Scott Alexander writes:
Utilitarianism agrees that we should give to charity and shouldn’t steal from the poor, because Utility, but take it far enough to the tails and we should tile the universe with rats on heroin. Religious morality agrees that we should give to charity and shouldn’t steal from the poor, because God, but take it far enough to the tails and we should spend all our time in giant cubes made of semiprecious stones singing songs of praise.
He suggests that these are surprisingly divergent visions of the highest good, for moral visions that give similar advice for day-to-day life:
converting the mass of the universe into nervous tissue experiencing euphoria isn’t just the second-best outcome from a religious perspective, it’s completely abominable
But what strikes me about them is how similar they seem, when you strip away the decorative metaphors. Continue reading →
Nassim Nicholas Taleb recommends that instead of the balanced portfolio of investments recommended by portfolio theory, we follow a "barbell" strategy of putting most of our assets in a maximally safe, stable investment, and making small, sustainable bets with very high potential upside. If taken literally, this can't work because no such safe asset class exists. Continue reading →
I used to think of proofs of the existence of God as basically attempts to compel assent to a particular religious doctrine through a sort of sleight of hand:
- Prove, based on reasonable-seeming general axioms, the existence of some sort of ultimate entity.
- Name this entity "God."
- Conflate this with the particular God-based model of the world and right action embedded in your own religion.
While in many cases this may actually be the motivation, I now see a totally different thing people might have been trying to do with such "proofs." Continue reading →