5 – When Grandmas ask “What is Rationality?”

An ELI5 (Explain Like I’m 5) episode. Our answers when someone asks “What is Rationality anyway?” and they have a bit of time.
(If they don’t have time, Eneasz’s Elevator Pitch is “Rationality is a systematized method of making your beliefs more closely match reality”)

Eliezer’s Sequences of Blog Posts on Rationality
In ebook form – Rationality: From AI to Zombies

Piano competition with and without music results
Blind auditions for classical orchestras increased hiring of women (shorter version here)
Martin Shkreli: Real Evil, or Evil-For-Good-Due-To-Effectiveness-Calculations?
John Oliver’s piece on Abortion Laws
The Bell Curve

Finally – fact-checking Eneasz’s claims about cultural trends:

Scott Alexander’s most recent survey results in full (starting to age now).

Of the things mentioned:

Relationship Style
Prefer monogamous: 778, 51.8%
Prefer polyamorous: 227, 15.1%
Uncertain/no preference: 464, 30.9%
Other: 23, 1.5%

(in the general population: Polyamory in general pop (US) = 9.8M out of 319M (3%) (“An estimate based solely on the agreement to allow satellite lovers is around 9.8 million.”)  )

Communist: 9, 0.6%
Conservative: 67, 4.5%
Liberal: 416, 27.7%
Libertarian: 379, 25.2%
Social Democratic: 585, 38.9%

(general population (US) – 19% of general pop identify as Libertarians. Not as big a difference as Eneasz thought!  )

Atheist and not spiritual: 1054, 70.1%
Atheist and spiritual: 150, 10.0%
Agnostic: 156, 10.4%
Lukewarm theist: 44, 2.9%
Deist/pantheist/etc.: 22,, 1.5%
Committed theist: 60, 4.0%

(general population (US) is almost reversed, ~76% religious, 23% “nones” (and only 7% atheist/agnostic)  )

Moral Views
Accept/lean towards consequentialism: 901, 60.0%
Accept/lean towards deontology: 50, 3.3%
Accept/lean towards natural law: 48, 3.2%
Accept/lean towards virtue ethics: 150, 10.0%
Accept/lean towards contractualism: 79, 5.3%
Other/no answer: 239, 15.9%

(couldn’t find any numbers for general pop. As a proxy, a survey of philosophers (primarily Anglophonic) showed only 24% consequentialists.)

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14 Responses to 5 – When Grandmas ask “What is Rationality?”

  1. Jeff says:

    Like Eneasz, I come from a strict religious household that predisposed me to finding out the truth. I was happy that Mormonism was mentioned on the podcast. That’s my background! There is definitely a “truth is all-important” vibe in Mormonism. But, they assume they have The Truth, and don’t encourage you to explore beyond that. They actively discourage “worldly intellectualism”. Thank you for the excellent explanation as to why the “good feeling” from praying about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is not enough. That is the one thing that people cling to when they have competing evidence. “But the Spirit told me it was true, so nothing else matters”. That was hard to leave behind for me.

    And Katrina — too bad you didn’t make it past chapter one of the Book of Mormon. You should have held on for chapter 4, where there is a beheading, sanctioned by God! Looking back, I am so surprised that anybody reads past that. You are in good company with not being able to slog through it. Mark Twain famously called the book “chloroform in print”.

    Thanks for the excellent podcast!

  2. smk says:

    Some other things worth mentioning about rationalist demographics:

    – mostly men
    – higher proportion of autistic people than the general population
    – it’s hard to figure out the proportion of trans people in the general population, but based on rough estimates, FtM people don’t have a higher proportion in Scott’s survey than in the general population, while MtF people do.

  3. Katrina Stanton says:

    So, got some feedback on the granny voice. Apparently it hurt people’s ears. Message received! Any future fakey impressions will not be that one.

  4. Massimo Gauthier says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t 1/3 the frequentist answer to the mathematician baby question with 1/2 being the bayesian answer?

    • Massimo Gauthier says:

      Ok so it turns out 1/3 is the correct answer if *you* ask ‘is at least one of them a girl’ vs the mathematician saying it.

  5. Louis says:

    The blind orchestra helping women seems to be a myth from a study that cherry picked the results. It probably wouldn’t have become such a famous study if it didn’t supposedly confirm what people already believe.


    • Louis says:

      I also think that piano competitions being decided by the visuals rather than the audio is presented in a misleading way because it assumes that there is a reasonable difference in quality of the sound between players, which would enable people to decide based on the sound but people that are in the same piano competition they are likely to have similar levels of skill.

    • BayesianAdmin says:

      Yeah, this came out several years after we did the episode. :/ Very disappointing, it really degrades trust in studies. At least, it certainly for us.

  6. Pingback: 191 – What is Post-Rationalism, with Arielle | The Bayesian Conspiracy

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