Imagine someone said: Those physicists go too far. They say conservation of momentum applies exactly at all times to absolutely everything in the universe. And yet they can’t predict whether I will raise my right or left hand next. Clearly there is more going on than their theories can explain. They should talk less and read more literature. Maybe then they’d stop saying immoral things like Earth’s energy is finite.
I just today ran into an argument that made exactly this error in a completely different context, and thought of this post.
Why do you keep reading and commenting on these posts if you disagree with Hanson and strongly dislike him?
"The protest is that explanation robs reality of wonder and complexity."
There are those who protest that (mostly theists whining about science and "scientism"), but Manchester isn't one of them and this really doesn't have anything to do with the discussion at hand.
"Does anyone complain that computer scientists and artificial intelligence researchers need to stop reducing everything to "nothing but" binary representations and logic gates? "
Computer scientists do no such thing. The study of algorithmic complexity, for instance, is a branch of mathematics that has nothing to do with binary representations or logic gates.
" No, because they understand that computers actually work that way."
As someone who has been programming since 1965, I can definitely say that no, they "actually" do not "work that way". And why stop at logic gates? Why not go down to transistors, then molecules, then quantum mechanics? The most important thing to understand about computer science is the idea of *abstraction*, the opposite of your naive reductionism. Logic gates and even binary encodings are *implementation details* ... they are not, for instance, how Linux or the Mars rover "actually work". And your naive reductionism fails miserably in this context, because in humans the analogy to logic gates are synapses, not social signaling, which is at least as hard to find in the human brain as a pulldown menu is in the silicon substrate of a computer (but they are both there).
"They just want *people* to be magical and unexplainable instead."
Just because you have a reductionistic explanation of human behavior doesn't mean that you have the *right* one. Your attitude is that everyone who agrees with you (and Hanson) is rational about human beings, and everyone (like Manchester) who doesn't is a woo monger a la Deepak Chopra, but that's not a valid division. The actual "they" cuts across lines in ways very different than you're laying out -- for instance, physicist Roger Penrose doesn't like the idea that he's reducible to computation, so he has latched onto Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem as a bogus basis for rejecting that reduction, and quantum mechanics as a (equally bogus) explanation of human consciousness, and unfortunately -- and to the dismay of neuroscientists and rational philosophers of mind like Daniel Dennett -- he has a large and growing following. It doesn't help that Kurt Gödel himself, as well as Erwin Schrödinger, were mystics in re human faculties. This isn't just a matter of "humanities" vs. science, it's a consequence of the poisoning of culture at large by religion, which is in turn fueled by the psychological pressure of the inevitability (extropians notwithstanding) of death.
The "rational behavior" model is not a mere example but is endemic to the practice of economics. Hanson's response is, as ever, intellectually dishonest.
VVV I guess only toadys are supposed to speak. I truly cannot fathom the depths of stupidity of someone like Mertain420. VVV
Your silly, shallow, counterfactual, deeply unintelligent and intellectually dishonest characterization helps make Manchester's point.
Your reading is sloppy. Manchester refers to the *idea* that her career amounts to nothing more than shaking her tail feathers, and that idea is certainly present in "she managed not to woo him [...] but rather to impress him" -- so Higgins/Clinton saw past the exterior that Eliza/Maya presented.
You don't know his intent. There's good reason to find his frequent insistence that he's acting in good faith to be less than compelling ... for instance, this bit about Maya Angelou, where he addresses a strawman. Basically his book says that Angelou was shaking her tail feathers but Clinton saw past that ... "managed not to woo him" describes a signaling failure. Clinton being impressed is (purportedly) something he did by seeing past the signal, not something that Angelou did. When Manchester refers to her "career", he's talking about *her* actions and decisions, not which gigs she's invited to by others. And Hanson and Simler clearly put forth the *idea* that those actions and decisions are a matter of signaling -- "shaking her tail feathers".
The best communication probably involves telling what we do not mean as much as what we do.
I think the reference is to the Walt Whitman poem "When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer", which I interpret as a dismissal of reduction and analysis in favor of simple appreciation of beauty. (In fact these two things are both important, so I think the poem is misguided. But it *is* very pretty.)
The term, signaling, has become fashionable online. Anytime someone wishes to shutdown another's argument they use it as a crutch, much like fascist or socialist. Why tackle the complexity of the individual when you can just label them or their actions and dismiss them?
I understand this was not your intent, but this may be why there is pushback.
I like the "learned astronomer fallacy" and I think I know what you mean, but would enjoy an elaboration.
I think that the critic shows too much sympathy with Hanson's thesis (the strawmen notwithstanding) for this to be a fair reading.
It felt to me more like signaling smartness by pointing out invented flaws: "Yes, Hanson makes some suggestive observations. But has he considered that his theory isn't the complete and exclusive explanation of absolutely everything? Well, he can hardly be blamed if he hasn't. You really need training in the humanities to be able to wrap your mind around that possibility."
I really felt for you when I read that "Maya Angelou’s career amounts to nothing more than" line. You would think that a training in the humanities would encourage careful reading. That "nothing more than" was a pure invention of the critic's mind.
Training in the humanities does discourage one from making universal claims like "signaling explains everything about all human behavior". But humanities people often seem to care about this principle only for defensive purposes in their own writing: "I'd better put an 'almost' in front of that 'everything' or the critics will jump on me."
What's not so well learned is to apply anti-universalism as a principle of charitable reading: "I could read this as a claim of total universality. But such a claim would be silly, so maybe I should spend a little effort thinking of a non-universalist interpretation."
Instead, critics train themselves to foist a universalist interpretation on texts that don't emphatically and explicitly disavow any universalist aspirations. It's not enough merely not to assert universality. You are presumed a universalist until proven otherwise.
Moreover, that explicit disavowal had better be front loaded. You can't wait until after your claims to clear up any misunderstanding. Otherwise, you will be accused of contradicting yourself, After all, the original claims were (read as) implicitly universalist, so you directly contradict yourself now by disavowing universalism! This is what happens in the New Yorker piece here:
The last sentence of the book makes the point that “we may be competitive social animals, self-interested and self-deceived, but we cooperated our way to the god-damned moon.” With that one observation, acknowledging that the consequences of our actions are more important than our motives, the argument of the book implodes
The only argument that imploded was the one projected from the critic's mind.
One should expect occasional overreach and underreach; it is only a problem if one case is a lot more common than the other.
This looks like a fairly straightforward point-and-shriek maneuver. You have said Things Which Must Not Be Said, therefore he's signaling his virtue by being the first to point and shriek.
I realize that this takes off on your theme, not the specifics of your posting, so please understand the following as a bit of a stream-of-consciousness association.
There certainly are examples of economists (and others) overreaching; for example the belief (cited by some who consider themselves modern incarnations of classical liberals) that rational behavior in free markets explains most everything, and should be the basis of economic policy, which has been challenged by the fact that people so often do not make rational decisions, per Kahneman, Tversky, Shiller and Thaler.
The challenge was sufficiently surprising that it resulted in three Nobel prizes.
On the other hand, I'm a fan of theories that explain 90% of the evidence with 10% of the effort. I'm a chemist; in my field, one such example is electronegativity. But as long as you are aware of the limitations, the theory is valuable.
The issue arises when you are not aware of the limitations, and then assume that must not be any.