[extropy-chat] Re: Faith-based thought vs thinkers

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky sentience at pobox.com
Mon Jan 30 22:59:49 UTC 2006

Russell Wallace wrote:
> I'm not a religious man, but I believe in love and life and laughter. I 
> believe in beauty and truth and goodness, and I believe these things are 
> worth protecting, even though neither I nor anyone else can prove it; at 
> some point I, like any civilized man, must resort to belief in the 
> absence of evidence; for people who don't believe in beauty produce 
> ugliness; people who don't believe in truth produce falsehood; and 
> people who don't believe in good produce evil.


You're conflating empirical propositions with moral choices, mixing up 
probability theory and decision theory.  Perhaps you are confused 
because English uses the same word "believe in" to indicate both your 
hypotheses and your ethics.

I *choose* love and life and laughter, beauty and goodness.  I also 
choose truth.  I strive to attain the map that reflects the territory; 
to believe based solely on evidence, and to abjure any shift of credence 
whatsoever which is not based on evidence.  For you cannot draw an 
accurate map of a city by sitting in your living room and having great 
faith in your doodles.  You must go outside and walk down streets, and 
keep your eyes open, and look around, and make lines on paper that 
correspond to what you see, and resist the temptation to draw in a few 
extra lines just for fun.

P.C. Hodgell said:  "That which can be destroyed by the truth should 
be."  I have never heard a declaration of rationality which is both 
simpler and better than this.  If a wire approaches, and I believe it to 
be electrified, and it is *not* electrified, then the truth opposes my 
fear.  If a wire approaches, and I believe it is not electrified, and it 
*is* electrified, then the Way opposes my calm.  I wish to attain those 
feelings and ethics and emotions and principles which I would aver if I 
saw truly, being the person that I am.  Where is the false statement I 
must believe, to choose love and life and laughter?

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                          http://singinst.org/
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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