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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • by Ovid (2709) on 2007.06.22 10:40 (#55717) Homepage Journal

    Superficially the accusation of this argument merely being a variant of "Pascal's Wager" is compelling. However, there are a couple of reasons why the argument isn't comparable. With Pascal's Wager, if you guess wrong, it pretty much only affects you and then, only after you're dead and no one else is able to verify it. The argument the author didn't like, unlike the Wager, can be quantified (though not in discrete amounts) and the risk (and associated error bars) can be considered. This makes the argument significantly different than Pascal's Wager. Further, if the choice one mankes as a result of the argument is wrong, we'll find out, sooner or later.

    So, one could dismiss this with a snarky comment, or one could say "hey, it's a potential starting point to calculating risk". I'd much rather choose the latter as opposed to ignoring the problem as we have for so long.

    Of course, that author of the blog post you referred to, as a Libertarian, would pretty much have to take a stand against the argument because the Libertarian worship of laissez-faire markets means that they must oppose any attempt to save ourselves if it involves putting coercive limits on market activity. Otherwise, said Libertarians have to admit that perhaps market failure does exist in a way that is not self-correcting. (Curiously, I've met a couple of "Libertarians" over here in the UK and they were both strongly in favor of mandated free universal medical care).

    • The argument the author didn't like, unlike the Wager, can be quantified (though not in discrete amounts) and the risk (and associated error bars) can be considered.

      Predictive climatologists are one infomercial away from being phone psychics.

      • Except that they are able to make predictions, albeit with large error bars, and presumably they might be able to improve their ability (this, of course, is different from being able to predict the weather. Short term and long term trends follow different behaviors). As a result, there's the potential for better acquiring knowledge and assessing risk. Not so with Pascal's Wager.

        • Psychologists can make and refine predictions of behavior as well; why not psychics?

          Any organization which allows some of its members to make predictions repeatedly and fail, without discussion statistical variance, has problems. "It will be 83 degrees tomorrow in Santa Rosa. I am a meterologist."

          What good is falsifiability in science if no one ever checks?

          • "It will be 83 degrees tomorrow in Santa Rosa. I am a meterologist."

            Meteorology is not the same thing as climatology. Everyone gets mad when their local weather report is wrong but somehow don't realize that making day-to-day predictions is much more error-prone than analyzing trends over time.

            • Is it much more error prone because it's so much easier to see all of the errors? Just wait 24 hours, not 20 years....