We see sacred things from afar, even when they are close, so we can see them the same. I’ve previously described the main cost of this as impaired vision. That is, we don’t see sacred things as well, and so make mistakes about them. But another perhaps equally big cost of this is: sacrifice. We feel inclined to sacrifice for the sacred, and to encourage or even force others to sacrifice for it, even when that doesn’t much promote this sacred thing. And sacrifice often involves: pain.
Ok, but now you've redefined the concept of X being sacred to mean "Will give lip-service to X when faced with a relative rank-ordering of even worse choices - and then the actions will be inconsistent with their words because humans aren't internally consistent"
I don't see the intellectual value of this redefinition. There should have at least some predictbility of people's actions, e.g. if democracy is sacred people will rally to the defense of someone's right to compete fairly in elections even when they disagree with him. That's very obviously not happening.
Humans aren't internally consistent, democracy is definitely sacred - try convincing 20 people that a different form of government is better, and their responses will show you.
Circumcision is very short, with a specific end in mind. Torture calls to mind keeping them in pain for extended periods of time, cutting over and over again, slowly. When someone says " torturing babies is bad", they are thinking of the latter, and indeed your be hard pressed to find someone who thinks it's fine to slowly cut a baby apart, hurting them over and over so as to hurt and break them.
I agree that unethical experiments can be seen as a place where we cause pain for the sake of truth.
I don't see much evidence that people think democracy is sacred. They just hate the political outgroup. Norbert de Jonge is not rotting in prison because he violated the rules of democracy, but because his views on age of consent law were outside the Overton Window. Putting him in prison was a severe violation of core democratic norms, in the country where Den Haag is located no less, internationally a synonym for human rights standards. Half the Astral Codex Ten commentariat was happy about physical violence against such opposition politicians. And people are surprisingly chill about Zelensky's decision to ban half the opposition parties in Ukraine. I think a more plausible explanation is that people pretend to hold things sacred so they can construct rationalizations that allow them to do whatever they want, as long as they can socially get away with it.
> Romeo and Juliet suffer stupendously in the Shakespeare tale, and we treat them as having made the right choice, even given their terrible end.
We... do? Who does this? I don't think we treat them as having made the right choice.
Not with current rules around ethical experiments. The Nazis did some nasty experiments, sometimes genuinely trying to find the truth on some topics - eg how long can people last when dropped into 4 degree water. It's not hard to imagine things taken further. For example perhaps Putin is just trying to find out if Ukrainians genuinely care about being independent.
There could be truth cults that encourage people to kill themselves in experiments that enable others to find out some fact or other.
Yes, and I don't see much risk of excess sacrifice from that.
I think previously you've said you hold truth to be sacred.