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Author Topic:   The Nature of Scepticism
Straggler
Member
Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 76 of 271 (691338)
02-22-2013 6:41 AM
Reply to: Message 69 by RAZD
02-20-2013 8:20 PM


Consistency of Approach
If a specific proposition is given little credence, is not deemed a realistic possibility regardless of being unfalsified and is treated to all practical intents and purposes as if it were untrue – Then I would describe this approach as skeptical and the position taken towards that proposition as atheistic. If you want to get pedantically technical I would call it skeptical and defacto-atheist to make clear that a position of certainty isn’t being taken.

With regard specifically to the proposition that brain-damage-inducing-ethereal-elephants-are-congregating-in-the-garden it seems we both give the proposition little credence, neither of us deem it a realistic possibility and both of us treat the proposition to all practical intents and purposes as if it were not true. The only real difference between us with regard to brain-damage-inducing-ethereal-elephants-congregating-in-the-garden is that you rather foolishly insist on applying a blanket term of “agnostic”.

However in this thread the label applied doesn’t really matter. It is the consistency of approach that matters. And this is where we fundamentally differ. Because I would consistently apply then same skeptical approach to ALL unknowable but unfalsifiable propositions. I would treat all such propositions in exactly the same manner as I treat the proposition that there are brain-damage-inducing-ethereal-elephants-congregating-in-the-garden.

In your case however we need look little further than your username or the tagline splayed across the bottom of all your posts to see that you do not take the same approach to all such propositions. That your approach is not consistent. You make exceptions for your favoured ideas.

Dr A writes:

There are in effect only two kinds of people: there are skeptics, and then there are people who are skeptics except which they want to give some particular favored idea a free ride.

Like I said before – We don’t need to go into the details of your particular favoured idea here. We just need to note the inconsistency of approach you take when considering unfavoured ideas as compared to those that you do favour.

RAZD writes:

Would you agree that A and B are rather irrational behaviors?

But I don't see anyone behaving as described in A) or B) with regard to brain-damage-inducing-ethereal-elephants-congregating-in-the-garden. With regard to this particular proposition I see no difference between us either in terms of approach taken or the credence given to the proposition in question. Any differnces are purely semantic.

However with regard to your more favoured idea (the one incorporated into your username) your approach is considerably closer to B. And - Yes - Since you ask - I would call that irrational.

RAZD writes:

Remember this?

Yes. And as I think I have pointed out to you before the "ignore" position is ignostic rather than agnostic. Ignosticism is a perfectly valid approach to propositions which are so ill defined and incoherent as to be impossible to evaluate.

Straggler writes:

Well if the Earth really is less than 1,000 years old Bob's conclusion regarding this matter is "more correct". If the Earth is billions of years old the scientific conclusion is "more correct".

RAZD writes:

But how do we know what the age of the earth really is ...

If, as you seem to be suggesting, all methods of knowledge acquisition are essentially axiomatic with no one epistemology superior to any other then all we can ever do is say something like the following “Bob, based on your epistemological premise you have drawn a conclusion and I, based on a different epistemological premise, have drawn an opposing conclusion. Neither is right. Neither is wrong. All conclusions are simply a matter of subjectively preferred starting premise”.

Now as someone who spends much of their time at EvC telling those who have adopted a biblicist approach to knowledge that they are wrong and that the true age of the Earth is billions of years I find it mildly surprising that you are going down this route. But as we have already seen consistency of approach isn’t exactly your forte…

RAZD writes:

Everyone wants to give their worldview a free ride when it comes to judging situations -- it is basic to how people behave.

Question: Why do scientists concern themselves with evidence, why don't they use revelation?

Straggler writes:

Bob adopted his epistomology because it was subjectively appealing to him. Do you think this a sensible approach to selecting a method of knowledge acquisition?

RAZD writes:

But that is what everybody does, it's part of your worldview.

I think we can examine this claim of yours by considering an epistemological stance that is subjectively appealing but demonstrably flawed.

Consider hypothetical Eric. Eric’s epistemology is best described as “egocentrism”. Eric feels that he is special. Eric is not like everyone else. Eric operates under the subjectively appealing premise that he has a special, unique and important role in the universe. Whilst others are mere bit part players on the stage that is reality Eric is the star of the show. Based on this epistemology Eric knows that he can come to no significant harm. Eric knows that, whilst others can die, his role in the universe is too important for this to be possible. In order to demonstrate his specialness to the pseudo-skeptical naysayers who refuse to accept Eric’s epistemology as viable Eric volunteers to leap out of a 10th storey window. Eric assures everyone that he will come to no harm. Eric knows this to be true.

Eric leaps out of the window and plummets to his death.

So – In summary – I would suggest that the reason people don’t adopt Eric’s egocentrist epistemology has nothing to do with such a stance lacking subjective appeal. The reason people do not adopt such an epistemology is because they wouldn’t survive very long if they did. If one’s method of knowledge acquisition isn’t even able to deter one from unwittingly plummeting to one’s death at the first opportunity then I would suggest that one’s method of knowledge acquisition is somewhat lacking.

Would you not agree?

RAZD writes:

What is reality? How do you know?

Reality is that which made a rather brutal assessment of the validity of Eric’s epistemology. Reality is that which constrains our subjective whims.

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 69 by RAZD, posted 02-20-2013 8:20 PM RAZD has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 88 by RAZD, posted 02-22-2013 10:02 PM Straggler has responded

  
ringo
Member
Posts: 17646
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 3.3


Message 77 of 271 (691445)
02-22-2013 12:18 PM
Reply to: Message 65 by kofh2u
02-19-2013 10:02 PM


Re: Too far already? Yep
kofh2u writes:

Rene Descartes is called the father of modern philosophy because he started at the point where his own thinking proved to him that he existed and was real.
You can start there, too.


I don't though. Nothing I say here depends on me being real. The "truth" of what I say (if any) doesn't depend on my existence.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 65 by kofh2u, posted 02-19-2013 10:02 PM kofh2u has responded

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DBlevins
Member (Idle past 2112 days)
Posts: 652
From: Puyallup, WA.
Joined: 02-04-2003


Message 78 of 271 (691470)
02-22-2013 1:31 PM
Reply to: Message 66 by kofh2u
02-19-2013 10:07 PM


Re: skeptism can just be nilihism...
But we see the people who are skeptical of Evolution because it confronts their faith in the way they understand Genesis.

There is nothing wrong with being skeptical of evolution or any other theory. Scientists codify 'skepticism' by limiting well supported ideas to the position of 'Theory.' While evolution is a Theory that is well-supported by evidence, has been tested a multitude of times, and makes correct predictions, there is still the chance, however slight, that someone could come about and turn it on it's head. Same thing with our "Theory" of Gravity. Scientists know our knowledge is not and will never be complete.

That being said, Evolution is a fact. Life evolves. Whether it is through the process laid out by the Theory of Evolution or by some other process not yet discovered is the question. What those who rely on a religious text for their understanding of science seem unable to grasp is that they have replaced skepticism with credulity.

And, here, we see the other people who are skeptical of admitting the Big Bang was "In the beginning" because they would have to concede the first verse of Genesis actually is literally true.

I may be mistaken but I would say that the vast majority of the people on this forum are not physicists, and I am not either. I don't think I would conclude anything about the Big Bang from what others say about it, no matter how knowledgeable they appear. It's always good, imho, to have at least a little bit of skepticism about the extent of peoples knowledge and try to investigate it yourself by looking for reputable sources.

The point is that you may think that people are avoiding an admission of whether the Big Bang was "In the beginning" but it may be the case that they just don't know what "In the beginning" means in the context of the Big Bang.

Skeptism is actuallyu the best way to make sure no one "proves" anything to you simply because for that to happen, ONLY you can say it was proven.

You seem to be missing the point of skepticism. My understanding of how things work could be flawed, and thus I should never assume that my view of how the universe works is complete or proven.


This message is a reply to:
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DBlevins
Member (Idle past 2112 days)
Posts: 652
From: Puyallup, WA.
Joined: 02-04-2003


Message 79 of 271 (691478)
02-22-2013 2:36 PM
Reply to: Message 65 by kofh2u
02-19-2013 10:02 PM


Re: Too far already? Yep
When all observers agree with one another, you have proven things, like putting our hand in the fire willl always get it burnt, etc.

We employ something like the scientific method when we determine that putting our hands in the fire will burn our hands and we draw the conclusion that putting our hands in the fire is dangerous. While this conclusion is related to the scientific method of determining why it is dangerous, it isn't an explanation. For an explanation of why things burn, we draw upon our knowledge of physics and chemistry. Our understanding of these processes is not truly complete. Our assumptions may be flawed. We don't have a complete understanding of physics and chemistry, and thus we can not say with 100% certainty that every time we put our hand in the fire it will burn. We can be reasonably assured that this will happen and wouldn't recommend testing it out by placing our hand in the fire. We can continue testing our theory and refining it and draw conclusions from it but there may come a time when something happens that we don't expect and the physical and chemical process
of fire doesn't act the way we think it should. It may be a complete shock and wonder but that is the process of science.

By the way, just because something doesn't act the way we think it should doesn't mean we just drop our theory of how we thought it should work. We remain skeptical of our assumptions and look for flaws in the new observations. If the new observations hold up to further testing then we update or change our theory. But even so, it can never be complete. Our perception and understanding of the world is limited and thus my skepticism.

The short of it is: We can have an observation that fire will burn and a theory on how or why and draw valid conclusions from it, but we should remain skeptical and be prepared to change our understanding when appropriate.


This message is a reply to:
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DBlevins
Member (Idle past 2112 days)
Posts: 652
From: Puyallup, WA.
Joined: 02-04-2003


(1)
Message 80 of 271 (691481)
02-22-2013 2:40 PM
Reply to: Message 64 by RAZD
02-19-2013 9:30 PM


Re: Too far already? Yep
Agreement that the corpus of established knowledge must be based on what is validated, but recognising its incompleteness.

It still is a contradictory statement. The act of proving something is a recognition of it's completeness. Thus if you recognize something as incomplete it is, by definition, NOT proven.

edit: I read this wrong and substituted 'validated' with 'proven' when I read it. I recognized this when Straggler responded. Pardon the error.

Edited by DBlevins, : No reason given.


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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 81 of 271 (691488)
02-22-2013 3:09 PM
Reply to: Message 80 by DBlevins
02-22-2013 2:40 PM


Re: Too far already? Yep
Scientfic conclusions are falsifiable.

If someting is falsifiable it has not been proved.

This is the distinction RAZ is missing when he talks about "proof"..


This message is a reply to:
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PaulK
Member
Posts: 15627
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.8


(1)
Message 82 of 271 (691489)
02-22-2013 3:30 PM
Reply to: Message 81 by Straggler
02-22-2013 3:09 PM


Falsifiable
Not quite. For a claim to be falsifiable, there only needs to be a way to find out that it is false, if it is false. Scientific claims aren't proven in the absolute sense, but for other reasons.

This message is a reply to:
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Taq
Member
Posts: 8207
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 83 of 271 (691500)
02-22-2013 4:44 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Straggler
02-16-2013 1:17 PM


Re: The Fray
Is skepticism the approach taken by science?

In practice, I would say yes. The first and most important skeptic is the scientist proposing the theory. The research that they have done to support their conclusion is a methodical application of skepticism. The null hypothesis is a distillation of skepticism. One way of constructing the null hypothesis is to think of the criticisms that a skeptic would use against your experiments, such as the oft cited placebo effect seen in drug trials.


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DBlevins
Member (Idle past 2112 days)
Posts: 652
From: Puyallup, WA.
Joined: 02-04-2003


Message 84 of 271 (691506)
02-22-2013 5:11 PM
Reply to: Message 81 by Straggler
02-22-2013 3:09 PM


Re: Too far already? Yep
Scientfic conclusions are falsifiable.

Absolutely.

If someting is falsifiable it has not been proved.

and can never be proved, otherwise we wouldn't call it falsifiable. (which I was trying to say so inarticulately.)

This is the distinction RAZ is missing when he talks about "proof".

It seems to me that Dr. A nailed it when he spoke of those who would accept skepticism in some instances and not in others. RAZ seems to be of that ilk.


This message is a reply to:
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 20323
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 3.6


Message 85 of 271 (691541)
02-22-2013 9:08 PM
Reply to: Message 81 by Straggler
02-22-2013 3:09 PM


Gosh Straggler
Haven't you learned yet to read what I write? Will you ever learn?

Go back and read the posts between myself and DBlevins and you should find out who was talking about "proof."

I'll give you a hint: I agreed with DBlevins.

When you find it you can either admit that you made an error or not -- I'll still know.

Enjoy.

Edited by RAZD, : .


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
Rebel American Zen Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


• • • Join the effort to solve medical problems, AIDS/HIV, Cancer and more with Team EvC! (click) • • •

This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Coyote
Member (Idle past 442 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


(1)
Message 86 of 271 (691543)
02-22-2013 9:31 PM


On Proof
Proof: Except for math and geometry, there is little that is actually proved. Even well-established scientific theories can't be conclusively proved, because--at least in principle--a counter-example might be discovered. Scientific theories are always accepted provisionally, and are regarded as reliable only because they are supported (not proved) by the verifiable facts they purport to explain and by the predictions which they successfully make. All scientific theories are subject to revision (or even rejection) if new data are discovered which necessitates this.

Proof: A term from logic and mathematics describing an argument from premise to conclusion using strictly logical principles. In mathematics, theorems or propositions are established by logical arguments from a set of axioms, the process of establishing a theorem being called a proof.

The colloquial meaning of "proof" causes lots of problems in physics discussion and is best avoided. Since mathematics is such an important part of physics, the mathematician's meaning of proof should be the only one we use. Also, we often ask students in upper level courses to do proofs of certain theorems of mathematical physics, and we are not asking for experimental demonstration!

So, in a laboratory report, we should not say "We proved Newton's law" Rather say, "Today we demonstrated (or verified) the validity of Newton's law in the particular case of..." Source


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.

Belief gets in the way of learning--Robert A. Heinlein

How can I possibly put a new idea into your heads, if I do not first remove your delusions?--Robert A. Heinlein

It's not what we don't know that hurts, it's what we know that ain't so--Will Rogers


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 4780
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


(2)
Message 87 of 271 (691548)
02-22-2013 10:00 PM
Reply to: Message 86 by Coyote
02-22-2013 9:31 PM


Re: On Proof
You forgot one:

Proof: A measure of how much alcohol (ethanol) is contained in an alcoholic beverage. The term was originally used in the United Kingdom and was defined as 7/4 times the alcohol by volume (ABV). The UK now uses the ABV standard instead of alcohol proof. In the United States, alcoholic proof is defined as twice the percentage of ABV.

This is proof that proof has been proven. No pudding need for putting this proof into because the proof is actually in the proof.


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RAZD
Member
Posts: 20323
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 3.6


Message 88 of 271 (691550)
02-22-2013 10:02 PM
Reply to: Message 76 by Straggler
02-22-2013 6:41 AM


Still going in circles, that is consistent ...
In your case however we need look little further than your username or the tagline splayed across the bottom of all your posts to see that you do not take the same approach to all such propositions. That your approach is not consistent. You make exceptions for your favoured ideas.

You like to quote Dr Adequate, so perhaps you should read this one:

Message 432: To take an obvious example, suppose I say: "I am a Democrat!" And then B-d tells you that I am in fact a Republican. So, who are you going to believe, him or me?

I get the last word about what I think.

You keep acting just like Bolder-dash whenever you talk about me -- which you feel you have to do whenever we debate (rather than respond to the issues, the old ad hominem logical fallacy card) -- but you do not know what my beliefs are, so you keep making up stuff and then claim that it is what I believe.

But I don't see anyone behaving as described in A) or B) with regard to brain-damage-inducing-ethereal-elephants-congregating-in-the-garden. With regard to this particular proposition I see no difference between us either in terms of approach taken or the credence given to the proposition in question. Any differnces are purely semantic.

ROFLOL.

And yet it appears that you cannot reply to my posts without loudly talking about your scenario as if it were the most important thing to talk about. So there you are in your garden saying "There are no ethereal elephants inaudible trumpeting in my garden" ... in fact you opened this last reply with it and then address it again.

Seems rather irrational to me to make up stuff so you can then say you don't believe it. Bizarre form of skepticism imho.

... Then I would describe this approach as skeptical and the position taken towards that proposition as atheistic. ...

And yet your position is not founded on any objective empirical evidence, so by the precepts you have laid out here you should be skeptical\atheistic about your position.

Oh but wait, you give your beliefs a free ride here ...

Message 68: As Dr A has pointed out in this thread – Everyone is a skeptic except when they want to give some particular favored idea a free ride. ...

... because you aren't skeptical of your position.

Or you're a hypocrite.

Yes. And as I think I have pointed out to you before the "ignore" position is ignostic rather than agnostic. Ignosticism is a perfectly valid approach to propositions which are so ill defined and incoherent as to be impossible to evaluate.

So you should be ending up at "C" rather than the "D" you always seem to pick?

Let's try a different word\meaning for "agnostic" -- try "unconvinced" and see if that clarifies what a skeptical position would properly be.

If, as you seem to be suggesting, all methods of knowledge acquisition are essentially axiomatic with no one epistemology superior to any other then all we can ever do is say something like the following “Bob, based on your epistemological premise you have drawn a conclusion and I, based on a different epistemological premise, have drawn an opposing conclusion. Neither is right. Neither is wrong. All conclusions are simply a matter of subjectively preferred starting premise”.

What is "right" and what is "wrong" ... ?

... you're still not getting it.

Let's look at a real life example of Bob-think:

Message 248: If so I'm happy to exit this thread, Bolder, but no I don't get the argument. Perhaps i haven't spent enough time on it. I don't really care, though, since everything about the ToE is delusional.

Now we probably agree (I would hope so anyway) that this view is "wrong" ... but how do we -- individually and as a society -- make that determination?

I could help you, but it is much more fun to watch you run in circles.

Consider hypothetical Eric. Eric’s epistemology is best described as “egocentrism”. Eric feels that he is special. Eric is not like everyone else. Eric operates under the subjectively appealing premise that he has a special, unique and important role in the universe. Whilst others are mere bit part players on the stage that is reality Eric is the star of the show. Based on this epistemology Eric knows that he can come to no significant harm. Eric knows that, whilst others can die, his role in the universe is too important for this to be possible. In order to demonstrate his specialness to the pseudo-skeptical naysayers who refuse to accept Eric’s epistemology as viable Eric volunteers to leap out of a 10th storey window. Eric assures everyone that he will come to no harm. Eric knows this to be true.

Another word game ... another circle dance ... you're getting a bit closer (perhaps by accident) but you still need to make the right connection.

RAZD writes:

What is reality? How do you know?

Reality is that which made a rather brutal assessment of the validity of Eric’s epistemology. Reality is that which constrains our subjective whims.

Which still doesn't really answer the question of how we tell which worldview is better.

btw -- do you think Eric ever "lost faith" in his belief?

Enjoy,

Edited by RAZD, : clrty/coding

Edited by RAZD, : ...


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
Rebel American Zen Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


• • • Join the effort to solve medical problems, AIDS/HIV, Cancer and more with Team EvC! (click) • • •

This message is a reply to:
 Message 76 by Straggler, posted 02-22-2013 6:41 AM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
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Coyote
Member (Idle past 442 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


(1)
Message 89 of 271 (691552)
02-22-2013 10:18 PM
Reply to: Message 87 by AZPaul3
02-22-2013 10:00 PM


Re: On Proof
And actually, proofs are very common in photography too.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 87 by AZPaul3, posted 02-22-2013 10:00 PM AZPaul3 has responded

Replies to this message:
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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 4780
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


Message 90 of 271 (691555)
02-22-2013 11:16 PM
Reply to: Message 89 by Coyote
02-22-2013 10:18 PM


Re: On Proof
And actually, proofs are very common in photography too.

Can you provide proof of this?

Edited by AZPaul3, : 6 words. Just 6 fuck'n words and I can't get em straight. Time to go.


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