[extropy-chat] SI morality

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Mon Apr 19 14:41:21 UTC 2004

I would like to nominate this for Post of the Month, if we're still 
doing anything of that sort.

Thank you, Chris, for your insightful and practical comments on the 
importance of context and *effective* communication with others of 
different mind set.

- Jef

Chris Phoenix wrote:

> But back to the practice of science: the trouble is that scientists, 
> like everyone else, are prone to the illusion that their chosen context 
> extends everywhere.  Let's be clear: I don't mean that scientists should 
> leave room for the paranormal or magical.  They should not.  I mean that 
> chemists should leave room for physics, and physicists should leave room 
> for psychology, and psychologists should leave room for chemistry. 
> Otherwise you get absurdities like chemists declaring that Drexler's 
> physics and mechanics work is worthless, when it's obvious they don't 
> even understand it.
> One thing I never see addressed in discussions of rationality: How does 
> a rational thinker know when to keep their ears open and their mouth 
> shut?  Obviously, the belief that a rational thinker will be an expert 
> in everything is irrational.  But it's far too common.  Scientists are 
> slowly learning enough to be rational in certain limited contexts.  And 
> in a few glorious areas, those contexts have spread enough to merge. But 
> anyone who aspires to rationality should learn from the overconfidence 
> of scientists who, secure in their rationality, talk nonsense outside 
> their field.  That's as big a mistake--I would argue that it's the same 
> mistake--as religious people talking nonsense while feeling secure in 
> their irrationality.  The mistake is assuming that their mental context 
> extends farther than it actually does.
> And scientists and rationalists have even less excuse than 
> irrationalists.  If as great a scientist as Lord Kelvin could be wrong 
> about something as mundane and technical as heavier-than-air flight, 
> surely the rest of us should be extremely cautious when talking outside 
> our field of study--or even inside it, for many fields.  But no, we keep 
> making the same mistake: our context defines our universe, and 
> everything we see must be made to conform.  Appeals to rational thought, 
> in the end, are usually just another way to rationalize this process.

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