Gremlins of Belief
Tortoise: This watch works because tiny, invisible gremlins are pushing the hands.
Hare: No, the watch works because a battery is powering a motor, that drives some gears that are attached to the hands.
Tortoise: Ah, I see the machinery, clearly. The gremlins must be using the machinery to drive the hands for them!
We know that’s not true though. The machinery obviates the need for gremlins—the machinery fundamentally subverts the premise of the gremlins. Tortoise would never have considered the gremlins if she had known about the machinery first.
Tortoise is attached to the gremlin hypothesis, maybe because she has an identity level belief that she is “a tortoise who believes in gremlins.” Maybe that belief makes her part of a culture, or it gives her comfort and meaning in some other way. So she’s asking the wrong question. She’s asking:
What does this evidence allow me to believe?
The question she should be asking is:
What does this evidence force me to believe?
The shift is subtle, but critically important.
Everyone has bullshit swilling around their skull, and the first question lets you get away with just piling on more shit without real critical self examination.
First, you think there are gremlins. Then, you learn about motors. But the presence of motors doesn’t prove that the gremlins aren’t there, so the facts allow you to continue believing in gremlins.
The second question forces you to continuously reexamine and ruthlessly dump old beliefs that are no longer absolutely necessary.
First, you believe in nothing because nothing you know forces you to believe anything. Or maybe you actually do believe in gremlins because you grew up with parents who believe that’s how watches work, and you have never realized it’s a belief you’re not forced to have. Then you learn about motors, and you realize that the gremlins aren’t necessary anymore. Knowing about the motor forces you believe that’s how watches work, but doesn’t force you to believe in gremlins, so you don’t believe in gremlins anymore.
There is a common rationalization among Christians that God used evolution to create life.
Continued from [Gremlins of Belief] I knew a goth girl in college. She identified as Wiccan, which basically means she worshipped “The Goddess,” nature. She had grown up a Jehovah's Witness, and when she left her parents' house, she saw the error of their beliefs, and she became Wiccan. There is a mirror image version of the [Gremlin Fallacy]. Instead of continuing to believe something that's been fundamentally subverted by new information, you stop believing in something in favor of a different thing that does *not* fundamentally subvert the original belief. You thought you killed the gremlin, but you actually...
Man Over Gremlins
[Continued from Zombie Gremlins] Here's a game of Zombie Gremlin Ping Pong, the proverbial echo chamber I mentioned the previous essay, played out over the course of thousands of years: * **Master Morality** Strongmen like Genghis Khan run roughshod over the known world. No one can stop him, his men have the best lives and most reproductive success. I hear 5% of the modern world population can trace their ancestry back to him. The traits that make him and his army successful: strength, cunning, ruthlessness—all become virtues. The mythology of those cultures have pantheons of powerful, petty gods doing as...