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Much of the practice of Scientology is based on theater exercises designed to do exactly the same thing as LessWrong. The similarities are unsurprising.

Personally, I have yet to see any evidence suggesting rationality is even desirable. The most irrational people, selfless, story-oriented, tolerante of multiple conflicting subjective "realities", interested in the feelings and passions of people around them no matter what they are, are also those I most enjoy interacting with. Everyone I have met who strives for rationality is at least a bit of a prick.




> Personally, I have yet to see any evidence suggesting rationality is even desirable

Interesting idea. I think a certain amount of rationality is desirable -- people of below median or even near-median rationality go round making really stupid decisions which screw up their lives. On the other hand, once you've stopped hiding from imaginary demons, buying magnetic charm bracelets and drinking venti caramel frappucinos, further effort in becoming more rational may be severely diminishing returns.

How would it really help me if I were more rational and less subject to cognitive biases? I don't think it would help me much in making my day-to-day decisions. I honestly don't think it would help me in my work, either. It might well help in tackling really, really difficult questions where it's extremely difficult to disentangle your own feelings from the correct answers -- things like "What is the probability that humans will one day achieve immortality", or "What is the fairest possible tax system?" But would answering those questions actually enhance my life? Humans will achieve immortality, or not, regardless of whether I correctly predict the probability circa 2012, and even if I did come up with the fairest possible tax system I have no chance of actually getting it implemented, so it would just cause me frustration.

The people who did really great things in history -- whoever you might choose as your examples -- did they achieve it by being significantly more rational than everyone else? Not really, no. They did it by achieving some baseline level of rationality and then being extremely good at other stuff.


> The people who did really great things in history -- whoever you might choose as your examples -- did they achieve it by being significantly more rational than everyone else? Not really, no.

Observational bias. Rationality of thought process in non-technical situations is rarely externalized; unless you talk of scientists, you're highly unlikely to remark on how highly rational he is being. In fact, the only way I can come up with to make such a statement fit in literary fashion is when you're making a quip on someone:

"It was highly rational of Nixon to start the Vietnam War."


"It was highly rational of Nixon to start the Vietnam War."

Either you're making some deep meta-quip that I don't get, or...


Wait a fucking second. Did you say theatre exercises?

There's a group of people doing them theatre exercises, they rent a hall down the corridor from me periodically. I've always known there was something really fishy about them. Are you saying they might be scientologists? Becuase that would really fit to the group's MO.


The difference between scientologists and theater majors is that scientologists charge extra and add aliens.


I guess we've reached the nesting limit. The people in question are trying to hang sociology and group theory onto those theatre exercises. The "tutors" are, well, let's just say really odd. How can I find out more about those original theatre exercises?


I'm thinking of something like http://www.amazon.com/112-Acting-Games-Comprehensive-Develop... It's not perfect coverage (I mostly encountered the exercises I recognized first-hand from teachers who had learned them from other teachers), but I think that book does describe some of the overlap. You could also look at the work of Keith Johnstone, especially his chapter in Impro on Mask and Trance. For Scientology, http://www.xenu.net

I was being flip before: there are real differences, primarily in the role of teachers (in theater they should never hold real power over you) and suppression vs. expression of emotion (theater exercises are often about how to feel more, whereas scientology is about brainwashing into feeling less). However, self-hypnosis, presences and detailed mental examinations are shared by both.




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