Announcement: Dialogs

I have started writing philosophical dialogs. The topics so far are mostly parenting, epistemology, and some political stuff like free trade and war. There are 12 so far. I'm updating them a lot more than my blog. You can find them at:

They are currently in the order they were written, from top to bottom, but they will probably be reorganized later.

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Ohio Is Backwards

Know what the problem with hospitals in Ohio is? They wouldn't prescribe emergency contraception (EC) pills to this girl unless she was raped or married (the condom broke). She does not want a fourth kid. There is no help within a hundred miles.

At the hospitals that prescribe EC at all, they have "morality clauses" where the doctor interviews you and you have to meet certain criteria (married or raped). She's been completely unable to get EC. (And is now considering taking large quantities of other pills that might work, but she isn't sure if it's safe or effective.)

EC is over-the-counter now, not prescription, but not at a pharmacy within 100 miles for her. Her local pharmacy says they'll sell it next January.

Know what would solve this? Well, you may be thinking less religion. That would indeed work for this particular breed of insanity, but it would only avoid religious problems. There is a more universal solution: greed.

If people were more greedy, they'd sell her the damn pills to make a buck. No matter what crazy ideas they have, religious or otherwise, if they were greedy enough they would engage in free trade with anyone who isn't dangerous.

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Mental Illness

Imagine that 4% of the population hears voices. Imagine further that 25% of those people are psychotic (note: this may not be the proper, technical usage of the term, but it doesn't matter to my point). No amount of explaining the situation seems to help them. The psychotic rate in the general population is thus 1%. The voices drive them crazy and make them completely dysfunctional.

Now, we know that hearing voices doesn't cause psychosis all by itself. 75% of the people who hear voices function perfectly fine. They ignore their voices, or make friends with them, or write books about them. As real as their voices seem, they are able to go on with life normally.

So, we can conclude that the psychotic people have a second thing wrong, which the non-psychotic people do not have. We'll call this disorder_2. disorder_2 may be a combination of many things, but it doesn't matter to my point. It's the set of whatever things are needed to make people with disorder_1 (hearing voices) psychotic. Note there could also be multiple separate options for what disorder_2: different ways to turn hearing voices into a problem. But this also isn't important right now.

So, what do we know about disorder_2? We know that it prevents people from understanding our advice about voices. They don't seem to listen when we tell them the voices aren't real. Or they can't figure out which voices we mean. But there's something a lot cooler than we know.

Assuming disorder_1 and disorder_2 are statistically independent, then the rate of disorder_2 in the population is an amazing 25%. So we have this thing, which is very common, and it makes people not listen to reason.

First we will consider that it might be a brain lesion. But if it is, why can't we tell people that? Why can't they step back, and know their brain is damaged, and not trust their own judgment and listen to us? Well, maybe they have a second brain lesion on the part of the brain which allows for that. But then, why can't they know *that*, and get some perspective, and figure out something to do that is rationally compatible with their brain malfunctioning? Why doesn't the person say he's really confused and just sit down, and not do anything, and ask for help, and get people to help him work out what is real? Well, maybe there is a brain lesion on the part of the brain needed for *that* too. But no matter how many brain lesions we postulate, there will always be a creative solution for how to continue rationally. Unless: there's one way there won't be a creative solution: due to all the brain lesions, the person isn't creative anymore. The person isn't a thinking human being anymore.

But most psychotic people aren't that far gone. Sure they're crazy, but they are also people. They still speak English, and do all sorts of things that a cow can't do. So let's imagine that disorder_2 is *not* a brain lesion.

What else might disorder_2 be? One possibility is that it's being irrational. Bear in mind that not all irrationality is the same. So imagine there is a specific type which is disorder_2. When someone with this form of irrationality hears voices, he can't be talked into reacting rationally, because he's not a rational person. This would explain all the data.

Now, let's consider how to treat these people. First consider treating disorder_2, assuming it is an irrationality. Suppose we have a set of arguments and explanations which cures this irrationality. This would be the best course, because we know the voices will then be harmless, and we know that being irrational will have other bad effects besides causing psychosis in people who hear voices.

Now imagine we have a drug which cures hearing voices. This would instantly cure psychosis in these people. But they would remain irrational. The cure would still be a very good thing. However, there is a danger. The person might be confirmed in his irrationality. If he believed that his only problem was disorder_1, the voices, he would wrong believe his worldview wasn't causing any problems, even though it was. If one of his friends told him that part of the problem was his irrationality, he could take his cure as proof that his irrationality was not the reason for his psychosis.

To avoid this danger, what would we need to do? It's pretty simple: we'd tell people that we are not curing their real problem. We are removing something from them which is completely harmless, but which reacts badly with their real disorder (this would be true whether the real disorder is irrationality or not). We might try an analogy to explain, like this one: they are like a man who gets angry a number of things including pillows, and we've removed all pillows from his house. Instantly, he is not angry when at home. But we haven't really cured him.

So the two primary conclusions we should take from this are:

1) irrationality may be a necessary component of many mental illnesses

2) many cures for mental illness, no matter how effective they seem to be, may be just like removing pillows. they may not be cures at all.

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Israel Lebanon Update

Israel Sets Goal of Pulling Troops Out of Lebanon by Sunday

I haven't read the news for a while. Last I heard, the UN was supposed to bring in 15,000 human shields (troops not allowed to shoot at terrorists, and positioned so that terrorists can shelter next to them, like they did in the Lebanon war) to protect Israel from Hezbollah. It looked like many of these soldiers would be from countries that don't recognize the state of Israel. Somehow that isn't insane enough to be laughed out of the UN. Meanwhile Israel was going to get nothing but a new government (because the current one messed up the war by taking a UN deal instead of killing more terrorists). Included in unkept promises, Israel was not going to get back the soldiers who were abducted to start the war, Hezbollah was not going to be disarmed, and Israel was not going to have security. Oh, and those UN peacekeepers would be sure to help rebuild things for terrorists. Like they did during the Lebanon war when they repaired roads that Israel had just bombed out of military necessity.

Now things are worse.
the United Nations forces, which are supposed to reinforce the Lebanese Army, were not up to strength. They number barely more than 5,000 now, only about 3,000 more than when the war ended and far short of the 15,000 called for under the resolution.

So Israel is about to leave, and the UN still hasn't really arrived. I'm actually not sure if the lack of UN presence is a good or bad thing.
last Friday ... Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, appeared in public for the first time to declare a divine victory.

That can't be good. He's no longer scared that we will kill him if he shows his face. We should kill him.
Israel also said it would continue aerial surveillance over Lebanon to prevent the resupply of weapons to Hezbollah until the resolution was fully carried out. That includes the release of two captured Israeli soldiers and the monitoring of the largely unmarked border between Lebanon and Syria, which helped to supply Hezbollah with sophisticated arms from Iran and Syria itself.

The United Nations forces say that such flights constitute Israeli violations of the cease-fire.

The UN thinks that trying to enforce the terms of the cease fire is a violation of the cease fire. No wonder they aren't enforcing the terms...
Since the cease-fire, 14 Lebanese have been killed and 90 injured by the bomblets, the United Nations said

Why don't we hear about dead Israeli kids who played with unexploded Hezbollah rockets? It's not because Hezbollah has high quality munitions that always explode. It's because Israeli parents are responsible enough to warn their kids about the danger.

Who is blamed for the irresponsibility of Lebanese people? The Jews, of course.
Israel captured the strategic plateau in the 1967 war and unilaterally annexed it in 1981. Some Israelis have suggested that given the threat from Iran, Israel should accept a Syrian offer for peace talks to try to wean Syria, a Sunni country, away from its alliance with Tehran.

Does the New York Times think this is subtle? When they want to give their opinion, they just say "some people said" and call it reporting. They even had the nerve to say this is the opinion of Israelis.

So what is their opinion? They want Israel to give away the Golan Heights to Syria so that terrorists can shoot off it to kill Jews. Why is this a good idea? Because it's appeasement, and if we learned anything from World War II, it's how well appeasement works. And if Israel doesn't understand this, it shows a lack of nuance.

So in conclusion, I'm glad I've been ignoring the news, and I will return to that policy for a while.

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Non-Invasive Education

This is absolutely a must read. It's about giving computer access to slum kids in India, with no training to use it. Note the parts about physics problems, MP3s, gender roles, his opinion of teachers, adults, that the kids have very little English comprehension, and the comments about "functional literacy".

The best part is that the mothers think this is good for their children. Just go read it.

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What People Care About

Google for: "how to live" moral

And it will suggest: Did you mean: "how to give" oral

And the Sponsered Links advertising will be about oral sex.

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Linux Not So Easy

linux claims to be easy to use like OS X. in my recent experience, it isn't. it's still a total pain just to install stuff like Rails. tutorials happily tell me where to get RPMs of a dozen things. When I try apt-get (package manager) it can't find all the dependencies it needs to even install ruby. A tutorial tells me to compile and install rubygems from source.

Even the linux-like application package managers for OS X work better than the originals. I never had any trouble with Darwin Ports.

I'm not saying linux is bad. It's a good thing and it's improving. I'm just saying OS X is easier and more friendly.

and don't tell me i did it wrong. that's beside the point. i used google for a while. i still didn't figure out a pleasant way to install a rails environment. that's way too hard.

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person: regarding relationships, person2, what do you think a "good" relationship looks like?
curi42: despite appearances, that wasn't a question about looks.
curi42: she means what sort of behaviors

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