Template talk:RATIONALWiki

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Initial section[edit]

The more you try to poke fun at this complaint, the more true it becomes. (((Zack Martin))) 05:39, 30 December 2011 (UTC)

So what you're saying is, mocking something makes a person irrational? Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 05:43, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
(EC) Hardly anyone ever says this in earnest, because by the time a person says it he has exhausted any actual arguments in his repertoire. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 05:44, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
Mockery is very often irrational, because people mock their opponent rather than listening to and seriously considering and rationally responding to their arguments. (((Zack Martin))) 05:50, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
I think that the best kind of ideas are fairly impervious to mockery. As Murray Rothbard said, "No cult can withstand the piercing and sobering effect, the sane perspective, provided by humor." Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 05:55, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
Mockery functions to reinforce groupthink. It is hilariously funny to those who think the "right" way, mindlessly idiotic (or even worse) to those that don't. Consider the case of antisemitic cartoons - aren't they a form of "mockery"? And I'm sure antisemites find them hilarious. (((Zack Martin))) 05:59, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
I think that Maratrean means that we should keep an open mind to criticism, and not dismiss people out of hand when they question how rational the wiki is.--User:Brxbrx/sig 06:12, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
(EC) The anti-Semitic cartoons are mockery only of a stereotype, and fall into the category of what Rothbard called "sneering at one's enemies." The people who promoted them set a very narrow range of what was acceptable to mock. The fact that the cartoons had to rely so heavily on stereotype, while mockeries of their promoters did not quite so much, is a handy demonstration of which belief is correct in that case.
...we should keep an open mind... Ah, the lovely open-mindedness. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 06:15, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
True, we should take criticism seriously, lest the site become a massive "Oh, we're so awesome" wankfest. However, complaints about how "rational" the site is are almost always not even wrong, because they focus on the name of the site, rather than its content.
Everybody has their own personal idea of what ideas the "rational" label applies to, so criticizing how we use it is guaranteed to be a massive waste of time, distracting from any actual problems with the site's content. If a person can't even articulate how an article or policy is wrong, and can only make paeans to some vague notion of "rational," then they can be dismissed out of hand (or, as we're more likely to do, mock them out of hand). Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 06:22, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
We should just tell people that for us, rational means evidence-based--User:Brxbrx/sig 06:25, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
Eminently sensible. Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 06:34, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
(ec)The problem with the name reflects a problem with the content - a bunch of people who are so convinced that only they, and people who think like them, are rational, but who have never thought much in depth about what is rationality? what is evidence? etc. Could it be that your own conception of rationality is wrong, and that some of your opponents who you attack as irrational actually have a better rationality than yours? How could you know? (((Zack Martin))) 06:35, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
Well, what is rationality is fairly easy: for us, it's evidence-based. As for what is evidence, come on. That's pretty damn obvious.--User:Brxbrx/sig 15:01, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
Could faith be rational? How can you prove it is not? Could faith constitute a form of evidence? The Bible says it is (Hebrews 11:1) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (KJV). Is this claim of the Bible right or wrong? How could we prove or disprove this claim? Who has the burden of proof? (((Zack Martin))) 01:10, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
Well, if you'd ask me, the entire matter of faith would be avoided on this wiki and we'd focus on crap that directly affects people (alternative medicine, pseudoscience). But I've voiced my opinion before and got little response (maybe some hostility, but mostly indifference)--User:Brxbrx/sig 02:44, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
Fair enough then. But the reality is, I'd say the majority of people on this wiki have an anti-religious agenda, and most of those who don't are not willing to speak up to those who do (you are one of the few exceptions). You may think that religion is not a topic this wiki should cover, but it already does so to a significant degree. (((Zack Martin))) 02:56, 1 January 2012 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────"...but who have never thought much in depth about what is rationality?" Fail. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 06:39, 30 December 2011 (UTC)

What is rationality? Where in that essay do you seek to answer that question? Can you define "rationality"? I agree with you that reason-vs-emotions is a bit of a false dichotomy, but I'm not seeing a theory of what rationality is anywhere in there. (((Zack Martin))) 06:46, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
"Rationality," n.: The quality or state of being agreeable to reason. To work that out, if all else fails, we have formal logic. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 06:51, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
Ah yes, but what then is reason? And how does one know whether something is "agreeable" to it or not? (((Zack Martin))) 06:54, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
You might consider reading the whole of a post before replying to it. That is not difficult, seeing as how the post is only two sentences. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 06:57, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
Um, LX, I did read it. You are saying reason is "formal logic". But which system of formal logic should we adopt? Classical or intuitionist or paraconsistent? How about infinitary logic? If you think about your proposal in depth, you'll realise it doesn't work. No formal logic can capture the full richness of human reasoning, and logicians spend lifetimes arguing about which formalisms do the best job of capturing that richness. (((Zack Martin))) 07:00, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
No, I said that formal logic is a tool that can be used to hash out what is agreeable to reason. If one has to get that formal, one can use whatever system of logic is suited to the particular question; classical for the real world, intuitionistic and paraconsistent for thought-experiments. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 07:12, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
But how does one know which system of formal logic is the right one to use for the question? Constructivist mathematicians would disagree with you; they would say that intuitionism is the logic of the real-world, and classical logic is just one big thought experiment. Graham Priest has defended paraconsistent logic on the grounds that he thinks it is a better match for real-world human thought than classical logic. (For example, it allows naive set theory, rather than various complex workarounds of type theory or ZF; naive human thought handles "This sentence is false" with far more ease than classical logic seems to.) (((Zack Martin))) 07:21, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
In terms of accuracy, Real-World Human Thought does not exactly have the best track record, and is not the yardstick against which formal logic should be judged. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 07:54, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
If not that yardstick, then which? (((Zack Martin))) 09:17, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
Uhh amateur-philosopher bitch-fight! Let me get the oil so you can wrestle properly! --ʤɱ soviet 15:47, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
Comparing the conclusions of proofs in the various systems against observations is fairly good that way. With regard to non-thought-experiment questions, one does not generally find true contradictions, or find that a statement proven not to be untrue is anything other than true. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 07:56, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
Consider the Barber paradoxWikipedia. Is that a thought-experiment? Well, it's a very quotidian one, describing a scenario that could easily happen in real life. It's not like many other thought-experiments which require us to suppose impossible things to be possible, or which require technologies we don't yet have (and may not ever have). And in the Barber paradox, a very natural and obvious way of phrasing the situation produces a paradox. So this is a counterexample to the "real world" vs. "thought experiment" dichotomy you are trying to set up. Also, with regard to your claim "one does not generally find... a statement proven not to be untrue is anything other than true", mathematical constructivistsWikipedia argue that is a very common situation in mathematics — but is maths just a "thought-experiment", and hence not "real world"? (((Zack Martin))) 01:07, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
I'll be sure tell every engineer I meet that calculus is just "thought experiments." Also, hairy balls. Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 01:13, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
Indeed. LX's attempt to set up dichotomy between "thought-experiments" and "non-thought-experiments" fails. (((Zack Martin))) 02:15, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
There is a reason that constructivism is rather a fringe concept in mathematics. These were the guys, if one will recall, who said, "Wir müssen wissen, wir werden wissen," only to have their keisters handed to them. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 06:50, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
The Barber paradox' problem isn't the application of logic but a faulty phrasing, and the best way to avoid such things is something called common sense. And I still believe that most people have that, even though the world seems to try to teach me differently every day. --ʤɱ atheist 02:57, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
The advocate of classical logic would agree with you. The advocate of paraconsistent logic would not. The problem with "common sense", is most people support the idea, but differ widely on what actually is "common sense" in particular cases - I'd think you'd find both advocates would claim their own position to be the most common-sensical one. (((Zack Martin))) 02:59, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
No. The phrasing makes it look like the barber is just an agent that serves the community, while he is actually part of the community, so that the basic assumption that under the two rules proposed a system would work, is made, while it is not possible that such a system would work because we forget that the barber has to shave himself too. This is very well visible in the first-order logic example in Wikipedia, where there simply should not only be y and x but also a z describing that that special person, the barber, shaves himself. In the end the barber paradox is like a calculator that blows up when you divide through zero instead of giving you and error message, and all that just because quality control was sleeping and PR was busy getting the thing out there. --ʤɱ sinner 03:17, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
From the perspective of formal logic, the barber "paradox" is nothing more than a false statement; there is no "common sense" needed to see that. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 06:50, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
@UHM, your solution is valid, but so is the paraconsistent solution. Why should we prefer the classical solution to the paraconsistent one? Or are both equal?
@ListenerX, try another paradox - "This sentence is false". Or, my favourite version:
Plato: What Socrates is about to say is false.
Socrates: Plato has spoken truthfully.
That sentence, or the above pair of sentences, cannot possibly be either false or true. (((Zack Martin))) 20:30, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
I rather prefer finding the problem in the statements than blaming the whole system and making one up where something isn't a problem in the first place, it's much less work. Call me lazy for it. ;) --ʤɱ soviet 21:06, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
Yes, yes, we all know about the Liar Paradox. It and paradoxes like it demonstrate why naïve set theory is just a little lacking. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 05:41, 2 January 2012 (UTC)

Fuck a duck...[edit]

We all know this happens because people associate rational thought with what they think. After all, I wouldn't think it if it wasn't rational, right? And I certainly wouldn't think it if it was wrong, right? So therefore I'm right and I'm also rational. QED.

It is emphatically NOT the case that "someone's concept of rationality is wrong" or misjudged, or warped. Thinking this way is simply abusing a label because of an emotional attachment to it as a term, and its long-suffering associations with being correct and, perhaps I could say intellectually righteous. Now, it's unfortunate that the site is so-named, but Skeptic Wiki was taken and well, we're lumbered with it now aren't we, so let's just live with it. No one has ownership of the term "rational" and so they don't have a right to say that "I'm rational, you're not". It's simply a label, and a considerably arbitrary one at that, more so than most things.

It's also a much abused label, almost to the point where it's lost any meaningful use. As far as labels to avoid like the plague because of this, I rank it up there with "fundamentalist" and "feminism". When talking about "being rational", no one is ever using "appealing to logic and reason", as the dictionary might tell you, but instead they're using it almost exclusively in the context of those connotations about being correct and intellectually righteous. You might claim that you're using "appealing to logic and reason", and hold up a dictionary to prove it, but unless you actually do appeal to logic, reason, evidence, joined-up thought, clear discussion, and the ability to change your mind then... well, you're simply not appealing to logic, reason, evidence, joined-up thought, clear discussion, and the ability to change your mind. "Rational" is a label, that's all. And the faster some people get this into their heads (looking-at-no-one-in-particular-maratrean) then the faster we can stop doing silly pseudo-intellectual things like asking "what is rationality?" and talk about things that actually matter. Scarlet A.pngbomination 14:41, 30 December 2011 (UTC)

First of all, rationality is rather relative, and is infact, often NOT rational though it feels as if it is. Most people come to a conclusion, and they actually have little to know idea why thier brain gave them that conclusion, then they find rational means to justify it. There are rational reasons to justify abortion, there are rational reasons to justify anti-abortion. There are rational ways to view gays as "less than", and ratioanl ways to show they are perfectly normal. The issue isn't that someone is or is not rationally justified, but rather what information you choose to put into the program that runs the rational analysis. That said, the only people who resort to "but you're supposed to be ratoinal", has (as was said above) nothing left to say. They cannot argue their position on the merits of the case, so just do an adhominim. Pink mowse.pngGodotEn live 15:13, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
*cough* creationism *cough* Sam Tally-ho! 23:12, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
Armondikov, rationality and truth are separate. Someone can believe and defend the truth rationally, but someone could also believe something entirely irrationally which just so happens to be true. Likewise, someone can believe a falsehood, but may yet be doing so entirely rationally (or not). We can say that, in the long run, rationality is more likely than irrationality to attain the truth; but on some occasions it will be the other way around. So, I don't think people are irrational simply for disagreeing for me. It is possible to disagree with me on numerous issues yet be perfectly rational in doing so. It is possible to be an atheist materialist and be far more rational than many of the atheist materialists on this site. You are setting up a strawman of my position. (((Zack Martin))) 23:04, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
FFS, mara. You are full of shite, go away. why does RW tolerate this pillock? honestly. Rennie McGreet (talk) 23:31, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
And you are an example of the very thing I am talking about — rather than seriously engage with what your opponent has to say, you respond as you did. A rational person could agree with me or disagree with me, but a rational person would not respond in that way. (((Zack Martin))) 23:35, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
I would seriously engage what you had to say, if what you had to say wasn't a load of jabbering batshit. Rennie McGreet (talk) 23:38, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
You dismiss what I say as unworthy of serious engagement, without giving any substantive reason. Anyone can play that game—which is why it is not a rational game to play. (((Zack Martin))) 05:12, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
The reason people are dismissive of what you say is because although you believe you are discussing things that are on the cutting edge of philosophy (if that isn't an oxymoron) they are things that are not relevant at all to a meaningful discussion of religion, politics and science. Most of what you say is barely intelligible quasi-philosophical babble, and people don't care. DamoHi 05:29, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
Philosophy is very relevant to religion, to politics, and to science. Most of what you say is barely intelligible? Like what exactly have I said that is not intelligible? (((Zack Martin))) 05:33, 31 December 2011 (UTC)

Graham Priest has defended paraconsistent logic on the grounds that he thinks it is a better match for real-world human thought than classical logic. (For example, it allows naive set theory, rather than various complex workarounds of type theory or ZF; naive human thought handles "This sentence is false" with far more ease than classical logic seems to.)

You might think that this kind of babble is impressive, but it just earns you contempt.DamoHi 05:41, 31 December 2011 (UTC)

It's not babble, it's entirely true and meaningful. Have you read any of the work of Graham PriestWikipedia? I've read most of one of his books, In Contradiction: A Study of the Transconsistent. Everything I said there was completely meaningful. Please provide evidence to the contrary. (((Zack Martin))) 05:48, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
Listen buddy, you asked why people treat you with contempt and ignore your points. I'm telling you.
Whether or not what you said is meaningful or not is irrelevant because it doesn't add to the debate. You can either attempt to blend in with the culture of the place or you can continue to wonder why you are treated as a social pariah. (And no I haven't read any of Graham Priest, and unless you can explain in simple terms as to why its relevant, it will forever be babble.) DamoHi 06:00, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
Well, have you read the Wikipedia article Paraconsistent logicWikipedia? You say it doesn't add anything to the debate, but you are wrong there. I was questioning if anyone had thought about the definition of "rationality". ListenerX was suggesting that formal logic could be used in defining rationality. I was criticising that idea by pointing to the immense variety of incompatible formal logics which have been developed (of which paraconsistent logic is one), and that all of these have their serious proponents (e.g. Graham Priest) that will argue we should use them in preference to the alternatives, and that thus ListenerX's attempt to define rationality with reference to formal logic is not going to fly. But did you actually try to follow any of the discussion? Or have you just been quotemining what I have been saying, ripping bits out bereft of context to accuse them of being irrelevant - of course anything pulled from the surrounding context will seem irrelevant. (((Zack Martin))) 06:11, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
That is unfair, Mara. I hardly quote-mined you, I just posted a whole paragraph of your stuff. In any case, all of that exchange between you and LX reads like you are trying to impress everyone with fancy philosophical words.
The point of this page is discussing why the claim "but you're supposed to be RationalWiki" is really just equating "rational" with "what I think". There is no need to get involved in discussing systems of logic so that everyone agrees that you are smart.
Again, you asked why people treat you with contempt, and dismiss your points; I'm telling you. You can choose to either fit in or choose to continue to be a social pariah. Either way don't shoot the messenger. DamoHi 06:24, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
It seems to me that Mara has a very specific (and hard to convey) opinion on the definition of rationality based partly on our disagreements with his philosophical worldview. When this site's approach to looking at things rationally contradict his definition, he seems compelled to perpetually break down and question the components we attribute to rationality to the point where we cannot satisfactorily pin down a definition that is consistent with his criteria (because it is not consistent with his worldview). That's my take on it, anyway. Hopefully it was reasonably coherent and understandable. Sam Tally-ho! 06:36, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
Sam, my real point is that there is no single definition of "rationality". You can have yours and I can have mine. But to ignore this fact, to pretend that there is only one concept of rationality (which happens to be yours), is not very rational - it is a form either of ignorance (if you aren't aware of the variety of conflicting conceptions of rationality) or of deceit (if you are but are trying to pretend it's not there). Calling the site "rational" without even trying to specify what one means by "rational", that is deeply problematic. (((Zack Martin))) 06:47, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
@Damo, You are being unfair. What's the difference between quote-mining me and posting "a whole paragraph of your stuff" when you are completely ignoring any of the surrounding context? You show no sign of having even thought about whether it could be relevant. The allegation that I am "trying to impress everyone with fancy philosophical words" and "so that everyone agrees that I'm smart" is false. I talk about things because I believe them to be relevant to fully thinking through the issues at hand. If you are not familiar with the concepts I mention, you could consider that as a trigger to try to learn more about them; or if you just aren't interested, you can just ignore it. The kind of accusation you make here generally tends to come from people with low intellectual self-esteem, who feel the urge to belittle anybody who knows things that they do not (I'm sure you know things I don't, and rather than accusing you of "showing off" for speaking about them, I'd be interested to learn about them).
The whole discussion is relevant, because I am rejecting the idea that "you're supposed to be RationalWiki" is making the equation "rational"="what I think". I think this site does a poor job of living up to its name, but I don't agree that "rational"="what I think". But to explain that viewpoint in more detail requires some more in-depth analysis of what is rationality, a topic to which philosophy is extremely relevant.
Why do people treat me with contempt and dismiss their points? Because they are irrational, that is why. They don't have to agree with what I say. But when they make zero effort to try to understand it (hint: if you don't understand something, why not ask for clarification rather than assuming it is meaningless?), but think that justifies their dismissal of it, they are being irrational. The rational responses are (1) giving detailed reasons for disagreement, (2) asking for clarification, (3) saying "you may be right or you may be wrong, but I've lost interest". But the approach you are taking (e.g. attacking the person rather than their arguments, focusing on style over substance, etc.) is not a rational approach. (((Zack Martin))) 06:44, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
Well for a start, you asked why people belittle you and ignore your points, I believe that I have expressed pretty clearly why I think that is. Maybe you are right that this is schockingly barbaric of us, but on the other hand, I think its a pretty accurate appraisal of how you are viewed; don't shoot the messenger. Perhaps if you wish to be a respected member here you might want to conform to our culture, perhaps you enjoy your notoriety.
As has been admitted above, RationalWiki is somewhat of an unfortunate name because we do not claim the narrow philosophical definition as our POV, alas we are stuck with it. In any case I disagree that in the context of the conversation you were having with Lx required you to refer to several different systems of logic because we are talking about people who come to RW who DO think that "rational" = "what I believe". Probably we all think this to some degree - and you certainly do it. It really is as simple as that. DamoHi 06:59, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
As I said, belittling people and ignoring their points is not rational. Given how irrational this place is, the fact that they do so is entirely unsurprising. Your attempt to provide an "alternative explanation" of that is incoherent and unconvincing. I am not going to give up on pointing out how irrational this place is; eventually someone will get the message and realise I am right. Beating you lot over the head with a dead fish, just keep on whacking and eventually the message will get through.
There are people who criticise RW's rationality (such as myself) who DON'T think "rational"="what I believe". I've stated several times that rationality and truth are separate. This template is an attempt to belittle all criticism of this site's rationality, with a strawman-style emphasis on the least coherent forms of that criticism, and deliberately ignoring its more nuanced and accurate forms. In the context of explaining that more nuanced criticism of the site's rationality, the question of what is rationality becomes important; and philosophy is important in answering that question. Differing forms of formal logical is not directly relevant, but it is relevant in response to people like ListenerX who (mistakenly I believe) try to use formal logic to define rationality. (((Zack Martin))) 01:31, 1 January 2012 (UTC)

Fuck a duck II[edit]

Sorry Mara, I don't buy it. The terms rational and irrational, used in the context of this site, are merely terms of approval and disapproval. Something one agrees with, or a process of thought that one approves of is "rational", whereas when someone comes to a conclusion that one disagrees with is irrational. You can argue all your complicated points all you like but in the end, that is the situation. Whenever someone comes in and starts saying (yes, even you) "but I thought this was supposed to be Rationalwiki" it is always because that person disagrees with a conclusion the site has come to, or in your particular case, the culture and method of discourse the site has. Its always a slur, or perhaps more of a whine, and adds nothing to the conversation. As has been explained to you ad nauseaum, this site is not named for some complicated philosophical position, rather, "skepticwiki" was already taken. I think your obsession with proving that we are irrational is not healthy. DamoHi 02:04, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
I like to think that Mara is an extremely healthy massively deluded person. Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 02:08, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
@Damo, but when you call something "rational"/"irrational", you mean more than just "I like/don't like". The terms have an air of objectivity about them, that one's conclusion is based on some objectively valid principles rather than purely your own feelings. If you really think that "rational"/"irrational" is nothing more than an expression of personal feeling, then its misleading to use those terms. Whether one's thought processes are rational, and whether one's conclusions are true, are separate issues. Someone can reach a conclusion I agree with by thought processes I consider irrational, and vice versa. For example, Tom is a schoolboy who believes everything written on the wall of the toilet stall. One day he reads, "Mr. Jackson is an adulterer". So, he believes Mr. Jackson is an adulterer. Now, let us suppose Mr. Jackson is in fact an adulterer, so Tom's belief is true. Yet while Tom's belief is true, it is still irrational, because placing unquestioning faith in what one reads on the toilet stall is not rational. So, contrary to your claim, it is perfectly possible to consider someone irrational even though they've reached a conclusion you agree with; likewise, one can conceive of situations where one disagrees with another's conclusion yet acknowledges it as rational for them. (Consider a five year old raised by Neo-Nazi parents to believe that the Holocaust was a lie - their belief is false, yet rational, for it is rational for small children to unconditionally believe most things their parents tell them.) (((Zack Martin))) 02:24, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
Now I am not entirely sure you read what I wrote. Perhaps I wasn't clear. I understand the points you are trying to make with the Nazi and the adulterer examples you gave. But I don't think you understand the basic point I am making. I know that you do not regard us as irrational because of what we think; you are slightly more nuanced than that. You think that we are irrational because you think that our methods of thinking and our methods of discourse are faulty. But it boils down to the same thing in the end. You believe we use faulty methods of analysis, therefore we are irrational. In the final analysis its the same thing. Its just a whine, just a meaningless statement that gets us nowhere towards whatever discussion we are having. The claim that someone is "irrational", is a meaningless one that achieves nothing. That is, unless you are using the word irrational in a narrow philosophical sense that we have repeatedly told you we do not do. --DamoHi 02:42, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
It's not a whine, because I've been willing to point to specific cases in which people on this site behave irrationally. For example, when arguments are responded to, not with either engagement or ignorance (as I've said, it can be rational not to respond to someone at all, for example if you lack the time due to other commitments), but with ad hominems, slurs, mockery, etc., that is not rational. Do you dispute whether that is rational or not? Well, if you think it is rational, I can certainly provide some arguments why it is not. I also think that calling a site "RationalWiki" is a rather presumptuous claim to be more rational than one's opponents, yet ironically there is so little effort exerted here to actually try to be rational, and there seems to be so little self-reflection on this site as to what rationality actually is (for more on this, see my essay). I'm not sure what you mean by a "narrow philosophical sense" of "irrational" - I don't believe that word has any special meaning in philosophy that it lacks in everyday discussion. Rather, philosophy helps us clarify our understanding of the meaning of the very same word and sense which we use in our everyday lives. (((Zack Martin))) 02:54, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
Meh. We have been over the naming of the site many times. I have responded to your essay. I know you don't understand the difference between the normal sense of the word and your narrow view - mainly because you can't see the wood for the trees. --DamoHi 03:05, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
You still haven't provided any evidence there is any difference between "the normal sense of the word" and my "narrow view". You are so fixated on the idea that you are right, you are disinterest in any serious discussion on the possibility that you may be wrong. (((Zack Martin))) 20:41, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
Meh. the evidence that there is a difference is the reaction you get all the time whenever you try to hold us to your definition. I'm not disinterested in having a serious discussion and I find your accusation of close-mindedness extremely ironic. I have read all your points and I don't think they are relevant to the guy who turns up and says eg: our article on feminism is irrational or that our [economics article is archaic and irrational. Your points are not relevant because whenever the meme is used it is always just a meaningless statement. In both cases the editor may or may not have had a good point criticising the articles, but would be far better to comment on the faults he or she finds, not getting waylaid in an argument on whether the article is rational or not. Stick to the issues, don't get sidetracked on debating these meaningless statements. --DamoHi 21:37, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
What is my definition of rationality? I'm not sure I have one. I'm certainly sympathetic to G. E. Moore's Open Question ArgumentWikipedia applied to ethics, i.e. the term "good" is a basic term that is undefinable. And I'm also sympathetic to making the same argument with respect to rationality, i.e. "rational" is a basic term that cannot be defined. ("Rational non-naturalism" to parallel Moore's ethical non-naturalism). I acknowledge others may disagree and see rationality as being definable, but I don't think anything I've been saying assumes anything about its definability. I do have my own particular philosophical views about rationality, but I don't think anything I've said about rationality necessarily assumes them. To draw a parallel with ethics, we can have radically different basic philosophical views on what ethics is, yet still agree that murder is unethical; and we can even make a stab at addressing more contested issues like abortion, although certainly at some point we'll run into the philosophical differences as a barrier. In the same way, we can disagree about what is rationality at a philosophical level, yet agree about whether many individual things are rational or not, and even have some reasonable attempt at arguing over the more contested areas. Anyway, the point is not that every editor who questions the rationality of RW is making a serious argument; the point is that this dismissive way of dealing with it ignores the existence of others (e.g. myself, LowKey, probably some of the LessWrong folks too) who have more serious criticisms about this place's rationality. I also think, if you are going to presumptuously define yourself as more rational than your opponents, you better have engaged in some actual reflection on what rationality is. I think both aSK and LessWrong, have both reflected on this more than RW has, even as they've reached very contrary conclusions on the same (and I would not agree with either of them, but at least I agree they've thought about it). (((Zack Martin))) 08:11, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
This will be my last reply. I don't think its actually true to say that we haven't considered what makes something rational or not. I mean we believe very strongly that the best (or for many of us) only method of discovering truth is empirically, based upon ideas that meet with the basic criteria of falsifiability and in accordance with the data. Perhaps we haven't formulated our thoughts on the subject exactly to the detail that you would like, but then we aren't really that kind of website. Now your definition of rationality seems to include ideas of civil discourse and treating all opinions with respect (even religions that are made up out of wholecloth and have sinister cultish undertones), but I don't really think that ours does. In any case can I respectfully suggest that if you want to argue that our article on a particular subject is wrong, address the points that make it incorrect for you - it might make you a little bit less of a social pariah. This going on and on about our rationalness over two or three websites is tedious in the extreme. DamoHi 09:06, 2 January 2012 (UTC)


"The only method of discovering truth is empirically..." — is that true? If it is, can you cite empirical studies which demonstrate its truth? Or is it in fact a self-defeating claim, i.e. it claims to justify everything, yet can't justify itself? Or, maybe empiricism is only the "best" method—what does "best" mean? I wouldn't say my definition of rationality includes anything in particular; we can argue about what is or is not included in rationality, but that is a separate issue from defining it (a task I personally think fruitless). If you don't agree that rationality demands civil discourse or politeness, here's an argument for you:
  1. If A is more likely to produce truth in the long-run than B, then A is more rational than B.
  2. Politeness and civil discourse are more likely to produce truth in the long-run than their opposites.
  3. Hence, politeness and civil discourse are more rational than their opposites.
I'd hope, whatever our philosophical disagreements regarding the ultimate nature of rationality, we could agree on (1) as one of the basic principles of rationality. As to (2), if you don't agree, consider the following: impoliteness and civility make it more likely that an idea will be dismissed after a merely cursory evaluation, i.e. without an in-depth understanding of the idea and the justifications for it. In the long-run, evaluating every seriously presented idea in depth is more likely to attain the truth than subjecting many of them to only a cursory examination. This is especially the case, considering that the natural inclination of the human mind is to investigate in more depth ideas they are already in significant agreement with, than ideas significantly contrary to their own position. Hence, in the long-run, politeness and civil discourse will discover truths which impoliteness and incivility will tend not to. If anyone does not agree with either of these premises, I'd hope they'd state their reasoned disagreement with them.
I've never argued that any article on this site is wrong on account of it individually lacking rationality. I've argued articles are wrong for specific reasons. Separately from that, as a more general observation of the site as a whole (rather than any particular article), I've argued this site is not very rational; an observation others have also made. I really don't care if I am loved or hated by you lot, I care about the truth. I'd rather speak the truth and be hated than speak incoherent gibberish and be loved for it. (((Zack Martin))) 09:40, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
Shorter this entire conversation: "I am severely butthurt about the word rational!" Drink! Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 06:50, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
If anyone is "severely butthurt" about the word "rational", it is the person who created this template, and the authors of the corresponding page at RWW. (((Zack Martin))) 01:31, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
You are, to the best of my knowledge, the only editor who has used the trope with anything resembling sincerity. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 07:16, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
Well, I'm not assuming everyone else who uses it does not have some valid point. I think, in some cases the uses of this claim are just bogus (you call yourself rational, but you can't see that feminism/the Holocaust/Obama's birth certificate/whatever is bunkum!). But I think in some other cases, visitors do have some valid point, even if they do not always express it as coherently as one would like, and even if their valid point is sometimes mixed with some exaggerations. (((Zack Martin))) 20:44, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
Actually, I just remembered someone else who has "used the trope" with sincerity - LowKey. See here. If I remember some of my discussions with PJR, he has displayed sympathy for the same viewpoint. So that makes maybe 3 people, at least - there are probably even more. (((Zack Martin))) 06:50, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
Wow! Three religious nutters who don't like to be thought of as irrational. Steven Kavanagh (talk) 13:33, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
You do realise, we aren't discussing here about whether myself or aSK people are rational, but whether this site is? I think you have things a bit backwards. I also take note of the fact that our viewpoints — as radically different as they are — are dismissed without any concrete engagement with what we have to say on the issue at hand. That is not rational. (((Zack Martin))) 07:27, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
When I suggested that formal logic was of some use in determining what was agreeable to reason, a point that is fairly indisputable as far as most of us are concerned, I was fully expecting Maratrean to pull out his oft-repeated dreck about paraconsistent logic; the only way he knew how to respond, I should think. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 07:56, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
It's not a red herring, it is entirely relevant. You can't use "formal logic" to define rationality, because there are numerous conflicting formal logics, with radically different assumptions and conclusions - you need to name a particular one. And then, once you've done that, the question follows of why that one and not one of its competitors? (((Zack Martin))) 01:31, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
Except I did not say that, I said that formal logic can be used as a tool toward that end, which implies no restriction whatever on the types of logic you can use. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 07:16, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
Let's suppose we have some disputed mathematical conjecture, let's call it the Foo conjecture, "there exists at least one Foo number". A classical mathematician constructs a proof by contradiction, showing that from the premise "there exist no Foo numbers", we can derive a contradiction. Thus, the classical mathematician concludes that Foo numbers must exist, even though they cannot name any single one of them, and may not ever be able to. The constructivist mathematician however objects - according to mathematical constructivism, proofs of existence by contradiction are not valid, and to prove that Foo numbers actually exist, you have to discover at least one Foo number, something which no one has yet been able to do. Now, the classical mathematician and the constructivist mathematician argue about whether the existence of Foo numbers is in fact demonstrated. The classical mathematician insists that it is proven; the constructivist insists it is not. The classicist accuses the constructivist of being irrational, and conversely the constructivist accuses the classicist of being irrational. Now, how do we judge which, if either, of them is being irrational? You suggest that "formal logic can be used as a tool toward that end", i.e. the end of determining what is rational. How could you use formal logic to do so in this case? For each mathematician has their own formal logic (classical and intuitionistic) which supports their case. It appears in this case at least your invocation of formal logic fails. (((Zack Martin))) 20:39, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
It seems that you continue to ignore my statements to the effect that formal logic is not the only tool in the toolbox. For example, in your scenario, you could dispense with formal logic and hand the mathematicians a pair of pistols instead. Or you could put on a comedy show with the constructivist as the star, in which he tries to explain why a statement proven not to be untrue is not true. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 06:41, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
Pardon my ignorance, but what's constructivism, and why would a constructivist argue that "a statement proven not to be untrue is not true"? Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 06:46, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
@Stabby, see Constructivism (mathematics)Wikipedia on WP. Constructivism is a position in the philosophy of mathematics, and a set of theories in mathematics proper which are inspired by that position. Classical mathematics holds that you can prove some proposition true "There exists an X such that p(X)", even if you don't know what any of those Xs are. An extreme example would be Chaitin's constantWikipedia - we can prove it exists, but we can also prove that we can't know what it is. Constructivists argue that such proofs are improper, and you have only proven a mathematical concept to be real if you can construct a concrete example of it. Sounds like a rather academic mathematical debate, but it has a huge impact on the actual practice of mathematics - many proofs, definitions and concepts have to change when you adopt so radically different philosophical foundations. (((Zack Martin))) 07:49, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
@LX, we could ask the mathematicians to settle the argument with pistols. That might settle it, but we have no reason to believe the outcome would be rational. Same goes for the comedy routine. A basic assumption of rationality, is that the rational approach, while it is not always guaranteed to reach the truth, is more likely in the long run to produce the truth than an irrational one. But there seems to be no reason to suppose that the mathematician who is the better shot is more likely to be right about the philosophical foundations of mathematics, nor is there any reason to suppose that the mathematician who is the better comedian is more likely to be right about that topic either. So all we are left with is this vague suggestion that "formal logic" might be useful to settle arguments about what is rational, but the suggestion is lacking any detail, which makes me think this is just an idea that sounds nice in theory but has never been tried in practice. (((Zack Martin))) 07:49, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
460px-Dore woodcut Divine Comedy 01.jpgBad Faith (talk) 09:50, 1 January 2012 (UTC)


Wouldn't it be a good idea to copy over the RWW article/write something about this, either as a collective essay or something in projectspace (that could be RW's "official" answer or something)? -- Nx / talk 10:11, 2 January 2012 (UTC)

But RWW is lonely and needs the attention! Rennie McGreet (talk) 10:12, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
To much attention and it'll shit itself, and then we'll be left with a broken link. -- Nx / talk 10:28, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
Somehow I don't think the half-dozen new pageviews each link generates will bork the server. But, yes, we should have an RW version of the argument here. Rennie McGreet (talk) 10:39, 2 January 2012 (UTC)


Why do we have this template? It's linked to only a few talk pages, and serves no purpose except to draw attention to one editor's essay. steriletalk 13:07, 2 January 2012 (UTC)

'Cuz it's a snark at our "I thought you guys were supposed to be RATIONAL" critics. The Spikey Punk I'm punking my punk! 13:09, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
I am leaning towards keep, just because it is kid of funny if it is not overused. - π Moderator 13:18, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
Me too, though I wouldn't cry if it got deleted. But it does help me keep track for my "RATIONALWiki" drinking game. The Spikey Punk I'm punking my punk! 13:21, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
I track it here. - π Moderator 13:24, 2 January 2012 (UTC)


Added some documentation, because it's annoying when people think that this is an effective response to anything. Herr FuzzyKatzenPotato (talk/stalk) 02:43, 15 December 2014 (UTC)