Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

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SneakyMongo
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Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby SneakyMongo » Mon Feb 18, 2008 10:45 pm UTC

I know fellows!
Science shouldn't have to lower itself into the mud of political discourse and petty arguements.
Unfortunately, the "believe and let believe" thing is not a viable long-term strategy.

This is a democracy, so the more people who believe X, the more its concepts and ethics are represented in the power structures of the government.
Thus, saying "Oh I don't care if someone believes a gaint invisible man exists in the sky, so long as they don't force it on me" is not a good strategy to deal with irrationality, because before you know it they've build a giant bronze statue to honor him. With money that by all rights should've gone to something that wasn't A) useless and B) insane
For most commonwealth countries, the above is a serious issue (we spend a day in our kindergarden class learning the joys of Christ)

But I'm a US citizen I hear you say.
Well, again, the above scenario applies, although less directly. Stem cell research is fought against along primarily religious lines, the No Child Left Behind bill gives certian funds to faith-based private programs. -I almost totally forgot creationism. That's religious in nature as well.

I'm not saying be a pushy jerk. But don't be permissive about none-sense. "Free energy is possible and I have it right here" should be responded with a crisp "Highly doubtful, and you are totally irrational to believe in such poorly evidenced drivel" not "I respect your opinion, though I disagree".
The social climate in which the quest for knowledge takes place can severly effect it, and thus must be at least mildly pushed toward a more lenient view.
I love that little christian lady who bakes me cookies on sunday as well! She is super-nice. But she votes. And her message is, as evidenced by the current state of cultural affairs, far more appealing to most people. So like it or not, live and let live eventually bites you in the ass.

Richard Dawkins, his bizarre utopia atheistic dreams aside, is perhaps on the right track.
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Namaps
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Namaps » Tue Feb 19, 2008 1:46 am UTC

I don't really like Dawkins, but otherwise I agree. Religion is amoung the only spheres of life where people allow and even respect belief in the absurd.

You say you live in the commonwealth, and the only place I know of that's commonly referred to that way is the Commonwealth of Nations, so I'm not quite sure where you're talking about, since I'm pretty sure there isn't much Christian-focused education in, say, India.

Also, your thread title is rather misleading.
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Nath
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Nath » Tue Feb 19, 2008 3:15 am UTC

SneakyMongo wrote:I'm not saying be a pushy jerk. But don't be permissive about none-sense. "Free energy is possible and I have it right here" should be responded with a crisp "Highly doubtful, and you are totally irrational to believe in such poorly evidenced drivel" not "I respect your opinion, though I disagree".
...
Richard Dawkins, his bizarre utopia atheistic dreams aside, is perhaps on the right track.
I propose we grow some thorns?

Because there's nothing more persuasive than insulting people's beliefs? Oh, right, that invariably backfires and puts you in a worse position. So, don't. Mocking idiots is fun, but makes them more idiotic.

Namaps wrote:I don't really like Dawkins, but otherwise I agree. Religion is amoung the only spheres of life where people allow and even respect belief in the absurd.

Not true. A great deal of what people believe is absurd.

Namaps wrote:You say you live in the commonwealth, and the only place I know of that's commonly referred to that way is the Commonwealth of Nations, so I'm not quite sure where you're talking about, since I'm pretty sure there isn't much Christian-focused education in, say, India.

Also not true. I went to two schools in India; both had me singing Christian hymns every morning. My experience was not typical, but not terribly rare either.

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Namaps
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Namaps » Tue Feb 19, 2008 3:27 am UTC

Nath wrote:
Namaps wrote:I don't really like Dawkins, but otherwise I agree. Religion is amoung the only spheres of life where people allow and even respect belief in the absurd.

Not true. A great deal of what people believe is absurd.


Oh wow. You're right of course though. I just swapped perspective to a really depressing one...

Bleh.


Nath wrote:
Namaps wrote:You say you live in the commonwealth, and the only place I know of that's commonly referred to that way is the Commonwealth of Nations, so I'm not quite sure where you're talking about, since I'm pretty sure there isn't much Christian-focused education in, say, India.

Also not true. I went to two schools in India; both had me singing Christian hymns every morning. My experience was not typical, but not terribly rare either.

Apparently my whole post was a load of crap. Haha, oh well. I suppose I'll find other things to argue about elsewhere.
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby mmaniaci » Tue Feb 19, 2008 4:34 am UTC

Nath wrote:
Namaps wrote:I don't really like Dawkins, but otherwise I agree. Religion is amoung the only spheres of life where people allow and even respect belief in the absurd.

Not true. A great deal of what people believe is absurd.


Warning: following paragraph may be hard to follow... too many indefinite articles and I'm an engineering student, 'nuff said.

Very true; people believe some outrageous stuff, but the statement was that the group will "allow and even respect" the absurd beliefs, not just "believe." I may believe that there is a red-eyed, three-horned bunny up my ass, but I think I can safely say that no one around me would allow or respect that belief. I think it would be safer to say that with respect to the nonreligious, religious people allow and respect belief in the absurd, but what do you think they have to say about our beliefs* in atheism?

As for the actual topic of the author, I find this can apply to every-day life and not just science. I have recently been toying with the idea that "doing to others what they have done to me" may actually be morally right. Of course there is a definite bound to what I will "do back" to people not to mention the obvious gray area of intent, but I have found that being a sort of mirror to people will help them become a better person because they may just see their own flaws in my actions. Face it, other people are way better at pointing out your flaws than you are.

I say that if someone actively hinders your ability to be free thinking, innovative, and happy, you best hinder their ability to do the same. They may brush you off as an ignorant asshole bend on the undermining of all that is Faith, but maybe they'll go home and rethink why they were trying to oppress you with their ideals. If religion is actively hindering science in wherever you live, actively hinder their religion. Unfortunately you will probably be burned at the stake for doing so.

*Not sure if one can believe in atheism, but I think it works to get the point across.
P.S. I didn't have time to read through the post, so some of my statements may not be logically valid--critique this nicely please :P.

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Nath
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Nath » Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:33 am UTC

mmaniaci wrote:Very true; people believe some outrageous stuff, but the statement was that the group will "allow and even respect" the absurd beliefs, not just "believe." I may believe that there is a red-eyed, three-horned bunny up my ass, but I think I can safely say that no one around me would allow or respect that belief.

That specific belief, sure. But there are plenty of other ridiculous non-religious beliefs that many people would be perfectly willing to respect. There's a lot of superstition and pseudoscience that is not directly based on religion.

mmaniaci wrote:As for the actual topic of the author, I find this can apply to every-day life and not just science. I have recently been toying with the idea that "doing to others what they have done to me" may actually be morally right. Of course there is a definite bound to what I will "do back" to people not to mention the obvious gray area of intent, but I have found that being a sort of mirror to people will help them become a better person because they may just see their own flaws in my actions. Face it, other people are way better at pointing out your flaws than you are.

Morals being as subjective and arbitrary as they are, you can claim that anything is morally right. For instance, I could claim that it is immoral to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich unless both the peanut butter and the jelly face outwards (and, indeed, many value systems do have equally absurd requirements). "Do unto others what they have done to me" is no less arbitrary.
Whether you call it moral or not is irrelevant. The thing is, in many situations, that policy causes more harm than good to all parties.

mmaniaci wrote:I say that if someone actively hinders your ability to be free thinking, innovative, and happy, you best hinder their ability to do the same. They may brush you off as an ignorant asshole bend on the undermining of all that is Faith, but maybe they'll go home and rethink why they were trying to oppress you with their ideals.

Do you really think that? Do you really think that most people, on having their beliefs attacked, stop to re-examine them? A few do, perhaps. Most people just have their blind beliefs strengthened. A lot of people hold beliefs for emotional reasons, rather than rational ones. An attack usually strengthens the emotional component of the belief more than it weakens the rational one.

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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby mmaniaci » Tue Feb 19, 2008 7:18 am UTC

@Nath
The more I think about it the more I believe that my little idea doesn't apply to the original author's topic. Like you said, attacking somebody's belief usually strengthens their resolve, and I believe that is true. I apply the "do to you what you do to me" philosophy strictly in a behavioral sense, and I can say for sure that it has worked (in my select group of friends that all think in somewhat similar fashions).

You are right about morals being subjective, also, but there has to be a common ground of what it actually means to be "moral." I'm sure googling "define: moral" will give a decent definition, but I won't go there. I just meant that it may help people to show them who they are in an indirect fashion. How many people that you've suggested change to have taken it kindly? My ex sure didn't, but in time she realized that I was completely right. Also, I won't say that it works as a fact. It has simply worked in a few specific scenarios, and I am pondering whether or not it will apply globally. This post seemed along those lines so I shared the idea, but as I said previously, I no longer think the idea is 100% relevant to the topic.

Maybe I should present my little idea in a new topic in a more thorough and organized fashion...

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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby TheAmazingRando » Tue Feb 19, 2008 7:34 am UTC

The difference between pseudoscience (including creationism) and religion is that religious faith is not based on science, and does not purport to be scientific (and science is hardly lazy when it comes to opposing religion masquerading as science). Since religion (or more specifically, the belief in a god) is not scientific, saying "there is no scientific evidence for religion" doesn't dispel it.

You can't scientifically disprove something non-scientific, you can only claim that it is non-scientific, to which its believers will respond "I know."

The only thing science should be concerned with dispelling is bad science. Religion is not science, therefore it cannot be bad science.

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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Ari » Tue Feb 19, 2008 1:25 pm UTC

Nath wrote:Morals being as subjective and arbitrary as they are, you can claim that anything is morally right. For instance, I could claim that it is immoral to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich unless both the peanut butter and the jelly face outwards (and, indeed, many value systems do have equally absurd requirements). "Do unto others what they have done to me" is no less arbitrary.
Whether you call it moral or not is irrelevant. The thing is, in many situations, that policy causes more harm than good to all parties.


As someone who has actually studied morals and ethics, I can say they are definitely not subjective- that arguement is actually self-defeating, (it's known as moral relativism in Philosophy, and the contrasting position, moral absolutism, holds that some moral ideas are shared by all or most people) as a moral relativist has to accept not only that moral absolutists have a right to believe what they do, but that they're actually right. While we can't agree 100% on everything, this is because we have a few "outliers" who for whatever reasons have a grossly distorted moral landscape and will excuse things like say, killing, for very poor reasons. That said, there's very high agreement on the basics of morality- things like not killing or stealing, keeping realistic promises, being honest, being (mostly) free to make your own decisions, etc...

The issue isn't whether it's moral to harm other people or not- clearly it's not. The issue is whether harming them might be less immoral than leaving them as they are. We accept that we can push people to save them from traffic. We accept that we can force children to do things they really don't want to because they don't understand the consequences of their decisions. Likewise, I feel we can also assume that sometimes people really just don't see what they're doing wrong, and that we need to do more than tell them to get them to stop it.

In short- I agree with where you going, but I think you took entirely the wrong route to get there ;)
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Indon » Tue Feb 19, 2008 3:15 pm UTC

I don't think scientists should have to enforce people knowing things.

I think our educational system should be better.

And Ari - is "everyone's morals are equally right" seriously a definition anyone actually uses for moral relativism? Because it seems to be a strawman.
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Ari
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Ari » Tue Feb 19, 2008 3:36 pm UTC

Indon wrote:And Ari - is "everyone's morals are equally right" seriously a definition anyone actually uses for moral relativism? Because it seems to be a strawman.


It seems like it is a strawman, right? But it's actually the position philosophers call moral relativism- absolutism is only the position that moral absolutes exist at all, not that we necessarily judge them correctly, and not even that all "moral" decisions are fully based on these absolutes. Thus philosophers determine that there are moral absolutes, but that we have outliers on the moral spectrum, and that tolerating deviance from irrelevant cultural taboos and such are highly important to moral judgement. Most interesting moral judgements occur at far removes from these basic absolutes though, where people can argue between the importance of choice and killing, stealing and freedom, etc...

This middle ground, with softer absolutes, is relatively uncontroversial, once people grasp that it exists- until then, divisions into absolutism and relativism are incredibly polar. When the subject is first introduced in 101 classes, the class usually starts off with about a 50/50 split. About a week or two in, as the middle ground becomes clearer, and as people understanding the important of tolerance begin to realise that it is not mutually exclusive with moral absolutes, there are only incredibly passionate relativists left.


Anyway, I've veered us a little off topic, and I apologise. As such, I think I owe you all some more topical discourse! :)

While I don't believe it is necessarily a professional responsibility of scientists to influence public opinion, it is certainly core to their ideals and their aims that someone champions their cause. People have the right to their religious beliefs, but peopl also have the right and, I feel, the responsibility to try and reconcile those beliefs with observable facts and solid conclusions derived from them. I feel it's also important to distinguish between moral truth and factual truth- stories like Noah's Ark have powerful moral truth in them- that life is worth preserving, that we should value diversity, that long odds can be overcome with preparedness, etc... but there is very little evidence to support the argument that they are strictly factually true. The closest we've come yet is that it is probably influenced by real floods in the Mediterranean region, I believe.

That said, I think we should be careful about rejecting alternative points of view just because they invalidate useful assumptions. A useful assumption is not necessarily a valid one, and it is unscientific to claim so. It is only when we have good evidence that it starts to become probable that it's a mostly valid assumption. (even then we are likely to discover more about it later that greatly changes the fine details of our understanding) As such, we shouldn't dismiss someone who says "we might be able to generate energy without some significant drawbacks of our current system" as attacking our understanding of energy out of hand. We should invest negatively proportional time investigating their claims to the amounts of established knowledge it would overthrow. Alternative viewpoints are terribly important to science, and even faith and irrationality will sometimes have it right! The scientific way, remember, is to treat all non-rational thought equally, not with hostility.

Scientists are concerned with spreading rationality. Not fighting irrationality. If people can have the two harmoniously co-exist, they have every right to their beliefs. It is only when their beliefs are used to directly fight solid, rational conclusions when your claim- that apathetic scientists (or perhaps non-activist is a better term?) hurt the overall interests of science- rings true to me.
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Nath » Tue Feb 19, 2008 4:45 pm UTC

Ari wrote:As someone who has actually studied morals and ethics, I can say they are definitely not subjective- that arguement is actually self-defeating, (it's known as moral relativism in Philosophy, and the contrasting position, moral absolutism, holds that some moral ideas are shared by all or most people) as a moral relativist has to accept not only that moral absolutists have a right to believe what they do, but that they're actually right. While we can't agree 100% on everything, this is because we have a few "outliers" who for whatever reasons have a grossly distorted moral landscape and will excuse things like say, killing, for very poor reasons. That said, there's very high agreement on the basics of morality- things like not killing or stealing, keeping realistic promises, being honest, being (mostly) free to make your own decisions, etc...

The thing about relativism in morality is that it's a lot like relativism in physics. A statement -- moral or physical -- only makes sense relative to the observer. You can classify me as a relativist, if you like, but I think it'd be more accurate to say I don't believe in any real moral laws at all. I think everybody classifies certain arbitrary things as 'moral', and then does things that way. It's not a question of being right or wrong; it's like saying "I like the color blue". If I like blue and you like green, neither of us is right or wrong. These are just statements of preference.

I say that an object 'foo' is moving at 5 m/s. You say it's moving at 10 m/s. On the surface, our statements are contradictory. On closer examination, there is no contradiction; we're both right, in our respective frames of reference.

(If you want to continue this discussion, we should probably do so in another thread.)

Ari wrote:Scientists are concerned with spreading rationality. Not fighting irrationality. If people can have the two harmoniously co-exist, they have every right to their beliefs.

What does it mean for rationality and irrationality to co-exist in a person? Rationality is the absence of irrationality, just as dark is the absence of light. Spreading darkness means fighting light.

(That metaphor sounded a lot less ominous in my head.)

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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Gunfingers » Tue Feb 19, 2008 4:58 pm UTC

It's not a simple boolean position, either. There's absolutism, and relativism, and many many degrees in between. I don't think very many people actually exist at either extreme. I'd call myself a moral relativist, but there are still some things i would say are actually "wrong".

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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:17 pm UTC

Stand up! For your right! To aarrrrrrrggguuuuue!!

Hang out with hippies! Interact with the religious right! SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THOSE WHO DON"T THINK JUST LIKE YOU DO! LISTEN TO MORE RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE!
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby KevorkianKat » Tue Feb 19, 2008 6:31 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Stand up! For your right! To aarrrrrrrggguuuuue!!

Hang out with hippies! Interact with the religious right! SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THOSE WHO DON"T THINK JUST LIKE YOU DO! LISTEN TO MORE RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE!


I tried that once, the hippies were awesome, but hanging around the religous right nearly got me burned at the stake. My wife went to a Catholic law school (as an agnostic) and left after the first year because of an increasing amount of death threats and quasi-violent actions (car egging, lipstick threats) from the students (note, the teachers were accepting, the students were the perpetrators but due to mob mentality it was quickly spiraling out of control).

Back to point, I think the problem is that science can co-exist with religion just fine, it's religion that can't stand science. It's modern day witches and heretics basically with the frosted coated covering of "right to live (stemcells)" and "but you don't know (insert random science to religion comparison here)" bullshit.

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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Robin S » Tue Feb 19, 2008 6:49 pm UTC

TheAmazingRando wrote:pseudoscience (including creationism)
Creationism is not pseudoscience. Intelligent Design is.

I wanted to say a lot more, but Nath's covered all of it.
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby mmaniaci » Tue Feb 19, 2008 6:54 pm UTC

I believe this thread got way out of hand haha. Fantastic conversation and I've learned a ton about morality and the like, but it has ultimately digressed from the topic beyond any chance of recovery.

So who wants to start the "philosophies on ethics/morality" thread? :D

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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Robin S » Tue Feb 19, 2008 6:58 pm UTC

Fairly sure it already exists...
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby TheAmazingRando » Tue Feb 19, 2008 7:31 pm UTC

Robin S wrote:Creationism is not pseudoscience. Intelligent Design is.

I was thinking of Creation Science which is separate from ID. You're correct, though, that creationism itself is not a pseudoscience.

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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Silas » Tue Feb 19, 2008 7:38 pm UTC

Ari wrote:As someone who has actually studied morals and ethics, I can say [that ethics] are definitely not subjective- that arguement is actually self-defeating, (it's known as moral relativism in Philosophy, and the contrasting position, moral absolutism, holds that some moral ideas are shared by all or most people) as a moral relativist has to accept not only that moral absolutists have a right to believe what they do, but that they're actually right.


As someone who has actually studied morals and ethics, you should know better than this. First, it's semantically incorrect to say that moral absolutists hold that some moral ideas are shared by all or most people: this is a fact that can be verified or rejected emprically; a more appropriate word would be argue or object. Second, and more importantly, moral absolutism has nothing to do with what beliefs large or small numbers of people hold. Moral absolutism is the claim that a moral order of things exists, independently of people believing in it. Moral relativism, though, is the (untenable) position that not only does a moral order exist (things actually are right or wrong, that's not just a delusion), but that it varies across groups, or even across individuals (typically according to the beliefs of those groups or individuals).
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Robin S » Tue Feb 19, 2008 7:55 pm UTC

Wikipedia appears to say otherwise.

In philosophy moral relativism is the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect objective and/or universal moral truths, but instead make claims relative to social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances. Moral relativists hold that no universal standard exists by which to access an ethical proposition's truth
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby SneakyMongo » Tue Feb 19, 2008 9:22 pm UTC

Commonwealth of nations namaps, exactly.
Indon wrote:I don't think scientists should have to enforce people knowing things.

I didn't say they should?
But if what you are saying is totally crazy, and a rational fellow is around, he should give you an ear full.
kevork wrote:Back to point, I think the problem is that science can co-exist with religion just fine, it's religion that can't stand science

What I'm saying is basically this. Scientists should be culturally allowed to stand a little taller, and we should consider craziness, a far less respectable position.

I propose rather scientists stop being passive, and start treating crazy irrational drivel LIke crazy irrational drivel.
Nah wrote:Not true. A great deal of what people believe is absurd.

Then it should not be ideally allowed to fester, especially as most of it tends to self-propogate
Nah wrote:Because there's nothing more persuasive than insulting people's beliefs? Oh, right, that invariably backfires and puts you in a worse position. So, don't. Mocking idiots is fun, but makes them more idiotic.

There needs to be a social pressure, and insults are often an effective manner of doing it.
And it shouldn't be insulting. It seems a testiment to how far society has fallen that you can't call someone's beliefs irrational drivel (when they are) without it being insulting
Nah wrote:Whether you call it moral or not is irrelevant. The thing is, in many situations, that policy causes more harm than good to all parties.

I agree in so far as morality is not my concern with this. Only the quest for information needs cultural weight, not aloof dis-interest.
I would disagree that it causes harm to both parties.
Although insulting to the person you are being caustic with, even if he does not believe you, it isn't really about him. Its about the people around him who may be swayed by his craziness unless you point out just how unevidenced it happens to be, and how irrational it is to therefore make the conclusions he draws.
nah wrote:A lot of people hold beliefs for emotional reasons, rather than rational ones. An attack usually strengthens the emotional component of the belief more than it weakens the rational one.


I agree totally. I have yet to ever see an atheist or a christian debate one another only for one to ultimately go "Oh, my mistake. You are totally right!"
The idea is to create a culture where attacks on beliefs are the norm, where nothing truly grandiose can be spoken like its true without equally grandiose evidence.
As I say in the OP, to give science some thorns, and keep the culture, which does deal in insults and hurt, from walking on while we all stand around being aloof.
the Amazing Rando wrote:The only thing science should be concerned with dispelling is bad science. Religion is not science, therefore it cannot be bad science.

Most religions do make physical claims. For instance, to be a Saint in christianity requires 2 miracles. And miracles are events God alone can do. Thus a falsifable criteria.
But on the larger scale, I make no mention of pesudo-science because I trust real scientists to weed it out. The problem is the willful disregard for the precepts of rationality, that is what I propose we stop accepting as alright.

Thus, religion does fall under the umbrella of this thread. As it is not "science must prufiy itself" but rather "Scientists needs to realize that an irrational culture hurts them, and thus should be strived against".

Ari wrote:That said, there's very high agreement on the basics of morality- things like not killing or stealing, keeping realistic promises, being honest, being (mostly) free to make your own decisions, etc...

Moral absolutism is wrong because it presumes what is good for the species (don't fight with neighbors, share, form group connections, don't hurt your group trust) and thus a near-universal in human cultures, is somehow a true absolute.
It really isn't.
To bacteria, don't fight with neighbors wouldn't be a morale absolute. The only "morale" they obey is live and breed.
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Robin S » Tue Feb 19, 2008 9:47 pm UTC

SneakyMongo wrote:Then it should not be ideally allowed to fester
It is a human tendency to believe things without being completely rational about it. Not allowing irrational beliefs to fester would involve running around and shouting in everyone's faces about exactly why every single one of the many irrational things that they believe is either wrong or at least unsubstantiated. A far more effective solution is to educate people such that they are likely to be more critical of their own beliefs.
There needs to be a social pressure, and insults are often an effective manner of doing it.
Citation? I've heard this argument before from people who like to insult people, and never seen the slightest bit of evidence to support it. In fact, it seems to me a bit like an irrational belief. But I'm not going to insult you about it, because I know that would just put you up in arms.
And it shouldn't be insulting.
When you endure a long, verbally abusive criticism of your own ideas without being emotionally affected, I'll respect that claim.
It seems a testiment to how far society has fallen
Citation for society having fallen? As far as I'm aware it's been doing precisely the opposite, though I suppose that depends on your exact definition of "society".
Although insulting to the person you are being caustic with, even if he does not believe you, it isn't really about him. Its about the people around him who may be swayed by his craziness unless you point out just how unevidenced it happens to be, and how irrational it is to therefore make the conclusions he draws.
I may have an unusual environment, but the people I know who seriously hold to, for example, literalist interpretations of scripture form a tiny minority, which itself is a sign that it doesn't really spread to the people around them. Religious belief seems usually to be acquired during early upbringing, and though there are notable exceptions I question whether that justifies insulting believers(whether you personally think they should feel insulted by it or not).
The idea is to create a culture where attacks on beliefs are the norm, where nothing truly grandiose can be spoken like its true without equally grandiose evidence.
Given that you recognize that this won't actually affect anyone's beliefs in the slightest, what do you hope to achieve by it?
to be a Saint in christianity requires 2 miracles. And miracles are events God alone can do. Thus a falsifable criteria.
How would you personally falsify a claim of a miracle, assuming you weren't there? Logical argument won't work, remember.
it presumes what is good for the species (don't fight with neighbors, share, form group connections, don't hurt your group trust) and thus a near-universal in human cultures, is somehow a true absolute. It really isn't.
First, a minor point but group selection as the driving force of evolution has been generally discredited. Second, what's wrong with defining moral good as "whatever's good for the species, or makes the most individuals happy", or something like that?
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby SneakyMongo » Tue Feb 19, 2008 10:38 pm UTC

Robin 5 wrote:It is a human tendency to believe things without being completely rational about it

You ignore the 2 percent of the world's population who do just that. Further, it is human tendancy to be violent. We overcome that quite easily (well most do, we will probably always have outliers)
Robin 5 wrote:. Not allowing irrational beliefs to fester would involve running around and shouting in everyone's faces about exactly why every single one of the many irrational things that they believe is either wrong or at least unsubstantiated.

Not shouting, but it would help for those listening to have them pointed out.
Robin 5 wrote:A far more effective solution is to educate people such that they are likely to be more critical of their own beliefs.

"smart people are very good at rationalizing what they came to believe when they were not smart" -Dawkins.
By this logic, we shouldn't have theistic scientists. religion, and most irrational belief, is highly comparatmentalized, and really no avenue can convince someone.
The point is the cultural effect, the observer's opinion.
Robin 5 wrote:Citation for society having fallen? As far as I'm aware it's been doing precisely the opposite, though I suppose that depends on your exact definition of "society".

The problem is I have failed to define in what regard I have defined "fallen", not society (in this instance, the proportion of rational individuals).
And anyway, I was just idling guessing, I have no real numbers to support the idea. You should consider the concept withdrawn
Robin 5 wrote:I may have an unusual environment, but the people I know who seriously hold to, for example, literalist interpretations of scripture form a tiny minority, which itself is a sign that it doesn't really spread to the people around them. Religious belief seems usually to be acquired during early upbringing, and though there are notable exceptions I question whether that justifies insulting believers(whether you personally think they should feel insulted by it or not).

I have a mom exactly the same way. The problem is not how ardently they believe it, but that would it can seriously effect their judgement on important issues.
For instance, she is staunchly anti-abortion, cremation, and supports spending school time on religious activities because she believes this will appease God.

Thus, irrationality in its entirety needs to be championed against, as little or a lot, it produces similiar results (although degree does effect to a certian extent how great those results are: for instance, my mom isn't going to go bomb people 'cause they touched her iconography)
Robin 5 wrote:Given that you recognize that this won't actually affect anyone's beliefs in the slightest, what do you hope to achieve by it?

The idea is to get the observer, the many observers. The person can't be reached because he's being personally attacked. But the emphasis this gives to how wrong the attackees position is, and how right the attackers, is a more powerful force I think, culturally.
Its not "well, the science guy won, but both are alright positions" to "the crazy bigfoot guy got totally destroyed, what a crazy guy".
Not as cool as dispassionate advocacy, but it would damn sure help keep the science funding from being dried up any more.
Robin 5 wrote:First, a minor point but group selection as the driving force of evolution has been generally discredited.

I'm sorry, where do I advocate that? I say good for the species, and utilize group examples because in our case, being good in a group is good for the individual
Further more, counter-example eusocial creature
Robin 5 wrote: Second, what's wrong with defining moral good as "whatever's good for the species, or makes the most individuals happy", or something like that?

Nothing, but it is not absolute.
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby TheAmazingRando » Tue Feb 19, 2008 10:56 pm UTC

Certain aspects of some religions may fall under the realm of science, but what can science possibly say about the existence of god, or the eternal soul, other than that such beliefs are not scientific?

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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Robin S » Tue Feb 19, 2008 11:01 pm UTC

SneakyMongo wrote:You ignore the 2 percent of the world's population who do just that.
I doubt that anyone, let alone 2% of the world's population, is completely rational in every single one of their opinions and beliefs.
Further, it is human tendancy to be violent. We overcome that quite easily (well most do, we will probably always have outliers)
Really? I'd say the world's a pretty violent place. Sure, individuals might not attack each other all the time, but then it's in human nature to be able to exercise self-restraint (whereas the same is not really true with respect to irrational beliefs). Also, there are laws to deter individuals from violence, and this is practical precisely because we are already in a society where most people do not attack each other all the time (note: this does not mean that the world is not a violent place. Just look at all the wars).

Not shouting, but it would help for those listening to have them pointed out.
If you think that's practical, you severely underestimate the number of irrational beliefs held by the average individual.

"smart people are very good at rationalizing what they came to believe when they were not smart" -Dawkins.
By this logic, we shouldn't have theistic scientists.
I disagree. A scientist can be critical of his own beliefs and still hold them, but I would contend that he is less likely to hold beliefs which are actually harmful.
The problem is I have failed to define in what regard I have defined "fallen", not society (in this instance, the proportion of rational individuals
If anything, I'd say that of all things has gone up with time, by any reasonable definition of "rational". Since you've withdrawn the idea, though, and it isn't central to your argument, I won't worry about that anymore.

The problem is not how ardently they believe it, but that would it can seriously effect their judgement on important issues.
Oh, I agree with that. I'm not so sure about some of your examples, however...
For instance, she is staunchly anti-abortion, cremation
The argument against each of these, wherever I've seen it, basically boils down to concern the sanctity of human life (and human remains) and, in the case of abortion, disputes over how that should be defined. This is an extremely widespread issue, far more fundamental than religious belief, and even more than with religious belief it is not going to be eradicated by making a stand against it.
and supports spending school time on religious activities because she believes this will appease God.
I agree that if she believes that people should be given no choice in the matter, that is not a good thing. However, isn't it also unconstitutional? So in practice, it's never going to be (legally) forced on people.

Thus, irrationality in its entirety needs to be championed against, as little or a lot, it produces similiar results (although degree does effect to a certian extent how great those results are: for instance, my mom isn't going to go bomb people 'cause they touched her iconography)
I repeat what I said before: irrationality is fundamental to the human condition. We reason about things using intuition and emotion. This is how our brain works, and nothing short of replacing the brain with a computer is going to change that. Trying to fight it directly is futile.

The idea is to get the observer, the many observers.
I included observers in the "anyone" whose beliefs are going to remain unaffected.
how wrong the attackees position is, and how right the attackers
Define "right". Religious beliefs, being unfalsifiable, cannot be proven right or wrong.
Its not "well, the science guy won, but both are alright positions" to "the crazy bigfoot guy got totally destroyed, what a crazy guy".
Onlookers are only going to think that if they already hold that opinion. If, on the other hand, they are believers themselves, they will react to the attack on their beliefs in the same way (even though it was not directly "aimed" at them).
would damn sure help keep the science funding from being dried up any more.
A bunch of scientists going around explaining why being scientists means they have no tolerance whatsoever for a majority position is going to get them more funding?
Nothing, but it is not absolute.
No, but a lot of the time it's damn close. Good enough for practical purposes - such as laws.
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Malice » Tue Feb 19, 2008 11:51 pm UTC

Robin S wrote:
SneakyMongo wrote:
Robin 5 wrote:It is a human tendency to believe things without being completely rational about it

You ignore the 2 percent of the world's population who do just that.
I doubt that anyone, let alone 2% of the world's population, is completely rational in every single one of their opinions and beliefs.


As usual, it falls to David Wong to save us all.

Wong wrote:Atheists, even if you reject the idea of God completely and claim to live according only to the cold logic of the physical sciences, you all still live as if the absolute morality of some magical lawgiver were true.

No, wait. Don't go away.

When some guy hustles you out of eighty bucks in an ebay scam, you don't nod and say, "Interesting! This fellow lacks the genetic predisposition toward equitable dealing that generations of sexual selection in favor of social behavior has instilled in the rest of us! A fascinating difference!"

No, you think what that guy did was wrong. You want justice. You think he should have acted differently.

Even though there's no "wrong" molecule floating in the air and there's no "justice" element on the Periodic Table. You don't think of the swindler as just a fellow animal who happens to behave differently than you. You think he should have acted some other way, according to an invisible ideal that everybody is aware of and knows they should obey.

When that "boob at the Super Bowl" incident happened a while back, I constantly heard atheists making fun of Christians and their puritan silliness over sex. "Come on! It's just meat! We're all just mammals! Sex is natural! What are you afraid of?!?!?"

Yet, the moment you find out that while you were on vacation, your girl got drunk and slept with the entire Chicago Bears...

...Suddenly sex is something to get upset about. Suddenly it's not just meat slapping against meat. Suddenly the exclusive sexual bond between you and your girl was important, was to be protected, was almost... sacred.

Again there's this invisible rule that was supposed to be followed, that everybody was supposed to be aware of, that can't be proven by logic. Whatever it is, wherever you think it came from, you can't deny that it's there. Your own behavior would make you a liar.
...
Atheists still tell their girlfriends they "love" them, and not that they simply feel a psychological artifact of a biochemical bond generated by the mating instinct. They still refer to their "mind" as if it's something more than chemical switches.
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby SneakyMongo » Wed Feb 20, 2008 12:50 am UTC

wong wrote:You don't think of the swindler as just a fellow animal who happens to behave differently than you.

Yes we do, but we realize through basic logic, if this animal is not detered from engaging in the behavior again, he will continue.
Thus he must be detered through punitive action. Therefore, as his behavior is not sustianable in society, his action was "wrong" and we seek "justice".
That we put it concisely dosent mean we don't think it.

Also we are selfish and utilizing those concepts is likely to get us more reward then more neutral terms
wong wrote:...Suddenly sex is something to get upset about

Yes, if she engages in frequent unagreed sex, we cannot trust her word, and thus it is dangerous to continue having sex with her (aids) and the relationship is very likely over as she violated our trust (key element to interpersonal relationships).
A nipple on the superbowl effects us not at all in the same manner

Malice- Atheists follow (most, anyway) empathatic reasoning and adherence to the social contract, and additionally obey their own morale code (because they believe it is correct, not because someone tells them it is). This is what Neitzsche failed to predict.
Most people....they are good people.

And about the love thing. If I tell a girl I love her, be it chemical/electrical reaction to pre-determined input, or some fizzy pizzy soul dance, both are equally unique and thus have the same meaning (more or less)

The Amazing Rando wrote:Certain aspects of some religions may fall under the realm of science, but what can science possibly say about the existence of god, or the eternal soul, other than that such beliefs are not scientific?


Nothing. But the idea is to make the public realize how unpleasent that term is
Robin S wrote:I doubt that anyone, let alone 2% of the world's population, is completely rational in every single one of their opinions and beliefs.

I think it seems a crazy statement more because within a rational framework, there are a thousand different options.
For instance, before the results pointed toward big bang, steady state and big bang were both rational yet totally different.
Robin S wrote:Really? I'd say the world's a pretty violent place. Sure, individuals might not attack each other all the time, but then it's in human nature to be able to exercise self-restraint (whereas the same is not really true with respect to irrational beliefs).

Its also human nature to have a desire for truth :)
Do you see my point?
Robin S wrote: Also, there are laws to deter individuals from violence, and this is practical precisely because we are already in a society where most people do not attack each other all the time (note: this does not mean that the world is not a violent place. Just look at all the wars).

Exactly. The only way we all agree violence is ok is when we go through a highly ritualized procedure involving special clothes
Robin S wrote:If you think that's practically, you severely underestimate the number of irrational beliefs held by the average individual.

I believe you severly shortchange the number of beliefs that fall under the term "rational"
Robin S wrote:I disagree. A scientist can be critical of his own beliefs and still hold them

Are you arguing all theistic scientist suffer cognitive dissounance? That seems unlikely though, as it would be relatively easy to reconcile the two beliefs with a little rationalizing
Robin S wrote:This is an extremely widespread issue, far more fundamental than religious belief, and even more than with religious belief it is not going to be eradicated by making a stand against it


My concern is not that she believes it, but rather why she believes it.
Because I cannot argue against her if she is just going to say "Because god says so"
Robin S wrote:I agree that if she believes that people should be given no choice in the matter, that is not a good thing. However, isn't it also unconstitutional? So in practice, it's never going to be (legally) forced on people.

Not in Canada, we have no laws about religious seperation.
Robin S wrote:I repeat what I said before: irrationality is fundamental to the human condition. We reason about things using intuition and emotion

This seems distinctly in violation of Kant, but alright...
It is also fundemental to human nature to want truth (evidenced by the impulse most societys have in a certian percentage of the pop to become scientists: that is, we don't get all the chicks)
Robin S wrote:Define "right". Religious beliefs, being unfalsifiable, cannot be proven right or wrong.

In this instance, it would be defined as unevidenced.
Robin S wrote:Onlookers are only going to think that if they already hold that opinion. If, on the other hand, they are believers themselves, they will react to the attack on their beliefs in the same way (even though it was not directly "aimed" at them).

True, I was once religious myself and I know the feeling. And I know what eventually happened. I stopped being able to fine good answers to the questions that kept being shoved in my face (atheist father).
And I don't think most people of irrational belief had such a thing
Robin S wrote:A bunch of scientists going around explaining why being scientists means they have no tolerance whatsoever for a majority position is going to get them more funding?


Well it worked for the puritans....
In seriousness, it would make people realize science isn't just "another" philosophy. Its the best one so far to use when looking at the world (I want someone to discover super-science, I would be so happy).
Robin S wrote:No, but a lot of the time it's damn close. Good enough for practical purposes - such as laws.

This is true.
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Robin S » Wed Feb 20, 2008 1:00 am UTC

Yes we do, but we realize through basic logic, if this animal is not detered from engaging in the behavior again, he will continue.
Thus he must be detered through punitive action. Therefore, as his behavior is not sustianable in society, his action was "wrong" and we seek "justice".
That we put it concisely dosent mean we don't think it.
Try doing a random survey of people, and seeing how many of them agree with you on that one. I think you'll find it's a lot lower than 2%. This is a classic example of apologetics. I doubt that even you go through those logical thought processes every time someone does something which annoys or upsets you, but you believe that you do because it supports your belief that humans can be purely rational.

Also we are selfish
You admit that we are motivated by selfishness. In that case, how can we hope to act rationally and emotionlessly?

Also we are selfish and utilizing those concepts is likely to get us more reward then more neutral terms
Malice- Atheists follow (most, anyway) empathatic reasoning and adherence to the social contract, and additionally obey their own morale code (because they believe it is correct, not because someone tells them it is). This is what Neitzsche failed to predict.
Most people....they are good people.
Believers follow their moral code because they believe it to be correct. However, they also believe it to be divinely given. I don't understand how you can claim, without justification, that most people are "good" people, without even giving a definition of "good", and at the same time claim that making claims which are not (and possibly cannot be) backed up by science is wrong.

I think it seems a crazy statement more because within a rational framework, there are a thousand different options.
No, it seems unlikely because I know, as do you (I hope) that the fundamental working of the brain rests on impulses, emotions and other irrational phenomena. It is not possible, however hard one tries, to simply eliminate these from the equation.

Its also human nature to have a desire for truth :)
Do you see my point?
No. What is it?

The only way we all agree violence is ok is when we go through a highly ritualized procedure involving special clothes
What point are you trying to make here?

I believe you severly shortchange the number of beliefs that fall under the term "rational"
What's your definition of "rational", and how does your argument follow from it?

Are you arguing all theistic scientist suffer cognitive dissounance? That seems unlikely though, as it would be relatively easy to reconcile the two beliefs with a little rationalizing
I am not suggesting that they all suffer from cognitive dissonance, though many of them indisputably do. I'm not sure exactly what you are trying to say when you say it would be "easy to reconcile the two beliefs with a little rationalizing", but it sounds like you're assuming that humans possess an innate ability to override their cognitive biases, which is manifestly false. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

I cannot argue against her if she is just going to say "Because god says so"
And, similarly, you cannot argue if she says "human life is sacred".

This seems distinctly in violation of Kant
I haven't read any Kant, but if you take your source of truth to be an 18th century philosopher rather than 20th century science then how are you any better than the religious believers you criticize?

It is also fundemental to human nature to want truth
Perhaps so (though I see lots of people not actually caring that much, or at all). Even if you're right, how is wanting truth going to help humans to overcome their cognitive bias?

In this instance, it would be defined as unevidenced.
"Unevidenced" does not mean the same as false. A believer can say "you can't prove my beliefs wrong, and so I choose to believe them" and he'll be absolutely right. There might be good reasons not for believing them, but they're not going to convince anyone who already does.

In seriousness, it would make people realize science isn't just "another" philosophy. Its the best one so far to use when looking at the world.
I'm sorry, I can't understand that at all. Firstly, I don't think anyone challenges the philosophical principles of science. Second, I can't see how going around brandishing intolerance is suddenly, after thousands of years of failed attempts, going to make most people realize that yes, in fact, their beliefs are irrational and they should stop believing them.

(I want someone to discover super-science, I would be so happy)
What?

Ironically, I think this thread is a very good example of why telling people to evaluate their beliefs critically (whether one is aggressive about it or not) will not generally work. Both sides believe they have solid justification for their beliefs (or, if you prefer in this case, opinions) but neither will sway the other.
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby SneakyMongo » Wed Feb 20, 2008 1:08 am UTC

Robin S wrote:Believers follow their moral code because they believe it to be correct. However, they also believe it to be divinely given.

Says who? Clearly atheists do not
Robin S wrote: I don't understand how you can claim, without justification, that most people are "good" people, without even giving a definition of "good",

Obey very basic moral precepts that allow a society to function and maximize freedom for those in it. I mean "good" in the sense of a "good" citizen 8)
Robin S wrote:and at the same time claim that making claims which are not (and possibly cannot be) backed up by science is wrong.

Sorry, I thought it was provided by context.
Percentage of atheists go up.
Crimes go down.
Thus, most are good people
Robin S wrote:Ironically, I think this thread is a very good example of why telling people to evaluate their beliefs critically (whether one is aggressive about it or not) will not generally work. Both sides believe they have solid justification for their beliefs (or, if you prefer in this case, opinions) but neither will sway the other.


?
We are debating. Whether or not I convince you is not what the point is. Ideally, we get a dialectic, and comparatively people realize the truth.
Non-ideally, one side hammers the other, forcing the hammered side to seek out answers to the questions being posed, and although it won't convince everyone all the time, it forces them to work to hold on to their irrationality.
And my experience is that that is a very effective manner to convince people.
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Robin S » Wed Feb 20, 2008 1:37 am UTC

I've edited my above post to respond to the extra points you added.
Robin S wrote:Believers follow their moral code because they believe it to be correct. However, they also believe it to be divinely given.

Says who? Clearly atheists do not
Clearly atheists do not what? I know a lot of believers, and they follow their moral codes because they believe them to be correct. I'd be very surprised if you found me a believer who followed a moral code without believing it to be correct (after all, that is what the term "believer" means).
Obey very basic moral precepts that allow a society to function and maximize freedom for those in it. I mean "good" in the sense of a "good" citizen 8)
Where do you draw the line between the very basic moral precepts which you define to be "good" and the ones where it's ok to make an individual choice?
Percentage of atheists go up.
Crimes go down.
Correlation does not imply causation, and I am not even aware of a correlation. Can you show me citations?

We are debating. Whether or not I convince you is not what the point is. Ideally, we get a dialectic, and comparatively people realize the truth.
Non-ideally, one side hammers the other, forcing the hammered side to seek out answers to the questions being posed, and although it won't convince everyone all the time, it forces them to work to hold on to their irrationality.
And my experience is that that is a very effective manner to convince people.
I have seen it in action many, many times, and not once seen it work. Can you provide me with examples? I am sorry if you can't understand my analogy, but I'll make it again, hopefully in simpler terms.

You tell me that believers are wrong because they have no evidence to support their beliefs, and that hammering it into them will make them realize their error.

I tell you that many believers claim that they do have evidence to support their beliefs, and that either any contradictory evidence is wrong (the Creation science approach) or that there isn't any contradictory evidence, since science doesn't actually disprove the possibility of the existence of a creator. They believe their side of the debate to be fully justified, and confirmation bias will lead them to hold to that position.

On a parallel level, then, both you and I believe the evidence to be strongly in his own favour, and as a result neither will convince the other.

Of those believers who do not claim to have evidence to support their beliefs, they realize that this is an irrational belief but choose to hold onto it anyway. This is due to a combination of emotion and intuition, and you can't expect people to give up either of those just because they're told to.
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby TheAmazingRando » Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:33 am UTC

TheAmazingRando wrote:Certain aspects of some religions may fall under the realm of science, but what can science possibly say about the existence of god, or the eternal soul, other than that such beliefs are not scientific?

Nothing. But the idea is to make the public realize how unpleasent that term is

If science can say nothing about non-scientific things, then it isn't the duty of science to pass judgement on them. Scientists, perhaps, but then they are acting as philosophers and not as scientists.

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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Malice » Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:45 am UTC

SM, what about free will? Almost everybody, religious and areligious alike, believe they have it; yet only the religious have any sort of explanation for it: "I have a soul, therefore I have God-given free will".

If you don't believe in a soul and God, you are left with the physical, which is neurons and electrical/chemical signals. We talk about making choices and being brave and sticking to a plan; we praise people for the things that they say and do; we accept responsibility for the things we do. As if we had a choice one way or the other. In the absence of God, science is left with a strictly deterministic universe, and to believe in the existence of free will when you can't possibly prove it is to hold an irrational belief.

And just about everybody holds that belief, or acts as if they do.

Irrationality is a part of human nature. Fear is a good example. I recognize that, scientifically, factually, there is no monster in my closet, there is no serial killer outside my window, and no dead little girls are going to crawl out of my television and kill me. That doesn't stop me from being irrationally afraid of these things. No amount of argument is going to change that.

As far as morality goes, I think people share the broad strokes, but differ wildly (religious and areligious alike) on the finer points. Most people believe that killing other people is wrong. But most of those people are okay with a war, or the death penalty for murderers. I mean, even with the most basic moral code, Don't fucking kill people, you get disagreement over when it is or is not justified. And this across a wide range of people, and it is just as likely to be the extreme rationalists (who say, "Why not kill them? It will improve the economy, and there's nothing sacred about life") as it is the religious fundamentalists (who say, "Why not kill them? It is God's will") who are outliers on the scale of average morality.
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby a_passing_lunatic » Wed Feb 20, 2008 4:41 am UTC

Malice wrote:SM, what about free will? Almost everybody, religious and areligious alike, believe they have it; yet only the religious have any sort of explanation for it: "I have a soul, therefore I have God-given free will".

If you don't believe in a soul and God, you are left with the physical, which is neurons and electrical/chemical signals. We talk about making choices and being brave and sticking to a plan; we praise people for the things that they say and do; we accept responsibility for the things we do. As if we had a choice one way or the other. In the absence of God, science is left with a strictly deterministic universe, and to believe in the existence of free will when you can't possibly prove it is to hold an irrational belief.


I was under the impression that quantum mechanics said, among other things, that the universe isn't strictly deterministic.

How this applies (or, as the case may be, doesn't apply) to brains, and by extension, people, isn't, as far as I know, understood, so that the rational conclusion is "I don't know whether or not I have free will".

Then, one may realise that there are numerous benefits to believing they have free will (or, at least, pretending to believe, but that seems like extra work) and therefore have a rational reason to believe that they have free will.

Irrationality is a part of human nature. Fear is a good example. I recognize that, scientifically, factually, there is no monster in my closet, there is no serial killer outside my window, and no dead little girls are going to crawl out of my television and kill me. That doesn't stop me from being irrationally afraid of these things. No amount of argument is going to change that.


However, fear does have a purpose - a complete absence of fear would be detrimental to one's ability to survive (presumably) - so there is some rationality in feeling fear.

And there is also some rationality in accepting that using all your time to judge the rationality of one's actions may not be in line with one's goals, however rational or otherwise they are.

As far as morality goes, I think people share the broad strokes, but differ wildly (religious and areligious alike) on the finer points. Most people believe that killing other people is wrong. But most of those people are okay with a war, or the death penalty for murderers. I mean, even with the most basic moral code, Don't fucking kill people, you get disagreement over when it is or is not justified. And this across a wide range of people, and it is just as likely to be the extreme rationalists (who say, "Why not kill them? It will improve the economy, and there's nothing sacred about life") as it is the religious fundamentalists (who say, "Why not kill them? It is God's will") who are outliers on the scale of average morality.


It seems strange that people often feel the need to make absolutes out of things. For example "Thou shalt not kill" is something out of a book which I would assume many people on this site do not take for truth. I'm then puzzled when people say that it is an enigma that on one hand, you shouldn't kill, and on the other hand, you should. It does not seem hard to accept, to me, that there is some 'badness' involved in killing a person (causing sadness, destruction of something beautiful, many other reasons which you may or may not subscribe to), there may also be some 'badness' in letting them live (the killing of you or other people, burden on the economy, lots of other potential ones here as well).


In conclusion, yes.

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Nath
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Nath » Wed Feb 20, 2008 5:41 am UTC

a_passing_lunatic wrote:I was under the impression that quantum mechanics said, among other things, that the universe isn't strictly deterministic.

How this applies (or, as the case may be, doesn't apply) to brains, and by extension, people, isn't, as far as I know, understood, so that the rational conclusion is "I don't know whether or not I have free will".

I'm sure there's a free will thread somewhere. If so, someone's probably brought up the point that the concept of free will (in the sense that people usually mean) is just as meaningless in a non-deterministic universe as in a deterministic one.

a_passing_lunatic wrote:Then, one may realise that there are numerous benefits to believing they have free will (or, at least, pretending to believe, but that seems like extra work) and therefore have a rational reason to believe that they have free will.

A rational belief has nothing to do with the potential benefits or costs. A rational creature believes things because there is evidence for them, and not merely because they are convenient.

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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby a_passing_lunatic » Wed Feb 20, 2008 6:09 am UTC

I interpreted rationality as doing things for a reason, rather than because of evidence. Evidence is merely a compelling reason to believe something.

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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby niolosoiale » Wed Feb 20, 2008 6:11 am UTC

Frankly, I think it's in every one's best interest if respect trumps personal beliefs in what dictates people's actions. I would almost add the "most of the time" caveat to this, but respect for other people is a broad category. So if someone's beliefs are leading them to do something disrespectful, then, in the context of respect, it would likely be acceptable to take action against that person's belief-based behavior.

The problem is that there is no standardized sense of respect (more importantly: what respect is) between most people. This makes it difficult to make such a fallible force the force which should predominately dictate our actions.

I just can't think of a situation where respecting humanity would yield consequences with a net yield in the negative spectrum.

As a matter of fact, I am more than a little passionate about the need for respect among people. I can get absolutely infuriated by disrespectful behavior. There have been people I've known as friends who were disrespectful as fuck to their parents that I wouldn't have minded punching in the face (making exception for the fact that I hate hurting people.)

This was something I made wrote down and saved in notepad once...

"There isn't enough respect between people in the world.
For as many lives as there are in the world, there are that many perspectives of each individual life.
Just because your perspective may be partially correct doesn't mean that's all there is to the story.
Sometimes, things actually work out the way you want, sometimes they don't.
It's so much easier to be open and honest in the long term.
Once you more fully understand who you are, it makes it a lot easier to build solid relationships (all types) with others."

The last couple lines were probably the result of being composed under a different context, but the first three are the focal points of my opinions on respect.

Additionally, on the subject of free will...

If everything in my "deterministically developed brain" tells me I should not put my hand on a hot stove, yet I can still choose to put my hand on a hot stove when given a situation that dictates I choose to do it or not do it (or even just for the lulz), then I have free will. Just because my decision making ability is limited by my informational capacity doesn't mean I don't have free roam within that capacity nor does it mean that I can't extrapolate consequences and choose based on abstract reasoning. If there's anything irrational or absurd, it's the argument against free will.
Last edited by niolosoiale on Wed Feb 20, 2008 6:32 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Nath
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Nath » Wed Feb 20, 2008 6:31 am UTC

a_passing_lunatic wrote:I interpreted rationality as doing things for a reason, rather than because of evidence. Evidence is merely a compelling reason to believe something.

So if I eat caterpillars to improve my telekinetic ability, that counts as rational behaviour? Fair enough, use whatever definition of 'rational' you choose. I favour the dictionary definition, myself:
adjective 1 based on or in accordance with reason or logic.

In other words, people often do stupid things for stupid reasons. That isn't rational behaviour.

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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby Malice » Wed Feb 20, 2008 6:42 am UTC

a_passing_lunatic wrote:I was under the impression that quantum mechanics said, among other things, that the universe isn't strictly deterministic.

How this applies (or, as the case may be, doesn't apply) to brains, and by extension, people, isn't, as far as I know, understood, so that the rational conclusion is "I don't know whether or not I have free will".

Then, one may realise that there are numerous benefits to believing they have free will (or, at least, pretending to believe, but that seems like extra work) and therefore have a rational reason to believe that they have free will.


Ah, I like this form of logic. Let me try it, now.

"I was under the impression that [science] said, among other things, that [it can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God].
[...] the rational conclusion is "I don't know whether or not [God exists].
Then, one may realize that there are numerous benefits to believing [in God] (or, at least, pretending to believe, but that seems like extra work) and therefore have a rational reason to believe that [God exists]."

Sounds reasonable to me.

Irrationality is a part of human nature. Fear is a good example. I recognize that, scientifically, factually, there is no monster in my closet, there is no serial killer outside my window, and no dead little girls are going to crawl out of my television and kill me. That doesn't stop me from being irrationally afraid of these things. No amount of argument is going to change that.


However, fear does have a purpose - a complete absence of fear would be detrimental to one's ability to survive (presumably) - so there is some rationality in feeling fear.


Is there rationality in fearing things that don't exist? I agree that fear is a useful way to keep people alive, but only when there is actual danger. I fear getting hit by a car, therefore I am careful when crossing the street. On the other hand, fear of the unreal can actually hurt me; to be perfectly mundane, being so afraid of the dark that I need a night-light is going to drive up my electric bill. Yet people have all sorts of irrational fears.
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Re: Apathetic Scientists Hurt Science

Postby a_passing_lunatic » Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:03 am UTC

eh?

adjective 1 based on or in accordance with reason or logic.


I see no reference to "evidence".

Of course, reasons come in various qualities.

So if I eat caterpillars to improve my telekinetic ability, that counts as rational behaviour? Fair enough, use whatever definition of 'rational' you choose.


Well, I would have to admit that without evidence of this being the case (caterpillars improving your telekinetic ability), I would say that you would be acting irrationally. However, if I were to believe (by whatever method were to convince me) that a) caterpillars improve my telekinetic ability and b) improving my telekinetic ability carries a bigger benefit than the drawback of eating caterpillars then I would be logically compelled to eat caterpillars, if logic was the sort of thing that compelled me.


and to the most recent poster - yes, fear of the non-existent is probably irrational, though I'm far too cautious to say that this is always the case. I mean, if a dead girl happened to crawl out of one's television, a degree of fear might be helpful, though I wouldn't dwell on it. But, you see, that's also just plain old fear of the unknown.


Ah, I like this form of logic. Let me try it, now.

"I was under the impression that [science] said, among other things, that [it can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God].
[...] the rational conclusion is "I don't know whether or not [God exists].
Then, one may realize that there are numerous benefits to believing [in God] (or, at least, pretending to believe, but that seems like extra work) and therefore have a rational reason to believe that [God exists]."

Sounds reasonable to me.


are you suggesting there is a problem with that?




I do think I'm taking a stricter definition of rationality than anyone who says that rationality is believing something because there's evidence for it. I also think, however, that I'm missing the point.


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