This is an awful idea for so many reasons that I’m seriously disappointed that I have to spell them out here.
For start, publishing condemnatory lists of people is bad for all sorts of PR reasons. Can you imagine what this list will look like to random visitors and what associations it will evoke?
Then, if you’re going to denounce people publicly for their views, basic decency requires that you give a correct and detailed account of what exactly they said and wrote. Supporting your list with paraphrased soundbites from Wikipedia and the popular press is far below this standard.
Next, what exactly qualifies a belief as so irrational that someone who has it should be put on the official LessWrong list of shame? If religion counts, why wouldn’t Marxism or any other modern ideological delusion? And if you’re going to call out people for those, then you might as well save space by instead listing those who didn’t (or don’t) have any, according to you.
Also, as one commenter already noted, you’re being extremely disrespectful towards people with mental problems who have ended up on your list. Normally I’m the last one here to insist on hypersensitivity, but this is in bad taste however you turn it.
These are not the only reasons why this list should be deleted, but they should be sufficient.
One PR problem is that the list may come across as an attempt to shame people out of their ideas (as opposed to an instructive list of examples of failure modes), and so people seeing the list may mistakenly infer that LessWrong thinks it has enough social clout to make famous thinkers fear its disapproval, and hence that LessWrong has delusions of grandeur. “Irrationalists” seems like a bad thing to title the page in this context.
Well, if it was titled “list of succesful people with weird beliefs” it would be a fun curiosity instead of weird and creepy.
That sounds right; so can we find a different way to learn such lessons as we would have learned from this exercise?
I don’t understand the standards you and your upvoters are using. So Eliezer can single out Aumann (with summaries of as much scholarly merit as the ones on the wiki page), to name one, in multiple articles—to general upvotes and lack of Vladimir_M comments; XiXiDu can make a list—to general upvotes and lack of Vladimir_M comments; I, timtyler, and nhamann can suggest additions—to general upvotes and lack of Vladimir_M comments, and so on except when I post a Discussion article about a wiki article, then it gets fiercely downvoted.
What lesson am I meant to infer from this? That I am not high-status enough to make such claims (but Eliezer is)? That only now have people come to their senses under your trenchant critique? That it’s fine to name names and have a community-wide agreement that some are beyond the pale—but we dare not write it down?
And as far as bad taste goes—I would think that the ones with mental illness would be the most valuable ones to include inasmuch as they are the only ones most of the rest of humanity will agree with us in saying that they were flat-out wrong and this demonstrates compartmentalization. (There’s a difference between mental diseases and mere religious or other beliefs...? But the mind is a physical thing, so the difference is not one of kind.)
What lesson am I meant to infer from this?
What lesson am I meant to infer from this?
Simply that publishing a list like this one is a bad idea, for all the reasons I’ve listed (among others). I’m not picking on you personally in any way—I would have made the same comments if it had been anyone else.
I don’t keep track of all LW posts and comments, and I don’t have the same amount of time and will for commenting at all times, so if I replied critically to one post but not to another similar one, that doesn’t mean I’m playing favorites. Moreover, publishing a list like yours is much worse that just dropping a name in passing to illustrate a point. If you don’t understand why, please take it at my word—I really don’t have the time to explain it at length now. As for the approving comments, they were all made (and upvoted) before mine, so it’s reasonable to conclude that my comment has swayed the general opinion somewhat.
In any case, I will again urge you (and, barring that, the Wiki editors) to remove this really bad article. Besides all the problems I’ve listed, it’s awfully sloppy and vague with facts. For example, Ayala left the priesthood more than fifty years ago, but you list him as if he still were a priest. And how on Earth do you know that Donal Knuth is “devout”? Do you perhaps know him personally to vouch for it? Have you read, or even just opened, that book because of which you think he deserves being mocked? Then, why on Earth was it irrational for Berger to try and investigate his hypotheses about telepathy experimentally (which he clearly did in a sufficiently sound way to make a major scientific contribution in the process)? You’re just firing off cheap rhetorical shots at people like a propagandist.
Most of all, what gives you (or anyone else) the authority to choose which people are to be publicly attacked and mocked like this? What are your exact criteria based on which you’re going to take a dozen or so people and proclaim them as the worst irrationalists among all scientists, worthy of being included in the official LessWrong hall of shame?