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Author Topic:   Ground Rules
Dr Adequate
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Posts: 16086
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 10.0


Message 61 of 68 (514361)
07-06-2009 9:13 PM
Reply to: Message 22 by InGodITrust
07-01-2009 3:47 AM


Bluescat, you wrote that it is absurd for me to think that science=atheism. And for the most part it would be absurd. But in some areas of science it would not be such a stretch. How about the origin of life? Isn't that an area with a lot of scientist trying to find how life occurred "naturally", through chemical reactions, rather than being created by a god?

And when scientists found natural causes for rainbows, rather than God making them by magic, was that atheism?

When they maintain, in the face of some people's religious beliefs, that the world is round, is that atheism?

If, tomorrow, someone started a religious sect that said that there was no gravity and God sends angels to make things fall, would a belief in the theory of gravity suddenly become atheistic?

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


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Dr Adequate
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Posts: 16086
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 10.0


Message 62 of 68 (514362)
07-06-2009 9:27 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by InGodITrust
06-28-2009 2:50 PM


I went to Natural Bridges National Monument on vacation one year, and watched a film about the formations at the visitors center. The film stated matter-of-factly how old the formations were and how they were produced. There was a sign posted at an overlook with similar info. It is a nice visitors center an the park service has done a good job, but the information in the film and on the sign conflicts with the Bible.

Now the 1st Amendment is interpreted to bar religion being preached by the government in schools and public buildings---and rightly so I guess. But why doesn't it prevent atheism from being preached? Why is atheism the official government position?

The First Amendment does prevent atheism from being preached. That's one of the many reasons why the government doesn't put signs up saying: "There is no God".

But, as I intimated in my previous post, the fact that a statement conflicts with some person's religious beliefs doesn't make it atheism. This is why, despite the beliefs of devout flat-Earthers, public school teachers are still allowed to teach that the Earth isn't flat, and the USGS are still allowed to produce maps based on a round Earth. That's not a religious point of view, it's a scientific point of view.

It may conflict with some people's religions, but that's their problem: it shouldn't have to be a problem for scientists.


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RAZD
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Posts: 19759
From: the other end of the sidewalk
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Message 63 of 68 (514364)
07-06-2009 10:24 PM
Reply to: Message 60 by Rahvin
07-06-2009 8:12 PM


Re: the skeptical open-mind
Hi Rahvin,

Doesn't this force us to view all viewpoints to be equally valid?

No, I don't see that: possible does not mean equally probable.

... and that tentativity forces us to consider even those views that directly contradict our tentative knowledge as valid, then must we not consider any and all viewpoints to be valid?

Not necessarily, as certainly the viewpoints that are, or seem to be, contradicted by evidence need not be considered as possible until it is shown that the contradiction doesn't exist.

We do not need to consider that the earth is flat, we do not need to consider that the sun orbits the earth, we do not need to consider invalidated ideas. This still leaves us with all the concepts that are not invalidated by evidence as possibilities.

Certainly if one were being logically consistent, then one would have to keep an open mind to all such possibilities, however people are not logically consistent, and they like having answers. Thus decisions are made based on one's world view on what is probable rather than just possible, and we use this to narrow our view of what is likely to be true.

Think of it as a spectrum:


-10 -9 -8 -7 -6 -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 00 +1 +2 +3 +4 +5 +6 +7 +8 +9 +10
___|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|___

Where -10 denotes an attitude of complete refusal to consider any concept and +10 denotes complete acceptance of any and all concepts. Obviously neither extreme leads to valid investigation of reality, so what is needed is some mixture of open-mindedness and skepticism.

Different people will be at different points along the scale, and people will be at different points on the scale for different concepts, based on their personal world views.

It is impractical to investigate all concepts equally, so it becomes a decision based on one's personal evaluation of probability which concepts are investigated fully, which are left untouched, and which are toyed with from time to time.

In a similar manner we can (and do) limit our scientific investigations of reality to those aspects we consider most likely to produce results. Thus we arbitrarily decide to ignore the possibility of some concepts, not because they are not potentially valid, but because we don't think investigating them will produce useful results. If new evidence shows this assumption to be in error, then we can start looking more closely for results.

Despite the fact that this view is tentative pending evidence that contradicts evolution, would we not generally consider the viewpoint that all life was created three hours ago by a giant fish to be generally invalid, because there is no evidence supporting such a view ...

If there is no evidence contradicting it, then it must be -- according to the ground rules of the thread -- considered a possibility, however, this does not mean that we need to consider it a likely probability. The simple fact that you even mention this, shows that it can in fact be considered (even momentarily) a possibility, the fact that your tone is somewhat mocking\incredulous\dismissive means that you do not consider it a probable explanation.

... and plenty of evidence against it?

Again, evidence that invalidates a concept means we do not need to consider it a possibility at this time. I see nothing in the ground rules that requires falsehoods to be considered.

I'd suggest that all viewpoints are equally invalid until they are supported by evidence, ...

I see this as being counter-productive, waiting for a concept to be supported. Let us take an example of a Sudoku game: there is one real solution, there is some evidence (existing numbers) to show\imply what that solution is, and there are blank squares where the specific solution is not known. By assuming that each possibility is invalid, we can't even make a start. Why enter a number until there is more evidence that the number could be correct?

By taking each possibility as a valid option we can test the possibility and see if it leads to the solution. With a computer and the appropriate program we can, by brute force, evaluate all the possible numbers in each blank square and eventually arrive at the solution when all the non-solutions have been invalidated.

And we can also look at the different probabilities - squares that have limited possibilities due to the other evidence, and by starting with those, we can generally arrive at the solution much faster than a brute force method.

In both of these cases we consider the possible validity of a specific number in a specific square until it is invalidated.

In this way I would consider the theory of Evolution to have very high validity, supported by the weight of evidence, while Creationism is almost certainly false, because of the weight of contradictory evidence and the dearth of any evidence supporting such a viewpoint.

Parts of creationism, the parts that are invalidated by evidence (geocentric, flood, young earth, etc).

We consider the possibility of theories and test them for invalidation, just like the sudoku numbers, when one number is invalidated we try a different theory.

I'd also be pretty comfortable with saying that the theory of Evolution is a valid viewpoint, where Creationism is not.

You are certainly free to express your opinion.

By your standard above, I should tentatively side with Evolution while constantly acknowledging that Creationism is still a valid possibility.

There are two problems with this statement, (1) there is no dichotomy involved, as both could be false, both (taking creationism broadly to involve any supernatural creation) could be true and (b) parts of some aspects of some creationism (YECreationism) have been invalidated.

But yes, according to the ground rules you need to (a) acknowledge the tentativity (possible falsehood) of evolution and (2) the tentative (possible truth) of a creation. After all, if we consider this on a scientific basis, then invalidated concepts are either discarded or modified to fit with new evidence. Creationism as a whole cannot be ruled out just because the earth is old, all we can rule out is the concept that the earth is young.

Do you consider Last Thursdayism to be a valid possibility due to the tentativity of human knowledge? Ghosts? Fairies?
Your dreaded Intangible Pink Unicorn?

Actually, yes. The only thing dreadful to me about it is the color, but that's a personal opinion. No I don't dread fictional concepts, yes at some level one should consider the possibility that somewhere somewhen they could be real. Probable no, possible yes. Not something I need to consider as a practical possibility until I see more evidence. Consider that there currently is a glove orbiting the earth, there are people orbiting the earth, there will be a space station full of people orbiting the earth. At some point in time there is a distinct possibility of a teapot orbiting the earth, if for no other purpose than a practical joke, but there none-the-less.

Atheism, to use another example, would be the recognition that the existence of a deity {A} is invalid because there is no evidence supporting {A}. If one proposed contradictory deity (or deities) {B} without supporting evidence, there would be no validity to either {A} nor {B}. Belief in vaguely-defined deity {C} which could actually be deity {A} or {B} or any number of other deities, also without supporting evidence, would also have no validity. Belief in {A}, {B}, or {C} would be a matter of subjective personal preference (on the level with choosing a favorite color), with no objective validity whatsoever, and could logically be placed in the same category as all other unsupported beliefs that have no validity.

And curiously, this still is not evidence of the absence of god/s, or are you now claiming that absence of evidence is evidence of absence ...?

Depending, of course, on how one defines reality. Given that all of our sensory inputs (and therefore all of our information) seems to come from the physical world, I'd certainly consider the physical world "real" even if it actually turns out to be a computer simulation like the Matrix. It's certainly real for all practical purposes, and what else matters?

That is the basic assumption, yes. Another way to put it is that what we experience is all a god-dream and we won't know until the dreamer awakes (if then). For practical purposes our reality is the god-dream and that is all we can sense. It is, for practical purposes, indistinguishable from your physical world reality.

From your words (and forgive me if this isn't what you actually mean) I should consider Creationism (contradictory to evolution) and the likelihood of a power outage in five minutes time to be equally valid viewpoints because of the absolute presence of tentativity in my beliefs.

Again, not all of creationism is contradictory to evolution or even all of science, even though certain aspects of certain creationisms are, mostly those that are already invalidated by other evidence. Interestingly I have high confidence that a power outage will not shut my computer down, as I have battery backup.

I think that the degree of tentativity should also be included.

Intriguingly, what you are more skeptical of (hold to be more tentative) will differ from what other people are more skeptical of, there is no absolute scale to measure unknown possibilities, just a lot of personal opinions. The degree of tentativity of a concept would likely be harder to define than life.

Enjoy.


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 60 by Rahvin, posted 07-06-2009 8:12 PM Rahvin has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 66 by Rahvin, posted 07-07-2009 3:13 PM RAZD has responded

  
Coyote
Member (Idle past 185 days)
Posts: 6117
Joined: 01-12-2008


Message 64 of 68 (514365)
07-06-2009 10:34 PM
Reply to: Message 61 by Dr Adequate
07-06-2009 9:13 PM


Science=study of empirical evidence
Bluescat, you wrote that it is absurd for me to think that science=atheism. And for the most part it would be absurd. But in some areas of science it would not be such a stretch. How about the origin of life? Isn't that an area with a lot of scientist trying to find how life occurred "naturally", through chemical reactions, rather than being created by a god?

And when scientists found natural causes for rainbows, rather than God making them by magic, was that atheism?

When they maintain, in the face of some people's religious beliefs, that the world was round, is that atheism?

If, tomorrow, someone started a religious sect that said that there was no gravity and God sends angels to make things fall, would a belief in the theory of gravity suddenly become atheistic?

Sorry to have to disappoint some folks, but what we can empirically observe and study is the default position. Tribal myths and superstitions, no matter how well-loved or followed, must stand up to scientific skepticism if they want scientific credibility. So far they have failed the test. "Belief" and "dogma" have no place in science.

When looking for explanations for the natural world, the default position is that which we can observe and study. That which some shaman, somewhere, probably thousands of years ago, said with a Harrison Ford "trust me" grin doesn't meet the criteria.

Until there is some empirical evidence for deities, the default position is what can be observed and studied. "Theology" is the study of a null set.

Or, as Heinlein wrote:

Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn't there.

Robert A. Heinlein, JOB: A Comedy of Justice


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 61 by Dr Adequate, posted 07-06-2009 9:13 PM Dr Adequate has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
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Woodsy
Member (Idle past 1453 days)
Posts: 301
From: Burlington, Canada
Joined: 08-30-2006


Message 65 of 68 (514387)
07-07-2009 7:24 AM
Reply to: Message 64 by Coyote
07-06-2009 10:34 PM


Re: Science=study of empirical evidence
Until there is some empirical evidence for deities, the default position is what can be observed and studied. "Theology" is the study of a null set.

I agree. This point does matter.

At present, I have a great dislike for religion. My father is suffering from Parkinson's disease. The thought that he might perhaps have had some relief, had foolish superstition not blocked promising research, sickens me.

I would have no problem with people holding weird, unsupported beliefs, if only they would keep them to themselves.


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Rahvin
Member (Idle past 1266 days)
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 66 of 68 (514445)
07-07-2009 3:13 PM
Reply to: Message 63 by RAZD
07-06-2009 10:24 PM


Re: the skeptical open-mind
Hi Rahvin,

quote:
Doesn't this force us to view all viewpoints to be equally valid?

No, I don't see that: possible does not mean equally probable.

Then perhaps I'm not understanding you correctly. If the tentativity of belief {A} forces us to acknowledge contradictory belief {B} as valid, do you also mean that the term "valid" is not a binary, black/white distinction, and that you see varying shades of validity? If so, then I would say that we agree, excepting that I hold beliefs that are unsupported by evidence to have no validity (while also not being invalid - perhaps a 0 on a validity-scale of -10 to +10). My typical response to any assertion that has not been supported by evidence is "why should I think that?" If no evidence can be given to support the assertion, I disregard it as lacking validity (even while acknowledging that it may perhaps be possible if evidence is eventually discovered).

quote:
... and that tentativity forces us to consider even those views that directly contradict our tentative knowledge as valid, then must we not consider any and all viewpoints to be valid?

Not necessarily, as certainly the viewpoints that are, or seem to be, contradicted by evidence need not be considered as possible until it is shown that the contradiction doesn't exist.

But you've said that the tentativity of our understanding of any evidence forces us to acknowledge the validity of contradicting views. You seem to be contradicting yourself here. Perhaps you could clarify?

Let's take for example the proposition fo a young Earth {B}. There is a substantial amount of evidence supporting the hypothesis that the Earth is very old, on the order of billions of years {A}. If we hold belief {A}, and {B} contradicts {A}, does not the tentativity of our position then force us to regard {B} as a valid belief? That seems to be what you were saying earlier; my view was simply that, due to the strength of the evidence supporting {A}, the tentativity of the position is decreased to the point that outright dismissal of {B} as invalid is justified, even if we must still acknowledge that there is some small chance that new evidence could prove {A} to be false.

We do not need to consider that the earth is flat, we do not need to consider that the sun orbits the earth, we do not need to consider invalidated ideas. This still leaves us with all the concepts that are not invalidated by evidence as possibilities.

So then your "ground rules" apply only to unevidenced positions, which also have no evidenced contradictory positions? If we're considering only those positions with no amount of evidence for or against, I'd say that any distinctions are rather arbitrary. Again, perhaps you could clarify?

Besides, there is some small chance that the Sun does orbit the Earth. It certainly doesn't seem to be the case, and it's a rather self-centered view (requiring an arbitrary shift in point of reference), but it's not necessarily invalidated. With the Earth as the immobile center of a constantly-moving Universe, the mechanics still work. Doesn't the tentativity of our understanding of celestial motion force us to acknowledge some small possibility (unlikely as it may be in this case) that we're wrong?

Certainly if one were being logically consistent, then one would have to keep an open mind to all such possibilities, however people are not logically consistent, and they like having answers. Thus decisions are made based on one's world view on what is probable rather than just possible, and we use this to narrow our view of what is likely to be true.

I agree (though I dislike the term "world view" due to its use by Creationists as a way to dismiss evidence, but I suppose it's still accurate). This is what I meant when I brought up degrees of tentativity, and evidence increasing certitude but never actually reaching 100%. I also think, however, that it's possible to give an answer while still acknowledging that all answers are tentative to varying degrees. For example, we can say that the Earth does orbit the Sun while acknowledging that there is some possibility that we aer wrong. I don't think that this represents logical inconsistency - we don't have to always acknowledge the tentativity of our positions out loud, particularly when the tentativity is extremely minor.

Think of it as a spectrum:

-10 -9 -8 -7 -6 -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 00 +1 +2 +3 +4 +5 +6 +7 +8 +9 +10
___|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|___

Where -10 denotes an attitude of complete refusal to consider any concept and +10 denotes complete acceptance of any and all concepts. Obviously neither extreme leads to valid investigation of reality, so what is needed is some mixture of open-mindedness and skepticism.

Different people will be at different points along the scale, and people will be at different points on the scale for different concepts, based on their personal world views.

It is impractical to investigate all concepts equally, so it becomes a decision based on one's personal evaluation of probability which concepts are investigated fully, which are left untouched, and which are toyed with from time to time.

My approach is similar, with a few key differences.

I do not regard any of my beliefs (or disbeliefs) as a solid +10 or -10. Some I hold to be > 9 (the Theory of Evolution, for example; the notion that gravity will not suddenly "shut off" making me float away would be on the order of +9.99999~).

When evaluating a given concept, I don't look at how likely the concept is to be true. Instead, I look first at how I would make such a determination (ie, is the concept falsifiable?). If I am completely unable to make such a determination (say, that blue is superior to green - clearly this is an unfalsifiable and unsupportable position) then I simply disregard it as personal preference at best and irrelevant at worst. This would be a 00 on the spectrum. If I am somewhat unable to make such a determination (say, the existence of ghosts - a position that is supportable if evidence can be found, but which is not actually falsifiable; this set must encompass all of those assertions regarding the "real world," as supporting evidence should always be potentially extant if something exists in objective reality) then I am able to make a small degree of determination. If no evidence for such an assertion can be found after a reasonable effort looking for it (prayers to a deity, for example, or scientific examination of a supposedly haunted location), I evaluate the concept as very slightly below 00 (the degree of variance from 00 is directly correlated to the amount of searching done, but never deviates very far). In this way, I evaluate ghosts, goblins, and deities to be somewhere between 00 and -1 (this is further exacerbated by the knowledge that peopel can and do commpletely make things up, and that other people will believe the nonsense, even when it is demonstrably falsified - see holistic medicine). Unlikely enough to say that I really don't think they exist, but even a small amount of real evidence would be sufficient to tip me the other way.

The degree to which I investigate a concept has less to do with how likely the concept is to be true, and more to do with how relavent the concept is. For isntance, the existence of a kitten seven blocks away is easily investigated and can be easily supported with evidence, but is wholly irrelevant to my life, and so I choose nott o investigate it. The concept of the existence of a deity would be potentially very significant in my life, and so I have spent significant time investigating the concept (partially including my time here on this forum).

In a similar manner we can (and do) limit our scientific investigations of reality to those aspects we consider most likely to produce results. Thus we arbitrarily decide to ignore the possibility of some concepts, not because they are not potentially valid, but because we don't think investigating them will produce useful results. If new evidence shows this assumption to be in error, then we can start looking more closely for results.

I have no problem with this perspective.

quote:
Despite the fact that this view is tentative pending evidence that contradicts evolution, would we not generally consider the viewpoint that all life was created three hours ago by a giant fish to be generally invalid, because there is no evidence supporting such a view ...

If there is no evidence contradicting it, then it must be -- according to the ground rules of the thread -- considered a possibility, however, this does not mean that we need to consider it a likely probability. The simple fact that you even mention this, shows that it can in fact be considered (even momentarily) a possibility, the fact that your tone is somewhat mocking\incredulous\dismissive means that you do not consider it a probable explanation.

I find it interesting that you feel that you can interpret my "tone" as "mocking\incredulous\dismissive" over a text-only message board with no "smileys" or other such cues. I chose the timeframe and cause in my impromptu Creation myth at random, simply as something wholly different from either the specifics of Christian Creationism or modern geology. As with the case of the Immaterial Pink Unicorn, I think you feel "incredulous\dismissive" of such assertions, and project that "tone" onto me. When I use such terminology, I most typically do so with all due seriousness. When equating deities to the Immaterial Pink Unicorn, I do so not to mock belief in deities, but rather to purposefully bait emotional reactions towards equivalent assertions in order to demonstrate a lack of consistency. In this specific case, I wasn't even doing that - I was simply picking a completely random combination of ideas with which to manufacture a Creation myth.

I understand and agree, however, with your point that we need not assign all conceivable possibilities as equally probable.

quote:
... and plenty of evidence against it?

Again, evidence that invalidates a concept means we do not need to consider it a possibility at this time. I see nothing in the ground rules that requires falsehoods to be considered.

This I somewhat disagree with. If we hold belief {A} because of the weight of evidence, and belief {B} contradicts {A}, I think the tentativity of our belief {A}, while significantly diminished by supporting evidence, still requires us to acknowledge that {B} may potentially be true. That doesn't mean we should investigate {B}, but that's a different determiantion altogether.

quote:
I'd suggest that all viewpoints are equally invalid until they are supported by evidence, ...

I see this as being counter-productive, waiting for a concept to be supported. Let us take an example of a Sudoku game: there is one real solution, there is some evidence (existing numbers) to show\imply what that solution is, and there are blank squares where the specific solution is not known. By assuming that each possibility is invalid, we can't even make a start. Why enter a number until there is more evidence that the number could be correct?

Judging that an assertion has no initial validity (a 00 on our scale) does not mean we should not investigate it, especially when we determine (as with a Sudoku game) that our assertions are both supportable and falsifiable given that investigation. It simply means that we can have no confidence that "3" should go in a given square initially.

Most assertions begin with observation, meaning we already have some amount of evidence granting validity. Idle speculation must start from 00 on the scale, but if the idea is of significant relavence, and is at least falsifiable and/or supportable with potentially extant evidence, it's still worthwhile to investigate such speculations.

By taking each possibility as a valid option we can test the possibility and see if it leads to the solution. With a computer and the appropriate program we can, by brute force, evaluate all the possible numbers in each blank square and eventually arrive at the solution when all the non-solutions have been invalidated.

And we can also look at the different probabilities - squares that have limited possibilities due to the other evidence, and by starting with those, we can generally arrive at the solution much faster than a brute force method.

In both of these cases we consider the possible validity of a specific number in a specific square until it is invalidated.

We can do the same thing while assigning a default validity of 00 to any given solution until the solution is investigated. We simply cannot consider that the validity of a given solution is negative before investigating, which is somewhat different.

quote:
In this way I would consider the theory of Evolution to have very high validity, supported by the weight of evidence, while Creationism is almost certainly false, because of the weight of contradictory evidence and the dearth of any evidence supporting such a viewpoint.

Parts of creationism, the parts that are invalidated by evidence (geocentric, flood, young earth, etc).

Being that those things describe the core of Creationism, yes. I assume you're drawing a distinction between the specifics of the story and the far more general "goddidit," since the former are all falsifiable (and in fact falsified) while the latter is not.

We consider the possibility of theories and test them for invalidation, just like the sudoku numbers, when one number is invalidated we try a different theory.

Of course.

quote:
I'd also be pretty comfortable with saying that the theory of Evolution is a valid viewpoint, where Creationism is not.

You are certainly free to express your opinion.

That's a ratehr empty response. We can all express our opinions. But do you agree or disagree with the relative assignment of validity?

Evolution {A} is supported by enormous amounts of evidence, and thus ranks very high on our validity scale (approaching but not reaching +10). Creationism {B}, as a contradiction of {A}, and which also contains specific claims which have been falsified by evidence (the Flood, young Earth, etc), has a very low negative validity (approaching but not reaching -10). Do you agree that this is sufficient to label Evolution as "valid" and Creationism as "invalid," while still acknowledging the minute tentativity of such a determination?

quote:
By your standard above, I should tentatively side with Evolution while constantly acknowledging that Creationism is still a valid possibility.

There are two problems with this statement, (1) there is no dichotomy involved, as both could be false, both (taking creationism broadly to involve any supernatural creation) could be true

Certainly - but the exercize is specifically manufactured such that a belief {A} can be held, and another belief {B} can contradict {A}, such that we can examine whether our belief in {A} must necessitate labelling {B} as invalid. The exercise says absolutely nothing about the validity of {C}, {D}, or {E} - they simply aren't part of the consideration. They're irrelevant. Assuming that we do hold belief {A}, does the contradictory nature of belief {B} allow us to judge {B} as invalid, or does the tentativity of our position {A} force us to label {B} as valid? That was your parsed-out statement. I'm pointing out that simply holding a belief is irrelevant - only evidence can assign relative validity to positions, and tentativity decreases as evidence increases.

and (b) parts of some aspects of some creationism (YECreationism) have been invalidated.

Certainly, but again that's part of how {B} contradicts {A} when {A} is supported by evidence. In fact, this would be a perfect example of how, when tentativity decreases sufficiently due to the weight of evidence, it is acceptable to label {A} as valid, and {B} as invalid.

But yes, according to the ground rules you need to (a) acknowledge the tentativity (possible falsehood) of evolution and (2) the tentative (possible truth) of a creation. After all, if we consider this on a scientific basis, then invalidated concepts are either discarded or modified to fit with new evidence. Creationism as a whole cannot be ruled out just because the earth is old, all we can rule out is the concept that the earth is young.

Agreed. I simply think that, when tentativity is small enough, it is acceptableto label an assertion as so likely to be invalid to simply call the assertion invalid. Certainly, you cannot label as invalid those specific concepts (such as the existence/involvement of a deity) which are unfalsified (or in this case unfalsifiable). You can, however, say that concepts that are unsupported by evidence have no validity (a 00 on the scale).

quote:
Do you consider Last Thursdayism to be a valid possibility due to the tentativity of human knowledge? Ghosts? Fairies?
Your dreaded Intangible Pink Unicorn?

Actually, yes. The only thing dreadful to me about it is the color, but that's a personal opinion. No I don't dread fictional concepts, yes at some level one should consider the possibility that somewhere somewhen they could be real. Probable no, possible yes. Not something I need to consider as a practical possibility until I see more evidence. Consider that there currently is a glove orbiting the earth, there are people orbiting the earth, there will be a space station full of people orbiting the earth. At some point in time there is a distinct possibility of a teapot orbiting the earth, if for no other purpose than a practical joke, but there none-the-less.

Pink isn't so bad. My girlfriend manages to make it look quite good - though she tends to use hot pink rather than softer shades ;)

It seems we are in agreement that tentativity forces us to acknowledge that even incredibly unlikely possibilities are not proven impossible. However, I would still label those ideas as lacking any validity. For those that make specific assertions about objective reality (that is, {A} exists) but are unfalsifiable, I think that after reasonable investigation has been undertaken to search for possibly extant supporting evidence, it's acceptable to label the ideas as "invalid" if only slightly (for instance, I regard deities and ghosts as somewhere between 00 and -1 on the scale).

quote:
Atheism, to use another example, would be the recognition that the existence of a deity {A} is invalid because there is no evidence supporting {A}. If one proposed contradictory deity (or deities) {B} without supporting evidence, there would be no validity to either {A} nor {B}. Belief in vaguely-defined deity {C} which could actually be deity {A} or {B} or any number of other deities, also without supporting evidence, would also have no validity. Belief in {A}, {B}, or {C} would be a matter of subjective personal preference (on the level with choosing a favorite color), with no objective validity whatsoever, and could logically be placed in the same category as all other unsupported beliefs that have no validity.

And curiously, this still is not evidence of the absence of god/s, or are you now claiming that absence of evidence is evidence of absence ...?

More interestingly, I never claimed to have evidence of the absence of god/s. Absence of evidence is suggestive of absence when reasonable investigation ahs been undertaken, but is not actually evidence of absence. Perhaps you have me confused with a different atheist? My lack of belief is extremely tentative, and I say "there's no such thing as god/s" only because the absence of evidence after significant investigation is suggestive that no god/s exist, and I have no reason to think otherwise.

quote:
Depending, of course, on how one defines reality. Given that all of our sensory inputs (and therefore all of our information) seems to come from the physical world, I'd certainly consider the physical world "real" even if it actually turns out to be a computer simulation like the Matrix. It's certainly real for all practical purposes, and what else matters?

That is the basic assumption, yes. Another way to put it is that what we experience is all a god-dream and we won't know until the dreamer awakes (if then). For practical purposes our reality is the god-dream and that is all we can sense. It is, for practical purposes, indistinguishable from your physical world reality.

And practically speaking, such considerations are nothing more than irrelevant navel-gazing. They are both unfalsifiable and unsupportable, and are no different from determining whether blue or green is the superior color (excepting that we actually know that the colors blue and green exist).

quote:
From your words (and forgive me if this isn't what you actually mean) I should consider Creationism (contradictory to evolution) and the likelihood of a power outage in five minutes time to be equally valid viewpoints because of the absolute presence of tentativity in my beliefs.

Again, not all of creationism is contradictory to evolution or even all of science, even though certain aspects of certain creationisms are, mostly those that are already invalidated by other evidence.

I agree. When I speak of Creationism, I am typically referring to the young-Earth, special-Creation, global Flood version.

Interestingly I have high confidence that a power outage will not shut my computer down, as I have battery backup.

And I have a laptop, but you still got my point.

quote:
I think that the degree of tentativity should also be included.

Intriguingly, what you are more skeptical of (hold to be more tentative) will differ from what other people are more skeptical of, there is no absolute scale to measure unknown possibilities, just a lot of personal opinions. The degree of tentativity of a concept would likely be harder to define than life.

I agree with that as well. But I also think that some opinions are more valid than others. Clearly, while there are still today some people who believe the Earth is flat, their opinion is invalidated by evidence. Where no evidence exists (or can exist), the waters become more muddied. When someone proposes an unfalsifiable assertion with no supporting evidence, by default I tend toward thinking that the assertion has been completely fabricated because of the long and well-proven track record of human beings to do exactly that.

I'm curious RAZD - where on the -10 to +10 scale would you place your confidence that god/s of some undefined form exist?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 63 by RAZD, posted 07-06-2009 10:24 PM RAZD has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 67 by RAZD, posted 07-08-2009 7:30 PM Rahvin has not yet responded

  
RAZD
Member
Posts: 19759
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.8


Message 67 of 68 (514548)
07-08-2009 7:30 PM
Reply to: Message 66 by Rahvin
07-07-2009 3:13 PM


Re: the skeptical open-mind
Hi Rahvin, I'll have to be brief and hit the highlights, due to the pending shutdown\transfer. If I miss anything important we can come back to it.

Then perhaps I'm not understanding you correctly. If the tentativity of belief {A} forces us to acknowledge contradictory belief {B} as valid, do you also mean that the term "valid" is not a binary, black/white distinction, and that you see varying shades of validity? If so, then I would say that we agree, excepting that I hold beliefs that are unsupported by evidence to have no validity (while also not being invalid - perhaps a 0 on a validity-scale of -10 to +10).

I'd say it must be a sliding scale - valid does not have the absoluteness of true. We consider unfalsified theories to be valid - tentatively true until demonstrated otherwise, and as you say, the more they are supported by new evidence the more we can have confidence in the continued validity.

I'd say "valid" means a logical concept "not demonstrated to be false"

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/valid

quote:
4 Logic
a. Containing premises from which the conclusion may logically be derived: a valid argument.
b. Correctly inferred or deduced from a premise: a valid conclusion.
American Heritage Dictionary

Note that it does not necessarily rely on evidence the way theory does, so the validity of a theory is a subset of valid concepts.

My typical response to any assertion that has not been supported by evidence is "why should I think that?" If no evidence can be given to support the assertion, I disregard it as lacking validity (even while acknowledging that it may perhaps be possible if evidence is eventually discovered).

I often have that reaction when the argument is supported by evidence, when I consider the argument to be weak.

But you've said that the tentativity of our understanding of any evidence forces us to acknowledge the validity of contradicting views. You seem to be contradicting yourself here. Perhaps you could clarify?

Yes, that thought occurred to me while writing that. The difference is that we have evidence that invalidates the concept that the earth is flat, etc. It would take a massive restructuring of what we know as reality to make a flat earth a valid concept - you would have to throw out all physics and astronomy.

We could likely group concepts into three broad groups, with the caveat that there are likely definitional problems at the junctions (like the definition of life):

  1. invalidated concepts, concepts that are contradicted by objective, verified, evidence that is apparently of reality, based on our current knowledge of reality,
  2. vindicated concepts, concepts that are vindicated by new evidence that conforms to the concepts predictions (ie tested theories, the understanding that the chair in my room is a part of physical reality), and
  3. all the concepts in between.
I'd say that "valid" includes concepts in (b) and (c) categories.

So then your "ground rules" apply only to unevidenced positions, which also have no evidenced contradictory positions? If we're considering only those positions with no amount of evidence for or against, I'd say that any distinctions are rather arbitrary. Again, perhaps you could clarify?

No, the "ground rules" as I interpret them (it's not my thread), would apply to any concept with no contrary evidence, such as evolution and the existence of sasquatch\etc. Science is by definition tentative and this tentativity is specifically included in the ground rules as statements where it is understood that tentativity is part of the concept. Likewise any concept based on weak or inconclusive, possibly anecdotal, evidence would also by definition be tentative. The only place where I think we can draw the line on tentativity, is where there is objective, verified evidence that shows the concept as stated is contradicted.

This is what I meant when I brought up degrees of tentativity, and evidence increasing certitude but never actually reaching 100%. I also think, however, that it's possible to give an answer while still acknowledging that all answers are tentative to varying degrees. For example, we can say that the Earth does orbit the Sun while acknowledging that there is some possibility that we aer wrong.

It's a matter of frames of reference, and curiously there is a challenge to show that the earth is not the center of the universe, however whatever mathematical gymnastics that are employed to describe the universe with the earth at the center, will necessarily default to the same results as are found by the simpler formulations that don't make this arbitrary point of reference. This in essence comes to the same issue as the reality vs illusion\dream discussed earlier, where the net result is that it is for all intents and practical purposes the same thing - it is what we live with.

When evaluating a given concept, ... Unlikely enough to say that I really don't think they exist, but even a small amount of real evidence would be sufficient to tip me the other way.

This is basically how you arrive at your opinions, and different people stop at different places on that journey.

The degree to which I investigate a concept has less to do with how likely the concept is to be true, and more to do with how relavent the concept is. For isntance, the existence of a kitten seven blocks away is easily investigated and can be easily supported with evidence, but is wholly irrelevant to my life, and so I choose nott o investigate it. The concept of the existence of a deity would be potentially very significant in my life, and so I have spent significant time investigating the concept (partially including my time here on this forum).

Curiously, I don't think the existence of a deity would be significant to me, mostly because I don't see that there is any difference with or without, when the god/s are outside.

skipping down ...

Most assertions begin with observation, meaning we already have some amount of evidence granting validity. Idle speculation must start from 00 on the scale, but if the idea is of significant relavence, and is at least falsifiable and/or supportable with potentially extant evidence, it's still worthwhile to investigate such speculations.

We start with subjective experiences, and this has importance to the observer, while those who have not had the experience cannot have the same perspective - hasn't this been hashed out on the other threads?

and again ...

Certainly, but again that's part of how {B} contradicts {A} when {A} is supported by evidence. In fact, this would be a perfect example of how, when tentativity decreases sufficiently due to the weight of evidence, it is acceptable to label {A} as valid, and {B} as invalid.

First we would need to trim {B} down to eliminate the parts that are invalidated, and then consider the remainder - as this is what we would do for any scientific concept\theory - and then consider the remainder. Part of the problem with this example is that "creationism" is not a single concept, but a compilation of many concepts, with a number of different varieties and types.

I'm curious RAZD - where on the -10 to +10 scale would you place your confidence that god/s of some undefined form exist?

To be honest, I don't know. Logic tells me that there are many ways god/s could not possibly be consistently evidenced in our universe in a way that could be confirmed, and thus are immune to our understanding on an objective level. My personal faith tells me there is "something" spiritual, but I don't really conceive it as god/s per se, as that is too anthropomorphic (and egocentric) a concept.

... all for now (with 20 minutes to go ...)

Enjoy.

Edited by RAZD, : tpyo


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This message is a reply to:
 Message 66 by Rahvin, posted 07-07-2009 3:13 PM Rahvin has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 68 by Straggler, posted 07-18-2009 5:00 PM RAZD has acknowledged this reply

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 10284
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 68 of 68 (515532)
07-18-2009 5:00 PM
Reply to: Message 67 by RAZD
07-08-2009 7:30 PM


Rational Conclusions
Hey RAZ. Me again. Happy to see me?

RAZD writes:

Logic tells me that there are many ways god/s could not possibly be consistently evidenced in our universe in a way that could be confirmed, and thus are immune to our understanding on an objective level.

EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE
Obviously unless one accepts the validity of non-empirical evidence non-empirical gods cannot be evidenced at all. Period. Subjectively, objectively or anyotherectively. If one restricts oneself to empirical evidence then no one non-empirical concept is any more or less evidenced than any other. Thus the Immaterial Pink Unicorn, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, ethereal toilet goblins, demons, fairies, ghosts, gods, deities, Zeus, Apollo, Vishnu, Wagwah, leprechauns and the undetectable face sucking jellyfish are all necessarily as unevidenced as any other inherently non-empirical and scientifically unknowable concept.

HUMAN INVENTION
On the other side of the argument we have a great deal of empirical and validated evidence that suggests that gods and other supposedly unknowable entities are in fact the products of human invention. The human capacity for invention and creativity seems to be almost infinite. This is a remarkable and wondrous thing. However it is also something of an impediment to reliably drawing conclusions about the nature of objective reality. Humanity has a long track record of inventing supposedly unknowable entities that have subsequently been made redundant and even refuted as knowledge regarding the natural empirical world has progressed. Given the indisputable need for answers, comfort, meaning and purpose that forms a common feature of humanity does anyone really think that gods and other "unknowable" entities would not be invented by humans? Whether any actually exist or not?

DISBELIEF
Given that any belief in any specific inherently non-empirical entity must logically be unevidenced (unless one accepts forms of non-empirical evidence as indicators of reality external to the mind - which opens a whole new kettle of fishy worms) and given that there is objective evidence to suggest that gods and the like are the product of human invention we must evidentially, rationally and logically conclude that all such concepts are in all probability "made up". Thus a degree of doubt, a degree of disbelief, a degree of "atheism" is the evidential, rational and logical conclusion towards all such non-empirical concepts.

FAITH
Therefore if anyone chooses to believe in any one such non-empirical concept whilst denying the existence of others this must be a matter of faith. Unevidenced, irrational, illogical faith. That is fine. I personally have no problem with faith in itself. My problem is with those who insist that the non-empirical objects of their faith are evidentially justified in some way. This is simply confirmation bias borne from wholly subjective personal conviction that what one believes is actually true. The need to evidence ones beliefs can be incredibly powerful.

CONCLUSION
All non-empirical concepts are equally unevidenced. Unless a form of non-empirical evidence can be demonstrated to be any more reliable than just guessing, gods and other concepts that are inherently unable to be evidenced empirically must evidentially and rationally be considered to be (in all likelihood) products of the human mind. With no basis in external reality. Commonality of concept across separate cultures is best explained by common human needs, desires, emotions and psychology. In effect gods and other such concepts are inevitable products of the "human condition".

Enjoy

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 67 by RAZD, posted 07-08-2009 7:30 PM RAZD has acknowledged this reply

  
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