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The Rationality Series -- Module 0 (Intro)

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3/24/2016 8:11:30 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Good afternoon.

Below is a link which will take you to the first module in a series I've been planning to release for some time. Its overarching objective is providing educational resources to members who are interested in refining their working minds, or, more to the point, who are interested in having nuanced and productive discussions.

In several other threads and PMs, I have repeatedly suggested that the stuff of thought--all the little snap judgments, heuristics, odd habits--which collectively governs and prefigures our conscious experience receives far too little attention on DDO. For a community which claims to be dedicated to intellectual enrichment, this simply will not do.

I firmly believe that, if the membership can be led to understand, in a practical and applicable way, how our judgment is routinely confounded, how easy it is to mishandle evidence, and how even a detailed abstract understanding of cognition won't save us from regularly making silly mistakes, I think we can begin the important work of devising strategies to lessen the frequency of our screw-ups.

There is one major problem on DDO which I hope this series helps to address: members waste far, far too much of their time entertaining nonsense arguments. Much of the membership, it seems to me, is perpetually fixed in abysmally low levels of discussion, unable to proceed past a glass ceiling of nuance, either because someone gets bored, or gives up, or, as appears so often to be the case, because at least one party involved is plainly unqualified to speak with authority on the subject.

It's the sort of problem you'd see, for example, when, in a discussion about using gene comparison to measure/estimate evolutionary distance between two species, someone suggests we "remember to teach the controversy" because "evolution is just a theory". For anyone who knows what they're talking about, and, more to the point, knows enough to know why the "Teach the Controversy" person has no idea what they're talking about, the only timely response is to sigh, put your hand to your forehead, and wonder who invited that guy. It's something I've taken to calling the Unpacking Problem, to be discussed in a later module.

The short of it, however, is that high-quality and intricately-detailed discussion on any given subject on DDO (and in the real world, generally speaking) is inhibited, in my view, by a) massive brain farts and b) a lack of accountability for professing poorly-formed beliefs (if you've ever heard "I'm entitled to my opinion" or "That's just what I believe", you know what I mean). If the "Teach the Controversy" person, for example, had a working understanding of what researchers mean by the word "theory", could explain with complete accuracy the proposed mechanisms they were criticizing, and had a sufficiently consistent vocabulary to differentiate abiogenesis from evolution, I assert they would neither believe there was a "controversy", nor, supposing they still harbored reservations at that level of understanding, levy criticisms so terribly weak and insubstantial (comparing a given argument to the type of argument you anticipate might be made by a high-level expert with sufficient relevant knowledge in the field to have standing to disagree is another important analytical tool, and will also be covered in a subsequent module).

It is my earnest hope this series increases the frequency of well-reasoned and meaty discussion, and clears away a great deal of the cheap shots, misunderstandings, poor reasoning, and general failures to think clearly and seriously which, as you can all see, result in having the same tired, low-level disagreements--without much learning or advancement--over, and over, and over again.

With no further ado, I present Module 0. Forthcoming modules will be posted periodically, although there is no set update schedule.