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Author Topic:   Immaterial "Evidence"
Posts: 4046
Joined: 07-01-2005

Message 11 of 154 (519643)
08-15-2009 5:46 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Blue Jay
08-15-2009 4:14 PM

Re: Why The
Look at it the other way around: if something immaterial could be detected, what would the sensation of detection be like?
Certainly, you couldn't detect it like you detect light or hearing. In fact, I can't imagine that an organ could be made to detect it. The mode of detection would have to be internal and unquantifiable, wouldn't it?
I know this makes it hard to use as evidence, but, what else could it be like?
But how would we differentiate actual detection from any of the innumerable human mental quirks that cause us to believe in falsehoods through the same subjective "evidence?"
Studies have been undertaken to measure the effects of prayer, since the mechanism that causes prayer to work is supposed to be undetectable. No significant pattern has ever been shown as to the effectiveness of prayer.
Internally convincing events such as songs that play at just the right moment on the radio that perfectly match your mood or give a sudden jolt of needed insight are an obvious case of confirmation bias. The same is true of dreams, and many "feelings." All require that you ignore the vast majority of cases where the song didn't help, or the dream or feeling was wrong.
What subjective experience has had any kind of real effect aside from altering the beliefs and behavior of the person in question? Is there demonstrable consistency? Why can't we show quantifiable results for the effectiveness of incorporeal beings if they're supposed to be able to affect the world?
If the proposition that deities are figments of human imagination results in identical observations to the proposition that deities do exist, is not the inclusion of deities a violation of parsimony? If the only sort of evidence we can use could equally support either position, aren't we forced to obey parsimony and suggest that the simplest position, the one with the fewest extraneous terms, is most likely the correct one?

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 Message 10 by Blue Jay, posted 08-15-2009 4:14 PM Blue Jay has seen this message but not replied

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Message 38 of 154 (521412)
08-27-2009 11:42 AM
Reply to: Message 37 by New Cat's Eye
08-27-2009 11:30 AM

Re: So Be It
But for myself, I can tell that my belief in god is not made up. And I maintain that it is different than a belief in the IPU (which is made up).
How can you tell the difference? How do you know that the IPU is made up, as opposed to being an idea "inspired" by the Real Thing? How do you know that your God isn't made up (after all, you don't have to be the one to make it up)?
We have two beliefs in question here. Neither is supported by any objective evidence. One has a long history and a wide base of honest believers with a variety of traditions. The other is relatively recent and may not have any honest believers.
Without and objective evidence or even any conceivable method to test the accuracy of each belief, how can you say that one is made up and the other is not? Are you relying on appeals to popularity and tradition? We know for an absolute fact that people can have honest belief in things that are completely made up - faith-healing televangelists and other con artists prove that to society's detriment all the time.
What differentiates the IPU from your God?
We could take another example. Scientology is a recent comer to the religion scene. Many people (perhaps even most) think that it was completely made up by L. Ron Hubbard. The religion makes some outlandish claims that are not supported by even a scrap of objective evidence, requiring faith in the words of Hubbard and his successors. Scientology has a relatively short history and tradition, but it does have a small and growing group of genuine, honest believers.
What differentiates the IPU from Scientology? Scientology from your beliefs? How, in the absence of any evidence, can you determine which beliefs are made up and which are not? How can you have any confidence in the accuracy of one belief over another without any conceivable method to reliably test the accuracy of each belief?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 37 by New Cat's Eye, posted 08-27-2009 11:30 AM New Cat's Eye has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 41 by New Cat's Eye, posted 08-27-2009 11:57 AM Rahvin has replied

Posts: 4046
Joined: 07-01-2005

Message 44 of 154 (521426)
08-27-2009 12:22 PM
Reply to: Message 41 by New Cat's Eye
08-27-2009 11:57 AM

Re: So Be It
But for myself, I can tell that my belief in god is not made up. And I maintain that it is different than a belief in the IPU (which is made up).
How can you tell the difference?
Because I didn't make up my belief in god. I can tell when I'm using my imagination or not.
I didn't ask whether you had made it up. I asked how you can tell the difference between a made-up belief and a non-made-up belief without any evidence or method for reliably testing accuracy. You haven't answered that question.
How do you know that the IPU is made up, as opposed to being an idea "inspired" by the Real Thing?
The Invisible Pink Unicorn (IPU) is the goddess of a parody religion used to satirize theistic beliefs, taking the form of a unicorn that is paradoxically both invisible and pink.[1] This makes her a rhetorical illustration used by atheists and other religious skeptics.
A Wiki page can now disprove a religion?
What if there are genuine believers in the IPU? What if the IPU belief is not a parody, but is actually inspired by Her Pinkness? Ignore the absurdity for a moment, remembering that invisible men in the sky sound no less absurd to some of us. How can you know that the IPU is completely made up, and know that your God is not made up? How can you differentiate between the two, when you have no objective evidence and no method for reliably testing their accuracy?
How do you know that your God isn't made up (after all, you don't have to be the one to make it up)?
I don't know that God wasn't made up, but I do know that my belief in him was not.
So then, if it is possible that your God is made up, and it is possible that the IPU is made up, regardless of the honesty of their respective believers, how can you tell the difference between the two?
A Wiki page that says one of them is made up? I can point you to dozens of websites that say with just as much certainty that your God is made up; perhaps statements on a website do not disprove the existence of deities? Perhaps this is an appeal to the dubious authority of Wikipedia, which we all know is the unbiased, objective and consistent arbiter of all knowledge?
I'm not saying that I can tell if somebody else's sincere belief is made up or not. But sometimes you can tell that they're not sincere, the IPU being an example.
How can you tell? What if I am being sincere? You have no evidence that disproves the IPU; you have no objective reason to think that I (or someone else, somewhere) don't believe in the IPU.
What about my Scientology example? You completely ignored it, and it illustrates an important point. To most people, Scientology looks like a completely made-up religion created by a bad science fiction writer with delusions of grandeur...and yet those same people believe in their own deities with just as much genuine faith as adherents of Scientology. If we remove the IPU and substitute it with a "real" religion that sounds just as wacky, how can you tell whether the belief is made up or not?
I assert that genuine belief is irrelevant, as is popularity and tradition; all are just logical fallacies. The accuracy of a belief is independent of any of them. Whether a belief is made up or not is independent of all of them.
Given that you have absolutely no objective evidence and no reliable method to test the accuracy of any of the beliefs in question, how can you honestly say that one is made up and others are not? What reason do you have for increased belief in one, but not in the others? Tradition is not a reason. Popularity is not a reason. Personal credulity is not a reason. A website claiming that the IPU (or Scientology, or your God, or anything else) is made up is not a reason. None of these things are tied in any way to the accuracy of the belief; they're irrelevant logical fallacies. What reason do you have to say that the IPU is completely made up, while your God is not? How would you differentiate between belief in the IPU, Scientology, and your God when determining which belief is more accurate, and which are likely to be completely made up?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 41 by New Cat's Eye, posted 08-27-2009 11:57 AM New Cat's Eye has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 45 by New Cat's Eye, posted 08-27-2009 1:28 PM Rahvin has replied

Posts: 4046
Joined: 07-01-2005

Message 47 of 154 (521445)
08-27-2009 1:44 PM
Reply to: Message 45 by New Cat's Eye
08-27-2009 1:28 PM

Would it kill you to respond to my entire post rather than one sentence?
I didn't ask whether you had made it up. I asked how you can tell the difference between a made-up belief and a non-made-up belief without any evidence or method for reliably testing accuracy. You haven't answered that question.
Its beside the point.
It's the entire point. It's the point of this thread, and the IPU thread before it, and every other thread where the IPU is ever brought up anywhere.
The IPU is intended as an absurd-sounding belief that can be placed next to other beliefs to demonstrate a point. That point being that you cannot differentiate between which beliefs are made up and which beliefs are accurate without objective evidence and a reliable method for testing their accuracy.
I have a belief in god. Subjective experiences support my belief. The majority of people agree with me. I have reasons for it. I don't have any reason to believe in the IPU.
So you appeal to personal credulity (what else can subjective reasons be, since they inherently boil down to "I find it personally credulous") and to popularity - logical fallacies. Neither of these differentiates the IPU belief from yours; neither of these suggests that one belief has more accuracy than the other; neither suggests that one belief is more likely to have been made up than the other.
I don't care if other people are capable of determining whether or not I've made up my belief. I know that I didn't make it up. I know that the IPU was made up. There's the difference in the beliefs.
This isn't about whether you made up your belief or not. I certainly don;t think so - you believe in the Christian God, a concept that predates you by millenia. It would defy probability to think that you independently made up a belief that predates your existence, particularly when you've presumably lived in a culture where you were exposed to that belief from birth.
This is about whether the belief itself was made up. In the case of Christianity, the actual making-up would have occurred at various stages over the past several thousand years, beginning with the original Hebrew beliefs and expanding over time to the Christian beliefs you hold today. Everyone living who currently honestly believes in Christianity is distantly separated from those individuals who began and shaped the religion, whether true or made up.
So again, CS, King of Evaders and Ignorer of Nearly Everything in a Post, Responder to Single Lines in Multi-Page Debates...
What allows you to differentiate between your belief and the IPU, or Scientology? How do you know which ones are made up (not which ones you made up - presumably you aren't responsible for any of those three beliefs), and which ones are accurate, given that you have no objective evidence and no reliable method for testing their accuracy?
Personal credulity is a logical fallacy, and is irrelevant, so "feelings" about which beliefs are "convincing" to you personally don't matter one jot. Appeals to popularity and tradition are the same. So how, CS, do you tell which beliefs are made up and which ones are accurate?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 45 by New Cat's Eye, posted 08-27-2009 1:28 PM New Cat's Eye has replied

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 Message 64 by New Cat's Eye, posted 09-02-2009 2:04 PM Rahvin has not replied

Posts: 4046
Joined: 07-01-2005

Message 53 of 154 (522150)
09-01-2009 1:38 PM
Reply to: Message 51 by Kitsune
09-01-2009 9:32 AM

The human mind is not an accurate tool
I am hoping that we can get past the tautology mentioned earlier {it's not empirical=it's not scientific=it's not valid.}
That's not what we're saying, LindaLou. The problem is that the validity of nonemipirical "evidence" cannot be determined. COnclusions drawn from convincing subjective "feelings" or other experiences could be valid. Or they could not. Becasue of their subjective nature, however, they are impossible to test, and so their accuracy is no better than random guessing.
That doesn't mean that conclusions drawn from nonempirical evidence are invalid. It simply means that those who accept the subjective as evidence sacrifice their ability to determine the accuracy of their beliefs, and that insisting that beliefs are indeed accurate without any degree of testability is irrational.
Only beliefs that are logically inconsistent or that directly contradict objective evidence are invalid - because there is a degree of testability to claims for which evidence (or contradictory evidence) exists, and logically contradictory arguemnts cannot be valid.
Most faith-based beliefs are not contradicted by objective evidence. Some are logically inconsistent, but most of those have rationalizations to explain away the inconsistencies (Paul says the OT Mosaic Law doesn't apply to Gentile Christians, etc).
This, obviously, means that the less specific a belief is, the less likely it is to be invalid. As such, Deistic beliefs in incomprehensible and undescribable deities cannot be said to be invalid - we have, by their very definitions, no method available to test the accuracy of such beliefs. They are sufficiently vague as to allow a wide range of possibilities that would match the definition, and avoid any specific statement that can be disproved with objective evidence. After all, it is impossible to prove a negative except by proving a mutually exclusive positive; as no mutually exclusive option seems available to the vague Deistic concept of god(s), they are completely unfalsifiable and immune from examination. They are the ultimate example of the God of the Gaps - the gap, itself, is god.
Irrationality comes into play when one insists that such a belief is certainly accurate; when confidence in the accuracy of a position exists despite the impossibility of testing for or verifying that accuracy. It's no different from a person who insists that they have picked the winning lottery numbers before the numbers are drawn - there is no way to test the validity or accuracy of that belief. The person may have a "feeling" or have received information from a "voice" or a dream or any number of other subjective experiences - but there is absolutely no way to testthe validity of that belief. The person's confidence is based on a methodology whose accuracy is demonstrably no better than random guessing.
But beyond this, we know from innumerable psychological experiments that human beings make shit up all the time, often without even realizing it. The human brain developed to survive in a very specific environment - one that was not conducive to determining the accuracy of any given belief. The result is a very untrustworthy tool. I recall an example I recently read about (the book is The Science of Fear, I'll add a specific reference when I get home and have the book available) where test subjectes were asked to vividly imagine an event, like being lost at the mall. Several weeks later they were asked about the event, and the subjects were absolutely convinced that the event had actually happened. The human brain is structured in such a way that we are incredibly bad (horrible, even) at distinguishing fantasy from reality. The mroe we want soemthign to be true, the more likely we "feel" it is to actually be true. The same with familiarity - the more often we think about something, the safer we think it is, and the more accurate we think it is. The ease with which we recal something also has a strong effect - the more easily you can recall a memory (even an imagined memory), the more likely you think that event is to happen. This was great when hearing stories from tribe members could make you wary of the log floating down the river that may be a crocodile; it's not so great when you go to weekly meetings where you repeatedly imagine the presence of an invisible and intangible entity, are told to "feel" it's love, are surrounded by people reinforcing that belief, etc.
It's particularly awful when the time comes to evaluate the accuracy of a subjective, personal experience. We know that it is demonstrably true that a person can andoften will be absolutely convinced of the veracity of their own memories and will consider subjective experience to be objective fact, even though these things have a horrific rate of accuracy when making predictions related to the real world.
This means that, in teh absence of objective evidence, it is perfectly rational to conclude that unsupoported assertions, particularly those related to subjective "feelings," philosophical navel-gazing, "visions," "dreams," personal anecdotes, and basically everything else we've been talking about across these many threads are most likely the result of faulty thinking.
That doesn't mean that all people who have faith are crazy. It doesn't mean that all conclusions drawn from subjective evidence cannot be true, or invalid. All it means is that, without any evidence or ability to test a given assertion, nobody else has any reason at all to agree with your conclusion, and that so far as what can be demonstrated, such beliefs have no greater accuracy than random guessing.
To the person who has experienced a subjective "vision" or whatever, they are certainly not making an actual random guess; their conclusion is the direct result of their experience and thus is not random in any way. But without strict adherence to objectivity and testing of conclusions against reality, all human conclusions are no more accurate than random (or at best, educated) guessing. Often, they're worse.
Subjective experiences are deomosntrably inaccurate when it comes to drawing conclusions about the real world. Inaccurate does not mean invalid. Having confidence in one conclusion due to subjective evidence over another for which you have no subjective evidence does not appear to be special pleading, because the subjective experience itself gives a reason to increase confidence in one position over another - but the fallacy becomes readily apparent when viewed from the perspective of the independent observer. Waht's the difference between Hindu and Mormon beliefs, objectively? Nothing, aside from the length of their traditions and the specific claims. No actual evidence distinguishes the two. The same is true of Scientology, Catholocism, Protestant Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, New-Age beliefs, Astrology, Tarot, Homeopathy, Deism, Thor-worship, and the belief that an angel gave you the winning lottery numbers. If you've had accurate Tarot readings, if you've had a vision of the angel Moroni, if you've prayed to God for healing and got better, you have a reason for your specific belief as opposed to all other possible beliefs...
But you still have no objective evidence, and no way to falsify or verify the accuracy of your beliefs. That leaves you prone to the failings of the human mind, a decidedly poor tool when not used in conjunction with rigorous adherence to objectivity.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 51 by Kitsune, posted 09-01-2009 9:32 AM Kitsune has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 54 by Kitsune, posted 09-01-2009 3:17 PM Rahvin has replied

Posts: 4046
Joined: 07-01-2005

Message 61 of 154 (522209)
09-01-2009 7:26 PM
Reply to: Message 54 by Kitsune
09-01-2009 3:17 PM

Re: The human mind is not an accurate tool
Hi Rahvin,
Thanks for elucidating your position. Most people I talk with on this topic will not admit that subjective evidence can actually be correct.
That's the thing - it's usually not. It's provably, demosntrably, objectively inaccurate. The vast majority of "feelings," dreams, visions, hunches, intuitions, and such are absolutely no better than random guessing. The fact that sometimes a random guess is correct doesn't mean that subjective evidence is useful for drawing conclusions about objective reality.
Let me be even more specific: our rational, conscious minds are affected in an unbelievably huge way by subconscious instincts and assessments that we're never even aware of. Our brains evolved in a very specific environment to deal with a limited range of experiences, and the fact that we're adaptable doesn't make the brain any better at doing what it's not optimized for.
There is, however, a set of experiences for which our brains are highly optimized, and in these cases the subjective experiences of the unconscious mind (those "feelings" and hunches, dreams and intuitions, etc) are often accurate.
Unfortunately, we're not very good at recognizing which situations are which.
Let's take my example frommy previous post of a log floating in a river. Like me, you've likely seen nature programs showing how crocodiles and alligators float along, appearing to be bits of driftwood until they come upon a hapless victim who very soon becomes a meal. Our familiarity with this (the fact that we have "seen" it via television, in particular; but even our ancestors who were told vivid stories by their tribes would gain familiarity through their imaginations) gives us a general sense of unease when we look at a log floating down a river in an area you know to have crocodiles (and sometimes where you don't). You don't have to think about it, you don't analyze it, you simply have a feeling of unease about the log.
That subjective feeling has served our species very well...even though it's also woefully inaccurate, and most logs are just logs.
This same mental defect causes us to think that that which we are familiar with is more likely to affect us; vivid, emotional stories are regarded as more significant in terms of risk or reward, regardless of actual data. Quite literally, personal anecdotes are hardwired in the human mind to carry more significance than statistics and real data - when we know very well that this is the exact opposite of rationality. An eyewitness in a trial will carry more significance to the "feelings"of a jury than DNA evidence - even though eyewitnesses have been thoroughly proven to be the least reliable form of evidence because of faulty memories, mistaken conclusions, and a whole host of other issues. We're terrified of terrorists, even though only 3000 people died on 9/11, and more people are killed in everyday car accidents each year than terrorists have ever managed to do (restricting both automotive accidents and terrorism attacks to the US for an apples/apples comparison). Why? Because we're familiar with driving, and so we "feel" that it's harmless, even though driving to/from work is likely the most dangerous thing any of us ever does.
You cannot completely and utterly discount human "feelings" and subjective experiences. We have them for a reason - but that reason is not necessarily the reason we (would like to) think it is. We have to recognize that the human mind is terrible at differenciating between reality and fantasy, between real memories and false ones, between "feelings" and things that are actually true. Our "gut" is sometimes right...but it's very often not. The way we can determine whether our "gut" is accurate in any given circumstance is to test our conclusions against reality; we can test to see if that log is a cocodile, we can perform a statistical analysis to see whether your fear of spiders/snakes/terrorists/what have you is justified, or whether you shouldbe far more afraid of backing out of your driveway.
The problem is when we introduce the unfalsifiable to our gut - they get along really well, much to our misfortune. When we have no way to test the conclusions of our feelings, we have no idea whether our subconscious is feeding us a defensible conclusion, or if its snap judgements based on familiarity, ease of recall, and other factors that have absolutely nothing to do with the objective accuracy of an assertion are simply wrong. We feel that the conclusion is correct, even if we cannot describe why. Without the ability to test...well, you can see the problem.
Granted, you are distrustful of it to the point of dismissing it out of hand (or almost doing so),
I am extremely skeptical of subjective evidence, to the point that I demand correlation with objective evidence before I'll grant any conclusion drawn from it as having any greater accuracy than a random guess.
Theist: I think there's a higher being watching over us.
Me: Okay. Why? What makes you think so?
Theist: I can feel it.
Me: indegestion?
Theist: Very funny. No, just a feeling, an intuition. I can feel a presence, and it feels benevolent.
Me: All kidding aside, is there any reason I should believe you? Do you have any evidence?
Theist: No, just my feeling. I'm certain it's true - you should open yourself to it. You'll feel it too, I'm sure.
Me: You're aware that imagining a feeling basically causes one to feel that feeling, right? That the brain is almost incapable of distinguishing between the two?
Theist: Okay, but I prayed to it, and my prayer was answered.
Me: That's more interesting. What did you pray for?
Theist: I had a headache, and I prayed for it to go away. It did!
Me: ...did you take Tylenol? Aspirin? Ibuprofin?
Theist: Well...yeah. But it didn't work! Then I prayed, and it did!
Me: Mmmhmmm. And have you prayed other times, and were those answered?
Theist: Well, I do pray often, and most of the time the prayers are unanswered. I mean, I didn't get that raise at work, it wasn't sunny last weekend, I didn't win the lottery...but my headache went away!
Me: So, statistically speaking...would you be able to show a difference between praying vs. not praying in terms of favorable outcomes?
Me: So why should I believe that your prayers have any effect at all, if there seems to be no statistical deviation caused by prayer?
Theist: Because my headache went away when I prayed! And I can feel it!
Me: You said eariler you prayed to win the lottery. Did you get most of the numbers right?
Theist: Well, once I got two of the numbers.
Me: How many times have you prayed about the lottery?
Theist: Oh, lots.
Me: And the best you've done is two correct numbers? Were they even in the right order?
Theist: And I really, really felt like that last one was a winner, too. Bummer.
Me: So you could say that your lottery prayers in aprticular have demosntrably no greater accuracy than random guessing?
Theist: What are you implying? I'm not guessing, I can feel that the higher being is there! I must have done something wrong to throw off the prayers, or it must be outside of his plan.
Me: Didn't you say you had a "feeling" about that last one? Just like you do about your supreme being?
Theist: I'm not guessing!
Me: I didn't say you were. I just said that so far it seems like your subjective feeligns have proven to be no more accurate than a random guess. That's a very different statement.
Theist: Stop disrespecting my faith!
I'll stop there.
but I don't disagree with all of your reasons for this. I also hope it's clear that I accept that empiricism is the most accurate epistemology for us to learn about the physical world, e.g. the age of rocks or the chemical composition of benzene.
It obviously gets much murkier when you try to apply empiricism to places where it doesn't work so well, like faith.
I;m curious as to how you differenciate beliefs held on faith from facts about the physical world, when typically beliefs held on faith are beliefs about the physical world. For example, the beleif that god(s) existin reality. That's a claim about the real Universe.
I feel like I am back in the faith/delusion thread here with the way this conversation is headed, but I will try to keep a focus on so-called "immaterial evidence."
Considering the origins of this and the faith/delusion thread, that's hardly surprising.
The problem is that the validity of nonemipirical "evidence" cannot be determined.
I find myself wondering how you personally would define non-empirical evidence. In my previous post I listed the criteria I would go through to try to determine whether someone's vision of the IPU might warrant some (tentative) plausibility. Which of those criteria would you consider to be empirical? Because those criteria can be used by anybody having a religious experience, including me.
I found a great many of your criteria to be simple logical fallacies, or jsut irrelevant. That's why I didn't specifically respond to them. But I can do so now:
Does anyone else claim to have seen the IPU? No.
Appeal to popularity. Whether one person or 50,000 claim to have seen the IPU is irrelevant to the IPU actually existing. It could exist even if nobody saw it - especially since it's supposed to be invisible. Which opens up another can of worms - very few people claim to have seen the object of their faith (be it god, Allah, or leprechauns). They simply claim an undescribable certainty, a feeling, a gnosis, an intuition, a dream, a vision (Jesus' face on a grilled cheese sandwich, for example), a voice, etc.
Is belief in the IPU part of a mainstream religion? No. (Consensus gentium is obviously not infallible but sometimes it can be an indicator of truth; it needs to be considered along with other pieces of evidence.)
Needs to be considered, sure - but in that consideration remember that "mainstream religions" tend to be wrong. More mainstream religions have fallen out of favor and disappeared than currently exist today. Again, there's that "accuracy" problem - human beings are horrible at judging the accuracy of their own beliefs. Mainstream religions have, again, prven to have no greater accuracy than random guessing - less, in fact.
Had the viewer been taking drugs or anything else that would alter normal consciousness?
Some religions maintain that drug use can trigger religious experiences, allowing perception of a world that is otherwise inaccessible. Others would call those people loopy, and tell them to lay off the hallucinogens. In any case, drug use is irrelevant - it can distort reality, but seeing a cat while high on shrooms doesn't mean the cat wasn't there.
Could the IPU have been a mirage, or could the viewer be otherwise mistaken about what they thought they really saw?
All snsory input and memory is subject to human error. That's why eyewitnesses are such terrible influences in jury trials - they'll carry the most weight with the jury, and they're the most likely to be compeltely and utterly wrong. "I saw it" is actually horrible evidence that a thing exists, taken alone.
Could the viewer be lying for some reason? Maybe hoaxing?
When we consider that any eyewitness testimony can simply be mistaken from the getgo, anticipated deception can't make matters any better, only worse. The trustworthiness of a witness is irrelevant, because the witnesses brain is unreliable.
What was the nature of the vision? Was it silent, radiating peace? Or perhaps it told the viewer to pull his clothes off and run naked through the streets? The former has often been reported as a characteristic of religious experience; the latter seems to be more an indicator of mental instability.
As has been pointed out, many religions involve practices you may consider mad. Pentecostal Christians, a mainstream denomination, routinely practice "speaking in tongues," which to any objective observer is quite plainly just speaking jibberish and meaningless stringing together of random syllables. Your personal judgment of the sanity of a practice has literally nothing to do with whether a belief is accurate or not - it;s jsut an appeal to personal credulity.
What is the personality of the viewer? Is this a "salt of the earth" sort of person who is usually rational and has never reported anything like this before? Or do they already have a reputation as being eccentric? What would a psychologist say after an interview?
A devoted follower of Quetzalcoatl, the Winged Serpent of the Aztecs, would likely be regarded as "eccentric" today (what with the demand for human sacrifices), yet that particular faith dominated a sizeable region of SOuth America jsut a few hundred years ago.
How has the viewer reacted to the experience? Does it seem to have been a positive influence on their life? Or has it, for example, led them to commit acts of violence?
What if Satan really is the One True God, and we're commanded to commit evil acts?
This is an appeal to consequence - the consequence of an assertion has nothing to do with whether the assertion is accurate.
I said in the faith/delusion thread that the vast majority of people belonging to a religion believe in a deity that is peaceful and loving. I suppose it's conceivable that the IPU was a malevolent entity bent on getting people to do its will but I personally find it difficult to see any easy way of telling this apart from mental illness.
Why should we prefer benevolent gods over malevolent ones, in terms of accuracy? That's an obviously arbitrary judgment you're making.
Honestly LindaLou, your criteria are awful. Given those simple criteria, it would be painfully simple to con a person into believing...just about anything. Peter Popoff preaches about the Christian God, a being millions share belief in; nothing he says is technically outside of mainstream belief (except that miracles should be performed through him and on demand, but those are good things, so our brains judge them instinctively as more likely), he's not on drugs, he's not exceptionally eccentric amongst charismatic preachers, his teachings are widely regarded as positive in nature (faith healing, increasing wealth, etc), he certainly seems to be trustworthy (to his millions of followers, at least), etc...and he's a proven con man. Noen of your criteria establish any degree of accuracy. At all.
The criteria needed to establish the accuracy of an assertion are very simple:
Is it repeatable?
Can it be independently verified?
Is it falsifiable, and if so have attempts to falsify it failed?
If an assertion cannot be repeated, it cannot be verified independently, and/or is inherently unfalsifiable, you cannot assess the accuracy of that assertion. The number of people who hold it to be credulous is irrelevant. The mental state of believers is irrelevant. Drug usage is irrelevant.
You can consider all of your criteria... and they may help turn the direction of any investigation. But the only way to judge the accuracy of an assertion is to question whether it is repeatable, independently verifiable, and falsifiable.
When those criteria are impossible, then no judgment can be made regarding accuracy; any such assertion is no more accurate than random guessing. It could be right...but there is no reasonable reason to think so.
While doing someone's psychological profile isn't necessarily going to prove anything in and of itself, it can lead us to conclusions about that person, including how likely they are to be telling a truthful and accurate story. This is a point RAZD made a few times -- that non-empirical evidence can give us clues that head us in the right direction.
And I have not disputed that. The human subconscious mind, inaccurate as it is, sometimes gives us valuable insight. But "head us in the right direction" is a very different thing from a given assertion being accurate or inaccurate. In today's world, where we're bombarded with personal anecdotes, televised horrors that almost never occur, and surrounded by people who believe in mutually exclusive positions without a scrap of objective evidence between them, our primate brains are broken clocks - right twice a day, but mo more accurate than random guessing. That's why we developed the scientific method - it allows us to eliminate the irrational instincts of our evolutionary past and objectively assess the accuracy of our theories.
You're quite correct when you say that the scientific method is inapplicable to the unfalsifiable...but so is everything else. When dealing with assertions that are not repeatable or independently verifiable, that are not falsifiable, there is no way to determine the relative accuracy of a position (save internal logical consistency, but you could say that falls under falsifiability). None. When the scientific method is inapplicable, all conclusions are no more accurate than random guessing - which is all that Straggler and others have been saying from the getgo.
That makes having a gut feeling or a sudden inspiration valid in their ways too, if they lead to profitable actions. Which leads me to your next point:
I never said that subjective evidence had no value; simply that conclusions drawn exclusively from subjective evidence had no greater accuracy than random guessing.
. . . and so their accuracy is no better than random guessing.
I asked Straggler several times to explain what he meant by "random guessing" but he wouldn't. I think I see what you are both getting at now, after your example of the belief that angels have given the winning lottery number (though this seems a curious example to me because all you have to do is wait til the draw to have this belief empirically tested). It seems nonsensical to me to apply "random guessing" to a religious belief because what exactly are the probabilities involved? I seem to remember that Catholic Scientist also asked this. Some people believe that there is a heaven and a hell. Some believe to varying degrees that the eucharist host becomes the body of Christ at Communion. Some believe that God forgives sins through a priest. (Can you tell I was brought up Catholic.) I don't see how you could measure any of these beliefs against random guesses -- do you think you can calculate a probability that God is going to forgive my sins if I go to confession? Don't forget to work out the probability of God existing in the first place and of it being a celestial being who grants favours depending on how well we have pleased him. And what are the odds that it's even a "him" and not a "her" . . .
You're confusing the issue with specifics. Each of those specific beliefs is no more demonstrably accurate in terms of reality than a random guess. It's not about computing probabilities - we have an infinite number of infinite-sided dice we're rolling here. It's about determining whether there is any way to test for accuracy. Where there is not, then any random guess has just as much demonstrable accuracy as any specific unsupported belief.
It simply means that those who accept the subjective as evidence sacrifice their ability to determine the accuracy of their beliefs
There are degrees of this of course. How do you think I did with the IPU evidence? We may end up not knowing whether it was real or not, but we can build in safeguards to eliminate the more obvious rational explanations first (I'm sure there could be more than the ones I thought of). Interestingly, you didn't answer my question of why it's so important in such a case to draw the line between "real" and "delusion." If all rational explanations have been discounted, then the viewer is left with the choice to believe what they saw, or to dismiss it as their imagination or somesuch. Can you see a problem with them making the choice to believe?
If it doesn't harm anyone? Not really - being irrational is not in itself terrible, so long as the irrationality doesn't harm society. A belief that the IPU simply exists would be irrational, but irrelevant to daily life.
The reason we're discussing this isn't because it's "important." It's just an intellectual exercise. I find debate helps me challenge my own beliefs and weed out irrationalities and false impressions. It's one of the ways I try to fight off the mental defects the human brain is rife with. If you or anyone else wants to believe in tarot cards, god(s), ghosts, goblins, IPUs, sprites, or anything else, you go right ahead. I may challenge your rationality on a debate forum set up for the purpose of debating such questions, but I certainly won't suggest that you're a "bad person" for simply holding what I consider to be an irrational belief. Unless you hold a belief that is objectively disproven,I won't even reduce my opinion of your intelligence; RAZD and Percy are both deists, meaning they believe something I think is pretty irrational, but I also think they're a couple of the smartest people I've had the pleasure of conversing with.
insisting that beliefs are indeed accurate without any degree of testability is irrational.
No, it just means that you make a deliberate choice whether or not to have faith.
I fail to see the distinction.
People do this all the time.
Commonality does not mean rationality. I would, in fact, assert that the average person is in fact irrational to a degree that would shock all of us.
I think the manner in which the "insisting" is done can be a factor too. A creationist might insist to me that all scientists are liars in a giant conspiracy and that if I don't convert to their beliefs I will burn in hell forever. Another devout Christian might wait for me to have enough interest and open-mindedness to approach him and ask him for some teaching. Both of these people are convinced that their beliefs are accurate even though they are untestable, but one of them is forcefully trying to convince me while the other one is not.
Then perhaps "insist" was a poor choice of words. What I meant to convey with the word "insist" was "a heightened degree of confidence." Specifically, I am talking about those individuals who have an increased degree of confidence in the accuracy of their beliefs (whether those beliefs are expressed to others is irrelevant) when there is no available means to actually test that accuracy and thereby justify that increased confidence. Confidence without verifiability is, basically, irrational.
Only beliefs that are logically inconsistent or that directly contradict objective evidence are invalid - because there is a degree of testability to claims for which evidence (or contradictory evidence) exists, and logically contradictory arguments cannot be valid.
Most faith-based beliefs are not contradicted by objective evidence. Some are logically inconsistent, but most of those have rationalizations to explain away the inconsistencies (Paul says the OT Mosaic Law doesn't apply to Gentile Christians, etc).
I agree. It's interesting that you move from this to God of the Gaps. This is similar to Straggler saying that people invented gods to explain the irrational and to give comfort.
I think that's part of it. I also think that god(s) and other, similar beliefs are artifacts of the inherently irrational inner workings of the human mind when it is not constrained by rigorous objectivity.
You said,
the less specific a belief is, the less likely it is to be invalid.
It sounds to me like you are implying that people such as Deists keep shifting the goalposts so that they can keep their comfortable faith while not contradicting any existing evidence.
Your extrapolation is inaccurate. I don't think either Percy or RAZD have shifted any goalposts with regard to their deities. My statement was meant to be limited to exactly what it says, with no implications of intent: those beliefs that are extremely nonspecific and avoid being described in any meaningful way are less likely to be invalidated, because they have no specific claim to invalidate. It's hard to prove logical inconsistency in "I think there's something out there, but Im not sure what it is" (beyond the contradiction of being convinced of something you aren't sure of). It's impossible to prove a negative, and I see no mutually exclusive position I can attempt to prove that would eliminate the possibility of "something out there."
Having read posts by Percy and others, I think their reasoning might be that they want their faith to square with our knowledge of the world and so they won't tie themselves to details that are improbable; for example, there is no empirical evidence that a god has actively been participating in human affairs, so it would be irrational of them to adhere to this belief. To me this is a search for the truth rather than an avoidance of it. I do the same with my own beliefs; if for some reason they appear improbable, I shift them. I see no reason to dismiss them entirely.
I agree that this is indeed what Deists are generally doing - I don't think that RAZD, Percy, or others are so irrational as to actually believe in something that has been disproven.
However, your statement:
there is no empirical evidence that a god has actively been participating in human affairs, so it would be irrational of them to adhere to this belief.
can be changed just slightly to become my point in these threads:
there is no empirical evidence that a god exists, so it would be irrational of them to adhere to this belief.
Similarly to Straggler, you go on to explain why you think that psychology can explain away religious beliefs. While I wouldn't argue with anything you said about the possible inaccuracies of human experience and anecdotes, and you've made the point that this evidence is unreliable, we are also left with the fact you also acknowledged that it can be true. IMO it is can be worth pursuing the one true experience even if it is like searching for the proverbial needle in the haystack.
The problem is, we're talking about a situation where you cannot see, touch, hear, taste, or smell the needle or the hay. You have no ability to test whether you've found the needle, or jsut grasped another bit of straw. It's always worthwhile to seek out The Truth(tm), but actually holding confidence in a given belief when you have no objective way of knowing whether you've grasped needle, straw, or even thin air is irrational.
Let's say that out of 100 people, 99 of them are mistaken about the objective truth of a religious experience. That leaves one with a genuine experience. You could use whatever numbers you want: one in 1000, one in a million. That one genuine experience could possibly lead us to new truths. From having spoken to people all my life and being an avid reader, I would hazard a guess that genuine experiences aren't quite as rare as that.
Well, there's the rub - you're hazarding a guess. Familiarization makes us intuitively "feel" that a proposition is more likely. This works fine in basic human experience - passing a fire hydrant on the way to work every day makes me intuitively "feel" that the fire hydrant actually exists, for example. But the same subconscious process that gives me that intuitive feeling can turn against us: hearing about honestly believed, emotional, vivid subjective experiences actually convinces our subconscious mind that subconscious experiences accurately reflect reality, when we have no objective reason to think so. Subjective experiences without the ability to be tested have no greater demonstrable accuracy than a random guess.
Having no way to know which experiences are "genuine" means that you have quite literally nothing upon which to base your guess. You've developed confidence in a conclusion with no more reason to thing your conclusion is likely beyond the fact that you're familiar with such experiences.
Let's phrase your statement a bit differently.
Given a thousand, even a trillion different assertions regarding the supernatural (some mutually exclusive, some not) relating to various subjective experiences that have no repeatability, no testability, and are unfalsifiable, how many are likely to be accurate?
1 in 100? 1 in 1000? 1 in a trillion?
Any at all?
Most importantly, how would you know?
Given that we have no way of knowing (particularly since I didn't give any details about our trillion assertions), any number you choose is completely arbitrary and is based wholly on your instinctual desire to rationalize your subconscious feelings. Those feelings are influenced by any number of things. For example - if I had said "1 in 10" instead of "1 in 100" first, you would almost certainly have thought of a lower number (and this higher probability) than you just did.
The only rational answer to the question is "I don't know; I don't have any reason to believe any of them are accurate at all."
I had one myself, though it wasn't anything grand. My parents made me continue to go to church with them when I was a teenager even though I no longer subscribed to their faith. I was standing rather resentfully in the pews, having listened to yet another homily that I did not agree with, and with no power to object. It them came time for everyone to hold hands while they recited a prayer. I dutifully took the hands of the people on either side of me and was surprised to feel energy moving through. It's difficult to describe but it was definitely there and it wasn't static electricity. I hadn't anticipated it, had never wished for it, and to be honest I wouldn't have thought it likely that I'd ever experience anything unusual during a seemingly soulless mass that everyone repeated the words for every Sunday even if their thoughts went somewhere else more interesting.
My interpretation was not that God was present and moving through us, but that we were sharing energy as we joined hands. Eastern philosophies would consider this to be perfectly normal. I can't prove anything about this to you or anyone else and for all you know I could be lying. I, however, have no reason to believe that my experience was not genuine.
I'm sure you experienced it. Of course, many of us have had similar experiences. I've had ones that range from feeling Jesus' presence in church, to feeling God's love, His attention when praying, answered prayers, startling coincidences...the list is rather long.
But the fact that you had an experience has nothing to do with whether your conclusions are accurate. In fact, given that you readily admit that your conclusion is not testable, and cannot be supported by reproduction or independent verification, I would have to say that I have absolutely no reason to think your conclusion is accurate at all. There is nothing, beyond your curious confidence, that suggests that your conclusion is anything more substantial than a random guess.

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Message 68 of 154 (522443)
09-03-2009 12:45 PM
Reply to: Message 66 by New Cat's Eye
09-03-2009 10:04 AM

Re: So Be It
Hi CS,
It seems we're all still experiencing a degree of miscommunication. Let's try to clear that up.
And I keep asking you how you are demonstrating that that the evidence is equal to guessing. And I think this is one of the flaws in your argument. You say that because we cannot show that it is better than random guessing then it must be equivalent to it, but that is an illogical leap.
"Equal to guessing" is not the same as saying "not demonstrably more accurate than a random guess."
Given a predictive model, to ascertain that model's predictive accuracy we would typically compare the results of the predictions to reality. This requires repeatability, independent confirmation, and falsifiability - if a predictive model states that the Sun will rise in the West tomorrow, the prediction would be falsified if the Sun rose in the East as usual.
When a predictive model cannot be reproduced, cannot be independently verified, and is unfalsifiable (as with the majority of religious claims), we have a conundrum. How do we know the accuracy of a given prediction? How can we?
The answer is that we don't, and we can't. The predictive model now appears to be equivalent in terms of demonstrable accuracy to a random guess.
Take for example delving - the act of detecting water/metal/anything you want via two rods held in the hands that presumably close together by themselves when the desired object is directly below. Theories for the mechanism vary - the rods could be the detectors, or the subconscious human mind may tap into some information unavailable to the conscious mind and subtly move the hands, causing the rods to close, etc. The mechanism is irrelevant; what is relevant is the accuracy.
There have been many attempts to demonstrate delving. When in double-blind studies, delvers have consistently demonstrated a rate of accuracy that is no better than chance. Given 10 containers with one container holding water, a delver will typically be able to find the water 1 in every 10 tries - the same as a person taking a random guess, or rolling a 10-sided die.
We cannot falsify the delving mechanism - you cannot prove a negative. But we can say that the delver has demonstrated no greater degree of accuracy than a random guess. Successful delving cannot be reliably repeated on demand; it is not independently verifiable; its mechanism is unfalsifiable.
Remember, though, that 1 in 10 tries will be successful for the delver. Success with only a 10% chance is improbable, but still possible. The improbable happens every day...and unfortunately, the human brain is hardwired to remember successes over failures. When you have a dream that coincides with an event the next day, you remember your "predictive" dream...and disregard the thousands of dreams you've had previously that had no predictive qualities.
Allow me to bring up another example that I ran across last night on TV. It was a show about lottery winners. A woman said that she wrote the number 112,000,000 on a piece of paper and put it under her pillow before she went to sleep. The next day she bought a lottery ticket and won a $112,000,000 jackpot. She said that this time she knew that she was going to manifest it.
The problem, CS, is that a sample size of 1 is insignificant, and too small by far to draw a conclusion. Even given her complete honesty and believing that she did indeed have exactly the experience you've reported, she still hasn't demonstrated greater accuracy than random guessing. Is her accuracy precisely equal to random guessing? How can we possibly know with a sample size of 1?
The improbable happens every day. The human population is approaching 7 billion - by pure statistics, we should expect 1-in-a-million events to happen 7000 times in their predicted time periods.
To demonstrate a higher degree of accuracy than random guessing, accurate predictions must be repeatable, independently verifiable, and falsifiable. In your lotto winner's example, how many times has she been "sure" that she would win and been wrong?
Her story is completely unfalsifiable - we cannot say whether her success was actually the result of not-yet-understood predictive abilities, a truly random guess, or a nonrandom guess with random success (for example, choosing birthdays as lotto numbers is a nonrandom guess, but will be successful to the same statistical degree as random guessing). It's not repeatable - she cannot reproduce the event on demand or given specific circumstances (presumably, if she could she would not have stopped at winning once). It is not independently verifiable - we cannot have an independent party perform the same procedures and arrive at the same results.
We can say, then, that while we are unable to determine the actual validity of her claim, she is in fact unable to display a greater degree of accuracy than random guessing.
We can also say with absolute certainty that her personal story will mean more to your subconscious mind than a thousand statistics. Personal anecdote is worthless precisely because the improbable happens every single day.
So, do you believe her or not? The default position would be agnosticism but I'm guessing that you do not believe her.
I believe that she had the experience she reported (possibly with minor additions, subtractions, or alterations from the actual events - human memory is pretty shoddy that way).
Do I believe that she has the ability to predict lottery numbers? I see no reason to believe so. With a sample size of 1, the most rational opinion is that she was extremely lucky, and experienced a singular, incredibly improbable sequence of events.
The flaw with your reasoning, CS, is that you are demanding falsification rather than providing supporting evidence. More to the point, you're demanding falsification of inherently unfalsifiable positions - you require that we prove that her ability is not more accurate than random guessing (proving a negative is impossible, and a determination of accuracy is impossible from a sample size of 1), instead of providing evidence that she has greater accuracy than random guessing.
Another flaw in your argument is that because we've shown some gods to false (or some of these kinds of abilities), then we can argue that we've shown all of them to be false, which just isn't true.
So, because some is not all, and because not demonstrating something is better than random guessing doesn't mean that its equal to random guessing, is why your argument is wrong.
Who says all "supernatural" abilities and entities are false?
I say that they are more likely, given the evidence, to be constructs of the human mind, unless evidence can be presented that they actually exist.
The evidence is absolutely overwhealming that subjective evidence is the result of the irrational human mind. See my post here. The factors that cause you to recognize false patterns, to judge things as more or less likely despite a lack of available statistics or even directly contradicting those presented to you, to rationalize imagined events as having actually happened, to distort memories, are well understood. That which a person is familiar with will be "felt" to be more likely - which means that we have a disproportionate assessment of risk for incredibly unlikely events that we are regularly presented with on television, for example. The same mechanism causes those who imagine something, or who are told about something repeatedly, to judge that something as more likely to actually exist - despite having no actual reason to think so.
That said, supernatural abilities and god(s) are still possible. We cannot prove negatives. But with a lack of evidence supporting them, and significant evidence that they are the result of human mental failings, the evidence clearly leans in one direction - that any given story or belief unsupported by evidence is unlikely to accurately represent reality. Tentative atheism is most definitely the most rational conclusion from an objective standpoint - a perspective difficult to achieve if you actually experience subjective evidence. We're hardwired to trust our guts. Subconscious evaluation affects our conscious minds without us ever beign aware of it - that's why the human mind is such a horrible tool for accurately describing reality unless it is paired with rigorous adherence to objectivity.
One-off anecdotes are within the statistically expected range of events. If you can show a pattern that significantly exceeds random chance, that's a different story. Without a pattern of success, it is absolutely true that a degree of accuracy exceeding random guessing has not been demonstrated. While we cannot falsify such claims (as you said, some is not all), for similar reasons we cannot assume accuracy when accuracy cannot be tested.
When someone expresses confidence in a position with no supporting evidence and with no way to test the accuracy of that position, the accuracy of that position is demonstrablyno better than a random guess.

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Message 111 of 154 (524550)
09-17-2009 12:55 PM
Reply to: Message 110 by New Cat's Eye
09-17-2009 11:35 AM

Re: degrees of acceptance
One flaw is in the assumption that because we cannot distinguish something from a guess then it is equivalent to a guess.
That assumption is never made, CS.
All we've been trying to say is that, when you cannot demonstrate that a model has greater accuracy than random guessing, there is no rational reason to have confidence that it is in fact more accurate.
That's what we mean when we say "no better than random guessing." We aren't saying "this model is definitely bullshit," because we're typically talking about models that cannot be tested at all. We're saying that "if you have confidence that your model is accurate but cannot demonstrate that accuracy to be greater than random guessing, then your confidence is not based on evidence and as such is irrational."

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 Message 110 by New Cat's Eye, posted 09-17-2009 11:35 AM New Cat's Eye has replied

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Message 113 of 154 (524552)
09-17-2009 12:59 PM
Reply to: Message 108 by Kitsune
09-17-2009 11:27 AM

Re: tod und verzweiflung
I guess that depends on how one views the divine. Seeing it as a human-like entity that makes conscious choices is easy because we can relate to that. If the divine exists then I think in reality it must go beyond this. Maybe there is no being that has conscious thoughts. Maybe God could simply be all of us, incarnate -- in which case we're erroneously looking for something outside of ourselves. Maybe the divine really is empirically detectable; but like bacteria under the microscope, we are unable at this time to detect it. Who knows? You could argue that the IPU is out there and we could find it if we built an IPU detector, but then we have actually discovered real things with new instruments. Or maybe it really does require a sixth sense/third eye.
Well, that's the basic problem with subjective evidence, isn't it: we can all define "divine" to be whatever we want, because we're absolutely not drawing conclusions from repeatable, testable evidence.
In short, you're speculating based on nothing objective at all. The accuracy of any given concept of the divine is evidencially equivalent to all other concepts of the divine - when you cannot test, cannot repeat, and cannot independently verify, how could you ever claim that you rationally think that one concept of the "divine" that may actually exist is more accurate than any other?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 108 by Kitsune, posted 09-17-2009 11:27 AM Kitsune has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 116 by New Cat's Eye, posted 09-17-2009 1:11 PM Rahvin has replied
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Joined: 07-01-2005

Message 118 of 154 (524573)
09-17-2009 2:56 PM
Reply to: Message 116 by New Cat's Eye
09-17-2009 1:11 PM

Re: tod und verzweiflung
When one of the concepts is a made-up satire, like the IPU, you can rationally doubt that it is as accurate as a legitimately believed divine concept.
Which does two things: ignores the conceptual possibility that the IPU could still be a subjectively "inspired" vision of an actually existing entity (you "know" that the IPU was compeltely made up, and not the result of divine inspiration, how exactly?), and completely misses the point of the IPU reference. The IPU is used as a placeholder for any deity concept (unless she's actually inspired - we can't know that, but whether she is or isn't, she works fine as a placeholder) to demonstrate that, in the absence of evidence, all speculations are equivalent.
If I identify "Moogoo" as a deity, the likelihood of "Moogoo" actually existing is equivalent to "Zeus," "Jambom," "Madoc," "Jupiter," "Yahweh," "Ra," or any number of other entities whos existence are not supported by evidence.
The IPU is no different, except that it sounds silly in modern cultures. The initial reaction of incredulity is a trap - it typically causes people, like yourself, to dismiss the IPU as made up or absurd despite having exactly the same amount and quality of supporting evidence as every single other god concept.
What evidence distinguishes the IPU from Zeus? From Moogoo? From leprechauns? From fairies? From ghosts? From Yahweh? From none of them at all?
If there is no evidence surrounding any of them, if each concept is completely untestable, unverifiable, and unfalsifiable, how can you decide that one concept is any more or less likely than any other?
The reaction of personal incredulity at the IPU is a logical fallacy - you cannot know that the IPU is completely made up, it just sounds silly to you, which we all know has nothing whatsoever to do with whether a thing is real or not.
"Legitimate belief" is simply an appeal to popularity and tradition - does the number of people "legitimately believing" the Earth to be flat vs. round have anything to do with the actual shape of the Earth? If every single person on Earth legitimately believed in Moogoo, does that mean Moogoo actually exists? Without any repeatable, testable, verifiable, falsifiable predictions and objective evidence, how could you ever have rational confidence that Moogoo does or does not exist?
Did I make Moogoo up? Did he come to me in a dream and reveal himself? Did I look online and find an obscure but previously-worshiped deity named Moogoo? How would you ever know?
What if Moogoo is the name of the Immaterial Pink Unicorn?
Does any of this make any difference whatsoever as to whether Moogoo is more or less likely to actually exist?
None at all. Only evidence that is repeatable and verifiable and a concept that is falsifiable can show us the accuracy of any given assertion. Popularity, tradition, and personal incredulity are all just logical fallacies and have nothing to do with anything.
Your god concept is indistinguishable in terms of evidence and accuracy from any other god concept - or any other unfalsifiable, unsupported assertion about anything at all for that matter. That's not to say that your concept is definitely inaccurate - I'm simply saying that we cannot rationally tell the difference.
For the exact same reasons you claim belief in your god concept are rational, I can claim that belief in Moogoo, the IPU, Zeus, Allah, Yahweh, Quetzalcoatl, Anubis, Thor, the Great Spirit, Coyote, Vishnu, and Galactic Emperor Xenu is rational.
But none of them are testable. None of the supposed evidence behind any of them is reproducible or independently verifiable. None of them are falsifiable. Some may be made up. All of them may be made up. One or more may actually be accurate. But we have no way of knowing - and claiming that you do have that knowledge, that one or more of those concepts is more or less likely than any of the others, is irrational.

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 Message 116 by New Cat's Eye, posted 09-17-2009 1:11 PM New Cat's Eye has not replied

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Message 120 of 154 (524577)
09-17-2009 3:11 PM
Reply to: Message 114 by New Cat's Eye
09-17-2009 1:07 PM

Re: degrees of acceptance
If the confidence comes from my directly experiencing it, then my inability to repeat the experience to determine its accuracy doesn't necessitate that I abandon that direct experience.
I didn't say you should abandon the experience. I said there is no rational reason to believe that your one-off experience has led you to a rational and supportable conclusion.
If you have a dream about winning the lottery, and you win, does that mean that you are able to see the future?
Or is it simply the statistical inevitability that someone had to win, and you happened to dream about it the night before?
The improbable happens every single day. Every single one of us is the result of a statistical improbability that boggles the mind - out of all of the people your parents met, they ended up together; out of every sperm and egg, the result was you. Taking one-off experiences and attributing them to an additional factor like god or precognition as opposed to a statistical inevitability is quite flatly irrational.
Our brains are practically hardwired to do it, but we're not rational by nature. Our "gut," our basic sense of credulity, is so flawed as to be worse than useless, literally counterproductive, when trying to ascertain what is or is not likely. We consider what we like or what we fear to be more likely; we are more impacted by singular, detailed and emotional stories than by actual data; we regularly distort or make up memories, rationalize our feelings and actions after the fact; fantasies are often indistinguishable from memories of actual events to our subconscious mind.
Only objective data and thoughtful adherence to objectivity can ensure accurate results. Literally nothing else works reliably, even if our "gut" is like a broken clock and gets something right twice a day.
When you have a one-off experience, the rational approach is to avoid drawing conclusions until more data is available.
If you pray and have your prayers answered, the rational approach is not to believe that prayer works. That's what your "gut" will tell you - basic positive reinforcement tells you that you performed an action and received a positive result - and it's completely and totally irrational. The rational approach is to statistically analyze all of your prayers and note their success rate in order to determine whether prayer actually works.

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Message 132 of 154 (524780)
09-18-2009 3:02 PM
Reply to: Message 131 by New Cat's Eye
09-18-2009 2:55 PM

Are we really lowering the level of debate to argument via comic?
ABE - you know what, it's so retarded that I'll run with it.
Your comic suggests that we may not recognize god(s) (or other life) because we don't know what we're looking for, and we're expecting to find only that which we are familiar with.
That's a valid argument...that has absolutely nothign whatsoever to do with what we're discussing.
See, in the real world, outside of comics, people think they have found god(s)...they just don;t have any evidence to support the notion.
To carry over into your retarded comic, this would be the equivalent of the ants determining that, despite not seeing any intelligent non-ants and not seeing any pheromone trails, there must still be other intelligent life.
Could there be intelligent life, and the ants are simply haven't found it yet? Obviously! So too can god(s) possibly exist, and we just haven't found the evidence yet or are looking for the wrong things.
But given that, it is still irrational to take an absence of evidence and conclude that existence is likely!
None of the atheists on the board have claimed that god(s) are impossible. None of us have claimed that the conclusions drawn from subjective evidence cannot be correct. We have simply noted that the accuracy of those conclusions cannot be tested, verified, or falsified, and so there is no rational reason to have confidence that they are in fact accurate.
Do you disagree? If so, what reason, specifically, is there to have confidence in the accuracy of an untestable, unverifiable, unfalsifiable conclusion?
Edited by Rahvin, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 131 by New Cat's Eye, posted 09-18-2009 2:55 PM New Cat's Eye has not replied

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