RE: meaning of life

From: denis bider (
Date: Thu Jan 25 2001 - 14:01:57 MST

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky writes:

> I find the idea of doing a pattern copy on evolution's
> unsupported word to be morally abhorrent - but if the
> optimum set of rules for a human society isn't determined
> by our existing set of adaptations, what *is* it
> determined by?

Without commenting directly on your question (I'll let Charlie do that, he
seems to be better at it :-), I would like to remind everyone of one thing:

This argument started from the original disagreement of whether or not it is
good if people do this-or-that. Specifically, it started after some people
asserted that "doing this-or-that is a human being's natural right". In
other words, they erected their own interpretation of what the "optimum set
of rules for a human society" should be, and then they postulated that their
set of rules is the only correct set of rules because there is only one
optimum set of rules. Obviously, since there is only one optimum set of
rules, *their's* is undebatably the one.

We may eventually agree that there is only one optimum set of rules for a
human society. But that doesn't mean a thing; we will still be disagreeing
on what, exactly, that optimum set of rules *actually is*. In other words,
there may be only one such set of rules, but that doesn't by far imply that
anyone on this earth has even the slightest idea of what it is.

As long as we humans are on the level of inteligence where we currently are,
I find it difficult to accept that anyone's, or any group's, preferred set
of rules is actually *the* optimum set of rules.

Until now, Samantha and Michael (and perhaps others?) have been unable to
show why America's preferred set of rules is necessarily *the* optimum set
of rules for a human society. I don't think that they will ever be able to
show that, because it most probably isn't true. They might be able to show
that America's set of rules makes perfect sense; but this is *not*
equivalent to showing that it is the optimum set of rules.

This is why I originally claimed something similar to the following: it
doesn't really matter whether there is an optimum set of rules and what it
is derived from, because we cannot *know* what it is. In particular, *no
one* can assert that *they*, perhaps by virtue of some divine insight,
posess knowledge to the optimum set of rules.

Unfortunately, such assertions ("but that is *unnatural*!", "but that is a
*basic human right*!") are not at all uncommon, even on this list.

Disagreements of whether or not it is good if people do this-or-that have to
be discussed on the merits of arguments, not assertions. If 'human rights'
are to be used as an argument rather than an assertion, we must first
establish a common set of rules that we all find acceptable. If such an
agreement is not reached, there is no way 'human rights' can be used as an

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