Subject: Re: looking for a language with any of the following 4 charachteristics  (all 4 would be nice).
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2002 22:30:32 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Harald Hanche-Olsen <>
| Anyway, one nice thing abouth mathematics is that you don't have to
| *assume* someone is correct.  You can check it yourself.

  This, too, has been blown out of proportion by the former Lisper turned
  village idiot, Erann Gat, so let me try to explain a few things:

  To assume that what someone says is correct does _not_ mean to believe
  it, _not_ agree with it, and _not_ use it without establishing that it is
  in fact correct.  General assumptions make a very bad basis for action,
  although for Erann Gat, something else must be going on since he reacts
  to hostilely to such a simple statement.

  If you read what someone writes and assumes it is correct, that meaans
  that someone offers you possible counterinformation to something you
  believe which may be contradictory or at least different, and you would
  spend the time to _investigate_ the challenge.  To assume that another
  person is correct in what they write or say, is the _obvious_ position
  you would take in learned company, in a professional forum, wherever
  people speak in order to be helpful and to gain credibility, although for
  Erann Gat, this is obviously not the purpose of comp.lang.lisp.

  If you do _not_ read what someone writes and assumes it is correct, that
  means that -- _before_ you have investigated it -- you feel righteous in
  your conclusion that it is a fraudulent use of the forum, and you assume
  that people are posting crap in order to annoy and confuse people.  This
  is indeed the position that Erann Gat holds  about comp.lang.lisp, but he
  is probably unable to introspect sufficiently to see what he is doing.

  If you read what someone writes and assumes they are _incorrect_, that
  means that your obnoxious arrogance has reached religious proportion.
  This is the position that Erann Gat holds about himself, and which he
  shared with every idiot who has ever posted to USENET: people are _not_
  going to teach him something by disagreeing with him, and he fights me,
  in particular, _because_ I am both right and disagreeing with him, and he
  cannot change his mind because that means loss of "honor" to that kind of
  primitive pre-intelligent human.

  Now, what does it _really_ mean to assume that something you read is
  correct?  It means that crap that _is_ posted by the likes of Erann Gat,
  receives far more initial credibility than it deserves.  In effect, the
  abuse of the forum becomes all the greater when crap is posted to a forum
  where people take articles and eachother _seriously_.  It is _because_ we
  need to assume that other people's articles are correct and that they
  post in a benevolent spirit that the criminals among us become so
  villainous.  People who each listen to others and go investigate when
  they disagree have a right to get pissed if they were sent on a wild
  goose chase or were the subject of a "practical joke".  Taking another
  person seriously and listening to them means that you try to figure out
  where they come from, how they arrived at their unexpected conclusion,
  ask them questions when you do not understand, etc.  People who are not
  of the serious kind, such as Erann Gat, completely fail to grasp what is
  going on in a forum where people meet for the benevolent exchange of
  _real_ information -- to get _informed_.

  Let me give you a pretty simple example: If someone posts a question like
  "which are the primitives in Common Lisp" and some jerkface posts a bogus
  list of functions, the requestor, as well as every other member of the
  forum, have a right to assume that it is at least intended to be correct.
  Now, there _is_ no clearly defined set of primitives, no accepted way to
  define what a primitive is, nor has anybody done any serious work in
  trying to make such a definition.  What then, is that list of functions?
  It is an abuse of the forum, perpetrated by a jerkface who has failed to
  understand that people come to that forum to seek help and be informed,
  and who really thinks it is about jerking people around, being hostile to
  the uninitiated, ridiculing the uninformed, etc.  This is what Erann Gat
  wants comp.lang.lisp to be when he rails against the assumption that
  other writers and me in particular post stuff that is correct, and he
  does an admirable job of tricking people into answering his bogus claims
  and his ludicrous assertions.

  Having _respect_ for another person is precisely the assumption that what
  they say is not some unserious load of crap.  I maintain that respect
  must be the initial state towards other people.  You do _not_ assume that
  what someone else whom you do not know says is bogus crap on the face of
  it.  You have no reason to believe they are ridiculous morons, so you do
  not treat them like it, either.  However, there is _no_ better way to
  smoke out the ridiculous moron than to treat him seriously.  Richard
  Feynman had an interesting metric about honest and competence that I took
  to my heart.  He said (paraphrased, because I cannot find the source),
  that if you ask an honest and competent man intelligent questions about
  his field (and I believe this is true for every field of human endeavor)
  in order to really understand it, he will sooner or later run out of

  This means that if you are really knowledgeable and know what you know
  and separate it from what you are less than uncertain about, you will
  know when to stop answering and start questioning yourself.  Keep it up
  for a while, and you will have a lot more answers, but you must still be
  prepared not to know.  But what do you do in a public forum where you
  assume that your readers assumes that what you say is correct and you do
  not know the answer?  YOU DO NOT RESPOND!  This is completely foreign to
  a lot of the idiots out there, who think that because they see that
  someone is certain about the answers they give those who ask, they must
  be about everything else, too.  It is a phenomenal _discourtesy_ to a
  forum to post guesswork and halftruths and outright lies because you
  "have to answer something", and it would be completely intolerable if
  everybody had to answer every question and have to say "I don't know".

  For someone who expects his readers to assume he is right, posting an
  answer one is not certain about without saying precisely that is a
  cardinal sin.  Even answering something where one's knowledge and skills
  are outright missing is potentially dangerous, because of the stupid
  human tendency to associate "honor" with one's public positions (even if
  you do not assume that your readers assume that it is correct), and then
  it is harder to back down from it, or to retreat.  This means that in
  order to _learn_, you soak up everything people say, try to piece it
  together and ask intelligent quesetions, but when the time comes to help
  others out in a like manner, you do not _stop_ assuming that they are
  correct, that they have done their homework, too, that they have not done
  the best they could in the time available before they posted.  Quite the
  contrary, the more you know, the larger the surface of the sphere that
  touches what you do not know, and the more you need to listen carefully
  to others.  However, the more you know, the more you see that others are
  full of crap, that they post mindless shit because they need to feel good
  about posting to a public forum and _look_ like they know what they are
  talking about or because they feel good about themselves if they become
  _visible_ to other people by virtue of the replies they generate.  (I
  could go on a tangent here about the deep psychological need to be "seeN"
  by others, seen in everything from pets who destroy furniture to get the
  owner's attention via children who destroy furniture to get the parents'
  attention, to U.S. Presidents who do really stupid things in order to be
  the center of world attention (at least I hope he had no better excuses).)

  So when I say that you should assume that what I write is correct, only
  someone like Erann Gat would interpret this as an emphasized "I".  It is
  a general position you take in a public forum, not my personal need.  But
  to someone with an inflated and/or seriously bruised ego, of _course_ it
  reads as "Look at me!  I'm certain about everything", and of _course_ he
  rails against that.  However, you seem to have to post a lot of things
  that you _knew_ to be wrong at the time to approach Erann Gat's moral
  standards of "human".  The ability to know when you know and when you
  must learn more, does not seem to fit with his modus operandi, but in
  order for a public forum to work, we _must_ minimize the number of idiots
  who post crap that abuses the _tacit_ and _general_ assumption that what
  people post is in fact correct, at least as they see the world.

  In a fight against something, the fight has value, victory has none.
  In a fight for something, the fight is a loss, victory merely relief.