Re: Offered without comment or warranty

Keith Elis (
Thu, 14 May 1998 02:34:23 -0400

A Wizard from Oz wrote:


> Example: I can cautiously consider the possibility that certain claims of
> the paranormal are valid without my head exploding, but I get very, very
> angry when my sister-in-law blithely reports that she and her friends can
> change the traffic lights green when they wish to.

Funny, that.

This list, much to its credit methinks, is rife with critical thinkers
of the skeptical variety. Yet, I can't help but cast quizzical looks at where it
appears ExI is slated for debunking by the esteemed skeptic Dr. Robert

It is worthy for one to be skeptical. Yes, indeed. But it may be equally
worthy for one to be skeptical of the skeptical.

Cognitive dissonance, anyone? :)


> It occurred to me that I (a first born) have a high probability - on
> Sulloway's acount - of being narrow, conservative and opposed to change.
> My brother Mick, 15 years younger and the family's `baby', should have
> turned out neophilic and radical - as indeed he did, in a relaxed and
> sardonic way (he's a scathing authority on nuclear tropes in movies and
> TV). But I sort of muddy the picture, being gung-ho for change in some
> directions and quite narrow and hostile to innovation in many others.

Sacred cows are to blame. I find I have a much more open-mind to such
Damnable Heresies as Singularity, and Little Machines That Can Do
Everything And More. Things future and visionary make me all giggly. Is
this a symptom of 'a mind so open that the brains fell out?' Certainly
not. Or perhaps not certainly not.


My very religious mother and I were having a brief conversation the
other day by way of voice (ugh) communication. We were talking about the
normal mother/son things (Powers, Dyson Spheres, Great Filters, etc. :)
when the thought crossed my mind that if I were to try to explain
nanotech to her, she might snicker like a skeptic in the best case, or
tag me a 'buffoon' for the rest of my life in the worst case.

She might be right.

Anyway, the point is that she has no trouble believing that a wiseman
named Christ went fussing about turning water into wine and raising
folks from the dead (including himself). Furthermore, she has no trouble
believing that after having been killed once, HE'S COMING BACK FOR MORE!


So, the moral of this story is that the more sacred your sacred cows,
the easier it is to swallow the really big pills that relate to those
cows (or at least make it more exciting to believe them).

> (I'm
> one of those people who find it hard to believe anyone except the mentally
> infirm would choose to wear a baseball hat backwards - it mimics baldness,
> never a good look, it leaves you with the sun in your eyes, not a lot of
> fun, and it's a marker of herd mentality.)

If you don't mind, Damien, I'm going to file this one away for future
reference. :)

> I suspect this might have something to do with anxiety control. If your
> stress set-points are low, from birth, you might arrange your reactions to
> the world in a defensive, suspicious way, and if you're intelligent as
> well, you might do this by constructing/adopting highly complex, organised
> systems of categorisation, evaluation and expression. More relaxed people
> might find it easier to break free, to explore `imaginatively' without the
> risk of premature closure. (If that's true, there'll also be more paranoid
> delusives - who might seem at first sight to be wildly imaginative - among
> the non-`imaginatives' as well... which is one of the claims in the spoof
> article.)

Neat idea. Some people are convinced that the chasm between neophobe and
neophile is traversible using drugs of some sort. We've had this
discussion here before, and I don't know if it was ever settled. Maybe
Danny remembers?

Inventiveness seems to have been a survival trait. Imagination? I don't
know. Are they different? The starry-eyed daydreamer would have died off
pretty quickly, it seems, what with the large predators running about
the savanna 25,000 years ago. OTOH, imagination seems to follow
intelligence around. Just look at the canonical interpretations of QT.
Or Kip Thorne and exotic matter. Who has more imagination than that?

Imagination seems to require the ability to take some unproven things
for granted and extrapolate from there. And is it worth mentioning that
this sounds awfully a lot like theoretical applied science?

> Are you a later-born, Anders? Max? Natasha? Greg? Keith? John? Anyone?

Nope. I'm also an exception to the apparent rule. I'm a first-born,
low-stress guy, who doesn't mind reading the Psychoceramics list (and
who doesn't mind asking what *if* Monica Lewinsky and Elvis were on the
Trilateral Commission...).

Boat drinks,

Keith (turning his baseball hat frontwards...)

ELIS -- City of the Peloponnese in Greece. Deserving immortal fame
because, in honor of its native son Pyrrho, the city passed a law
exempting all philosophers from taxation.