Author Topic: On the role of experts in creating personal belief systems.  (Read 41235 times)

Kai

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On the role of experts in creating personal belief systems.
« on: December 17, 2012, 12:07:49 am »
LMNO thought I should crosspost this from Facebook, so I am.

Quote
The first conclusion of this essay is that many of us live in different worlds with different personal belief systems. And, although many of us believe that ours is correct, it is no trivial task to convince others. Once a belief system is developed, it is, almost completely, locked in. The term epistemic closure* has been popular recently. Each of these systems is self-consistent and forms a bubble of epistemic closure. When a person is in one closed belief structure, ideas outside of that structure just seem crazy. Within the structure, things make sense. There is logical consistency and no cognitive dissonance. Trying to believe ideas outside of a belief bubble creates creates ideational tension and is not stable.

The second conclusion of this essay is that most of our fundamental knowledge is not acquired by personal interaction with the world, but is delivered by experts. People cannot just call themselves experts, however, and be experts. The set of experts that Joe trusts has no overlap with the set that Mary trusts. Both Joe and Mary think that the experts outside of their bubble are fanatics, and, possibly, evil.

http://coronaradiata.net/2012/12/07/on-the-role-of-experts-in-creating-personal-belief-systems/

It was rather challenging to read this, because as a scientist I mostly take my map for granted. I hold strongly that it can be changed, but it is still true for me as it is for everyone that at least some of my beliefs are expert derived rather than experience. Strike that, most are expert derived. When I think about this I realize just how shaky my own beliefs are, so much more so than fundamentalists who are sure of themselves. It's not the fact that they can change that make them shaky, but the lack of confidence from direct experience. I may witness firsthand certain chemical reactions, but I take the rest of the expert advice on chemistry through extrapolation and consistency. Likewise for most other things.
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Re: On the role of experts in creating personal belief systems.
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2012, 12:32:38 am »
Hmm, very interesting! I'm going to have to think about my belief system, and its malleability.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


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Re: On the role of experts in creating personal belief systems.
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2012, 12:38:35 am »
But, I think lots of people's ideas are crazy. If they had evidence, would I recognise it?

The second part brings to mind Yudkowsky's shoelace example. If the expert and you are rational folk who believe each other to be honest then the expert's belief is evidence, yeah? I don't quite know how you go about assessing whether an expert is honest, or whether you need a belief that if a great enough number of experts consider and support an idea that it's likely that it's true.

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Re: On the role of experts in creating personal belief systems.
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2012, 06:25:21 am »
When I encounter something that is total bullshit and I know it I simply ask for five sigma evidence.  Most times this leads to "derp, what's that?" but on at least one occasion in life I have been wrong and forced to reassess my paradigm.

There is no shame in being ignorant to a fact, just shame in being willfully ignorant in spite of fact.
Seek ye not enlightenment for the truth is the journey and the journey is the truth.

Kai

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Re: On the role of experts in creating personal belief systems.
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2012, 03:41:07 pm »
But, I think lots of people's ideas are crazy. If they had evidence, would I recognise it?

The second part brings to mind Yudkowsky's shoelace example. If the expert and you are rational folk who believe each other to be honest then the expert's belief is evidence, yeah? I don't quite know how you go about assessing whether an expert is honest, or whether you need a belief that if a great enough number of experts consider and support an idea that it's likely that it's true.

The problem is when the concept of "rational folk" breaks down because people aren't all that rational. Even scientists.

And we do just take expert opinion as granted. I do it, you do it, everyone does it. Whether that expert is a looney or a respected scientist. The fact is, I feel a great deal of tension when trying to break out of my "bubble of epistemic closure", as the author calls it. I am not so smart.
« Last Edit: December 17, 2012, 03:43:44 pm by ZL 'Kai' Burington, M.S. »
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Re: On the role of experts in creating personal belief systems.
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2012, 03:49:33 pm »
I have extremely firm beliefs, and I do not consider myself a fanatic.

I do realize that almost all of the people that share my beliefs are exactly as described.  Never trust an expert in an unverifiable system.  They may not be evil, but they're DUMB.
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Re: On the role of experts in creating personal belief systems.
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2012, 04:00:07 pm »
As a general rule I try not to believe things that are not reasonably verifiably true. I think that my principles are pretty strong but my beliefs are getting less strong the older I get.

I tend to be skeptical of any answers that are too easy. Part of my worldview includes "if it's tidy, it's probably false". The exception being the Dunning/Kruger effect, which has never failed me yet.  :lol:
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


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Re: On the role of experts in creating personal belief systems.
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2012, 04:06:55 pm »
As a general rule I try not to believe things that are not reasonably verifiably true. I think that my principles are pretty strong but my beliefs are getting less strong the older I get.

I tend to be skeptical of any answers that are too easy. Part of my worldview includes "if it's tidy, it's probably false". The exception being the Dunning/Kruger effect, which has never failed me yet.  :lol:

True.  I'm a believer, I've said that before.  However, unlike most believers, I don't feel the need to tell everyone all about it, nor do I think my personal beliefs grant me the power to tell everyone else how to act.  I also think I believe in a very different god than most other believers believe in (Most of them seem to be worshipping a hateful demon of some sort, as Jefferson pointed out.).  The closest I come to any of them would be the nicer sects of the Nazarene church, but even they have some things I don't agree with.

I don't particularly question my beliefs, because they are in fact NOT verifiable.  This is why I don't proclaim them to be Truth.  Just my own very personal beliefs.

" It's just that Depeche Mode were a bunch of optimistic loveburgers."
- TGRR, shaming himself forever, 7/8/2017

 "Billy, when I say that ethics is our number one priority and safety is also our number one priority, you should take that to mean exactly what I said. Also quality. That's our number one priority as well. Don't look at me that way, you're in the corporate world now and this is how it works."
- TGRR, raising the bar at work.

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Re: On the role of experts in creating personal belief systems.
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2012, 04:13:53 pm »
As a general rule I try not to believe things that are not reasonably verifiably true. I think that my principles are pretty strong but my beliefs are getting less strong the older I get.

I tend to be skeptical of any answers that are too easy. Part of my worldview includes "if it's tidy, it's probably false". The exception being the Dunning/Kruger effect, which has never failed me yet.  :lol:

True.  I'm a believer, I've said that before.  However, unlike most believers, I don't feel the need to tell everyone all about it, nor do I think my personal beliefs grant me the power to tell everyone else how to act.  I also think I believe in a very different god than most other believers believe in (Most of them seem to be worshipping a hateful demon of some sort, as Jefferson pointed out.).  The closest I come to any of them would be the nicer sects of the Nazarene church, but even they have some things I don't agree with.

I don't particularly question my beliefs, because they are in fact NOT verifiable.  This is why I don't proclaim them to be Truth.  Just my own very personal beliefs.

Nothing wrong with that.

One of the reasons I can't get behind atheism is because they're all fired up about nothing, and intent on telling you about it.  :lol:
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


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Re: On the role of experts in creating personal belief systems.
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2012, 04:14:56 pm »
Roger, that seems well stated, and made me think. thanks.

do you have beliefs that are unverifiable because you believe that verifiable truth is only a subset of the total truth, and you wish to believe as much of the truth as you can, even at risk of believing some non-truth?

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Re: On the role of experts in creating personal belief systems.
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2012, 04:29:34 pm »
As a general rule I try not to believe things that are not reasonably verifiably true. I think that my principles are pretty strong but my beliefs are getting less strong the older I get.

I tend to be skeptical of any answers that are too easy. Part of my worldview includes "if it's tidy, it's probably false". The exception being the Dunning/Kruger effect, which has never failed me yet.  :lol:

True.  I'm a believer, I've said that before.  However, unlike most believers, I don't feel the need to tell everyone all about it, nor do I think my personal beliefs grant me the power to tell everyone else how to act.  I also think I believe in a very different god than most other believers believe in (Most of them seem to be worshipping a hateful demon of some sort, as Jefferson pointed out.).  The closest I come to any of them would be the nicer sects of the Nazarene church, but even they have some things I don't agree with.

I don't particularly question my beliefs, because they are in fact NOT verifiable.  This is why I don't proclaim them to be Truth.  Just my own very personal beliefs.

Nothing wrong with that.

One of the reasons I can't get behind atheism is because they're all fired up about nothing, and intent on telling you about it.  :lol:

:lulz:
" It's just that Depeche Mode were a bunch of optimistic loveburgers."
- TGRR, shaming himself forever, 7/8/2017

 "Billy, when I say that ethics is our number one priority and safety is also our number one priority, you should take that to mean exactly what I said. Also quality. That's our number one priority as well. Don't look at me that way, you're in the corporate world now and this is how it works."
- TGRR, raising the bar at work.

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Re: On the role of experts in creating personal belief systems.
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2012, 04:30:36 pm »
As a general rule I try not to believe things that are not reasonably verifiably true. I think that my principles are pretty strong but my beliefs are getting less strong the older I get.

I tend to be skeptical of any answers that are too easy. Part of my worldview includes "if it's tidy, it's probably false". The exception being the Dunning/Kruger effect, which has never failed me yet.  :lol:

True.  I'm a believer, I've said that before.  However, unlike most believers, I don't feel the need to tell everyone all about it, nor do I think my personal beliefs grant me the power to tell everyone else how to act.  I also think I believe in a very different god than most other believers believe in (Most of them seem to be worshipping a hateful demon of some sort, as Jefferson pointed out.).  The closest I come to any of them would be the nicer sects of the Nazarene church, but even they have some things I don't agree with.

I don't particularly question my beliefs, because they are in fact NOT verifiable.  This is why I don't proclaim them to be Truth.  Just my own very personal beliefs.

Nothing wrong with that.

One of the reasons I can't get behind atheism is because they're all fired up about nothing, and intent on telling you about it.  :lol:

:lulz:

It's true.  :lol:
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


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Re: On the role of experts in creating personal belief systems.
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2012, 04:35:04 pm »
Roger, that seems well stated, and made me think. thanks.

do you have beliefs that are unverifiable because you believe that verifiable truth is only a subset of the total truth, and you wish to believe as much of the truth as you can, even at risk of believing some non-truth?

They are unverifiable because:

1.  If God is everywhere, you can't go to a no-God zone to calibrate your instruments.
2.  You cannot prove a negative.

Science and religion have no business mixing under ANY circumstances.  The classic mistakes made are:

1.  Religious people trying to prove God's existence.  If you prove his existence, then you have no faith (belief without proof), and you've slain your own beliefs, and possibly your God.  Way to go.

2.  It's bad science to state that God doesn't exist, because you can't observe either God or the lack of God.  The only truly scientific stand would be agnosticism.

Lastly, I have never made a conscious decision to believe.  It's just the way I am.  In addition, I am bothered by one thing, from a rationalist point of view.  Altruism is known to be a survival trait, thus no beliefs are necessary...BUT:  The human appreciation for art in all its forms doesn't have - to my knowledge - any survival value, so I am at present assuming that there's more to the story than just biology.
" It's just that Depeche Mode were a bunch of optimistic loveburgers."
- TGRR, shaming himself forever, 7/8/2017

 "Billy, when I say that ethics is our number one priority and safety is also our number one priority, you should take that to mean exactly what I said. Also quality. That's our number one priority as well. Don't look at me that way, you're in the corporate world now and this is how it works."
- TGRR, raising the bar at work.

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Re: On the role of experts in creating personal belief systems.
« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2012, 05:09:42 pm »
that all is perfectly sound in my understanding. 
i am curious about the lack of conscious decision in your belief, however.  it seems out of character since you put so much emphasis on critical thinking and filtering out 'bad signal'.  perhaps it is just not worth going through the effort of rooting it out?  (i recognize that i'm possibly at risk of coming across improperly here, talking in text and all.  just want to point out that i'm not at all intending any offense and please tell me if i sound rude by way of wording)

as for the last point, are you saying that appreciation for art points to intent in form?  what about random traits?  not everything in biology has to add survival value.  it hardly seems detrimental.  besides, i can see how it would arise as a survival trait with cave paintings depicting vital information.   this is probably a thread jack though.

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Re: On the role of experts in creating personal belief systems.
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2012, 05:13:58 pm »
Here’s where the initial (OP) argument first breaks down for me: “For each, the entirety of knowledge, as I described it, was passed down from people… they considered experts.”  Sure, as he described it.  But that description is highly removed from reality. 

The second break is, “Each can generate reasonably consistent descriptions of themselves, their world, and the universe.”  Except they can’t.  They can generate descriptions that other people may accept, but it’s the same thing as Elizer’s “Phlogiston” argument.

The third is, “Neither Mary nor Joe learned about their world through direct experience.”  Again, this is fundamentally not true. 

The author is defining “knowledge” poorly.  He appears to mean “things an authority figure told you that you don’t have the means to personally adequately test right now.”  In limiting his scope to either science or religion, and in giving them equal weight simply because they are internally consistent, he fails to grasp the other things a person does learn from personal experience, and things learned by listening to some moron, following their advice, and surviving disastrous outcomes. *

Two conclusions are drawn from the essay.  The first is that there is no cognitive dissonance due to the internal consistency.  This appears to be a misunderstanding of cognitive dissonance, and also of the way consonance is achieved.  Cognitive dissonance happens when you have two conflicting thoughts at the same time.  This happens with all belief systems, since none of them can be fully complete (see BIP for details).  The second half of cognitive dissonance is how the brain gets over it.  In the ideal situation as the author has it, the religious mind will say “God did it” and get on with their day, and the scientific mind will improve their model, and get on with it.  But if you notice, the total knowledge of the religious mind stays the same, while the total knowledge of the scientific mind increases.  Because of the improved model, that dissonance will no longer happen, where it will continue to reoccur to the religious mind.

The second conclusion is that “most of our fundamental knowledge of the world is delivered by experts.” But then he says, “People cannot just call themselves experts, however, and be experts.”  Which means he’s actually saying is, “most of our fundamental knowledge of the world is NOT delivered by experts.”  From which I conclude that an effort should be made to see which of the self-proclaimed experts should be believed.

So, perhaps we shouldn’t look at internal consistency, due to the Law of Fives (confirmation bias).  Perhaps we shouldn’t see which system has less cognitive dissonance (for reasons noted above).  So let’s see which system can predict future outcomes more accurately.  That more than anything else should be your standard when you come up against “why?” questions.  And I would say that if you can predict a future outcome with some accuracy (and not in hindsight as in “phlogiston”), then it’s fairly safe to accept that framework of knowledge, even if you don’t have absolute mastery over it.

However, the other flaw I see in this essay is that there is a binary accept/reject quality to it, whereas I would go “fuzzy” or “maybe” on it.  Am I 100% sure that deep-space astronomy maps to reality?  No, but I assign it a much higher percentage than I do to Astrology.
















*He does clarify as an edit that he doesn’t mean to give each side equal weight; however, once you adjust for that the argument begins to collapse on its own, which is probably why he didn’t go back and change the essay, but rather contradict himself in the afterward.