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Sam Harris: I can't believe Trump is president!

Sam Harris: I can't believe Trump is president!

(12:05) Neuroscientist Sam Harris discusses how Donald Trump has made barefaced lying an acceptable political tactic.

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Guest: (1334 days ago)

There's a lot of things that Sam can't believe. He's basically famous for not believing stuff.

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There's a lot of things that Sam can't believe. He's basically famous for not believing stuff.

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Guest: Get Real (1334 days ago)

Holy Cow....Sam is smarter than half the people on America.

That's amazing.

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Holy Cow....Sam is smarter than half the people on America.

That's amazing.

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WalterEgo WalterEgo (1334 days ago)

You only have to be above average to be smarter than half the people.

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You only have to be above average to be smarter than half the people.

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Guest: (1334 days ago)

And WalterEgo just failed primary school maths.

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And WalterEgo just failed primary school maths.

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Guest: (1334 days ago)

Mean (average) is different than median (the person in the middle).

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Mean (average) is different than median (the person in the middle).

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WalterEgo WalterEgo (1334 days ago)

Median is a different way of measuring the average. Anyway, I claim fair use under poetic licence.

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Median is a different way of measuring the average. Anyway, I claim fair use under poetic licence.

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Guest: (1334 days ago)

Dude, stop digging. In my country, 9 year olds are supposed to understand that difference.

You can be smarter than half the people but still not average. Now you know.

You need to read better poetry.

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Dude, stop digging. In my country, 9 year olds are supposed to understand that difference.

You can be smarter than half the people but still not average. Now you know.

You need to read better poetry.

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Guest: (1333 days ago)

Walt's right. IQ follows a normal distribution per definition, and thus in a country with 300 mill inhabitants the mean and the median will be the same.

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Walt's right. IQ follows a normal distribution per definition, and thus in a country with 300 mill inhabitants the mean and the median will be the same.

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Guest: (1333 days ago)

Nope.

1) Your point... you've shifted the focus to IQ because (unlike intelligence) it is artificially adjusted retrospectively to try and achieve the effect you're looking for. IQ is aligned to a median performance (100). Of course pragmatically, IQ does not follow a normal distribution and thought to have a right skew.

2) His point: "You only have to be above average to be smarter than half the people" - the only value which through beating it would necessarily signify you've beaten at least half the sample, would be the median. Unlike the mean, it is by definition half-way in every conceivable data-set, which is why it is a 'resistant statistic'.

His was a simple confusion between mean and median, so just accept it for what it was and get familiar with the difference.

Are we done?

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Original comment

Nope.

1) Your point... you've shifted the focus to IQ because (unlike intelligence) it is artificially adjusted retrospectively to try and achieve the effect you're looking for. IQ is aligned to a median performance (100). Of course pragmatically, IQ does not follow a normal distribution and thought to have a right skew.

2) His point: "You only have to be above average to be smarter than half the people" - the only value which through beating it would necessarily signify you've beaten at least half the sample, would be the median. Unlike the mean, it is by definition half-way in every conceivable data-set, which is why it is a 'resistant statistic'.

His was a simple confusion between mean and median, so just accept it for what it was and get familiar with the difference.

Are we done?

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Guest: (1333 days ago)

Yeah, you're right in the same, some might say pedantic, sense that pi does not actually equal 3.1416 or that the earth's circumference isn't actually 40 000 km. If you're only slightly more intelligent than average, I'll give you there's still a small chance that you might be in the dumbest half of the population (especially true for small populations). We're done.

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Yeah, you're right in the same, some might say pedantic, sense that pi does not actually equal 3.1416 or that the earth's circumference isn't actually 40 000 km. If you're only slightly more intelligent than average, I'll give you there's still a small chance that you might be in the dumbest half of the population (especially true for small populations). We're done.

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Guest: (1333 days ago)

I don't think you understand, you're deliberately confusing IQ and intelligence.

Let me rephrase more simply: Intelligence does not follow a normal distribution. Why would it? IQs might be a different matter.

Therefore you could easily be more intelligent than the average but still be less smart than half the population... but you could never be smarter than the median but not smarter than half.

Sorry but it's just what those words mean.

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I don't think you understand, you're deliberately confusing IQ and intelligence.

Let me rephrase more simply: Intelligence does not follow a normal distribution. Why would it? IQs might be a different matter.

Therefore you could easily be more intelligent than the average but still be less smart than half the population... but you could never be smarter than the median but not smarter than half.

Sorry but it's just what those words mean.

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Guest: (1332 days ago)

Two questions:

What kind of proxy would you use instead of IQ in order to range a population from least intelligent to most intelligent?

Why should intelligence not follow a normal distribution?

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Original comment

Two questions:

What kind of proxy would you use instead of IQ in order to range a population from least intelligent to most intelligent?

Why should intelligence not follow a normal distribution?

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Guest: (1332 days ago)

We're not discussing ways of measuring intelligence (a question for a different day) - we're discussing intelligence itself.

A huge number of variables might affect intelligence, and these are likely to change from location to location over time. A famine might cause an increase in lower intelligence individuals, while an expensive multi-modal education system might cause an increase in affluent higher intelligence children.

But actually, that is all beating about the bush. The fundamental truth is that unless intelligence itself is necessarily normally distributed, then the median and mean are not the same value. If the median and mean are not the same, then those values shouldn't be used interchangeably. It's also just good practice to use these words correctly because as we've seen too many people are unaware of the distinctions and have a meltdown when they're called out.

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Original comment

We're not discussing ways of measuring intelligence (a question for a different day) - we're discussing intelligence itself.

A huge number of variables might affect intelligence, and these are likely to change from location to location over time. A famine might cause an increase in lower intelligence individuals, while an expensive multi-modal education system might cause an increase in affluent higher intelligence children.

But actually, that is all beating about the bush. The fundamental truth is that unless intelligence itself is necessarily normally distributed, then the median and mean are not the same value. If the median and mean are not the same, then those values shouldn't be used interchangeably. It's also just good practice to use these words correctly because as we've seen too many people are unaware of the distinctions and have a meltdown when they're called out.

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WalterEgo WalterEgo (1333 days ago)

My point was actually: you don't have to be very smart to be smarter than half of America - ie. Americans are stupid. It was a response to the comment before.

Mean, median, mode and midpoint are all averages. Feel free to choose whichever one you think I meant.

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Original comment

My point was actually: you don't have to be very smart to be smarter than half of America - ie. Americans are stupid. It was a response to the comment before.

Mean, median, mode and midpoint are all averages. Feel free to choose whichever one you think I meant.

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Guest: (1333 days ago)

I know what you were implying, but you just chose the wrong words. Accept it and move on.

Your statement is only true if you're talking specifically about the median, so just saying 'average' would be incorrect.

It's like saying "Insects make honeycomb", then when reminded that that's only true of honeybees, you say "Feel free to choose whichever insects I might mean".

It's a really basic mistake but not very rare... it's weird that you're having such a hard time admitting it. You came close with the "poetic license" comment, but seem to be frantically back-pedalling since then.

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Original comment

I know what you were implying, but you just chose the wrong words. Accept it and move on.

Your statement is only true if you're talking specifically about the median, so just saying 'average' would be incorrect.

It's like saying "Insects make honeycomb", then when reminded that that's only true of honeybees, you say "Feel free to choose whichever insects I might mean".

It's a really basic mistake but not very rare... it's weird that you're having such a hard time admitting it. You came close with the "poetic license" comment, but seem to be frantically back-pedalling since then.

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WalterEgo WalterEgo (1333 days ago)

I wrote a light-hearted response to a light-hearted comment. Had I written " You only have to be above the median to be smarter than half the people" , I think you'll agree something's not quite right. " ...above average... " is a well-known and popular phrase in common use since time began. " ...above the median... " requires a bit of thought, too much for the levity of my comment. Hence the poetic license. There's a time to be accurate, but this isn't it.

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Original comment

I wrote a light-hearted response to a light-hearted comment. Had I written " You only have to be above the median to be smarter than half the people" , I think you'll agree something's not quite right. " ...above average... " is a well-known and popular phrase in common use since time began. " ...above the median... " requires a bit of thought, too much for the levity of my comment. Hence the poetic license. There's a time to be accurate, but this isn't it.

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Guest: (1332 days ago)

The phrase 'above average' is fine, just not correlated with 'half the people' - that's just a misconception. For the record, it wasn't me who first pointed that out here. But who needs to be mathematical? You could have said "You hardly need to be a brain surgeon to be smarter than half the population" , or "It doesn't take much to be smarter than half of the USA ". No problemo... levity a-plenty and joyously light-hearted.

But you used a basic mathematical term incorrectly, and that is unnecessary at best, and totally unforgivable at worst, particularly when you were using it to poke fun at a lack of 'smartness'.

I think maybe you owe everyone here an apology so we can all move on with our lives.

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Original comment

The phrase 'above average' is fine, just not correlated with 'half the people' - that's just a misconception. For the record, it wasn't me who first pointed that out here. But who needs to be mathematical? You could have said "You hardly need to be a brain surgeon to be smarter than half the population" , or "It doesn't take much to be smarter than half of the USA ". No problemo... levity a-plenty and joyously light-hearted.

But you used a basic mathematical term incorrectly, and that is unnecessary at best, and totally unforgivable at worst, particularly when you were using it to poke fun at a lack of 'smartness'.

I think maybe you owe everyone here an apology so we can all move on with our lives.

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WalterEgo WalterEgo (1332 days ago)

There is no problem with using 'above average' and 'half the people' in the same sentence as I did, because both phrases are used at similar levels of approximation.

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There is no problem with using 'above average' and 'half the people' in the same sentence as I did, because both phrases are used at similar levels of approximation.

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WalterEgo WalterEgo (1332 days ago)

I did not use a basic mathematical term incorrectly. Median is a type of average.

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I did not use a basic mathematical term incorrectly. Median is a type of average.

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Guest: (1332 days ago)

This is getting awkward now. I feel I'm uncovering something more troubling than a poor education in maths.

It's basically the compositional fallacy. You can ascribe a trait of a group to an individual, but not an individual's trait to its group. Look at the logic.

All giraffes are mammals but not all mammals are giraffes. You can say 'Giraffes have backbones' (a trait of the mammals group), but not 'Mammals have long necks' (only a trait of the giraffe individual).

All medians are an average, but not all averages are the median. You can say 'A median is a typical value' (a trait of the averages group), but not 'Averages are half-way)' (only a trait of the median individual).

Deary me.

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Original comment

This is getting awkward now. I feel I'm uncovering something more troubling than a poor education in maths.

It's basically the compositional fallacy. You can ascribe a trait of a group to an individual, but not an individual's trait to its group. Look at the logic.

All giraffes are mammals but not all mammals are giraffes. You can say 'Giraffes have backbones' (a trait of the mammals group), but not 'Mammals have long necks' (only a trait of the giraffe individual).

All medians are an average, but not all averages are the median. You can say 'A median is a typical value' (a trait of the averages group), but not 'Averages are half-way)' (only a trait of the median individual).

Deary me.

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WalterEgo WalterEgo (1332 days ago)

Did you miss your first text analysis class - the one on how context is king? "You only have to be above average to be smarter than half the people" is technically correct, but more importantly, it is appropriate language for the context.

As I already explained, it's a light-hearted response to a light-hearted comment. The implication is that Americans are stupid, or Sam Harris is not so smart - take your pick. The use of 'average' and 'half' is not mathematical. To describe someone as average, is usually a negative term. And 'half' doesn't mean 50%, it means most. I was quite proud of that comment, one of my better one-liners.

Compare that with "Insects make honeycomb". Without context, the implication is that all or most insects make honeycomb, which is plainly wrong. But what if it was the hook in a song that was about how little annoying things are what make life special.

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Did you miss your first text analysis class - the one on how context is king? "You only have to be above average to be smarter than half the people" is technically correct, but more importantly, it is appropriate language for the context.

As I already explained, it's a light-hearted response to a light-hearted comment. The implication is that Americans are stupid, or Sam Harris is not so smart - take your pick. The use of 'average' and 'half' is not mathematical. To describe someone as average, is usually a negative term. And 'half' doesn't mean 50%, it means most. I was quite proud of that comment, one of my better one-liners.

Compare that with "Insects make honeycomb". Without context, the implication is that all or most insects make honeycomb, which is plainly wrong. But what if it was the hook in a song that was about how little annoying things are what make life special.

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Guest: (1332 days ago)

Incredible. I have honestly never seen an adult go to such lengths to avoid admitting such a basic fault. It's like a child with chocolate around his face conjuring up ever more elaborate reasons why the cookies have disappeared!

The context has nothing to do with it here; you just misused a term. There is no context in which 'average' technically means more than half. This isn't about register either - I suggested light-hearted responses in appropriate language which would not have been technically incorrect. You seem to think that context or register allows you to claim things are technically correct when they aren't. It doesn't work like that. Cross them out of WalterEgo's Big Book of Excuses.

"Insects make honeycomb" - the implication is that insects, as a group, make honeycomb, and it's technically incorrect. "You only have to be above average to be smarter than half" - the implication is that averages, as a group, are a half-way point, and it's technically incorrect. Compositional fallacy.

Were you very broadly correct? Probably. Were you technically wrong? Definitely. Was this because you didn't understand a basic term that is taught in school? I reckon so. Let's blame your teachers. But no one has died. You won't lose your job. Even better, I think in the future you'll remember the difference. So it's all good. Never stop learning.

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Original comment

Incredible. I have honestly never seen an adult go to such lengths to avoid admitting such a basic fault. It's like a child with chocolate around his face conjuring up ever more elaborate reasons why the cookies have disappeared!

The context has nothing to do with it here; you just misused a term. There is no context in which 'average' technically means more than half. This isn't about register either - I suggested light-hearted responses in appropriate language which would not have been technically incorrect. You seem to think that context or register allows you to claim things are technically correct when they aren't. It doesn't work like that. Cross them out of WalterEgo's Big Book of Excuses.

"Insects make honeycomb" - the implication is that insects, as a group, make honeycomb, and it's technically incorrect. "You only have to be above average to be smarter than half" - the implication is that averages, as a group, are a half-way point, and it's technically incorrect. Compositional fallacy.

Were you very broadly correct? Probably. Were you technically wrong? Definitely. Was this because you didn't understand a basic term that is taught in school? I reckon so. Let's blame your teachers. But no one has died. You won't lose your job. Even better, I think in the future you'll remember the difference. So it's all good. Never stop learning.

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WalterEgo WalterEgo (1330 days ago)

Context is ALWAYS important. Without context, you can't know the implication of the text. Perfect example is your very own phrase "insects make honeycomb". Without context, the implication could indeed be that insects, as a group, make honeycomb. But it could also be how it's the little annoying things that make life special. I gave this example before but you chose to totally ignore it.

In the case of "You only have to be above average to be smarter than half the people" , to understand the context you have to read the comment it is responding to. I spelled it out for you. Light-hearted and with poetic licence. I even spelled out what I was implying - Americans are stupid. And you agreed. Actually I had more in mind that the masses are stupid, not specifically Americans. It's just the original comment was specific to Americans. So you understood the context yet chose to ignore it. You said "The context has nothing to do with it here; you just misused a term." No. The context has everything to do with it, that's why you are trying to claim it doesn't. Remember lesson 1, context is ALWAYS king.

"There is no context in which 'average' technically means more than half." Maths is not my strong point, but doesn't it depend on your definition of half? If by half you mean the halfway point, ie. 5 is the halfway point between 0 and 10, then the average can be higher than the halfway point. Take a data set - 0,6,10. The median is 6, which is higher than 5.

Sure you suggested some light-hearted alternatives. But I'm not you. Your words didn't come to my head. "You hardly need to be a brain surgeon to be smarter than half the population" is fine, but in my biased opinion, not as good. I prefer "You only have to be above average to be smarter than half the people" because the implication is different. "Average" in casualspeak means 'most' and it is usually used negatively. If I describe you as an average person, in my culture it means you are like most people and that's a negative thing. So in this context "above average" means "not stupid". I'm saying, you only have to be not stupid to be smarter than most people, which is different from - you hardly need (the knowledge) of a brain surgeon to be smarter than half the population. Your phrase implies education is involved, mine implies it's how you act. It also flows better IMHO.

Let's never stop learning together.

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Original comment

Context is ALWAYS important. Without context, you can't know the implication of the text. Perfect example is your very own phrase "insects make honeycomb". Without context, the implication could indeed be that insects, as a group, make honeycomb. But it could also be how it's the little annoying things that make life special. I gave this example before but you chose to totally ignore it.

In the case of "You only have to be above average to be smarter than half the people" , to understand the context you have to read the comment it is responding to. I spelled it out for you. Light-hearted and with poetic licence. I even spelled out what I was implying - Americans are stupid. And you agreed. Actually I had more in mind that the masses are stupid, not specifically Americans. It's just the original comment was specific to Americans. So you understood the context yet chose to ignore it. You said "The context has nothing to do with it here; you just misused a term." No. The context has everything to do with it, that's why you are trying to claim it doesn't. Remember lesson 1, context is ALWAYS king.

"There is no context in which 'average' technically means more than half." Maths is not my strong point, but doesn't it depend on your definition of half? If by half you mean the halfway point, ie. 5 is the halfway point between 0 and 10, then the average can be higher than the halfway point. Take a data set - 0,6,10. The median is 6, which is higher than 5.

Sure you suggested some light-hearted alternatives. But I'm not you. Your words didn't come to my head. "You hardly need to be a brain surgeon to be smarter than half the population" is fine, but in my biased opinion, not as good. I prefer "You only have to be above average to be smarter than half the people" because the implication is different. "Average" in casualspeak means 'most' and it is usually used negatively. If I describe you as an average person, in my culture it means you are like most people and that's a negative thing. So in this context "above average" means "not stupid". I'm saying, you only have to be not stupid to be smarter than most people, which is different from - you hardly need (the knowledge) of a brain surgeon to be smarter than half the population. Your phrase implies education is involved, mine implies it's how you act. It also flows better IMHO.

Let's never stop learning together.

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Guest: (1329 days ago)

I said "The context has nothing to do with it here " because the context doesn't explain your (mis)use of the term 'average'. An example of a context that might have explained your mistake would be a comment like "Researchers showed than in this particular population, intelligence follows a precise normal distribution, so in this case... you only have to be above average to be smarter than half the people." But that isn't the context.

The context is 'Harris is smarter than half the population' - a valid statement and maybe (unverifiably) sound. Your reply was 'You only have to be above average to be smarter than half...' - not valid, simply because of the terms you chose. "In this context "above average" means "not stupid"" - no, no it doesn't. That was what you meant, but that's not what the word means. This is the sort of problem you get into when you retrospectively redefine words to suit your point.

"Maths is not my strong point, but doesn't it depend on your definition of half?" No. Obviously the average can be a number that is coincidentally more than half, but so can the number 4. But neither the term 'average' nor the number 4 technically mean more than half. [Dessert can be ice-cream, dessert can be cake, but 'dessert' doesn't mean ice-cream or cake.]

I ignored your 'insects make honeycomb' distraction because it's irrelevant. Yes context may add a secondary meaning, (perhaps that annoying things make life special), but the phrase itself is still technically wrong, just as yours was (and yours had no such supportive context). Yes, I understood what you were trying to say, but that doesn't mean it's "technically correct" which is your claim.

The only reason I offered light-hearted alternatives was to show your mistake wasn't out of a necessity to use a more casual register. I'm sure you could have chosen many other alternatives that suit you better, equally jovial, but that don't misuse a term. Unfortunately, you didn't.

I love to learn. Sometimes the first step is often acknowledging a mistake and that is something I think you find challenging. This seemed a very simple thing to accept - an uncontroversial and relatively insignificant error. I am sure it was just a gap in your understanding, but I now realise that you would rather eat your fedora than ever admit to it. Honestly, it doesn't much matter - I was being pedantic, and you wouldn't be the only person to misunderstand averages. You have attitudes, beliefs and biases that are far more problematic for me, but this does throw up some interesting questions about your amenability on more oblique discussions.

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Original comment

I said "The context has nothing to do with it here " because the context doesn't explain your (mis)use of the term 'average'. An example of a context that might have explained your mistake would be a comment like "Researchers showed than in this particular population, intelligence follows a precise normal distribution, so in this case... you only have to be above average to be smarter than half the people." But that isn't the context.

The context is 'Harris is smarter than half the population' - a valid statement and maybe (unverifiably) sound. Your reply was 'You only have to be above average to be smarter than half...' - not valid, simply because of the terms you chose. "In this context "above average" means "not stupid"" - no, no it doesn't. That was what you meant, but that's not what the word means. This is the sort of problem you get into when you retrospectively redefine words to suit your point.

"Maths is not my strong point, but doesn't it depend on your definition of half?" No. Obviously the average can be a number that is coincidentally more than half, but so can the number 4. But neither the term 'average' nor the number 4 technically mean more than half. [Dessert can be ice-cream, dessert can be cake, but 'dessert' doesn't mean ice-cream or cake.]

I ignored your 'insects make honeycomb' distraction because it's irrelevant. Yes context may add a secondary meaning, (perhaps that annoying things make life special), but the phrase itself is still technically wrong, just as yours was (and yours had no such supportive context). Yes, I understood what you were trying to say, but that doesn't mean it's "technically correct" which is your claim.

The only reason I offered light-hearted alternatives was to show your mistake wasn't out of a necessity to use a more casual register. I'm sure you could have chosen many other alternatives that suit you better, equally jovial, but that don't misuse a term. Unfortunately, you didn't.

I love to learn. Sometimes the first step is often acknowledging a mistake and that is something I think you find challenging. This seemed a very simple thing to accept - an uncontroversial and relatively insignificant error. I am sure it was just a gap in your understanding, but I now realise that you would rather eat your fedora than ever admit to it. Honestly, it doesn't much matter - I was being pedantic, and you wouldn't be the only person to misunderstand averages. You have attitudes, beliefs and biases that are far more problematic for me, but this does throw up some interesting questions about your amenability on more oblique discussions.

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WalterEgo WalterEgo (1326 days ago)

"Harris is smarter than half the population" is not the context. It is a bunch of words that without context mean very little. Is Harris a clever hamster who escaped his cage undetected? Probably not, but without the context you're just guessing.

The context is the setting that gives you the clues to figure out the meaning. In this case, the context is a reply to a comment by Get Real on a post about Sam Harris on an informal blog on the internet. GR begins his comment with "Holy Cow..." which is a clue to the register. Dropping Mr Harris' surname is also a relevant clue. When you take context into account, you'll see that my use of "average" is according to my laptop dictionary's fourth definition of "average" as an adjective: mediocre; not very good: a very average director making very average movies. Or "you don't have to be particularly smart (you can be mediocre) to be smarter than half (most) people."

"In this context "above average" means "not stupid"" - no, no it doesn't. That was what you meant, but that's not what the word means. This is the sort of problem you get into when you retrospectively redefine words to suit your point." You're mixing up context and content. Context is the setting, content is the words. Combine the two and you get the meaning. How am I retrospectively redefining words when you said that "not stupid" was what I meant in the first place? The problem is that YOU are choosing to ignore the context to suit your point. Btw, it's not the first time you've done that, and it's unforgivable for someone who analyses historical text for a living.

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Original comment

"Harris is smarter than half the population" is not the context. It is a bunch of words that without context mean very little. Is Harris a clever hamster who escaped his cage undetected? Probably not, but without the context you're just guessing.

The context is the setting that gives you the clues to figure out the meaning. In this case, the context is a reply to a comment by Get Real on a post about Sam Harris on an informal blog on the internet. GR begins his comment with "Holy Cow..." which is a clue to the register. Dropping Mr Harris' surname is also a relevant clue. When you take context into account, you'll see that my use of "average" is according to my laptop dictionary's fourth definition of "average" as an adjective: mediocre; not very good: a very average director making very average movies. Or "you don't have to be particularly smart (you can be mediocre) to be smarter than half (most) people."

"In this context "above average" means "not stupid"" - no, no it doesn't. That was what you meant, but that's not what the word means. This is the sort of problem you get into when you retrospectively redefine words to suit your point." You're mixing up context and content. Context is the setting, content is the words. Combine the two and you get the meaning. How am I retrospectively redefining words when you said that "not stupid" was what I meant in the first place? The problem is that YOU are choosing to ignore the context to suit your point. Btw, it's not the first time you've done that, and it's unforgivable for someone who analyses historical text for a living.

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Guest: (1325 days ago)

"Analyses historical text for a living"? A bit of a leap even by your standards. This is a childish habit of yours, to make allusions to what you think I do. It's kind of you to offer your rating of my textual analysis skills, but currently my ability to fulfil my position has been appraised by people with just a few more credentials than your good self, (including someone who I know you admire). Anyway, forget who you think I am and what you think I do.

In a conversational thread, the context of any comment is dictated largely by the comment to which it replies, so although there is a wider context (including the video itself), you are responding to a written comment and thus the TEXT leads to the CONtext.

Here the context suggests your use of 'average' was not "technically correct". You can often tell how a word is being used by looking at the words immediately around it - yes, that "bunch of words". For example, your use of the particular preposition 'above' signalled that you were probably referring to a linear scale. 'Average' (to mean a typical value) represents a point on a scale, whereas 'average' as a loose adjective (to mean mediocre) does not fit so well. That's why 'above / below average' are common terms, and 'above / below mediocre' aren't. So actually, I'm not ignoring the context at all - I just don't think it excuses your little mistake, and you've always hated it when people read the same evidence differently to you.

I understand what you say you meant, and if you had said "You don't have to be particularly smart to be smarter than most people" then we wouldn't have this problem. But we're not disputing what you meant to say; we're disputing what you actually said. You just used the wrong words because you shared the simple misconception that average is a halfway point.

I know now you won't admit it so there's only so far this conversation can get, but at least two people here clocked the mistake - this site does pedantry pretty well after-all. It shouldn't matter to you this much. Your pride is holding you back, and it explains quite a few of your entrenched views. It’s that religious mind-set of yours. You just go into overdrive defending whatever you believed, trying to get a ‘win’ for your team. I actually don't think it's possible to show you that you might be wrong. If we have this palaver over you misunderstanding the term 'average', why on earth did I bother with Bayesian probability, scientific replication, or Quaranic exegesis?

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Original comment

"Analyses historical text for a living"? A bit of a leap even by your standards. This is a childish habit of yours, to make allusions to what you think I do. It's kind of you to offer your rating of my textual analysis skills, but currently my ability to fulfil my position has been appraised by people with just a few more credentials than your good self, (including someone who I know you admire). Anyway, forget who you think I am and what you think I do.

In a conversational thread, the context of any comment is dictated largely by the comment to which it replies, so although there is a wider context (including the video itself), you are responding to a written comment and thus the TEXT leads to the CONtext.

Here the context suggests your use of 'average' was not "technically correct". You can often tell how a word is being used by looking at the words immediately around it - yes, that "bunch of words". For example, your use of the particular preposition 'above' signalled that you were probably referring to a linear scale. 'Average' (to mean a typical value) represents a point on a scale, whereas 'average' as a loose adjective (to mean mediocre) does not fit so well. That's why 'above / below average' are common terms, and 'above / below mediocre' aren't. So actually, I'm not ignoring the context at all - I just don't think it excuses your little mistake, and you've always hated it when people read the same evidence differently to you.

I understand what you say you meant, and if you had said "You don't have to be particularly smart to be smarter than most people" then we wouldn't have this problem. But we're not disputing what you meant to say; we're disputing what you actually said. You just used the wrong words because you shared the simple misconception that average is a halfway point.

I know now you won't admit it so there's only so far this conversation can get, but at least two people here clocked the mistake - this site does pedantry pretty well after-all. It shouldn't matter to you this much. Your pride is holding you back, and it explains quite a few of your entrenched views. It’s that religious mind-set of yours. You just go into overdrive defending whatever you believed, trying to get a ‘win’ for your team. I actually don't think it's possible to show you that you might be wrong. If we have this palaver over you misunderstanding the term 'average', why on earth did I bother with Bayesian probability, scientific replication, or Quaranic exegesis?

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WalterEgo WalterEgo (1319 days ago)

You told me you analyse historical text for a living. I didn't make it up. I remember thinking it was fortunate that it was historical text you analysed, because the authors are dead and so could not challenge you.

You know how important context is. There's nothing I told you about context that you didn't already know. You're a smart guy, probably better informed than me on most of the topics we talk about.

But I wish you were more honest. Just look your weasling around the question of context in this thread. First you said: " The context has nothing to do with it here". Obviously it has, and you know that because you go on to talk about context further on. The weasling has begun. You wrote: " The context is 'Harris is smarter than half the population' " , which is just wrong. That is content, not context. And you know you're bullshitting because you don't even try to defend yourself. The weasling continues: " In a conversational thread, the context of any comment is dictated largely by the comment to which it replies, so although there is a wider context (including the video itself), you are responding to a written comment and thus the TEXT leads to the CONtext. " Text leads to context? What does that mean? Why have you ignored the wider context? Are you now being selective within the context? Are you confused or just weasling? I was so clear about what context meant, now we're both confused. Thanks a lot buddy!

"Here the context suggests your use of 'average' was not "technically correct"' No. The context suggests that my use of 'average' was not technical.

Let me spell it out. Get Real's comment was not technical. So it is reasonable to assume the 'average' in my reply was also not technical, aligning with the dictionary's definition of average as an adjective (mediocre) rather than as a noun (median). And there was no confusion - you wrote: "I understand what you say you meant, and if you had said "You don't have to be particularly smart..."

So it was not a misuse of the word 'average' - it was legitimate and I think, quite clever. "You only have to be above average..." is more positive and motivating than "You don't have to be particularly smart..." which is negative and demotivating. And there's the hint of pseudo maths that gives the phrase more weight than it deserves. Quite clever don't you think?

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Original comment

You told me you analyse historical text for a living. I didn't make it up. I remember thinking it was fortunate that it was historical text you analysed, because the authors are dead and so could not challenge you.

You know how important context is. There's nothing I told you about context that you didn't already know. You're a smart guy, probably better informed than me on most of the topics we talk about.

But I wish you were more honest. Just look your weasling around the question of context in this thread. First you said: " The context has nothing to do with it here". Obviously it has, and you know that because you go on to talk about context further on. The weasling has begun. You wrote: " The context is 'Harris is smarter than half the population' " , which is just wrong. That is content, not context. And you know you're bullshitting because you don't even try to defend yourself. The weasling continues: " In a conversational thread, the context of any comment is dictated largely by the comment to which it replies, so although there is a wider context (including the video itself), you are responding to a written comment and thus the TEXT leads to the CONtext. " Text leads to context? What does that mean? Why have you ignored the wider context? Are you now being selective within the context? Are you confused or just weasling? I was so clear about what context meant, now we're both confused. Thanks a lot buddy!

"Here the context suggests your use of 'average' was not "technically correct"' No. The context suggests that my use of 'average' was not technical.

Let me spell it out. Get Real's comment was not technical. So it is reasonable to assume the 'average' in my reply was also not technical, aligning with the dictionary's definition of average as an adjective (mediocre) rather than as a noun (median). And there was no confusion - you wrote: "I understand what you say you meant, and if you had said "You don't have to be particularly smart..."

So it was not a misuse of the word 'average' - it was legitimate and I think, quite clever. "You only have to be above average..." is more positive and motivating than "You don't have to be particularly smart..." which is negative and demotivating. And there's the hint of pseudo maths that gives the phrase more weight than it deserves. Quite clever don't you think?

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Guest: (1318 days ago)

No, I said that part of what I am paid for is writing and textual analysis. You interpreted that as 'You analyse historical text for a living' - hence I'm not overly concerned by your appraisal. And although tempting, I don't feel an urge to go into my career more than that, having seen you're the type to use such background information to score points instead of rationally taking debates at face value. As I said, forget who you think I am or what you think I do.

No, the context here is not important, in that it doesn't help your case. The reason I referred to it is because you are using it as the prime explanation of why your statement was technically correct. I pointed out that even if you did plunder the context for justification, you find the opposite is more likely.

Text leads to context. It's simple enough; this is a conversational thread. Without the text, you would have no idea of the context, because there's nothing for the context to apply to. Therefore, the key context of your comment is the comment to which it replies: 'Harris is smarter than half the population'. I did explain that. I also accepted there is a wider context in play too - but both are worth ignoring, because neither backs up your claim, and neither add a new connotation that wasn't already there. The context here is not important.

You're right, there was no confusion. I understood your mistake, what you actually meant, and all was well. When someone says "I am loathed to pay more", I understand they mean "I am loath to pay more", but it doesn't mean their statement is technically correct. They might then fabricate an entirely separate meaning, about how their spouse hates them when they pay more, but still... the intended meaning and the unintended error are as obvious as each other.

Now let me spell it out. 1) You made a mistake. 2) We noticed you made a mistake. 3) The mistake doesn't matter. How do we know? The preceding comment was talking about proportions which are essentially mathematical - half the population. You then used a term that is almost exclusively used mathematically - average. You surrounded it with words that suggested you were using it as part of scale, which also suggests mathematical. To remove any doubt, you also talked about ways of ' measuring the average ' to justify your usage (again mathematical), and said " Mean, median, mode and midpoint are all averages " (also maths). Added to all this is the fact that misusing the term average is a common mathematical mistake.

So taking that all into account... do I think that you were using a mathematical term, and just misused it? You know the answer. You've tried very hard to hide it. Good effort. But I think it's done and dusted now.

Funnily enough, this entire thread is an elaborate, exhaustive, and rather sad exhibition of you trying to weasel out of a very simple mistake. Had you less ego, you might have simply said 'Oops, yes that's an easy mistake to make' - end of. Instead, you've tried everything: First, you claimed it was valid because mathematically, average can mean median too. Then you claimed poetic license. Then you claimed that actually you weren't being mathematical at all, and that you just meant mediocre, (because you found a new definition that you could plunder). And now it was all deliberate because you wanted to be positive and motivating (something you're known for, perhaps).

And it's me who is weaselling and dishonest? Not your finest hour, WalterEgo.

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Original comment

No, I said that part of what I am paid for is writing and textual analysis. You interpreted that as 'You analyse historical text for a living' - hence I'm not overly concerned by your appraisal. And although tempting, I don't feel an urge to go into my career more than that, having seen you're the type to use such background information to score points instead of rationally taking debates at face value. As I said, forget who you think I am or what you think I do.

No, the context here is not important, in that it doesn't help your case. The reason I referred to it is because you are using it as the prime explanation of why your statement was technically correct. I pointed out that even if you did plunder the context for justification, you find the opposite is more likely.

Text leads to context. It's simple enough; this is a conversational thread. Without the text, you would have no idea of the context, because there's nothing for the context to apply to. Therefore, the key context of your comment is the comment to which it replies: 'Harris is smarter than half the population'. I did explain that. I also accepted there is a wider context in play too - but both are worth ignoring, because neither backs up your claim, and neither add a new connotation that wasn't already there. The context here is not important.

You're right, there was no confusion. I understood your mistake, what you actually meant, and all was well. When someone says "I am loathed to pay more", I understand they mean "I am loath to pay more", but it doesn't mean their statement is technically correct. They might then fabricate an entirely separate meaning, about how their spouse hates them when they pay more, but still... the intended meaning and the unintended error are as obvious as each other.

Now let me spell it out. 1) You made a mistake. 2) We noticed you made a mistake. 3) The mistake doesn't matter. How do we know? The preceding comment was talking about proportions which are essentially mathematical - half the population. You then used a term that is almost exclusively used mathematically - average. You surrounded it with words that suggested you were using it as part of scale, which also suggests mathematical. To remove any doubt, you also talked about ways of ' measuring the average ' to justify your usage (again mathematical), and said " Mean, median, mode and midpoint are all averages " (also maths). Added to all this is the fact that misusing the term average is a common mathematical mistake.

So taking that all into account... do I think that you were using a mathematical term, and just misused it? You know the answer. You've tried very hard to hide it. Good effort. But I think it's done and dusted now.

Funnily enough, this entire thread is an elaborate, exhaustive, and rather sad exhibition of you trying to weasel out of a very simple mistake. Had you less ego, you might have simply said 'Oops, yes that's an easy mistake to make' - end of. Instead, you've tried everything: First, you claimed it was valid because mathematically, average can mean median too. Then you claimed poetic license. Then you claimed that actually you weren't being mathematical at all, and that you just meant mediocre, (because you found a new definition that you could plunder). And now it was all deliberate because you wanted to be positive and motivating (something you're known for, perhaps).

And it's me who is weaselling and dishonest? Not your finest hour, WalterEgo.

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WalterEgo WalterEgo (1312 days ago)

I checked my reference to "historical text". The only match I could find was me writing: "I bet you analyse historical texts, so there are no authors alive who can verify the accuracy of your analysis." In context it was a jibe at your sloppiness. You did not mention "historical text". I misremembered the context, so I apologise for that.

"As I said, forget who you think I am or what you think I do." Why? That would be ignoring context. My response changes when I realise I'm talking to you. We all respond differently to different people. I wish you'd use a name.

"No, the context here is not important, in that it doesn't help your case." Context is ALWAYS important. Here it doesn't help YOUR case. The context is not "Harris is smarter than half the population" . It's "Holy Cow....Sam is smarter than half the people on America. That's amazing." Why did you change the wording from something light-hearted to something more formal and matter of fact. Was it to help your case?

You said you love to learn. Then learn this: Don't change context to help your case. That's being dishonest. Context is the setting, or the stage on which something is happening. The wider context is the setting of that stage, and the wider context is within an even wider context ... and so on. In this case, we don't question the wider context because we both accept it. If BoreMe only posted peer-reviewed studies, then it would be reasonable for you to claim that I was thinking mathematically. But we both accept that BoreMe doesn't post peer-reviewed studies. So for you to claim that I was thinking mathematically, you had to twist GR's comment. Let's face it, "Holy Cow..." and maths are not usually found in the same sentence. "...half the people on America." lacks the relative precision of "half the population." 'Harris' instead of Sam makes it more formal. Ignoring "That's amazing" removes the hint of sarcasm. I just realised, you expertly twisted every part of GR's comment to change the tone of the context to support your point. That's bad practice.

I think twisting, ignoring or misunderstanding context is at the root of most disagreements. This is because context "dictates" the meaning of what's within. When you're dreaming, everything feels real because you are within the dream. The stage (dream) dictates your reality in the dream. When you wake up, you understand that the dream is actually within another stage, our everyday reality. So that dictates the meaning of everything within the dream.

For somebody who believes in god, their faith is their widest context. God dictates the meaning of everything in their lives. I see a wider context, that god /religion/faith is within the context of human biology (belief in the supernatural is/was a successful survival strategy), which is within evolution, which is within the laws of nature, which is within ... maybe AI will find out and explain to us in a form that we can understand. That is cat and stockmarket territory.

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Original comment

I checked my reference to "historical text". The only match I could find was me writing: "I bet you analyse historical texts, so there are no authors alive who can verify the accuracy of your analysis." In context it was a jibe at your sloppiness. You did not mention "historical text". I misremembered the context, so I apologise for that.

"As I said, forget who you think I am or what you think I do." Why? That would be ignoring context. My response changes when I realise I'm talking to you. We all respond differently to different people. I wish you'd use a name.

"No, the context here is not important, in that it doesn't help your case." Context is ALWAYS important. Here it doesn't help YOUR case. The context is not "Harris is smarter than half the population" . It's "Holy Cow....Sam is smarter than half the people on America. That's amazing." Why did you change the wording from something light-hearted to something more formal and matter of fact. Was it to help your case?

You said you love to learn. Then learn this: Don't change context to help your case. That's being dishonest. Context is the setting, or the stage on which something is happening. The wider context is the setting of that stage, and the wider context is within an even wider context ... and so on. In this case, we don't question the wider context because we both accept it. If BoreMe only posted peer-reviewed studies, then it would be reasonable for you to claim that I was thinking mathematically. But we both accept that BoreMe doesn't post peer-reviewed studies. So for you to claim that I was thinking mathematically, you had to twist GR's comment. Let's face it, "Holy Cow..." and maths are not usually found in the same sentence. "...half the people on America." lacks the relative precision of "half the population." 'Harris' instead of Sam makes it more formal. Ignoring "That's amazing" removes the hint of sarcasm. I just realised, you expertly twisted every part of GR's comment to change the tone of the context to support your point. That's bad practice.

I think twisting, ignoring or misunderstanding context is at the root of most disagreements. This is because context "dictates" the meaning of what's within. When you're dreaming, everything feels real because you are within the dream. The stage (dream) dictates your reality in the dream. When you wake up, you understand that the dream is actually within another stage, our everyday reality. So that dictates the meaning of everything within the dream.

For somebody who believes in god, their faith is their widest context. God dictates the meaning of everything in their lives. I see a wider context, that god /religion/faith is within the context of human biology (belief in the supernatural is/was a successful survival strategy), which is within evolution, which is within the laws of nature, which is within ... maybe AI will find out and explain to us in a form that we can understand. That is cat and stockmarket territory.

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Guest: (1311 days ago)

"Context is ALWAYS important. Here it doesn't help YOUR case."
Clearly, I still disagree. When you DO take the context into account here (unnecessary because it doesn't add any new meaning to it), then it undermines your argument because of all those contextual clues that you're choosing to ignore. You used a preposition (which I quoted, not twisted) that indicates you were using average as a point on a scale, and you talked about " measuring the average " (which I quoted, not twisted), etc. etc. etc. I referred to literally the exact context around your word. But that's still not important, because the default meaning was already mathematical.

I repeat, the distinction in use of ‘average’ is not one of register – it isn’t the case that one usage is formal and academic, and the other casual and jocular. You could say "The chancellor's taste in fashion was decidedly average', which is formal yet the 'average' means mediocre. You could say "Holy cow, I hardly wanna earn less than than average!", which is light-hearted and sarcastic yet 'average' is obviously mathematical. So any unusual usage of 'average' is inferred not from register, but from the words around it. It is either a point on a scale (mathematical) or a general descriptor. Sorry, but you gave too many clues about which usage you were going for. As for your suggestion that it's unlikely we would be thinking mathematically unless BoreMe posts peer-reviewed studies... please!

"The context is not 'Harris is smarter...' It's 'Holy Cow...' Why did you change the wording... ?"
I'm glad you have accepted that the preceding comment was the context. I summarised the comment because it's verbose - it's called paraphrasing. Making it very slightly more formal (scarcely the case), would only help my argument if I believed that 'formal' is in some way connected to 'mathematical', or that register was important to the meaning of 'average'. As I've just explained, it isn't. But I did halve the number of words (which frankly is a miracle for me).

Your original comments were all explicitly defending a mathematical use, saying that technically it is viable. When you saw that wouldn't wash, you changed tack completely to argue that it wasn't mathematical at all. Now that is dishonest.

'Context' appears to be your new go-to excuse, your new meme, your flavour of the month. Misused a word? Reinterpret the context retrospectively to find an alternate meaning. Frustrated with an argument? Try to score points against the arguer rather than the argument itself. For me, it’s important to focus on the rationality of an argument - the logic - whether the premises entail the conclusion, and whether the premises themselves are sound. What I write must stand on its own merit or lack thereof - my profession is never used as a premise in my argument, so again, as a context it is irrelevant. Appeals to authority or ad hominem attacks aren't helpful. This is all the more important when, as you've shown, people are liable to make up context or background in order to try and score points. As another of your ironic memes once said, "Judge less, understand more."

Hey, I understand what you want me to believe, but I think you understand why I believe something else. I don't think there’s anything either of us can add to this. I have no right to feel disappointed in you, and yet...

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Original comment

"Context is ALWAYS important. Here it doesn't help YOUR case."
Clearly, I still disagree. When you DO take the context into account here (unnecessary because it doesn't add any new meaning to it), then it undermines your argument because of all those contextual clues that you're choosing to ignore. You used a preposition (which I quoted, not twisted) that indicates you were using average as a point on a scale, and you talked about " measuring the average " (which I quoted, not twisted), etc. etc. etc. I referred to literally the exact context around your word. But that's still not important, because the default meaning was already mathematical.

I repeat, the distinction in use of ‘average’ is not one of register – it isn’t the case that one usage is formal and academic, and the other casual and jocular. You could say "The chancellor's taste in fashion was decidedly average', which is formal yet the 'average' means mediocre. You could say "Holy cow, I hardly wanna earn less than than average!", which is light-hearted and sarcastic yet 'average' is obviously mathematical. So any unusual usage of 'average' is inferred not from register, but from the words around it. It is either a point on a scale (mathematical) or a general descriptor. Sorry, but you gave too many clues about which usage you were going for. As for your suggestion that it's unlikely we would be thinking mathematically unless BoreMe posts peer-reviewed studies... please!

"The context is not 'Harris is smarter...' It's 'Holy Cow...' Why did you change the wording... ?"
I'm glad you have accepted that the preceding comment was the context. I summarised the comment because it's verbose - it's called paraphrasing. Making it very slightly more formal (scarcely the case), would only help my argument if I believed that 'formal' is in some way connected to 'mathematical', or that register was important to the meaning of 'average'. As I've just explained, it isn't. But I did halve the number of words (which frankly is a miracle for me).

Your original comments were all explicitly defending a mathematical use, saying that technically it is viable. When you saw that wouldn't wash, you changed tack completely to argue that it wasn't mathematical at all. Now that is dishonest.

'Context' appears to be your new go-to excuse, your new meme, your flavour of the month. Misused a word? Reinterpret the context retrospectively to find an alternate meaning. Frustrated with an argument? Try to score points against the arguer rather than the argument itself. For me, it’s important to focus on the rationality of an argument - the logic - whether the premises entail the conclusion, and whether the premises themselves are sound. What I write must stand on its own merit or lack thereof - my profession is never used as a premise in my argument, so again, as a context it is irrelevant. Appeals to authority or ad hominem attacks aren't helpful. This is all the more important when, as you've shown, people are liable to make up context or background in order to try and score points. As another of your ironic memes once said, "Judge less, understand more."

Hey, I understand what you want me to believe, but I think you understand why I believe something else. I don't think there’s anything either of us can add to this. I have no right to feel disappointed in you, and yet...

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WalterEgo WalterEgo (1305 days ago)

"Context' appears to be your new go-to excuse, your new meme..." Actually, it was more of an epiphany. I came to see how important context is to a disagreement. Context doesn't really "add" meaning, it IS the meaning. There is always a context, nothing exists in isolation. Most of the time, the context is taken for granted and not questioned. You don't question why someone is being silly on stage if you are in a comedy club.

When there's a disagreement, the natural process is to argue over the finer details - so with the question of whether I intended "average" casually (mediocre) or mathematically (median), we are arguing over the use of a preposition, or how common "average" is in the vernacular, or whether it is technically a mistake to use average to specifically mean median when I didn't -  I used it as an adjective. Discussions like this go nowhere, and eventually end up with Hitler or sillymantics.

A better way to reach a conclusion is to widen the context until it makes no difference. So in this case, I meant "mediocre" because I wrote "To describe someone as average, is usually a negative term" BEFORE looking it up in the dictionary and switching to "mediocre". That is widening the context to include time. 

References to median, mean, mode and midpoint are all responses to your claims that I was thinking mathematically, and nothing to do with my intended usage of "average". You can know that by widening the context to include your input. 

If you want to debunk my points, then widen the context some more. And if by widening the context, nothing new comes to light - then we've reached the point of "truth". We should try this technique the next time we clash - just keep widening the context until nothing more changes. Then see where we're at.

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"Context' appears to be your new go-to excuse, your new meme..." Actually, it was more of an epiphany. I came to see how important context is to a disagreement. Context doesn't really "add" meaning, it IS the meaning. There is always a context, nothing exists in isolation. Most of the time, the context is taken for granted and not questioned. You don't question why someone is being silly on stage if you are in a comedy club.

When there's a disagreement, the natural process is to argue over the finer details - so with the question of whether I intended "average" casually (mediocre) or mathematically (median), we are arguing over the use of a preposition, or how common "average" is in the vernacular, or whether it is technically a mistake to use average to specifically mean median when I didn't -  I used it as an adjective. Discussions like this go nowhere, and eventually end up with Hitler or sillymantics.

A better way to reach a conclusion is to widen the context until it makes no difference. So in this case, I meant "mediocre" because I wrote "To describe someone as average, is usually a negative term" BEFORE looking it up in the dictionary and switching to "mediocre". That is widening the context to include time. 

References to median, mean, mode and midpoint are all responses to your claims that I was thinking mathematically, and nothing to do with my intended usage of "average". You can know that by widening the context to include your input. 

If you want to debunk my points, then widen the context some more. And if by widening the context, nothing new comes to light - then we've reached the point of "truth". We should try this technique the next time we clash - just keep widening the context until nothing more changes. Then see where we're at.

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Guest: (1302 days ago)

Still going? I'd like to claim credit, but I think you debunked your own points before I even commented:

"Median is a different way of measuring the average" is indisputably a mathematical justification of a mathematical word. If your intended meaning really had nothing to do with maths, you wouldn't have wasted time engaging in further mathematical talk. It took you a whole day to conjure up your new excuse, by which time you had already shown your cards.

Maybe I widen the context a bit more and note that on other threads, you have made mistakes regarding mathematical concepts such as probability, and in general also seem to retreat to weaker claims. Seems similar. Or zoom out further and note that generally on this site, the spontaneity of conversation means that minor mistakes in terminology are unavoidable, while the adversarial tone discourages commenters from admitting such errors. Or how about I widen the context so far that I note in the UK, averages weren't a requisite part of the core curriculum until the National Curriculum started in the late 80s?  So, you, making a mathematical mistake and denying it, on this site, in this country, seems overwhelmingly likely now; almost inevitable. Have I zoomed out far enough yet? Maybe too far?  Shall I zoom a different way?  Tell me when I've reached your "point of truth."

Now I see just how hard it can be to get you to surrender ground on insignificant and incontrovertible points, I suspect we will clash less; it is an exercise in futility. It's not just your beliefs that seem to be entrenched, but an entire attitude towards debate and discourse. Your comments are not curious invitations to discuss a subject, but rather the waving of a flag. Fair enough.  I get it.

If we're recommending techniques to one another, I have one for you - instead of laboriously trying to reinterpret context, zooming in or out, reframing, or tweaking words until your original position seems to make sense, try to tweak your original position before you commit and communicate. After-all, if it takes such manoeuvring to rationalise a thought, perhaps that thought wasn't adequately formed in the first place.

ReplyVote up (101)down (88)
Original comment

Still going? I'd like to claim credit, but I think you debunked your own points before I even commented:

"Median is a different way of measuring the average" is indisputably a mathematical justification of a mathematical word. If your intended meaning really had nothing to do with maths, you wouldn't have wasted time engaging in further mathematical talk. It took you a whole day to conjure up your new excuse, by which time you had already shown your cards.

Maybe I widen the context a bit more and note that on other threads, you have made mistakes regarding mathematical concepts such as probability, and in general also seem to retreat to weaker claims. Seems similar. Or zoom out further and note that generally on this site, the spontaneity of conversation means that minor mistakes in terminology are unavoidable, while the adversarial tone discourages commenters from admitting such errors. Or how about I widen the context so far that I note in the UK, averages weren't a requisite part of the core curriculum until the National Curriculum started in the late 80s?  So, you, making a mathematical mistake and denying it, on this site, in this country, seems overwhelmingly likely now; almost inevitable. Have I zoomed out far enough yet? Maybe too far?  Shall I zoom a different way?  Tell me when I've reached your "point of truth."

Now I see just how hard it can be to get you to surrender ground on insignificant and incontrovertible points, I suspect we will clash less; it is an exercise in futility. It's not just your beliefs that seem to be entrenched, but an entire attitude towards debate and discourse. Your comments are not curious invitations to discuss a subject, but rather the waving of a flag. Fair enough.  I get it.

If we're recommending techniques to one another, I have one for you - instead of laboriously trying to reinterpret context, zooming in or out, reframing, or tweaking words until your original position seems to make sense, try to tweak your original position before you commit and communicate. After-all, if it takes such manoeuvring to rationalise a thought, perhaps that thought wasn't adequately formed in the first place.

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WalterEgo WalterEgo (1301 days ago)

I'm not sure you've quite got the hang of this context thing. Imagine we have a few pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. They appear to fit together, but we are arguing over what they represent. Widening the context means finding the jigsaw pieces around the ones we already have. So when we add those, the meaning of the original pieces becomes more clear. Just choosing random contexts willy-nilly like you're doing, is like looking at pieces from a far away part of the jigsaw - it doesn't help much.

When people disagree on something, they tend to argue over the details. So in the example of the jigsaw, rather than finding more pieces, we'd be getting a magnifying glass out to study the pieces we already have. And if we still can't agree, then we get a bigger magnifying glass. Sometimes the magnifying glass helps, but often it's better to look for more pieces.

So let's look at this real world example where you claim that I have debunked my own points. ' "Median is a different way of measuring the average" is indisputably a mathematical justification of a mathematical word.' Look at the context and you'll see that I was replying to:  "Mean (average) is different than median (the person in the middle)." It was an appropriate reply which says little about my actual intentions on my previous comment. And just to clarify that, I immediately followed with: "Anyway, I claim fair use under poetic licence."  Somehow you missed that bit. I'm curious, did you knowingly ignore the context, or was it subconscious?

"If your intended meaning really had nothing to do with maths, you wouldn't have wasted time engaging in further mathematical talk." Now you're trying to read my personality. You're stumbling before you can crawl. Maybe give the psychology a rest, you're no Derren Brown.

ReplyVote up (101)down (92)
Original comment

I'm not sure you've quite got the hang of this context thing. Imagine we have a few pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. They appear to fit together, but we are arguing over what they represent. Widening the context means finding the jigsaw pieces around the ones we already have. So when we add those, the meaning of the original pieces becomes more clear. Just choosing random contexts willy-nilly like you're doing, is like looking at pieces from a far away part of the jigsaw - it doesn't help much.

When people disagree on something, they tend to argue over the details. So in the example of the jigsaw, rather than finding more pieces, we'd be getting a magnifying glass out to study the pieces we already have. And if we still can't agree, then we get a bigger magnifying glass. Sometimes the magnifying glass helps, but often it's better to look for more pieces.

So let's look at this real world example where you claim that I have debunked my own points. ' "Median is a different way of measuring the average" is indisputably a mathematical justification of a mathematical word.' Look at the context and you'll see that I was replying to:  "Mean (average) is different than median (the person in the middle)." It was an appropriate reply which says little about my actual intentions on my previous comment. And just to clarify that, I immediately followed with: "Anyway, I claim fair use under poetic licence."  Somehow you missed that bit. I'm curious, did you knowingly ignore the context, or was it subconscious?

"If your intended meaning really had nothing to do with maths, you wouldn't have wasted time engaging in further mathematical talk." Now you're trying to read my personality. You're stumbling before you can crawl. Maybe give the psychology a rest, you're no Derren Brown.

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Guest: (1300 days ago)

The issue isn't that I'm ignoring context, but that I have interpreted the same context as you (and more) and reached a conclusion that you don't like.  Unnecessary though it was, I found immediate clues which confirmed my original interpretation, and broader clues too, but weirdly you don't like those bits of context.  So much for context being king.  I seem to keep finding new jigsaw pieces that confirm the original picture; meanwhile, you're trying to trim pieces with a pair of scissors, or pushing them down the back of the sofa.

I see the comment that your maths claim was replying to, and yes it's important, because it was also a maths claim.  You were both discussing maths.  Even later, you said "Mean, median, mode and midpoint are all averages", and "I did not use a basic mathematical term incorrectly. Median is a type of average."  Again, arguing about maths.  Obviously.  Isn't it strange you should spend so long justifying a mathematical use of the word, when supposedly you weren't using it in that way?

If you're still not sure what I'm getting at, let me give you a different hypothetical exchange to try and sidestep that emotional bias.  I appreciate this removes context, but look on it as a thought experiment to see how a comment alone can miraculously reveal the intention:

A - "I saw the table in the lounge."
B - "You shouldn't saw in the lounge, it will get sawdust everywhere."
A - "I can hoover up the sawdust."

You can see that A was 'just replying' to a B's comment about DIY, yet the reply itself suggests that A was talking about DIY too.  If he wasn't, his response makes little sense even if it were true - why would he follow B down that DIY rabbit hole?  The appropriate response would have been "I meant saw as in see, I'm not talking about DIY."  We don't need to be Derren Brown (e.g. guessing people's professions) or know anything about A's personality to make a reasonable inference.  (Saying that, knowing a little of your personality is yet another inconvenient piece of the puzzle which you're hiding down the sofa.)

"Poetic licence".  I didn't miss it - it confirms what we already knew: the fact it comes after your maths claim suggests you felt it was less important; secondly, the term 'poetic license' suggests you knew you were deviating from a technical rule (supporting a rule-based context like maths); thirdly, it suggests even at that point, you were wanting to try a range of justifications rather than a single truthful explanation.  Interesting, but not really news.  Perhaps you can conjure up some new context to put the context into context, so we can reach your "point of truth."  Tedious, isn't it?

Seriously, I've been clear, you've been clear.  I know what you want me to believe, but I can't.  You've been dishonest.  I am just trying to show you how other people can determine your intent without the need for mindgames.  It's beyond any reasonable doubt - as far as I'm concerned, you're arguing with your own comments, and you've only made me more certain by asking me to go back over what was written.  It shouldn't matter, but to you it does.

If you're going to get so defensive about minor mistakes, please be more careful about what you write, or alternatively put pedants like me in their place by accepting minor faults for what they are and shrugging, rather than this exhaustive and increasingly tenuous excuse-making.

ReplyVote up (101)down (91)
Original comment

The issue isn't that I'm ignoring context, but that I have interpreted the same context as you (and more) and reached a conclusion that you don't like.  Unnecessary though it was, I found immediate clues which confirmed my original interpretation, and broader clues too, but weirdly you don't like those bits of context.  So much for context being king.  I seem to keep finding new jigsaw pieces that confirm the original picture; meanwhile, you're trying to trim pieces with a pair of scissors, or pushing them down the back of the sofa.

I see the comment that your maths claim was replying to, and yes it's important, because it was also a maths claim.  You were both discussing maths.  Even later, you said "Mean, median, mode and midpoint are all averages", and "I did not use a basic mathematical term incorrectly. Median is a type of average."  Again, arguing about maths.  Obviously.  Isn't it strange you should spend so long justifying a mathematical use of the word, when supposedly you weren't using it in that way?

If you're still not sure what I'm getting at, let me give you a different hypothetical exchange to try and sidestep that emotional bias.  I appreciate this removes context, but look on it as a thought experiment to see how a comment alone can miraculously reveal the intention:

A - "I saw the table in the lounge."
B - "You shouldn't saw in the lounge, it will get sawdust everywhere."
A - "I can hoover up the sawdust."

You can see that A was 'just replying' to a B's comment about DIY, yet the reply itself suggests that A was talking about DIY too.  If he wasn't, his response makes little sense even if it were true - why would he follow B down that DIY rabbit hole?  The appropriate response would have been "I meant saw as in see, I'm not talking about DIY."  We don't need to be Derren Brown (e.g. guessing people's professions) or know anything about A's personality to make a reasonable inference.  (Saying that, knowing a little of your personality is yet another inconvenient piece of the puzzle which you're hiding down the sofa.)

"Poetic licence".  I didn't miss it - it confirms what we already knew: the fact it comes after your maths claim suggests you felt it was less important; secondly, the term 'poetic license' suggests you knew you were deviating from a technical rule (supporting a rule-based context like maths); thirdly, it suggests even at that point, you were wanting to try a range of justifications rather than a single truthful explanation.  Interesting, but not really news.  Perhaps you can conjure up some new context to put the context into context, so we can reach your "point of truth."  Tedious, isn't it?

Seriously, I've been clear, you've been clear.  I know what you want me to believe, but I can't.  You've been dishonest.  I am just trying to show you how other people can determine your intent without the need for mindgames.  It's beyond any reasonable doubt - as far as I'm concerned, you're arguing with your own comments, and you've only made me more certain by asking me to go back over what was written.  It shouldn't matter, but to you it does.

If you're going to get so defensive about minor mistakes, please be more careful about what you write, or alternatively put pedants like me in their place by accepting minor faults for what they are and shrugging, rather than this exhaustive and increasingly tenuous excuse-making.

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WalterEgo WalterEgo (1291 days ago)
Latest comment:

Context is ALWAYS important. Let's look at your see/saw thought experiment that supposedly shows "how a comment alone can miraculously reveal the intention". You thought you removed the context but you didn't - you just assumed the context was a regular conversation. 'A' could easily have intended "saw" as in "see", 'B' did a play on puns, and 'A' just continued with the joke. I have many friends who play puns like that all the time, and I'm sure you have as well. Without the context, you simply don't know. There was no miraculous revelation of intention in your thought-experiment. You just came to a conclusion because you assumed a context. That's what my epiphany is about. We assume context too much. When there's a disagreement, we rarely take a step out and check the context. We nearly always dive into the details, and that's why most debates go nowhere. We can argue about 'see saws' until the cows come home, but we will never come to a conclusion where we can both agree until we agree on the context - because context dictates the "truth". There's no way round that.

As for my intention when I replied to GR - I don't remeber my exact thought process, but I know it was not mathematical because I simply don't think that way. I could be lying of course. Why don't you assume I'm not, and then read the thread again. It'll all make perfect sense because I'm not lying. That's how reality works. And while you're about it, try not to play the psychologist too much.

ReplyVote up (101)down (96)
Original comment
Latest comment:

Context is ALWAYS important. Let's look at your see/saw thought experiment that supposedly shows "how a comment alone can miraculously reveal the intention". You thought you removed the context but you didn't - you just assumed the context was a regular conversation. 'A' could easily have intended "saw" as in "see", 'B' did a play on puns, and 'A' just continued with the joke. I have many friends who play puns like that all the time, and I'm sure you have as well. Without the context, you simply don't know. There was no miraculous revelation of intention in your thought-experiment. You just came to a conclusion because you assumed a context. That's what my epiphany is about. We assume context too much. When there's a disagreement, we rarely take a step out and check the context. We nearly always dive into the details, and that's why most debates go nowhere. We can argue about 'see saws' until the cows come home, but we will never come to a conclusion where we can both agree until we agree on the context - because context dictates the "truth". There's no way round that.

As for my intention when I replied to GR - I don't remeber my exact thought process, but I know it was not mathematical because I simply don't think that way. I could be lying of course. Why don't you assume I'm not, and then read the thread again. It'll all make perfect sense because I'm not lying. That's how reality works. And while you're about it, try not to play the psychologist too much.

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