Fast and Loose Sacredness Topics



So say there’s definitely a connection between seeing something as sacred and refusing to break it down and examine it. This seems bad.

Consider these techniques:

To a very naive observer both of these might seem like pointless superstition. A small amount of added mess is always a small amount, a missed day is a missed day whether you’ve got a streak going or not. But finite mental resources would explain why there’s a clear boundary between “no mess” and “a little mess” but not “a little mess” and “a little mess+1”: that is, the same reason we use the decimal system instead of tally-marks.

So, though not breaking something down seemed bad, it can be good. This implies that sacredness can be good. Here’s an example: respecting the law as sacred can be helpful, because seeing laws in general as being bad to break instead of breaking each down further makes it easier to not break laws. Consider how the outside view works.2


So, sacredness means refusing to break things down which means refusing to examine trade-offs which means refusing to make trade-offs. Sounds useful in a game of chicken, ie., it sounds like precommitment, ie. it sounds like morality, ie. the best way to signal being a good cooperation partner is to precommit to being one by actually being one, which again looks like the outside view, being short-term stupid and long-term smart.

(Interestingly: Seeing law as sacred and therefore being irrational about it reduces ability to design a better system. Despite this, a politician who sends strong signals of belief that the law is sacred might be preferable to one who does not, if


Recall that one of the techniques that leveraged not breaking things down was about keeping a room clean, and that cleanliness is next to godliness, and eg. dirty words are profanities. This isn’t just coincidence- you won’t hear “we keep this sacred ground mostly pretty much pure, like 99% undesecrated.” There’s an explicit all-or-nothingness.


Why the connection between sacredness/purity and outrage/“pearl-clutching” over wrongthink? Because thinking actually is a risk, not just to potential victims of a policy granting some form of power or decreased culpability to evil people, but to any otherwise-wannabe do-gooder who hears the argument and has their own sense of sacredness broken down.

Another view of it is as being disgust, which seems to fit if it’s purity-related. Wrongthink isn’t itself bad just like things tasting bad doesn’t cause them to be dangerous to eat. The trick is that things that are dangerous to eat tasting bad is a good defense against eating dangerous things.

Beauty (with a side of morality)

All-or-nothingness might count as being highly compressive. All art does away with certain details in order to make its point.

If the profane is to do with “gross, cosmic unfairness” it’s something like “that shouldn’t have happened” which is also what someone might say in confusion if data comes in that seems to contradict their hypothesis, so if hypotheses are compressive (and the relationship between the two scenarios isn’t superficial) then profanity is anti-compressive.

Another more direct example of the relation is that good and evil are known as right and wrong. But even if it’s evidence for the relation, it doesn’t tell us why.

Consider morality steering what we do, not just by our considering every action and rejecting immoral actions- finite processing power, remember?- but by not having our default reactions be immoral in the first place (mostly).

Well, if action is steered by prediction and prediction is about truth, then that’s reason for us to believe that our perception of morality and truth are deeply linked.

Something like that.

  1. I know I’ve heard something sounding like a saying that said something like “idolization is the opposite of understanding”, though I can’t remember where. Probably an anime.
  2. “Buehler et. al. (2002) asked an experimental group of subjects to describe highly specific plans for their Christmas shopping - where, when, and how. On average, this group expected to finish shopping more than a week before Christmas. Another group was simply asked when they expected to finish their Christmas shopping, with an average response of 4 days. Both groups finished an average of 3 days before Christmas.” Link.