There’s a Zen maxim that commands this: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him” There are several closely related interpretations of this maxim in Buddhist tradition. The most obvious one is that worship of the Buddha interferes with comprehending what he actually said – that religious fetishization is the enemy of enlightenment.… Continue reading Kill the Buddha
Some comments on my last post sidetracked into a discussion of evolution, teleology and design and under what circumstances the language of “purpose” or “intention” can reasonably applied to a natural system. I’ve had a new insight while thinking about that discussion, so I’m going to write about it a bit more. And yes, I… Continue reading Three kinds of teleology
Good causes sometimes have bad consequences. Blacks, women, and other historical out-groups were right to demand equality before the law and the full respect and liberties due to any member of our civilization; but the tactics they used to “raise consciousness” have sometimes veered into the creepy and pathological, borrowing the least sane features of… Continue reading Kafkatrapping
[This may become part of a book.] What is truth? There are complicated ways of explaining “truth” that get all tangled up in questions about reality and perception, but we’re going to use a very simple one: truth is what makes the future less surprising. No matter what you think you are and no matter… Continue reading What is truth?
Oh Thoth Trismegistus, oh Ma’at, oh Ganesha, oh sweet lady Eris…I have not laughed so hard in years! Eliezer Yudkowsky is one of the brightest people I’ve ever met in a lifetime of seeking out gifted- to genius-grade thinkers because people who aren’t usually bore me pretty quickly. Eliezer has spent years studying the deep… Continue reading Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
I’m against the horror of therdiglob. All right-thinking people should be against therdiglob; civilized societies have long abandoned the practice. Therdiglob makes us look bad in the eyes of the world. If you’re not against therdiglob, someone may do it to you someday. Eh…what? The above statement is meaningless, because “therdiglob” is undefined. It has… Continue reading On being against torture
One of my regular commenters asked, in a previous thread, “If everyone was truly released from the shackles of religion, and got beyond the false moral codes imposed on them, would society collapse in a heap of nihilism?” This question needs a longer answer that will fit in a reply comment. The shortest summary is… Continue reading If God is dead, is anything permissible?
I’ve used the term “error cascade” on this blog several times, notably in referring to AGW hysteria. A commenter has asked me to explain it, and I think that’s a good idea as (a) the web sources on the concept are a bit confusing, and (b) I’ll probably use the term again — error cascades… Continue reading Error cascade: a definition and examples
I am not generally unhappy with my model of how the universe works. Yes, it would be pleasant if there really were a beneficient creator-god and an afterlife; it would be nice if “good government” were actually a sustainable possibility rather than a fond but deluded hope in the minds of statists; it would be… Continue reading Fearing what might be true
In The Book of Lies, the diabolically brilliant occultist Alesteir Crowley once wrote: “Explain this happening!” “It must have a natural cause!” “It must have a supernatural cause!” Let these two asses be set to grind corn! In the original, there is a sort of grouping bracket connecting the second and third lines lines and… Continue reading Let these two asses be set to grind corn!
I changed my mind about a significant philosophical issue today, and in the process parted ways with a thinker I’ve been a serious fan of for a couple of decades now. The issue is raised by a thought experiment, of which I was previously unaware, called Mary’s Room. The simplest way of getting involved the… Continue reading Quiddity has a qualia all its own
This was originally email to Eliezer Yudkowsky about his excellent and thought-provoking blog Overcoming Bias (actually, the links here are to the older newer Less Wrong, which has been re-indexed at Overcoming Bias). Eliezer encouraged me to publish this commentary; I have provided HTML markup and fixed some typos. Warning: the following may be heavy… Continue reading Responding to Eliezer Yudkowsky’s “Overcoming Bias”
I was born with a congenital defect. That’s a value-free statement that nobody can conceivably insult me by repeating. It is a fact that I have cerebral palsy, probably caused by neonatal oxygen deprivation. It is a fact that my central nervous system (specifically the motor-control areas of my right temporal lobe) does not function… Continue reading Why I hate identity politics
There is a belief abroad in many conservative circles that the U.S. is “a Christian nation”. This belief is found in perhaps its most extreme form in the Mormon doctrine that the Constitution of the United States is a divinely inspired document. Less extreme versions hold that Christian piety was an shaping influence on the… Continue reading Deism and the Founding Fathers