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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Robin Hanson Shakes Me to My Very Core

In a post praised by Tyler Cowen, Robin Hanson argues that

We feel a deep pleasure from realizing that we believe something in common with our friends, and different from most people. We feel an even deeper pleasure letting everyone know of this fact. This feeling is EVIL. Learn to see it in yourself, and then learn to be horrified by how thoroughly it can poison your mind. Yes evidence may at times force you to disagree with a majority, and your friends may have correlated exposure to that evidence, but take no pleasure when you and your associates disagree with others; that is the road to rationality ruin.


Besides him telling me that one of my secret pleasures is "EVIL," Hanson's post disturbed me because I think it is totally wrong. Isn't the whole point of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty that we should nurture dissent, so as not to become slaves to our own prejudices? I go out of my way to disagree when there is a "consensus" on something, and I think that serves a useful purpose besides relieving me of the chore of maintaining a bunch of friendships.

6 comments:

  1. Bob, have you stopped to think about the things you've done as a result of your daring battle against the atrocious effort to make polluters bear a sliver of the cost of their actions? Because I would consider your actions to be a textbook case of "Here's my conclusion, what evidence can I cherry-pick to rationalize it?"

    Exactly the practice you claim to be fighting, in other words.

    Coincidentally, I just recently posted a parody on Bob's blog about what it would look like if he applied the same rigorous standards to himself when critiquing Ritalin overprescirption, as he does when defending his inalienable right to pollute with impunity.

    That said, I think you make a good point ... but your actions still give Robin_Hanson tremendous support. Actually, I think I'll point him to your history on this, as he might be interested.

    ****

    P.S.: I shouldn't have to add this, but Bob's repeated strawmanning has forced me to: My objections to Bob's work on global warming is not simply that he doesn't mention a few caveats about ideal situations, as he repeatedly claims. That's the tip of the tip [sic] of the iceberg, and I consider it tangential to the real issues, like why Bob feels fine saying that higher prices resulting from carbon caps don't reflect scarcity, even once you accept the IPCC's conclusions.

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  2. "I go out of my way to disagree when there is a "consensus" on something"

    Hmmm.

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