A Fable of Science and Politics

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A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Aedl Foxe » Tue May 03, 2011 6:44 pm UTC

Story by Eliezer Yudkowsky, originally posted on lesswrong.com .

In the time of the Roman Empire, civic life was divided between the Blue and Green factions. The Blues and the Greens murdered each other in single combats, in ambushes, in group battles, in riots. Procopius said of the warring factions: "So there grows up in them against their fellow men a hostility which has no cause, and at no time does it cease or disappear, for it gives place neither to the ties of marriage nor of relationship nor of friendship, and the case is the same even though those who differ with respect to these colors be brothers or any other kin." Edward Gibbon wrote: "The support of a faction became necessary to every candidate for civil or ecclesiastical honors."

Who were the Blues and the Greens? They were sports fans - the partisans of the blue and green chariot-racing teams.

Imagine a future society that flees into a vast underground network of caverns and seals the entrances. We shall not specify whether they flee disease, war, or radiation; we shall suppose the first Undergrounders manage to grow food, find water, recycle air, make light, and survive, and that their descendants thrive and eventually form cities. Of the world above, there are only legends written on scraps of paper; and one of these scraps of paper describes the sky, a vast open space of air above a great unbounded floor. The sky is cerulean in color, and contains strange floating objects like enormous tufts of white cotton. But the meaning of the word "cerulean" is controversial; some say that it refers to the color known as "blue", and others that it refers to the color known as "green".


In the early days of the underground society, the Blues and Greens contested with open violence; but today, truce prevails - a peace born of a growing sense of pointlessness. Cultural mores have changed; there is a large and prosperous middle class that has grown up with effective law enforcement and become unaccustomed to violence. The schools provide some sense of historical perspective; how long the battle between Blues and Greens continued, how many died, how little changed as a result. Minds have been laid open to the strange new philosophy that people are people, whether they be Blue or Green.

The conflict has not vanished. Society is still divided along Blue and Green lines, and there is a "Blue" and a "Green" position on almost every contemporary issue of political or cultural importance. The Blues advocate taxes on individual incomes, the Greens advocate taxes on merchant sales; the Blues advocate stricter marriage laws, while the Greens wish to make it easier to obtain divorces; the Blues take their support from the heart of city areas, while the more distant farmers and watersellers tend to be Green; the Blues believe that the Earth is a huge spherical rock at the center of the universe, the Greens that it is a huge flat rock circling some other object called a Sun. Not every Blue or every Green citizen takes the "Blue" or "Green" position on every issue, but it would be rare to find a city merchant who believed the sky was blue, and yet advocated an individual tax and freer marriage laws.

The Underground is still polarized; an uneasy peace. A few folk genuinely think that Blues and Greens should be friends, and it is now common for a Green to patronize a Blue shop, or for a Blue to visit a Green tavern. Yet from a truce originally born of exhaustion, there is a quietly growing spirit of tolerance, even friendship.

One day, the Underground is shaken by a minor earthquake. A sightseeing party of six is caught in the tremblor while looking at the ruins of ancient dwellings in the upper caverns. They feel the brief movement of the rock under their feet, and one of the tourists trips and scrapes her knee. The party decides to turn back, fearing further earthquakes. On their way back, one person catches a whiff of something strange in the air, a scent coming from a long-unused passageway. Ignoring the well-meant cautions of fellow travellers, the person borrows a powered lantern and walks into the passageway. The stone corridor wends upward... and upward... and finally terminates in a hole carved out of the world, a place where all stone ends. Distance, endless distance, stretches away into forever; a gathering space to hold a thousand cities. Unimaginably far above, too bright to look at directly, a searing spark casts light over all visible space, the naked filament of some huge light bulb. In the air, hanging unsupported, are great incomprehensible tufts of white cotton. And the vast glowing ceiling above... the color... is...

Now history branches, depending on which member of the sightseeing party decided to follow the corridor to the surface.

Aditya the Blue stood under the blue forever, and slowly smiled. It was not a pleasant smile. There was hatred, and wounded pride; it recalled every argument she'd ever had with a Green, every rivalry, every contested promotion. "You were right all along," the sky whispered down at her, "and now you can prove it." For a moment Aditya stood there, absorbing the message, glorying in it, and then she turned back to the stone corridor to tell the world. As Aditya walked, she curled her hand into a clenched fist. "The truce," she said, "is over."

Barron the Green stared incomprehendingly at the chaos of colors for long seconds. Understanding, when it came, drove a pile-driver punch into the pit of his stomach. Tears started from his eyes. Barron thought of the Massacre of Cathay, where a Blue army had massacred every citizen of a Green town, including children; he thought of the ancient Blue general, Annas Rell, who had declared Greens "a pit of disease; a pestilence to be cleansed"; he thought of the glints of hatred he'd seen in Blue eyes and something inside him cracked. "How can you be on their side?" Barron screamed at the sky, and then he began to weep; because he knew, standing under the malevolent blue glare, that the universe had always been a place of evil.

Charles the Blue considered the blue ceiling, taken aback. As a professor in a mixed college, Charles had carefully emphasized that Blue and Green viewpoints were equally valid and deserving of tolerance: The sky was a metaphysical construct, and cerulean a color that could be seen in more than one way. Briefly, Charles wondered whether a Green, standing in this place, might not see a green ceiling above; or if perhaps the ceiling would be green at this time tomorrow; but he couldn't stake the continued survival of civilization on that. This was merely a natural phenomenon of some kind, having nothing to do with moral philosophy or society... but one that might be readily misinterpreted, Charles feared. Charles sighed, and turned to go back into the corridor. Tomorrow he would come back alone and block off the passageway.

Daria, once Green, tried to breathe amid the ashes of her world. I will not flinch, Daria told herself, I will not look away. She had been Green all her life, and now she must be Blue. Her friends, her family, would turn from her. Speak the truth, even if your voice trembles, her father had told her; but her father was dead now, and her mother would never understand. Daria stared down the calm blue gaze of the sky, trying to accept it, and finally her breathing quietened. I was wrong, she said to herself mournfully; it's not so complicated, after all. She would find new friends, and perhaps her family would forgive her... or, she wondered with a tinge of hope, rise to this same test, standing underneath this same sky? "The sky is blue," Daria said experimentally, and nothing dire happened to her; but she couldn't bring herself to smile. Daria the Blue exhaled sadly, and went back into the world, wondering what she would say.

Eddin, a Green, looked up at the blue sky and began to laugh cynically. The course of his world's history came clear at last; even he couldn't believe they'd been such fools. "Stupid," Eddin said, "stupid, stupid, and all the time it was right here." Hatred, murders, wars, and all along it was just a thing somewhere, that someone had written about like they'd write about any other thing. No poetry, no beauty, nothing that any sane person would ever care about, just one pointless thing that had been blown out of all proportion. Eddin leaned against the cave mouth wearily, trying to think of a way to prevent this information from blowing up the world, and wondering if they didn't all deserve it.

Ferris gasped involuntarily, frozen by sheer wonder and delight. Ferris's eyes darted hungrily about, fastening on each sight in turn before moving reluctantly to the next; the blue sky, the white clouds, the vast unknown outside, full of places and things (and people?) that no Undergrounder had ever seen. "Oh, so that's what color it is," Ferris said, and went exploring.


Who, morally speaking, takes the correct path?
"Maybe there are stupid happy people out there... And life isn't fair, and you won't become happier by being jealous of what you can't have... You can never achieve that degree of ignorance... you cannot unknow what you know." -E. Yudkowsky

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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Vaniver » Tue May 03, 2011 7:35 pm UTC

I mostly post over at LessWrong now.

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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Aedl Foxe » Tue May 03, 2011 7:51 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:I recommend linking to the source directly.


I couldn't; I was in my first five posts. :3
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby CorruptUser » Wed May 04, 2011 1:17 am UTC

Ferris is the right person, but since there are people in the world other than Ferris, Eddin is the best person. Charles is out simply because he would keep man enslaved "for their own good".

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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby podbaydoor » Wed May 04, 2011 2:50 am UTC

I guess the answer depends on what you mean by "correct." Is it the course of action that hurts the least people? Kicks up the least or most amount of fuss? Least chance of starting another war? Provides the most amount of personal satisfaction for the traveller? I'm not conversant enough in sociopolitics to be able to forecast the consequences of each decision, and they're really dependent on what the person does with their fellow Undergrounders after the moment of discovery. You could spin any one of them into the poster child for your personal ethics philosophy.
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Aedl Foxe » Wed May 04, 2011 2:54 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Ferris is the right person, but since there are people in the world other than Ferris, Eddin is the best person. Charles is out simply because he would keep man enslaved "for their own good".


I understand why you say Ferris is the "right" person, but I'm a little surprised that you said that Eddin was "best". Why do you say so? Personally, I would side with Daria.
"Maybe there are stupid happy people out there... And life isn't fair, and you won't become happier by being jealous of what you can't have... You can never achieve that degree of ignorance... you cannot unknow what you know." -E. Yudkowsky

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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby BattleMoose » Wed May 04, 2011 3:52 am UTC

I am not sure where science comes into it at all, from that perspective I would hazard that they are all wrong. To take a position on the blue/green aspect of the sky when there is clearly insufficient evidence to make such a determination is plainly unscientific.

Which path is the most morally correct, will depend on ones morals, they do differ from individuals and even societies. While I don't like the reactions of Aditya and Barron, I wouldn't go so far as to say they are immoral or even less moral than the reactions of the others, which I find all to be quite acceptable.

I think the reaction of Charles is the most interesting, society at that time was starting to get over the tensions caused by the blue/green dispute and this new knowledge could certainly cause violence once again and his actions would prevent such violence, until hopefully such a time when blue/green is no longer an issue at all. Although denying any kind of knowledge is something that I do somewhat detest, but recognize there are situations where it could be warranted.

If only everyone could be like Ferris, the world would be a lot better place. Also, is he neither blue nor green, while not stated specifically in the text, the understanding is that everyone belongs to either one of the factions. In short, Ferris is awesome, but not more moral.

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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby CorruptUser » Wed May 04, 2011 6:17 am UTC

Aedl Foxe wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:Ferris is the right person, but since there are people in the world other than Ferris, Eddin is the best person. Charles is out simply because he would keep man enslaved "for their own good".


I understand why you say Ferris is the "right" person, but I'm a little surprised that you said that Eddin was "best". Why do you say so? Personally, I would side with Daria.


Eddin might be a cynic, but he is trying to figure out how to prevent a war. Daria isn't thinking about doing it tactfully.

Aditya is an Inquisitor looking for an excuse to convert everyone, Barron is a nihilist that might end up as the Unabomber, Charles plans to keep everyone enslaved 'for their own protection', and Ferris, while arguably the best of them all, doesn't think of the repercussions of anything.

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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby nitePhyyre » Wed May 04, 2011 1:59 pm UTC

I don't get it. It should be called "A fable of the stupidity of religion". I feel that Aditya's, Barron's, and Daria's reaction vindicates Charles. Out of the 6 people, It would ruin 2 of them and the other one would destroy the peace. The other 3 were ambivalent. At this time in their history, this knowledge can only cause harm.
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby PopeDarren » Wed May 04, 2011 4:48 pm UTC

I really enjoy this exercise. Thank you!

It's hard to say who is "morally correct," without pinning a definition on what that means. If you are asking who conducted themselves correctly according to the rules defined by society, then none of them were correct, and all of them were correct. If you narrowed it down to who was morally correct as defined by their individual factions or beliefs, then you might get a specific answer for each story concerning correctness. If you're asking the reader to identify with a path either based on our terms or the characters terms, then you still get a correct answer regardless of how it is answered.

Thinking about the phrase "science of morality" is pretty funny to me.

The trouble with morality is morals. Morals can be defined by a group or an individual, but as it stands, trying to define morals as a basis for living for everyone (all humans; all life) is impossible. You can see this even within specific religious groups: though they might be pointing to the same thing, they are saying or doing something differently, which makes them right (and makes others wrong). Morality is the wonderful and terrible thing that makes us human. The South Park where Eric freezes himself and is thawed in the future by people that fight over what version of atheism is correct comes to mind.

It is interesting to see a piece of myself in all the characters. And while I was reading/writing this, it seemed as if the story is outlining my own stages of conscious development. Not necessarily in the order it was written.

I did have specific feelings while reading it, and it was surprising to see how large my reaction was to more than one individual. I did not like Aditya, but I have been him more often than not; Barron made me feel like I was young again and listening to Nirvana; Charles seemed stupid at first, then responsible to do something he knew was "right," but even he hated it; I readily sided with Daria and her plight to accept; I have laughed out loud at the absurdity of points I have argued, so it was easy to feel Eddin's reaction; lastly, Ferris is interesting. He's kind of what I would hope everyone would do, but I know others wouldn't follow, and I question whether I would even react the way he did. This point in and of itself makes me wonder whether I could nail down a definition of morality for myself. Even if I did figure something out, would it be wise for me to let others figure it out? What if I knew people would hurt themselves or others because of this knowledge? How could I know for sure?

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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Aedl Foxe » Wed May 04, 2011 5:22 pm UTC

PopeDarren wrote:I did have specific feelings while reading it, and it was surprising to see how large my reaction was to more than one individual. I did not like Aditya, but I have been him more often than not; Barron made me feel like I was young again and listening to Nirvana; Charles seemed stupid at first, then responsible to do something he knew was "right," but even he hated it; I readily sided with Daria and her plight to accept; I have laughed out loud at the absurdity of points I have argued, so it was easy to feel Eddin's reaction; lastly, Ferris is interesting. He's kind of what I would hope everyone would do, but I know others wouldn't follow, and I question whether I would even react the way he did. This point in and of itself makes me wonder whether I could nail down a definition of morality for myself. Even if I did figure something out, would it be wise for me to let others figure it out? What if I knew people would hurt themselves or others because of this knowledge? How could I know for sure?


I was fascinated by your initial characterization of Ferris; it reminded me of how some Christians talk about Jesus. "Yeah, he was the moral ideal, but come on, no one can actually be like that."

I myself am stuck between Daria and Ferris. Daria, once she saw the truth for what it was, couldn't turn away. Her entire worldview was changed, and she accepted it willingly, even though it was hard. "That which can be destroyed by the truth, ought to be." Ferris, on the other hand, is a difficult case. Notice that it never says what color he'd sided with before... I wonder if he'd even taken a side before.

On the site this was originally posted, it seemed clear to me that Ferris was intended to be the "right" answer. I posted it here because I think I disagree.
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Aedl Foxe » Wed May 04, 2011 5:26 pm UTC

nitePhyyre wrote:I don't get it. It should be called "A fable of the stupidity of religion". I feel that Aditya's, Barron's, and Daria's reaction vindicates Charles. Out of the 6 people, It would ruin 2 of them and the other one would destroy the peace. The other 3 were ambivalent. At this time in their history, this knowledge can only cause harm.


You make a persuasive argument, but I can't shake the feeling that Charles reminds me of the villains in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. "The sky was a metaphysical construct, and cerulean a color that could be seen in more than one way."

Is the quest for truth a higher ideal than the well-being of society?
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby EdgarJPublius » Wed May 04, 2011 6:54 pm UTC

Aedl Foxe wrote:Is the quest for truth a higher ideal than the well-being of society?

How long can society survive in ignorance or denial of the truth?
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby mmmcannibalism » Wed May 04, 2011 6:57 pm UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:
Aedl Foxe wrote:Is the quest for truth a higher ideal than the well-being of society?

How long can society survive in ignorance or denial of the truth?


Depends on the truth. As I saw once, the truth is neither good or bad its just the truth. The fact that lions survive by eating meat is good for the lions and bad for the antelope.

For humans this depends, knowing a meteor is going to hit earth in 200 years(example obviously) is probably going to do harm to the next 200 years of society that wouldn't have existed otherwise.
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby EdgarJPublius » Wed May 04, 2011 7:05 pm UTC

You think that knowing lions eat meat harms the antelope? Or that being given the chance to prevent catastrophe would do more harm to human society than the catastrophe itself?
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Aedl Foxe » Wed May 04, 2011 7:28 pm UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:You think that knowing lions eat meat harms the antelope? Or that being given the chance to prevent catastrophe would do more harm to human society than the catastrophe itself?


Yeah... on the contrary, knowing that lions eat meat would probably help the antelope escape. Otherwise they'd go up to the lion and be all, "Hi! I'm an antelope!" And then Darwin takes over.
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby PopeDarren » Wed May 04, 2011 7:35 pm UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:You think that knowing lions eat meat harms the antelope? Or that being given the chance to prevent catastrophe would do more harm to human society than the catastrophe itself?


Relating it back to the story, I understood his point as: if Ferris' information gets out, yes, people will be harmed initially due to fighting among the different factions, and possibly sub-factions; however, the truth will live on in some form or fashion because the stupid will kill themselves off and the truth will remain.

I can't find the source, so I am paraphrasing, "A betta fish will watch two other betta fish fight until one of the fighters dies. The betta fish that watched will then attack and kill the survivor of the previous fight." In life after our fable, the factions may fight between eachother, but the truth that Ferris found will be the ultimate victor.

So what's more important: The truth offered right here and now, or the well-being of humanity for the rest of existence?

It's an excellent question. And I was actually thinking about Rand in my previous post (Charles reminded me of The Fountainhead's Toohey as well), and I wondered if I could relate this question back to objectivism. I decided it would muddle my point, which further proves to me that I can't trust myself to think objectively. If I can't think that way, then how could I convey to other people that point of view is correct?

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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby PopeDarren » Wed May 04, 2011 7:59 pm UTC

Whoops. I got all corn-fused. I guess that the truth here and now would mean the well-being of humanity for the rest of existence. After all the fighting dies. Whenever that might be.

The point I was trying to make was that I couldn't make the choice to sacrifice others for truth. If I can't make that choice, someone else will. Will that someone else actually be a better source? Or will he or she use knowledge to bend the will of others.

Sometimes the truth can be a facade, which is actually another's understanding perceived through a filter of ego. And that is not Truth at all. It's just more bad juju.

I guess the irony is that by contesting my initial reaction (siding with Ferris), I have unwittingly formed myself into Rand's villain by allowing the status quo. "An average drawn upon zeroes." Celebrate mediocrity! It's the only way I'll ever feel good about myself!

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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Aedl Foxe » Wed May 04, 2011 8:08 pm UTC

PopeDarren wrote:Whoops. I got all corn-fused. I guess that the truth here and now would mean the well-being of humanity for the rest of existence. After all the fighting dies. Whenever that might be.


But the fighting was already dead without the truth coming in, right? I mean, we've reached a point in society where the Greens and Blues are no longer fighting with each other... won't bringing it up again be worse for the people in both the short and long terms? :3 Why isn't Charles right?
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby EdgarJPublius » Wed May 04, 2011 8:40 pm UTC

In the short term, only maybe, as PopeDarren said, the truth is still there, just because Charles walled it off doesn't mean that someone else won't discover it again the next day. As a reasonably intelligent Moderate, Charles could easily announce the discovery in a way that minimizes the upset caused as Eddin does, where another person might make Aditya's choice to use the truth intentionally to promote violence.

In the long term, the conflict will die down again and will likely never reach the intensity of before the discovery anyway. Also, knowing the truth is likely to prevent future outbreaks of violence. Where-as, were the truth concealed, who knows how many times the same conflict could be fought?
Additionally, revealing the truth opens up the outside world for exploration, discovery and new life on the surface, which would be of incalculable value to society.
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Aedl Foxe » Wed May 04, 2011 8:48 pm UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:In the short term, only maybe, as PopeDarren said, the truth is still there, just because Charles walled it off doesn't mean that someone else won't discover it again the next day. As a reasonably intelligent Moderate, Charles could easily announce the discovery in a way that minimizes the upset caused as Eddin does, where another person might make Aditya's choice to use the truth intentionally to promote violence.

In the long term, the conflict will die down again and will likely never reach the intensity of before the discovery anyway. Also, knowing the truth is likely to prevent future outbreaks of violence. Where-as, were the truth concealed, who knows how many times the same conflict could be fought?
Additionally, revealing the truth opens up the outside world for exploration, discovery and new life on the surface, which would be of incalculable value to society.


But what if the revelation of the truth was forestalled until all memory of the war had faded? It seems to me that this is a very fragile time in their history... shouldn't we seek stability first rather than risk upsetting the balance that society has managed to achieve?
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Whimsical Eloquence » Wed May 04, 2011 8:59 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Ferris is the right person, but since there are people in the world other than Ferris, Eddin is the best person. Charles is out simply because he would keep man enslaved "for their own good".


Let's assume his assessment is correct. Is it better to always spread the truth even if it that truth will be misconstrued bringing about War and horrible suffering?

The problem I found with Daria is that while at first one thinks her to be the "Good Little Empiricist" she emerges as "Daria the Blue" - she doesn't use the experience to reflect on the absurd and irrational dichotomy the Green/Blue scenario had impose on them. She fails to realise, as Charles has, that "This was merely a natural phenomenon of some kind, having nothing to do with moral philosophy or society...", or has Eddin. Daria interacts with the truth of the sky in a very simplistic, unquestioning way whereas both Eddin and Charles realise the deeper structural implications it has for them, their society and much of their societies actions. Daria fails to comprehend it beyond "x side was right" without realising that the sides' conceptions and foundations are both false and it is this conceit that has doomed so much of their society. Ferris... I admire his pluck.

I don't think this is a "morally speaking thing" - aside from the issue of Charles. It would perhaps be better to ask, who takes the correct impression from what they see? We can condemn the position the others took but we don't condemn them for taking it - in that sense it's not an Ethical Judgement.
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Aedl Foxe » Wed May 04, 2011 9:14 pm UTC

Whimsical Eloquence wrote:It would perhaps be better to ask, who takes the correct impression from what they see?


"Correct" along which axis? I don't think any of them (with the possible exception of Charles, who did his whole "reality is dependent upon the observer" shtick) came away with a epistemologically incorrect impression: They all recognized that the sky was, in fact, blue, based upon their observation. So if it's not a moral or ethical quandary, what kind of quandary is it?

Further, why would you expect seeing the sky's true color to enlighten Daria regarding her side's conceptions and foundations? The sky's color doesn't impart to her any realization about her people. All the sky does is assert the fact of its blueness. Wasn't Daria right to accept that truth and act on it within the bounds of her society? I don't think the sky would want her to become a social outcast for its sake. :P
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby EdgarJPublius » Wed May 04, 2011 9:37 pm UTC

Aedl Foxe wrote:
EdgarJPublius wrote:In the short term, only maybe, as PopeDarren said, the truth is still there, just because Charles walled it off doesn't mean that someone else won't discover it again the next day. As a reasonably intelligent Moderate, Charles could easily announce the discovery in a way that minimizes the upset caused as Eddin does, where another person might make Aditya's choice to use the truth intentionally to promote violence.

In the long term, the conflict will die down again and will likely never reach the intensity of before the discovery anyway. Also, knowing the truth is likely to prevent future outbreaks of violence. Where-as, were the truth concealed, who knows how many times the same conflict could be fought?
Additionally, revealing the truth opens up the outside world for exploration, discovery and new life on the surface, which would be of incalculable value to society.


But what if the revelation of the truth was forestalled until all memory of the war had faded? It seems to me that this is a very fragile time in their history... shouldn't we seek stability first rather than risk upsetting the balance that society has managed to achieve?


How long would that take? Aftershocks from the original conflict could go on for hundreds or thousands of years, until the original reason is forgotten entirely but the fight itself continues.
Would you rather the truth be revealed then, when it can no longer have any impact on the conflict?

And again, even if we could guarantee that the conflict will soon die out completely, we can't guarantee that someone else won't discover the truth before then and use it to incite violence.
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Whimsical Eloquence » Wed May 04, 2011 9:50 pm UTC

Aedl Foxe wrote:
Whimsical Eloquence wrote:It would perhaps be better to ask, who takes the correct impression from what they see?


"Correct" along which axis? I don't think any of them (with the possible exception of Charles, who did his whole "reality is dependent upon the observer" shtick) came away with a epistemologically incorrect impression: They all recognized that the sky was, in fact, blue, based upon their observation. So if it's not a moral or ethical quandary, what kind of quandary is it?


They all come away with empirically correct impressions. A Kantian and Hegelian will both generally agree on the empirical impressions but will draw very different conclusions form those impressions. A debate over which one is correct is both commonplace (intellectually speaking) and not considered an Ethical One by any means. That's not to say that the question at hand is a "Metaphysical/Epistemological one" but it's certainly not an Ethical One. A failure on any one of the people part's to reach the correct or more correct or more correct one might be a failing of Rationality or Imagination but it's hardly an Ethical one. We can condemn their conclusion and the intellectual process by which they came to it but we hardly condemn them for failing - we do judge them as any more evil or unethical for that failure. We might for the actions they take after it, and partially caused by it but that is hardly the same thing (see my query to CorruptUser)

Further, why would you expect seeing the sky's true color to enlighten Daria regarding her side's conceptions and foundations? The sky's color doesn't impart to her any realization about her people. All the sky does is assert the fact of its blueness. Wasn't Daria right to accept that truth and act on it within the bounds of her society? I don't think the sky would want her to become a social outcast for its sake. :P


Charles didn't do a "reality dependent upon the Observer" - at least not after having seen the sky. "This was merely a natural phenomenon of some kind, having nothing to do with moral philosophy or society". Charles realises that the moment the colour of the sky becomes a genuine question of Empirical Fact then its basis for actually deciding your membership of these two factions is irrelevant. He has taught up until know that "both were valid viewpoints" - because they were. They were merely subjective, non-empirical questions - the colour of the sky only served as a nomenclature. Indeed this nomenclature has served only to conflate and and confuse questions of politics - creating a nonsensical divide.

Both he and Eddin realise this. Eddin realises that this was in fact an Empirical Question and one that was senseless to have created such a divide, driving such wars and conflict ect. Both Charles and Eddin also adopt the fact that the sky is Blue they just don't conclude that this should influence whether they're blues or not.

Daria on the other hand sees the Sky and concludes the Blues are right and that thus she is a Blue. She has a superficial understanding of Empiricism. She's right to adopt the position Of course all the Blues in History have never been right to hold this position - in a way they didn't. They were one side in a divide, that's all Blue meant to them. If any did believe that the Sky was a particular colour as the genuine basis of their belief then they didn't hold any Empirical Rationale for it, no Observation. Little more than a Religious belief. It's like if we all found out that a particular God existed tomorrow. That dosen't really make us Christian's - or Olympians, or Hindus or whatever - our belief isn't a Spiritual or faith based one. It's Empirical.

Daria has failed to recognise these facts and so perhaps proved herself one of the most indoctrinated by the paradigm and system.
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Aedl Foxe » Wed May 04, 2011 9:51 pm UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:How long would that take? Aftershocks from the original conflict could go on for hundreds or thousands of years, until the original reason is forgotten entirely but the fight itself continues.
Would you rather the truth be revealed then, when it can no longer have any impact on the conflict?

And again, even if we could guarantee that the conflict will soon die out completely, we can't guarantee that someone else won't discover the truth before then and use it to incite violence.


I wouldn't rather anything. I'm merely advocating for Satan. :3

I think we can extrapolate that the conflict is starting to die out, considering the current societal clime. That would be a "fair" assumption, even if in retrospect it turned out not to be a correct one.

You're right, though, that we can't guarantee that someone else won't discover the truth. That's why we form a secret cabal of truth-knowers who protect the rest of the population from the truth and take blood oaths never to reveal the truth until the Time Is Right. :D That's the clearly ethical choice, right?
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Aedl Foxe » Wed May 04, 2011 10:27 pm UTC

Whimsical Eloquence wrote:They all come away with empirically correct impressions.[\quote]

Ohhhh. Thank you for supplying the word I'd had in my head. :3

Whimsical Eloquence wrote:A Kantian and Hegelian will both generally agree on the empirical impressions but will draw very different conclusions form those impressions. A debate over which one is correct is both commonplace (intellectually speaking) and not considered an Ethical One by any means.


So.... what kind of question is it, if not an ethical one? Is there a word for what I'm asking? :P Regardless, though, every person's actions will affect their society in one way or another (or else pointedly not affect it), so doesn't it become an ethical question thus?

Whimsical Eloquence wrote:Charles didn't do a "reality dependent upon the Observer" - at least not after having seen the sky.


I think he did...

OP wrote:Briefly, Charles wondered whether a Green, standing in this place, might not see a green ceiling above; or if perhaps the ceiling would be green at this time tomorrow; but he couldn't stake the continued survival of civilization on that.


Whimsical Eloquence wrote:Both he and Eddin realise this. Eddin realises that this was in fact an Empirical Question and one that was senseless to have created such a divide, driving such wars and conflict ect. Both Charles and Eddin also adopt the fact that the sky is Blue they just don't conclude that this should influence whether they're blues or not.


So are you saying tha tthe Blue/Green divide has moved on beyond its origins, and is thus divided from them? From the reactions of the six, we can be pretty sure that "The sky is blue" or "The sky is green" is still a core tenant of a Blue's or a Green's belief system. If Daria becomes a Blue, does that mean she'll change her opinion on the unrelated issues, such as taxation or marriage laws? We know that "[not] every Blue or every Green citizen takes the "Blue" or "Green" position on every issue"... but shouldn't she modify that part of her belief system that wants modification? "That which the truth can destroy ought to be", surely, but opinions on taxation cannot be destroyed by the truth of the sky's color.

Whimsical Eloquence wrote:It's like if we all found out that a particular God existed tomorrow. That dosen't really make us Christian's - or Olympians, or Hindus or whatever - our belief isn't a Spiritual or faith based one. It's Empirical.


I dunno about that. I'm a firm Mormon, but I think that if Morpheus found me tomorrow and let me know that I was in the Matrix, I'd be as willing to believe that as anything. I am Mormon because I see it as a rational explanation of the world; is that not an empirical belief? ... or am I misunderstanding your point here?
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby fr00t » Fri May 06, 2011 2:05 am UTC

I find each response to get progressively better, (I think it was intended that way) but I can identify with Charles, Daria, Eddin, and Ferris. Aditya is reprehensible, and I feel pity for Barron. Ferris is hands-down the best.

Aedl Foxe wrote:So if it's not a moral or ethical quandary, what kind of quandary is it?


Aesthetic? Although Aditya and Charles' reactions do have ethical implications.

Whimsical Eloquence wrote:Daria has failed to recognise these facts and so perhaps proved herself one of the most indoctrinated by the paradigm and system.


The color of the sky in the story is a metaphor for political squabbles which are obviously never going to be settled by a simple empirical observation. However, as a plot device it is engaging and illustrative: the important part isn't the transformation of a once subjective belief into an empirical fact, but how the characters react. They are all responses that an actual human being could have to a similarly profound realization.

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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby EdgarJPublius » Fri May 06, 2011 3:25 am UTC

fr00t wrote:
Whimsical Eloquence wrote:Daria has failed to recognise these facts and so perhaps proved herself one of the most indoctrinated by the paradigm and system.


The color of the sky in the story is a metaphor for political squabbles which are obviously never going to be settled by a simple empirical observation. However, as a plot device it is engaging and illustrative: the important part isn't the transformation of a once subjective belief into an empirical fact, but how the characters react. They are all responses that an actual human being could have to a similarly profound realization.


Political issues aren't intrinsically linked to each other anymore than empirical facts are linked to political issues. You can have a profound realization that some particular position of your party is wrong without renouncing the party as a whole.
There's no reason to believe that the party can only be either completely wrong about everything or completely right.
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Zcorp » Fri May 06, 2011 5:39 am UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:Political issues aren't intrinsically linked to each other anymore than empirical facts are linked to political issues. You can have a profound realization that some particular position of your party is wrong without renouncing the party as a whole.
There's no reason to believe that the party can only be either completely wrong about everything or completely right.

I'm a bit confused by this.
I'm an independent in the states, and thus I obviously don't claim membership of either party largely because I don't agree with everything of either party. Or even most of what either parties ideologies are.

What is the point of joining a party that I don't agree with on nearly everything? What if I agree with them on most things, should I join a party and why?

If one of if not the core tenet of green's ideology is that the sky is green or X God exists, and they are proven wrong why wouldn't I renounce the party (besides irrational reasons)? Even if their are other core tenets that I still agree with to have one proven to be false creates a whole new party anyway, calling it the same thing would even be disingenuous.

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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby EdgarJPublius » Fri May 06, 2011 7:08 am UTC

Well, for one American parties themselves contain a wide range of views on various issues, even 'core tenets' to various degrees, and there are some advantages to belonging to, or at least voting for, one of the major parties rather than creating a new party with little support or recognition.

What Daria does however isn't just to renounce the greens, she actually declares that she is now a blue. It's be like a Republican changing their opinion about gay marriage and abortion because they liked Obama's healthcare plan.
It's nonsense, but real people do basically the same thing all the time because the two party system has become so ingrained in the electoral system that people feel like if they aren't a republican, well by golly they must be a democrat or vice versa.
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby jules.LT » Fri May 06, 2011 1:24 pm UTC

I don't see Ferris as such a good choice.
He found something of utmost importance to his people, and he goes outside and might die before anyone else knows about it. And an Adyta might be the one discovering the truth right after him.

Eddin's decision seems clearly best to me: "trying to think of a way to prevent this information from blowing up the world". He has the most options open and the best goal.

One way might be to get help seriously sealing the exit while a new "the color of the sky doesn't matter" movement gains momentum.
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Zcorp » Fri May 06, 2011 1:46 pm UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:Well, for one American parties themselves contain a wide range of views on various issues, even 'core tenets' to various degrees, and there are some advantages to belonging to, or at least voting for, one of the major parties rather than creating a new party with little support or recognition.

What Daria does however isn't just to renounce the greens, she actually declares that she is now a blue. It's be like a Republican changing their opinion about gay marriage and abortion because they liked Obama's healthcare plan.
It's nonsense, but real people do basically the same thing all the time because the two party system has become so ingrained in the electoral system that people feel like if they aren't a republican, well by golly they must be a democrat or vice versa.

This doesn't answer the primary question I had to your statement.

You can have a profound realization that some particular position of your party is wrong without renouncing the party as a whole.
I was confused by this claim. If part of the definition of my party is believing or valuing X but then I find out that X is wrong or a destructive value, and I then change my belief or value, how can I do anything other than renounce my party? How is the act of changing my belief or value not renouncing the party?

What Daria did can be assumed to be thoughtless, and many people do something similar frequently but thats was not my question.

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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby jules.LT » Fri May 06, 2011 1:55 pm UTC

Zcorp wrote:
You can have a profound realization that some particular position of your party is wrong without renouncing the party as a whole.
I was confused by this claim. If part of the definition of my party is believing or valuing X but then I find out that X is wrong or a destructive value, and I then change my belief or value, how can I do anything other than renounce my party? How is the act of changing my belief or value not renouncing the party?

People associate with a party because it's generally close to their ideas. That doesn't mean that you have to accept everything the party says, and disageeing on one point doesn't mean that you can't be part of the group anymore...
Being part of the party can still be the best way to advance your ideas and spend time with like-minded people.
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Zcorp » Fri May 06, 2011 2:05 pm UTC

jules.lt wrote:
Zcorp wrote:
You can have a profound realization that some particular position of your party is wrong without renouncing the party as a whole.
I was confused by this claim. If part of the definition of my party is believing or valuing X but then I find out that X is wrong or a destructive value, and I then change my belief or value, how can I do anything other than renounce my party? How is the act of changing my belief or value not renouncing the party?

People associate with a party because it's generally close to their ideas. That doesn't mean that you have to accept everything the party says, and disageeing on one point doesn't mean that you can't be part of the group anymore...
Being part of the party can still be the best way to advance your ideas and spend time with like-minded people.

All true, and still only vaguely related to my question.

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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Zamfir » Fri May 06, 2011 2:57 pm UTC

Zcorp, you mean thsi qeustion?
What is the point of joining a party that I don't agree with on nearly everything? What if I agree with them on most things, should I join a party and why?

Is that so weird? It's better to achieve something vaguely like your ideas than to achieve nothing. And if you join a party, you get the opportunity to influence the way the party goes, however small an influence that is. At the local level, a bit of work and some social skills can easily give you more than a small influence.

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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby CorruptUser » Fri May 06, 2011 5:50 pm UTC

Also, the primary elections. The Presidential candidates are chosen by their parties, making those elections more important; it was pretty clear that the 2008 election was between Hillary and Obama*. If all the independents in the US joined the 2 major parties (half in one, half in the other), the candidates would be less likely to come from the extreme ends of the 'spectrum', and we would less often have the choice between the Pseudo-Socialist and the Hyper-Christian.

*Can we please fix the spell-checker to not declare "Obama" to be a mispelling?

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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Azrael » Fri May 06, 2011 6:17 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:*Can we please fix the spell-checker to not declare "Obama" to be a mispelling?

Unless I'm missing something, that functionality is in your browser, not the forum software. I'm sure you can figure out (or google) how to add to the dictionary; probably by right clicking and selecting 'Add to Dictionary'.

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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby Aedl Foxe » Fri May 06, 2011 6:24 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Also, the primary elections. The Presidential candidates are chosen by their parties, making those elections more important; it was pretty clear that the 2008 election was between Hillary and Obama*. If all the independents in the US joined the 2 major parties (half in one, half in the other), the candidates would be less likely to come from the extreme ends of the 'spectrum', and we would less often have the choice between the Pseudo-Socialist and the Hyper-Christian.


Or we could just get rid of the two-party system altogether. :wink:
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Re: A Fable of Science and Politics

Postby CorruptUser » Fri May 06, 2011 10:23 pm UTC

Aedl Foxe wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:Also, the primary elections. The Presidential candidates are chosen by their parties, making those elections more important; it was pretty clear that the 2008 election was between Hillary and Obama*. If all the independents in the US joined the 2 major parties (half in one, half in the other), the candidates would be less likely to come from the extreme ends of the 'spectrum', and we would less often have the choice between the Pseudo-Socialist and the Hyper-Christian.


Or we could just get rid of the two-party system altogether. :wink:


Except the US's 2-party system is really a 2-coalition system; each "party" has its own factions that bicker amongst themselves, and occasionally switch sides. In the Parliament system, when you elect someone in a party, you can expect that person to vote the party line almost every time. That's not true in the US, because the party itself doesn't always agree on what is best.

The Democrats currently have the Socialists, "Blue-dog Democrats", Progressives, and a bunch of other smaller groups, often with sometimes conflicting goals. The Republicans have Libertarians, Evangelicals, Arch-Conservatives and various others. Keep in mind that prior to the 60s, the Progressives were in the Republican party, but switched sides. In an attempt to maintain size/power, the Republicans forged an unholy alliance with the Evangelicals, which were previously unaligned with either party. Libertarians, which were unaligned, joined the Republicans as the Democrats moved further away from (classical) Liberalism.

Spoiler:
Azrael wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:*Can we please fix the spell-checker to not declare "Obama" to be a mispelling?

Unless I'm missing something, that functionality is in your browser, not the forum software. I'm sure you can figure out (or google) how to add to the dictionary; probably by right clicking and selecting 'Add to Dictionary'.


Thanks, it's added now. I can be a real noob from time to time.


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