Inspired by Pascal Boyer’s latest piece in Nature, Robin Hanson reminds us that he’s a preacher’s son:

We feel a deep pleasure from realizing that we believe something in
common with our friends, and different from most people.  We feel an
even deeper pleasure letting everyone know of this fact.  This feeling
is EVIL.  Learn to see it in yourself, and then learn
to be horrified by how thoroughly it can poison your mind.  Yes
evidence may at times force you to disagree with a majority, and your
friends may have correlated exposure to that evidence, but take no pleasure when you and your associates disagree with others; that is the road to rationality ruin.

This makes me wonder: Shouldn’t Robin stop holding Overcoming Bias meet-ups at cities around the world?  I bet that one of the attendees’ primary activities is taking pleasure in their shared quest to overcome bias – as well disdaining the reprobates who embrace bias.  So by his own account, Robin is fostering evil.

Fortunately, he’s wrong.  Social pressure often encourages bias; but it can just as easily be used to fight bias.  Part of the GMU lunch ethos, for example, is the “bet or change your mind” norm.  If you violate the norm, the group thinks less of you.  The result: Better thinking.

If Robin’s point was merely that some “rationalist” clubs don’t practice what they preach, I’d be the first to agree.  I was at the Jefferson School in 1989 to witness the final stages of the Ayn Rand’s Institute’s purge of David Kelley.  Scary!  But Robin seems to be making the stronger claim that rationalists shouldn’t join together in mutual appreciation of one another.  That’s a drastic overreaction to the mere possibility that a rationalist club will become everything its members claim to oppose.

Even worse, Robin’s argument condemns the GMU lunch itself.  Heresy!