Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

Religious Thinking: Faith

When a religious person attacks an atheist, proclaiming that they're the ones who are blinded by faith, they are being ridiculous, but they are not necessarily wrong. They are being ridiculous, because their entire belief system values faith, and when they use faith as a criticism of atheists, they're criticizing themselves at the same time. To them, isn't faith a good thing?

But they may not be wrong. Consider the atheist child whose parents are atheist. This child has missed out on an important life-experience: that of changing his mind on a very cherished belief. I used to be a Mormon, but over the course of several years I gradually retreated, finally declaring myself a full atheist who nevertheless can take elements of spiritual philosophy into my own framework. Taoism is a great philosophy regardless of its spirituality, and I think many atheists can learn a lot of "the Tao". A slightly lesser experience though still important is discovering that Santa Claus doesn't really exist.

So take those children, who grew up just being told religion is wrong. How are they any different from the counterfactual versions of themselves that grew up in a Muslim environment, simply being told that Islam is correct and atheism is wrong? They're not. The atheist parents may give reasons for their view, the Muslim parents may give reasons for their view, but until the young atheist makes an honest, critical examination, their beliefs are formed from two places: their parents word, which children trust pretty highly, and what is called "faith". They don't have much in the way of evidence apart from what their environment says, they just hold their belief, haven't given it serious thought, and faith is holding a belief without requiring justification for that belief. They don't need justification, they just believe it. (Sure, justification is given to them, but after taking the belief they no longer need it unless faced with strong counterarguments.)

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Religious Thinking: Egotism

Let it be reiterated that Reversed Stupidity Is Not Intelligence. One of the traps I see Selfish egotism-based people fall for is an idea of Man as God. Traditionally, religious groups view God as the shepherd, and the People as the sheep, and therefore the people are below and ought to worship their lord. People are corrupt, people are sin, people don't have all the qualities they ascribe God.

It's fairly reasonable to call this stupid. And yet the reverse, that Man is a shepherd, that Man is good, that man is sinless, that man is rational... That's not an accurate picture, either. As evidenced by the Objectivists and the Libertarians, this kind of thinking is just as dangerous. If man is a shepherd, then he should take care of himself, and no one should take care of him, thus we should get rid of all governmental welfare programs! If man is a god, then anything he decides to do is worthy, let him do it! Even if this means killing people, then the other gods can just team up on him and kill him if they want.

The truth is of course in between, even the most shallow of views of psychology should make this blatantly obvious. Humans have a strong need for self-determination and want some degree of control in their lives; at the same time, humans need help from time to time, some humans more than others, especially depending on their developmental background. Humans have a strong sense of duty and obligation to others. Their family, and even strangers. Humans make many, many, many mistakes, and yet we've gotten to the Moon, we can create Life in the lab, we can collide fundamental particles at relativistic speeds to see what happens, and if the future is a bright one, we will create superintelligence.

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About My NaNoWriMo

So it's National Novel Writing Month, and I had a dream during the last week of October that I thought was epic enough to turn into a novella or something for this. I'm not expecting to finish within the month, but if I do finish at all, that will be amazing.

I'm loosely basing it on the world that Minecraft is set in. Check it out! Or check out some videos and see the crazy things people make. It's so addictive... But for the lazy: in Minecraft, everything is a block. In my Mineworld, that's not entirely true; everything is blockish, including the people, but only with tools can people extract and create perfect blocks. Pure nature is blockish on its own, but trying to change it without tools destroys its blockiness. Kind of like how our world is really fractal geometric, and if you use nothing but your feet it's really hard to make something more orderly, but with tools you can make more fractals or Euclidean shapes.

Creepers are everyone's favorite hated Mob from the game. They're immune to sunlight, Creep up on you and explode. They hurt. Skeletons are another type, they shoot arrows, but they aren't immune to sunlight. Zombies are another type, they attack you with their arms. They're usually easy to kill. Spiders are there too, expect a mention of them in the next chapter.

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A Tale From Mineworld, Ch. 2

The sun rose, and the Creepers were outside the prison walls in force, as usual. The guards lined up roughly thirty prisoners for their daily job: clear away the Creepers. Each would receive a stick, which would be collected and inspected should the prisoner return, and they were marched to the second floor where they would jump out to draw the Creepers away from the building.

A few always broke their legs from the fall: a Creeper would descend upon each and explode, taking both out along with a chunk of ground to be repaired by other workers later in the day. The rest rolled on landing, and ran into the open ground. The strategy to defeat a Creeper was simple, but it had to be timed correctly. Wait for them to hiss, hit them with the stick, and back away quickly to get just out of range before they exploded. It was really hard to get just the right range, so it was rare that someone came back with less than a face burn. Occasionally, and on this morning, a hidden Skeleton would appear from the shadows and attack the party with a stream of arrows. Sure it was on fire, sure it would die any moment from direct sunlight, but it was accurate with those arrows and could strike down many prisoners.

The guards opened the doors when the last Creeper had exploded, and they let the prisoners back in. Some were allowed to seek medical attention, but everyone mostly took the day off to rest for the next day. It was the riskiest job in the prison, but if the prisoner was lucky, he could have lots of time to himself.

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NaNoWriMo 2010: A Tale From Mineworld

"Hurry up, inmates!" shouted the prison guard on duty. "We want this swimming pool done before winter comes!"

Hector could have smiled if he were a contracted worker; the middle of spring had just arrived and for the right price a pool could be laid and set within a week. But as a fellow resident of the Blocker Prison and Rehabilitation Facility, Hector's set of tools consisted only of his hands. Outside, he had used his diamond pickaxe and shovel for all sorts of construction tasks. Inside, he didn't even get a stick. As far as he and the other workers were concerned, the guards and the Warden would be lucky if they finished before autumn.

He slapped both his hands against a rough slab of cobblestone, creating a small fissure on the surface, a minuscule puff of dust rising and falling. He hit it again. And again. He continued to hit it, chipping away piece by piece, needing to crush it for its raw material to form a more perfect cube of pure stone that would be the foundation of the pool, as he knew and as he was instructed. His hands began to bleed, but he took no notice; he even thought that this block seemed softer than most.

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Arrogance Labels

I've tried writing about this before, not here, and unsuccessfully, but I think I have a better picture in mind now that I can share. This is about the label "Arrogance", and public perceptions.

On one extreme, you have Christians who believe arrogance is a sin, and they arrogantly confess their humility. They're used as evidence by rational folk for the dangers of religious thinking and hypocrisy.

On the other extreme, you have Objectivists who believe arrogance is a virtue, and they're used as evidence by rational folk for the dangers of arrogance and stupidity.

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Happy Day 42

Yup, it's 10/10/10, which is binary 42. I know some people believe humanity has a sort of "shared consciousness", and expect that one day we'll all undergo some deep insight or enlightenment at once... Wouldn't that be crazy if it happened today, and we learned the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything?

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