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Comments by Janus

Go to: No blood on the carpet. How disappointing. [Also in Polish]

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 36 by Janus

The near totality of journalists are either dishonest or incompetent. Usually they're both.

Sun, 26 Feb 2012 23:34:46 UTC | #922261

Go to: Every scientists-versus-journalists debate ever, in one diagram

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by Janus

There are good journalists?

Wed, 18 Jan 2012 03:14:14 UTC | #909408

Go to: "The Selfish Gene's" negative message

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 104 by Janus

You've drawn wrong conclusions from TSG. That genes 'shaped' our brains to make it more likely that they'll survive doesn't mean that they shaped our brains to be selfish. It's perfectly possible that true altruism is better for the genes' survival than selfishness. And even if that's not the case, genes aren't actively controlling our minds, they only affected the desires we start out with. Human brains (and even the brains of other animals, to a lesser degree) have the capability to alter their own desires, to do thing that are good for us and for others, but not for our genes.

Sun, 27 Feb 2011 22:57:04 UTC | #597060

Go to: Cosmology 101: The Beginning

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 23 by Janus

"There was no time either. There was no vacuum. There was literally nothing.

Then the universe was born."

The first or the second line has to be false.

Fri, 18 Feb 2011 04:20:53 UTC | #592875

Go to: Christopher Hitchens "All Of Life Is A Wager"

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by Janus

Has anyone talked to Hitchens about signing up for cryonics?

Tue, 25 Jan 2011 05:39:07 UTC | #583818

Go to: New technique to see neurons of the deep brain for months at a time developed

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by Janus

Cheyla and Aflacduck, have you just discovered medical research or something? Would you rather cures for diseases were tested on mice or on humans?

Anyway, this is an important advance, as far as I can tell.

Mon, 17 Jan 2011 06:57:38 UTC | #579654

Go to: The 25 Most Influential Living Atheists

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 71 by Janus

David Sloan Wilson? Seriously? Ugh.

Sat, 15 Jan 2011 01:26:17 UTC | #578620

Go to: Why Religious Believers Are So Desperate for the Atheist Seal of Approval

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by Janus

I've seen this sort of thing a lot. It's a bit difficult to find examples... it happens every once in a while on various forums I frequent.

Sat, 27 Nov 2010 05:48:07 UTC | #554068

Go to: YouTube fails to halt jihad videos

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by Janus

Well of course Youtube isn't doing anything about this, that would be racist and islamophobic.

Sun, 07 Nov 2010 17:23:56 UTC | #543764

Go to: Mosques to become bigger part of German life – Chancellor Angela Merkel

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 33 by Janus

Is the worry over demographics really fear-mongering?

Sun, 26 Sep 2010 04:52:42 UTC | #525023

Go to: What Is Naturopathy?

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 45 by Janus

Nuts. Nuts everywhere.

Sat, 25 Sep 2010 05:47:26 UTC | #524580

Go to: UPDATED: Beyond New Atheism?

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 148 by Janus

Beyond the New Atheism... to the old atheism.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 23:51:26 UTC | #523572

Go to: The Moral Landscape: Q & A with Sam Harris

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by Janus

Sam's got ethics figured out, but there's something wrong with his meta-ethics.

Thu, 26 Aug 2010 03:48:06 UTC | #505643

Go to: Are we phalluses?

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 53 by Janus

And yes, most of the commenters at Pharyngula are assholes. PZ is better, but not much.

Mon, 23 Aug 2010 01:27:41 UTC | #504062

Go to: Are we phalluses?

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 51 by Janus

While I feel sorry that the deist who's been 'ostracized' from the skeptic community is taking it so badly, it's absolutely insane to blame this on anyone but her. She's like a teenager who complains about being ostracized from the track and field club because she can't run a hundred meters in less than 30 seconds.

Figuring out that there's no evidence for gods isn't exactly one of the most difficult problems a skeptic is likely to be faced with. In fact, it's one of the easiest. If you can't even do that, you're not a skeptic. It's not that you don't deserve to be one, it's that you just don't fit the most basic definition.

Mon, 23 Aug 2010 01:26:07 UTC | #504060

Go to: God, Darwin or...Both?

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by Janus

We're usually willing to make excuses for accomodationists when they're fighting the good fight for evolution, but I'm starting to wonder if this is a good idea. Isn't the lie that religion is a 'way of knowing' worse than the lie that evolution is false? Sure, the latter is a big one, as it distorts one's understanding of one of the most important facts about our universe. But the former distorts rational thought itself, which is the basis for all of science.

Sun, 18 Jul 2010 07:04:47 UTC | #489801

Go to: First flea for TGSOE

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by Janus

Grats.

Sun, 11 Jul 2010 19:33:45 UTC | #487996

Go to: God’s place in Charter challenged

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 17 by Janus

Michael,

Quebec isn't like England, we don't have a state religion, fossilized or not. There are a few anachronistic remains of what our society used to be, like that sentence in the Charter, but otherwise Catholicism has no more official status than other religions. If anything, the province of Quebec is evidence that the causal link you're talking about isn't as strong as some may believe.

Sat, 10 Jul 2010 05:36:36 UTC | #487664

Go to: “New Agnostics” or “Same Old Ineffectual Wafflers”

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by Janus

Agnosticism is wrong. It's closer to the truth than theism, but it's still wrong.

Updated: Wed, 30 Jun 2010 04:54:47 UTC | #484905

Go to: Astrophysicist Jennifer Wiseman to Lead AAAS Effort to Build Religion-Science Dialogue

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by Janus

I think it's always helpful to substitute the meaning of words for the words themselves in articles like this:

“Jennifer Wiseman is an accomplished truth-seeker who also understands the importance of self-delusion in American life and how a deep knowledge of reality need not threaten false beliefs about reality,” said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of Science. “With continuing battles over the teaching of evolution in the schools and new fundamentalist attacks by the on the reliability of climate science, there is a need more than ever for a constructive conversation between truth-seekers and groups of self-deluded people. Dr. Wiseman is admirably prepared to help make that happen.”

Thu, 17 Jun 2010 00:54:07 UTC | #481014

Go to: When and how to talk to children about sex

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by Janus

I second InYourFaceNewYorker's bewilderment.

I'd tell my child as soon as s/he asks, at age 12 at the very latest.

Sun, 30 May 2010 20:24:27 UTC | #474896

Go to: The Problem of Induction - Is it really a problem?

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by Janus

Um, I've just noticed that there's a certain confusion about the way you use the word 'justified': Sometimes you seem to mean 'is useful' by it, other times you seem to mean 'is true' by it.

As for me I've only used it to mean 'is true'.

Sun, 30 May 2010 19:36:23 UTC | #474882

Go to: The Problem of Induction - Is it really a problem?

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by Janus

Comment 8 by MJongo :

Comment 7 by Janus :

Note that this is just a pragmatic solution; induction still cannot be used to arrive at an approximation of truth. However, if we just want to get something done, then induction is the way to go.

That doesn't make any sense. As you noted, our decisions and actions are based on our beliefs about reality. However, if you don't have any kind of certainty about your beliefs, it means your decisions are exactly as good as if you based them on a throw of a die. Put differently, if you think your decisions are better than those based on the throw of a die, it means you believe you have at least some certainty in your beliefs about reality.

We have beliefs about reality, but they are not always justified. For example, a belief that the force of gravity will hold tomorrow is unjustified. However, a belief that it is more or just as useful to act as if the force of gravity will hold tomorrow in order to achieve a goal is justified.

That's a contradiction. It is 'useful' to act in a certain way if your belief that action X will produce result Y is justified, otherwise it's not useful. For example, if I decide to kick the ball in a certain way in order to make it end up in the goal, my decision is only useful if the beliefs that it was based on are justified. If my belief about the way the ball will react to my kick is unjustified, then the ball will probably not end up in the goal and my decision and action were not useful.

Usefulness is entirely dependent on truth (by which I mean beliefs that correspond to reality, even if not perfectly). If truth is not achievable because of the problem of induction, neither is usefulness.

Updated: Sun, 30 May 2010 19:13:56 UTC | #474879

Go to: Religion has nothing to do with science – and vice versa

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 30 by Janus

Two comments from Eliezer Yudkowsky (of Less Wrong):

The point is not that scientists should be perfect in all spheres of human endeavor. But neither should anyone who really understands science, deliberately start believing things without evidence. It's not a moral question, merely a gross and indefensible error of cognition. It's the equivalent of being trained to say that 2 + 2 = 4 on math tests, but when it comes time to add up a pile of candy bars you decide that 2 + 2 ought to equal 5 because you want 5 candy bars. You may do well on math tests, when you apply the rules that have been trained into you, but you don't understand numbers. Similarly, if you deliberately believe without evidence, you don't understand cognition or probability theory. You may understand quarks, or cells, but not science.

Newton may have been a hotshot physicist by the standards of the 17th century, but he wasn't a hotshot rationalist by the standards of this one. (Laplace, on the other hand, was explicitly a probability theorist as well as a physicist, and he was an outstanding rationalist by the standards of that era.)

http://lesswrong.com/lw/gv/outside_the_laboratory/drb

Yes, there have been many great scientists who believed in utter crap - though fewer of them and weaker belief, as you move toward modern times.

And there have also been many great jugglers who didn't understand gravity, differential equations, or how their cerebellar cortex learned realtime motor skills. The vast majority of historical geniuses had no idea how their own brains worked, however brainy they may have been.

You can make an amazing discovery, and go down in the historical list of great scientists, without ever understanding what makes Science work. Though you couldn't build a scientist, just like you couldn't build a juggler without knowing all that stuff about gravity and differential equations and error correction in realtime motor skills.

I still wouldn't trust the one's opinion about a controversial issue in which they had an emotional stake. I couldn't rely on them to know the difference between evidence versus a wish to believe. If they can compartmentalize their brains for a spirit world, maybe they compartmentalize their brains for scientific controversies too - who knows? If they gave into temptation once, why not again? I'll find someone else to ask for their summary of the issues.

http://lesswrong.com/lw/gv/outside_the_laboratory/drc

Updated: Sun, 30 May 2010 19:02:28 UTC | #474876

Go to: The Problem of Induction - Is it really a problem?

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by Janus

Note that this is just a pragmatic solution; induction still cannot be used to arrive at an approximation of truth. However, if we just want to get something done, then induction is the way to go.

That doesn't make any sense. As you noted, our decisions and actions are based on our beliefs about reality. However, if you don't have any kind of certainty about your beliefs, it means your decisions are exactly as good as if you based them on a throw of a die. Put differently, if you think your decisions are better than those based on the throw of a die, it means you believe you have at least some certainty in your beliefs about reality.

Updated: Sun, 30 May 2010 18:40:32 UTC | #474866

Go to: Religion has nothing to do with science – and vice versa

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 25 by Janus

Religious scientists like Ayala may (or may not) be good at their jobs, but they don't understand the scientific way of thinking.

They're like the people who spend their lives informing the public about good eating, preaching about how one should eat in order to be healthy, but when they come home every day they completely ignore the things they've repeated all day and eat two bags of chips and drink a big bottle of Pepsi. It doesn't mean they're bad at their jobs, they might be the best in the biz, but they clearly don't understand (or believe in) what they're doing and why they're doing it, or they would apply it in their own lives, not just when they're being paid.

Sun, 30 May 2010 18:08:46 UTC | #474860

Go to: Heaven: A fool's paradise

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by Janus

Johann Hari is a great writer, and speaker.

Wed, 21 Apr 2010 01:00:00 UTC | #461399

Go to: What I know about Islam

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 24 by Janus

What I know... is what you know.

Mon, 19 Apr 2010 00:47:00 UTC | #460828

Go to: The Third Strike

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by Janus

A good piece by Andrew Sullivan, although he still refuses to accept that Catholicism, as an ideology, is part of what caused the Pope's actions.

Benedict explicitly justified what he did by appealing to the good of the Church. It makes perfect sense, from a Catholic point of view: The Church is God's chosen instrument to effect the eternal salvation of as a big a fraction of mankind as can be, and as such it can't afford to have its reputation tarnished, or to submit itself to secular law or morality. After all, what could be more important than saving our fellow human beings from endless suffering in Hell? Nothing. Therefore anything one can do to further this goal is justified. God's Will be done.

Beliefs about reality affect one's actions, regardless of whether they are true or false. Sometimes we get lucky and our false beliefs lead us to do something good that we wouldn't have done otherwise: Some Catholics _have_ done good things because of their belief in Catholicism over the years. But for the most part, false beliefs tend to lead to actions that we would recognize as mistakes if we knew better. A person with good intentions could genuinely believe that covering up the rapes committed by Catholic priests is a good idea, if this person believes that the creator of the universe cares a great deal about the preservation of the Catholic Church. Expunge that belief from the person's mind, and what you'll get is a person that is better and more moral according to their own standards.

What Sullivan is saying is that Catholicism had nothing to do with the Pope's actions (because, like the Pope, he believes that Catholicism is Good by Definition), because the Pope himself is evil, and therefore that he would have done evil things with or without being misled by his false beliefs. That may or may not be true. But what about all the priests who followed the Pope's orders, even though they felt there might something very wrong going on? Why do you think they kept obeying him (and other cardinals, I'm sure) all this time? Because they all shared the Pope's inherently corrupt nature? Of course not. They obeyed their superiors because they believed in the Holiness of the Catholic Church and of its leaders.

The belief that Catholicism is true is directly responsible for the suffering that the Catholic Church has caused. It may not be the only cause, but it's certainly the main one.

Sun, 11 Apr 2010 19:53:00 UTC | #458185

Go to: Winner of 1m pound Templeton prize attacks 'fundamentalism' of Dawkins

Janus's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by Janus

I find it a useful exercise to substitute the actual meaning of words like "religious" in articles like these. It's a good reminder of what it is these people are defending: Self-delusion and intellectual dishonesty.


Professor Francisco Ayala, who won the £1 million Templeton Prize for accomodationism, said that attacking self-delusion and ridiculing the self-deluded provided ammunition for cult leaders who insisted that their unthinking followers had to choose between an imaginary friend and reality. “Richard Dawkins has been a friend for more than 20 years, but it is unfortunate that he goes beyond the boundaries of honest, rational inquiry in making statements that offend the self-deluded,” he said.

Fri, 26 Mar 2010 04:33:00 UTC | #452375