Discussion of Slate Star Codex: “Extremism in Thought Experiments is No Vice”

Link to Blog Post: “Ex­trem­ism in Thought Ex­per­i­ments is No Vice”


Phil Robert­son is be­ing crit­i­cized for a thought ex­per­i­ment in which an athe­ist’s fam­ily is raped and mur­dered. On a talk show, he ac­cused athe­ists of be­liev­ing that there was no such thing as ob­jec­tive right or wrong, then con­tinued:

I’ll make a bet with you. Two guys break into an athe­ist’s home. He has a lit­tle athe­ist wife and two lit­tle athe­ist daugh­ters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him.

Then they take his two daugh­ters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot them, and they take his wife and then de­cap­i­tate her head off in front of him, and then they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about be­ing judged? Isn’t it great that there’s noth­ing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now, is it dude?’

Then you take a sharp knife and take his man­hood and hold it in front of him and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be some­thing if [there] was some­thing wrong with this? But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just hav­ing fun. We’re sick in the head, have a nice day.’

If it hap­pened to them, they prob­a­bly would say, ‘Some­thing about this just ain’t right’.

The me­dia has com­pletely pro­por­tion­ally de­scribed this as Robin­son “fan­ta­siz­ing about” rap­ing athe­ists, and there are the usual calls for him to apol­o­gize/​get fired/​be be­headed.

So let me use what­ever cred­i­bil­ity I have as a guy with a philos­o­phy de­gree to con­firm that Phil Robert­son is do­ing moral philos­o­phy ex­actly right.


This is a LW dis­cus­sion post for Yvain’s blog posts at Slate Star Codex, as per tog’s sug­ges­tion:

Like many Less Wrong read­ers, I greatly en­joy Slate Star Codex; there’s a large over­lap in read­er­ship. How­ever, the com­ments there are far worse, not worth read­ing for me. I think this is in part due to the lack of LW-style up and down­votes. Have there ever been dis­cus­sion threads about SSC posts here on LW? What do peo­ple think of the idea oc­ca­sion­ally hav­ing them? Does Scott him­self have any views on this, and would he be OK with it?

Scott/​Yvain’s per­mis­sion to re­post on LW was granted (from face­book):

I’m fine with any­one who wants re­post­ing things for com­ments on LW, ex­cept for posts where I speci­fi­cally say oth­er­wise or tag them with “things i will re­gret writ­ing”