rationality

Absence of emotions neither causes nor promotes rationality. […] In order to respond reasonably one must first of all be ‘moved,’ and the opposite of emotional is not 'rational,’ whatever that may mean…
—  Arendt, “On Violence,” in Crises of the Republic p. 161
Rhetorical might doesn't make right

Not knowing how to articulate something doesn’t mean you are wrong.

Being elequoent doesn’t mean you are right.

Making someone look stupid doesn’t mean you are right.

Words are tools. They aren’t everything. They aren’t all of knowledge either.

So if someone tells you something that sounds plausible, and they’ve articulated it well, you still might know they are wrong even if you have no words for it.

They might try to intimidate you into agreeing by insisting that if you can’t give a clear explicit answer, then you must just be too irrational to accept a valid argument. But, it doesn’t work that way. Knowing something is not the same as knowing how to use words to describe that thing.

Words are very useful tools for communication. But being good at words just means being good at words. Don’t conflate it with being right, being insightful, or being exceptionally rational. Those are separate issues.

There’s 14 billion people in the world; how amazing would it be to get to know all of them, and to empathize with them so deeply that you could see the entire world the way they all see the world? Instead of our one subjective view of how we see reality, I could have 14 billion subjective views, and through that triangulation, really have almost a true objective view of reality.
— 

Toughest Scene I Wrote: Spike Jonze on Her, in The Vulture.

The quote above is an earlier version of a line from Her, said by Samantha. It was cut: ‘too complicated’.

I’ve been learning that doubts do not disqualify me from knowing Him. They’re certainly troubling. But sometimes doubt is the persistent prompting to investigate our deepest beliefs, especially when life hits hard. I’m learning that Christianity, if anything, will challenge you to think for yourself. Not what to think, but how.
If a man’s honesty were called into question, it would be ridiculous to refer to the man’s own word, whether he be honest or not. The same absurdity there is in attempting to prove, by any kind of reasoning, probable or demonstrative, that our reason is not fallacious, since the very point in question is, whether reasoning may be trusted.
—  Thomas Reid: Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man
Historically, ‘irrational’ has been a term primarily used by white, middle-class men to demean and shut down discussions had by non-white people. For centuries, men were rational, women were irrational. I mean, let’s face it, who knows how women really think, right? Turns out they think using precisely the same brain structure as other humans, what with them being human and all, and the difference in decision making largely stems from a difference of inputs. Those inputs (their lived experience) being something that men don’t typically have access to, then produce different outputs, or choices. There’s no ‘irrationality’ here, just a different decision process.

can we just all collectively rise above our animal natures and be better people and not signal boost lurid yet statistically rare stories that fuck with everyone’s availability heuristics, particularly when these stories are about the evil of the Hated Enemy  

In the scientific journal papers I read, I rarely (if ever) encounter a scientist who claims anything like “this topic is now closed.” For one thing, such bald-faced egotism would be career suicide in the scientific community — and for another, a claim like that would fly in the face of the whole spirit of scientific work, which is founded on the ongoing aim of (as Adams himself writes), “being more right over time and fixing what it got wrong.”

The trait that distinguishes scienceyness from actual science is that it’s got nothing to do with the scientific method at all.

Here’s the crux of this whole thing:

Sciencey headlines are pre-packaged cultural tokens that can be shared and reshared without any investment in analysis or critical thought — as if they were sports scores or fashion photos or poetry quotes — to reinforce one’s aesthetic self-identification as a “science lover.” One’s actual interest doesn’t have to extend beyond the headline itself.

And that, right there, is the difference between a love of science, and a love of scienceyness.

Continue Reading.

Submitted by realityunbounded.

Submit some Science here. :)

We humans have a tendency to ‘freak out’ when our model of the world changes drastically. But we get over it.

The love a mother has for her child does not disappear when we explain the brain processes that instantiate that love. Explaining something is not explaining it away. Showing that love and happiness and moral properties are made of atoms does not mean they are just atoms. They are also love and happiness and moral properties. Water was still water after we discovered which particular atoms it was made of.

When you understand this, you need not feel the threat of nihilism as science marches on. Instead, you can jump with excitement as science locates everything we care about in the natural world and tells us how it works. Along the way, you can take joy in the merely real.

Whenever you 'lose’ something as a result of getting closer to the truth, you’ve only lost a lie.

anonymous asked:

Hey, can you help me parse something you reblogged earlier? The "stop reposting lurid but statistically rare stories" one, I get the general gist of it but can't figure out wtf 'availability heuristics' means. If you can't it's totally fine! (Also you do good work on this blog and I wanted to say thank you. <3)

Yes definitely! So when you ask people ‘how common is X’, there’s a lot of research suggesting that what they actually ask themselves is ‘how easily can I think of an example of X’. If I ask you ‘how common are plane crashes’, you’ll probably search your brain for a plane crash, remember there was one reported just a week ago, remember there’ve been others reported recently, and overestimate how common they are.

And since anything interesting happening anywhere in the world will make headlines, and since the events that fit local political narratives will get lots of reblogs on tumblr, people will end up with a very skewed mental picture of how often things happen.

A good rule for helping maintain an accurate gut intuition about how common problems are is to look up statistics and read about the things in proportion to how often they happen. For instance, a while ago I ran across a cluster of blogs by people who detransitioned and were very anti-trans. Reading those blogs threw my gut intuitions out of whack, so I looked up what percentage of trans people detransition (it’s about 5%) and decided to read one blog by a trans people who detransitioned for every 19 by a trans person who did not. This is a good way to keep the availability heuristic in check and make sure my instincts match reality.

19% of the planet lives on less than $1/day, and I doubt that one fifth of the blog posts you read are written by them.
                                - Eliezer Yudkowsky, Availability

But sometimes this is impossible. Take plane crashes. Something like 18 million passenger flights happen every year, and like one of them crashes. So to be responsible, we’d have to spent 18 million times as much energy thinking about safe planes happily landing as we spend thinking about crashes.  If you spent two minutes reading about a plane crash you’d have to spent every minute of the rest of the year sleeplessly thinking about all the safe planes in order to get the ratio of crashes-to-safe-landings that reflects reality.

Since this is impossible, it’s probably bad practice to signal boost incredibly rare things and therefore screw with our intuitions about how often they occur. I’m not very tempted to blog about plane crashes, but when a feminist does an awful thing I am very tempted to blog all about it despite the same principles being at play. There are websites that do nothing but collect news stories about false rape accusations - basically, deliberately skewing their readers’ availability heuristic to believe most rape accusations are false - and I’m comfortable saying that is a malicious and despicable thing. So I’d better be sure I’m not doing the same thing to my ideological enemies.

Managing irrationality
  • Everyone is irrational about something
  • It’s good when you can get over irrationalities and be rational about things
  • Rationality makes it possible to understand things better, and to be more flexible.
  • This does not mean that getting over a particular identified area of irrationality ought to be an overriding priority.
  • For instance, someone who is irrationally afraid of dogs may well be better off avoiding dogs than working intensely to figure out how not to find them frightening. Overcoming a phobia is a lot of work (and can’t always be done), and sometimes it’s more work than it’s worth.
  • It’s ok to say that yes, it’s irrational, and no, fixing it is not a priority.
  • You are allowed to decide what is and is not a priority. Being irrational about something does not mean that other people have the right to jump in and take over and fix you or demand that you fix yourself.
  • Personal autonomy is not contingent on being flawless.