you decided to do it. If you kill somebody in self defence, then it's not reasonable to condemn you for doing that. If you murder somebody then it is reasonable to condemn you for doing that. The difference has to do with how you made the decision. In the self defence case, you decided to kill because the alternative was to let somebody else hurt or kill you. If you commit murder you decided that although the person did not pose such a threat you wanted to kill him anyway."

KP at 3:00 PM on December 14, 2019 | #14858 | reply | quote

> "The simulation hypothesis relies on the idea that physical systems can be simulated on a universal computer. Any universal computer can do the same set of operations as any other universal computer, regardless of what hardware each computer uses. So The simulation hypothesis makes no predictions, since there is no way for us to tell what hardware we are running on. As such, the simulation hypothesis explains nothing."

It's worse than that. The simulation hypothesis (SH) also allows for the laws of physics in the real world to be different than the ones in our simulation. So with SH we can't know anything about the real world regardless of whether or not our laws of physics have hardware-independent computation (as we currently believe) or not.

curi at 3:13 PM on December 15, 2019 | #14870 | reply | quote



> "It is necessary to have money to run a political campaign and it is unrealistic to expect people to donate and get nothing in return. The way to deal with this is to require that all discussions, whether by e-mail or phone or in person or whatever, concerning donations should be recorded and posted on the net. If it isn't recorded the politician has to return the money or he will not be allowed to run."

This one stood out to me as confusing. Maybe it only has in mind big donations and fear of corruption? Cuz tons of people wanted to e.g. donate $10 to Trump to get in return "Hillary loses" and I see no need for these donations to be public, that sounds like a violation of their freedom to have private interactions. Even with big donations this proposal sounds like a violation of freedom so I'd want a lot more explanation and detail before I seriously considered agreeing.

The quote comes from here:


curi at 4:20 PM on December 15, 2019 | #14871 | reply | quote

The most interesting/useful quote to me, currently, was:


> Information is a term for properties of physical systems that can be understood independent of the substrate in which it happens to be instantiated. For example, a controlled not gate takes two bits, flips the second if the first is 1 and performs the identity operation on the second bit if the first is zero. Any physical process that does this is a controlled not gate regardless of the material of which it is composed. There are non-trivial explanations concerning information that can't be derived from other laws of physics.

Are there are any standard books that explain stuff like this, like a basic text on information theory? I'd like to see that. Would be useful in some different ways than DD talking about it (as Alan links to after that quote).

curi at 4:23 PM on December 15, 2019 | #14872 | reply | quote

Alan Quote from BoI List Archives

> Also, there seems to be some confusion about what counts as an argument or a criticism. An argument is a statement of a position and an account of the problems that the position solves. Bald assertions are not arguments. A criticism of a position is an account of why that position fails to solve the problem it purports to solve. Bald assertions that a position is ridiculous are not criticisms.

Freeze at 9:40 PM on December 18, 2019 | #14902 | reply | quote

Alan Quote from his comment on his YT video on Duhem-Quine

> I know that philosophers tend to use the term underdetermination and to call it a problem. But it's not a problem. All it means is that there is no automatic way to tell truth from falsehood, i.e. - all of our knowledge is conjecture and always will be. The problem that is actually interesting, and that most philosophers never address, is how institutions and habits can be improved to facilitate the growth of knowledge.

Freeze at 12:33 AM on December 30, 2019 | #14975 | reply | quote


Good book review. Do you recommend reading it for any particular reason? I think I get the main ideas from your summary and I'm already reasonably familiar with them. Does reading the whole book add a lot more?

curi at 1:39 PM on October 15, 2020 | #18314 | reply | quote

#18314 The book provides an explanation of how the British justice system is supposed to work, how it actually works and some history. There are some strange features of the British justice system in the book that I left out of the review but nothing earthshaking. I would say the book is okay but I don't think reading it should be a high priority.

Alan at 2:26 PM on October 15, 2020 | #18318 | reply | quote


I've run into Dresden bombing hatred before. It says a lot (positively) about the allies that Dresden and the nuclear bombings are apparently the best complaints people can come up with about the allies' war behavior.

I think it's motivated by anti-Western sentiment. Bias first, conclusions second. Maybe that same bias was also the motivation for writing a book about how bad and incompetent the US government/military was in Vietnam.

curi at 1:10 PM on October 25, 2020 | #18495 | reply | quote

Alan, any comments on these Popper criticism quotes? About his personality and behavior, not his epistemology. The two stories seem more specific and clearly bad than some of the stuff I've seen before that was more like "we had a debate and I blame him for being a jerk" (well maybe, or maybe you, the complainer, were doing something wrong and had a wrong perspective on what was going on).


curi at 1:32 PM on November 29, 2020 | #18894 | reply | quote


The first story might be partly explained by the fact that Popper was kinda deaf later in life. So it's possible he couldn't hear the question with the mobile mike and needed to hear it with a louder microphone. And virtually all of Popper's ideas are so different from the philosophical mainstream that a lot of questions about it from that perspective will be wrongheaded and require correction before they can be answered.

It's also possible the second story was partly a result of deafness. He decided to pay more attention to somebody he could understand more easily because he was familiar with Quine's voice.

But Popper could have asked for written comments instead of spoken ones to deal with this problem.

Alan at 12:52 AM on November 30, 2020 | #18900 | reply | quote

> The first story might be partly explained by the fact that Popper was kinda deaf later in life. So it's possible he couldn't hear the question with the mobile mike and needed to hear it with a louder microphone.

Oh I totally accepted he couldn't hear her. It seemed to me like some pretty typical teacher insensitivity. Standing in front and facing the group while getting a critical reply. There were alternatives like having someone else repeat the question. This wouldn't stand out except that it he wrote some better stuff than that about education. But most teachers do worse all the time so the way the book presented it was pretty unfair.

> It's also possible the second story was partly a result of deafness. He decided to pay more attention to somebody he could understand more easily because he was familiar with Quine's voice.

That doesn't explain his comments that sound status chasing. An alternative explanation besides status chasing is that he didn't respect the other people present. It would be unsurprising if they were all bad. Or if I could give a talk to Feynman + some other people, I might want to ignore everyone else even if they were pretty good because Feynman is smarter and more interesting.

curi at 1:00 AM on November 30, 2020 | #18901 | reply | quote


First the commie tried to assume Alan is a fan of Adam Smith and therefore most agree with any error made by Smith. Then he made the excuse that they (Marxists) haven't responded to Austrian writings much b/c they think Austrians aren't worth their time to debate. Pathetic answer. Then re Alan's blog post:


> So you didn't read the book, didn't present an original argument (you didn't even bother putting it in your own words!), and demonstrated an utter lack of comprehension of what little you did read. This is probably the laziest response to anything I've ever seen!

Reading a full chapter of a book, and writing a response using sourced quotes that book and a second book, is the "laziest" response he's "ever seen"? Liar.

He said he'd defend the book against criticism, but then his response to criticism was to complain it was bad and shows lack of comprehension ... but without pointing out any error.

People are so bad at Paths Forward.

idk what Alan's goal was.

curi at 1:30 PM on January 24, 2021 | #19730 | reply | quote

Hey Alan I saw you tweeted out this book several times recently:


Want to do a blog post with some review and summary of it, and highlight some quotes?

Also when you reply to people (who I don't follow) and don't retweet your own reply, it doesn't show on my feed, so I normally don't see it. I only found those tweets by browsing your personal tweets and replies page just now, which I don't normally do.

curi at 1:35 PM on January 24, 2021 | #19731 | reply | quote

#19730 I don't often see people who explicitly claim to be commies. So I thought it might be interesting to see what sort of arguments he'd present, if any.

Alan at 2:00 PM on January 24, 2021 | #19733 | reply | quote

#19762 pretty horrifying example of what happened that you quote in the post :/

curi at 7:42 PM on January 29, 2021 | #19806 | reply | quote


I think mb a typo:

> Every step in this process *spreader* the problems caused by price controls to more hospitals instead of fixing the problem.

I agree with curi. Thanks for sharing.

Max at 8:15 PM on January 29, 2021 | #19807 | reply | quote

#19807 I have fixed the typo.

Alan at 2:11 PM on January 30, 2021 | #19811 | reply | quote

A blog with some discussion of Szasz that has some good content, like this discussion of whether Szasz is a Cartesian dualist:


Alan at 2:01 PM on February 1, 2021 | #19819 | reply | quote


> Pinker doesn’t make any argument against this possibility so this entire line of discussion is on the same intellectual level as claiming that the fact that there are many obese refutes the notion that obesity is a bad idea.

Convoluted sentence and typo (maybe missing word "persons" after "obese").

curi at 10:36 AM on March 19, 2021 | #20217 | reply | quote

#20217 I have changed that sentence to

> Pinker doesn’t make any argument against this possibility. His argument is like claiming that the existence of many obese persons refutes the notion that obesity is bad.

Alan at 3:21 PM on March 19, 2021 | #20219 | reply | quote

Hey Alan maybe you'd like to do a blog post criticizing this:


Note especially in the middle:

> In this case, correlation IS causation and we can say the inputs CAUSE the outputs.

curi at 11:34 AM on April 3, 2021 | #20324 | reply | quote

curi at 12:48 PM on April 5, 2021 | #20341 | reply | quote

Alan, you might be interested in analyzing, explaining and criticizing Roko's basilisk. It's a dumb Less Wrong thought experiment idea related to super powerful AIs which Yudkowsky tried to suppress information about:



curi at 11:38 AM on April 6, 2021 | #20345 | reply | quote

curi at 10:46 AM on April 10, 2021 | #20365 | reply | quote

FYI on my iPhone at https://conjecturesandrefutations.com/2021/04/17/confusion-about-computation-and-brains/

the blockquote is indicated by italics with no other indicator of quoting, and the italics within the blockquote are changed to non-italics. it's confusing/unclear.

curi at 10:16 AM on April 18, 2021 | #20398 | reply | quote


There are lots of smallish writing errors in this article. So I have a question: What are your goals with the article (and more generally the blog)?

curi at 11:55 AM on May 9, 2021 | #20540 | reply | quote

#20540 I'd be interested in hearing about writing errors. And if you think I have a chronic problem with such errors I'd be interested in hearing about what you think would help.

Alan at 1:07 AM on May 10, 2021 | #20543 | reply | quote

I still have the question:

What are your goals with the article (and more generally the blog)?

curi at 8:56 AM on May 10, 2021 | #20544 | reply | quote

#20544 With the article I aimed to point out that people claiming to refute Darwinism with Lamarckism haven't managed to state correctly the idea they're trying to refute.

For the blog in general I aim to write about stuff that interests me.

Alan at 12:27 AM on May 11, 2021 | #20548 | reply | quote

> With the article I aimed to point out that people claiming to refute Darwinism with Lamarckism haven't managed to state correctly the idea they're trying to refute.

Point out to what standard, and for what purpose? If it was written better, it'd be easier to understand for more people (if they read it, but I think the blog is very low traffic), but I don't think I saw any writing errors where I couldn't quickly figure out what you meant.

> For the blog in general I aim to write about stuff that interests me.

I don't think the writing errors that I saw are relevant to that goal as written.

curi at 9:53 AM on May 11, 2021 | #20549 | reply | quote

The basic thing I think would help is intentional practice with intentional organization. There are many ways to do that and I've talked about some. One is to find a partner and have a tree-based discussion (I suggest defaulting all messages to side-comments, and explicitly labelling everything that someone wants to add as a node in the discussion tree, that way the tree grows slowly, isn't overwhelming to deal with and has higher quality nodes. So you can e.g. ask a clarifying question or outline and argument and get an initial reply without it going in the tree, and then use that info to make a better node than you could have made initially). Another option is to study grammar and then practice textual analysis (both with and without trees). You can find other ways of practicing in my tutoring Max videos. One of the ongoing themes of those videos was trying to provide stuff he could practice on his own without me; writing and text analysis were also major recurring themes.

curi at 9:58 AM on May 11, 2021 | #20550 | reply | quote

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