Subject: Re: lisp shell ala scsh
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Sat, 01 Jun 2002 10:57:06 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Lynn H. Quam
| Apparently Erik is not familiar with scsh.

  Apparently Lynn is not familiar with the simple question, as opposed to
  making statements about other people from a lack of understanding.  So I
  would like to tell you about the simple question, Lynn.  It works like
  this: You arrive at some assumption by guesswork, impression, believing
  what appears to be, or outright confusing what appears to be with what
  is, unless, of course, you just make it up.  Regardless of origin, it is
  your assumption.  It is not yet true for anybody else, nor about anything
  else.  This is very fundamental.  Just because you believe it does not
  make it so.  I hope I shall not have to repeat this more forcefully, but
  it really is _the_ crucial point: Because things do not magically turn
  into whatever we believe, there is sometimes, often, or always (depending
  on the type of assumption) a need to check whether what we believe and
  what is really so are approximately the same.  This is generally called
  the correspondence theory or truth, in case you do not believe me and
  need to look this up.  (If you are too well educated for your own good,
  you will now quibble over how good these approximations really are, or
  perhaps argue against the correspondence theory with some version of the
  coherence theory, but please lay that to rest for now.  The point is
  simply that there is no known causal link between "you believe" and "it
  exists".  I hope this is sufficiently non-controversial that you are not
  derailed by this, and also assume that you are not a magician or mystic
  or alchemist who enjoys making new reality just because you feel like it.
  This is, after all, comp.lang.lisp.)  You see, before you can go ahead
  and _use_ an assumption, as in _act on it_, you need to see if by doing
  so, you cause a need to correct your assumption or your actions, or even
  put you in a correctional facility, which is wasteful towards others.
  When you act on assumption alone, to some extent, you force your view on
  reality on other people.  Most people will reject this with a hostile
  reaction.  I have resolved not to be hostile to people who are instead
  clearly lacking in basic knowledge of how language in particular and the
  world in general works, but to take the time to offer my best effort to
  educate them in such simple matters.  After all, they are probably
  educated by the American educational system and as CNN reported recently,
  fully 70% of the American population do not understand the scientific
  process at all.  So, part of the scientific process is to come up with
  credible assumptions, making predictions from them that can be easily
  tested, and, get this, test those predictions to the best of your ability
  _before_ you claim that your assumption is true.  If this is generally
  employed by more people, it would most probably cause a lot less friction
  among them, because some people, such as Lynn, who is not only wrong, but
  quite condescending in their assumption, would have to make it clear that
  their ill-founded guesswork was just made up in order to be hostile and
  condescending and generally a party-pooper.  Shedding light on how their
  assumptions arose would put the responsibility back where it belongs.
  However, in this case, we have some clear evidence that Lynn H. Quam is
  unfortunately unskilled in the relatively simple process of making an
  assumption more than guesswork and appearances, and we may make an
  assumption that Lynn simply lacks the ability to introspect sufficiently
  to see that what he assumes is much more a product of his perceptions
  than any actually verifiable facts.  Lacking clear evidence, however,
  this must remain an assumption.

  However, returning to the simple question.  Instead of pretending that an
  assumption is true, Lynn could have tested the assumption by _asking_.
  This is harder than it looks for people who think they know everything,
  but it generally involves rotating the word order slightly and placing a
  '?' at the end of a sentence, spoken with a slightly raised pitch at the
  end of a sentence.  (Lynn, you should be able to find someone close to
  you who can teach you how this sounds; this medium is insufficient for
  this.)  A simple question communicates "I do not know whether what I
  assume is actually so".  It is quite honest and also tries to communicate
  that you would _like_ to know.  (This in contrast to the hostile questions
  that more than anything else communicate "I know that what you assume is
  not actually so".)  In this case, Lynn could have formulated a simple and
  honest question like this:

        Are you familiar with scsh?

  The only problem with this question is that it looks very much like one
  of those hostile questions, because it is fantastically unlikely that
  anyone would not be familiar with scsh if they were working with shells
  of any kind on Unix.  But this is, of course, the whole point with Lynn's
  statement of assumption that pretends to be fact.  For all the ability to
  be hostile and condescending, Lynn has not communicated _any_ desire to
  learn, so perhaps the simple question should be abandoned as an approach.
  Trying more than one approach is always good, since it can often lead to
  better assumptions and better questions.

  Could it be that Lynn is so gravely mistaken in the perceptions of what I
  have written that _no_ assumptions with a reasonable correspondence with
  reality could have emerged even if more effort went into it, even if many
  questions were asked?  Now we are looking at the problem of arrogance
  that so often comes with pretending that something you just made up is
  actually true.  However, this is just an assumption, and although it is
  far more likely that I am right than that Lynn is right, we must test it
  in order to see whether we can base any action on it.  Therefore, the
  assumed misunderstandings must be exposed and clarified.  There is only
  one way to find out, since the only person who has made the assumption is

  So, Lynn, was it anything in what I said that _both_ caused you to assume
  that I was not familiar with scsh _and_ caused you to discard all other
  possible explanations for what you saw?  I am just _dying_ to know,
  because, frankly, it looks very much like you have no grounds at all for
  either your assumption or the arrogance that comes with it.  But that is
  just appearances to me.  If you answer my simple question, we can shed
  some light on your need to post your assumptions as if they were facts,
  and perhaps even learn not to do it again.  That would be very nice.
  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.

  70 percent of American adults do not understand the scientific process.