Re: The Conjunction Fallacy Fallacy [WAS Re: Anti-singularity spam.]

From: Mark Waser (
Date: Sun Aug 27 2006 - 12:20:19 MDT

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
> Richard Loosemore wrote:
>> Worst of all: there is no discussion of the actual topic! All of what
>> Yudkowsky has to say is what he thinks I have or have not read 8-|.
>> Asonishingly, the argument simply never comes up at all.
> Correct. I am not particularly interested in arguing with you on this
> topic until you actually read something about the field, just as I am not
> interested in arguing with the inventor of a perpetual motion machine.

Thank you, Eliezer for using exactly that argument. It enabled me to put my
finger on what's been bothering me about this list recently . . . .

People, unavoidably, always argue with their own mental perceptions of what
the other person's argument was. Unfortunately, however, it seems as if,
recently, people are getting *a lot* worse at correctly modeling other
people's arguments and are a lot more prone to knee-jerk reactions.

You have apparently modeled Richard's argument as simplistic and lacking
your deep understanding of the field. Unfortunately, the evidence that I
have seen indicates that he has understood and answered 100% of your
arguments whereas you have clearly refused to address his arguments once
they reach the point of (successully) answering your initial knee-jerk
responses. I see no evidence of your having any more understanding of the
field than he does and indeed actually note that you seem to need to be
constantly trying to steer the conversation from the field that Richard
initially brought up (mental modeling) to one that you are more comfortable
with (heuristics and biases) -- despite the fact that the relevance of this
change is obviously disputable.

And then, clearly obnoxious insults and threats follow . . . . to whit:

> Do you understand? You are ignorant of an established experimental field.

In your biased, knee-jerk model.

> I did you the courtesy of informing you that you were ignorant

No. You *told* him that he was ignorant. *Informing* him would have done
it in such a way that it was believable (at least, to a relatively impartial
observer). You didn't successfully "inform" *me* that Richard was ignorant.
You did successfully inform me that *you* have some huge (dare I say it,
unscientifically irrational) blinders.

> Of course, when someone ignores this advice . . . . Either it is a
> deliberate bluff followed by the attempt to cover it up when caught, or it
> is the arrogant smart guy's trap of thinking that their infinitesimal
> fraction of all human knowledge constitutes the whole. Either way it is
> not particularly forgiveable.

Damn! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

> It is, in fact, a serious enough offense against scientific ethics,
> whether committed intentionally or unintentionally, that I am wondering
> whether to ban you from SL4 for it.

Before you do that, I would request that you do the scientifically ethical
thing and rebut Richard's arguments in a scientific fashion -- not refuse to
discuss them because you have a perception (that Richard is ignorant) that
has *absolutely nothing to do with the validity of his arguments*.

> So I give you three choices, the next time anyone on SL4 informs you that
> you are not an expert in an existing science:
> 1) Read the actual literature of that field.
> 2) Stop claiming expertise. I don't mean that you have to admit you were
> wrong and apologize or anything like that. Just be aware that, by the law
> of the list laid down by me, you are unjustly and tyrannically prohibited
> from again claiming expertise in that field, either explicitly or by
> implication.
> 3) Leave the SL4 mailing list.

So . . . . what if I say to you (Eliezer) that you appear not to be an
expert in the field of mental modeling -- enough so that you don't
understand the scientific basis, relevance, and standing of Richard's
arguments. I believe that you don't agree with him because you are
incorrectly casting his arguments into your knowledge of another field
(heuristics and biases) and that you are showing the "bluff or arrogance"
that you are accusing Richard of. I think that, in this case, maybe you
need to
1) Read the actual literature of that field.
2) Stop claiming expertise. I don't mean that you have to admit you
 were wrong and apologize or anything like that. Just be aware that, by
 the law of the list laid down by <you>, you are unjustly and tyrannically
 prohibited from again claiming expertise in that field, either
 explicitly or by implication.
3) Leave the SL4 mailing list.

I will claim (and posit that many others on this list should claim)
expertise in the scientific method. I doubt that many will claim that, in
this case, you are showing it.


P.S. As for the relevance of the "inventor of a perpetual motion
machine" -- The topic that was immediately labeled as such made no such
claims. The most casual perusal of their information revealed to me any
number of ways in which their claims might be true without violating any
laws of physics. Yet, because of a knee-jerk reaction by someone who
refused to even have the scientific integrity to even *start* to investigate
the subject before squelching it, the subject was sniped.

P.P.S. Yes, it's your list. You can boot anyone off of it for any reason
you desire. I'm asking that you stop, perform some self-investigation, and
show some integrity.

P.P.P.S. What do you think about "cold fusion"? Now, go do some research.
Now, what do you think?

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