Re: The story-telling ape (was virus: Logic)

David McFadzean (
Thu, 23 Oct 1997 10:09:26 -0600

At 01:49 PM 10/22/97 -0700, Eva-Lise Carlstrom wrote:

>What if the above was in fact proven, but unreasonable beliefs were also
>shown to play an important causal role in virtually all fortunate and/or
>commendable human decisions?

It would imply that reasonable beliefs play an important role in relatively
few human decisions, commendable or otherwise.

Let's assume you are right, for the sake of argument. Just to make up
some numbers to fit the assumptions, let's say that out of all human
decisions, 10% are harmful and 90% are beneficial. Out of the harmful
ones, 90% are based on unreasonable beliefs and 10% on reasonable beliefs.
Out of the beneficial decisions, 80% are based on unreasonable beliefs
and 20% on reasonable ones.[1]

What we should really be interested in is minimizing the fraction of
decisions that are harmful which is currently 10% in the above scenario.
If it was possible to eliminate all reasonable beliefs, then the fraction
would increase to 12%. If it was possible to eliminate all unreasonable
beliefs, the fraction would drop to 5.6%. So in this scenario it
would still be in our best interests to promote reasonable beliefs.[2]

[1] In my opinion the numbers here have been very generously biased in
favour of unreasonable beliefs. In actuality unreasonable beliefs play
an important role in a lot more harmful decisions and a lot less beneficial

[2] Of course this has been highly simplified. There is a continuum
between harmful and beneficial, and between reasonable and unreasonable.
The decision making process is extremely complex in practice (as is
evaluation of the quality of decisions without objective standards).
Nevertheless, adding more realistic complexity isn't going to change
the conclusions of the argument.

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus