Letters Column for July 2006: On Not Being A God

Posted on August 1, 2006 by Jenna

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It is now August. This is one of those rare months that wouldn’t even exist without the Augustine Popes and their meddling with the time-space continuum, so I think we should all take a moment of silence to think the forbidden Augistinian thought.



If we can come together and think those words together and use them as a mantra to beam universal love to the lost Augustinian Popes, I’m sure it will make the world a better place.

In other news, I’ve started ADD meds (as of Saturday morning.) Based on the weekend, I kind of feel productive or possibly even alive again. Brace yourself for a much better rate of output! or um howls of bitter disappointment from the Seattle area if it doesn’t last or I get allergic or something. Note that this will apply to other projects first; I’m not going to think about daily Hitherby again for a few months. ^_^

Donations for July (as of 10:30 on July 30, when I’m writing this) totalled $115.

Thank you very much!

I might need new glasses, so if you’d like to target donations towards an eye exam and glasses, stick a .20 on your donations? I don’t actually expect that, but hey. ^_^

In terms of comments, thank you for your kind words,

David Goldfarb
Ford Dent
Hitherby Admin
michael vassar
Penultimate Minion
Vincent Avatar

Also a special thanks to Mr. Kong for his gift of the Analects, and a hi to people posting for the first time!

ok. but the Enterprise still has tractor beams!
— GoldenH

Answer #1: Sure, but Sauron’ll just come back to life, only now he’s made with quality John Deere craftsmanship!

Answer #2: Sure, but Sauron’ll just come back to life, only now he’s covered in tractors!

Answer #3: Honestly, it’s probably cooler if Sauron joins the crew than if they kill him. Just imagine:

Kirk: Spock! Get us out of here!
Spock: Captain, there’s at best a 12.98% chance there’s an “out of here” to go to.
Sauron: *burns*

And the fanfic version!

Kirk: Spock! Get us out of here!
Spock: Captain, there’s at best a 12.98% chance there’s an “out of here” to go to.
Ensign Sue: No, wait! I’ve reengineered the warp drive to run on tape!
Sauron: *burns*
Sauron: *burns for Ensign Sue*

It’d be just like that!

It’s possible to write nonfiction, after all.
— rpuchalsky

I like to imagine nonfiction as starting with an invisible

Darth Vader proclaims:

It’s kind of like a silent p, only it’s not silent—it’s invisible!


I suppose I wouldn’t quibble with the assertion that it’s possible to read nonfiction!

Should he find salvation, no doubt (the evil logician) would soon return to rescue me.
— Penultimate Minion

You can’t imagine how much it does my heart good to know there are still people with faith in evil logicians.

And why not?

Why shouldn’t you hold that faith?

There is boundless goodness in the world!

What mind could hold in its expanse the infinite graceless beauty of -(P v Q) => (-P ^ -Q) and fail to turn its thoughts to kindness?

It is not the evil logicians who have failed us but we who have failed them. We with our narrow and primitive sense of “good logic” that leaves the woglies suffering in the snow. We with our hands that do not welcome evil logic.

We with our homes that do not let it in.

> For instance, consider the following problem. You are locked in a room with two doors and an evil logician. The logician says, “If a rational person would choose the left door, then both doors lead to certain death. Otherwise, only the right door leads to certain death, and the left door leads to salvation. Which door do you choose?”

— me!

Hm, interesting problem. Maybe if you flip a coin? After all, choosing the right hand door is clearly irrational, so risking choosing it might be irrational enough…
— chaomancer


Now, please bear in mind that the original post clearly specified this as a case where rejecting the problem formulation is necessary.

I mean—

I wouldn’t want people to get the idea that my other logic puzzles have an answer like “defy the evil logician.”

But this is a special case.

See, you’re on the right track here, I think. You’re getting into the right pseudorational stuff that might work. I’m pretty sure that probabilistic stuff is where the game theory answer goes.

But at the same time I think there’s a broader and more interesting point here.

You have to understand that what the evil logician is saying is, “No matter which door you go through, I can kill you and blame your decision-making process for it.”

And that the problem tenets are set up specifically to subvert the beneficial effects of reason.

This is something that people sometimes face in the world—a deliberate effort by someone to subvert reason. Someone spends their energy to disincentivize clear thinking by making sure its outcomes are worse than the outcomes of muddled thinking.

It’s one of the nastiest things one person can do to another.

I might even compare it to torture.

But it can happen. You’re never actually safe from it. Someone can always decide to punish you for clarity, punish you for being smart. I don’t just mean “for choosing the right thing” but “for choosing the right way.”

Sometimes even when you recognize the rigged game and cheat by going where you think they want you to go, people’ll punish you for that.

If this were just something that abusers and oppressive systems did, then I probably wouldn’t talk about it at this length.

But it’s also something we do to ourselves.

(For clarity, it’s not comparable to torture in that case, but it is still bad.)

See, that’s the kind of situation we get into when we accept the wrong assumptions. When you have the wrong assumptions you may start finding that clear thinking leads you to bad places.

The more you open your eyes,

The more you face the truth,

The more you think clearly and honestly about the consequences of those assumptions,

The more screwed up you get.

Take Meredith. Her current answer is “I will protect my ego by riding the storm of my nature.”

It’s working pretty well.

She got there just the same way you got to the randomized approach. She tried to win the game within the assumptions she had.

If you’re stuck with the evil logician, then you might do the same thing—find a midpoint between reason and unreason, sit in the crux of the contradiction, and hope that the evil logician is trying to break you and not to kill you.

It’s the best thing you can do.

But you do have to be careful because when you’re in the power of an evil logician, the energy they’ve put into evilling has to go somewhere.

Hopefully you won’t take that as criticism of your idea; like I said, I’d incline towards coin-flip answers myself!

I can’t believe// I never thought about Sid and Max that way.//
— David Goldfarb

That’s okay.

Sid and Max are allowed to love one another without being gay. They’re also allowed to love one another if they are gay.

Someday, if they don’t die first, they’ll let down all their walls.

And then they’ll have sex.

Or they won’t.

And then we’ll know.

(If Max is gay it would be good for them, you see, but if he’s straight, it probably wouldn’t be, and they probably wouldn’t.)

Existing only as a legend probably qualifies as being an isn’t, as well.

So… is it possible that Martin may, at some point, make //Ink an is?//
— Aliasi

If he can answer the question that keeps fictional characters from being real.

That said—

We might have a good working definition of isn’t, I think, but what’s an is?

So, was the Virtue inherent in Siddhartha, or in the fullfilment of his Dharma? Or some other element of the equation?
— bv728

Find out soon, in the Hitherby Dragons blockbuster story, The Island of the Centipede!

I’m pretty sure Max isn’t a god (ie, an isn’t).
— mneme

What does it mean not to be a god?

The secret of the gods is that they are born to fill emptiness.

But isn’t that also what people are for?

All that said—

Yeah, Max gestated in his mother’s body, not in her soul. He’s like an M&M that way.

I think something like that has already happened: that the Imago is Ink.

… someone back me up here
— Ninjacrat

As you wish, o Ninjacrat!

The histories of the imago have begun. ^_^

Perhaps I could reconcile the theories by suggesting that Mei Ming and Ink are related to each other, but I can think of no basis for the suggestion.
— tylercat

Thank you for speculating! I’m glad that the question was interesting. ^_^

Regarding questions, I think that unanswer(ed|able) questions are woglies, and asking someone a question that they cannot answer will leech away their integrity…
— cariset

That’s pretty close to how it works!

Some unanswer(ed|able) questions spawn woglies. There would seem to be a threshold of some sort since people aren’t waist-deep in woglies.

I’d suggest thinking about Forbidden A—

Er, um, I mean—


Sorry about that.

I’d suggest thinking about … you know, that *stuff*, you know, with Erin and Branwen … and stuff.

And where the integrity goes.

I guess I should comment here, since “maps” is probably unread — but the site is dizzying me a bit today. First, there’s the subway banner. Then, all the categories. Then, when reading some of the early entries, I see that some have been edited slightly — or have they?
— rpuchalsky

No edits.

WordPress showed you some stuff you shouldn’t have seen. It was a very bad WordPress! I ran around shrieking quite a bit because What is Hitherby Dragons? (2.0) isn’t done.

I was unaware that mermaids listened to so much metal.
— Ford Dent

The manta and the skate’n
even the rockfish pray to Satan
Throw up the horns now
Antichrist born now
Under da sea!

Oh, you take a mortal cod
Put him in control
Watch—he’s a god!
The pipefish will fry now
Flipper will die now
Under da sea!


Even the angler’s an angry headbangler
New Zealand sanddiver sing “Skin Her Alive” you’re
Probably thinking that seal’s been drinking
And everything’s better (better)
Down where it’s wetter (wetter)
And your life burns faster (faster)
Best obey the bass, sir (bass, sir)
The master of pupfish
Is under da sea!
Yah we in luck here
Gratuitous “fuck” here
Under da sea!

I like that the chaos is described as adapting to Max, rather than the other way round as one would expect.
— Luc

Thanks! I like that too. ^_^

what happens when a Death Metal Mermaid and a Buddha Pirate fall into conflict?
— Mithrandir

Many things cease to become attached to material existence. ^_^

And okay! That’s it for today.

Tune back in on Thursday for more letters column goodness!