It may be particularly important for Less Wrong to encourage a rational perspective with respect to these contentious topics. Nevertheless, introducing these topics into an otherwise healthy discussion (for example, to present an analogy) may ruin it, encouraging fallacious modes of thinking.
Politics as a mind killer
Politics is one obvious cause of mind-killer disputes: Political disputes are not limited to standard disagreements about factual matters, nor to disputes of personality or perspective or even faction: they involve matters that people physically fight over in the real world—or at least, matters that are to be enforced by the government's monopoly of violence. Accordingly, political discourse generally involves an adversarial process where careful deliberation is forgone; the focus shifts onto conflict management and on using arguments as soldiers to advance one's side.
We should expect that existing political allegiances of our users will add bias and irrationality to such discussions. Politically-motivated people may also come here to Less Wrong in order to diligently reduce their casualties and add more recruits to their side.
The Less Wrong blog is devoted to refining the art of human rationality, not conflict reduction, de-escalation or mediation. Successfully mediating a political dispute requires real-world skills and virtues which go far beyond the virtues of rationality; many of these political virtues were identified by Bernard Crick in his work In Defense of Politics. Unfortunately, shifting our focus to these activities would encourage fallacious analogies in private or deliberative decision making, which would defeat the site's purpose. Extending this site's mission to deal with overtly political deliberation remains an open problem.
For all of these reasons, Less Wrong tries to avoid particular political disputes. Of course, discussing conflict reduction skills in the abstract is appropriate and encouraged! In fact, it is the best way of preserving our deliberative, rationalist focus in the face of small-scale disputes and conflicts.
In addition, there may well be a balance of tensions between evaporative cooling of beliefs leading to groupthink, and extremely biased color politics. However, this is an underexplored issue.
Another cause of mind-killers is social taboo. Negative connotations are associated with some topics, thus creating a strong bias supported by signaling drives that makes non-negative characterization of these topics appear absurd.
- Politics is the Mind-Killer by Eliezer Yudkowsky
- The mind-killer by ciphergoth
- Absolute denial for atheists by taw
- What You Can't Say by Paul Graham - Discusses "moral fashions" and social taboos and how they mind-kill certain topics.